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In a decision important to women’s health yesterday, the US Supreme Court upheld challenges to the California FACT Act witha 5-4 decision, in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra . The Act requires crisis pregnancy centers in the state to post various disclosures depending on the type of services that they provide, including disclosures about the availability of abortions. The centers, typically run by groups at oppose abortion, argued that the law infringed upon their First Amendment freedom of speech by forcing them to promote abortion and abortion providers and had asked the lower courts to suspended enforcement of the law while their First Amendment claims were litigated. The Court reversed the lower courts’ stays and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its ruling.

The case had pitted pro-life conservatives against pro-choice advocates who contend that the centers engage in deceptive practices by obscuring the fact that they may not offer medical services, and even if they do, do not provide access to a full range of reproductive services, including abortions. The Court ruled that California’s law impermissibly sought to force the centers to support the very practice that they were created to oppose and this is an impermissible government intrusion on speech.

In a statement about the ruling , Attorney General Xavier Becerra expressed disappointment and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to what he describes, educate women about their healthcare.

“When it comes to making their health decisions, all California women – regardless of their economic background or zip code – deserve access to critical and non-biased information to make their own informed decisions. Today’s Court ruling is unfortunate, but ourwork to ensure that Californians receive accurate information about their healthcare options will continue.”

As expected,Thomas Glessner, NIFLA President and Founder of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates celebrated the ruling as a victory for Free Speech stating,

“The right of free speech protected in the First Amendment not only includes the right to speak, but also the right to not be compelled by government to speak a message with which one disagrees and which violates one’s conscience. The court correctly found that the California law clearly offends this principle. We are very pleased with the court’s decision and for what it means for the many pro-life centers that serve and empower women in California and throughout the country.”

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The FDA says tortillas and other foods made with corn masa flour can now be fortified with folic acid. The move is aimed at reducing severe brain and spinal cord defects in babies born to Hispanic women.
Verónica Zaragovia for NPR
Originally published on April 15, 2016 6:40 pm

Foods made with corn masa flour — like tortillas, tacos and tamales — could soon play a critical role in the health of babies born to Latina mothers in the U.S.

That's because, as of today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing manufacturers to fortify their corn masa foods with folic acid. That's a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent severe defects of the brain and spinal cord when consumed by women before and early in pregnancy.

"I think it will be really monumental for the Latino population," says Michael Dunn , a Brigham Young University food scientist.

Since 1998, the FDA has required that breads, pasta, breakfast cereals and other grains made with enriched flour be fortified with folic acid. In the years since, the number of babies born in the U.S. with neural tube defects has dropped by roughly 35 percent — or about 1,300 babies a year.

But these birth defects remain "stubbornly higher" in the Hispanic community, says Dr. Edward McCabe , the chief medical officer at the March of Dimes. Researchers have suspected that the reason why might lie in tortillas and other foods made with corn masa flour, a dietary staple for many Hispanic families.

That's because until now, the FDA had banned fortification of products made with corn masa flour. The agency was concerned that the folic acid might not remain stable.

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