Life Advocacy Briefing

February 19, 2018

One Great Judge! / Pregnancy Centers Winning in Court
In the Nick of Time? / March for Life Speech: Rep. Smith
Sensible Advice / Protecting Conscience Rights

One Great Judge!

A FEDERAL JUDGE IN NEW YORK STATE last month scolded radical New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), in a hearing on a federal lawsuit he had filed against sidewalk counselors near a Jamaica, New York, abortuary, telling the state’s chief law enforcement officer, reports, “that leafleting is a ‘form of really protected speech’ and that sidewalks are recognized as the ‘quintessential public forum.’

“The words from the bench,”notes LifeSiteNews, “underscored the arguments of Thomas More Society special counsel Martin Cannon,” who is representing the defendants in a vicious federal lawsuit “that accuses them,” explains LifeSiteNews, “of threats and violence against abortion clinic patients.”

A defendant in the lawsuit, Rev. Kenneth Griepp, told LifeSiteNews, “‘We expect to be vindicated.’”

Among the objections raised by District Judge Carol Bagley Amon was “the prosecution’s reference to what they labeled as ‘annoying behavior,’” reports LifeSiteNews. The judge commented “that if harassment charges could be brought for being annoying, ‘I could sue all of you here today.’

“[Mr.] Cannon added, ‘The prosecution’s loose handling of a serious charge suggests the case is solely intended to discourage opposition to abortion. There are no instances of the force, threat of force, physical obstruction, following or harassing that [Atty. Gen.] Schneiderman claims to have occurred.’”

Among the attorney general’s claims cited by LifeSiteNews is his having “called the church members’ efforts to counsel women considering abortion and to advocate for the rights of the unborn ‘horrifying’ and ‘illegal.’ …

“‘These pro-life advocates are life-affirming Christians who peacefully counsel women considering abortion,’” said attorney Cannon, quoted by LifeSiteNews. “‘They conduct themselves reasonably and compassionately, offering alternatives and very real assistance to women and couples willing to listen.’”

One can grasp how exasperated the abortuary’s ownership might have become over the undermining of their customer base. Members of the Church@the Rock in Brooklyn, notes the news story, have been “witnessing for Life outside the abortion facility nearly every Saturday since 2012.”

Pregnancy Centers Winning in Court

THE 4th CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS REINFORCED earlier rulings in a January order striking down Baltimore’s 2009 ordinance compelling “the city’s nonprofit pregnancy centers,” reports Jay Hobbs for Pregnancy Help News, “to post signage in their waiting rooms saying they do not offer or refer for abortions.”

The ruling was “seven years in the making,” writes Mr. Hobbs, and “ordered the city of Baltimore to ‘lay down the arms of compelled speech’ it had taken up against pro-life pregnancy centers, once and for all. …

“At least 10 pregnancy help centers in the city of Baltimore are being spared the city’s ‘weaponized’ attack on their work,” reports Mr. Hobbs, “including Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which opened its fifth location in May 2017, right next door to a Planned Parenthood” shop.

The US Supreme Court is set to take oral arguments this spring on an appeal involving a similarly coercive law in California. That law, according to Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage, “requires ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ to notify patients that the state offers subsidies for contraception and abortion.” Clearly even more coercive than the invalidated Baltimore ordinance.

In the Nick of Time?

A HOSPITAL IN TOLEDO HAS RESCUED the child-killing business of Capital Care Network abortuary, following a 5-to-2 vote Feb. 6 by the Ohio Supreme Court to enforce state law requiring abortionists to establish a formal agreement with a local hospital to transfer patients in need of emergency care.

Capital Care Network was going under, after having attempted to circumvent the state law by landing a transfer agreement with a hospital 52 miles away and across state lines – in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The Ohio Dept. of Health,” notes National Right to Life News Today writer Dave Andrusko, “has consistently determined that this course of action was unacceptable,” but, he writes, “the Capitol Care Network case had gone on for years and went up and down the legal chain.”

The clear ruling of the state supreme court appeared definitive and would have rendered “greater Toledo,” writes Mr. Andrusko, “abortion free.”

Enter ProMedica, a non-profit hospital system based in Toledo with facilities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. The healthcare system stepped forward Feb. 12 to enter into a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network, reports Cheryl Sullenger for Operation Rescue (OR), “despite a public campaign led by the [Ohio-based] pro-life activist group Created Equal that opposed the agreement. If approved,” writes Mrs. Sullenger, “the transfer agreement is expected to avert the impending closure” of the abortuary operated by Capital Care, known as “Toledo Women’s Center.”

OR’s president, Troy Newman, is joining Created Equal in urging the Ohio Dept. of Health “to reject this transfer agreement,” writes Mrs. Sullenger, “based on a series of deceptions and even crimes perpetrated by Capital Care Network and/or its staff over the five years that the closure order was litigated.”

