Category archives: The Courts

Fact Check: 5 False Claims Corrected in the Dobbs Oral Arguments

by Mary Szoch

December 14, 2021

On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that poses the best chance in over a generation to overturn Roe v. Wade. Julie Rickelman, senior director of U.S. litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that the Court should strike down Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act—the bipartisan legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks that was at issue in the case.

Although Rickelman’s arguments occasionally aligned with the truth, the majority of what she said does not pass a fact check. Let’s examine several of those claims.

Claim #1: Justice Roberts questioned whether a 15-week ban on abortion, as opposed to a ban at the point of viability (generally set at 22-24 weeks gestation), would have a severely negative impact on women in their place in society. Rickelman responded by stating, “People who need abortion after 15 weeks are most often in the most challenging circumstances… In fact, the data has been very clear over the last 50 years that abortion has been critical to women’s equal participation in society.”

  • The Truth: In Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a publication of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the authors acknowledge that women seeking late-term abortions do so for the same reasons women receive earlier abortions—“stressful circumstances of unprepared pregnancy, single-motherhood, financial pressure, and relationship discord.” Killing a child is not the solution to challenging circumstances.

Claim #2: Justice Roberts mentioned that the list of countries that do not ban abortion prior to viability includes North Korea and China. Rickelman responded, “First that’s not correct about international law. In fact, the majority of countries that permit legal access to abortion allow access right up until viability… So, for example, Canada, Great Britain and most of Europe allows access to abortion right up until viability…”

  • The Truth: Across the globe, only six countries allow abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy—North Korea, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Canada, and the United States. While Rickelman was correct that Canada and the United Kingdom offer abortion up until viability, she was wrong in characterizing that as typical for Europe. In fact, only two countries in Europe (the United Kingdom and Finland) allow abortion for “broad social reasons” or “socioeconomic reasons.” Around the world, 100 countries completely outlaw abortion or only allow abortion to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.

Claim #3: Justice Gorsuch asked Rickelman whether the “undue burden” standard is unworkable. Rickelman replied, “The only thing that’s at issue in this case is the viability line, and the viability line has been enduringly workable. The lower federal courts have applied it consistently and uniformly for 50 years. And the Fifth Circuit here below had no difficulty striking down this law unanimously, 3-0. So it’s been an exceedingly workable standard.”

  • The Truth: The viability line has shifted from 28 weeks when Roe was decided in 1973 to 22-24 weeks today. Multiple babies have even survived at 21 weeks. Viability is not a standard that can be uniformly applied because it varies from person to person. Characterizing viability as an “exceedingly workable standard” is either wishful thinking or willful ignorance.

Claim #4: Justice Alito questioned Rickelman about her defense of the viability line. He asked, “The fetus has an interest in having a life, and that doesn’t change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?” Rickelman ultimately responded, “It [the viability standard] is principled because, in ordering the interests at stake, the Court had to set a line between conception and birth, and it logically looked at the fetus’ ability to survive separately as a legal line because it’s objectively verifiable and doesn’t require the Court to resolve the philosophical issues at stake.”

  • The Truth: The matter of an unborn child being a human being is not a “philosophical issue”; it is a scientific fact. Furthermore, at no point in time do babies—born or unborn (or countless fully grown adults)—have the ability to “survive separately,” so if Rickelman actually believes that the Court’s line where a person has the ability to “survive separately” is the logical point before which a person can be killed—she is endorsing abortion, infanticide, and the right to kill anyone who cannot survive on their own.

Claim #5: In an exchange with Justice Alito, Rickelman claimed that access to abortion is part of the American tradition. She said, “At the founding, women were able to end their pregnancy under the common law. And, in fact, this Court… specifically called out and relied on Roe’s conclusion that at the time of the founding and well into the 1800s, women had the ability to end a pregnancy.”

  • The Truth: Multiple amicus briefs were filed proving the opposite. The Thomas More Society noted that English common law originally followed in the American colonies considered abortion after “quickening” as a serious crime, and early state laws made abortion throughout pregnancy criminal. As Josh Craddock pointed out in his seminal piece, “Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?” published in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, “quickening” was used to protect prenatal life as soon as it could be discerned—not to exclude life prior to that moment. In other words, at the time of the American founding, once there was evidence of life in the womb, it was protected. Professors Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead echoed this argument.

