By / Jan 10

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Supreme Court will rule on a case involving an Idaho law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

The high court agreed to hear a challenge to the law, known as the Defense of Life Act, which makes it a felony for doctors to perform most abortions, with an exception for procedures performed when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Last Friday (Jan. 5), the Supreme Court ruled Idaho can enforce the law while the case involving the legislation is being resolved. The court is expected to hear the case in April, and a decision is expected by early summer.

The Friday ruling put on hold a lower court ruling which blocked the Idaho law, based upon a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the lawsuit filed by the Biden administration against the state of Idaho is a wrongful “twist” of federal law seeking to “thwart” the state’s legislation.

Despite what some activists and parts of culture want you to believe, abortion is not health care. In fact, it turns the entire notion of health care on its head. Equally alarming are those who, in the furtherance of abortion, seek to twist federal law to mandate that doctors violate their conscience in the medical care they provide. All of this is preposterous, and the Supreme Court should see through this backdoor attempt by the Biden Administration to thwart Idaho’s ‘Defense of Life’ state law.

Emergency room doctors are more than capable of quickly managing life-threatening situations for mothers like ectopic pregnancies with the utmost care. But they should never be forced to perform elective abortions that terminate the life of a preborn child. The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case is potentially a positive step to both uphold a state’s action to protect life and rebuke the federal government for doing Planned Parenthood’s bidding.

Brent Leatherwood

In a similar case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined that ER physicians in Texas were not required to perform emergency abortion care under EMTALA, in a decision announced just days before the high court agreed to rule on Idaho’s law barring abortion.

Leatherwood noted the importance of continuing to fight for the pro-life cause amid these ongoing legal battles.

It is imperative for all of us who care about the lives of preborn children, their mothers and families to make it clear that abortion is wrong, and the ability to end a defenseless life is no freedom at all.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 27

A nurse practitioner in Texas has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that CVS Pharmacy violated her religious liberty.

What’s the background?

Since 2015, Robyn Strader has served as a nurse practitioner at a CVS MinuteClinic in Keller, Texas. Because of her religious beliefs (the lawsuit identifies her as a Christian and “longtime member of a Baptist church”), she cannot participate in any way in facilitating use of contraceptive or abortifacient drugs that could prevent the implantation of an embryo, otherwise cause an abortion, or contribute to infertility.

For 6 1/2 years, CVS provided her a religious accommodation that allowed her to not prescribe hormonal contraception. On the few occasions someone requested such a prescription from her, she would simply refer them to another nurse practitioner at her location or to another CVS MinuteClinic located two miles away.

What’s the problem?

However, in August 2021, CVS announced it would no longer honor any religious accommodations related to “pregnancy prevention services.”

CVS’s new policy is to deny all such religious accommodations without considering the particular circumstances of the employee requesting the accommodation, including to determine whether that employee could be accommodated without undue hardship.

The lawsuit says that a manager asked Strader whether she would be changing her position. When she refused, she was issued a written notice saying that her employment had been terminated. 

“After accommodating Robyn for six and a half years without a single complaint, CVS fired her because it simply did not like her pro-life religious beliefs,” said Christine Pratt, a lawyer for First Liberty Institute, the nonprofit firm that is representing Strader. “It is illegal to issue a blanket revocation of all religious accommodations when it is so easy for CVS to accommodate its employees. CVS is sending a message that religious health care workers are not welcome and need not apply.”

The lawsuit filed in federal court states that, “In addition to prospectively preempting all requests for religious accommodations, CVS unlawfully derided Ms. Strader’s religious beliefs, pressured her to change her beliefs, refused to consider her multiple requests for a religious accommodation, failed to engage with her about possible accommodations, and terminated her because of her religious beliefs.”

The lawsuit comes after a recent rule change by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that permits retail pharmacies to sell the abortion drug mifepristone. Two of the country’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens, announced they would be providing that abortifacient in states where they can do so legally.

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC responded quickly to the FDA’s ruling. Brent Leatherwood, president of the ERLC, sent a letter to the chief executive officers of CVS and Walgreens asking them to reverse their decision to carry and dispense mifepristone. He also asked the CEOs “to respect, and reasonably accommodate, the consciences of your pharmacists – Baptists and other people of faith – who are opposed to filling a prescription” for an abortion because of their belief in the “value and dignity of the preborn and their mothers.”

Leatherwood added that a clear policy that “respects deeply held beliefs about the preciousness of life and honors individual consciences that believe abortion is a moral evil” would be welcomed “in a corporate world often solely driven by maximizing profits, with little regard for the personal views of employees.” 

Leatherwood also told the pharmacy executives that the ERLC is prepared to provide advice regarding conscience-protection policies. 

Why does it matter?

Strader’s case is a prime example of how religious accommodations can be made without placing an undue burden on anyone involved.

Of note, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case this term, Groff v. Dejoy, re-examining the standard for employers providing religious accommodations for employees. That case will consider whether an employer may demonstrate “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business” under Title VII merely by showing that the requested accommodation burdens the employee’s coworkers rather than the business itself.

The Groff case could have implications for the type of situation Strader faces.

By / Jan 5

In 2020, “medication” abortion—abortion via pills rather than surgery—accounted for the majority of all United States abortions for the first time in the pills’ 20-year history.1

Reinforcing access to these medication abortions was one of the Biden administration’s first responses to the fall of Roe. President Joe Biden “directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify all ways to ensure that mifepristone [one of the two drugs used in pill-based abortions] is as widely accessible as possible”2 in the very same statement in which he asserted a right to engage in interstate abortion trafficking.3 

These are the emergent twin frontiers of the pro-life legal battle: abortion pills and abortion trafficking. 

