“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law….Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well established.”

Thus spake Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), according to a CNN report.

But which Roe v. Wade decision does Sen. Collins stand by? There’s the imaginary Roe, which dictates that unregulated abortion be available throughout pregnancy. Then there’s the actual Roe, which permits states to leave abortion unregulated but also permits many laws protecting the lives and safety of mother and preborn child.

Where does Sen. Collins stand on First Amendment protections for peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities? After all, McCullen v. Coakley is “established decision, established law.” Or does she consider peaceful pro-life witness to be an attack on abortion rights?

How about restrictions on public funding of abortion and abortion counseling? The Supreme Court OK’d such restrictions decades ago. Abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU Reproductive Rights Project use terms like “gag rule” to describe efforts to keep abortion providers out of taxpayers’ wallets. In the Senator’s view, do restrictions on public funding amount to “hostility” to Roe v. Wade?

Parental notification for minors’ abortions, reflection periods before abortion, informed consent laws, restrictions on mid- and late-term abortion, protections for children who survive attempted abortion: certain forms of these laws have been found consistent with Roe. Then again, PP and ACLU consider such measures attacks on abortion rights.

The pro-Roe Senator Collins could vote with a clear conscience for a jurist who supports the abortion regulations that have been approved by the Supreme Court since Roe. Such a nominee would not be hostile to the actual Roe decision, even if that nominee displeased PP and the ACLU.

Maybe one day there will be less deference to a precedent that’s inconsistent with human dignity. For now, though, we’re left with wondering what Senator Collins means by “hostility.”

Ellen writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

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Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it. 

(Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 26 April 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/)

Make good use of it, indeed. I hope this has been a joyous Independence Day for you!

 

Ellen writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

Now’s the time to celebrate the First Amendment and support independent journalism by hitting DaTipJar. Thank you!

Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will step down from the U.S. Supreme Court on July 31, after 30 years of service. He assured himself a place in history two years ago, for good or ill, with the Obergefell decision. Aside from that, he earned a reputation as a swing (i.e. unpredictable) vote on various issues. One of those 5-4 decisions is on my mind today.

Yesterday, the court ruled in NIFLA v. Becerra that pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) cannot be forced to advertise for abortion. (I’ve been watching that case ever since the litigation began.)The same case ruled that non-medical pro-life PRCs cannot be compelled to announce their non-medical nature in a manner prescribed by a pro-abortion government, when the same government doesn’t impose that requirement on similar agencies.

Justice Kennedy concurred in the 5-4 NIFLA decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas. Kennedy’s concurrence deserves more attention than it’s likely to get this week, in light of his resignation and other SCOTUS news.

NIFLA at its core was a First Amendment case: was the state of California violating the First Amendment rights of pro-life agencies by forcing those agencies to deliver pro-abortion messages? Justice Thomas carefully outlined the reasons why the answer had to be Yes. It’s astounding that four Justices would have let the California law stand. (No surprises: the minority consisted of Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.)

Here’s the bulk of Justice Kennedy’s concurrence (emphasis added). Bear in mind that this man was not exactly a lion of the pro-life movement. But the state of California’s attempt to coerce pro-life pregnancy centers to help market for abortion was too much for him to stomach.

I join the Court’s opinion in all respects.

…It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this [California] Act. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.

And the history of the Act’s passage and its underinclusive application suggest a real possibility that these individuals were targeted because of their beliefs.

The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.” App. 38–39. But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.” Wooley v.Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 715 (1977). It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come. Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.

That’s not a bad way to cap off thirty years on the Court.

Ellen Kolb is a pro-life writer and activist in New Hampshire. She writes at ellenkolb.com and Leaven for the Loaf. 

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I posted a couple of weeks ago about the Trump Administration’s proposed rule to keep Title X (Ten) federal family planning money from being used to benefit abortion providers. The formal period for public comment is open now through July 31.

h/t to Jeanneane Maxon, formerly of Americans United for Life, for this brief summary: “Currently, abortion providers, or organizations that refer for abortion, get significant tax payer dollars through Title X funding. The Rule would require a bright line of physical as well as financial separation between Title X programs and any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning. Please take 15 minutes this week and comment.”

