Constitutional Gerrymandering Against Abortion Rights: NIFLA v. Becerra

65 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2019

See all articles by Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Michele Goodwin

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: April 15, 2019

Abstract

In National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Supreme Court said that a preliminary injunction should have been issued against a California law that required that reproductive healthcare facilities post notices containing truthful factual information. All that was required by the law was posting a notice that the state of California makes available free and low-cost contraception and abortion for women who economically qualify. Also, unlicensed facilities were required to post a notice that they are not licensed by the state to provide healthcare.

In concluding that the California law is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision has enormously important implications. It puts all laws requiring disclosures in jeopardy because all, like the California law, prescribe the required content of speech. All disclosure laws now will need to meet strict scrutiny and thus are constitutionally vulnerable. Moreover, the ruling is inconsistent with prior Supreme Court decisions that allowed the government to require speech of physicians intended to discourage abortions. The Court ignored legal precedent, failed to weigh the interests at stake in its decision, and applied a more demanding standard based on content of speech.

But NIFLA v. Becerra is only secondarily about speech. It is impossible to understand the Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra except as a reflection of the conservative Justices’ hostility to abortion rights and their indifference to the rights and interests of women, especially poor women. In this way, it is likely a harbinger of what is to come from a Court with a majority that is very hostile to abortion.

Suggested Citation

Chemerinsky, Erwin and Goodwin, Michele, Constitutional Gerrymandering Against Abortion Rights: NIFLA v. Becerra (April 15, 2019). New York University Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 1, 2019; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3372406

Erwin Chemerinsky

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

HOME PAGE: https://www.law.berkeley.edu/our-faculty/faculty-profiles/erwin-chemerinsky/

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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