I was privileged to serve on the board of the first Pregnancy Resource Center (now under the umbrella of First Image) in the Portland, Oregon area back in 1983. At that time there were only 12 to 15 others in the whole country. Now there are 2,500! It’s amazing how far the movement has come, and how many lives have been changed and saved because of it. (For example, First Image reports that last year 2,850 women were seen in the Portland centers; 850 of those women were given ultrasounds which resulted in 94% of them deciding to carry their babies to term!)
PRCs display the heart of God for the child (fatherless) and the widow (abandoned). As the most affluent society in history, we are sometimes hard-pressed to find the truly desperately needy. But for many of the women facing unplanned pregnancies, we encounter the combination of those who haven’t heard the gospel and who need practical, life-saving counsel and resources. As staff and volunteers quietly care for women and the unborn—from supplying clothing and diapers, to providing peer counseling and parenting classes—their compassionate outreach breaks the old stereotype of only being concerned about the unborn, but not the woman or the baby after birth.
Because of their tremendous impact, it’s not surprising that PRCs are often attacked by the pro-abortion movement through restrictive legislation and other means. David French explains about a law passed in 2015:
The state of California has enacted a law, the so-called FACT Act, that requires pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers to prominently place a notice informing clients that California offers low-cost and even free abortions to women who qualify and providing them a phone number that grants quick access to abortion clinics.
In other words, California is requiring pro-life professionals—people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn by offering pregnant mothers alternatives to abortion—to advertise state-sponsored abortions. California is making this demand even though it has ample opportunity to advertise state services without forcing pro-life citizens to do so.
…And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FACT Act is constitutional. To validate California’s oppressive act, its decision carved out a dangerous First Amendment exception for what it deemed “professional speech”—“speech that occurs between professionals and their clients in the context of their professional relationship”—and ruled that the state had much greater leeway in regulating, for example, doctor/patient communication.
PRCs who don’t comply with the law face penalties, starting with $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent one. (Unlike the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Alliance Defending Freedom reports that other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.)
Now this California case is slated to be heard before the Supreme Court starting March 20. Let’s be in prayer that the justices would make a wise decision that protects the first amendment rights of pro-life centers and their staff. And pray for encouragement for all the centers’ staff and volunteers who work selflessly to uphold the sanctity of human life and reach out in Christ’s name to help those in need.
You might also like to check out this podcast from Care Net, which talks about why this decision could mean the end of freedom of speech as we know it, as well as 50 Ways to Help the Unborn and Their Mothers (excerpted from my book ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments).