April 02, 2018
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Women's Health Advocacy Public Health
A California law that requires specified facilities providing pregnancy-related services and counseling to disclose information about the availability of comprehensive reproductive health care services is currently being challenged before the United States Supreme Court.
At issue in this case—NIFLA v. Becerra—are efforts by the State of California to ensure that patients receive accurate information about the availability and accessibility of free and low-cost comprehensive reproductive health services.
Passed in 2015, the California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act requires licensed health-care centers to notify patients of the availability of free or low-cost health care services, including contraception, prenatal care, and abortions, through state programs. The law additionally requires that unlicensed health care centers—for example facilities that provide primarily counseling services—to inform women that there are no licensed medical providers on staff.
The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether the disclosures required by the FACT Act violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
The California Medical Association (CMA) joined the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics – California, American Society for Reproductive Medicine and other health care provider organizations to file an amicus brief in support of California’s FACT Act. CMA's brief explained that requiring licensed facilities to inform women of the availability of comprehensive free or low-cost reproductive health care reduces delays in care that can pose significant risks to maternal and fetal health.
“Women’s pregnancy-related health care services are highly time-sensitive, and unnecessary delay can pose significant risks to maternal and fetal health,” CMA’s brief said.
Additionally, the brief argues that requiring unlicensed medical facilities to inform women that there are no licensed medical providers on staff allows women to make informed decisions about the pregnancy-related services that they receive and prevents such facilities from misleading women into believing that the services being offered are medically necessary or beneficial.
CMA’s brief explains that “patients can neither fully consent nor make fully informed decisions about their health care if they are not meaningfully informed about the care they are receiving or the qualifications and expertise of the individual who will be providing the care.”
Oral arguments in this case were heard in the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20, 2018, and a decision is expected by the end of June.