The law, Harle said, “was very clear that it was targeting pro-life viewpoints.”
“In fact it was written right into the legislation that California was concerned with what it perceived as the problem of their being many, many pro-life pregnancy centers in the state, and the state acknowledges that was at odds with California’s—what they called their proud legacy of reproductive freedom,” Harle said. “It was an undisguised attempt at targeting pro-life viewpoints for punishment.”
Harle, who was involved in the NIFLA vs. Becerra Supreme Court case in which the high court overturned the law for violating the First Amendment, said the Reproductive FACT Act was blatantly unconstitutional.
“There aren’t examples where the government forced Alcoholics Anonymous to hang posters that advertise where to get alcohol, and that’s because it’s not constitutional, that’s because the first amendment doesn’t allow this sort of compelled speech and that’s why we don’t see it in other contexts,” she said.
As attorney general, Harris was a vocal advocate for the law. In a 2015 statement, she called herself a co-sponsor of the legislation, and praised then-Gov. Jerry Brown for signing it into law.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates filed a lawsuit challenging the Reproductive Fact Act, which lead to the Supreme Court striking down the law in NIFLA v. Becerra in 2018.
NIFLA’s president Tom Glessner told CNA last week that “the name of the case was initially NIFLA vs. Kamala Harris, because she was the attorney general at that time.”
Harris was elected to the United States Senate in 2016, and was replaced as attorney general by Xavier Becerra, who continued the state’s defense of the law.
Glessner said Harris lobbied for and supported the legislation, working “hand in glove” with NARAL to get it passed.
“Her fingerprints were on it from the very beginning,” he said, adding that Harris’ description of herself as a co-sponsor of the law “shows her enthusiasm for it, tells us of her activism in getting it passed.”
Anne O'Connor, NIFLA's Vice President of Legal Affairs and co-counsel in arguing the case before the Supreme Court, told CNA that “NARAL lobbies against pregnancy centers in states and counties and municipalities to get laws passed that would silence pregnancy centers.”
“That’s exactly what NARAL did in California and with Harris’ support, they had this law passed against us in 2015 that was just on its face clearly unconstitutional, but it took a few years to go up through the Supreme Court, where Harris and her office aggressively defended the law till we finally had the Supreme Court give us justice,” O'Connor said.
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“It’s frustrating when someone has an abortion rights agenda that just blinds them to our other rights like free expression.”
O'Connor said Harris’ defense of the law cost the state of California over a million dollars in legal fees upon losing the case.
“She’ll do anything for abortion and against pregnancy centers no matter what the cost,” O'Connor told CNA.
Glessner called the Reproductive FACT Act “a clear violation of the first amendment right to free speech,” and argued “the first amendment gives you the right to speak, but it also protects you from the government compelling you to speak.”
He likened the Reproductive FACT Act to forcing the American Cancer Society to promote cigarettes.
“It’s an outrageous mandate for people to violate their consciences,” Glessner said.