    Craddock also noted that by the time of ratification of the 14th Amendment, which is used to justify the “right to privacy” under which abortion is legalized, not only did common-law and state practice protect the unborn, but dictionaries used “person” and “human being” interchangeably, and the authors of the 14th Amendment expected it to especially protect the weak and marginalized. Esteemed legal scholars John Finnis and Robert George, as well as Lee Strang, submitted amicus briefs arguing along the same line of thought.

As we pray for the outcome in Dobbs, let us also pray for Julie Rickelman—that this brilliant woman will seek the truth and one day use her God-given gifts to defend life.

10 Things You Can Do to Defend the Unborn Ahead of Dobbs

by Mary Szoch

November 22, 2021

On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. This case concerns the constitutionality of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which prohibits elective abortion after 15 weeks—nine weeks before the 24-week “point of viability” (i.e., the gestational age when a baby is generally considered capable of surviving outside the mother’s womb). Because Mississippi’s law directly challenges the abortion jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade, the Dobbs case presents the greatest opportunity to overturn Roe since the decision was first handed down in 1973.

Although it will be Scott Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi, who will be presenting the arguments in defense of the unborn before the Supreme Court, everyone has a part to play in this upcoming case.

Here is a list of 10 things that you can do to build a culture of life as we await the oral arguments and eventual ruling in Dobbs:

1. Pray.

The most important thing you can do leading up to the Dobbs case is to pray. To help you get started, Family Research Council has compiled a helpful prayer guide, available here. Consider praying with a friend outside an abortion facility and joining FRC for our upcoming prayer event (details below).

On Sunday, November 28, FRC will be hosting Pray Together for Life, a national prayer gathering at New Horizon Church in Jackson, Miss. The purpose of this non-partisan event will be a unified prayer meeting of the body of Christ with the sole focus on praying for the restoration of the sanctity of life in America, beginning with the unborn. We hope you will join us, either in person or online, at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT. You can register here.

For additional prayer resources, visit: PrayForDobbs.com  

2. Discern whether your family is being called to adopt.

If Roe is overturned, there will likely be more babies in need of parents. As members of the pro-life community, we should all discern whether God is calling us to radically love others by opening our home to a child in need. Focus on the Family provides a number of helpful resources on this topic.

3. Support a Pregnancy Resource Center.

In 2019, Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) nationwide served almost two million people and provided nearly $270 million in services at virtually no charge. PRCs operate largely through the generosity of volunteers and donors. Their work truly makes a difference in the lives of millions, and if Dobbs overturns Roe, there will be much more work for PRCs to do. You can locate the PRCs near you here.

4. Support single moms.

Even though being a mom is incredibly rewarding, it is also incredibly challenging. Lost fatherhood brings additional hurdles for raising a child, which is why community support for single mothers is all the more important. Support single moms you know in practical ways like making a meal for the family or offering to babysit. Being pro-life means working to create a culture of life!

5. Befriend a person with disabilities.

Invite someone in your community with disabilities to get coffee or play a sport. Babies prenatally diagnosed with genetic abnormalities are aborted at alarming rates. Combat this by creating a culture where everyone is welcome.

6. Share information about the dangers of chemical abortion and about the option of abortion pill reversal.

With known complications including severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, and even death, chemical abortion (more commonly known as “the abortion pill”) is nearly four times more dangerous than already dangerous surgical abortion procedures. In some cases, if only the first of the two pills in the abortion pill regimen has been taken, this type of abortion can be reversed. For more information, visit: AbortionPillReversal.com. Sharing this message could save a life.

7. Talk to a friend about her abortion views.

Most of us have a friend who does not share our views on the dignity of the unborn child. It can be challenging to have conversations surrounding abortion but making this effort can create a ripple effect that stretches far beyond your own influence. This FRC resource provides talking points and stories to help you get the conversation flowing.

8. Share information about Project Rachel.

For many women, the pain and guilt after an abortion are incredibly difficult to bear. Project Rachel is a nationwide ministry providing women with the assurance that there can be forgiveness, hope, and healing after abortion. It is open to all women, including women of no faith. Project Rachel’s website is HopeAfterAbortion.org or EsperanzaPosAborto.org.

