An internecine battle in the camp of pro-life activist groups is pointless, because no, the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision cannot stop any specific abortion, but yes, it is a huge precedent in the long-range strategic war over the deaths of the unborn in the United States, experts have told WND.
“So my advice is (a) pause for a moment to celebrate the victory, (b) don’t read more into it than is actually there, and (c) get back to work. Babies are still dying,” Mark Crutcher, chief of Life Dynamics, told WND.
The dispute arose with the publication of a
series of “Open Letters” to Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family by a coalition of other pro-life organizations, including the American Life League as well as the Colorado Right to Life.
“The Justices you called ‘pro-life’ did not ‘affirm’ the life of the unborn but upheld a mere ‘regulatory’ law ‘under the Commerce Clause’ (p. 36). These Justices you misrepresent as ‘pro-life’ actually suggest other ways for abortionists to kill the fully intact, late-term child to comply with their regulation, such as ‘an injection that kills the fetus’ (p. 34). Dr. Dobson, imagine the horror yet to come now that our greatest Christian leaders are willing to call good evil, and evil good,” said one of the letters.
In an editorial today on WND, Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery, the vice president for government and public policy, responded, noting that the precedent “will breathe new life into the passage of abortion-limiting laws around the country” and “by accepting and defending Congress’ right to base an abortion law on moral concerns, the Court punctured the hot air balloon that has carried the abortionists’ lie since 1973 – that a preborn baby is a blob of tissue…”
The disagreement even attracted the attention of the Washington Post, which called it a “highly visible rift” and noted that the coalition’s leaders have been “using rhetoric that they have reserved in the past for abortion clinics” to address fellow pro-lifer Dobson.
The dispute centers on the fact that the legal ruling, itself, does not and cannot be used to proscribe a single abortion, a fact the coalition is focusing on. Meanwhile, Focus on the Family, and a number of other Christian groups, say the precedent actually might turn the tide of abortion legislation in the United States.
Paul Linton, a special counsel for Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, authored three amicus briefs submitted in the partial-birth abortion cases considered by the Supreme Court and said both sides are correct.
“It’s not going to stop any abortions as such,” he said. “They’re still going to take place by other means.
However, in the long range there will be a great impact, he said. “It’s very clear from Justice Kennedy’s opinion that states could enact informed consent laws, including laws requiring a physician to describe in some detail the abortion method to be used. It may have some significance for fetal pain legislation, and other types of regulations.”
But most importantly, he said, it signals an end to the judicial system in the United States catering to the abortion industry. In the past, those opposed to any limits on abortion have had the special privilege of being able to argue that such laws “facially” violate the U.S. Constitution.
That means that a judge determines – hypothetically – that such a law appears that it may, might or would violate the Constitution. Now, in order to challenge an abortion limit, plaintiffs in a lawsuit will have to have an actual victim injured by the law.
Focus’ response to the criticism talked about that issue as one of two the organization considers important.
“With this latest abortion decision, it looks like the Supreme Court is establishing a new paradigm for abortion cases. … Only ‘as-applied’ challenges should be entertained in the future in such cases, wrote Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion. That means that abortion laws can only be challenged as to specific, actual situations that may come up – and if exceptions need to be judicially carved out of the law to solve those rare problems, the bulk of the law remains intact,” Focus said.
Will that portion of the decision be used to save lives? Definitely, said Focus. “How many? Hard to say.”
“Back in 1989, Pennsylvania’s state legislature passed five laws to limit abortion. The laws required parental permission, informed consent, spousal notification, a ‘medical emergency’ exception to these laws, and record-keeping requirements for abortion clinics. Before they could even take effect, Planned Parenthood obtained an order from a federal court that stopped them cold while the courts examined their constitutionality,” Focus noted.
“Three years later, the Supreme Court handed down Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said four of those five laws were constitutional. How many children were aborted in those three years, while the legal machinery creaked along? We’ll never know, but we can safely surmise that some babies lost their lives to abortion while the new laws sat on the shelf, unenforced,” Minnery wrote.
That, now, has changed, the experts noted.
“I think, in practical terms, we won’t see those facial challenges to abortion laws any more,” Linton told WND. “If there is a doctor who fits a certain profile, and wants to challenge a part of the law as it applies, fine you can try and challenge. We’re not going to let you waltz into court and on the basis of a remote hypothetical case, have the law struck down,” he said the court ruling ordered.
Tom Brejcha, chief of the Thomas More Law Center, said the decision “moves jurisprudence a giant step forward.” He said the door now is open for states to impose a variety of regulations and requirements, and went further, even altering the language of the right-to-life war.
