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New CA Bill Enables Activists to Sue Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers and Churches into Silence

California’s pro-abortion legislators are making good on their promise to go after the state’s pro-life pregnancy care centers for alleged “misinformation.” Last week, Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Livermore) introduced AB 315, a bill enabling pro-abortion activists to sue pro-life pregnancy centers for speech they consider “false or misleading.” But the bill language is so expansive that any pro-life ministry or church that offers women “health counseling service related to pregnancy” could be affected. 

According to Bauer-Kahan, this bill is necessary to stop pro-life pregnancy centers from “lying to pregnant people about abortion.” She also believes these clinics pretend to be abortion clinics to lure unsuspecting women looking for an abortion. But the bill language does not define what information would be considered “misleading” or “false” or how someone would know which opinions about abortion or pregnancy are allowed. According to legal experts, that vague language is by design in order to facilitate debilitating lawsuits.

“This bill seeks to suffocate government-despised-prolife-speech by forcing crisis pregnancy clinics into a quagmire of litigation,” said Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the Pacific Justice Institute. “Politicians and pro-abortion lobbyists now threaten to drown these clinics by fines and expensive legal battles.”

Denise Burke, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, agrees. This “bill would allow activists to mercilessly target pro-life pregnancy centers, all because these life-saving centers don’t support the state’s extreme pro-abortion agenda," she said. "These centers could be sued by abortion activists who claim that factually true statements about abortion’s maternal health risks are ‘misleading’ or ‘false’ information.’”

The text of the bill states, “A person doing business in California who is performing, has performed, or intends to perform a pregnancy-related service shall not advertise using a false or misleading statement related to the person’s provision, or lack of provision, of abortion.”

To understand the full meaning of this sentence, the bill defines the terms. A person doing a “pregnancy-related service,” is defined as someone offering “a medical or health counseling service related to pregnancy or pregnancy prevention.” So that would include a pro-life pregnancy care center, but also could include someone providing sidewalk counseling or handing out pro-life resources outside an abortion clinic, or a church ministry that provides pregnancy-related counseling services to abortion-vulnerable women. 

Advertising is defined as offering or providing “goods or services to the public, regardless of whether or not the goods or services are offered for payment or result in a profit.” In light of these two definitions, if any organization or person that provides a good or service, even if for free, related to pregnancy can be sued by someone who believes they were given false or misleading information about abortion. 

Since the bill is “enforceable by a private right of action” that means anyone can sue to enforce this law with fines starting at $1000. 

Snider did take comfort that federal courts in recent years have “struck down California laws restricting First Amendment liberties, finding that free speech requires ‘breathing space’ in a free society.”  

Just last month a federal judge blocked the enforcement of a California law passed last year, AB 2098, that punishes medical professionals for giving “misinformation” about COVID-19 to their patients. Senior Judge William Shubb said the bill’s definition of “misinformation” was “unconstitutionally vague,” citing the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. The bill’s definition of “misinformation” reads, “false information contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.” Shubb called the bill’s definition “nonsense” and said that it was “grammatically incoherent.”

“The statute provides no clarity on the term’s meaning, leaving open multiple important questions,” the judge’s order said.

“Pregnancy centers are here to provide free services for women’s medical, material, and emotional needs, while abortion businesses prey on their desperation and try to convince them that abortion is their only option—all for profit,” Burke explained. “Pro-life pregnancy centers should be able to continue caring for mothers and their babies without government-endorsed retribution.”


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