If you don’t have 15 minutes, take 5.  My own comment is going to be brief: abortion isn’t family planning, and taxpayer funds for family planning programs should not be diverted in any way to subsidize or provide abortion.

Here’s the link to the Regulations.gov page for public comment; look for the Comment Now button on the right side of the page. That page includes a great deal of information about the proposed rule and the Title X program.

(“Regulations.gov”: now that’s a perfect name for a bureaucracy’s web presence.)

Ellen Kolb is a pro-life writer and activist in New Hampshire. She writes about pro-life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

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(Adapted from a post I wrote for Leaven for the Loaf.)

The Trump Administration has announced a proposed Health and Human Services rule that would prevent federal Title X (Ten) family planning money from going to abortion providers. That’s “proposed.” It’s a long road from announcement to implementation. Some pro-lifers are cheering as though it’s a done deal, and abortion providers are screaming as only people who’ve been hit in the wallet can scream.

Take a breath, folks. The proposed rule is good news. It would protect taxpayers from involvement in the abortion industry. But the rule is not in place yet, and may never be. The President has announced a proposal. Tip of the iceberg, you might say. To see what the rest of it looks like, feast your eyes on the rulemaking process as described in the Federal Register.

But, still – this is a start.

The outraged wails of abortion advocates are reminding me of the similar reaction to the Supreme Court’s 1991 Rust decision, establishing that it’s permissible for the federal government to tell family planning clinics that they can’t use taxpayer funds to perform, refer for, or counsel for abortions – since, after all, abortion is not family planning. Then, as now, abortion advocates called funding restrictions a “gag rule.” They called funding restrictions a violation of freedom of speech, instead of what they are: protection of the conscience rights of people who don’t want to help pay for any aspect of abortion.

(A couple of years after the Rust decision, President Clinton suspended the regulations that Rust had okayed – and ever since, abortion providers have lined up for Title X funds every budget cycle.)

As for indignant cries of “gag rule,” the most strident critics of the proposed Title X rule are not noted for their defense of First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. They only discovered the First Amendment when abortion providers’ pocketbooks were threatened.

Back in ’91, just after the Rust decision, I got a letter from my then-Congressman claiming that the decision was a “devastating blow” to free speech, on the grounds that agencies using Title X funds were being forbidden to counsel for abortions. This was from a man who had for office on a claim that he opposed sending taxpayer funding or subsidies for abortion. He recognized when he ran for office that there is a difference between family planning and abortion, and he realized that family planning funds in the hands of abortion providers simply free up other funds within the providers’ budgets for use in abortions.

Then abortion providers started accusing my Congressman of opposing free speech. Worked like a charm, since no one wants to be accused of violating the First Amendment. He changed his tune.

Today, just as in 1991, it literally pays to disguise funding as free speech. Hence the revival of the misleading term “gag rule.”

The essence of the President’s proposed rule is this, which is no different from the Reagan rule that led to the Rust decision: Title X is for family planning. Abortion is not family planning. Congress is within its rights to forbid abortion providers from using a grant for purposes unrelated to the grant’s goals. If you counsel for, refer for, or perform abortions, you may do so without using family planning funds.

The response from the abortion industry is this: I’ll promote what I please; you should pay for that promotion; refusal to pay equals censorship.

Providers who do both abortions and family planning could, if they chose, separate out the abortion business and do it as a separate enterprise, with separate facilities, equipment, funding and staffing. Title X grants for family planning would then not entangle taxpayers in abortion in any way. But that’s not the path abortion providers want to take.

It’s worth remembering that while the President’s proposed rule is a pro-life initiative, it has no bearing on the right to life. It doesn’t recognize the personhood or humanity of any preborn child. What it does is respect the conscience rights of taxpayers who don’t want to help subsidize abortions.

Even that is more than abortion advocates can tolerate.

Ellen Kolb is a pro-life writer and activist in New Hampshire. She writes about pro-life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

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The Twitterverse murmured #ThankYouCecile the other day to mark the end of Cecile Richards’s tenure leading the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Hats off to the Babylon Bee for skewering that bit of social media hashtagging: “Woman Celebrated for Killing 3.5 Million People.”

