Twitter Restricts Pro-life Advertisements Again, Backtracks Amid Media Scrutiny

Twitter has again suspended a pro-life organization from running ads on its site only to then backpedal upon receiving questions from conservative media about their actions.

The Daily Caller reported Wednesday that they contacted Twitter after it became known that the social media giant had removed three ads from the pro-life group Human Coalition. Twitter placed the nonprofit organization’s advertising privileges “under review” because they had supposedly violated the company’s policy forbidding “inappropriate” content.

Twitter reportedly told Human Coalition that they would be notified by email upon completion of the review. Last Thursday Human Coalition received that email informing them they were suspended from running any advertisements on Twitter.

One of three ads that were moved contained messages explaining that abortion is not healthcare and intentionally killing another human being contradicts the Hippocratic oath. Another mentioned how abortion is the leading cause of death in the African-American community but almost never comes up in the national discourse about racism, and that 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics operate in racial minority neighborhoods.

The third removed ad mentioned that Planned Parenthood aborts more than 900 babies daily and argued that there is “no moral, social, cultural, or health reason” for the abortion giant to exist.

Earlier this week the Daily Caller contacted Twitter to inquire about the suspension and asked why Planned Parenthood was not banned from running ads while the Human Coalition was restricted.

Only two hours after the conservative news outlet made the request, Twitter contacted Human Coalition to tell them they had lifted the suspension and that their tweets were approved.

“Twitter claims to believe in ‘free expression’ and to think that ‘every voice has the power to impact the world.’ I believe Twitter does think that every voice has the power to change the world — and I believe that is exactly why they suppressed Human Coalition and others who proclaim the pro-life worldview,” Human Coalition spokesperson Lauren Enriquez said in a statement.

“The fact that Twitter ideologues actively suppress Human Coalition’s pro-life expressions betrays their fear of how we are changing the world. And we don’t plan to stop changing the world any time soon.”

Human Coalition is not the first pro-life group to have its content regarded as offensive and censored.

Pro-life investigative group Live Action and the pro-life political action committee the Susan B. Anthony List have both tangled with Twitter for the ability to run ads containing messages opposed to abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Likewise, as The Christian Post previously reported, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee currently vying to replace retiring Bob Corker in the U.S. Senate, faced similar issues in October. In her introductory campaign ad she highlighted her role in leading the Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, speaking specifically how they “stopped the sale of baby body parts—thank God.”

When Twitter pulled the ad they insisted she remove the Planned Parenthood reference because it was “inflammatory,” but Blackburn refused and demanded an apology. Twitter ultimately relented and allowed the ad amid outcry.

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Courtesy of https://www.christianpost.com/news/twitter-restricts-pro-life-advertisements-again-backtracks-amid-media-scrutiny-222260/

Liberty Counsel Condemns the Inhuman Treatment of Unborn Children

ATLANTA, GA — Today Liberty Counsel files an amicus brief in the case of West Alabama Women’s Center v. Miller defending the Alabama law that prohibits dismemberment abortions of live unborn babies, known as Dilation and Extraction (D&E), based on the medical evidence of their ability to feel intense pain.

Liberty Counsel’s brief lists ample evidence that unborn babies feel pain. “[I]t is entirely uncontested that a fetus experiences pain in some capacity, from as early as 8 weeks of development.” testified Dr. Maureen Condic before U.S. legislators. Early on in fetal development pain transmitters in the spinal cord are abundant, but pain inhibitors are sparse until later, according to Dr. Colleen Malloy. This medical information shows that premature infants have greater pain sensitivity than do full-term infants. Another demonstration of this is how premature babies actually require greater concentrations of medication to maintain effective anesthesia during surgery than full-term babies, as explained in the book Neonatal Pain.

If the vilest criminal has human dignity that protects him from an inhuman, painful punishment, then how much more should our laws protect an innocent unborn child that science proves is inherently human and experiences significant pain? Dr. Condic states “[I]gnoring the pain experienced by another human individual for any reason is barbaric.”

Doctors performing the D&E abortions are acutely affected by the child’s humanity and experience deep emotions and even nightmares. One deeply pro-choice abortionist was brought to tears when her own unborn child kicked at the exact same time that she severed another’s foot in a D&E abortion. “Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes” said Dr. Lisa Harris. “It was an overwhelming feeling – a brutally visceral response – heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics.”