9. Let your friends know you are a safe person to talk to.

Post a message on social media letting your friends know that if they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, you’re a safe, supportive, and loving person to talk to. This might be all the encouragement someone needs to choose life.

10. Support pro-life state legislators and legislation.

Electing pro-life state legislators is critical to ending the scourge of abortion in America. If the Dobbs case overturns Roe, the question of abortion legality would most likely return to where it was before Roe—the individual states. It is essential that the states are equipped with pro-life legislators to pass pro-life laws. When legislators introduce pro-life legislation, pro-lifers must be supportive of the effort by calling and e-mailing their elected officials.

Poll Numbers on Roe Show That Pro-Lifers Have a Lot of Work To Do

by Mary Szoch

November 18, 2021

The results of a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on November 16 indicate that 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade. Americans should be appalled by these results. They mean either 60 percent of Americans believe it is morally permissible for a child to be aborted right up until the moment of birth (a position that, though horrifying, is consistent with support for early abortion), or 60 percent of Americans still have no idea what Roe actually does—even though the decision was handed down nearly 50 years ago.

Given the discrepancy between the Post/ABC poll and years of Gallup polling (which, as of 2021, indicates that only 32 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances), the issue seems to be with the level of education people have on the abortion issue. The vast majority of Americans do not realize that Roe not only legalized abortion but made elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy the default law in every state, overturning nearly every state’s abortion law in the process.

Lack of information being the culprit for these abysmal poll numbers might come as a relief to some—but it shouldn’t. And if it does, the issue, once again, is with education. Modern science points to the fact that a newborn child is the same child she was moments before birth. A child moments before birth is the same child she was at 20 weeks gestation. A child at 20 weeks gestation is the same child she was at the moment of fertilization.

Advances in science show that all of a person’s hereditary attributes (including sex, hair and eye color, and even personality traits) are present in that person’s DNA from the moment of conception. This means that abortions at five weeks, 10 weeks, 20 weeks, and 40 weeks all carry out the same gruesome task—ending the life of a unique, unrepeatable human being.

Some likely think that the Supreme Court justices should take the findings of the Post/ABC public opinion poll into consideration when deciding the upcoming case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could overturn Roe v. Wade. This points to yet another area in which Americans’ education is lacking—the role of the Supreme Court.

While public opinion is vitally important to America’s legislative process, the executively appointed Supreme Court justices are not meant to rule based on public opinion. Instead, the members of the Court take an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. This means that in Dobbs, it is their job to determine if the framework of the Constitution includes the right to abortion. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

As the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, the court of public opinion is the state legislature. Like Americans saw in the recent Virginia election, it is state legislators who are voted in and out of office based on the preferences of the people they are elected to represent. Supreme Court justices, on the other hand, are appointed for life. This is to prevent justices from bowing to the whims of the majority. These two branches of government were intentionally formed this way as part of a delicate balancing act to both allow the changing views of the American people to impact legislation and maintain the legal precepts essential to the foundations of American society.

If the Court rules as they should in Dobbs, the justices will conclude that the right to an abortion does not exist in the Constitution. If this happens, the question of the legality of abortion will most likely return to the states. While this is the most likely outcome of a pro-life ruling in Dobbs, a person’s right to life should not be contingent upon majority vote. Sadly, the Post/ABC public opinion poll should be a sign to pro-lifers that the work to educate the public and protect the most vulnerable is far from complete.

Our first step must be recognizing that God, the author of life, must be at the center of our efforts to defend life. And so, we hope you will join us on November 28 at 7:00 CT as we join with pro-lifers around the country to pray for an end to abortion. We hope you will join us, either in person or via livestream. Please visit PrayTogetherForLife.com for more information.

Texas Lives Wouldn’t Be On the Line if Trump Were President

by Katherine Beck Johnson

November 4, 2021

The saying “Elections have consequences” might be a cliché—but it’s true. And those consequences have proven to be a matter of life and death for the unborn in Texas.

President Trump vowed to be a pro-life president, and he was. President Trump delivered on his pro-life promises. President Biden, who campaigned on a platform supporting abortion, has delivered on his promises, too, and his current crusade against the Texas Heartbeat Act has become the clearest evidence of why we need a pro-life president. A president can wield tremendous power either to protect or harm the unborn.

