by Ellen Foell, Legal Counsel
Throughout the month of May, states and local jurisdictions will be holding elections at a polling booth near you.
Some of those elections will be primary elections, which, of course, narrow the field of candidates before an election for office. Primary elections are those in which political parties nominate candidates for an upcoming general election or by-election. Ohio, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia are all holding primaries this May.
General elections, elections in which final results will send winners directly to elective office, are being held in—among other states—Montana, New York, Texas, and Virginia. Additionally, many states and local jurisdictions are having ballot issues, such as levies, school issues, tax issues, as well as issues as significant as marriage amendments. It goes without saying that all citizens, including those who work for nonprofits, even issues-oriented nonprofits, have the right to and should vote.
History is replete with instances of the importance of one vote. And though Snopes.com tells me most of the commonly cited instances are urban legends, there is one example, which many of us lived through, that is no myth.
In 2000, the difference in the total vote in the state of Florida in the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was less than one-half of one percent. A recount and ensuing controversy ended in Mr. Bush receiving Florida’s electoral votes, and he won the election by one electoral vote.
With the ballot booth coming to a public gathering place near you, here’s a quick list of why your pro-life vote is important:
1. Every vote charts a courseVoting is our chance to have a say in setting the direction of our city, country and culture.
2. Every vote expresses a convictionVoting is our chance to make our choice about the future of our government—or express our opinion about the present one.
3. Every vote countsJust ask our 43rd President—or his former opponent.
4. Because vote exercises equalityEach and every vote is worth just as much as anyone else’s, regardless of wealth, gender, color, ethnicity or religion.
5. Because the clock may be tickingIf we don’t exercise this blood-earned right to vote, we may eventually lose it. This may seem alarmist, but not when our nation’s two and a half centuries of existence within the larger scope of world history is considered.
In addition to these considerations, each election season tends to raise questions in the collective and individual minds of nonprofit leaders and organizations. Is it legal to put up a sign on nonprofit property for or against particular legislation? Is it advisable for our executive director to run for city council? Can we publish or distribute a voter’s guide?
These, and similar questions, lurk in the frontal cortex of those who care about the issues, are constantly told to be wary of trespassing in forbidden waters, and yet feel a compulsion not only to vote, but to encourage others to vote.
While the answers are not always clear, Heartbeat International has already answered some of these questions.
Check out the following links for more information:
I just returned from two weeks in Ethiopia, one of my many trips to that ancient, fascinating country. My time was spent working in the maternity home my husband and I founded five years ago.
The Ethiopian culture is made up of over 80 different ethnic groups and languages. It is diverse both in geography and culture. But there is a common thread ... it is the belief that abortion is wrong. In fact, in nearly all of these groups, abortion is anathema. There is an instinctive understanding that when a woman’s body swells with pregnancy, she has a life inside of her that is not to be cut short. They know this without the visual impact of ultrasound clearly showing a baby sucking his/her thumb, yawning, playing with his/her umbilical cord or sleeping. In their culture, they believe that abortion is a shameful thing.
The current pro-abortion leadership in America gives lip service to multiculturalism. Yet they are forcing abortion on this culture. In partnership with the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they are using money, dangling at the end of a stick like a carrot, to “buy” the Ethiopian government’s acquiescence.
In October, the Third Global International Council on Family Planning was held in Addis Ababa. Bill and Melinda Gates are two of the underwriters of this event. Their goal is to make abortion available to every woman in Ethiopia. They want clinics across the landscape, in every city and town. They cannot get enough doctors to perform abortions so they plan to train nurses and midwives.
This is appalling. Nurses there are not like their American counterparts in schooling and ability. Midwives are even less qualified. Already many of the clinics are primitive. I can’t imagine the carnage on the women, much less the unborn babies, when this goes into effect. But to abortion peddlers, the women are simply collateral damage in their war on the unborn.
