Commentary

Gene Nichol: Crisis pregnancy centers violate First Amendment

[This post has been updated.] Click here to see a fine a fine op-ed by UNC law professor Gene Nichol that graced the Raleigh’s News & Observer today. In “Government sponsored religion,” Nichol tells the plain truth about so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that the Republican lawmakers at the General Assembly continues to fund with public tax dollars: their receipt of public money is violative of the Constitution.

As Nichol explains, the folks who run the centers hold a religious belief that abortion is wrong and use the funds they receive (from the government and elsewhere)  to try and convince pregnant women to adopt the same view. Nichol highlights an Asheville-area CPC in which the “counseling” offered comes from “a Biblical perspective.” As the staff members told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “this is our ministry.”

After also noting that a detailed 2018 report from Dr. Amy Bryant and Dr. Jonas Swartz of the UNC School of Medicine in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics discredited the centers for placing religious ideology ahead of actual medical care and for dispensing “counseling that is misleading or false” and that “falls outside accepted medical standards,” Nichol offers this on-the-money conclusion:

“I’m not competent to assess the claims of doctors Bryant and Swartz. though I admit I’m inclined to believe them. I do, though have a passing familiarity with American constitutional law. I have taught it for 40 years. The state of North Carolina has no business, and it has no authority, to fund an agency’s “biblical ministry.” This is true no matter how well-motivated the government funded recipients may be or how crucial the role of religion might have become in their lives. Religion and government, in the United States, are to be kept separate — even when the religion is the one that North Carolina Republicans prefer.”

2 Comments


  1. Gailya Paliga

    July 2, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    I appreciate you publishing this. Professor Gene Nichols is amazing, and I hadn’t caught up in my newspapers yet. Did you mean to include the link to the original article? I see it in the Charlotte Observer as well, at https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article232068072.html

  2. Lois C Roewade

    July 2, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you so much for highlighting Gene Nichol’s Op Ed about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. NARAL ProChoice NC has been trying to get the media to shine a light on these deceptive organizations for the past several years – with very little response. As a taxpayer and a NARAL member I am outraged at the amount of NC government money these Centers receive. As Mr. Nichol points out they are basically Christian religious organizations using the bible as their main source of assistance in completing a pregnancy. Any medical information offered is often incorrect, undocumentable and geared to intimidating and frightening women into any decision other than continuing a pregnancy.

    The public needs to be educated about these “fake” clinics – and the amount of taxpayer dollars supporting them: more than 3.1 million.

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