Law and the Unborn in 2019

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The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is one of America’s leading legal non-profits. Among their many Supreme Court and lower court victories was the 2018 NIFLA v. Becerra decision. This decision ruled that a California law which required pro-life pregnancy resource centers to refer for abortions was unconstitutional.

ADF’s courtroom work is just part of their successful record on issues such as religious freedom, pro-life laws and values, and marriage. They are also leaders in framing these debates through effective publicity and communications strategies; they host panels on important legal issues; and work to promote religious liberty and human rights internationally at the United Nations, in Britain and India, and elsewhere.

At an event following the 2019 March for Life, ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President Kevin Theriot introduced one college student whose free speech was stifled by students and a professor. According to Theriot, the school only backed down from their unconstitutionally-limited speech rules. It also required the professor to receive a one-day training seminar on freedom of speech from an ADF attorney.

“In the last two years, we have filed six lawsuits on behalf of Students for Life [of America]groups,” ADF Senior Counsel and Center for Academic Freedom Tyson Langhofer told me in an e-mail. “We have successfully settled five of those cases, and one case is still pending against California State University-San Marcos.”

The stifling of pro-life speech isn’t new. It’s also not limited to tearing down pro-life signs or erasing pro-life messages chalked into sidewalks. Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of porn and black studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, pled guilty to three charges of grand theft from a person, battery, and vandalism. The plea came after she assaulted underage pro-life advocates, including scratching one of the minors.

As I reported in 2014 in an interview with the Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney, Miller-Young “was sentenced to three years probation, 108 hours of community service, and 10 hours of anger-management classes,” and “was also ordered to pay nearly $500 in restitution to the girl’s family.”

Ironically, Miller-Young did not receive jail time in part because she was seven months’ pregnant at the time of sentencing. Her position at the university also played a favorable role. She faced no punishment from the university for her actions.

“Pro-life speech often is the target of censorship because some view it as controversial,” Theriot said in an e-mail. “But controversial speech is what the First Amendment was designed to protect. Allowing pro-life speech to be censored strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment. NIFLA v. Becerra, Women’s Health Link v. Ft. Wayne (pro-life ad on a bus), and Bruni v. Pittsburgh (sidewalk counseling case still ongoing) are probably the most important pro-life speech cases we’ve litigated.”

“We’ve litigated many pro-life speeches on campuses because the university is often the primary battleground where the culture wars are fought,” Theriot continued. “If we win speech at the college campus level, that usually transfers to society as a whole.”

According to Theriot, “colleges usually bring their policies into conformity with the law very quickly, once ADF is involved. Despite the administration’s opposition to our clients’ views, many of them do value free speech, they just have become so politically correct they’ve forgotten what it means. A lawsuit is a good tool to help them remember.

In 2019, the unborn and their advocates are likely to face renewed attacks from Democrats in the House of Representatives. Attacks from colleges, local and state governments, and other entities won’t go away. And ADF will be right there with sidewalk counselors, pro-life pregnancy resource centers, and other critical opponents of abortion.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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