Category archives: Health Care

Health Clinics Offer a Broader Range of Services for Women Than Planned Parenthood

by Arina Grossu

September 2, 2015

The Daily Signal recently published my piece on why women don’t need Planned Parenthood and how they are actually better off if the $528 million in federal and state funds that is currently going to Planned Parenthood, is made available to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs).  These clinics offer more comprehensive women’s health care than Planned Parenthood ever has.  In fact, there is not one unique service that Planned Parenthood offers that women can’t get elsewhere.

For those interested in a more in-depth look at the specific services offered by FQHCs and RHCs, here are the findings. The primary health services that FQHCs and RHCs are listed and defined in the Public Health Service Act including general, preventive, diagnostic, emergency and pharmaceutical health services:

(i) basic health services which, for purposes of this section, shall consist of-
       (I) health services related to family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, or gynecology that are furnished by physicians and where appropriate, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives;
      (II) diagnostic laboratory and radiologic services;
      (III) preventive health services, including-
             (aa) prenatal and perinatal services
             (bb) appropriate cancer screening;
             (cc) well-child services;
             (dd) immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases;
             (ee) screenings for elevated blood lead levels, communicable diseases, and cholesterol;
             (ff) pediatric eye, ear, and dental screenings to determine the need for vision and hearing correction and dental care;
             (gg) voluntary family planning services; and
             (hh) preventive dental services;
    (IV) emergency medical services; and
    (V) pharmaceutical services as may be appropriate for particular centers;
(ii) referrals to providers of medical services
(iii) patient case management services
(iv) services that enable individuals to use the services of the health center
(v) education of patients and the general population served by the health center regarding the availability and proper use of health services.

In addition, the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual for FQHCs and RHCs lists the following covered services under Medicare for qualifying individuals.  RHC services listed in section 50.1 include:

  • Physicians’ services of diagnosis, therapy, surgery, and consultation.  These include the services of doctors of medicine, osteopathy, dental surgery, dental medicine, podiatry, optometry, or chiropractic who are licensed and practicing.
  • Services of Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Physician Assistants (PAs), and Certified Nurse Midwife Services (CNMs).
  • Certified Psychologist (CP) and certified Social Worker (CSW) services.
  • Visiting nurse services to the homebound.

RHC services covered by Medicare also include certain preventive services such as:

  • Influenza, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis B vaccinations;
  • Hepatitis C screenings;
  • IPPE;Annual Wellness Visit; and
  • Medicare-covered preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

FQHC services listed in section 50.2 include all of the above services listed in section 50.1 above, and specifically:

  • Screening mammography;
  • Screening pap smear and screening pelvic exam;
  • Prostate cancer screening tests;
  • Colorectal cancer screening tests;
  • Diabetes outpatient self-management training (DSMT) services;
  • Diabetes screening tests;
  • Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) services;
  • Bone mass measurement;
  • Screening for glaucoma;
  • Cardiovascular screening blood tests; and
  • Ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Another Health and Human Services (HHS) flyer on preventive primary health services shows that the following services are covered when furnished by FQHCs to a Medicare patient:

  • Medical social services;
  • Nutritional assessment and referral;
  • Preventive health education;
  • Children’s eye and ear examinations;
  • Well child care, including periodic screening;
  • Immunizations, including tetanus-diphtheria booster and influenza vaccine;
  • Voluntary family planning services;
  • Taking patient history;
  • Blood pressure measurement;
  • Weight measurement;
  • Physical examination targeted to risk;
  • Visual acuity screening;
  • Hearing screening;
  • Cholesterol screening;
  • Stool testing for occult blood;
  • Tuberculosis testing for high risk patients;
  • Dipstick urinalysis; and
  • Risk assessment and initial counseling regarding risks.

For women only:

  • Prenatal and post-partum care;
  • Prenatal services;
  • Clinical breast examination;
  • Referral for mammography; and
  • Thyroid function test.

Planned Parenthood on the other hand, lists in its most recent report only the following categories for services it offers: STI/STD testing and treatment, contraception, cancer screening and prevention, other women’s health services, abortion and other services.

Its services are quite limited—services which are already being offered by FQHCs and RHCs, excepting abortion.

