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Debunking the Myths of FOCA 2.0

By Americans United for Life
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Federal Abortion Expansion Act Deceptively Packaged to Appeal to Women, but Designed to Exterminate Protective Laws

By Anna Franzonello and Mary Harned, AUL staff attorneys

Holding a hearing on S. 1696, deceptively titled “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary heard many myths from abortion proponents about the “need” for S. 1696’s evisceration of all life-affirming legislation. Essentially this is FOCA 2.0, another federal attempt to expand abortion policy, while also destroying pro-life legislation and blocking new life-protecting efforts.

Below are a sampling of myths along with the truth about the radical and dangerous impact of S. 1696.

Myth: Life-affirming laws are enacted “…under the false pretext of health and safety.”

Fact: A substantial body of peer-reviewed scientific literature documents that induced abortion is associated with significant risks and potential harms to women.  Time and time again, the abortion industry has proved—at the cost of women’s lives and health—that it places profit as its top priority and it should not be left to self-police its dangerous practice.

The pro-life movement cares about both mothers and their babies and therefore supports the health and safety standards contained in the laws that S. 1696 would strike down and prohibit.

Whether accomplished by an invasive surgical procedure or by taking a combination of potent drugs, abortion carries inherent physical risks of harm for women. Numerous, well-documented studies in peer-reviewed international medical journals have found increased risks after abortion.

Even the nation’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood, acknowledges on its website the undisputed risks of immediate complications from abortion including blood clots, hemorrhage, incomplete abortions, infection, and injury to the cervix and other organs. Abortion can also cause missed ectopic pregnancy, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, renal failure, metabolic disorder, or shock. Immediate complications affect approximately 10 percent of women undergoing abortions.

History shows that unregulated abortion, or unenforced abortion regulations, sets the stage for substandard clinic conditions to compound these risks.

The babies and women killed and injured by abortion are not mere data points. They are more than simple statistics. Life affirming legislation aims to protect these real mothers and their children who are all human beings with human dignity.

The truth is that S. 1696 would invalidate hundreds of life-affirming laws under the false pretext of “health and safety.” The only thing it would accomplish is to shield the abortion industry from efforts to protect women and their unborn children.

Myth: “[D]ata show that abortion, even after the first trimester, carries a lower risk of serious complications than vaginal births, cesarean sections, and even plastic surgery procedures such as facelifts and liposuction.”

Fact: Abortion is always deadly for at least one person, the baby, and data shows that risks to women increase with gestational age.

The “abortion is safer than childbirth” myth relies on U.S. abortion data that is incomplete and unreliable. Unlike abortion-related deaths, pregnancy-related deaths are systemically sought, identified, and investigated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has cautioned medical professionals not to make comparative statements based on CDC data.

The comparison is also misleading because abortion-related and pregnancy-related deaths are simply not counted the same way. Consider the following: a woman who undergoes a first trimester abortion, experiences profound depression, and four weeks later commits suicide would not be counted as an abortion-related death.  However, because any death that occurs during or 6 weeks after a pregnancy is considered pregnancy-related, a woman who carries a pregnancy to term, similarly suffers depression and commits suicide would be considered a pregnancy-related death.

Even according to pro-abortion advocates, abortion complications are known to be under-reported for other reasons, including barriers in state reporting requirements, stigma.

It is undisputed that the later in pregnancy an abortion occurs, the riskier it is and the greater the chance for significant complications.  Gestational age is the strongest risk factor for abortion-related death.  A woman seeking an abortion at 20-weeks (5-months) is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester.  At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester.

Myth: “Global evidence indicates that where abortion services are restricted and unavailable, abortions still occur and are mostly unsafe.”

 

Fact: Studies have shown that where abortion is restricted, maternal mortality rates have decreased.

For example, a May 2012 study out of Chile that examined trends in maternal death both when abortion was legal in Chile and after abortion was prohibited found that death rates did not increase after abortion was made illegal. While abortion was the leading cause of death for a pregnant woman between 1957 and 1989–the time period in which abortion was legal– maternal mortality decreased from 41.3 deaths per 100,000 live births when abortion was legal, to just 12.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births after abortion was made illegal. Today, Chile has a lower maternal mortality rate than the United States and it has the lowest maternal mortality rate in all of Latin America.

Another study that compared maternal mortality rates in Ireland (where abortion is illegal) to England and Scotland (where abortion is legal) found that maternal mortality rates were much lower in Ireland than in England or Scotland.  Specifically, in Ireland, there are 1-2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, whereas in England/Wales there are 10 deaths per 100,000 live births, and in Scotland there are 10-12 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The “global” comparison that the abortion lobby wants to draw is misleadingly based on countries with overall poor medical care. These women around the globe deserve help with improving true medical care, not “legal” abortion as a substitute to addressing their and their babies’ real health needs.

