Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against California and in favor of the speech and conscience rights of pro-life pregnancy support centers in the case of NIFLA v. Becerra. A Virginian could read the opinion, determine that we have no similar compelled speech law in the abortion arena, and promptly close the book on it. Not so fast, though. In light of the Virginia’s brand new 2018 budget, this case might also have something to say to our state lawmakers.
It’s hard to read the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of NIFLA and not envision railroad crossing bars with red lights and loud bells coming down stopping the government from crossing what the Justices clearly see as a bright line of freedom. Particularly illuminating is the Court’s depth of discussion on the concept of “professional speech.” The Court described professional speech as a potential class of speech that could inappropriately be used by the government to compel a subset of citizens or businesses—the professionals— to express a government approved message. Nestled in the multi-paged warning that government can easily usurp a profession and compel speech violating our first freedoms are examples from history where “governments have ‘manipulated the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities.” (p.12 of the majority Opinion) Specifically, it puts Chinese physicians being dispatched to convince peasants to use contraception on rhetorical par with doctors in Nazi Germany holding and making decisions based on the required government opinion that the collective health of the people was more important than the health of an individual - the result of which was tragic, mass murder.
There is an unwritten rule in politics—a rule that is oft repeated within our office walls to ensure compliance— that nothing, regardless of its reprehensible nature, should ever be compared to Nazi Germany. No person or government should be compared to Nazis. No amount of deaths - even abortion with its obvious parallels - should be compared to the Holocaust. We strictly comply with this rhetorical canon not because the analogy might not hold, but because, among other prudential reasons, we don’t want to contribute one word or thought that, if misinterpreted, could result in a victim or family’s experience being diminished. Let each unique awful atrocity stand on its own. (Besides, for some of the unconscionable occurrences we’re witnessing in our own time, there are and need be no comparisons.)
So, when Justice Thomas in the majority opinion quotes from a Law Review that compares anything to Nazi Germany, it demands our attention. Interestingly, in NIFLA, we find that it was government working through its doctors to entice peasants to go on contraception. While the details of that situation were not elaborated, the fact that it was a program intended for the poor seems to be relevant, with an underlying sentiment that if the poor would simply stop reproducing, the government would benefit.
Herein lies the alarming parallel to this year’s budget. For the first time, our state budget included $6 million that is intended specifically to incentivize healthcare and abortion “professionals” (if that term can be used for those who take the life of the unborn) to encourage low-income women to use long active reversible contraception. In both discussions and floor speeches surrounding the budget item, government officials can be heard expressing the underlying sentiment that if the poor would simply stop reproducing, the government would benefit (less money spent in welfare type programs, criminal reform, and the list go on). Although one could argue that our government is not requiring Planned Parenthood and others to encourage low-income women to go on contraception, being handed money to do so will presumably achieve the same effect. If the program our budget funded comes anywhere close to what the majority Opinion tacitly compares to Nazi Germany, it’s a good indication that it should never have been funded.
I’ve got a better idea for our state government: How about, instead of funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into a long-term contraception program for low-income populations, let’s celebrate every new life as a gift rather than a burden. And let’s promote strong families as the only viable and sustainable means of reducing dependency on publicly-funded programs.