Congress and states must defund Planned Parenthood and the money be made available to these other health clinics which are much more comprehensive in their health care offerings than Planned Parenthood.  Women, families and children deserve better health care than what Planned Parenthood offers.

Guttmacher’s Proposition: Taxpayer-Funded Condoms and Vasectomies

by Sean Maguire

July 16, 2015

In the latest issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review, the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the research arm of Planned Parenthood), proposes some changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) they feel are necessary to accomplish the goals of that law.

             Obamacare contains many provisions we have only found out about since Congress passed it. The most famous (or infamous) of these is the mandate, administered by the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) department, that requires coverage of 18 forms of contraception, including drugs and devices that can kill embryos.  These are to be funded by taxpayer dollars and included in plans provided by businesses and organizations despite any moral objections they might have.

            Guttmacher is not satisfied with this arrangement. No, it’s not upset that the American people are being forced to pay for potentially embryocidal drugs and devices.  Guttmacher is upset because the HHS mandate hasn’t gone far enough. They are pushing for the mandate to include male sterilization and condoms, all funded by taxpayer money.

            Instead of recognizing the failure of Obamacare to accomplish real healthcare access for the American people, Guttmacher is calling for an expansion of coverage morally unacceptable to tens of millions of taxpayers. They are calling for the implementation of regulations which will mandate insurance coverage of condoms and vasectomies for everyone.

            Guttmacher wants tax dollars to be spent on condoms and vasectomies so that sexual license will not be impeded by a lack of funding or fear of the logical outcome of sexual intimacy: babies. While Guttmacher says it wants the federal government to stay out of the bedroom, they simultaneously demand federal funding of the activities therein.

            It is not the job of the American taxpayer to fund others’ sexual practices, and they should not be forced to do so.

Supreme Court Provides Relief to Several Pennsylvania Charities from Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

by Chris Gacek

July 1, 2015

Well, there has been a little bit of good news today in an Obamacare contraceptive case involving non-profits.  According the Becket Fund’s webpage, the Supreme Court “granted relief in Zubik v. Burwell to a group of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations, including Catholic Charities and other social service organizations.”  “The Court stated that the federal government is “enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of their petition for certiorari.”

This is not a final win on the merits of the case, but it is a very positive signal.

Roberts Rules of Obamacare

by David Christensen

June 26, 2015

Justice Roberts’s majority opinion in King v. Burwell stretches the idea of textual interpretation well beyond the idea of using context to understand terms. He interpreted “Exchange established by a State” to mean “any Exchange” including a federally created one, but he did so not based on various other texts of the law, but what his understanding of the “purpose” of the law was. This is a blatant misuse of policy to interpret the text. In his first ruling on Obamacare, he interpreted “penalty” to mean “tax” even though both were clearly distinguished in the law. Now according to Roberts and the majority, “established by a State” means “established by a state or the federal government”. He concluded that Congress as a policy matter did not intend to restrict subsidies for health care plans in states created by the federal government since that would cause a “death spiral”. But why not interpret the policy decision, based on the text of the law, to have created an incentive for states to create their own exchanges? But those questions and the answers to them are matters of policy, not legal or textual interpretation. Roberts wanted to salvage Obamacare, and interpreted the law to fit his understanding of its policy goals. This ad hoc approach to textual interpretation undermines the idea that Roberts is conservative as it relates to his judicial mindset, but worse, how is Congress ever to draft legislation and pass laws when they themselves won’t know how the court will rule based on how they actually write the law? That’s quite a problem for the future of our democracy. Worth reading is the WSJ editorial “The Political John Roberts” pointing out that the Chief rewrote the law “in order to save it.”

Supreme Court Coddles Congress on Obamacare

by Travis Weber

June 25, 2015

In an opinion which deals a heavy blow to our foundational separation of powers, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today in King v. Burwell that the federal government could give out Affordable Care Act tax credits on its own health insurance exchange if a state did not set one up. Why? According to the Court, incredibly, the statutory term “established by the state” actually means “established by the state or the federal government.”

In the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan opinion, the Court basically saves Congress from its own bad handiwork, scrutinizing and considering how the law would fail to work if it ruled on the plain meaning of the statute. In doing so, it illustrates how courts are not supposed to act — as legislator (considering the policy implications of a decision) as opposed to how they should — as judge (ruling on what the law means).

