by Mia Gradick & Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
First Liberty is supporting the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) in an important legal battle that could impact Florida’s faith-based pregnancy resource centers. We recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of NIFLA in Planned Parenthood v. State of Florida.
NIFLA is a nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel, education and training to more than 1,700 pregnancy centers and medical clinics nationwide. Their work and essential service to mothers and parents stems from their religious convictions about the sanctity of human life.
Our attorneys are asking the Florida Supreme Court to overturn its incorrect precedents and to uphold the rule of law. They point to the precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson, which properly returned the power to regulate abortion to the states.
We argue that the state’s highest court created a “right” to abortion found nowhere in the Florida Constitution, which produced an atmosphere of hostility toward life-affirming pregnancy centers and put staff and clients in danger. The brief urges the Court to right the wrong:
“The U.S. Supreme Court finally admitted its error and returned to the people the sacred political right that it seized from them in Roe v. Wade. This case presents the question whether this Court should do likewise with respect to its own abortion precedents misconstruing the Florida Constitution…It surely should.”
After the Dobbs decision, there have been hundreds of acts of violence and vandalism against faith-based pregnancy resource centers, including several in the state of Florida. In fact, right now, First Liberty is fighting in federal court for Heartbeat of Miami. We’re seeking to hold accountable vandals who defaced and spray-painted their property, which is punishable under federal law.
Our lawyers explain that due to these attacks, NIFLA has a profound interest in the outcome of this case as it will directly influence their work. We make the case that the Court’s rulings are in conflict with religious liberty:
“The free exercise of religion has been yet another casualty of the abortion distortion. Time and again, emboldened by judicial creation of abortion rights, government has attempted to coerce pro-life Americans to violate or set aside their deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of human life.”
NIFLA won at the U.S. Supreme Court in a similar case. In NIFLA v. Becerra (2018), the Court struck down a California law that targeted faith-based organizations. It required them to advertise the state’s abortion services and give patients a number to call for obtaining a state-subsidized abortion, regardless of their religious beliefs.
First Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case, arguing that the state law coerced life-affirming clinics operating from a religious viewpoint to violate their faith. Our attorneys pointed out that the First Amendment exists to protect citizens and organizations—including religious ones—from being compelled to promote objectionable messages.
The 5-4 decision in that case made clear that viewpoint-based compelled speech is unconstitutional.
As our experts explain, the judicial creation of this phantom “right” has led to decades of conflict with the free exercise of religion, a breakdown in political discourse and countless attacks against life-affirming centers. According to our brief, “In just about any other context, it is difficult to imagine the government compelling its religious citizens to subsidize, assist in the procurement of, or directly perform acts that their faith regards as gravely immoral.”
The Florida Supreme Court has an opportunity to revisit its own erroneous abortion precedents that have needlessly endangered religious liberty. By overturning these precedents, the Court can properly return the abortion issue to the democratic process, and allow the state—and our nation—to begin healing from the damage its errors have caused.