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Archive for the ‘Court rulings’ Category

abortion lawToday, the Iowa state Supreme Court by a 6-0 vote (with one abstention) ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood’s “webcam” abortion protocol. In so doing, the Court overturned a lower court ruling and their own state medical board.

In this “innovation” (meant to maneuver around a dwindling supply of physicians wanting to perform abortions) pregnant women can obtain chemical abortion drugs without an “in-person” contact with a licensed physician.

The Iowa Supreme Court can only be commended for not claiming to “discover” a right to abortion in the state Constitution–a right that Planned Parenthood argued existed and was even broader than the abortion right created by Roe.

But the pro-abortion bent of this court is clear, in reaching its conclusion that a physician onsite exam created an “undue burden” (which, as a federal “standard” has been variously interpreted since 1992 to practically the breaking point). The Court even cited some oft-repeated abortion industry talking points about the burden of returning for medical checkups, including that repeat trips can aggravate domestic abuse for some women!

The Iowa Solicitor General pressed the point that Planned Parenthood’s own survey could not prove that women’s “access” to abortion was improved after introduction of the webcam protocol.

The Court ruled that, “based on 2013 medical standards and practices in Iowa,” the overturned law supplies only “minimal medical justification.” However, what the Iowa state lawyers wrote on behalf of the  medical board was:

“Abortion-inducing drugs are not over the counter medications. Unless and until such a time when abortion-inducing drugs are no longer required to be dispensed by physicians, physicians must do so within the confines of the standard of care. The Board of Medicine determined the standard of care requires a physical examination prior to dispensing abortion-inducing drugs.”

19 states have passed anti-webcam laws; 15 are in effect, two go into effect in July and Iowa’s has now been overturned.

Kansas’ anti-webcam provision from 2011 is under injunction, but the 2015 legislature enacted a clarification on medical emergencies, now in effect, aimed at getting the injunction removed. (Read more here.)

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baby with dollarsThe periodic complaint/report on money spent to defend pro-life laws in Kansas was posted by the Associated Press Tuesday, part of the continuing mainstream media’s ‘framing’ that there are too many new pro-life laws with big legal price tags.

The first story was headed, “$1.2 million paid in attorney fees to defend anti-abortion laws.”

“To defend” seems like a hopeless challenge, doesn’t it? The truth is, the state has won all lawsuits concluded so far, as well as additional concessions in ongoing litigation!

Since not even one legal victory was mentioned in the story, I requested a correction. Kansans for Life asserted that the public has little interest in the names of the law firms, but rather deserves at least a hint of the results of their tax expenditures. A.P.’s updated story was reworded slightly to include that two laws had been “successfully defended.”

But beyond the frustrations of incomplete and inaccurate mainstream media reporting about abortion, it’s important to understand the context of those legal fees and why pro-lifers should not– and do not– fear passing sound laws.

Since his inauguration in January 2011, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed nine pro-life laws and four state budgets that include pro-life provisions. Subsequently, abortion interests have filed 10 legal challenges to three laws and one budget provision but Kansas is the big winner. Let’s examine the lawsuits in three segments.

KANSAS’ LEGAL WINS

1. Of the nearly $1.2 million total over four years’ time, $425,000 was expended opposing Planned Parenthood of Kansas-Mid Missouri. Kansas’ position prevailed in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals after some very bad examples of judicial activism in the lower court. This necessitated high-powered legal skills.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp

Upheld was the Huelskamp-Kinzer provision to the annual Kansas budget. Instead of going to Planned Parenthood, nearly $400,000 in annual federal Title X family planning is now designated as prioritized to full-service public clinics and hospitals that serve the patients from infants through the aged, instead of going to the special interest businesses.

On balance, the cost was a good investment, when considering the legal fee is nearly recouped in one year’s time, and then every year after when the Title X money is renewed.  Not to mention that tax money is dedicated to true health care, not abortion referrals.

KFL President Lance Kinzer

KFL President Lance Kinzer, former House Judiciary chair

2. In 2011, Kansas passed a law preventing private healthcare dollars from automatically paying for elective abortions. To secure that victory cost $149,000 in legal fees. The plaintiffs (one a Planned Parenthood employee and one a N.O.W. lobbyist) dropped their suit in May 2012, before the trial began.

It’s hard to estimate overall cost benefits in this one, but clearly the win goes to employers who don’t have to compromise their conscience by providing employee insurance that would be used for abortions, and lessening the amount available to cover bona fide employee medical needs. The victory also helps rebut activists’ demand that abortion be “mainstreamed” into medicine.