Myth: “Ob-gyns who perform miscarriage completions in their office practices are not subject to these onerous requirements, despite the fact that they are performing the same medical procedure as abortion providers…”

Fact: As Dr. Monique Chireau testified, induced abortion differs significantly from dilation and curettage in a non-pregnant patient for a variety of reasons, including differences between the pregnant and non-pregnant uterus, the presence of the fetus, increased risk for perforation, bleeding and infection, and the consequences of incomplete evacuation of the uterus.

Myth: Admitting privileges laws are “not medically justified” and “do not promote women’s health or safety, and run counter to sound medical practice and opinion.”

Fact:  As Dr. Chireau explained, all too often women with induced abortion complications are told to go to an emergency department by a practitioner who not only does not live in the area, or have admitting privileges to a local hospital, but also has no clinician backup, or transfer agreement in place. This would constitute malpractice in any other scenario. Physicians practice within a regulatory framework that exists to protect both their patients and themselves. Physicians also are usually part of a professional community.

Benefits of benefits of physician credentialing and a professional community include:

  • Admitting privileges imply a level of ethical and clinical competence in the practice of medicine. In order to be credentialed at a hospital, practitioners must have demonstrated competence in their specialty. The credentialing process helps identify practitioners who have a trail of injured patients, actions by state medical boards, history of criminal behavior, substance abuse problems, or adverse malpractice actions.
  • Hospital credentialing helps protect patients from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.
  • Physicans to physician communication (handoffs) improves outcomes. Handoffs are one of the most frequently identified causes of poor patient outcomes. The analogy is to a baton being passed correctly in a relay race.
  • Admitting privileges allow for physician discipline where needed.
  • Physicians who are part of hospital staff are willing to backup their colleagues.

There are 4 main reasons why abortionists and abortion activists oppose credentialing.

  1. It subjects abortionists to scrutiny of their clinical practice.
  2. Many abortionists can’t meet the ethical and clinical standards required for hospital credentialing.
  3. They are not part of a medical community and can’t get references.
  4. They do not want to undergo peer review and possible discipline.

Myth: “Mandatory performance of an ultrasound is not an accepted medical practice or standard of care…this practice does not add to the quality or safety of the medical care being provided.”

Fact: Ultrasounds serve the essential medical purpose of confirming the presence, location, and gestational age of a pregnancy. Ultrasounds also help to diagnose ectopic pregnancies that, if left undiagnosed, can result in infertility or even fatal blood loss.

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) lists “undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy” as one of “[t]he main complications” of chemical abortions. Notably, NAF states that “providers must remain vigilant to detect this complication,” and explains that “experienced sonographers using a transvaginal probe” are an important means to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.

A study on early abortions (prior to 6-7 weeks gestation), published in 2003, surveyed 113 abortion providers including 74 Planned Parenthood affiliates that performed abortions, and found these clinics routinely use vaginal ultrasounds before an early abortion. The study even credits “vaginal ultrasonography” as one reason that “early abortion” has become what it considers a “safe and practical option.”

In Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey,the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2011 Texas ultrasound law, finding that performing an ultrasound and checking for fetal heartbeat are both “routine measures in pregnancy medicine today” and viewed as “medically necessary” for the mother and unborn child.

Unfortunately, as the following example from a Virginia Board of Medicine demonstrates, not all abortion providers have followed the medical standard:

“Without performing diagnostic tests to ascertain the gestational age of the fetus, instead relying only on a bimanual pelvic examination, that he believed showed a twelve (12) week fetus, Dr. Abofreka began a termination procedure on Patient A. After applying suction several times, Dr. Abofreka realized that the pregnancy was greater than the twelve (12) weeks gestation he estimated on examination. He then stopped the procedure and performed a sonogram which showed the gestational age was approximately twenty-four (24) weeks…” Abofreka v.Virginia Bd. of Med., 2007 WL 2301727 (Va. Ct. App).

Pregnant women have experienced complications from abortion procedures due to the abortion provider’s failure to perform a timely ultrasound.

Myth: Ultrasounds and their descriptions are “cruel and inhumane” and treat women “like second class citizens”

Fact: Allowing women the opportunity to view their ultrasounds serves an important role in providing informed consent, enabling women to exercise true choice.

Upholding the Texas ultrasound law, the Fifth Circuit noted,

The point of informed consent laws is to allow the patient to evaluate her condition and render her best decision under difficult circumstances. Denying her up to date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.

The disclosure of the ultrasound, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are, as the Fifth Circuit ruled, “the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.”

