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Monday, May 16, 2016

SCOTUS uncharacteristically equivocal on bullying by Government (with a capital G, as in God)

With uncharacteristic restraint, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today decided that, well, it just can't decide on a landmark religious freedom case.
You've heard all about this case (Zubik v. Burwell), which consolidated cases against the Obama administration by the following plaintiffs:

  • Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged (pictured)
  • Priests for Life
  • Southern Nazarene University
  • Geneva College
  • Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington
  • East Texas Baptist University

  •  The cases arose because President Obama insisted on using Obamacare as a vehicle to make even elderly nuns participate in his divisive mandate that every woman in America have free contraceptives. The mandate includes drugs like Ella that the FDA says may "affect implantation," i.e., terminate the life of a human embryo.
    The nuns, Christian colleges and other faith-based ministries said they could not morally participate in the program. The administration refused to exempt them or reasonably accommodate their conscience concern, insisting that objectors sign what amounted to a permission slip directing their insurers to provide the objectionable contraceptives and potential abortifacients.
    After oral arguments in the case, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the opposing parties to see if a mutually satisfactory compromise might be possible. The administration, which for years had held the hammer over the head of the ministries with no indication of willingness to compromise, apparently recognized the weakness of its legal position and conceded that maybe it could find a different way to reach its goal of universal contraceptive coverage.
    In its ruling handed down Monday, the Court directed the lower courts to give the parties "an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'”
    Suddenly shy and deferential, the Court expressed "no view on the merits of the cases. In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest." A ruling protecting religious freedom would have been extremely helpful, and the fact that the administration suddenly conceded that in fact it could change its tactics indicates that it had not pursued the least restrictive means of accomplishing its goal.
    SCOTUS never displayed such indecisive deference when mandating for the entire nation same-sex marriage or abortion on demand. This indecision comes despite the fact that the First Amendment clearly protects citizens of faith from government restriction ("no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."). Congress, through the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, also clearly prevents the government from abridging religious rights without a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means to achieve its aims.
    So now it's up to the lower courts (where a bunch of these cases were decided with differing conclusions) to guide the Obama administration and religious objectors to a compromise in which everyone's happy. Nuns don't have to participate in what they are convinced are morally reprehensible actions and President Obama gets to find a way to get free contraceptives to every woman in America, coast-to-coast coverage from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills.
    Such a solution may let the nuns and other objectors avoid the millions in dollars of annual fines threatened by the Obama administration, and that's worth celebrating. But it's highly unlikely to satisfy ideologues whose goal appears to be making everyone dependent upon and subservient to the Government. To them, Government (spelled with a capital G, as in God) is not a protector of individual freedom and conscience but a hammer to pound every citizen into submission to state dogma.
    Thankfully, a group of nuns and other courageous "Daniels" of our day, as in biblical times, refused to bow down and submit to the king's decree and escaped the lions' paw and maw. God give us more like them...and make us likewise courageous.

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    It's a girl! Please let her live.

    The latest pro-life news from Capitol Hill features a hearing on legislation that would ban abortions for the purpose of sex selection--a bill that especially would protect girls from gendercide.
    Chairman Franks (R-AZ) (@RepTrentFranks) recently chaired a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 4924, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 (PRENDA). His opening statement can be viewed here. Complete video from the hearing is available on the Judiciary Committee’s website at this link

    Majority witnesses

    Catherine Davis, Founding Core Member of National Black Pro-Life Coalition and President of The Restoration Project
    video and text of testimony
    Exchanges with Chairman Franks on the purpose of and need for PRENDA, part 1 and part 2
    Anna Higgins, Associate Scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute
    video and text of testimony
    Exchanges with Chairman Franks concerning the constitutionality of PRENDA, part 1 and part  2
    Rev. Derek McCoy, National Clergy Relations Director for Center for Urban Renewal and Education
    video and text of testimony
    Exchange with Chairman Franks on the need to protect the vulnerable

    Minority witness

    Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

    text of testimony

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    ADF intervenors on victory over ACLU:"No American should be forced to commit an abortion"

    Matt Bowman
    The Alliance Defending Freedom news release below highlights an important case that illustrates just how far some will go to force abortion ideology on those who would protect the unborn. 
    Thanks to colleagues Matt Bowman and Kevin Theriot for their typically excellent work in this case.

