SCOTUS Just Ruled Against Women’s Right To Know The Truth About Their Medical Providers

We don’t have to sink to their depths. If we did, we’d lose what sets us apart. But it’s time to recognize that no wars have ever been won with civility.

A case that pit the freedom of speech of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers against the rights of patients to be fully informed about their reproductive care providers and options has ended today with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the crisis pregnancy centers.

That’s right: The Court really just held that your right to accurate information about your medical providers is less important than those providers’ right to willingly mislead you.

Of course, that’s not how the Court framed it.

Crisis pregnancy centers argued their freedom of speech was impinged by a requirement to advertise for services they disagree with — and it was that First Amendment claim ostensibly behind the majority’s opinion.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas (who, it should be noted, almost never bothers to actually write an opinion about anything but chose this as his time to shine) argued that the law at issue “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

While that certainly does sound critical enough to allow crisis pregnancy centers to mislead women about their services and credentials, it turns out that the “burdensome disclosure requirement” is … a sign.

The law, known as the FACT Act, requires unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers to post a sign or otherwise inform their clients in writing that they’re unlicensed and don’t have licensed medical providers on staff. Additionally, they must disclose their licensing status in their advertising.

Similarly, the law requires licensed centers that don’t provide a full spectrum of reproductive care to post a sign stating that the state offers free or low-cost prenatal care, birth control and other reproductive care, including abortions.

Never mind that businesses are required to display all sorts of signs that they’d probably prefer not to post, including their health inspection results and information about illegal labor practices. This particular sign is a violation of these business’ protected speech.

Bull. Shit.

Imagine a different world, where men didn’t make up the vast majority of the legislature. Let’s pretend that there were more than 2,700 unlicensed clinics in the United States offering men’s health services, but they refused to prescribe drugs like Viagra on religious grounds. These clinics did their best to appear like any other medical clinic, despite often being unlicensed, and counseled men about other ways to deal with their impotence, such as prayer.

How long do you think it would take for those clinics to be shut down? We’d skip straight past signs and right to closure — guaranteed.

But this isn’t a utopia where women’s health-care is treated with equal consideration to men’s. It’s Trump’s America where screaming about protected speech is the order of the day, no matter how many people your speech is harming.

There are limits to protected speech. I can’t libel you, scream “fire!” in a crowded theater, or incite violence with my words. The best interests of society sometimes require that individual speech is curtailed. That’s settled law.

This case should’ve been a no-brainer. It should’ve been obvious that “truth in advertising” laws should be extended to medical providers, whether they provide Viagra, cold medicines, or abortions. But it wasn’t.

We can blame Justice Kennedy, who was again the swing vote — as he was in today’s 5-4 ruling to uphold Trump’s travel ban and yesterday’s 5-4 decision to allow gerrymandering to continue in Texas — and who wrote the majority opinion in the disastrous Cakeshop decision. We can even scream loudly that we wouldn’t have ended up here had the Republicans not successfully blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS during the Obama administration.

All of those things are true. But they aren’t the only truth, or even the most important truth. We ended up with these rulings because we live in a country where identity still trumps justice. Today’s ruling is a victory for misogyny, just as the travel ban ruling is a victory for xenophobia, the gerrymandering ruling is a victory for racism, and the Cakeshop ruling is a victory for bigotry.

All too often, liberals are accused of engaging in identity politics. We’re decried as “social justice warriors.” But this is a fucking war against every identity that isn’t white, male, and Christian, and we all need to be warriors.

This isn’t, as Nancy Pelosi and the New York Times recently suggested, a time for civility. This is a time for war — as ugly and as relentless as required. It’s a time for protestors to disrupt the personal lives of leaders who won’t act in the best interests of humanity, in all its identities, and it’s a time for all of us to get off our asses and find a way, any way, to make a difference.

Michelle Obama famously said that when they go low, we go high. It’s often used against liberals, just as Martin Luther King Jr.’s arguments for peace are weaponized against black people. It’s a nice idea that we’ll win by taking the high road, but we aren’t winning. We are being cannibalized by people who will stoop to any low to get what they want.

They will block appointments, stack courts, tamper with elections, lie with abandon and without apology, and they will tear this country apart to pad the pockets of the elite.

We don’t have to sink to their depths. If we did, we’d lose what sets us apart. But it’s time to recognize that no wars have ever been won with civility.

People are dying, families are being torn apart, and women are being denied the health care they deserve. We don’t have the luxury of going high anymore.

Jody Allard is a former techie-turned-freelance-writer living in Seattle. She can be reached through her website, on Twitter or via her Facebook page.

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