This year, a city ordinance was passed in Austin stating that Crisis Pregnancy Centers (who are often the ones behind the “Pregnant? Need Help?” bilboards and advertisements, but who also absolutely refuse to refer women to abortion clinics [even if that may be her choice]) must post a sign in front of their facility stating that they don’t refer women to places that provide abortion or birth control services. A few of them did, a few of them didn’t, and nobody said much about it either way.
Now, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are suing the city of Austin over the signs, because it violates their first amendment rights. As they say, their facilities “should be allowed to serve the less fortunate in a manner consistent with their beliefs, without fear of punishment from a city government that has a political disagreement with our message.”
Which is pretty weird, because this case for free speech is coming from some of the same people who advocated for and helped pass:
1.) The 24-hour SMI law, through which Doctors are required to literally recite a list of things that the state of Texas wants women to hear, and then think about for 24 hours, before their elective procedure. This includes the supposed abortion -> breast cancer link, which has reportedly been refuted over and over again. Our physicians have no say in what they tell women, whether they agree with it or not.
2.) The new ultrasound bill would have required Doctors to visually guide a woman through her ultrasound, whether the woman wanted to hear it or not. Versions of it included forcing a woman to view the screen and also forcing her to listen to the fetal heart tones. All of those details have been scratched for now, but it does still require a Doctor to perform the ultrasound 24 hours in advance, now turning every appointment into a 2 day appointment for women. We would have had no say in any of this had it not been tried in court, just as we now have no say in how long their appointments last, however unnecessary.
3.) The Woman’s Right to Know act requires us to offer, pay for and distribute printed materials that the state created, which also cite the breast cancer/abortion link, infertility/abortion link, emotional distress/abortion link, and others that many Physicians disagree with and research studies have disproven.
On top of all of that, we’re also subject to regular, random inspections by the state. Each carries their own large list of detailed, state-mandated rules and regulations that we follow and abide by.
If we’re talking about a violation of first amendment rights, and if we all agree that that’s a bad thing to do, then I suppose we should raise our hand and say: Laws violating our staff and Physicians freedom of speech, on top of our ability to serve women and families in a manner consistent with our beliefs, without fear of punishment from a city (or state) government that has a political disagreement with our message, is pretty much our day to day.
So if Crisis Pregnancy Centers win this case and get to take down their signs (or never comply with them in the first place) in the name of free speech… does that mean we get to stop doing those things we disagree with that the state requires us to do and say, too? Probably not. Therein lies the disadvantage of working in a city/state governed by people that have a political disagreement with your message… Not very fun, is it?