“We give our pets greater legal protections than we provide to the future citizens of America who have proven their humanity and their sensitivity to pain,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.  “Alabama’s law is a common sense solution to a barbaric and gruesome procedure,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

Do Women Deserve the Highest Standards of Care? Not if You Ask Planned Parenthood

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“At Planned Parenthood, we work every day to make sure women receive the high quality health care they need in a safe, respectful environment- including abortion care. Ensuring the health and safety of our patients is central to our mission and fundamental to every person who works at Planned Parenthood.”

So said one Planned Parenthood executive in a cut-and-paste comment last year, the kind you’ll see – nearly or perfectly verbatim – from the abortion giant’s various affiliates across the country.

Indeed, another affiliate (after parroting the exact quote above) boasts of its “rigorous medical standards and guidelines” and “rigorous standards and training for staff as well as emergency plans in place, because women’s safety is our first priority.”

Admirable aspirations, signifying a commitment to patient care that transcends all other concerns and animates the very soul of the organization, right?

Hardly. This is Planned Parenthood. And today the mask slips again.

The U.S Supreme Court announced that it would hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case out of Texas which will be the first major abortion case before the high court in nearly a decade.

At issue is a Texas law known as House Bill 2 which requires abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers. For example, hallways at abortion businesses must be wide enough to maneuver a gurney, should a women in medical distress need to be moved through the facility.

The law also includes a provision that protects women against cut-and-run abortionists by requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. As it stands, if a woman is the victim of a botched abortion or needs hospital care as a result of one of numerous potential post-abortion complications, the abortionist without admitting privileges washes his hands of the patient and leaves her to seek care with another medical staff in another medical facility which receives the woman sight unseen and unfamiliar with necessary details of her progress to this urgent state. A knowledge gap like this can be a matter of life and death.

ADF, along with several pro-life allies, filed a brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit explaining that the “focus of the constitutionality [of the law] is on the treatment of women . . . . Texas, as many other States, has clearly recognized the risks associated with both surgical and medication abortions and has taken steps to regulate these abortions to minimize these known and potential risks and to protect women’s health and safety. Texas now is (and should continue to be) permitted to do so.”

In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit agreed, writing that the evidence demonstrates that “the State truly intends that women only receive an abortion in facilities that can provide the highest quality of care and safety—the stated legitimate purpose of H.B. 2.”

You’d think that Planned Parenthood, for all its talk of “women’s safety” and “rigorous medical standards,” would be the sponsors of this law and vigorous advocates of its affirmation in federal court.

Again, this is Planned Parenthood. Instead of celebrating the Texas legislature’s common sense move to make sure that women seeking abortions aren’t entering another Kermit Gosnell house of horrors, Planned Parenthood and its allies pressed play on its favorite talking points mix tape: “Cut off access”…“hurt women”…“#undueburden”…“attack”…“draconian law” (not sure they know what “draconian” means)…“forcing these women to carry their pregnancies to term against their will”… and so on.

Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion-industrial complex have insisted, all the way up to the Supreme Court, that abortionists should not be held to the same standards as everyone else . . . and that the women who enter their doors don’t really deserve the highest level of care.

Let’s hope that when the Supreme Court hears the case in the spring and decides it by the beginning of summer it rules that states can protect women, even over the protests of the abortion industry.

Planned Parenthood, for its millions in marketing and meticulous corporate message control, is having a harder time passing itself off as the tender-hearted, indispensable women’s health champion. Its opposition to a common sense law that says all women deserve the highest standard of safety and care (even in an abortion clinic where no one is truly safe and cared-for) and that holds abortion businesses to the same standards as other medical clinics again exposes the irreconcilability of Planned Parenthood’s words and actions.

Courtesy of http://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2015/11/16/do-women-deserve-the-highest-standards-of-care-not-if-you-ask-planned-parenthood

 

Planned Parenthood: How Much Longer?

full_planned-parenthood-how-much-longerIn one sense, there are really just two types of people when it comes to the topic of abortion: those who think it is okay to kill unborn babies, and those who think it’s wrong. If you don’t think you’re in one of these categories, you still are; you’re just confused.

