Pro-life pregnancy centers went to court Friday to try to overturn a new law that they argue requires them to publicly post abortion referrals.
During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, attorneys for Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and the Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Center argued that the law violates their right to free speech and religion because it forces them to post signs that interfere with their faith.
"It compels even non-medical pregnancy centers to recite what amounts to a government-scripted advertisement for abortion,” said Kevin Connelly, Calvary’s attorney. “It forces a church, Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, to post on its walls that same message which interferes with the faith, mission and governance of the church.”
Connelly said the law also exposes his clients to lawsuits from third parties if the centers don't post those signs.
"That threatens to extinguish the pro-life centers altogether,” he said. "That's money that goes from poor and needy women to lawsuits."
But the state argued that the law does not violate anyone's constitutional rights. It's about making sure women are safe.
"It's actually ... to make sure that women who are at these centers that provide limited services are aware that there are greater services available to them and that those services can be free or at low cost,” said Deputy Attorney General Deidre Marie-Iha.
"There are thousands of women who need these kinds of services and are yet unaware."
Under the new law, limited-service pregnancy centers must display the following written statement in clear viewing areas:
“Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women.
To apply online for medical insurance coverage, that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal services, go to mybenefits.hawaii.gov.
Only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate.”
Watson did not issue a ruling, but will likely do so in the next few weeks.