The trouble begins when the Court decides “established by the state” can’t just mean “state,” but must mean more given the “context and structure of the Act.” Because, in the Court’s view, this term has been deemed “ambiguous,” it is compelled “to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

Once the provision is considered “ambiguous,” the Court is left free to jump through all sorts of hoops to reach its desired conclusion. It fruitlessly cautions: “Reliance on context and structure in statutory interpretation is a ‘subtle business, calling for great wariness lest what professes to be mere rendering becomes creation and attempted interpretation of legislation becomes legislation itself.’” I don’t know how the Court has avoided doing that here.

The Court’s mental machinations continue; it claims that while “‘the presumption of consistent usage readily yields to context,’ … a statutory term may mean different things in different places.”

After declining to apply a method of statutory interpretation that says words should not be construed to be mere rhetorical surplus, the Court had to admit the ACA is the type of muddled mess that should have encouraged the Court to have less confidence in its ability to “figure it out” and instead send it back to Congress for fixing, noting that “with respect to this Act, rigorous application of the canon [against surplus words] does not seem a particularly useful guide to a fair construction of the statute.”

Why? Even the pro-ACA majority recognizes that “[t]he Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting… . Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality.” The majority further notes that the law “does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.”

However, as the dissent notes, the Court “has no free-floating power ‘to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.’” And “[l]aws often include unusual or mismatched provisions… . This Court ‘does not revise legislation … just because the text as written creates an apparent anomaly.’”

Much of what the Court does here is try to determine what Congress intended to do. Yet with a law containing such obvious, glaring problems and omissions, which we know Members of Congress did not even read, how can we even trust any guesses about what “Congress intended to do?” At one point, the majority cites an illustration “describing a cartoon in which a senator tells his colleagues ‘I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand. We’ll just have to pass it to find out what it means.’” This is a clear reference to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s astonishing comment that Obamacare would have to be passed before what is in it could be determined. I’m not sure if the Court intended it, but the irony — and the jab at Mrs. Pelosi — are rich.

The silver lining of this decision is that it did not expand the administrative state through excessive deference to the IRS interpretation of “established by the state.” The not-so-silver lining is that the Court’s endorsement of mushy reasoning allows anyone and everyone (which includes the administrative state and courts) to play with statutory terms to make them mean what they want them to mean.

The Court properly claimed it had the authority to interpret the provision, but then improperly seized a different type of authority to “save” the law. The Court should have resisted the temptation to play the hero — in what would have been a noble exercise of self-limitation — and deflected the statute back to Congress for fixing.

There is also a subtle assumption of congressional incompetence in this ruling. So inept was Congress in drafting and passing this legislation that the Court had to assume an intent distinctly missing from the text presented to it for review. In doing so, the Court has de facto made law by defining terms comporting with the Court’s desire to save Congress from itself.

Thus, the problem now is that “context” means anything a court wants it to mean. And that’s not a power our Constitution intended courts to have. As the dissent says, if “all it takes to make something ambiguous” is reasoning like the majority’s, then “everything is ambiguous.”

The majority concludes that “[a] fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.” Fair enough, perhaps. But even if one were to accept that assertion, I’m not sure how, in this case, which features one of the most muddled pieces of legislation in existence (which many Members of Congress have admitted they didn’t even read), there can be any understanding of any “legislative plan.”

Justice Scalia’s dissent, joined by Justices Alito and Thomas, has the better argument: “The Court has not come close to presenting the compelling contextual case necessary to justify departing from the ordinary meaning of the terms of the law.”

The majority’s “reasoning suffers from no shortage of flaws. To begin with, ‘even the most formidable argument concerning the statute’s purposes could not overcome the clarity [of] the statute’s text.’ … Statutory design and purpose matter only to the extent they help clarify an otherwise ambiguous provision.”

Exactly. And making such clarifications is exactly the job of Congress. The Court should have ruled based on the words of the statute. If Congress disagreed with the result and wanted it fixed, it would have then had the opportunity to fix the ACA.