Confusion, though, isn’t the most terrible thing. It means there is still hope, and in fact, this hopeful condition likely characterizes the general public of the United States. Most people don’t have a deep conviction about unborn babies. Most people don’t even think about unborn babies unless it’s an election year or the news runs a story. Even most who support abortion could only repeat the rhetoric they’ve heard from devotees.

And therefore, if confusion is what’s really popular, the question becomes:

What will it take for abortion activists to convince the general public that their position is a psychotic threat to humanity?

When will the rhetoric about women’s health and women’s rights be exposed for what it truly is (since, of course, by women’s “health” and women’s “rights” they must not mean the near 28 million girls aborted since 1973)? What will it take? Where is the tipping point when the truth of Planned Parenthood can no longer be ignored by the popular conscience?

Abortion’s Self-Destruction

Mind-changing momentum is beginning to build, and to our surprise, it’s not so much from the direct work of pro-life advocates, but from the unmasked mishaps of abortion activists themselves. Yes, that’s right. They’ve ironically stumbled into a suicide mission.

What if, counter-conventional as it might seem, the greatest felt gains for unborn humans will come by the abortion industry’s self-destruction?

Last year there was the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains reportedly awarded for exceeding their abortion quota. That is to say, in addition to other reports of such quotas, there was a certain number of abortions that the clinic was prescribed to perform and when they surpassed that number they were honored, all of which backfires against the language of abortions as safe, legal, and rare.

But that is really nothing compared to the recent video that exposes Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of infant corpses. If the thought of abortionists high-fiving each other over surpassing their abortion quotas doesn’t unsettle you, just watch the video of Deborah Nucatola chomp her food and sip her wine as she talks about selling aborted baby heads. You can watchthe full two hours and forty minutes of conversation.

Apparently, according to Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, not only is abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” but it’s a pretty big money-maker if you can keep those heads and livers intact as you extract the baby feet first.

How Much Longer, America?

Once again, we’re not supposed to know about this industry. Planned Parenthood doesn’t want us to know, especially since it’s illegal. But we do know. And if we open our eyes, we’ll never think the same way again about their organization and their little tagline, “Care. No matter what.” Care? They receive millions of taxpayer dollars, and our president tells them to keep up “the good work” — to butcher babies and sell their body parts? Care?

Sooner or later, Planned Parenthood, the conviction-less masses are going to start scratching their heads. Please, just keep talking. Just keep doing what you do. The lights are coming on, and you’ve got nowhere to hide.

The question for the rest of us is how long it is before we feel the cumulative effect. How much time will we give the abortion industry before they self-destruct? How much longer, America? How long are we going to let this go on?How many more conversations need to leak? How much more blood must be spilt? How many more body parts must be dismembered, packaged, and sold before we realize this whole thing is a nightmare? God, may it end soon.

Jonathan Parnell

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/planned-parenthood-how-much-longer

ADF to Colorado Appeals Court: Stop Illegal Funding of Abortion

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DENVER – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their opening brief Friday in an appeal of a trial court’s decision that upheld $14 million of taxpayer subsidies to Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. ADF attorneys represent former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Jane Norton in the lawsuit, which is now at the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The trial court determined that no “specific abortion service” was proven to be state-funded even though a voter-approved state constitutional provision prohibits direct or indirect public taxpayer subsidies for abortion.

“Colorado bureaucrats should not use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, especially when the Colorado Constitution prohibits it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker. “The lower court should not have dismissed this case on a technicality since it agreed that $14 million of taxpayer funds flowed from state government agencies to Planned Parenthood and its abortion affiliate, presumptively in violation of the state constitution.”

In 1984, Colorado voters approved the Abortion Funding Prohibition Amendment and later rejected an initiative to repeal it. The Colorado Department of Public Health audited Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood and its affiliate, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corporation, in 2001 and subsequently ended funding to them after finding that state funds were indirectly subsidizing their abortion operations. State officials later ignored that determination and resumed funding.

“The voters’ primary concern in enacting Colorado’s Abortion Funding Limitation was to establish ‘a public policy for the state of Colorado that public funds are not to be spent for the destruction of prenatal life through abortion procedures,’” explains the ADF brief in Norton v. Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. “This is a legitimate policy goal as proponents of Colorado’s Abortion Funding Limitation did not want Colorado to lend its ‘imprimatur’ to the ‘direct or indirect’ funding of induced abortions.”