Moreover, when asked if they would prefer having an ultrasound examination before an abortion, at least one study found that the majority of women would choose to have an ultrasound and simultaneously view the image. See Bamigboye et al., Should women view the ultrasound image before first-trimester termination of pregnancy? 92 So Afr Med J. 6, 430 (2002). Another study found that most women (86.3%) who chose to view the ultrasound found it a positive experience. See Wiebe et al., Women’s perceptions about seeing the ultrasound picture before an abortion, 14 The Eur J. Contracept & Repro Health Care 2, 97 (2009).

Myth: Life-affirming laws are “seeking to make an end run around public opinion.”

Fact: Public opinion supports the common sense, common-ground laws this bill would eliminate. The truth is S. 1696 is the end-run around public opinion.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that “perception that pro-choice position dominates contrasts with even split in actual views.” But even the percentages of Americans who would self-describe as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” when asked a general question fail to tell the full story. When asked specific questions about abortion and abortion legislation, a truer picture of a pro-life America emerges.

The vast majority of Americans believe that abortion should be either illegal in all circumstances (20%) or legal only under certain circumstances (52%). Only 26% believe that abortion should be legal under any circumstances.

It has been clear for more than two decades that most Americans support common sense limits on abortion.  For example:

  • Polling consistently shows that strong majorities believe abortion should be illegal in the second three months of pregnancy (64-71%) and last three months of pregnancy (80-86%).
  • 69-78% support a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours before having the procedure done.
  • 69-74% support parental consent.
  • 87% support informed consent laws, requiring doctors to inform patients about the possible risks of abortion before performing the procedure.
  • 86-88% support a law requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure.

Myth: “Year after year poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans favor retaining the protections of Roe v. Wade.”

Fact: As explained above, polls clearly demonstrate that Americans strongly disapprove of Roe v. Wade’s “abortion-on-demand” regime. But there is a second pernicious myth contained in this statement, that S. 1696 would merely codify Roe. In truth, S. 1696 is far more radical than the highly criticized Roe opinion, excluding the possibility of the life-affirming legislation which polls show the American public overwhelmingly supports.

The controversial 1973 opinion has been modified by subsequent cases, but even Roe itself is not as radical as the proposed legislation. Roe recognizes as a legitimate state interest the protection of unborn human beings; S. 1696 makes absolutely no mention of the unborn.

The Roe Court also found that the State’s legitimate interest in regulating abortion to protect maternal health, “obviously extends at least to [regulating] the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that may arise.”

Preceded by the phrase “at least,” these examples clearly set a floor, not a ceiling, of the “obvious” interests a State has in protecting maternal health. Notably, the Roe Court’s list of the minimum “obvious” examples of measures advancing women’s health goes beyond regulating the abortion procedure itself and extends to regulations that would ensure the availability of post-abortive after-care treatment and emergency care in the case of complications.

The abortion “right” announced in U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Roe, is not a right to the existence of abortion clinics. In fact, Roe expressed concern with what it called “abortion mills,” noting that their reported negative impact on women’s health “strengthens, rather than weakens, the State’s interest in regulating the conditions under which abortions are performed.” Roe, 410 U.S. at 150.

Elevating mere “access” to an abortion clinic over the long-recognized State interest in protecting maternal health does the reverse. It virtually immunizes abortion clinics from regulation if their failure to comply would close their doors.

In the over forty years since Roe, there are numerous examples demonstrating that regulation of abortion clinics is necessary.  The trial of now-convicted murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell brought some attention to the tragic impact that the “legal” abortion industry has had on women’s health.  Gosnell’s clinic was not an aberration. In fact, since 2009, abortion providers in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas that have enacted admitting privileges requirements, along with other states, have faced investigations and/or have been cited for violating state laws governing the provision of abortions.

However, states would be impeded from enacting new legislation or even enforcing existing laws that protect women against these dangerous providers if S. 1696 were enacted, predicating the legality of a health regulation upon its impact on mere “access” to abortion clinics.

Contrary to the assurances made in Roe, and subsequent cases Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, S. 1696 would permit abortion clinics, particularly in states with a limited number of abortion clinics, to run unregulated practices and perform abortions through all 9 months of pregnancy.

Senate Considering Federal Abortion Expansion Act in Benign Sounding Bill that Radicalizes Abortion law

By Americans United for Life
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Americans United for Life Board Member details health risks of abortion for mothers and their unborn children in Senate Judiciary Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. (07-15-14) – The benignly named but deadly Women’s Health Protection Act took center stage today in a Senate Judiciary hearing in which the realities of S.1696 became clear. “This dangerous legislation could invalidate virtually any type of current state health and safety regulation and the kinds of common-sense regulation of abortion that has strong momentum across the country,” noted Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “Going even further, S.1696 would also prohibit the future enactment of laws designed to protect mothers and their unborn children from abortion industry abuses and trample Americans’ conscience rights.”