Dr. Seyoum and his wife, both Ethiopians, speak all over Africa. He quit his practice and together they have dedicated their lives and resources to educating people on the humanity of the unborn and the reality of abortion, hoping to stop this evil. We sat in on one of his speeches. Part of his PowerPoint presentation was photos of aborted babies and baby parts from dumpsters and waste buckets from American abortion clinics. I have seen these pictures many times here in the states, but they always shake me. That day in Ethiopia, I saw them through Ethiopian eyes. The horror, the recoil and then the tears. There is something horrific about tearing a baby limb from limb and wrenching it out of the mother’s womb. Or partially delivering a third trimester baby, who with one push could be born and live, and killing it in the most unspeakable way. Isn’t it ironic? America is forcing the most barbaric practice on Africa and Africans are recoiling in the face of it!
Millions are being poured into this bloody business. Imagine if that money was used instead to help better mothers’ lives in Third World countries. Train them. Educate them. Help them set up small businesses. It would revolutionize this continent! These women don’t want to kill their babies. They don’t want to go against their culture and their conscience. They don’t even want a handout. They want a hand up.
Obianuju Edeocha, an African woman, penned this statement in response to the ICFP Conference: “We are thirsty and they give us condoms! We are hungry and they offer us contraceptive pills! We are sick and they offer us the most modern techniques of abortion! We are naked and they lead us into the arms of sexual hedonism! We are imprisoned by poverty and they offer us sexual liberation! Silent tears roll down for Africa in a modern world that can neither see our pain nor hear our cry for help. We mourn deeply for the destructive seeds of sexual revolution which were sown last week in Addis Ababa.”
How tragic that America, once the exporter of progress and hope to Third World countries, is now the exporter of death.
Dinah Monahan is the founder and former executive director of Living Hope Women’s Centers in the White Mountains and a national pro-life speaker and author. She is currently involved in Living Hope Maternity Home in Adama, Ethiopia, in Africa, which she and her husband founded.
Originally published January 31, 2014 in the White Mountain Independent. Reprinted with permission.
“Because Defendants have failed to demonstrate an actual problem in need of solving, it is unnecessary to reach the narrow tailoring prong of the strict scrutiny test.”1
Those are the words footnoted on the last page of last Friday’s opinion by Judge Deborah Chasanow in the case Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, et al., Case 8:10-cv-01259 (D. Maryland 3/7/2014).
Imagine that… Montgomery County was unable to demonstrate to the Court that pregnancy help centers pose a problem in need of solving. What’s just as telling is what the Court also stated in the body of the opinion:
Quite simply, the County has put no evidence into the record to demonstrate that [limited service pregnancy resource centers’] failure clearly to state that no doctors are on premises has led to any negative health outcomes. Id., at 52.
The County, in the words of the pregnancy help centers, was searching for a problem to fit their Resolution (Id., at 42). The problem with the County’s problem, however, is that in the end, Montgomery County’s pregnancy centers don’t actually pose a problem to the County’s residents.
The case before the Court was a Resolution attempting to force Montgomery County’s pregnancy help centers, including Heartbeat affiliate Centro Tepeyac, to make specific disclosures stating what services they did—and did not offer.
The Resolution, Number 16-1252, originally passed Feb. 2, 2010, and required Montgomery County pregnancy help centers to post notices in specific languages and in specific locations on-site. The notices were to state that licensed medical professionals were not on the premises and that the County recommended pregnant women see a physician for a medical diagnosis of pregnancy.
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, Centro Tepeyac challenged the Resolution on the grounds that it violated the freedoms guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Now several years into the process, Judge Chasanow, a District of Maryland justice, clearly and cogently determined that the Resolution imposed an unconstitutional burden on the rights guaranteed to centers.
The opinion, issued Friday, March 7, 2014, was actually the District Court’s revisit to the Resolution, which was most recently reviewed July 2013 in a decision by the 4th Circuit.