As the dissent points out, if the majority’s concern about potentially dooming the ACA is valid, then “these projections would show only that the statutory scheme contains a flaw; they would not show that the statute means the opposite of what it says.” Moreover, “[h]ow could the Court pronounce it ‘implausible’ for Congress to have tolerated [the same] instability in insurance markets in States with federal Exchanges … when even the Government maintained until recently that Congress did exactly that in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands?”

The dissent nicely summed up the problems with this decision:

The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress ‘[a]ll legislative Powers’ enumerated in the Constitution. Art. I, §1. They made Congress, not this Court, responsible for both making laws and mending them. This Court holds only the judicial power — the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct… . [T]his Court ‘has no roving license … to disregard clear language simply on the view that … Congress ‘must have intended’ something broader.’ . . .

Even less defensible, if possible, is the Court’s claim that its interpretive approach is justified because this Act ‘does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.’ It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate. Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.

Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges… The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude… . What a parody today’s decision makes of Hamilton’s assurances to the people of New York: ‘The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over … the purse; no direction … of the wealth of society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.’

The dissent points out that several years ago, the Court twisted the individual mandate (which imposes a penalty for volitional inaction) into the shape of a “tax” in order to save its constitutionality. It also “rewrote the law to withhold only the incremental funds associated with the Medicaid expansion” in order to save another provision’s constitutionality under the Spending Clause. Now, the Court believes the limitation regarding state exchanges “would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere.”

Such reasoning reveals the “discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” Such expansionary reading by the Supreme Court to save unprecedented and large-scale government initiatives harkens back to the New Deal era. While the ACA has multiple problematic implications for religious freedom, the Court got this decision wrong based on an improper understanding of its role and erroneous view of the separation of powers. These are constitutional issues with far reaching implications that go beyond religious freedom.

As Justice Scalia rightly observes: “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

Ultrasounds Save Lives

by Arina Grossu

March 4, 2015

A survey conducted by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a national legal network of prolife pregnancy centers, showed how powerful ultrasounds are in changing the minds of abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable patients. 

NIFLA stated in a press release:

Four-hundred and ten (410) of NIFLA’s medical membership (less than one-half) reported providing 75,318 ultrasound confirmations of pregnancy in 2013 on patients identified as either abortion-minded or abortion-vulnerable. Of these abortion at risk patients, 58,634 chose to carry to term, indicating that 78% of those mothers who saw an ultrasound image of their unborn child before deciding about abortion chose life.

When asked whether ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy has a positive impact upon a mother considering abortion to choose life 83.5% said “Absolutely,” 15.76% said “More than likely,” and 0.74% said, “Only a small impact.”

Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates will do all they can to conceal the reality that abortion kills babies.  That is why they refer to preborn babies as “tissues” or “products of conception” and oftentimes dissuade women from looking at their ultrasounds.  Technology reveals the truth that they try to hide from women.  When a woman sees her preborn child on an ultrasound, with a beating heart by 22 days post-fertilization, she will most likely choose life—78% of abortion-minded or abortion-vulnerable mothers who saw their ultrasounds did!  It is not a coincidence that 83.5% said that the ultrasound “Absolutely” has a positive impact and another 15.76% said that it “More than likely” did. 

We are seeing a trend in women connecting with their babies before birth.  Four dimensional ultrasounds (4-D) have done wonders in revealing to us the humanity of the child.  One ultrasound company did a 3-D/4-D photo contest asking parents to send in their child’s ultrasounds and photo post-birth, generally in the same pose as their ultrasound. The results are stunning, revealing the striking resemblance of these children’s mannerisms, both in the womb and outside of it.  There is also a new phenomenon of women doing 3-D printing of their ultrasounds for as little as $250.  A writer at the Washington Post admitted that it “could perhaps change the abortion debate.”  When the humanity of the preborn child is revealed with the help of technology, both the child and the mom win.

The Supreme Court, prisoner rights, religious liberty, and human dignity

by Travis Weber

January 20, 2015

Today, in Holt v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion (authored by Justice Alito) holding that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLIUPA”) provided a Muslim inmate the right to exercise his religion by growing a ½ inch beard.

Like RFRA, RLIUPA applies strict scrutiny to prisoners’ religious rights claims, and provides that the government may not burden prisoners’ religious exercise (even through a law of general applicability) unless the government can show that the burden furthers a compelling government interest by the least restrictive means.