Detailing the health risks of abortion for women, Duke University Assistant Professor of Clinical and Epidemiological Research, Dr. Monique Chireau, addressed Senate leaders as part of the panel discussion of the proposed law. The distinguished physician and AUL board member noted that the bill “does nothing to protect women but everything to protect the abortion industry from oversight and accountability.”

Dr. Chireau’s testimony (available here) detailed for the Committee a substantial body of peer-reviewed scientific literature documents showing that induced abortion is associated with significant medical and psychological risks for women.

Debunking the myth that abortion is “good” for women, Dr. Chireau examined the many harmful impacts of surgical and chemical abortion, including a 2011 meta-analysis of the data that included 22 studies and 877,181 women, which found “[a]n 81% increase in mental health problems including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide was noted in women who had induced abortion. The risk for mental health problems was increased 55% in women who had induced abortion compared with those who gave birth.”

The Committee also heard from Dr. Chireau about “the lack of oversight, reporting, data collection and monitoring of the abortion industry in the United States.” These deficiencies, Dr. Chireau testified, “have masked, understated and distorted the true extent of harm to women caused by [abortion.] This lack of accountability has contributed to other social ills as enabling the cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking and the exploitation of women.”

This legislation is the latest version of FOCA (the Freedom of Choice Act). S. 1696 is actually FOCA 2.0 and recklessly empowers abortionists to set the standard of care for their patients with no oversight from the state and no effective remedies for the abortion industry’s deficiencies and frequent malfeasance.

In fact, enactment of S. 1696 would invalidate hundreds of abortion-related laws specifically including:

  • Abortion bans (e.g. 20 week or 5 month gestational limits, sex-selection bans, etc.),
  • Health and safety standards for abortion clinics,
  • Admitting privileges requirements,
  • Regulations on abortion-inducing drugs,
  • Reflection periods and other informed consent requirements,
  • Ultrasound requirements,
  • Limitations on the use of state funds and facilities for abortion.

Click here for more information on the health risks of abortion for women.

Alaska Joins Majority of States Protecting Unborn Children and their Parents from the Wrongful Acts of Others

By Americans United for Life
Thursday, July 10th, 2014

alaska gov signs bill

Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest commended Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell who today signed into law Alaska SB 200. The new law provides a civil right of action for wrongful death of an unborn child at any point in the pregnancy. The new law, based in part on AUL model legislation, provides a civil remedy to parents when someone causes the death of their unborn child against their will, while fetal homicide laws provide a criminal penalty. “Everyone should agree that pregnant women and their unborn children should be protected from violent or negligent acts of another,” said AUL President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “Alaska office holders showed great compassion in creating new, civil protections for grieving parents.”

“Alaskan parents also owe a debt of gratitude to State Senator Lesil McGuire and State Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, two women who understand that unborn children should be protected against violence and negligence in the womb, and parents deserve to have their unborn child’s loss recognized in the law,” noted Dr. Yoest.

With Alaska’s new law in place, 28 states and the District of Columbia permit a wrongful death action if an unborn child was viable at the time of his or her death, including: AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, ID, IN, KS, KY, MD, MA, MN, MT, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, VT, WA, and WI. Thirteen states allow suits for a pre-viable unborn child: AL, GA (limited to quickening), IL, LA, MI, MS (limited to quickening), MO, NE, OK, SD, TX, VA, and WV.

Ten states still require live birth (and bar a cause of action for the death of the unborn child unless the child is born alive and dies thereafter): AK, CA, FL, IA, ME, NJ, NY, TN, UT, and WY.

AUL has long championed both wrongful death and fetal homicide laws to protect unborn children and their parents.

Fetal homicide laws recognize a violent act taken against a pregnant woman that kills her unborn child as homicide. When the mother and her child die, there are two, separate homicide victims. AUL’s legal experts laid the intellectual groundwork to enact fetal homicide laws nationwide. At the time of the Roe decision in 1973, only three states enforced these protective laws. Today, 38 states have fetal homicide laws in place, and 29 of these laws protect the unborn child from conception.

For more on AUL’s Unborn Wrongful Death Act, or other model legislation, click here.

Friends and Supporters, Thank You!

By Americans United for Life
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

What a great day yesterday was! The Hobby Lobby decision was an important win for all of us! We’re still celebrating here in DC and I hope you are too, because this was your win.

This is simply a note of thanks: Thank you for making yesterday possible.