Throughout its long and convoluted procedural journey, the Resolution has been analyzed and reanalyzed. The flow of the County’s argument was as follows:
In Friday’s ruling, Judge Chasanow found that the County did indeed demonstrate a compelling interest in protecting the health of women (point 1 above). The Court also assumed, for the sake of argument, that the pregnancy help centers did not make any of the statements required to be made (points 2).
However, the flaw in the County’s argument, the Court reasoned, was between points 2 and 3, where the County failed to demonstrate the connection between the pregnancy help centers’ actions (or assumed inactions) and any evidence-based harm to pregnant women.
Commenting on the County’s evidence, the Court stated:
The County attempts to elide this distinction by providing no evidence for the effect, only the alleged cause. The Waxman and NARAL reports focus on the misinformation problem. So too do all of the comments made to the County Council in support of the Resolution. These commenters – who were universally volunteers from a pro-choice organization sent to investigate LSPRCs’ practices – discussed the alleged misinformation they were provided and that that the LSPRCs were not forthcoming with the fact that they are not a medical center and that they do not provide referrals for abortions. But even assuming all that is true - that LSPRC are presenting themselves as medical providers and thus pregnant women are accepting their misinformation as sound medical advice, the County must still demonstrate the next supposition on the logical chain: that these practices are having the effect of harming the health of pregnant women. The County has failed this task.
With the County’s failure to connect the link at the earlier points, the Court never had to consider the analysis of whether the County’s Resolution passed the strict scrutiny least restrictive means test typically employed by the United States Supreme Court in such cases.
This case is a clear victory for pregnancy help centers, not only in Maryland, but across the nation.
The Court attacks the very heart of the evidence, its legitimacy and its sources. Further, the Court logically and reasonably requires the County to demonstrate in court what it should have considered at the legislative level: Does the (mis)information justify the legislation?
Though the case is likely to be appealed by the County, the strength and logic of the decision should serve as a guide for other judges considering such legislation.
Stay tuned, but in the meantime, congratulations to the Montgomery County pregnancy help centers, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the other attorneys representing and standing for life.
1. Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, et al.Case 8:10-cv-01259 (D. Maryland 3/7/2014)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (9/19/08) – The President’s Volunteer Service Award was conferred on 32 Heartbeat International affiliated pregnancy resource centers and 55 volunteers who serve Heartbeat affiliated centers on September 19, 2008. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D., M.B.A., bestowed the honors on Heartbeat’s affiliates and volunteers for the significant contributions they have made to their communities.
“Heartbeat International is an effective network of more than 1,000 faith-based community organizations aided by more than 25,000 volunteers. We are thrilled to see our volunteers honored by the Administration,” said Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. “We are very proud to carry on the American tradition of volunteerism and community service especially in a way that helps women and strengthens families.”
In concert with the White House USA Freedom Corps, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health and Science honored 150 “exemplary volunteers” who serve pregnancy centers around the country along with 56 pregnancy resource centers at a White House ceremony on September 19, 2008. Pregnancy center representatives and volunteers participated in the White House awards ceremony from 10 am-noon in the Indian Treaty room of the Old Executive Office Building connected to the White House.
“Uplifting the lives of women and families around the world is Heartbeat’s mission. We are compassionate people and passionate for life. If you feel called to give back to your community and want to volunteer you can visit http://www.pregnancycenters.org/" data-mce-href="http://heartbeatinternational.org/eNewsletter/2008/enews_Annual_Review-4-08-full.htm">PregnancyCenters.org and use the center locator system to find your local pregnancy center,” said Hartshorn. “Pregnancy center volunteers include doctors, lawyers, nurses, concerned parents, social workers, educators, and many others. They provide healthy alternatives to abortion for girls and women faced with an untimely pregnancy. Many of our volunteers have had personal experience with an unplanned pregnancy, adoption, and abortion.”
“These volunteers have spent countless hours serving the most vulnerable among us. Their efforts deserve recognition and our deepest appreciation,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Joxel Garcia, M.D., M.P.H.. “Their services provide these women and their babies the opportunity for a healthier beginning.”