That satirical bull’s eye came just a few days after another one from the same source: “Planned Parenthood Defends Bill Cosby: ‘Sexual Assault Is Only 3% Of What He Does’”. I wish I’d written that.

But in all seriousness, Richards is a consequential woman. It would be a mistake to pretend otherwise. Planned Parenthood has had high-profile leaders before and will have them again. What sets Richards apart are the sheer bloody numbers and her solid brass determination.

PP is now the nation’s leading abortion provider, with more than 321,384 “abortion services” provided in FY 2016 alone. In the same year, according to PP’s annual report, revenue was $1.459 billion, of which $543 million came from taxpayers.

That transfer of funds from your pocket into PP’s, on such an appalling scale, was made possible because of a false message that Cecile Richards delivered unceasingly and confidently: abortion is health care. She didn’t invent the message, but she honed it to a fine edge and wielded it like a surgeon.

She knew that quibbling over what abortion terminates wasn’t good for business. Even seeing abortion as a “right” wasn’t enough to fulfill her vision. Selling abortion as health care, as a positive good, was the message she used to elevate PP to the economic and cultural position it now holds.

The political influence, the virtual extortion of funds from taxpayers and fellow nonprofits alike (cf. the Komen breast-cancer charity), the serene composure with which she dismissed the damning videos documenting the sale of fetal body parts by some PP affiliates: all of it can be explained and defended by buying into her defining message, abortion is health care.

Politicians don’t want to support taxpayer dollars going to the nation’s largest abortion provider? (Hey, I can dream.) They’re after your health care. A pastor speaks out in defense of human life? He’s after your health care. A journalist documents commerce in fetal body parts; a court upholds an abortion regulation, however mild; peaceful pro-life witnesses pray silently outside a PP facility: what they’re really after is your health care.

Abortion is health care is a hellishly lucrative legacy for PP. It’s the message that keeps half a million of your dollars going to the nation’s leading abortion provider. No wonder Richards was rewarded with compensation in excess of half a million dollars a year.

Health care and abortion are two different things. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort for the truth to regain its rightful place. Don’t ever doubt that one person can make a difference. Look at what Cecile Richards left behind.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist. She covers New Hampshire public policy on the life issues at leavenfortheloaf.com.  

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I hate the terms “ableism” and “implicit bias.” They smack of linguistic and political trendiness. But now comes Britain’s National Health Service to show us what those words mean, and suddenly they’re menacing, not trendy. 

As I write this, Alfie Evans still lives in spite of the best efforts of the NHS. I hope that he’s in the arms of his loving parents. Even a child with disabilities who’s been written off by his doctors deserves that much. As for the people who are trying to rush this child to the exit doors, Pete has summed them up nicely. 

Alfie’s family didn’t ask to be in a position of having to defend their child’s right to nutrition and hydration, or to defend their own right to have custody of their son. But they’re fighting back, publicly. They’re telling their son’s story. That’s the least and the most they can do.

When health care providers for a disabled child like Alfie deem that care is “futile,” and when the child’s parents are then denied the right to take their child to another facility that has agreed to accept him, then I know the controlling ethic is “better dead than disabled.”  

Don’t think this is a story from Britain that has no relevance here. When nutrition and hydration are considered to be medical treatments instead of ordinary care – and some states have written that into statute – the risk increases that what’s happening to Alfie could happen to anyone’s disabled child or parent or partner. 

It’s asking a lot, for a family to surrender its privacy as a child is dying or critically ill. But no doctor or hospital or insurer or judge should be able to count on that privacy to screen them from scrutiny when it comes to denying food and water to a disabled patient. When that perfect storm of disability and bad law strikes, may we have the guts to tell our loved one’s story and to push back on the so-called experts, as Alfie’s parents are doing.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist. She covers New Hampshire public policy on the life issues at leavenfortheloaf.com.  

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In the days leading up to the adoption of the latest spending bill in Washington, my social media feeds were full of posts from a variety of pro-life groups addressing one topic: including protection of medical conscience rights in the spending bill. To anyone unfamiliar with the federal budget process, an appropriations bill would sound like an odd place to mention conscience rights. But as we know, all kinds of oddball things work their way into budget deals.

