A new law in Vermont has raised concerns about its potential impact on pro-life pregnancy centers. The law prohibits these centers from offering non-medical services, including post-abortion counseling, and subjects them to hefty fines if their advertising is deemed misleading in relation to abortion services. Two faith-based pregnancy centers in Vermont have filed a lawsuit, supported by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), arguing that the law infringes on their right to free speech and to provide services to pregnant women.
NIFLA gained recognition when it successfully challenged the constitutionality of California’s FACT Act, which required pro-life pregnancy centers to display posters informing patients where they could access abortion services. The Vermont law, known as S-37, censors the centers’ ability to advertise their free services and imposes fines of up to $10,000 for each violation if their advertising is deemed misleading. Additionally, the law forbids pregnancy centers from offering non-medical services, such as post-abortion counseling, while excluding abortion clinics that provide the same information.
Critics argue that the law is biased and infringes on the centers’ free speech rights and ability to provide support to women facing unexpected pregnancies. They argue that pregnancy centers should have the freedom to serve women and offer the support they need without fear of government punishment. The law’s passage is seen as surprising given its potential unconstitutionality, although the Vermont Legislature, which has a majority of progressive lawmakers, expressed concerns about pregnancy centers that counsel against abortion and alleged misleading advertising.
Pro-life pregnancy centers have proven their value in the United States, helping millions of individuals facing unexpected pregnancies. In 2022 alone, Vermont’s pro-life pregnancy centers served hundreds of male and female clients, performed ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, conducted STD/STI tests, and provided educational classes, resulting in significant cost savings for the community. It is unfortunate to see a law specifically targeting organizations that promote a culture of life and genuinely help women and children in need. The lawsuit against the law aims to overturn it and protect the crucial services provided by pro-life pregnancy centers.