Federal Courts and Nominations

OP-ED: Patronizing ruling stifles informed choice in California

Supreme Court’s conservative majority has, again, perverted the First Amendment: Opposing view

In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has, once again, perverted the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

The Roberts court is infamous for rulings such as Citizens United v. FEC, which gave corporations a right to spend unlimited sums of money and gutted campaign-finance law. What Citizens United did to finance law, NIFLA threatens to do to disclosure law.

The court’s 5-4 ruling blocks a California law requiring clinics to inform women of their right to state-funded reproductive health care, a common-sense measure ensuring that women know such care is available. It also invalidates a requirement that unlicensed clinics disclose that they do not offer medical services. These modest rules should have been upheld.

Worse, the majority’s ruling is unprincipled. It affirms that states may impose disclosure requirements on abortion providers, even as it gives clinics opposed to abortion the right to keep women in the dark about their rights. This disingenuous distinction — reeking of the majority’s hostility to abortion — has no constitutional basis.

The majority offers a patronizing First Amendment lecture, ignoring that California’s law merely ensures that women have accurate information. In the name of curbing “authoritarian government,” it stifles informed choice.

Rather than suppressing speech, disclosures give people more information, not less. Such laws protect consumers, prevent deception, and make critically important information available to people. The court erred in treating such disclosure requirements as constitutionally suspect.

Disclosure requirements are a common way to ensure that individuals know their rights and how to exercise them. Disclosure of truthful information will help people make decisions.

NIFLA badly distorts the First Amendment.

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