Texas recently passed a law that restricts abortion after a heartbeat has been detected in the unborn child (usually around six weeks). Planned Parenthood sued, and its petition went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court rejected Planned Parenthood’s emergency injunction request, and this allowed the Texas law to remain in effect. It has been estimated that over 100 lives are being saved in Texas every day as a result of this law.

Under President Trump, this could have been the end of the story as far as emergency challenges to this law. Planned Parenthood had nobody to sue, and unborn lives would have continued being saved in Texas. Under President Trump, the Supreme Court likely would not have taken the extraordinary step of granting cert before judgment. While impossible to know, it is most likely that the United States intervening breathed new life and power into this case for the abortionist. The pro-abortion Biden administration ensured this was not the end of the story. Biden promised to use all of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) power and resources to go after Texas’s pro-life law. Biden’s DOJ sued over the law, and now it’s up to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the federal government can intervene to block Texas’ law.

This week’s oral arguments concerning the Texas law did not go particularly well for the pro-life side. It’s too soon to tell how the justices will rule, and there’s no guaranteed timeframe for an opinion. So we will have to wait and see, but it does not look promising. The fight at the Supreme Court is one that never should have happened, and it’s a fight that the pro-life side might very well lose.

Some Americans mistakenly think that the president is powerless to do anything about abortion, that pro-life policy can’t get anywhere because of Roe v. Wade. But Texas offered a perfect example of why we need a pro-life president in the Oval Office at all times. We don’t know when various pro-life opportunities, such as Texas’s Heartbeat Act, will come up. But when they do, we need people in office who are committed to being pro-life, not those who fight against pro-life policies.

Personal views, donors, and political party affiliation all play a major role in a president’s approach towards pro-life laws and policies. Another key aspect is personnel. Biden has made sure to fill up his executive agencies—especially powerful ones such as the DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—with strong abortion supporters. These people have ensured that the Biden administration will be the most pro-abortion administration in our nation’s history.

At least one of the cases involving Texas’ Heartbeat Act would not have been at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday if Trump had won. President Trump would have supported Texas in its fight to protect the unborn. If your number one issue is protecting the most vulnerable people in our society—children in the womb—it’s crucial that you cast your ballot for pro-life candidates whenever they are running against candidates who support abortion. Lives depend on it.

What Christians Need to Know About the Case that Could Overturn Roe and Casey

by David Closson , Joy Zavalick

July 28, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

Most Americans are familiar with Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Many Americans, however, have not yet heard of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, an upcoming Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe and likely return jurisdiction over abortion legislation to the states.

What should Americans, and especially Christians, know about Dobbs? Is it possible that Roe v. Wade could be overturned? These and other questions are important to consider as the Supreme Court prepares to reconsider its abortion jurisprudence.

Context

Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, there have been an estimated 62 million abortions in the United States. The Roe decision created abortion rights on the basis of a supposed right to privacy provided by the Fourteenth Amendment. Under Roe, the Court initially established a trimester system and prevented states from restricting abortion in the first trimester. An accompanying case, Doe v. Bolton, made it almost impossible to restrict abortion in the later trimesters as well.

In 1992, the Supreme Court revisited Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It replaced the trimester system with the standard that states cannot impose an “undue burden” on pre-viability abortion. Although infants were once thought to reach viability at 28 weeks, modern medicine has determined that children can survive outside of the womb beginning around 22 weeks, thus moving the point of viability to earlier in gestation than it had been understood to be at the time of Roe.

Mississippi’s Law

In 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act (known as HB 1510), which prohibits elective abortions post-15 weeks gestation. The law points out that America is out-of-step with international norms regarding abortion:

The United States is one (1) of only seven (7) nations in the world that permits nontherapeutic or elective abortion-on-demand after the twentieth week of gestation. In fact, fully seventy-five percent (75%) of all nations do not permit abortion after twelve (12) weeks’ gestation, except (in most instances) to save the life and to preserve the physical health of the mother.

On the same day that the Gestational Age Act was signed into law, Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis filed suit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion facility in Mississippi.

A district court evaluated the Gestational Age Act and declared it to be unconstitutional on the basis that the point of a baby’s viability outside the womb was the earliest point at which the state could implement a legislative ban to protect fetal life. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, Mississippi appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mississippi’s law directly challenges the abortion jurisprudence of Roe and Casey, and its brief in the case calls upon the Court to overturn these two decisions, stating, “…[N]othing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”

If Roe and Casey were overturned, the question of abortion’s legality would likely fall to the states. Twenty-one states currently have laws that would immediately come into effect and restrict abortion in some manner if Roe and Casey were overturned. Ten of those states have “trigger laws” that would immediately ban all or nearly all abortions.