At midnight last night, we completed our 2014 Fiscal Year having met our financial goal for our online campaign, and we now move into our next fiscal year energized to meet the opportunities before us. We will continue to need your support as the year progresses, but your special gifts during our June campaign have made it possible for us to continue the great work we have done, together with you, to advance a culture of life in America.

And yesterday’s victory in the Hobby Lobby case was a true testament to what we can accomplish together. You’re investment in AUL helped yield the great result we saw at the Court.


Watch: Dr. Charmaine Yoest thanks Hobby Lobby at the press conference yesterday morning.

The Supreme Court yesterday, in its 5-4 decision, noted the very real concerns people have over the life-ending drugs that the Obama Administration forced upon many Americans in violation of First Amendment Rights of Conscience.

You made it possible for AUL to file a brief in this important case, and for us to educate the American public on how the Obama Administration has put “The Con” in contraception by mislabeling life-ending drugs as “contraception” and then forcing businesses to buy them or face business-killing, job-ending punishments.

Throughout the entire Obamacare debate, together with you, we advocated for strong protections for all American’s conscience rights — we predicted that violations of conscience could easily take place when mandates forced on all Americans went into effect. And yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed that such violations had taken place — and that the owners of Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby did not lose their Constitutional Conscience Rights when they opened a family business.


Photos: View an album of photos showing #TeamLife in action outside the Supreme Court.

In 18 briefs, in hours of meetings and on-going debate, we have defended the Freedom of Conscience and documented the mechanisms of the deadly, life-ending drugs mislabeled as contraception.

And yesterday, we were at the U.S. Supreme Court, along with many members of #TeamLife, advocating for all Americans…because of you!

So, thank you! What you are doing is making a real difference in the lives of many Americans and saving the lives of many unborn children!

As we move into our next fiscal year, I am confident we will continue to accumulate great successes for Life together.

AUL Analysis of Hobby Lobby Case

By Americans United for Life
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

hobby lobby press release header

Yesterday’s decision:

The HHS “contraceptive” mandate requiring three closely held corporations to provide health insurance coverage for life-ending drugs and devices violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the “mandate” is contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. Assuming that the government has a “compelling interest” in the “mandate” (which the Court does not decide, but simply assumes for purposes of this case), there are less restrictive means to accomplish the government’s goal.

Breakdown:

Today’s decision applies to family businesses which are organized as closely held corporations (e.g. the Green and Hahn family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood). The Court explains in clear and compelling analysis that these corporations are persons for purposes of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA):
“[P]rotecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.” (18)

Today’s decision is based on the Court accepting as the owners’ sincere religious belief that these drugs and devices can destroy an embryo and end human life:
“The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price . . . If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.” (2)

“Like the Hahns, the Greens believe that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs and devices that operate after that point” (14)
“[T]he Hahns and Greens have a sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. They therefore object on religious grounds to providing health insurance that covers methods of birth control that, as HHS acknowledges [] may result in the destruction of an embryo. By requiring the Hahns and Greens and their companies to arrange for such coverage, the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates their religious beliefs.” (32)
“the end that they find to be morally wrong (destruction of an embryo)…” (35)

“HHS and the dissent note that providing the coverage itself would not result in the destruction of an embryo; that would occur only if an employee chose to take advantage of the coverage and to use one of the four methods at issue” (35)
“The Hahns and Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS regulations is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage.” (36)

The Court ruled the mandate failed the narrow-tailoring requirement of RFRA, pointing to accommodations provided to other employers as a clearly less-restrictive means of accomplishing the Obama Administration’s stated goal. “HHS itself has demonstrated that it has at its disposal an approach that is less restrictive than requiring employers to fund contraceptive methods that violate their religious beliefs. . . . HHS has already established an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious objections.” (43)

The for-profit employers who object to all contraceptives (for example, many of the Catholic employers) should be protected by this ruling since the Mandate violates a sincere religious belief, even though it is not solely regarding the life-ending properties of some of these drugs and devices.
The Court makes clear: “it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial” (37) .
And, most importantly, the Mandate (as applied to them) also clearly fails to be narrowly tailored means e.g. non-profit Catholic employers are already “accommodated” with respect to all contraceptives.

The Court acknowledged the dangerous and radical view advanced by the Obama Administration: “Under HHS’s view, RFRA would permit the Government to require all employers to provide coverage for any medical procedure allowed by law in the jurisdiction in question—for instance, third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide. The owners of many closely held corporations could not in good conscience provide such coverage, and thus HHS would effectively exclude these people form full participation in the economic life of the Nation.” (45-46)

The decision does NOT decide the constitutionality/legality of the “accommodation.”

“We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA for purposes of all religious claims.” (44)
Footnote 40: “The principal dissent faults us for being ‘noncommital’ in refusing to decide a case that is not before us here. The less restrictive approach we describe accommodates the religious beliefs asserted in these cases, and that is the only question we are permitted to address.” (44)

There is some troubling language. For example, there is this line on page 9 “In addition, HHS has effectively exempted certain religious nonprofit organizations, described under HHS regulations as ‘eligible organizations,’ from the contraceptive mandate (emphasis added).”

We do NOT think the “accommodation” is effectively an exemption — quite the opposite.

Going forward the accommodation cases must emphasize that the “accommodation” still requires these companies to “arrange” for the coverage, given that they are providing the insurance plan.

The Court does note that there could be another method (besides the “accommodation”) for achieving the government’s goal — namely, the government could provide the contraception coverage. That indicates that they could also find the accommodation fails to be narrowly tailored.

“HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion . . . . The most straight forward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.” (40-41)

Importantly, the Court did NOT rule on whether or not the Obama Administration’s stated goal was a compelling interest.

In order to impose a substantial burden, the government must have a “compelling interest” “We find it unnecessary to adjudicate this issue” (pg 40) since it was not narrowly-tailored.  Acknowledging there are arguments against this being a compelling interest: “The objecting parties contend that HHS has not shown that the mandate serves a compelling government interest, and it is arguable that there are features of ACA that support that view.” (39)

And the Court acknowledges that “tens of millions” (page 11) have been exempted from the Mandate for non-religious reasons (including grandfathering) a fact that undermines the government’s claim that forcing this Mandate is compelling (i.e. if it was compelling, they wouldn’t make those millions of exemptions).

The accommodation whether or not it satisfies RFRA and the Constitution— may be decided by the Court next term.

Since the effect of today’s ruling is that the Obama Administration cannot impose its Mandate on family businesses with sincere religious objections, which it has not exempted, we should be prepared for the Obama Administration to, very soon, extend its “accommodation” at least to closely-held corporations. Because the “accommodation” applies to objections to all contraceptives (not limited to those with life-ending properties), we would expect the Obama Administration to “accommodate” for-profit employers for all the drugs/devices as well. At that point, it will be for the Green and Hahn families, and other family businesses, to decide whether the accommodation violates their conscience and/or whether they pursue litigation over it.

Some other favorable language from the majority opinion:

“If the Hahns and the Greens and their companies do not yield to this demand, the economic consequences will be severe.” But the Court also recognizes that the Green and Hahn families would not want to drop insurance coverage for their employees altogether, also because of their religious beliefs: “[T]he Hans and the Greens and their companies have religious reasons for providing health insurance to their employees.”

Life-affirming healthcare severely punished by Mandate: “If they insist on providing insurance coverage in accordance with their religious beliefs, the mandate clearly imposes a substantial burden on those beliefs” (38)

“The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate [] against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” (2)

“As we have seen, RFRA was designed to provide very broad protection for religious liberty.” (17)

The dissent, points out the majority, disagrees with RFRA. It doesn’t like the law that broadly protects religious liberty. “In its final pages, the principal dissent reveals that its fundamental objection to the claims of the plaintiffs is an objection to RFRA itself.” (48)

“Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.” (49)

AUL Calls Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholding First Amendment Conscience Rights “a Victory for Common-sense”

By Americans United for Life
Monday, June 30th, 2014

hobby lobby press release header

“The anti-life mandate the Obama Administration tried to impose on these families is evidence of Big Abortion’s manipulative agenda, as they move from choice to coercion,” said AUL’s Dr. Charmaine Yoest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (06-30-14) – “Today’s decision is a victory for common-sense as pro-life Americans do not lose their First Amendment freedoms when they open a family business or when they value unborn life,” commented Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest, upon hearing news that the Court ruled in favor of the Green and Hahn families in two cases challenging Obamacare’s coercive HHS Mandate. “These cases underscore the critical need for laws protecting Americans’ freedom of conscience. The anti-life mandate the Obama Administration tried to impose on these families is evidence of Big Abortion’s manipulative agenda, as they move from choice to coercion.”

In a 5-4 decision in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell (formerly Sebelius) and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the U.S. Supreme Court held that closely held corporations (such as the Green and Hahn family businesses) cannot be required to provide “contraception” coverage. The Court held that the Obama Administration failed to show that its coercive Mandate was the least restrictive means of advancing its claimed interest.

Including these cases, Americans United for Life has filed 18 amicus curiae briefs in challenges to Obamacare’s HHS Mandate which includes requiring employers to offer life-ending drugs and devices in health insurance policies. AUL’s briefs presented analysis and arguments defending the constitutional rights of all Americans when it comes to healthcare purchases.

Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by Christians and operated according to the owners’ Mennonite Christian beliefs. Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma-based national arts and crafts retailer founded and run by David Green and his family, and their Christian faith has remained an integral part of the business. Both Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby do not oppose all contraception, but only those drugs and devices that have been labeled as “contraception” by the FDA even though they are known to have life-ending effects.

In its briefs before the Supreme Court, AUL demonstrated that the life of a new human being begins at fertilization (conception), that so-called “emergency contraception” has a post-fertilization effect that can prevent a new human being from implanting in the uterus, and that forcing employers to provide coverage for such drugs violates their constitutionally protected freedom of conscience.

The briefs were filed by an all-woman team of four AUL attorneys on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life, National Association of Pro Life Nurses, Drury Development Corporation, Drury Southwest, Inc., Drury Hotels Company, LLC, and the National Association of Catholic Nurses. Click here to read the brief.

“Real healthcare respects life,” noted Dr. Yoest. “Whether the issue is punishing Americans for their beliefs, pushing life-ending drugs that have been deceptively labeled as contraception, or creating new income streams for the abortion industry, the anti-life implications of Obamacare are far reaching.”

Abortion is woven into the healthcare law at multiple levels, making repeal of the law a pro-life necessity. The abortion-related provisions of Obamacare, include:

  • Failing to prohibit the use of federal tax dollars for abortion, abortion coverage, and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
  • Pretending that the Hyde Amendment protections were enough to prohibit direct payment for abortions.
  • Permitting federally subsidized Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) to provide abortion coverage through the state insurance exchanges required in all 50 states.
  • Failing to prohibit all multi-state qualified health plans from providing coverage for abortion.
  • Including a “preventive care” mandate that is being used to force coverage of drugs and devices known to end life.
  • Failing to provide comprehensive First Amendment conscience protections for individuals, employers, and insurance companies that have religious or moral objections to abortion.

To understand how the Obama Administration put “The Con” in Contraception, click here.

To learn more about life-affirming healthcare, click here.

Americans United for Life continues to work at the state and federal level to enact comprehensive statutory protections that guard against Big Abortion’s coercive agenda.

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms First Amendment Rights of Pro-Life Americans

By Americans United for Life
Thursday, June 26th, 2014

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“In a brazen affront to the First Amendment, Massachusetts government officials had sought to use the threat of arrest and criminal conviction to silence those offering women life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” said AUL’s Dr. Charmaine Yoest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (06-26-14) –  The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a 2007 Massachusetts law that created an expansive “no-pro-life speech zone” around the state’s abortion clinics. Over six years of litigation, attorneys at Americans United for Life (AUL) twice filed amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court arguing that the law, which was enforceable through criminal sanctions, was unconstitutional.

“In a brazen affront to the First Amendment, Massachusetts government officials had sought to use the threat of arrest and criminal conviction to silence those offering women life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” said AUL President and CEO, Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “The Supreme Court rightly rejected this unlawful attempt to deny pro-life Americans their First Amendment rights.”

In a unanimous decision in McCullen v. Coakley, the Court held that the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment.

AUL’s amicus curiae briefs were filed on behalf of 40 Days for Life, a community-based, peaceful pro-life campaign that takes a “determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families.”

The briefs demonstrated that the Massachusetts law violated the First Amendment rights of 40 Days for Life by establishing a 35-foot “no-pro-life” speech zone outside abortion facilities where no alternatives to abortion could be offered. AUL attorneys argued that the unconstitutional law impermissibly forced pro-life speakers to either “shout or be silent” and effectively prohibited speech by those who engage in personal, direct, and peaceful counseling with women considering abortion.

Importantly, the 2007 law discriminated against peaceful pro-life activists by prohibiting them from “enter[ing] or remain[ing] on a public way or sidewalk adjacent” to a stand-alone abortion facility did not apply equally to everyone. Abortion clinic employees or agents acting within their scope of employment, however, were free to enter the “zone” and speak with women including encouraging them to have abortions.

This discriminatory “no-enter zone” only targeted those opposed to abortion and permitted police to arrest and charge any person engaged in pro-life advocacy. Prohibited conduct under the law included speaking, praying, wearing t-shirts, hats, or buttons, displaying signs, leafleting, and making consented approaches with women or others entering the abortion clinic.

The law effectively sought to prohibit all methods of communicating a pro-life message on public sidewalks—a venue which the Supreme Court has called “a prototypical public forum” where the First Amendment is “at its most protected.”

“The Massachusetts law impermissibly discriminated against and censored pro-life Americans. The pro-abortion position could be represented in the zone, while the pro-life view point was strictly prohibited under threat of criminal sanctions,” Dr. Yoest noted.