“Today, we recognize the service of these volunteers who are lifting lives and impacting their communities and our country for good,” said Alison Young, acting director of USA Freedom Corps, an initiative to help Americans connect with volunteer opportunities at home and abroad. “As they serve women in need, they spread the very best of the compassionate volunteer spirit that keeps America strong.”
For more information about the President’s Service Award, visit http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/" data-mce-href="http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/">PresidentialServiceAwards.gov.
Click here for interview with Dr. Ann Moell, Medical Director of Elizabeth’s New Life Center, Heartbeat affiliate in Dayton, Ohio. Ann was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President
Yes, you read that right. The President signed his very first pro-life law just last month. The administration actually said that the law is aimed at “protecting the health of the woman” from dangers associated with abortion. The President went so far as to make it illegal to promote abortion as a safe procedure.
And more than that, the New York Times reported the President’s wife taking an even bolder stand in this brand new pro-life effort. She’s gone so far as to launch a nationwide campaign called “Give Me Life!” as a “week against abortion.” How amazing that the First Couple has taken such unprecedented steps for the cause of life!
Now if only other leaders of nations besides Russia would gain the realization that they are allowing their future to be aborted. But for now, we take heart that Scripture tells us, “The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1, NIV).
Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, was a keynote speaker at the recent Moscow Demographic Summit, hosted by World Congress of Families. Political and spiritual leaders alike aligned their interests to address the devastation that abortion has wrought on the future generations of Russians and thus Russia itself.
What were once statistical predictions of demographic trends have become a bleak, stark reality for countries such as Russia, Japan, and nearly all of Western Europe. We salute Mr. Dmitri A. Medvedev, President of Russia, and his wife, Svetlana, for this valiant redirection of law, public influence, and resources in the former Communist nation. Their actions and those of other leaders like them reveal a broader movement of the Holy Spirit in changing the hearts of leaders and laymen alike to renew a culture of life. We truly take heart in the Giver of Life and the Gift of Life.
You can read more about Peggy’s visit to Russia in the coming issue of Pulse. Watch for Pulse in your inbox later this month.
by Peggy Hartshorn, Heartbeat International, President(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2)
I’m excited to share with you our encouraging news “fresh from Washington, D.C.”! I spent almost a week in our nation’s capital for meetings with national pro-life leaders, for the annual March for Life, and for our Babies Go To Congress™ (BGTC) event. What a magnificent week! Click here for a quick picture album of our March for Life team.
First, our BGTC was full of glory. We took several Heartbeat affiliates and their clients with babies – five Heartbeat teams totaling 27 people – to meet with to key Congressional representatives in 23 offices. We delivered the message that “pregnancy centers are good for America.” And our mothers were able to tell their stories as well and present to their elected officials a copy of the powerful report A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life (researched by Family Research Council with the help of Heartbeat and other organizations in our movement). Walking the halls of Congress with our affiliates, mothers, and babies, was an honor and blessing for me personally.
Ripples, turning into currents, as a result of this trip will be many! Here are excerpts from a thank you letter to Heartbeat from just one of our mothers who came with her husband and baby:
“I wanted to thank you and Heartbeat International for the love and commitment to healthy babies and families you showed to me and every lady in attendance (and the thousands of others that benefit from all that Heartbeat does). I personally praise God for you!
Anthony and I experienced so much while in Washington, DC, I am still processing/taking all of it in… I am a counseling student and I will be obtaining my School Counselor Certification. After my professors heard of my pending trip and involvement in BGTC, they advised me to submit a proposal to present at this year's Illinois School Counselor Association Annual Conference… School Counselors in Chicago need to be able to "Connect the Dots" and know about community resources that their students may need.
I must share that before coming to Washington, DC I was not 100% committed to the pro-life movement. Although I do not believe in abortion and would never advise or financially back someone in their decision to get an abortion, I just was not comfortable in completely taking that right away from women either. However, I was challenged to really think about not only what I believe but WHO I believe in.”