Christian Reflections

The Bible teaches that all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). It also affirms the personhood of the unborn. Consequently, abortion is morally incompatible with these truths.

Probably the most well-known articulation of the Bible’s affirmation of the unborn is found in Psalm 139, where David refers to his unborn self as being fully individual, not an impersonal fetus with no moral value:

For you [God] formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Ps. 139:13-16)

The prophet Jeremiah provides a high view of human life in the womb:

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:4-5)

Notably, the prophet is “consecrated” and “appointed” to his vocation while in utero. God explains to Jeremiah that He “formed” and “knew” him prior to this birth. The passage reveals that God had a personal relationship with the unborn prophet, similar to how He relates to him as an adult.

Other pro-life passages include Isaiah 49:1b, Luke 1:39-45, Psalm 51:5-6, Job 3:3, Judges 13:3-5, and Genesis 25:22-23.

Christians should care about the Dobbs case because it poses a serious legal challenge to a deadly practice that is incompatible with Christian ethics—abortion. We urge you to follow activity related to the Dobbs case and join us in praying that the U.S. Supreme Court would act to defend life.

For a more in-depth survey of what the Bible has to say about abortion and the personhood of the unborn, we invite you to read FRC’s helpful resource Biblical Principles for Pro-Life Engagement. For more information on what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned, we invite you to read our explainer on this consequential case.

Mississippi Boldly Leads the Fight to Overrule Roe

by Katherine Beck Johnson

July 27, 2021

Mississippi’s brief in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health abortion case is the latest example of a recently emboldened pro-life movement. All eyes were on Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch last week, waiting to see how she would defend her state’s 15-week abortion ban. Would Fitch be bold and mention that Roe and Casey should be overturned? Or would she try to convince the Court that the 15-week ban could be upheld under Casey?

Fitch and Scott Stewart, Mississippi’s solicitor general, exceeded all expectations when they boldly and brilliantly led the fight against Roe and Casey. Their brief convincingly explained the damage the Court’s two most deadly decisions have inflicted on our nation and demanded that the Court overturn them. “Nowhere else in the law does a right of privacy or right to make personal decisions provide a right to destroy a human life.” Mississippi’s brief called out Roe for what it is: wrong. No matter how strong of an interest women have in their own privacy, this does not extend to a right to end the life of an innocent child.

The brief’s introduction made it clear that Mississippi would be bold and aggressive in its defense of the unborn. “…[N]othing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.” The brief went on to discuss the damage inflicted on our country as a result of the judicial activism of the seven male justices who decided Roe. Mississippi did not shy away from humanizing the child in the womb:

The Court could hold that the State’s interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health, and the medical profession’s integrity are, at a minimum, compelling at 15 weeks’ gestation—when risks to women have increased considerably; when the child’s basic physiological functions are all present, his or her vital organs are functioning, and he or she can open and close fingers, make sucking motions, and sense stimuli from outside the womb; and thus when a doctor would be extinguishing a life that has clearly taken on the human form.

Mississippi reminded the Court that states are willing and should be able to protect the most vulnerable among us. Some pressured Mississippi to take a more timid approach and not ask for much, but Mississippi did the right thing by being bold. No other fight for basic human rights, such as the civil rights movement, was shy in their requests for equal rights. Thurgood Marshall was bold in his requests before the Court in Brown v. Board of Education, and now Mississippi stands boldly before the Court in its request for the state’s ability to protect the most basic right—the right to life—for the unborn. The Court did the right thing in Brown, and it should do the right thing in Dobbs.

The conclusion of the brief summarizes the harm done by judicial activism in creating a right to abortion:

The goal of constitutional adjudication is to hold true the balance between that which the Constitution puts beyond the reach of the democratic process and that which it does not.” Webster, 492 U.S. at 521 (opinion of Rehnquist, C.J.). Roe and Casey—and a viability rule—do not meet that goal. And they never can. Retaining them harms the Constitution, the country, and this Court. This Court should… overrule Roe and Casey.

