Every person may freely speak, write, express and publish his views on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of such right; and no law shall be enacted to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.
When people think about freedom of speech, they may not realize that the freedom to speak includes the freedom not to speak. When people gather to discuss important (or even not-so-important) issues, they cannot be made to voice certain opinions or viewpoints, nor can they be required to adopt the views or religious beliefs of others.
Unfortunately, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and certain of her colleagues do not share this perspective on freedom. They are attempting not only to tell certain non-profit organizations what they can and cannot say, but they want to force these organizations to share information promulgated by certain, selected professional associations. In so doing, they are circumventing the will of the people of the State of Michigan.
On June 25, 2009, Whitmer as principal sponsor introduced Senate Bill No. 668. This bill seeks to regulate non-governmental, non-profit “crisis pregnancy organizations” by requiring them to give pregnant women, “orally and in writing,” a “medically accurate and objective explanation of the full range of options available . . . including abortion, parenting, and adoption,” and “medically accurate and objective information on the range and medical risks associated with abortion, pregnancy, and childbirth.” If requested, the organization must give women “geographically indexed, printed materials that contain a comprehensive list of the medical clinics and hospitals that provide abortion services.”
The term “crisis pregnancy organization” was not chosen by accident. CPOs are typically pro-life centers, often affiliated with Christian organizations such as Care Net and Heartbeat International. Heartbeat International, for example, describes itself as a “nonprofit, interdenominational Christian association of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies endorsed by Christian leaders nationwide. Heartbeat's Life-Saving Vision is to help create a world where every new life is welcomed and children are nurtured within strong families, according to God’s Plan, so that abortion is unthinkable.”
Obviously, such radical organizations must be stopped, and Gretchen Whitmer is determined to do so.
SB 668 will require these Christian CPOs to distribute “medically accurate and objective” information about abortion, to provide “comprehensive” lists of abortion providers, and, in so doing, to violate their own beliefs and principles.
And how do CPOs know if the information they are required to provide is “medically accurate and objective”? Simple – Whitmer outsources this responsibility in section 1(b) of her bill:
“Medically accurate” means verified or supported by research conducted in compliance with scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals, where appropriate, and recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations and agencies with relevant expertise in the field, such as the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists or the American gynecological and obstetrical society.
So CPO volunteers will not be able to share their own experiences or opinions unless they have been published in peer-reviewed journals and stamped “approved” by an OB/GYN society. Do their views on religion and morality have to be approved also? Does the Bible have to be published in a peer-reviewed journal to be persuasive? Yes, according to SB 668.
This is America?
Here’s another problem: in 1987, Michigan voters approved, 54% to 46%, a new provision of state law that prohibits public funds from being used to provide abortions unless necessary to save the life of the mother. SB 668 circumvents this prohibition, not by using public funds, but by using the force of law and the threat of prosecution or private litigation to strong-arm private organizations into providing abortion-related information and, specifically, giving women comprehensive lists of abortion providers. This is completely inconsistent with the will of the voters, who determined that tax dollars should not be used to promote abortions.
Abortion is a divisive issue, obviously, but SB 668 does not seek peace or propose a solution – it seeks to use the brute force of government to impair the freedom of speech currently enjoyed by crisis pregnancy organizations and, in turn, to attack religious liberty by outlawing Christian-based opposition to abortion.
Gretchen Whitmer wants to be attorney general. Does she think she can get there on a platform of attacking our most dearly held rights?