I would estimate that about 350,000-400,000 people came to Washington for the March this year, probably the largest in recent history. Perhaps 50 percent of the Marchers were young people. A Washington Post columnist went to the March thinking he would see a “quaint” gathering with a hopeless cause. He admitted his surprise when he found otherwise! An excellent column by Cal Thomas (January 27), highlights the youth pro-life movement, and mentions TWICE the role of our pregnancy centers: “Thousands of pregnancy centers are winning a new generation to their views.”
I hope that each of you will experience in 2010 the personal “refreshment” I experienced during this intensely pro-pregnancy center week, feeling the Hand of God at work in the halls of Congress and at the March for Life. Clearly, our united labor, gifts, prayers, and strategic initiatives are winning our fellow Americans over to the truth and goodness of our Cause.
Learn more about BGTC at HeartbeatInternational.org.
Return to Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2.
I have personally stared into the crematorium at Auschwitz.
It’s a somber and sobering experience even to begin to try to digest the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis a little more than six decades ago. There are distinct connections and eerie similarities between the inhumanity of the Holocaust history and the ravages of abortion in our day. This is not an easy subject to share, but let me narrow it to three lessons that Auschwitz (and the other death camps like it) teaches us.
Ever heard of the Tiergarten 4 program? It was a 1930’s Nazi program to “deal with” the physically handicapped, disabled and mentally ill. Nazi leadership determined that the resources necessary to maintain such life could be better used elsewhere to the betterment of the overall society. Sound familiar? (Google Tiergarten 4 for more understanding.) The outcomes of this relatively small program were instrumental in the implementation of the “Final Solution.”
As Nazi Germany and imperialistic Japan gained power, champions in various disciplines also rose to oppose these regimes. Some stepped out willingly while others were thrust into leadership. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, and Douglas McArthur are but a few well-known names. But countless others – from the underground and resistance forces to those in the ranks of the liberation armies – joined with the efforts of homebound citizens of many nationalities to defeat this worldwide scourge.
“Divide and conquer,” attributed to the great Roman general Julius Caesar, is a well-known battle strategy. The enemy of God has been using this tactic since the temptation in the Garden. Unfortunately, he still uses this tactic every day and every way to divide God’s people. This is an unfortunate reality in the pro-life movement as well.
Pro-life champions, whether on the stage, in public demonstrations or “in the trenches,” must recognize the necessity of standing together. We must resist divisions of denomination or method. We must walk with respect for how others are called to address this single greatest evil of our time. “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).
It’s also important to remember the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” This man of God addressed paupers and princes, artists and academics, the weak and the wealthy, in his effort to advance the Gospel. Can we do any less in advancing the Gospel of Life?
As one of our champions, John Ensor says, “It’s our turn.” As other generations have arisen to combat the evil of their day, we do so against the evil of our generation – abortion. We, like Corrie Ten Boom in her day, are not alone. We have millions upon millions of like-minded, life-minded friends and partners worldwide dedicated to the advancing a culture of life. Most of all, we stand rightly on the side of the Giver of Life, also known as the Lord of Hosts! In this, we can draw comfort, strength and even peace. In this, we can truly take heart!
Another Planned Parenthood office closed its doors this week. Dozens have done so across the U.S. as the “defund Planned Parenthood” movement gains traction in states like Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Actually the defunding provides cover for Planned Parenthood since it has been aggressively moving towards super-size service operations located, predominantly, in urban communities. Its own strategy has put its smaller, less profitable locations in jeopardy. Losing taxpayer monies has motivated it to speed up the consolidation process.
When Planned Parenthood (or any abortion provider) clinic closes its doors, it is a gift to the pro-life movement and to the pregnancy help centers (PHCs) in that community. One less location providing abortions means that abortion seekers will have more opportunity to find the life-affirming help we offer.