Mississippi did the right thing. Now it’s the U.S. Supreme Court’s turn to do the right thing. No justice will be able to feign ignorance regarding Mississippi’s glaring request. No justice can claim that Mississippi didn’t ask for Roe to be overturned. It is time for Americans to see the true colors of every justice sitting on the Court. Dobbs is the case that should overturn Roe. If it isn’t overturned, it won’t be because Mississippi didn’t do the best job it could. There is no excuse for Roe not to be overturned now.

Suicide Risk and Gender Transition: The Facts

by Jennifer Bauwens

July 23, 2021

As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers.  When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter.  Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.

While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat.  For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.”  Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them.      

Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.

When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified … There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable … In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” 

Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.

Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue.  Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.

The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.

That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.

The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria.  Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. 

In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:

  • There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.
  • There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.

The credible and available evidence indicates:

  • There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.
  • In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.

A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:

  • A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.
  • Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.

For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.

Embracing Modern Science Means Overturning Roe

by Joy Zavalick

July 23, 2021

In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision allowing for virtually unlimited access to abortion through nine months of pregnancy. The Court justified this decision by sidestepping the matter of whether children in the womb are alive. As Justice White explained in his Roe dissent, “The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries.”

The Roe decision to prioritize mothers seeking elective abortions rests on the outdated scientific opinions available to the Court in 1973. The Court fallaciously appealed to ignorance by permitting abortion based on a lack of knowledge about when life begins. In the opinion of the Court, Justice Blackmun wrote, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. […] The judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

There can be no doubt, however, that the human understanding of the world has shifted immeasurably in the past 48 years.

In 1973, the disposable camera was 13 years away from being invented, and the rings of Neptune would not be discovered for another decade. The Walkman would not hit the market until 1979. Doctors still operated on infants without anesthesia because they were not yet aware that babies could feel pain.

In terms of science and technological advancements, the practices of 1973 ought not govern the modern world. As lessons are learned and further information is gained, it is senseless to maintain outdated practices. When DNA fingerprinting was discovered in 1984, forensic teams did not insist on maintaining their current practices for the next 50 years; rather, the technology solved its first murder case two years later.

In 2021, the science is clearer than ever that infants in the womb are alive from the point of conception. A modern understanding of DNA reveals that human zygotes have completely unique genetic compositions, determining traits from eye color to aspects of personality, from the very point that they are fertilized. A 2019 study emphasizes that light is visible to children in the womb even as their eyes are closed.

The contemporary practices of prenatal health care have greatly adapted as well. Though the point of viability was thought to be at 28 weeks in 1973, it is now known to be at 22 weeks. The most premature infant to survive was born in 1987 at just 21 weeks gestation. Fetal surgery performed on children in the womb has successfully treated a host of developmental conditions, including spina bifida. Based on the Roe decision, which refused to consider whether infants in the womb were alive, children of the same age to be born or receive operations can just as easily be electively aborted at the mother’s discretion.

The case for reevaluating the substance of Roe is clear. Just as textbooks are updated when new facts become available to ensure that children learn the most recent information, the modern Court’s rulings must be based on current knowledge rather than the claim to ignorance of the Court in 1973. Legal precedent must not triumph over the necessity to acknowledge modern science.

As the Supreme Court will soon consider a direct challenge to Roe in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they face a pivotal decision: abide by the outdated excuses of 1973, or recognize the evidence presented by modern science and act accordingly. Americans, particularly the unborn ones, deserve to live by the best modern practices of human knowledge, which unequivocally affirms that babies in the womb are alive.

For more information on why Roe should be overturned, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Joy Zavalick is an intern with the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

The Supreme Court Protects Religious Liberty—Barely

by Katherine Beck Johnson

June 17, 2021

Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) 9-0 victory before the Supreme Court today in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, while unanimous, can’t be allowed to overshadow serious differences among the justices on how to approach religious liberty.

This case involved CSS’s ability to operate in accordance with their Catholic faith. The City of Philadelphia had pressured CSS to either give up the Church’s teaching on marriage and family or give up their ministry of finding children loving homes. CSS refused to go against its strongly-held religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. After years of litigation, the Supreme Court today held that Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by allowing secular but not religious exceptions to their fostering contracts, like the one held by CSS.