The pro-life advocates-petitioners in the case were represented by AUL Advisory Board Member, Mark Rienzi.

Whenever a woman conceives a child, a father is born…

By Ovide Lamontagne
Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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Long before a child is delivered, most fathers will prepare, plan and pray for his child’s arrival. Encouraging and supporting a child’s mother throughout her pregnancy, a father can make the child’s arrival into the world more peaceful, more soothing and more stable. Even though he does not experience the intimacy with the child that a mother will during pregnancy, his affirmation and support for both mother and child will have a lasting impact — but this is only the beginning.

During the child’s life, great fathers will be part-time disciplinarian and provider, sometime entertainer and mischief-maker, but always full-time mentor and role model. There can be no denying that a father’s role in the family and in the development of children is significant and profound. This is also true of grandfathers and great grandfathers and men who assume the role of father figures in the life of a child.

Sadly, popular culture has steadily eroded and marginalized the important role fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers play in the life of a child. Often lampooned and trivialized, the importance of fatherhood and the male influence in child development cannot be over-stated. In the introduction to his book Fatherless America, author David Blankenhorn observed: “Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes where their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers. … (Yet) fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation.”

The time has come to lift up fathers, to recognize the important roles they play and to honor them for the impact they have in society and in our lives.

There is no doubt that the time I have spent with my father has had a profound and lasting impact on me. He is the brightest and most sensitive man I know. He taught me to be independent, inquisitive, hard-working and faithful. I learned from him the lesson of treating all persons equally and professionally, regardless of their station or circumstances in life. I also learned the value of humor in diffusing difficult situations or lightening the moment.

Watching him work as a volunteer in civic and charitable organizations, I learned from him the ethic of “giving back” through service to others. He lives his motto: “Don’t leave the world as good as you found it; leave it better off for having been here. Leave the world with a plus!”

Experiencing how my dad provided for our family, I also learned from him the importance of finding ways to engage with children through table and word games, outdoor activities and family gatherings. I saw the way he loved and respected his own father throughout his life and during his dying days. I observed the way he treats my mother and the awe in which he holds her now after 57 years of marriage. And I admire the consistent and steady way he practices his faith.

I was born a father when my two daughters entered my world. Thanks to them and their mother, my life changed for the better when I became a dad. I hope and pray that I have been and always will be half the dad my father was for me.

Judicial Interference in the Protection of Human Life

By Americans United for Life
Friday, May 30th, 2014

In a new book entitled “Protection of Human Life in Its Early Stages,” AUL’s William Saunders contributes an important chapter on “Judicial Interference in the Protection of Human Life.” By a close examination of the U.S. Constitution, Saunders shows how the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade was contrary to the principles of American self-government and to the rule of law. Further, he shows how the decision was contrary to science and to fundamental principles of human rights. Such a misguided decision could not be limited to “the abortion context” but adversely affected other areas of public policy formation, such as stem cell research. Saunders concludes that the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions are perhaps the world’s leading example of the threat posed by agenda-driven courts, both to the rights of the people to govern themselves and to the common good.

Click here to order the book.

Click here to download a complimentary PDF copy of William Saunders’ chapter entitled “Judicial Interference in the Protection of Human Life – A Perspective from the United States.” This chapter is also available below:

Abortion Clinic Regulations based on AUL Model Legislation Signed by Oklahoma Governor

By Americans United for Life
Thursday, May 29th, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. (05-29-14) – Following the legislature’s overwhelming votes in support, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1848, a bill regulating abortion clinics in the state and requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges within 30 miles. Based on Americans United for Life model legislation found in the Women’s Protection Project, the bill is designed to protect women from “house of horrors” clinics such as the clinic in which convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell operated.

“Common-sense regulation of abortion clinics is not only popular with Americans, it represents the very least that the highly profitable abortion industry should do for women,” said AUL President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “For too long an under-regulated, rarely monitored and unaccountable abortion industry has pushed the boundaries of the law to increase profits. If abortion clinics are as safe as their lobby claims, why do they fight following the same kinds of standards that apply to other medical facilities?”

The Oklahoma law would require that across the board standards be applied to every abortion clinic. Current law allows each clinic to submit their own operational plan for review by the state.

“Across the country, news of women dying in abortion clinics has been too common and illustrates why under-regulated clinics should not be left to their own devices,” said Dr. Yoest. “Thanks to Senator Greg Treat and Representative Randy Grau for their leadership on this important bill.”

For more information on the health risks of abortion for women, click here.

For more information on AUL’s Women’s Protection Project, click here.

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