National Institute of Family and Life Advocates

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) is an anti-abortion organization that provides legal counsel and defense to its over 1,400 affiliate anti-abortion centers across the U.S. NIFLA is perhaps most known for bringing the case NIFLA v. Becerra (2018) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Summary Extremism Key Players And Related Groups Influence


The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) is an anti-abortion organization focused on providing legal counsel and defense to its affiliate anti-abortion centers (AACs). Founded in 1993 by Thomas Glessner, the organization is based in Fredericksburg, Virginia and has grown to represent over 1,600 AACs across the United States. NIFLA’s mission is explicitly anti-abortion, and the organization doesn’t even try to sugarcoat this by feigning concern for pregnant people and their care like some other anti-abortion groups pretend to do.

The organization spearheaded the use of ultrasound technology in their affiliate AACs, which they use to deceive and emotionally manipulate pregnant people into carrying their pregnancies to full term. NIFLA undertook this approach in the mid-1990s, which led to the founding of their “Institute of Limited Obstetric Ultrasound” and later The Life Choice (TLC) Project, both of which equip and train AACs with ultrasound machines and other materials to carry out their deceptive and manipulative goals.

NIFLA is a very active player in the anti-abortion legal landscape, but the organization is probably most known for suing the state of California in a case that eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court—NIFLA v. Becerra (2018). In this case, NIFLA succeeded in blocking governments from requiring that AACs post whether they are medically licensed. This concerning result has had repercussions nationwide, with the deception that AACs perpetrate now permitted to go unchecked under the guise of “First Amendment rights.”


NIFLA Encourages AACs Setting Up Near Abortion Clinics To Confuse Patients—The Same Deceptive Tactics That Other AACs Employ

NIFLA Founder And President Thomas Glessner Said That Many Affiliate AACs Exist “Solely To Provide Alternatives To Planned Parenthood.” “Thomas A. Glessner, founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, said many pro-life health care entities set up shop solely to provide alternatives to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. ‘They’re standing up and asserting their pro-life convictions that we need to provide alternatives to abortion, to mothers who are going to be, without this, in Planned Parenthood,’ Mr. Glessner said. ‘But if we’re now forced by penalty of law to have to refer for abortion, then we’re nothing but an extension of Planned Parenthood as far as I can see.’” [Washington Times, 2/6/17]

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NIFLA Spearheaded The Deceptive And Manipulative Use Of Ultrasound Technology At AACs And The Growing Movement Converting AACs Into Medical Clinics—Where They Push Misinformation Under The Guise Of Licensed Clinics

NIFLA Was The First AAC Network To Promote Using Ultrasounds In Their Clinics. “Founded in 1993, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates was the first CPC network to promote ultrasounds in crisis pregnancy centers; ultrasounds were seen as a new, persuasive tool to talk women out of abortions. Additionally, centers that offered ultrasound services could now be considered medical centers, giving CPCs more legitimacy.” [The Colorado Independent, 2/23/12]

NIFLA Helps Unlicensed AACs Obtain Minimal Medical Licensure—Though Its AACs Are Still Not Bound To HIPAA And Do Not Provide Comprehensive Medical Services

NIFLA Publishes Material To Facilitate Unlicensed AACs’ Conversions Into Medical Clinics. “How can NIFLA help our center make this conversion and offer medical services? NIFLA has published a manual, The Pregnancy Medical Clinic, which outlines the necessary steps in converting your operations to provide medical services. The manual comes with a CD which contains the necessary policies and procedures to satisfy federal OSHA standards as well as checklists, job descriptions and organizational flow charts to guide you in this process. … In addition, NIFLA offers The Life Choice Project (TLC), a comprehensive program that provides all the necessary elements to convert to medical status. The benefit of TLC to your centers is the guidance from an experienced NIFLA consultant to guide you in every aspect of your conversion process.” [NIFLA, 2020]

