The doctor is in … the Court

Nothing closes a legislator’s mind to a pro-life argument quite like pro-abortion testimony from a medical professional. Funny thing: abortion advocacy groups coined the term “gynotician” in derisive reference to politicians who allegedly meddle in health care by respecting the right to life. There’s no corresponding term for a medical professional who politicizes science in the service of abortion advocacy. “Shill,” maybe, though perhaps that’s harsh.

This comes to mind as I’ve found an outstanding essay by Richard Doerflinger, published on the Witherspoon Institute web site. It’s worth posting verbatim, but with “all rights reserved,” I’ll refer you to this link: The HHS Mandate, Unborn Life, and the Professionals: a Cog in the Political Machine.

Doerflinger casts a sharp eye on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which in its most recent foray into public policy has submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, opposing Hobby Lobby’s claim that it should be exempt from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Medications like Plan B and Ella and devices like the IUD, according to the ACOG, are not really abortion-inducing even though Hobby Lobby’s owners think otherwise, so the mandate shouldn’t be suspended in this case.

This is the same ACOG that declares its opposition to personhood bills because they might make certain forms of birth control, like Ella and Plan B and IUDs, illegal – since they might induce abortion.

Remember this the next time a Court decision turns on medical advice from the ACOG.



March 25: #notmybossresponsibility

The HHS mandate within Obamacare is being argued today at the Supreme Court. Never mind the noisy and false claims that bosses are trying to make medical decisions for women. (Note for example the #notmybossbusiness hash tag introduced by mandate absolutists on Twitter.) Religious liberty is what the Hobby Lobby case is about. Americans United for Life sums it up in this two-minute video.

First HHS Mandate cases get to U.S. Supreme Court

In 1969, in the Tinker case involving the First Amendment rights of students in a public school, the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Today, forty-four years later, the Supreme Court has agreed to take two cases that may lead to a ruling on whether First Amendment rights must be shed at a business’s front door. The Court will hear arguments in the Spring of 2014, and a decision could come by the end of June.

Mennonites, Evangelical Christians plead their case

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are two of the for-profit businesses that have gone to court in an effort to overturn Obamacare’s mandate that all businesses offering health insurance to employees must help pay for coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, including those marketed as contraceptives. Strictly a Catholic concern? Hardly. The family that owns Hobby Lobby professes evangelical Christianity in the Protestant tradition, while the owners of Conestoga are Mennonites.

The Becket Fund, a public-interest law firm representing Hobby Lobby (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.) issued a statement today in response to the Court’s decision to take the cases, reading in part:

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The other case taken by the Court, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, comes from a different Circuit Court of Appeals than the Hobby Lobby case. The two cases were decided differently in lower courts, and now the Supreme Court will consider both at once.

“Accommodations” and questions

The HHS Mandate, part of the regulations accompanying Obamacare, raised religious liberty issues as soon as it was announced in early 2012. The Administration made what it called an “accommodation” with religious employers, with the definition of “religious employer” left to the federal government. When that proved insufficient to meet the concerns of Americans who take their religious liberty seriously, the Administration tweaked its “accommodations” further, until finally last June the Mandate was declared “final.”

As a result, lawsuits are abounding all over the country. Some have been filed by nonprofit organizations, some by educational institutions, some by entities affiliated with a church but legally distinct from it. Owners and managers in each case hold religious beliefs that conflict with the demands of the Mandate.

I can’t predict what questions will be asked during arguments before the Court. Some issues, though, will have to be decided eventually, either in these cases or one of the others now pending.

Does a religious liberty interest apply to an individual acting as owner of a business, as well as to an individual acting alone?

If the federal government calls a certain drug “contraceptive” when it is in fact abortifacient, will the First Amendment apply to an individual who recognizes that the government is acting in error?

Will the Court reach into the underpinning of the Mandate, and rule on the definition of contraception as “preventive care” under Obamacare?

The web site may be down, but the Mandate stands

Obamacare’s biggest roadblock to date has proven to be the inadequate web site that is interfering with signups for health insurance. Nothing about a lousy web site wipes out 15,000 pages of Obamacare regulations, including the Mandate.

According to the Becket Fund, there are 84 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Mandate. It will take more than one Supreme Court decision to address them all. The first two cases have made it over a big hurdle, though. Stay tuned.