Mrs. Sullenger elaborates on Mr. Newman’s charges in an OR report which can be viewed via the Internet at

March for Life Speech: Rep. Smith

Jan. 19, 2018, March for Life speech by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), transcribed by Life Advocacy Briefing

            Jeannie, thank you very much. What a Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan – what a leader for Life, what a champion! Majority leader McCarthy, the rest of our leadership, the lawmakers you see here – idealistic, courageous, effective, articulate. We have a team that is second to none, and I thank you for your prayers and your assistance in ensuring that they – and all of us – are able to serve on behalf of the weakest and the most vulnerable. Thank you to the March for Life. My wife and I are just honored to be here again this year.

            You know, everyone here today is part of the greatest human rights struggle on the face of the earth. It is the only human rights abuse that the abortionists dare call “a human right.” It is Orwellian. And yet it happens here and all over the world.

            But it’s because we love, because we pray, because we fast – because I believe prayer coupled with fasting is highly efficacious – we will win, babies will be protected.

            As we all know, this movement has reached out to protect those women who have had abortions, to love them, to care for them, the Silent No More women who are the new face of the pro-life movement, who speak to the media and through the media to the women throughout this country, to say, “Please, rethink what you are intending. Please, have that baby.”

            You know, even those clinic workers – and National Public Radio, of all news outlets, did a piece last week on “All Things Considered,” talking about Abby Johnson’s work to help abortion clinic personnel leave. One of the women, a former Planned Parenthood clinic person, said that what she was doing was dark and morbid. And, of course, Abby used to be a clinic director herself in Texas and became a stalwart in the pro-life movement. Well, the woman said on NPR that “I just started to be able to use [my] own freezer in my home by going through therapy, because what we used to call ‘the nursery’ was the freezer inside that abortion clinic, where the bodies of unborn children would be housed.” And of course we know – and the Speaker said it so, so well – the requirement to pass the legislation today that we as a team got passed in an overwhelming majority, ensur[ing] that the coverup that goes on each and every day in abortion clinics when personnel look the other way when a child is actually born and then left to die due to exposure or to an actual killing including strangulation, that they will now be compelled under penalty of law to report that, so that those who commit these crimes will be prosecuted.

            Finally, let me say, let me just call – and I know I’m speaking to the choir – but we need to double down on our prayer for healing, we need to increase our fastings, and we need to ask God for wisdom, for healing, so that we will do our duty to protect the weakest and the most vulnerable. Thank you and God bless you.

Sensible Advice

Feb. 5, 2018, Washington Update commentary by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins

            How badly does the Left want to retake control of Congress? Not badly enough to rethink its strategy on abortion, apparently. If Democrats’ obsession with the issue is costing the party elections, they don’t want to hear it. Even from their own.

            Late last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks tried to wake liberals up to the dangers of their abortion fixation – and became a punching bag instead. The Left unleashed on Brooks for focusing on the party’s greater good, responding with all sorts of vile, profane-laced tirades for committing the unforgivable sin: questioning their abortion orthodoxy. Tracing the pro-life movement back to the years before Roe v. Wade, Brooks reminds Democrats that the fight for unborn rights used to be led by their own party. “The first pro-life rally on the National Mall was organized by the National Youth Pro-Life Coalition, which a co-founder described as ‘an extremely liberal group,’” he points out with some irony. Now, he writes, liberals don’t just fight for the unrestricted killing of unborn children; they subordinate their entire agenda to it.

            “How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us?” Brooks asks in a nod to the growing clamor for legal limits. “How many progressive priorities are we giving up just so we can have our way on this one?” The life issue, he argues, was probably single-handedly responsible for electing Donald Trump. “Do we want late-term abortion so much that we are willing to tolerate [this President]? Do we want it so much that we give up our chance of Congressional majorities? Do we want it so much that we see our agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice thwarted and defeated?” It’s time, he warned Democrats, to take a step back.

            “We need to acknowledge our vulnerability here. Democrats support the right to choose throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy. But babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks. As Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic, scientific advances ‘fundamentally shift the moral intuition around abortion.’ Parents can see their babies’ faces earlier and earlier. I’m asking us to rethink our priorities.” But that request didn’t just fall on deaf ears – it fell on angry ones. Feminists, militant abortion advocates and other fringe Democrats unloaded on Brooks with a fury that’s largely unprintable. Tamer liberals called his column excrement, “rubbish,” a “waking nightmare” or “lazy as ****.” Some called for a ban on his columns. One even offered a cash reward to anyone willing to lock Brooks out of his office.

            The message was simple: dissent over abortion won’t be tolerated. It was a telling, but not altogether surprising, response. Since 2016, the days of the centrist Democrat have been numbered. From overturning the Hyde Amendment to supporting abortion right up to birth, the party’s platform language reads more like an eviction notice for heartland voters than a statement of policy. No wonder Middle Americans think Democrats are “out of touch with mainstream America,” relying on “too much identity politics” where “winners and losers are picked by their labels.” “If we call ourselves a big-tent party,” one Indiana pro-life Democrat told Politico, “then we should act like it.”