NIFLA Helps Unlicensed AACs Obtain Medical Licensing So They Can Push Unchecked Information On Their Clients, Like The So-Called “Abortion Pill Reversal.” “Since 1998, NIFLA has provided pregnancy centers the necessary tools to convert their operations into licensed medical clinics. NIFLA’s unique program, The Life Choice (TLC) Project, walks centers through the difficult steps of medical clinic conversion by offering medical services, such as ultrasound, a powerful medical tool is utilized that empowers mothers to choose life. Pro-life medical clinics are also in a position to offer STD testing and treatment and Abortion Pill Reversal resources to at-risk clients in their community.” [NIFLA, 2020]

NIFLA Acknowledges The Minimal Regulations That Its Licensed AACs Are Subject To—Including No Requirement To Adhere To HIPAA. “Are there federal laws governing the operations of a pregnancy medical clinic? Federal OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) standards apply to all such clinics. In addition, a federal law known as CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) also applies and the proper paperwork must be completed to satisfy such requirements.” [NIFLA, 2020]

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In A Case NIFLA Eventually Won At The Supreme Court, The Organization Sued The State Of California For Requiring AACs To Disclose That They Are Not Medically Licensed Facilities

Along With Other AACs, NIFLA Sued The State Of California On Behalf Of Its Affiliates Over The Reproductive FACT Act, Which Would Have Required Unlicensed AACs To Be Transparent About Their Medical Licensure. “Alliance Defending Freedom filed a complaint Tuesday in federal court against the state of California for passing an unconstitutional law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion. … ADF-allied attorney Dean R. Broyles of the The National Center for Law and Policy is co-counsel in the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris.” [Alliance Defending Freedom, 10/13/15]

The U.S. Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit Upheld The Lower Court’s Decision Denying NIFLA’s Request For An Injunction. “We affirm the district court’s denial of Appellants’ motion for a preliminary injunction.” [Leagle, 10/14/16]

NIFLA Then Further Petitioned For The Case To Be Appealed To The United States Supreme Court. “The Ninth Circuit candidly admits that it upheld the Act amidst a ‘circuit split’ with decisions by the Second and Fourth Circuits over how to scrutinize regulations of speech by medical professionals on controversial health issues. The ruling also conflicts with a recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit. The question presented is: Whether the Free Speech Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibits California from compelling licensed pro-life centers to post information on how to obtain a state-funded abortion and from compelling unlicensed pro-life centers to disseminate a disclaimer to clients on site and in any print and digital advertising.” [SCOTUSBlog, 3/20/17]

The List Organizations And Individuals Who Filed Amicus Briefs In Support Of NIFLA In NIFLA v. Becerra Is A “Who’s Who” Of Anti-Abortion Forces.

[SCOTUSBlog, 4/20/17]

On June 26, 2018, The Supreme Court Ruled In NILFA’s Favor, Permitting AACs To Continue Their Deceipt Without Regulation Or Transparency. “Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 5−4, in an opinion by Justice Thomas on June 26, 2018. Justice Kennedy and Justice Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Kagan joined. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined.” [SCOTUSBlog, 6/26/18]

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NIFLA—Along With Anti-Abortion Partner Human Coalition—Submitted An Amicus Curiae Brief To The United States Supreme Court Defending Texas’s Anti-Abortion SB 8 That Was Rife With Egregious Claims

NIFLA And Human Coalition Filed A Motion Under The Flawed Premise Of “Equip[ping] This Court With The Information It Needs To Assess Whether Women Are Actually Irreparably Harmed By SB 8.” “Human Coalition and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates file this motion under Supreme Court Rules 21.1 and 21.2(c) and respectfully request leave to file the attached amicus curiae brief in support of neither party. In support of this motion, Amici Curiae stated: Amici Curiae were not able to comply with Rule 37.2(a)’s 10-day notice requirement because of the expedited briefing schedule. The United States takes no position on this motion. Texas and the Intervenors consented with the condition that it be filed 48 hours before their briefs are due. Amici Curiae have extensive experience serving over 80,000 Texas women seeking abortion in the last three years. Drawing from this experience, their brief supplies this Court with information about the lack of resources that traditionally drive women to choose an abortion when most do not want it. Their brief also presents the multitude of public and private Texas programs available to provide those resources so women can make the choice they actually want—giving their child the opportunity to live. Amici Curiae seek to leave to file this brief to equip this Court with the information it needs to assess whether women are actually irreparably harmed by SB 8 and enjoining the law is in the public interest. Human Coalition’s and NIFLA’s unique perspectives of serving women seeking abortion will help the Court make that determination.” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