In this case, Gregory Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad, wished to grow a ½ inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. Prison policy only permitted ¼ inch beards, however, and even then only for medical reasons. The Arkansas Department of Corrections (“DOC”) did not dispute the sincerity of Holt’s belief, or that its regulation burdened this belief.

However, the DOC argued that it had a compelling interest in its policy in order to prevent contraband in the prison, and that it advanced this interest through the least restrictive means.

While the Court agreed that correctional facilities have a compelling interest in eliminating contraband, it disagreed that the DOC’s policy here advanced that interest, noting that not much could be hidden in a ½ inch beard. Additionally, the Court observed that if a ½ inch beard could hide contraband, a prisoner could also hide contraband in his hair (which could be longer than ½ inch). Indeed, contraband could be hidden in longer hair (or in clothing) much more easily. Yet the DOC did not require prisoners to go around with shaved heads or without clothing. The DOC contended that the ½ inch beard requested by Mr. Holt is longer than the ¼ inch beard permitted for medical reasons, but the DOC has failed to show how this ¼ difference would cause a security risk. In addition, the DOC argued that few inmates request medical exemptions, while many would request religious exemptions. But the Court rejected this reasoning because the DOC had not argued that its refusal to allow religious exemptions was based on cost control or for administrative reasons.

While Justice Alito recognized that deference is due to prison officials’ policy decisions because of the unique and dangerous environment in which they operate, he also noted that such officials still must be held to RLUIPA’s statutory requirements. They did not meet those requirements in this case.

Moreover, as the Court noted, even if the DOC could show this compelling interest was advanced by its policy, it was not advancing it via the least restrictive means. For instance, its security concerns could be satisfied by searching Mr. Holt’s beard rather than making him cut it. The DOC already searches all prisoners’ hair and clothing; why couldn’t it search a beard just the same? The DOC argued that guards could be cut by razors while searching a beard, but they could also be cut during searches of hair and clothing. Even assuming that searching a beard is unsafe for guards, the DOC never showed why it could not have Holt run a comb through his beard to search for contraband.

The DOC also argued it could restrict beards because it had a compelling interest in preventing prisoners from disguising their identities, and escaping or avoiding capture. While the Court did not disagree that the DOC has an interest in quickly and efficiently identifying prisoners, the DOC had not shown why it could not take photos of prisoners so they could be identified with and without beards. The DOC also argued that while this method may work with escaped prisoners, photos would be unhelpful in preventing prisoners from quickly shaving and entering restricted areas in prison. Yet the Court was unpersuaded by the DOC’s arguments; in its view, the DOC failed to explain why the photo method would not work when it had worked at other prisons, and failed to show how a prisoner with a ¼ inch beard for medical reasons could not also pose the same security risk as that purportedly posed by Mr. Holt.

The Court observed that while deference to prison officials is justified, blind deference is not. While the DOC is not required to show in every respect why it has not adopted the procedures of other prison systems, its rejection of them without a good reason is persuasive evidence of its failure to meet RLUIPA. The Court made sure to point out that this does not put prisons in an impossible position; they still have reason to restrict religious practices when they are being used to cloak prohibited conduct or abused in a manner which undermines the prison’s compelling interests.

While the Court was unanimous, Justice Ginsburg took the opportunity to write a one-paragraph concurring opinion (which Justice Sotomayor joined) stating she joined the Court’s opinion with the “understanding” that “[u]nlike the exemption this Court approved in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, … accommodating petitioner’s religious belief in this case would not detrimentally affect others who do not share petitioner’s belief.” This statement likely refers to Justice Ginsburg’s belief that the successful RFRA claim in Hobby Lobby “harmed” women seeking contraceptives, while Mr. Holt’s claim does not. I disagree with Justice Ginsburg on this point, but I’ll reserve that discussion for another time.