“The people of Colorado resoundingly voted against funding abortion either directly or indirectly,” added Barry Arrington, co-counsel in the case and one of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF. “We hope the Colorado Court of Appeals reinstates this case and affirms the people’s desire for their government to responsibly use their tax dollars.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

US Supreme Court Argument Preview: Religion, Rights, and the Workplace

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At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of oral argument on the government’s authority to require private businesses to provide birth control and other pregnancy-related services to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.  Arguing for the challengers to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” will be Paul D. Clement, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bancroft PLLC.  Defending the mandate will be U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.   Each will have forty-five minutes of time, under an order issued Thursday expanding the time beyond the normal amount.  The consolidated cases areSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Background

For the first time since the broad new federal health care law partially survived its most sweeping constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act comes up for a new test before the Justices.  This time, the Court will be examining whether the government may enforce against private businesses owned by religiously devout owners the requirement that employee health plans provide no-cost coverage for women’s pregnancy-related services, including birth control.

These services, required under the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in the Act and in government regulations, are not themselves in legal trouble:  the only issue before the Court at this point is which businesses can be ordered to provide the services to their female workers at no cost to them.

That issue will be debated by two of the legal gladiators who met in the last test at the Court of the Affordable Care Act:  Washington attorney Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and the current Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

There probably would be a significant loophole in the contraceptive mandate’s reach if the challengers win.  Some women’s rights groups have estimated that millions of women would be affected.  Female workers of the two companies involved and those of other religiously oriented companies would have to cover personally the cost of at least some of the birth-control services — unless the government were to set up a new program on its own to do so, which is a very unlikely prospect.

Thus, the two cases that the Court has combined for review set up a direct conflict between the interests of some employers against those of their female workers of child-bearing age.  The federal government is clearly on the workers’ side, but the lower federal courts have been divided on who should win.

The dispute only involves private businesses because religious groups, as such, are given an exemption by regulations the government has issued.  Even some businesses get exemptions, too, because their employee health plans have been “grandfathered,” but before long those, too, will actually have to provide the benefits at issue, or face heavy financial penalties.

At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can “exercise” religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference.  The question can arise — and does, in these cases — under either the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993.

In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.”  The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

Aside from whether corporations do have any religious rights, as such, the cases also raise the question whether the religious rights of their owners — real people, who undeniably can act according to their faith — are violated by the requirement that their companies obey the contraceptive mandate.  Ordinarily, in business law, corporations are separate from their owners, but the owners in these cases resist that notion, at least so far as the owners’ religious views actually shape the business of their companies.

No one doubts that the owners of the two companies have sincere religious objections to some forms of birth control or that their beliefs do counsel them to avoid any role in providing those services to their employees.  The companies and their owners do not have to convince the Court that that is what they believe — only whether that belief controls enforcement, or not, of the mandate.

One company is Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and a related company, Mardel, Inc.  Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the two companies are owned — through a trust — by members of the Green family.   Hobby Lobby is a chain of more than 500 arts-and-crafts stores across the country, with more than 13,000 employees.  Mardel is a chain of Christian book stores, with 35 outlets and about 400 employees.

The Green family members signed a formal commitment to run the two chains according to Christian religious principles — closing on Sunday, advertising their religious orientation, and playing religious music in the stores.   The owners and their stores do not object to every part of the contraceptive mandate, but they do object to the use of any drugs or intrauterine devices that — in the words of their lawyers — “end human life after conception.”

They have estimated that, if they follow their faith and violate the mandate, they face fines of about $1.3 million a day, or almost $475 million a year.  They believe that cancelling their health plan to avoid obeying the mandate would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other employers.   They do not believe that the government can force them to make such choices.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a company based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, that also has operations in other states, making wooden cabinets and wood specialty products.  It has about 950 employees.

The company is owned by members of the Hahn family, who are Mennonite Christians.  Their faith teaches them that it is wrong to take a human life and to prevent its creation through drugs and intrauterine devices  If the company or its owners were to violate the mandate to adhere to their beliefs, they estimate that they would face financial penalties of about $35 million a year.