As it happens, the conscience protection act promoted by pro-lifers was not included in the spending bill approved on March 22. I would have shrugged – a pro-life initiative rejected in Washington? so what else is new? – but for a similar disappointment closer to home. A week before the federal spending bill was adopted, a bill to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals was rejected in my state’s legislature by a two-to-one margin.

Lest you think this is a partisan problem, note that the GOP holds majorities in the legislative bodies at issue here.

I was at the hearing for the state-level bill. The thrust of the opposition to conscience legislation boiled down to this: abortion is health care, and those who don’t want to participate in abortions have no business in the medical field.

The argument was couched in terms of denial of access: if a pharmacist doesn’t want to hand out an abortion-inducing drug, that might prevent or delay a woman’s abortion; if some doctor refuses to participate in abortion, he might let a hemorrhaging woman bleed to death. (Nonsense, but some legislators swallowed that whopper whole.)

The supporters of conscience legislation testified to the primacy of conscience, which our own state’s constitution explicitly recognizes as a natural right, not one that needs to be granted. They cited the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They spoke of their religious and ethical beliefs and how they shouldn’t be fired for sticking to them.

“Access” met conscience, and “access” won.

These state and federal votes were hardly the last word. They’re intriguing, though. They indicate to me that hostility and indifference to conscience rights are alive and well, even in more-or-less respectable circles. Fortunately, there are people pushing back.

I kinda liked Cardinal Dolan’s pushback on the federal vote.

The failure of Congress to include the Conscience Protection Act in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill is deeply disappointing. The CPA is an extraordinarily modest bill that proposes almost no change to existing conscience protection laws on abortion—laws that receive wide public and bi-partisan support. The CPA simply proposes to provide victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court to help ensure that no one is forced to participate in abortion. Those inside and outside of Congress who worked to defeat the CPA have placed themselves squarely into the category of extremists who insist that all Americans must be forced to participate in the violent act of abortion. We call on Congress not to give up until this critical legislation is enacted.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and activist living in New Hampshire. Read more at ellenkolb.com/blog

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At the time this is published, I’ll be in an unassuming little church on a side street off a New England city’s millyard. Lent draws to a close tonight and what’s known in my faith tradition as the Triduum begins.

I’ll listen to familiar Biblical psalms, canticles, and lamentations, chanted in unfamiliar Latin as I follow along in a prayer book. The church will be lit by candles that will be extinguished one by one at the conclusion of each chanted reading.

When we depart the church, we’ll do so in silence.

This is not an attempt to escape anything.  This is a time of rich political ferment, and it’s a time to be fully engaged – not to run away.

But first things first. The more craziness and busy-ness and political lunacy in my life and work, the more deliberate I must be about loving and serving God. Those of you who can keep priorities straight effortlessly, while immersed in writing about politics, have my respect. And a bit of my envy, too.

For readers (and members of DTG’s Magnificent Seven-Plus) who are looking forward to Easter a few days hence, I wish for you a peaceful and fruitful Triduum in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Pray and work, as St. Benedict advised, in that order.

As of midday today, my state is no longer the only one in New England without “gender identity” language in the state’s anti-discrimination law. That’s what’s in the area’s headlines tonight and it’s what will lead the area’s news stories tomorrow.

What you probably won’t hear is that my state representatives voted on two other gender-policy bills as well. One would have prohibited taxpayer funding of so-called gender reassignment procedures. The other would have prohibited gender reassignment for minors.

Both those bills were killed. The choice to reject those bills is at least as significant as the choice to pass the “gender identity” measure.

The taxpayer funding measure was drafted after the state’s department of health and human services decided last year, without benefit of having a public hearing first, to cover gender reassignment under Medicaid. Then and now, advocates of taxpayer funding said that gender reassignment is a non-elective procedure, and that religious objections to paying for it are just excuses for bigotry.

Say the word “bigot” often enough and it sticks.

The bill to prevent minors from having healthy body parts amputated in the name of gender reassignment was defeated in a state that has a law against minors using tanning beds. Come to think of it, the same state also has laws restricting purchase and consumption of alcohol and tobacco by minors.

But puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones, and removal of healthy body parts? Go for it.

Somehow, I don’t think today’s votes settled the issue.

Ellen Kolb is a writer living in New Hampshire. Read more by her at ellenkolb.com

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