A coalition of pro-life pregnancy centers filed suit Tuesday against Vermont state officials over a new law that limits their advertising and restricts what such nonprofits can do.
The new law, SB 37, was signed by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott in May. Alliance Defending Freedom filed the suit on behalf of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Aspire Together and Branches Pregnancy Resource Center, alleging that the new law “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments” of the U.S. Constitution by “imposing vague and viewpoint discriminatory laws that target speech and conduct.”
The law “censors the centers’ ability to advertise their free services” and “precludes centers from offering non-medical services, information, and counseling unless provided by a licensed health care provider,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Women who become unexpectedly pregnant should be empowered with life-affirming options, emotional support, and practical resources,” said ADF legal counsel Julia Payne. “Vermont’s law, however, does the opposite -- it impedes women’s ability to receive critical services during a difficult time in their lives and suppresses the free-speech rights of faith-based pregnancy centers. Pregnancy centers should be free to serve women and offer the support they need without fear of unjust government punishment.”
The suit alleges that the law potentially prevents a pregnancy center staff member “who is not a licensed healthcare provider” from discussing a client’s pregnancy.
Pro-life pregnancy centers, the lawsuit says, benefit the public.
“Thousands of pro-life pregnancy centers across the country provide free services, resources, information, and emotional and professional support to women and families facing unexpected pregnancies-no matter what choice they ultimately make,” the suit says. “...In 2019 alone, 2,700 U.S. pregnancy centers served roughly two million women, men, and youth with services valued at over $266 million.”
The lawsuit noted that unlike abortion clinics, “which have a financial interest in performing as many abortions as possible,” most pro-life pregnancy centers “charge nothing for their services, meaning that they do not financially benefit from any choice a woman makes.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.