Planned Parenthood gives the gift of the ground they abandon. Several pregnancy help centers now occupy former abortion clinic locations. Along with incredible symbolism, there are enormous practical opportunities to minister to former abortion-clinic patients who return to that same location seeking help.
Planned Parenthood has even given from its own staff! Former staffers converting to the pro-life position has been a wonderful gift to our movement. Abby Johnson and others like her are powerful voices exposing how little choice is actually in the pro-choice argument and how much Planned Parenthood preys on women instead of serving them. As more such converts join us, we must welcome them as the gifts from God that they are.
Even the fallacious, Planned Parenthood-sponsored legislative attacks are turning into gifts for the pregnancy help movement. Such attacks have netted judicial rulings in favor of PHCs. These same attacks have helped mobilize many marginal pro-lifers.
Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner, is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” With this in mind, Planned Parenthood has gifted the movement with enormous publicity in the past few years!
Take heart! Even our opposition is contributing to your great work. I wonder if we can consider those unwitting contributions as in-kind gifts?
by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
If the purpose of Pulse is to help life-affirming people keep their fingers on the pulse of America’s pregnancy help movement, then here are two very interesting and highly contentious battles which mandate a closer look. On opposite ends of the country, California and New York, local governments have pitted themselves against pregnancy help centers (PHCs), in both the legislative and judicial forums.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and the city council’s efforts to unfairly regulate the work of PHCs through superfluous fraud, deception, and consumer protection laws, came to a grinding halt as a federal district court judge ruled that the Council’s law was unconstitutional. Indeed, the court found that the speech (essentially advertising and information on services provided) of PHCs was not commercial speech, that the speech of centers was particularly prone to biased regulation because of its controversial nature and that New York City council’s attempt to regulate the speech was offensive and unconstitutional. The court imposed a preliminary injunction on the application of the law pending a trial on the merits.
On the other side of the country, San Francisco - presumably unaware of the rulings in Baltimore, Montgomery County, and New York - proceeded full-speed ahead. They threatened two San Francisco PHCs, First Resort and Alpha Pregnancy Center, with a two pronged legal action. One prong is the now typical, albeit unsuccessful, proposed law which seeks to regulate the speech of PHCs.
The other prong is the threat by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera that he intends to pursue legal action against the two pregnancy centers whose business names pop up first in a Google search when someone uses San Francisco and abortion as keywords. According to Herrera, that first-in-line pop up constitutes false advertising and violates reproductive rights of women. This attack is so bizarre that even those who are not pro-life see that Mr. Herrera is on a hunt to harass PHCs and they easily recognize the ridiculous nature of the threat.
Zombie, a contributing blogger to PajamasMedia.com, an online blogging portal, wrote: “even from my pro-choice perspective, the city’s attempt to essentially banish any counseling center which doesn’t encourage or perform abortions is simply beyond belief.” This blogger continues, “And in the press conference proudly announcing this, the City Attorney openly admits that it’s politically motivated, that he’s going after the centers because he defines them as ‘right-wing.’ But seriously, have you ever looked at the ads for the other kinds of pregnancy counseling centers, the kinds of places where if you walk in, the only advice they ever give you is abort abort abort?
“Never do they put up big neon signs saying ‘Fetuses aborted here.’ Instead, they have innocuous (some would say ‘deceptive’) names like ‘community health center’ or ‘reproductive services clinic’ and so on.” Zombie concludes, “In fact, if you flip the narrative, and do a Google search for ‘pregnant’ and ‘San Francisco,’ the top result is a hospital that does provide abortions.”
In a comment posted on Zombie’s PajamasMedia.com blog "chambers," a reader, responded to the article with this observation, "The psychology of the legislators driving this effort is skin-crawlingly creepy … How can so much passion, indeed fury, be worked up for ending the life of a fetus in the womb?"
Indeed, skin crawlingly creepy. If this doesn’t make our pulse rate rise, what will?