To be clear, this decision was a win. For now, CSS will be able to operate in accordance with its religious beliefs and continue placing children in most need. The organization will not be forced to shut its doors because it refuses to compromise its faith.

Unfortunately, the win was narrow, coming up short of a huge victory. The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment. As Justice Alito noted in his concurrence, the secular exceptions were essentially boilerplate language in the city’s contract that they did not enforce and will be very easy for them to delete—effectively leaving CSS with no protection. As Justice Alito said, “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.”

The Court should have overturned Employment Division v. Smith, which held that a law is constitutional as long as it is generally applicable and does not target religion. Smith was wrong when it was decided, and it is wrong today. Justice Gorsuch was correct when he said, “[o]ne way or another, the majority seems determined to declare there is no “need” or “reason” to revisit Smith today. But tell that to CSS. Its litigation has already lasted years—and today’s (ir)resolution promises more of the same.”

The ever-growing demands from the Left and their radical gender ideology being imposed on more and more of America make it increasingly impossible for a person to live out their Christian faith while operating in the foster care and adoption space (or many other aspects of society). Evidently, the City of Philadelphia would rather children languish in the system without loving homes than allow CSS to operate in accordance with its faith. Catholics in Philadelphia and throughout our country deserve better than that—and are afforded more than that in our Constitution.

Although today’s opinion allows CSS to continue operating without compromising its faith, that likely won’t be the case for long. Soon, the Court will have to answer if a city can force a religious agency to violate its beliefs if no secular exceptions were provided. The answer is no, and that should have been the answer today. Justices Roberts, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan refused to answer this.

Today, Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch were the only members of the nation’s highest court who demonstrated awareness of the pressing need to revisit Smith and rightly protect religious adherents. Let us hope more justices join them in the future.

Fidelity to the Constitution Requires Roe’s Reversal

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

Before joining the policy world, I taught history in Catholic schools. One of my favorite units was on the Supreme Court. Students were required to memorize the justices’ names, review various cases, and argue how the justices should rule in each case. The biggest challenge I faced as a teacher was convincing students that their determination of how justices should rule needed to be based in the United States Constitution, not in personal opinion. Sadly, this is not a problem only middle school teachers face but one confronting all Americans who recognize the role and purpose of the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—a case asking whether Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks is constitutional. The Court’s decision to review this case is terrifying pro-abortion activists across the country because not only does Dobbs have the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but if the Supreme Court justices follow their obligation to the Constitution, the Dobbs decision should overturn Roe and Casey.

In Roe, the Court argued that under the 14th Amendment, the Due Process Clause, a woman has a right to privacy, and as such, she has a constitutional right to an abortion. As part of this decision, the Court said that the states had the power to regulate abortion in the first trimester for any reason, in the second trimester in the interest of the woman’s health, and in the third trimester, the state could outlaw abortion. In the Court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court reaffirmed Roe’s finding that a woman has the right to an abortion but changed the requirements for outlawing abortion from the trimester framework to a viability framework.

As any former student of mine should be able to attest, the words “right to privacy” that are used to justify the right to an abortion in both Roe and Casey do not appear anywhere in the Constitution—neither do the words “viability ” or “trimester.” The seven justices who ruled in favor of Roe, and the five justices who ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood fell into the same trap that plagued my 8th graders. They ruled based on their personal opinion—not on the United States Constitution.

Many have speculated that the outcome of Dobbs will be less than satisfactory to those in the pro-life movement—suggesting that the decision will likely favor a more incremental walk-back of Roe and Casey rather than a full reversal. I hope they are wrong.

If my middle school students (who were very bright, but still, middle school students) were the ones deciding Dobbs, I could understand another failure to decide an abortion case based on the Constitution. I could understand that for a third time, middle school students might substitute their own opinions and create their own framework for when and how abortion should be allowed. But the nine individuals deciding this case have been educated far beyond middle school by teachers and professors far more knowledgeable than me. In fact, these nine men and women are some of the best and the brightest this country has to offer, and more importantly, they have taken an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

As the Dobbs case is argued and the opinion is written, the pro-life movement must pray that the nine justices are able to recognize that overturning Roe and Casey is not a form of judicial advocacy, a decision based on religious principles, or an ideological answer to the pro-life movement. Overturning Roe and Casey is what fidelity to the Constitution requires.

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