3. The remaining $620,000 of the $1.2 million in legal expenses has been used to deal with a variety of attempted injunctions and lawsuits against two laws (a clinic licensure law and an “omnibus” law covering a variety of restrictions).

During extensive and ongoing negotiations, Kansas’ extremely knowledgeable attorneys forced the abortion team to abandon some of their initial challenges, including opposition to informed consent materials about the humanity and pain-capability of the unborn.

These are important concessions that contribute to the overall national field of abortion litigation. Once a claim is rescinded in one court, it carries possible precedential weight in other courts.

In 2011, Kansas enacted a long-sought abortion clinic law initiating state licensure, inspection, and injury reporting. It also required abortionists to have local hospital privileges and banned “webcam” abortions.

Two Kansas City-area abortion clinics sued in federal court. When they lost their bid for a temporary injunction in federal court, they tried to charge Kansas $220,000 for 6 weeks’ legal work! (That makes the 3 year fee of $425,000 in item #1 look like a steal by comparison!) But Kansas’ defense lawyers prevailed and the abortion attorneys did not get that money.

Unfortunately, an activist state court did block the licensure law on behalf of the abortion father-daughter duo doing business as the Center for Women’s Health. After a long stall, the lawsuit against the licensure law is now moving on a fast track. The state of Kansas has asked the judge to rule out three claims of equal protection infringement, as questions of law.

In 2013, Kansas passed the Pro-Life Protections Act which removed tax advantages for abortionists, updated informed consent statutes and initiated a ban on sex-selection abortions. The same abortionist duo suing the licensure law also sued this law, and secured a temporary injunction on emergency and weblink provisions. Planned Parenthood also worked to get an injunction in federal court on the weblink requirement.

Kansas prevailed in getting both injunctions dissolved, forcing all clinics to post a link to state materials about gestation. Our talented defense lawyers won the first claim against the suit challenging the entire Pro-Life Protections law and further litigation is proceeding in district court.

Legal victories come at some cost, but what price is there for saving unborn children?

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Justice Alito

Justice Alito

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld conscience protection for certain businesses to refuse to provide abortifacient drugs and devices through employee insurance, as mandated by an HHS rule under Obamacare.

The Hobby Lobby ruling applies narrowly to “closely held corporations,” which the IRS defines as firms where half of the value of the corporation is held by five or fewer individuals. The Obama administration had argued that ‘for-profit’ corporations couldn’t have religious beliefs, but the Court disagreed, finding that,

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations…  protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”

The Court also noted that the Evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Products (both “closely held corporations”) professed “sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point.”

Specifically, the Hobby Lobby lawsuit sought an exemption to providing 4 of the listed 20 forms of contraception that HHS mandates under “preventive services.”

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

KANSAS PROTECTIVE LAWS
Of note to Kansas pro-lifers is that the Hobby Lobby majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Alito’s appointment to the Court would not have occurred had not our governor, then-U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, led the resistance to President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor had provided the fifth vote in the 2000 Stenberg decision striking down a Nebraska partial birth abortion law but Alito became the fifth vote to uphold the federal partial birth abortion ban in 2007.

The backdrop of the Obama administration’s aggressive abortion agenda further incentivized Kansas to pass particular pro-life laws, signed by pro-life Gov. Brownback, elected in 2010.

After the passage of Obamacare that included abortion coverage, Kansas enacted laws in 2011 to prevent abortion coverage in any future Kansas health exchange and in all private health insurance plans unless a separate abortion ‘rider’ is purchased.

In the wake of the HHS mandate and an increase in contraceptive promotion, Kansas medical professionals faced a growing ethical problem: some pills and devices marketed as preventing pregnancy also disrupt the implantation of the human embryo—called a post-fertilization abortifacient effect.

Because Kansas’ abortion statute defines legal contraception as, “the use of any drug or device that inhibits or prevents ovulation, fertilization or implantation of an embryo,” in 2012, Kansas passed conscience protection for medical professionals and facilities: “No person shall be required to perform, refer for, or participate in medical procedures or in the prescription or administration of any device or drug which result in the termination of a pregnancy or an effect of which the person reasonably believes may result in the termination of a pregnancy.”

In 2013, Kansas passed further barriers to government promotion of abortion in healthcare in the Pro-Life Protections Act, which

  • declares that human life begins at fertilization and that Kansas public policy will promote and protect the interests of unborn children and their parents;
  • prevents state agencies from discriminating against individuals or health care institutions that do not provide, pay for, or refer for abortions;
  • more effectively bans abortion performance and abortionist-training at the tax-funded KUMed Center.