Federal appeals courts ruled in conflicting ways.  The U.S. Court of Appeals f0r the Tenth Circuit decided that Hobby Lobby was likely to win its challenge because, even though it is a profit-making business, it can, indeed, act according to faith principles.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided that neither the company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, nor its owners could claim First Amendment religious rights — because, it found, the corporation is incapable of doing so, and because the owners had chosen the corporate form for their business and it stands apart from their personal interests.

Petitions for certiorari

The federal government asked the Supreme Court to review the Hobby Lobby case, while the Hahn family and their woodworking company did the same in their case.  As offered to the Justices, the two cases together raise both the First Amendment religious rights question and the RFRA statutory issue, as to both the companies and their owners.

The First Amendment provides that no law may be passed, at any level of government, that prohibits “the free exercise of religion.”  RFRA provides that government agencies (only at the federal level, since the Act no longer applies at the state and local levels) may not impose a “substantial burden” on the religious exercise of “a person,” even if the law is one that everyone ordinarily must obey, unless the government can justify the burden to satisfy a “compelling government interest,” and only if it is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.  It does not specifically define “person.”

On November 26, the Court agreed to review both cases and consolidated them for review.

Briefs on the merits

Hobby Lobby Stores — whose name will probably provide the label for the case in history – argued aggressively in its merits brief that the federal government was pursuing “a misguided shell game” in which only the Green family has rights and the corporation suffers alone the burden of the mandate.   That, it contended, was a move to ”drive a wedge” between the family and its corporation.

The brief insisted that, if the Court uses the definition of “person” that is in the federal Dictionary Act, it would refer not only to natural persons, but to corporations, too.  And, under the ACA regulations at issue, the filing said, the government is seeking to force employers to provide specific contraceptives, not just “an exchange of money.”  It is the contraceptives, not their cost, that burdens the Green family’s faith and the principles of Hobby Lobby Stores and the related bookstore chain, the brief argued.

Saying that the Court must apply “strict scrutiny,” the most demanding test for the validity of a government mandate or program, the Hobby Lobby brief said that the government has “not come close” to satisfying that standard.  The official claims that the mandates support public health and women’s equality are so broad that they could never meet that test, the brief said.

The retail chains’ filing said that the government has come up at the last minute with another attempted justification — that is, that the mandate is part of a comprehensive scheme of providing health benefits to all.  But that notion, the brief said, is belied by all the exemptions the government has allowed.

Because the question that the government raised in its petition in the Hobby Lobby case was restricted to the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the retail chains’ merits brief is confined to that issue.

The merits brief for Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners deals with its claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.  The filing begins with a defense of the Hahn family’s claim that its members choose to practice their faith through business activity, as well as in their personal lives.  “The corporate formality of a business is not determinative of whether religious exercise occurs in that business,” it contended.

But, if the family’s religious interests could be separated from the company, the brief went on, the company itself “exercises religion, too.”  Under state law, the corporate form may be used “to pursue all lawful purposes, without excluding religion,” Conestoga’s lawyers told the Court.  The Supreme Court, they added, “has never limited religious freedom to natural persons.”

Aside from arguing that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the religious rights of the Hahns and of their company, the brief said that Congress in passing the Affordable Care Act did not require that contraceptive services be included in employee health plans; that was added by the federal government in ACA regulations.

And, like Hobby Lobby, the Conestoga filing asserted that “strict scrutiny” is the only valid test to apply and that the government cannot show that it has a compelling interest in enforcing the birth-control mandate against religious objectors.  If the government is intent on assuring access to birth control, the brief said, it could either expand existing programs which provide that service or create new ones.

The Obama administration’s merits brief in Hobby Lobby focused on the RFRA claim, and its separate brief in the Conestoga case sought to answer claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.

In each filing, the government made the same basic points:  profit-making businesses do not “exercise” religion at all, for purposes of either federal law or the Constitution; the mandate only applies to corporations and not to their owners and, in any event, corporations law treats the business separate from the owner; and, even if the mandate did have to satisfy a compelling government interest, it does so by assuring that female workers have access to an important health benefit as part of a comprehensive health insurance scheme.