These abortions aren’t as “safe and effective” as they’re made out to be, either.4 Abortion pills are four times more likely to land vulnerable mothers in the emergency room than first-trimester surgical abortions.5 Surgical abortions pursued out-of-state can be risky, too, as the side effects can be severe for mothers. Women undergoing out-of-state abortions risk being stranded away from family or friends while they suffer potentially extreme pain, bleeding, 6 grief, or anxiety.7

However, these two abortion strategies have become the preferred ways for the federal government and regulatory agencies to advance abortion after the Dobbs ruling—thereby hampering pro-life legislators at the state level.8 

The text of the Dobbs decision was clear: the court sought ultimately to allow “each State to address abortion as it pleases.”9 It specifically rendered judgment that no “right to abortion” is derived from the U.S. Constitution. 

In other words, while it was a tremendous pro-life victory that allows elected officials to make laws protecting children in the womb, Dobbs emphatically did not end abortion in the United States. Much of the fight to protect vulnerable little ones remains with us.

Remembering why we advocate for abortion’s end

That’s why it is essential that legislators, activists, and Christians remember why we “address” abortion at all: to end the ongoing massacre of innocent, human life in the womb. 

As early as six weeks,10 a heartbeat of about 110 BPM is detectable in the womb—no matter how hard pro-abortion activists may fight to revise longstanding, uncontroversial medical consensus.11 By 12 weeks, all of the little human’s major body systems are present and reflexes begin to develop.12 At 18 weeks, children can hear their mothers’ heartbeat.13 In the last trimester, they can taste—and smile or grimace at—the flavors of the food their mother eats.14

This is not simply a political or campaign issue. This is not just the states’ legal responsibility. This is the gravest human rights abuse in our society. These are children. They always have been and always will be. Children were at the heart of the pro-life movement from its inception—as individuals sought to protect these vulnerable neighbors from the abortion provider’s hand—and they remain there to this day.

A legislation rundown

Yet there is legislation on the books in aggressively pro-abortion states to expand the legal killing of these children. Seven states have no gestational limit on abortion whatsoever,15 and another 26 states16 only limit abortions at or around the point of “fetal viability,” generally between 22 and 24 weeks.17

Given the fact that 91% of U.S. abortions occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy,18 viability protections translate into unrestricted abortion access for the vast majority of women who desire an abortion. In other words, many of the children who may have been killed under Roe may also be killed under Dobbs.

The state-level response to Dobbs is varied, and a range of pro-life strategies are before the courts at this very moment.Thus far, six states responded by introducing “personhood amendments,” amendments to their state constitution that would permanently enshrine the human child in the womb as a legal person.19 The Dobbs decision explicitly sidestepped the question of fetal personhood, so these amendments—and the litigation battles they spawn—are breaking new legal ground.20

Other states, like Missouri, are exploring protecting children from abortion traffficking.21 Following a model like Texas’ novel S.B. 8 law, Republican Missouri Rep. Mary Coleman introduced legislation that would allow private citizens to sue anyone they knew had pursued an out-of-state abortion.22 

Additionally, 19 states required abortion pill providers be present for the administration of the first dose, making out-of-state “telemedicine” in these cases effectively illegal.23 Part of this provider requirement is often a guarantee of emergency care for women undergoing “self-managed” abortions—a surprising stipulation if they are in fact as safe as proponents make them out to be.24

However, international providers are untouchable by current federal regulation.25 One such provider, Aid Access, is based in Europe and provides medical abortions to Americans in states where life is protected.26 It’s run by a pro-abortion activist and was actively pursued by the Trump administration’s FDA for providing “unapproved” forms of the drugs used in medical abortion, but continues providing abortions-by-mail to this day.27 Aid Access claimed it received more than 10,000 requests for the abortion pill regimen in the week after the Dobbs decision.28 

International pills pose deep and dangerous risks for women who may not have consulted their own doctor who knows their medical history. An incorrect dose could lead to a hemorrhage, for example, or if a woman is Rh negative and doesn’t receive Rhogam at the time of her abortion, she could be putting herself at serious risk in future pregnancies. 

The work before us 

The future of the pro-life movement is growing much more complex. We are not merely fighting to protect women and children from a badly-reasoned 1973 Supreme Court precedent. We are fighting to defend them against international activists, other states, domestic activists, and even the current administration. Addressing the use or expansion of abortion pills and abortion trafficking, in all their forms, will become essential as we seek to protect human life in the womb in America. 

But there is another side to this picture. Legally protecting children in the womb alone fails to address the very real and pressing needs of vulnerable mothers all over the nation who are in desperate need of material, emotional, and social support. So—as voters, as members of the pro-life movement, and as Christians—we must rally around women, as well. 

We need to find a way to restore motherhood to its rightful status as a role to be celebrated, cherished, and protected. 

It will take charity, humility, and tireless work from all parts of the pro-life movement in order to do so: part legislative, part community-based, part spiritual ministry, and part prayer. 

But it is possible. And it is imperative that we work to realize it. Millions of children in the womb and their mothers depend upon us, now more than ever. The legacy of the pro-life movement hangs in the balance, and we cannot afford to lose momentum or clarity.

So work and pray. Pray in gratitude for each life rescued by existing abortion restrictions, many enacted by the Dobbs decision. And work fervently to rescue children in the many states where their lives are not yet protected or valued. The very fabric of our society depends upon it. 

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.