Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan once wisely said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” Unfortunately, some women in the US will be given less knowledge and information about their reproductive rights, stripping their power to make informed decisions about their lives, health, bodies, and families.
A US Supreme Court decision yesterday elevates the freedom of speech of people working in anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers, which some advocates call fake women’s health clinics because they often lure women in under false pretenses that medical services are provided, over the right to information of the women seeking services there.
The facts of the case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, are simple. The state of California passed a law that required these anti-choice centers to follow one of two rules.
First, if they are licensed and have the “primary purpose” of providing family planning for pregnancy-related services, they must post notices about free and low-cost state-funded reproductive health services that read as below:
California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office.
Second, if the anti-choice center has the same primary purpose but no licensed medical provider on staff, they simply have to inform women of that fact by posting that they’re not licensed.
The Supreme Court struck down the requirements in the law finding that this “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”
This ruling comes at a time when the US legislative and executive branches have targeted women’s and girls’ access to information about reproductive health services. This includes the dramatically expanded global gag rule, which blocks US funding for foreign groups providing abortion counseling, referrals, or services, or that advocate for less restrictive laws. It also includes a proposed rule banning US organizations providing abortion services – or those that refer women to clinics with abortion services – from receiving Title X family planning funds. Combine this with a reinvigorated push for abstinence only sex education, and it’s clear the US government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health – the right to information.
Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies.