Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Battle lines drawn over Kennedy’s replacement

Life | Abortion has become the central theme as President Trump looks to nominate his second Supreme Court justice
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 7/02/18, 05:16 pm

Pro-life advocates are cheering the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy but are bracing for what likely will be vicious pushback from the left against his replacement.

Kennedy, nominated in 1987 by a conciliatory President Ronald Reagan, has been the high court’s swing vote on abortion issues and a vocal supporter of the homosexual agenda. He announced last week in a letter to President Donald Trump that he would step down from the court on July 31.

Trump has narrowed a list of replacement candidates “down to about five,” according to a recent report. He could name his pick as early as next week.

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver hopes the president picks U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

“She has the right judicial philosophy in which she adheres to the constitutional text and the rule of law,” Staver told me.

Staver noted that Kennedy waffled on Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. The case nearly overturned Roe v. Wade, but Kennedy changed his original opinion from a pro-life stance to one supporting abortion.

“Kennedy succumbed after 30 days of lobbying by Justices [Sandra Day] O’Connor and [David] Souter and changed [his vote],” Staver said. “Kennedy is directly the reason why we continue to have abortion in this country, because he abandoned the rule of law and the constitutional text.”

Assuming Trump selects another justice in the mold of Justice Neil Gorsuch, pro-lifers will be working again to defend his pick against opposition.

“I don’t think our country has witnessed the level of pushback that we will see,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “I think a lot of people are going to see really just the extremism of the liberal left in our country on this issue. They’re all going to be talking abortion, abortion, abortion.”

Hawkins’ organization is working to mobilize members of its student base to contact their U.S. senators and write letters to the editor in support of a pro-life Supreme Court pick.

“It’s going to be important for pro-lifers, for Christians, to stand up and speak louder,” she said, noting that the opposition is “going to be loud. They’re going to be marching, they’re going to be running ads, they’re going to be producing columns.”

Indeed, abortion advocates have already begun tweeting their outrage.

“Hurry up [and] get your abortions now,” writer David Leavitt said. Another commenter wrote, “I’m sick of playing fair. Play dirty. This nation’s future depends on it.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told The New York Times that Kennedy’s retirement puts “a woman’s constitutional right to access legal abortion … in dire, immediate danger.”

But Staver says the future of the unborn depends on a successful pro-life pick.

“The abortion decision will soon be overturned in the near future if we have the right justice,” he said. “As will the same-sex marriage opinion.”

Associated Press/Photo by Gregory Bull Associated Press/Photo by Gregory Bull A College Area Pregnancy Services clinic in San Diego

A victory for life and for free speech

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week in favor of California pro-life pregnancy centers was a free speech win not only for pregnancy center workers, but also for everyone in a professional setting.

In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, attorneys with the pro-life legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued that California’s requirement that pregnancy centers post notices telling women where to get a state-funded abortion was government-coerced speech. Five out of nine justices agreed with them.

The ruling also applies to three other identical pending cases filed in California by pro-life groups Liberty Counsel, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Pacific Justice Institute.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said the Supreme Court opinion was a matter of “life and death,” since the obtrusive pro-abortion disclosure required by the California law would have overwhelmed any pro-life literature.

“You would have just a few words on the front of a brochure and pages and pages of a brochure with these 13 languages, 29 words, 48-point font size,” Staver said. “The message required the crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion, and even provide the telephone number for low cost or free abortion centers.”

If the Supreme Court had ruled the other way, other states likely would have followed California’s example. While similar laws have already been struck down in states such as Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and New York, Hawaii enacted a similar law last year that still stands.

A Place for Women, a pro-life pregnancy center in Waipio, Hawaii, filed suit against the state law last year with the help of ADF. Legal counsel Elissa Graves told me that Hawaii pregnancy centers are “very excited” about last week’s Supreme Court ruling, “thinking they will not have to engage in this compelled speech.”

Graves said ADF planned to ask a court to block the Hawaii law, and is hopeful for success, based on the precedent set by the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling may also apply to future cases regarding “professional speech,” even as California seeks to ban therapy for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

California argued that the workers in pregnancy centers should be relegated to “professional speech,” a category of speech it said should be much narrower. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Staver said the case could have a huge effect not just on crisis pregnancy centers but on “all of the laws that seek to ban counsel for people seeking to overcome or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity.”

Associated Press/Photo by Frank Franklin II (file) Associated Press/Photo by Frank Franklin II (file) Abortionist Robert Rho

Rho goes to jail

Robert Rho, the abortionist who pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in the death of a 30-year-old woman, received a light prison sentence last week.

Rho severely damaged Jamie Lee Morales’ cervix, uterine wall, and uterine aorta during a 2016 abortion procedure. Instead of sending her to a hospital for treatment, he sent her home with her sister, even though Morales had already collapsed in the lobby.

She passed out in her sister’s car and died shortly afterward at a local hospital.

Rho could have faced 15 years in prison, but a last-minute plea bargain got him a sentence of 16 months to four years. His lawyer believes he could go free in less than a year.

“Dr. Rho should sit in prison for the rest of his life,” pro-life advocate Abby Johnson said in a statement. “Women deserve better than the Dr. Rhos of the world and they deserve better than abortion.”

Associated Press/Photo by Ross D. Franklin Associated Press/Photo by Ross D. Franklin The Walgreens in Peoria, Ariz., where the pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for misoprostol

Free conscience for pharmacists

Walgreens is backing an employee who recently refused to fill a prescription for misoprostol. After Arizona resident Nicole Arteaga miscarried her unborn baby, her doctor prescribed the drug, commonly used in medication abortions, to expel the baby.

The employee allegedly refused to hand her the prescription, citing his ethical beliefs. “I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor,” Arteaga wrote in a now-viral Facebook post.

Walgreens apologized for how the situation was handled, but wrote, “To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection.”

Arteaga was able to fill her prescription at a different Walgreens.

Setbacks and victories

Indiana: A federal judge last week issued an injunction against a state law requiring doctors to report medical complications from abortions. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed suit against the law in May.

Maryland: Alongside its pro-free-speech NIFLA ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overrule a case in Maryland in which pro-life pregnancy centers successfully blocked a law that would have required them to advertise they don’t perform abortions.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

Read more from this writer