Victory in Hawaii: District Court Strikes Down Law Targeting Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

NIFLA Launches Pro-Life Pregnancy Center Disaster Response Program
September 14, 2018
Victory! Hawaii Pregnancy Centers Won’t Be Forced to Promote Abortion
October 12, 2018

September 21, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT NIFLA’S MEDIA TEAM: 732-609-1976 or [email protected]

Supreme Court’s pivotal free speech ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra
invalidates state law

 HONOLULU – A federal district court struck down a Hawaii law forcing pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry Thursday, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming free speech in NIFLA v. Becerra.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates—a nonprofit network known as NIFLA with five affiliate centers in Hawaii and nearly 1,500 members nationwide—challenged the law in partnership with Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio.”

“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious. Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner, J.D. “The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that its attempt to force pro-life centers and churches to advertise its abortion agenda was unconstitutional. This case constitutes a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”

Senate Bill 501 (later retitled Act 200) required pro-life pregnancy centers to direct women to a state agency that provides abortion referrals and funding. It would have required pro-life centers to post large signs or provide notice to clients that the state of Hawaii “has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services,” which include abortion-inducing drugs.

But in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, the Hawaii Attorney General agreed that the compelled speech mandate at the heart of the law was unconstitutional. On Thursday, District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson held as much when he declared that portion of the law unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state of Hawaii from enforcing it.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs,” said Kevin Theriot, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of the Center for Life. “In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”

In NIFLA v. Becerra, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote on behalf of the majority that “the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail… This Court’s precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.’”

“This is another huge victory for America’s pro-life pregnancy centers—not just in Hawaii, but nationwide,” said NIFLA Vice President Anne O’Connor, J.D. “The outcome of this case should send a message to abortion advocates pushing for similar laws in states such as Michigan, Connecticut and others. NIFLA will continue to challenge these unconstitutional laws wherever they occur.”

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” added Derald Skinner, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and President of “A Place for Women in Waipio.”

“We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry. Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”


The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, known as NIFLA, is a national nonprofit organization providing legal counsel, education, and training for pro-life pregnancy centers and medical clinics. Representing a network of nearly 1,500 pregnancy centers across the United States, NIFLA has recently challenged laws in California, Hawaii and Illinois that target its members.

NIFLA Vice President Anne O’Connor, J.D., acted as co-counsel on NIFLA v. Becerra before the Supreme Court in March. The NIFLA v. Becerra ruling in favor of pro-life pregnancy centers and free speech was released on June 26 of this year.

To book interviews with Thomas Glessner, J.D. or Anne O’Connor, J.D. about the settlement in Hawaii, NIFLA v. Becerra or NIFLA’s pending legal action in other states, please contact NIFLAs media team at [email protected].