The contraceptive coverage requirement, according to the government, is a neutral obligation that applies to profit-making businesses in general, and does not target any religious exercise.  The exemptions that have been provided for other businesses — those whose plans are “grandfathered” and thus do not immediately have to obey the mandate — will only exist in a phased sequence, and that alone is not enough to deprive the mandate of its neutral character, the U.S. brief said.

In passing RFRA, the brief contended, Congress did not intend to “uniquely disable the government by working a dramatic expansion” of the claims for exemption based on religious liberty.  Besides, it added, there has not been a single decision by the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law — or required an exemption to it — on the theory that that was necessary “to protect the rights of a for-profit corporation or of the owners, managers, or directors of the corporation.”

The government brief also made a religious liberty argument of its own.  It said that giving for-profit businesses the chance to obtain an exemption from federal laws based on religion would threaten “the special place of religious institutions in our society.”  Congress has often given religious bodies exemptions from laws, but it has always “drawn the line at for-profit corporations,” the brief said.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are legally entitled to exemptions, Congress would be discouraged from providing exemptions for non-profit religious organizations “for fear that doing so would automatically entitle for-profit corporations to the same accommodation,” according to the government’s argument.

The briefs for the government also asserted that there actually is no burden on any religious exercise by owners or corporations, because the choice to use a birth-control pill or device would be made independently by the female workers covered by a health insurance plan.   The connection between those choices and the interests of the employer who finances the plan, the brief went on, is “too indirect” to make a legal difference.

The amicus briefs

If numbers of amici were to make a difference, there is no contest in these cases:  the government drew two dozen briefs in support, while Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are backed by five dozen filings.  There are two briefs that do not take a position on how these specific cases should be decided, but they take opposite positions:  a brief by professors of history and law argues that the Court has always treated corporations differently from natural persons, while a brief by a group of traditional religious organizations urges the Court to adopt an expansive view of the right to religious exemptions from public laws.

The boldest brief in support of the government takes a position that the government did not, urging the Supreme Court to strike down RFRA as an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to scuttle a Supreme Court decision requiring religious organizations to obey laws that apply generally.  That is a brief by a disparate group of advocacy organizations, including non-believers and survivors of clergy sexual abuse of children.

There is, on the corporations’ side, a brief by constitutional law scholars seeking to answer that constitutional challenge.  That brief contends that RFRA is a valid exercise of Congress’s legislative powers, and that nullifying the law “would threaten thousands of statutes that protect religious minorities.”

There are predictable allies on each side:  civil rights and women’s rights groups, liberal organizations, professors of various disciplines, and liberal lawmakers on the side of the federal government and the ACA, and traditional religious organizations and advocacy groups, conservative and libertarian entities, professors of various disciplines, and conservative lawmakers on the side of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.

Analysis

If the legal territory the Court enters in these cases is not entirely new, it is also not well traveled.  The Court has sort of assumed since 1886 — without ever ruling flatly — that corporations are “persons” in a constitutional sense.  And, over time, it has filled in some of the gaps on what rights corporations are to have under the Constitution.  But it has never said, explicitly, that they are endowed with the right to freely exercise a religious faith.

These two cases give it the chance to do just that, if it is so inclined, and that would be a profound constitutional shift, with deeply uncertain implications.  It would, at a minimum, pave the way for businesses to choose whom they serve according to the identities of the customers and how those square with the religious preferences of the company.

But the Court need not go that far, even if it should lean toward ruling in favor of an exemption within the business world from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.  It could decide that the Green family and the Hahn family have a right to exercise their religious beliefs in the way they run their business firms, and that this mandate intrudes on those rights.

Along the way, of course, the Justices would have to find a way around the conventional business law notion that corporations stand apart from their owners.  But they could do that with a very narrow definition of the rights of the owners of a company that is so closely held that it is essentially not a public corporation, except in name.  Again, though, that would grow out of the rights of the owners, not of the corporate entity itself.

The problem in anticipating a victory for religious owners, though, is that the focus in that analysis may fall too heavily on the owner’s interests, and insufficiently on the interests of the employees.  What is at stake on that side of the legal controversy is the interest of female employees in managing their personal lives and their reproductive health, with obvious implications for their ability to carry on their work lives and careers.

