The Left’s promotion of sexual experimentation and autonomy is unconcerned with the vulnerable women and children it harms. That much is obvious. But there is also a disturbing “South Park conservativism” among the Right, warns Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Likely addressing certain GOP presidential candidates, Dr. Moore cautioned, “It does not simply matter whether people check a list as to whether or not they are pro-life or pro-choice. A pro-life witness cannot continue in an atmosphere of misogyny.”
Moore’s remarks came during the latest Capitol Conversation, a periodic ERLC-sponsored forum gathering in Washington, DC to explore current political disputes. The impetus for Thursday’s forum came just one day before, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the high-profile case Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. The case addresses two facets of the Texas law HB 2, which most notably requires abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
The forum featured a panel of legal and ethics experts to consider the weight of the oral arguments and the outcome’s implications for the future of the pro-life movement, especially now that SCOTUS is missing a beloved pro-life champion.
Reactions to the oral arguments
The forum was moderated by ERLC’s Director of Advocacy Steven Harris, who asked for the panelists to start by sharing their reactions to the arguments and atmosphere within the courtroom on the previous day.
“There was no outrage. That’s one thing that was missing in the courtroom,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony List. Pointing to ten pages of abortion clinic health and safety violations, Dannenfelser expressed her frustration that the women harmed at unsafe abortion facilities were “completely invisible” on the day of the oral arguments.
“I was struck by the intensity of the questions from the more liberal justices of the court, to the point where Scott Keller [Texas solicitor general], I think, had difficulty giving an answer before he had the next question,” recalled the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Associate General Counsel Michael Moses.
Director of Christian Legal Society Kim Colby said she was encouraged by how many times the justices repeatedly asked the abortion clinic attorney. “Where in the record is the evidence for what you are saying?” Colby explained that so often in the court of law and court of public opinion the pro-abortion side “gets away with saying a lot of things that aren’t true” or making claims “they can’t back up” with facts.
Common sense measures to protect women
While HB 2’s new health and safety standards do not abolish abortion, they will hopefully mitigate the life-threatening dangers women can suffer from abortion procedures.
“We agree completely that this case is about women’s rights,” Dannenfelser said, arguing this case is ultimately about correctly understanding women’s rights. “The fact that women are not being protected in clinic after clinic despite the exploitive relationship that these abortionists have with these women is a human rights violation if there is one in this case, in this reality.”
“What we’re really talking about here is not making it impossible to get abortions. Clinics are opening in this atmosphere,” clarified Duke, although he admitted that is his overall hope for the future. “Abortion is still available. It can be made a little safer at least for women.”
It is wrong for pro-life advocates to bear the blame for the closing of abortion facilities, continued Dannenfelser. “Why do we think these abortion clinics actually close so quickly when they heard these rules were coming down? They knew there was no possible way they could be clean and safe.”
Moving forward without Justice Scalia
“The dynamic of this case has changed dramatically as a result of Justice Scalia’s death. With eight justices there is certainly a possibility of a four-four split.” Moses explained to the audience that should a split happen, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s ruling upholding the legality of HB 2 would stand. A split would certainly be good for pro-life advocates, but a remand is a real possibility. A remand, explained Moses, means the case will be sent back to the lower court for further fact-finding and consideration.
Colby agreed, noting multiple justices, including pivotal Justice Kennedy, used the word “remand.”
“I don’t think [the abortion industry] want this remanded, because that simply makes it harder for them to keep their clinics open in the midst of this regulatory environment,” Duke added. “So I think that there is going to be continued pressure to get the court to go ahead and make a decision.”
“No matter where this court goes legally,” warned Moore. “There are some very disturbing cultural trends at work here where we can’t seem to come together.”