Friday, December 16, 2016

Ohio Right to Life torpedoes prolife bill, then lies about it

This past week two prolife bills passed the Ohio legislature and reached the governor's desk at the same time. One was a ban on abortion after 20 weeks; the other was a ban on abortion after a heartbeat is detected. Governor John Kasich promptly vetoed the more prolife of the two bills, while signing the bill that would protect far fewer unborn children.

Here's the shock: he did so at the behest of Ohio Right to Life, which later tried to cover its tracks.

Now, it should be pointed out that neither bill is what prolifers want. It isn't prolife to say that some babies should die because of an arbitrary delineation by law; whether that's birth, "viability" (a moving target), 20 weeks, 10 weeks, upon hearing a heartbeat, or anything else. The only rational and morally defensible law is one that protects all life once conceived, without exceptions. (This is why many committed prolifers during the recent election raised concerns about Donald Trump -- precisely because he supported keeping it legal to kill babies whose fathers committed rape or incest.)

Here's what the Columbus Dispatch reported:

But in a bitterly divided "pro-life" movement, Ohio Right to Life opposes the Heartbeat Bill as likely to be held as unconstitutional in federal courts and possibly detriment to other recently passed laws paring back abortion rights. The group asked Kasich to sign only the 20-week abortion ban.

Further, on its Facebook Page, an unidentified representative of Ohio Right to Life made this claim:

...the Heartbeat Bill hasn't saved any lives anywhere it's been tried. The Supreme Court actually rejected the opportunity to hear the Heartbeat Bill earlier this year. The only thing that has changed since that time is the tragic passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Supreme Court is stacked against us--and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already told reporters that she is itching for the opportunity to write an opinion worse than Roe. We don't want to give her that opportunity--an opportunity that could set the pro-life movement back decades and lead to more deaths.

Well, no.

As currently constituted, the U.S. Supreme Court has four justices that are entirely pro-legal-abortion: Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan; plus one who waffles, Kennedy. There are three who are presumed to be votes to overturn Roe: Chief Justice Roberts, Thomas and Alito. Assuming President-elect Trump keeps his promise when he names a Supreme Court justice (and his pick is confirmed), that breakdown becomes 4-1-4.

So the reasoning of Ohio RTL seems to be that the Heartbeat bill loses Kennedy, but maybe he'll go for the 20-week ban, and it'll be upheld. However, this ignores two things:

1. Neither bill will reach the U.S. Supreme Court directly. The first challenge would happen in federal district court. The next stop would be the federal appeals court; and only then -- if the U.S. Supreme Court chooses to take it up -- would the case come before the High Court.

But that doesn't happen automatically. At least four members of the Supreme Court must agree to hear a case. Is that likely?

Probably not. The Heartbeat bills enacted in North Dakota and Arkansas were both struck down at the district level, and those rulings were affirmed by the appeals court.

But couldn't the U.S. Supreme Court still take up the case? Sure, anything's possible, but why would they? Assuming it's true that Justice Ginsberg is itching to do it, that's only one vote for review; she needs three others. In theory, the other pro-abortion justices would want to revisit the current precedents, but realize -- whatever outcome they hope for must win the vote of...Justice Kennedy; and to the extent anything is clear about Kennedy's position on...anything, it is that he doesn't want to go where Ginsberg presumably wants to go.

But here's the main thing: if five justices of the Supreme Court are eager to liberalize abortion law, why does it matter which of these bills reaches the court? Are we really to suppose that there are five justices, ready to issue a new, expansive pro-abortion decision...only to be deflated because, golly, the wrong anti-abortion law reached them? That's ridiculous!

So the claim by the unnamed Ohio RTL operative is false. A five-vote majority on the Supreme Court, eager to strike down prolife measures, will strike down either of these bills; and write whatever decision it wants.

On the other hand, if circumstances allow, either bill might be upheld. These cases take several years to work through the courts. Who knows if there will be yet another new justice on the High Court? Who knows but that our prayers for the conversion of those justices who have distorted our laws to protect killing unborn children may not work?

Ohio RTL's tactics drew a lot of protest from other prolifers, which may explain the attempt to cover it's tracks. On the same Facebook post cited above, someone acting for the organization posted this:

Ohio Right to Life was neutral on the Heartbeat Bill and supportive of the one strategy that could swing Anthony Kennedy to a pro-life decision. The Heartbeat Bill hasn't saved any lives anywhere it's been tried. Sadly, the Supreme Court actually rejected the opportunity to hear the Heartbeat Bill earlier this year.

Sorry, but backing a veto is hardly "neutral"!

The too-clever tactics of Ohio Right to Life are bad enough; but not being forthright about their actions make it worse. I'm sorry to see it.


Kneeling Catholic said...

Thanks for posting this, Father.

I had feared Gov. Kasich, -given the fact that I detest him-, would stab the heartbeat bill backers in the back. He took his time about revealing his course. He has certainly earned more approbrium. Once a weasel, always a weasel!! [ ]

I think the fetal heartbeat begins in the 4th week? Kasich goes out of his way to keep abortion legal on out to the 20th week. How does he (and Ohio RTL) escape responsibility for the deaths of all those children between 4 and 20 weeks whose lives will be taken from them thanks to his craven betrayal?

rcg said...

It is a shame for the ORL to be so lazy. Has anyone tried to change the bill in light of the basis of the rulings?

Fr Martin Fox said...


I don't know. I doubt it; I think the point is to keep trying, in hopes of a differently-minded court.