Just as there are Justices now on the Court who would, indeed, view this controversy through sympathetic eyes for business management, there also are Justices now serving who would certainly view sympathetically the claims of female workers of child-bearing age.

In these two cases, those two perspectives seem distinctly at odds, and the chances of finding common ground between them seem remote, indeed.

For example, the easiest way to rule for a religious exemption for businesses or their owners in this case would be to interpret the Affordable Care Act as not even authorizing the government to include birth control in the requirements for employee health plans.  That is an argument that the lawyers for the businesses here actually make.  But to rule that way would be to read the purposes of the statute’s coverage of preventive health services so narrowly as to ignore the realities of the health of women who work in offices, factories, and shops.

In terms of the legal foundations for a ruling, the Court might well go into this case hoping to avoid making new constitutional law, on the institutional premise that it should not decide a constitutional question unless it has no way to avoid it.

But it would be hard to base a ruling in this case solely on the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because that Act is essentially designed to protect constitutional rights of religious liberty.  To know what that law does protect requires knowing what the Constitution embraces — either as to corporations, or as to their owners, or both.

Only one thing, perhaps, is certain as the argument in this case approaches: whatever the Court decides, it will not decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.  The nation’s politics, and many of its legislatures (including Congress), are absorbed with debates over whether to keep the law, to amend it, to render it unenforceable, or to repeal it altogether.  None of that depends upon the outcome of this case.

The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.  All that is at issue is who must obey the contraceptive mandate.

Posted in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby StoresConestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius,AnalysisFeaturedHealth CareMerits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Argument preview: Religion, rights, and the workplace, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 20, 2014, 3:30 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/03/argument-preview-religion-rights-and-the-workplace/

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Arizona’s Appeal for 20-Week Abortion Ban

pro-life-marchersThe Supreme Court declined Monday to hear Arizona’s appeal against a lower court’s ruling that determined its ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional. The lower court’s ruling thus remains and the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks has been struck down.

The Supreme Court justices declined to provide a reason as to why they won’t be reviewing the case. In May 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy violated the legal precedents set by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the 20-week abortion ban into law in 2012. The law has been considered to be one of the strictest pieces of pro-life legislation in the country, only allowing abortions after 20 weeks in the case of medical emergencies. Those who opposed the legislation argued it was stricter than other states with similar laws because the method for determining a gestation period barred abortions two weeks earlier than other states with 20-week abortion bans.

The governor’s spokesperson, Andrew Wilder, released a statement Monday decrying the high court’s decision to not hear the case, calling it “a clear infringement on the authority of states to implement critical life-affirming laws.”

“Governor Brewer will continue to fight to protect Arizona women, families and our most vulnerable population: unborn children.”

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, also released a statement defending the state’s 20-week abortion ban and the highly debated argument that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation. “Arizona legislators, led by pro-life State Rep. Kimberly Yee, were acting on the will of the people when they enacted this compassionate, common sense legislation to protect babies at 20 weeks,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in the statement.

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“Twenty weeks is more than halfway through pregnancy and the point at which babies have all their organs, hear and respond to their mother’s voices, and can even feel pain. A growing number of Americans simply reject the horror of late abortion and believe a reasonable line should be drawn. The 9th Circuit Court clearly erred. The law should reflect our natural recoil from this type of brutality.”

Pro-abortion groups heralded the Supreme Court’s decision, but also criticized the growing number of strict, anti-abortion bills being passed in states. “The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“… But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care,” Northup continued, adding that women’s rights must not be “legislated away by politicians who are hell-bent on restricting access to the full range of reproductive health care.”

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments regarding the 2007 Massachusetts law that blocks pro-life protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. Those opposing the “Buffer Zone” law argue it violates their constitutional rights to free speech. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit previously upheld the state law, and those who support the law argue it ensures public safety for women seeking an abortion and abortion clinic employees.

Dana Cody, an attorney and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, told MassLive.com that the law specifically targets those who oppose abortion. Her pro-life group has filed an amicus brief opposing the law. “It’s content-based discrimination,” Cody said. “This is about limiting opposition to abortion in a public forum.”

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/news/supreme-court-refuses-to-hear-arizonas-appeal-for-20-week-abortion-ban-11257