    Court dismisses ACLU suit that sought to force Catholic hospital, staff to commit abortions

    ADF intervened in case on behalf pro-life physician groups in defense of Catholic hospital network

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Attorney sound bites:  Kevin Theriot | Matt Bowman
    Kevin Theriot
    DETROIT – A federal court Monday threw out an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that sought to force a Catholic hospital system and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections.
    Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical Association, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which the court allowed on March 10 to intervene in the case in defense of Trinity Health Corporation. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.
    “No American should be forced to commit an abortion—least of all faith-based medical workers who went into the profession to follow their faith and save lives, not take them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “No law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. As we argued in our brief to the court, the ACLU had no standing to bring this suit and demand this kind of government coercion.”
    “Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest. The ruling relies on important case law that our pro-life medical group clients cited showing that the ACLU’s case was based on pure speculation.”
    The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in its dismissal order in American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation called the ACLU’s claims of harm from the hospital system’s pro-life position “dubious,” explaining that they haven’t satisfied the legal requirements to demonstrate such harm and therefore bring a lawsuit.
    The court additionally found that, for those reasons and others, the lawsuit is not “ripe for review,” meaning that nothing has happened to warrant court action: “Obviously, pregnancy alone is not a ‘particular condition’ that requires the termination of said pregnancy. To find the claim to be ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception. Accordingly, the alleged harm has not risen beyond a speculative nature and is not ripe for review.”

    Friday, April 1, 2016

    Obamacare "conscience" accommodation: Like making conscientious military objectors designate proxies for combat

    The US Agency for International Development boasts that the United States is “the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor for 50 years, ” “supports voluntary family planning” and “takes a rights-based approach to family planning.” Here at home with its own citizens, however, the administration has taken the opposite tack.
    Rather than directly providing contraceptives for voluntary use as it does overseas, the Obama administration instead has mandated coverage through employer-paid insurance plans. Not even nuns who care for the elderly—like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who this week had to ask the Supreme Court for protection—can claim a conscientious objection.
    The administration’s “accommodation” of conscientious objectors is to force the nuns to sign a form that tells the government to make their insurance company provide contraceptives. That’s like making a conscientious objector to military conscription designate a proxy for combat.
    The nuns and other religious objectors simply seek the freedom to follow their beliefs without fear of government punishment—in this case, draconian fines that would wipe out the ministry. At stake is not only the First Amendment freedom of religious exercise, but the rights of all citizens to speak and act in accordance with their beliefs—even when those beliefs challenge the government’s ideology and power.


    [Note: The Christian Medical Association has filed an amicus brief in this case, Zubik v. Burwell. A dvidided Supreme Court recently asked both parties to consider and report back new solutions.]

    Thursday, March 31, 2016

    No, pro-life abortion legislation does not punish but protects women

    The question arose in the presidential campaign whether women should be punished for abortions. The answer below from colleagues on Capitol Hill should set the record straight:
    Many pro-life leaders view women as co-victims of abortion (e.g. The March for Life).  Pro-life groups and Members have supported legislation that holds abortionists who prey on women accountable for their actions while holding the women on whom the abortion is performed harmless under the law.  Some examples of such legislation are included below. 

    Recently Considered Pro-life Laws, Not Enacted

    Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
    HR36 (114th Congress) as introduced and as passed the House (also 113th H.R. 1797 as introduced and as passed the House, H.R. 3803 as introduced and as considered by the House on Suspension):
    BAR TO PROSECUTION.—A woman upon whom an abortion in violation of subsection (a) is performed or attempted may not be prosecuted under, or for a conspiracy to violate, subsection (a), or for an offense under section 2, 3, or 4 of this title based on such a violation.

    Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
    Bar to prosecution.—The mother of a child born alive described under subsection (a) may not be prosecuted under this section, for conspiracy to violate this section, or for an offense under section 3 or 4 of this title based on such a violation.

    PRENDA (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act)
    H.R. 3541 as introduced in the 112th and as considered by the House under suspension of the Rules in the 112th Congress
    Exception.—A woman upon whom a sex-selection or race-selection abortion is performed may not be prosecuted or held civilly liable for any violation of this section, or for a conspiracy to violate this section.

    Enacted Pro-life Laws

    Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act
    As enacted in 2003:
    A woman upon whom a partial-birth abortion is performed may not be prosecuted under this section, for a conspiracy to violate this section, or for an offense under section 2, 3, or 4 of this title based on a violation of this section.

    Unborn Victims of Violence Act
    As enacted in 2004
    Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution—…
    ‘(3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.


    Personhood

    Personhood bill not enacted or recently considered by the House but viewed by some as a position statement on the legality of abortion:


    However, nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child. 

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    Senate hears from abortion survivor, former abortionist

    Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on why the law should protect babies born alive after an abortion, and why we should at the very least ban abortions after the age at which babies can feel pain. 
    Witnesses included an abortion survivor and a physician who did abortions before making the connection between "fetus" and baby. I was privileged to accompany Dr. Kathi Aultman to the hearing, where she noted, "We have moved further away from the idea that life is precious and closer to the utilitarian attitudes that ended so many lives during the last century."
    Witnesses for the Republican majority included:
    Dr. Kathi A. Aultman
    Retired Gynecologist
    Orange Park , FL
    Ms. Melissa Ohden
    Founder, The Abortion Survivors Network
    Gladstone , MO
    Dr. Colleen A. Malloy
    Assistant Professor, Pediatrics-Neonatology
    Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
    Chicago , IL
    Ms. Angelina Baglini Nguyen
    Associate Scholar
    Charlotte Lozier Institute
    Washington , DC

    Video and testimonies

    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    Supreme Court weighs health and safety requirements for women in abortion clinics

    The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case to decide whether or not legislators can require abortion clinics to adhere to the same safety and health requirements of similar clinics.
    The following op-eds by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) address what's at stake:

    Rep. Black - LifeNews.com:

    Before I came to Congress, I served as a registered nurse. During my time in the emergency room, I cared for a young woman who came to my hospital after undergoing a botched abortion at a clinic that was not properly regulated. When her complications occurred, there was no answer at the after-hours number that she called and by the time she entered my care she was dying and there was nothing that the doctors or I could do to save her.
    That young woman lost her precious life; a life that could have been saved if proper regulations were in place to protect her safety and to hold the abortionist accountable. This is what is at stake at the high court.
    Sadly, my story is not the only one of its kind. Americans were awakened to the dangers of unregulated abortion clinics on a grander and more sinister scale with the grisly murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in 2013 – which served as the genesis for the Texas law in dispute today.

    Rep. Vicky Hartzler - The Hill:

    In the Grand Jury report regarding Gosnell, the jurists stated, “There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards.” They went further to say that abortion clinics “should be explicitly regulated as ambulatory surgical facilities, so that they are inspected annually and held to the same standards as all other outpatient procedure centers.”
    Overturning the Texas law, on the other hand, endangers women’s health, allowing facilities like the Women’s Medical Society to go uninspected and unaccountable. Adding to this danger, ruling against this law could place other reasonable regulations on abortion in jeopardy as fringe groups, aiming to make unregulated abortion the norm and not the exception, use this as a precedent to overturn laws around the country.
    To this end, joined by 173 other members of Congress, I led an amicus brief in support of this Texas law. Further, over 3,300 women injured by abortion have signed a similar amicus brief in support of these regulations. Simply put, medical procedures as serious and consequential as abortion should not be allowed to go unregulated. The infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell was not an outlier—we must protect women and children from other Gosnells.