            Rather than respond to a warning from their own or pausing for a moment of political introspection, Democrats are digging in deeper, firing back at Brooks that what America needs is actually looser laws on abortion. “Make it easier to get [one],” hot Dawn Laguens fumed. “Make it more affordable … . Repeal the Hyde Amendment.” Otherwise, the Planned Parenthood executive told Brooks, “Take a seat.”

            In between, she was trying to prop up phony arguments about female voters. “[C]onsider that one in four women in the US have an abortion and that women are currently the most potent political force in this country.” It might surprise her to know that a majority of these women regret their decision. Not to mention that women from both parties are some of the fiercest supporters of abortion limits. Even if we left morality out of the equation, you’d see that Brooks’s advice is backed up by national trends. Three in four Americans want stronger restrictions on abortion – including 60% of self-identified “pro-choicers!” Then there are millennials, who are “more likely than other age demographics to support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation.” Brooks’s warning isn’t ideological betrayal; it’s good political sense.

            That doesn’t matter to feminists like Jessica Valenti, who made the most sexist argument of all when she said that Brooks’s advice didn’t make sense because he’s “never been pregnant.” So now you have to be pregnant to understand the difference between right and wrong? Give me a break. Abortion is one of the weakest links in the Democratic Party. And until it stops letting a small core of radicals drive them, Brooks is right: It’s a political suicide mission.

Protecting Conscience Rights

Feb. 2, 2018, commentary by bioethicist Wesley J. Smith in First Things

            “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly, I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.” – The Hippocratic Oath

            The screaming was so loud, you would have thought that the Trump Administration had overturned Roe v. Wade. It hadn’t, of course. But it had directed needed attention at the existing legal protection that allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortions without fear of firing or other job sanctions. This protection is sometimes called “medical conscience rights.”

            The occasion for the uproar? The Dept. of Health & Human Services announced its intention to create a new office of Conscience & Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights to enforce medical conscience. It is worth noting that this proposed action will not change the law. But it will revitalize enforcement efforts after years of the Obama Administration’s hostility toward religious liberty generally and medical conscience rights specifically. Indeed, the newly created enforcement office will put medical employers on notice that the current Administration considers medical conscience rights to be fundamental. As the HHS press release put it: “The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.”

            In a country with a long and venerable history of honoring conscientious objection and protecting the free exercise of religion, one would think this step would be met by applause. But for some, it was akin to a declaration of social war. The Massachusetts Medical Society sniffed in opposition: “As physicians, we have an obligation to ensure patients are treated with dignity while accessing and receiving the best possible care to meet their clinical needs. We will not and cannot, in good conscience, compromise our responsibility to heal the sick based upon a patient’s racial identification, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, disability, immigration status or economic status.”

            The New York Times was equally condemning. In an editorial titled “The White House Puts the Bible Before the Hippocratic Oath,” the editorialists warned hyperbolically: “The decisions may make it more difficult for teenagers wanting to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, for gay men looking to prevent HIV and even for women seeking breast exams or pap smears.”

            Please. No one who supports a robust protection of medical conscience advocates [for] compromising the physician’s responsibility to “heal the sick.” No one wants to prevent women from obtaining cancer screenings. Nor do supporters of medical conscience seek to authorize doctors and nurses to discriminate against individuals. Rather, medical conscience prevents doctors and nurses from being forced to act in opposition either to their religious beliefs – e.g., commit a grievous sin – or to their moral consciences by being forced to participate in morally objectionable procedures, such as taking innocent human life in abortion, assisted suicide or lethal injection euthanasia. It could also protect medical professionals from being required to administer hormones to inhibit puberty in adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria – a controversial recent innovation that the American College of Pediatricians has called “mass experimentation.” 

            That opinion is becoming heterodox in the field, but surely no doctor should be forced in an elective procedure to act in a way that he believes actively harms the patient. The same goes for physicians who object to participating in sex-change surgeries based on the belief that sex is biologically determined or that it is wrong to remove healthy organs. Conscience protections should also apply to a doctor or nurse who objects to participating in infant circumcision based on a moral objection. And surely no doctor should be forced to participate in an execution, not even the administrative act of declaring the condemned prisoner dead after the execution.

            People of good will can hold radically divergent moral beliefs, including about legal medical services and procedures. The stakes in this controversy are very high. As I have written here before [in First Things], there is a concerted effort underway to drive pro-life and Hippocratic Oath-believing doctors, nurses and other professionals out of medicine – a lamentable potentiality. We need increased comity and tolerance for those medical professionals who object to reining moral paradigms and hold to sanctity-of-life ethics. The new HHS office represents a positive step toward achieving that end.