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James O’Keefe returns to NH; dust settles in TX; Hobby Lobby news: pick of the web 7/19/13

James O’Keefe’s get-out-and-do-it attitude toward citizen journalism helped inspire me to get Leaven going a year ago. O’Keefe will be back in New Hampshire for a book-signing at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women next Tuesday, July 23. This event has a price tag, but if you’re interested, get the details here. O’Keefe is not a gentle soul (l’enfant terrible comes to mind), but he sure is fun to hear. 

LifeSiteNews has provided excellent coverage of the events in Texas leading up to passage of limited abortion regulation. To catch up, start here and follow links to related stories.

Just today, Hobby Lobby Inc. was granted a temporary exemption from the HHS mandate. The owners of this business have been among the leaders in resistance to the federal government’s attempt to force employers to help provide services that violate the employers’ religious beliefs. This is an ongoing story, and not every update is encouraging – but this one certainly is.

Marriage, Texas, HHS, and “taking heart”

??????????????????????????????A Leaven reader texted me last week, “Please tell me you’re writing a ‘take heart’ blog this week.” She was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decisions.  Other matters forced their way into the news as well: a filibuster and a mob in Texas combined to block a bill restricting late-term abortions, and “final” word came down from Washington confirming that Obamacare’s HHS mandate is here to stay.

Quite an array of challenges right there. That was one head-banger of a week. Let me note that I found excellent short-term therapy in avoiding the news feeds for a few hours at a time. Seriously: you want to build a culture of life? Step awaaaaay from the smartphone.

But eventually, I have to face facts. It does me no good to see a glass as half-full when what it’s half-full of is poisoned Kool-Aid.

  • After wasting a lot of words in the Windsor decision explaining how marriage is a state matter (and thus a Tenth Amendment issue), which is what I thought for sure would get the federal Defense of Marriage Act thrown out, Justice Kennedy and four of his distinguished colleagues shifted gears. The majority decision was that federal refusal to recognize same-sex marriages was a “deprivation of liberty” under the Fifth Amendment. For good measure, Kennedy added that there is no public interest served by one-man-one-woman marriage. He gratuitously added that to hold otherwise is a deprivation of personhood and dignity of our neighbors who choose genderless marriage, designed to disparage and injure them.

(Personhood and dignity? Where has this man been when the life issues have been on the line?)

  • The Texas senate did not exactly cover itself in glory when it let a mob dictate the terms of a vote. The bill in question sought to stop late-term abortions and to require abortion facilities to meet the requirements imposed on every other ambulatory surgical center in the state. A vote needed to be cast by midnight on a certain date. The mob in the gallery caused enough of a disruption to hold up the vote until three minutes past midnight. That, and not the filibuster by now-lionized Senator Wendy Davis, was the key to shutting down the bill. See Leaven post here and the re-post from 400 Words for Women here.
  • In the White House’s Friday afternoon news dump came the word that the HHS mandate will be a done deal next January 1. The official HHS announcement says “hey, we listened to all you protesters out there.” Americans United for Life translates that for us here, saying “oh no, you didn’t.” Don’t look for this on the White House web page, which is filled with notes from the President’s trip to Africa and his speech on “climate change.”

So where do I take heart? In the fact that people are willing to write and speak and act in opposition to all this. Peaceful, reasoned, courageous dissent inspires me to try to be just as constructive in my own choices. Underlying all the bad news is an effort to marginalize and isolate each dissenter (hey! that’s me!). I ain’t a-gonna let anyone do that. People around us still speak with courage and conviction, and therein lies reason to take heart.

  • Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has called the legislature back into session this week to re-consider the bill on abortion and women’s health. No mob rule for him. This is why I’m glad his presidential campaign fizzled. Why on earth should I want one of the most effective governors in the country to leave his post before his term is up? Now, each pro-life senator – and there are plenty, which is how the bill got as far as it did – can resume defending life.
  • Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Windsor was a gem, giving his colleagues a rhetorical kick in the pants. There are still jurists who refuse to buy into nonsense; how is that not encouraging? Scalia did not defend any particular definition of marriage, but instead called his colleagues out for their torturous reasoning and their usurpation of state prerogatives. Scalia’s decision affirms that arguments against redefining marriage can be made with logic and fairness. The dissent bears quoting at length:

“But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.”

I hear all this, and I take a deep breath. Some balance has been restored. Standing on the sidelines and applauding  is not enough, of course. These people, these neighbors regardless of address, are extending a hand to me. Get up, already. Be strong and of good courage. Examples of stoutheartedness abound. I want to share the news about them. That’s where I take heart. Nothing’s been “settled” for me.