Pro-lifers, keep an eye on HHS Nominee Becerra

President-elect Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate Xavier Becerra to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra, currently California’s Attorney General, has a curious history when it comes to recognizing the free speech and conscience rights of his pro-life neighbors.

(I am not going to engage in a debate over who won the election. I think it’s unwise to pretend that Mr. Biden won’t be calling the shots as of Inauguration Day.)

Becerra succeeded Kamala Harris as California AG, after Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. She is now vice-president-elect.

U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services logo
hhs.gov

As Attorney General, Becerra followed Harris’s lead in two cases of particular interest to pro-life Americans.

The NIFLA case

In 2015, California legislators passed a law they dubbed the “Reproductive FACT Act.” It targeted pro-life pregnancy care centers, and their workers and volunteers, by requiring them to to provide information on how to obtain state-funded abortions. There were penalties for noncompliance.

The law prompted a lawsuit from an umbrella organization for several pregnancy care centers, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). Harris and later Becerra represented California in defending the law.

The lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court, which in 2018’s NIFLA v. Becerra decision sided with NIFLA on a 5-4 vote.

NIFLA defenders summarize the decision

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom represented NIFLA. Writing about the decision, ADF’s Maureen Collins wrote about the effects of the ruling. “Forcing someone to speak against their beliefs not only goes against the freedom of speech, it goes against plain common sense. Under this particular law, the very pregnancy centers dedicated to giving women alternatives to abortion were compelled by the state to advertise for abortion….The Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA is simple. It protects the free speech of those with the viewpoint that women should have many choices other than state-sponsored abortion.”

Becket, another law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty, filed an amicus brief supporting NIFLA’s position. In a summary of the case, Becket attorneys wrote about the case’s importance. “The First Amendment protects speakers from being punished for advancing viewpoints not shared by the government. On issues as divisive as abortion, it is vital that the government not silence one side of the debate….Private organizations, including those with a religious foundation, must be free to operate in the public square according to their beliefs.”

Center for Medical Progress prosecution

The undercover journalism of David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, and the Center for Medical Progress project revealed the commerce in fetal body parts carried out by some Planned Parenthood affiliates. In California, that led to prosecution – not of Planned Parenthood, but of Daleiden, who has been fighting criminal charges there since 2016.

David Daleiden
David Daleiden (photo by Ellen Kolb)

The prosecutors: first Kamala Harris, then Xavier Becerra. Daleiden is facing multiple felony counts under California’s illegal-taping law. Undercover journalists, take note. Becerra, with taxpayer dollars, keeps the prosecution going even now, as 2020 draws to a close.

The Thomas More Society is representing Daleiden. Its website provides extensive background on the case as it has developed so far, with no apologies for the tone of zealous advocacy.

Confirmation required

Becerra’s nomination as HHS Secretary depends on a confirmation vote to be held in the U.S. Senate in 2021. If the Senate were to tie on Becerra’s nomination, the tie-breaking vote would be cast by none other than Kamala Harris.

Post header image: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington DC. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Little Sisters at the Court: a good day

The U.S. Supreme Court tiptoed its way through a jungle of administrative law to hand another victory to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Some people just can’t stop insisting that nuns help provide birth control. In this case, it was the state of Pennsylvania, which deservedly lost on a 7-2 vote

Or, in the words of a headline from CNBC (a business network, mind you): “Supreme Court says Trump administration can let religious employers deny birth control coverage under Obamacare.”

Let me fix that for them: “Supreme Court tells Pennsylvania to get its hands out of nuns’ pockets,” or “Supreme Court recognizes religious liberty interests of Catholic women,” or “Supreme Court says government cannot impose ruinous fines on Little Sisters of the Poor,” or even “Supreme Court lets employers stay out of employees’ private decisions involving sex.”

Read the rest of the post at ellenkolb.com.

Follow-up in Dover

Yesterday’s post shared the news about a classic grassroots pro-life organizing effort in response to a pro-abortion exhibition at a Dover, NH arts venue. It seems that last night’s peaceful witness attracted even more participants than the first one a few days ago.

From a public post on Facebook from Phyllis Woods, who led the effort: “The experience of seeing nearly seventy prolife defenders come out on a Friday night to stand in witness to the truth that giving birth to a child is normal and abortion is anything but normal, was moving and heartwarming for me and I am both humbled and proud to be counted among them.”

Phyllis has been inspiring me for a long time. Looks like she’s not done yet.

Normalize Life: Peaceful Witness in Dover

Friday, October 18 at 5:30 p.m. – just a few hours from when this post is published – peaceful pro-life witness will be going on outside the Dover Art Center, 1 Washington Street, Dover NH. Read on for what it’s about and how you can participate.

Phyllis Woods of Dover, NH saw that the Art Center in Dover was planning an exhibition intended to – ready for this? – “normalize” abortion. She didn’t wring her hands or try to close the place down. Instead, she sent out the word to pro-life allies: will you come pray with me?

They came. The day the exhibit opened, the pro-life witnesses were on the public sidewalk outside the Art Center. They didn’t try to block anything. They were there to “normalize” life. They’ll be there again today, Friday, October 18, for the exhibit’s official reception. All who are committed to peaceful, non-confrontational pro-life witness are welcome.

By the way, Phyllis has caught some flak on her social media. Feel free to chime in with something edifying.

(Photos in this post are by Phyllis Woods and are used with permission.)

Bullying in Action: How Not to Represent a District

It has to be seen to be believed: a state representative in Pennsylvania posted video of himself harassing peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. See coverage here, at a link that will not give the rep the satisfaction of inflating his social media stats.

The prospect of such bullying here in New Hampshire is why I keep my phone with its camera handy whenever I’m participating in 40 Days for Life, and it’s why I think it’s a bad idea to witness alone even though I’ve sometimes done so.

The Pennsylvania politician has demonstrated how not to represent a district. That’s between him and the voters, or rather among him and the voters and the advocacy groups that will no doubt be dumping money into his next campaign.

Abby Johnson and the amazing team from And Then There Were None will respond on Friday, May 10 by going to the Pennsylvania facility where the politician performed his antics. They’ll stand with some of the same people berated by the state rep. He has therefore succeeded in intensifying the pro-life presence that so offended him in the first place.

And Then There Were None is calling this event #StandWithAbby, and they are calling on peaceful pro-life witnesses to go to the sidewalks outside their own local abortion facilities between 8 a.m. and noon on May 10.

Don’t think of it as standing with Abby, as stalwart a pro-lifer as she is. Instead, think of it as standing with the people who endured the state rep’s provocation.

From the event announcement:

Let’s stand together across this country on Friday in peaceful unity against the tactics of Rep. Sims and all those who bully prolife people, all those who bully women into abortion, and all those who want to bully our culture into accepting abortion as something good.
    
On Friday, May 10th, let’s stand together, in solidarity, for LIFE against bullies.
 
Here’s how: 
When: Friday, May 10, 2019
Time: Between 8am and 12pm
Where: Your local abortion clinic
What: To pray and give peaceful witness
How:   Be prepared to pray quietly (no bullhorns or yelling).                      Bring a Bible to read softly, rosaries, prayer cards, or other things that help you pray. You may make homemade signs to hold. If you do, we suggest writing  #IStandWithAbby or #StandWithAbby on them along with the websites ProLove.com or AbortionWorker.com. You can also find some ideas on what to put on your signs at   CheckMyClinic.org.