Showing some sympathy to prison officials, Justice Sotomayor also wrote a concurring opinion in which she emphasized her understanding that the Court was not repudiating the idea that prison officials’ justifications should be offered some deference; rather, the Court was rightly skeptical of the justifications offered in this case. Indeed, the DOC’s “failure to demonstrate why the less restrictive policies [Mr. Holt] identified in the course of the litigation were insufficient to achieve its compelling interests” was what was ultimately fatal to its case, not the Court’s “independent judgment” of these matters. In addition, “least restrictive means,” in Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, did not mean that government officials need to consider and reject every conceivable alternative to satisfy RLUIPA; rather, they must consider the alternatives posed. In this case, the DOC failed to do that.

The Supreme Court ruled correctly in holding that Mr. Holt’s right to religious exercise under RLUIPA was violated because the DOC could not show it was advancing a compelling government interest, or that it was doing so through the least restrictive means.  RLUIPA clearly sets forth the hurdles the government has to overcome when burdening a prisoner’s religious beliefs, and the DOC failed to meet them here.

But this case is significant for another reason: It affirms our belief that religious liberty is intricately connected to and flows from our inherent human dignity. It cannot be taken away from us, even if we are imprisoned. While prisons have legitimate interests of their own, incarceration does not eliminate the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.

This case is a win for Mr. Holt. But the next time an inmate (perhaps with different beliefs) is facing some other burdensome regulation, he’ll be able to draw support from Mr. Holt’s precedent. In this way, a bulwark of religious liberty protections continues to be built, one component at a time. As it is said, a win for religious liberty for one is a win for religious liberty for all. 

To save the life of the mother

by Family Research Council

December 19, 2014

To save the life of the mother.” It’s one of the conundrums that advocates of elective abortion use to justify a woman’s decision to compromise the health or end the life of her unborn child in favor of protecting her own. But while ethicists and advocates may discuss and debate the relative morality of these decisions, most of us look in awe when a mother puts her own life on the line, in order to protect her unborn child.

The stories are often tragic and complex. For some, it may be the fatal decision to decline chemotherapy to address an aggressive form of cancer. But for some, like Darlene Pawlik, the prospect of an abortion was angrily presented as the only safe alternative to her own (likely violent) death at the hands of a small time organized crime boss, the father of her child. Ms. Pawlik’s story reads like the script of an excruciating, modern, R-rated Dickens novel. She herself was conceived during a brutal rape and sexually abused as a young child. By 14 years old, she was dabbling in drugs and alcohol and sold into prostitution. Before she reached legal adulthood, Ms. Pawlik found herself sold hundreds of times, bought by local businessmen, a city councilman, and a candidate for sheriff in her small city.

Purchased as a “house pet” by a local crime boss, Ms. Pawlik found herself pregnant and given an ultimatum—face an abortion or he’d kill her. After a vivid dream about the impending abortion, Ms. Pawlik fought—quietly and tenaciously—to leave her captor and keep her child. With the help of a social worker, Ms. Pawlik faked an abortion so she could leave the lifestyle. She reached a new home and began a new, restored life and eventually became a nurse, business owner, married mother of 5 children, and pro-life advocate.

Ms. Pawlik’s story is instructive. In this season of advent—of penitence, longing, and of hope—what is your calling?

-Will you educate yourself on the dangers and prevalence of human trafficking? Will you consider redirecting or enhancing your vocation to protect vulnerable individuals like Ms. Pawlik?

-Will you support the local ministries of your church, pregnancy care centers, or other nonprofits in your area?

-Will you take the time to steer your well-intended friends away from organizations that profess to help, but push vulnerable individuals towards more abortion and greater sexual license, brokenness, and pain?

-If you, or someone you know, struggle with addiction to pornography, will take your struggle seriously? Will you acknowledge the links between pornography and human trafficking and fight for healing and restoration and listen to the voices of those who have survived?

-Will you notice the young woman with a frightened look in her eyes, cowed by a much older man, hovering in her vicinity? Will you take the time to learn the signs of a trafficked individual, and the trafficker? If you see something, will you say something?

Will you pause not only to save the life of the child, but the life of the mother?

DC Council votes in support of forcing abortion coverage

by Travis Weber

December 18, 2014

Yesterday, the DC Council passed a bill called the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014,” which could force employers in the District of Columbia (including the Family Research Council) to cover abortions.