"I can't remember a day being this happy in the 27 years of doing this work," said Leslee Unruh, South Dakota’s founder of Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls, S.D. pregnancy help center.
Leslee asks you to stand with pregnancy centers in South Dakota. “If you want to help take this case and future cases to the Supreme Court, contact the Alpha Center in south Dakota at (605) 361-3500.
In light of this tremendous victory for the women of South Dakota, Alpha Center is committed to continue our involvement in this case but we need to hear from you that you are standing with us. Just like the babies we save, we are alive and kicking and we hope you will join us.”
Source: Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate for the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute and Christianity Today, “The New Pro-Life Surge, Political gains by U.S. conservatives unleash waves of anti-abortion legislation,” Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 6/10/2011
“Doctors must inform pregnant women that they have ‘an existing relationship’ with an ‘unborn human being’” according to a recently upheld provision in South Dakota’s 2005 informed consent law. In its recent opinion on this case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Mo., overturned a lower federal court judge's decision that had struck down the "relationship advisories" section of South Dakota's 2005 informed consent law.
During the drawn-out legal battle, Heartbeat International, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, CareNet, and the Family Research Council filed an amicus brief asking the court to reject Planned Parenthood’s attempt to block portions of the law.
Leslee Unruh, founder of Alpha Center in South Dakota, was deeply involved in this battle. She says that this victory will have a huge impact on pro-life legislation across the nation. “A federal court finally recognizes the personhood of a baby in its mother’s womb!” rejoices Leslee. The status of personhood bestows rights and the protection of the law on the fetus.
Leslee says that the collection of data by South Dakota pregnancy help centers (PHCs) is what turned the tide during this court struggle. The court demanded documentation of the effects of choosing life over abortion on the women served in South Dakota PHCs. “Our center was able to document the immensely positive impact of choosing life on our clients.” The Eighth Circuit Court judges were impressed with the facts and the personal testimony of these brave women, according to Leslee.
The battle lines were drawn with a Planned Parenthood challenge to a 2005 South Dakota Public Health and Safety Code amendment expanding the requirements for informed consent to abortion. Under that law, a doctor must give a woman contemplating abortion oral advisories 24 hours before the procedure and written advisories at least two hours before the procedure.
In addition to providing the patient with information about known medical risks and increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, the written advisories inform the patient that:
In the 2005 challenge, a lower federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of South Dakota on the human being and risk advisories and in favor of Planned Parenthood on the relationship and suicide advisories. Planned Parenthood, however, continued to challenge the "existing relationship" provision.
Previously, in 2009, federal District Court judge Karen Schreier wrote, regarding the relationship section of the South Dakota law, "A legal relationship requires two people. The United States Constitution does not recognize an unborn embryo or fetus as a 'person,' in the legal sense."
On September 2, 2011, the Eighth Circuit Court panel, rejected Judge Schreier’s interpretation and agreed with the state's reading of the law on the relationship between a mother and her unborn child. In effect, the Eighth Circuit Court affirmed that a preborn child is a person.
Still, the recent ruling of the Eighth Circuit Court is not a complete victory. The three-judge panel gave a two-one split decision reversing the district court judge’s decision ruling on the “protected relationship” provision, and only narrowly upholding the judge’s decision with regard to the “risk of suicide” provision.
Circuit Court Judge Raymond Gruender dissented, arguing that the “risk of suicide” provision should have been upheld. He wrote in his dissent, “Even the evidence relied upon by Planned Parenthood acknowledges a significant, known, statistical correlation between abortion and suicide. This well-documented statistical correlation is sufficient to support the required disclosure that abortion presents an ‘increased risk’ of suicide, as that term is used in the relevant medical literature.”
Eighth Circuit Court Judges Diane E. Murphy and Michael Joseph Melloy voted in the majority.
The Eighth Circuit Court's September 2 ruling is a victory for LIFE on several fronts. The ruling supports a woman’s right to know that she has a relationship with the child living in her womb. It also establishes yet another protection for unborn children.
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