“You could hear in the dissent, the language just makes them terribly uneasy. Kennedy uses the term pro-life activists for the first time,” Brejcha said. The terms also included “baby,” and “mother.” “Those subtle little changes speak volumes,” he said.
“One need only read Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s outraged dissent on this issue or the dozens of editorials written by abortion advocates since the decision to realize just how deeply this part of the Court’s opinion cut,” noted Focus. “Pro-lifers have been waiting a long time to hear such moral concerns validated in a Supreme Court opinion.”
Ginsburg’s concern was clear. In fact, she admitted it. “Today’s decision is alarming. … It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists…”
Brian Rohrbough, president of Colorado Right to Life, and Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, were joined by Flip Benham, of Operation Save America, and Tom Euteneuer, of Human Life International, in their criticism of Focus’ applause of the ruling.
“Focus on the Family and many ministries celebrate this wicked ruling to justify the fifteen years of wasted effort. Pro-lifers gave tens of millions of dollars to the movement responding to countless fundraising pleas that mention the PBA ban. A major pro-life fundraising firm told Colorado Right To Life’s V.P. Leslie Hanks, ‘The PBA script gets the best results,'” the letter to Dobson said.
“America has killed twenty million children during this long distraction, all in pursuit of a ban that from the beginning Never Had The Authority To Prevent Even A Single Abortion. Dr. Dobson, you and these other leaders needed to warn Christians of all this, but instead you joined together in calling evil good. Please stop foisting onto the church the falsehood that this gruesome ruling will ‘protect children.'”
But Minnery responded that a balance is needed.
“Now if I tell you that a road to town is partially washed away, will you call me a liar if there are other roads that still take you to town? You won’t unless you want to purposely misrepresent what I told you. And that’s the nature of the attack on Dr. Dobson. He rightly pointed out that for the first time since 1973, one road to abortion has sustained legal damage, and truly that is a tremendous encouragement, for until Carhart, no Supreme Court ruling has upheld an attempt to close such a road to abortion. We all understand that other roads exist, and we know that new ones can be built.”
The letter noted that in addition to Focus, the National Right to Life, Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, Priests for Life, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, D. James Kennedy, The American Center for Law & Justice, the Christian Law Association and Americans Untied for Life all had issued some sort of praise for the decision.
Focus attributed the “tempest” to the media, because it fits another “story line that the media has created: there is disagreement and confusion over the historic social issues that have united the movement.”
“In the end, Carhart is just one new road away from abortion, and there will have to be others. But we’ll gladly travel this road until that day when we can finally see an end to unrestricted abortion in this country,” Focus said. “So for now, it is right to celebrate the court’s decision in Carhart.
Rohrbough, Brown and others generating funds for the criticism of Focus said the situation involves more than just the children.
“Beyond the children, your praise helps destroy the souls of these wicked Justices who no doubt take comfort in the approval of Christian leaders. You help them feel safe as they violate God’s enduring command, Do not murder; and then with hubris, they demand that abortionists follow their new regulation of how to murder a child. We expect such evil from humanists. But for a Christian leader to give this false sense of security to judges and officials at all levels of government is an affront to the holiness of God. They do not fear for their souls, but how is it that you do not warn them? How have you arrived at this place?” the critique continued.
They listed others in agreement including Alan Keyes, Jim Rudd of Covenant News, John Lofton of The American View, ProLifePhysicians.org, Chuck Baldwin of Crossroad Baptist and others.
“‘There is a way that seems right to a man,’ warns Proverbs 14:12, ‘but its end is the way of death.’ Please repent, Dr. Dobson,” the letter said.
Mark Crutcher, chief of Life Dynamics agreed, like Linton, with both sides and said arguing and attacking each other is pointless.
“From a psychological standpoint, this is clearly an enormous shot in the arm for the pro-life movement. To fully appreciate the significance of this ruling, all you have to do is imagine what the effect would have been on our people had it gone the other way. The fact is, after years of being pummeled in the courts this decision puts a little wind back in our sails,” he wrote in an analysis of the opinion.
“Equally important, it appears to have truly demoralized our enemies. Some are wringing their ice-cold little hands and wailing that the end of legalized abortion is near. Apparently, the prospect of living in a world in which moms are not allowed to butcher their children by the millions has caused a large percentage of these people to start sleeping with the lights on,” he continued.
But he said beyond its positive psychological impact, the ban on partial-birth abortion is meaningless as it relates to the actual killing of unborn children.
“In the final analysis, the psychological importance of this victory for the pro-life movement is enormous but its practical implications for the unborn are zero. The real unknown is whether this Supreme Court ruling is a barometer for abortion rulings to come,” he said.
There’s work to be done, he said.
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