The actual language of the bill would prevent employers from “discriminat[ing] against” an individual with respect to the “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of an individual’s “reproductive health decisions.” The definition of “reproductive health decisions” includes but is not limited to “a decision by an employee … related to the use or intended use of … contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.” In plain terms, no employer would be able to say they don’t want to cover an abortion.

There is no exemption in the bill for any employer who might object to such coverage. This would have drastic consequences for a number of employers and organizations in the District who not only might object to such coverage on conscience grounds, but whose actual purpose for existing is to stop abortion because they believe it is a moral evil. This is the essence of a Freedom of Association violation – disrupting the very purpose of autonomous, private groups through legislative bulldozing tactics, thus rendering the groups’ existence meaningless.

Aside from this injustice, there are a number of legal problems with the bill. As pointed out by Alliance Defending Freedom, the bill would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Weldon Amendment, and the First Amendment protections of Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Freedom of Association.

Even the mayor’s office recognized the legal problems with the bill. Yet, more interested in ramming its policies down every District employer’s throat, the DC Council went ahead and passed the bill in defiance of the mayor’s concerns. One of the mayor’s concerns was a potential Equal Protection violation because the bill only addressed protections for women. In response, the Council reportedly added protections for men as well. That the Council would make this correction, and leave other groups who expressed religious and associational concerns hanging out to dry, only confirms the devious nature of the DC Council.

If following one’s conscience is to retain any meaning at all for those living and working in the District, the mayor absolutely must veto this bill!

Sketchy Judicial Assignments in Ninth Circuit Marriage Cases

by Chris Gacek

November 14, 2014

The American people are justified in wondering if they are ruled by interlocking ruling bodies that operate in secret, govern with unbridled duplicity, and are immune to correction by the People acting through their representatives or acting directly in referenda. There have been many prominent examples in the last two months. Two involve our imperious judicial oligarchy.

But, first we have the recent reports of repeated statements by Obamacare insider and MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, calling the American people “stupid” and boasting that Obamacare was foisted on the public through a determined campaign of lying and deviousness. Lies on top of lies on top of lies.

Second, in early October the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to act with stunning cynicism when it dismissed requests for review of marriage-definition cases arising out of several federal appellate courts. The Court had heard an identical case when it reviewed the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 less than two years ago. However, the Prop 8 case was dismissed because the plaintiffs, the proponents of Prop 8, were deemed to lack “standing” to sue. This conclusion was reached because California’s Attorney General took a dive in the litigation and refused to defend a ballot-approved amendment to the California constitution. (Prop 8 was supported by a 52% majority in November 2008.)

The October 2014 cases petitions to the Supreme Court checked all the boxes for standing, but the cases were still turned away allowing lower court rulings that struck down male-female marriage to stay in place. It appeared the that Supreme Court was taking the coward’s way out by allowing lower courts to redefine marriage in America without publicly putting forward a majority opinion explaining how the male-female definition of marriage could violate any constitutional principle. This Court, it appeared, didn’t even have the integrity to write its own Roe v. Wade for marriage. On November 6th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit supported the traditional marriage definition. Now that there is a split among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court’s stealth imposition strategy won’t work – if that is what they were doing. Now the nation is left with an incoherent stew of constitutional slop consisting of incongruent reasoning and standards. The reputation of the Supreme Court is being badly damaged each day this continues.

Well, if you were to think that the reputation of our black robed masterminds couldn’t get much worse, think again. In October 2014 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision striking down the male-female marriage regime established be the voters of Nevada and Idaho. (The court reversed an excellent Nevada opinion that had supported traditional marriage.) In mid-October, a private group in Nevada, the Coalition for Protection of Marriage, filed a petition and a supporting affidavit with supporting statistical analysis with the full Ninth Circuit purporting to demonstrate that the panels in cases on homosexual-related issues were not being assigned randomly. In fact, they claimed that two of the court’s most liberal members (Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon) were greatly overrepresented in such cases. Here is how the Coalition for Protection of Marriage summarized its claim of bias in panel selection:

The attached statistical analysis … explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Cases—the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme). (Petition, 3-4.)

If assessed accurately, this assignment pattern was not random. The case assignment was rigged to help assure the politically desired outcome.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely serious accusation that needs investigation not just by some handpicked Ninth Circuit lackey but by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and by the new Senate Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Senator Grassley.