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NIFLA v. Becerra and First Amendment Rights

The following post is written by CGJ Summer Intern Corrie Lee.  Corrie is working with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates for 8 weeks in Fredericksburg, VA, assisting their attorneys in legal research and writing and serving member pregnancy centers across the country. 
The First Amendment is one thing that sets the United States of America apart from every other country in the world. This amendment allows citizens the freedom to speak messages with which they agree while remaining silent regarding messages with which they fundamentally disagree and do not wish to promulgate.
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes on free speech sums up this amendment perfectly: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The Supreme Courts’ recent decision in NIFLA v. Becerra ensures the protection of these rights nationwide for all Americans. The Supreme Court made it clear that laws targeting specific groups and the messages they promote are unconstitutional. Legislation such as AB 775 flies in the face of the original purpose of the First Amendment. Just listen to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion smacking down the State of California’s attempt to overturn the First Amendment by forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to share a message that conflicts with their ideals and principles:
“The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of ‘forward thinking.’ App. 38–39. But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to ‘be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.’ Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 715 (1977). It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come. Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”
The State of California sought to force these pregnancy centers to speak a message about abortion that was contrary to their central goals. The Court stated that California’s AB 775 is unduly burdensome and unconstitutional on its face. This may seem like a victory only for NIFLA and its centers, but this is a win for all Americans. Indeed, the Court has said in no uncertain terms that they will not allow the government to suppress the beliefs of private speakers or force them to promote a belief that is contradictory to their own. The Court ensured that the free speech rights of all Americans, regardless of their beliefs, will be protected against unnecessary governmental interference. The Court has ensured that Americans will not face unduly burdensome regulations on their speech merely because their ideology is contrary to state-sponsored abortion agendas. Most importantly, the Court established that a state-preferred message shall not take precedence over the rights of citizens to speak freely and with conviction. NIFLA v. Becerra stands to protect the First Amendment rights of every American citizen—regardless of political viewpoint. This decision is a victory for all Americans. It allows citizens to continue advocating their beliefs freely and without interference from the government. Rather than protecting the interests of the state of California, the Supreme Court has vindicated Americans nationwide. Ultimately, the NIFLA v. Becerra ruling represents a victory for freedom.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.