The Brief Was Drafted And Submitted By Legal Counsel From The Anti-Abortion Alliance Defending Freedom. “Respectfully submitted. John Bursch Counsel of Record. Kevin H. Theriot. Kenneth J. Connelly. Alliance Defending Freedom.” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

In Its Submitted Brief, NIFLA Explicitly Reiterates Its Goals Of Ending Abortion Outright—Directly Undermining Existing Precedent Set By Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey . “Human Coalition, a Texas nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation formed in 2009, is committed to rescuing children, serving families, and ending abortion by offering abortion-determined women a life-affirming message and tangible, individualized services.” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

Yet Again, NIFLA Discussed Abortion Using Offensive Language And Was Intentionally Reductive In Describing Why People Seek Abortion Care. “In Amici’s experience, many women seek abortion not because they are determined to take the life of their child but because they are coerced into doing so by a spouse, partner, boyfriend, human trafficker, or another third party. … Amici’s extensive experience shows that many abortion-seeking women accept their pregnancies when provided with the tangible support they need.” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

Among NIFLA’s Arguments Were Claims “The Abundance Of Services Provided For Women”—Including Harmful AACs—Supposedly Show That People Don’t “Need” Abortion

NIFLA Seems To Think That Sexism And Misogyny Are Gone From American Society And Structures. “The abundance of services provided for women minimizes any need for abortion after heartbeat detection. Today’s culture is far more supportive of women than in 1973, when this Court was concerned about ‘the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it.’” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

In An Apparent Attempt At Showing The “Successes” Of Anti-Abortion Centers (AACs), The Brief Reveals How Few Materials Are Distributed Per Capita, Despite The Massive Funding To AACs In Recent Years. “In 2019, pregnancy centers provided nearly 1.85 million people with the free services detailed in the previous sections, including more than 2 million baby-clothing outfits, more than 1.2 million packs of diapers, more than 19,000 strollers, and more than 30,000 new car seats.” [Supreme Court of the United States, 9/30/21]

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NIFLA Has Grown To Represent And Counsel Over 1,600 Affiliate AACs Across The United States

NIFLA Represents And Provides Counsel To Over 1,600 Affiliate AACs Nationwide—1,200 Of Whom Are “Medical Clinics.”

[NIFLA, 2020]

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NIFLA v. Becerra Has Potentially Far-Reaching Impact, And Has Already Set Dangerous Precedent Outside Of California

NIFLA v. Becerra Could Set Dangerous Precedent For All Sorts Of Disclosure Laws. “All that was required by the law was posting a notice that the state of California makes available free and low-cost contraception and abortion for women who economically qualify. Also, unlicensed facilities were required to post a notice that they are not licensed by the state to provide healthcare. … In concluding that the California law is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision has enormously important implications. It puts all laws requiring disclosures in jeopardy because all, like the California law, prescribe the required content of speech. All disclosure laws now will need to meet strict scrutiny and thus are constitutionally vulnerable. Moreover, the ruling is inconsistent with prior Supreme Court decisions that allowed the government to require speech of physicians intended to discourage abortions. The Court ignored legal precedent, failed to weigh the interests at stake in its decision, and applied a more demanding standard based on content of speech.” [NYU Law Review, 4/2019]

A Hawai’i Law Like The California Reproductive FACT Act Was Struck Down Under The Precedent Set By NIFLA v. Becerra. “In Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki, ADF attorneys challenged Senate Bill 501 (later retitled Act 200) on behalf of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio,” and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which has five pregnancy center affiliates in Hawaii. … 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.” [Alliance Defending Freedom, 9/21/18]

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