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Hobby Lobby, I stand with (2)The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld, by a 5-4 majority, the right of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions against abortion.

The decision in the Sebelius (now Burwell) v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ruling, is here, with legal comment here.

Justice Samuel Alito authored the majority opinion, declaring that the ‘HHS contraception mandate’ (a regulation issued under Obamacare) substantially burdens the Constitutionally-protected free exercise of religion.

The essence of this ruling is that the government may not create an artifice of a health mandate to force citizens to underwrite and promote abortion.

Although regularly termed as litigation against the HHS contraceptive mandate, Hobby Lobby (and other businesses) filed suit specifically in objection to being forced to provide some contraceptives—those that act to abort human embryos—under the HHS mandate.

Specifically, they objected to 2 drugs and 2 IUD devices, labeled as contraceptive, that actually can prevent implantation of the already-formed human embryo into the womb for gestation, also called a ‘post-fertilization abortifacient function’. (Read a thorough analysis of contraceptives from pro-life OB/GYN, Donna Harrison here.)

Furthermore, when evaluating the governmental interference with religion, the Court found that the HHS mandate violates the “least restrictive means” test of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA demands that interference with religious freedom must be based on a compelling governmental interest, and be executed in the least restrictive means needed. Without ruling whether the goal of insurance provision of contraception is really a compelling governmental interest, the Court ruled that the HHS mandate, as a means of achieving that goal, is out of bounds.

The Court affirmed that freedom of religious expression is not limited to a person in his/her private, individual capacity, but –as set out in RFRA — extends to him/her when acting as a corporation, whether for-profit or non-profit.

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PPKMM logo (2)Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid-Missouri is the only one of Kansas’ four abortion clinics not in compliance with a state weblink requirement that went into effect April 24.

PPKMM had unsuccessfully sued last year to block a nearly identical abortion informed consent provision.

The 2013 Pro-Life Protections Act had required Kansas abortion business to place –on their website homepage– a one-click link to materials prepared by the Kansas Health Department identified as “objective, nonjudgmental, scientifically accurate.”

Effective April 24, a new law, Senate Bill 54, continues the weblink mandate but trimmed the four word identifier from the tagline. The required tagline now reads:

“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment maintains a website containing information about the development of the unborn child, as well as video of sonogram images of the unborn child at various stages of development. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website can be reached by clicking here.www.womansrighttoknow.org

Eleven months ago, PPKMM filed suit in the court of federal Judge Kathyrn Vratil. They maintained that the requirement for a live link with tagline was “compelled speech” that violated the First Amendment and asked for an injunction.

Judge Vratil did not issue the injunction, noting the weblink had been already enjoined in state court for another abortion business, the Center for Women’s Health. Vratil ordered that she be apprised of any action involving the state injunction.

However that state court injunction was officially dissolved last Friday, and PPKMM knew it was in the works with the signing of Senate Bill 54 last month.

PPKMM should have been prepared to comply or petition for a new injunction—and they have done neither, as of press time today, Wednesday. Their website is here.

Attorneys for the Kansas Attorney General had defended the weblink as a regulation of commercial speech, which courts require to be proportionate to the state interests it advances. The “free speech” of the abortionist is still allowed free reign to critique, or even mock the link, which two did.

Here are two current examples of abortionist-added editorial content that immediately precede the weblink tagline.

The Aid for Women clinic—notorious for its churlish postings on their abortion clinic website, prefaces the weblink with this:

We are being forced by Republicans to use our website resources to say untruthful things about the State’s proLife website in hopes that you will visit their website and change your mind away from abortion. We must have this signage or go to jail. Republicans also don’t believe that rape causes pregnancy, nor ever too many children. They are stupid. Let’s vote them out of office. However, here goes..

The Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park prefaces the weblink with this:

WE ARE REQUIRED BY THE STATE OF KANSAS TO SAY THIS, WHICH DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT CURRENT MEDICAL OPINION; OR, OUR OPINION:

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abortion not health care (2) The Associated Press reported late Friday that the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has withdrawn their failing lawsuit against a 2011 Kansas law which bars private health care insurance from covering elective abortions. The ACLU cannot file these claims again or appeal the earlier court rulings.

Under the law– like the court-approved law operating in Missouri and (de facto) in eastern Kansas for over two decades– abortions other than to save the mother’s life would not be covered unless individuals had separately  purchased “riders”. The law was sought as a “conscience” protection by

  1. employers who did not want to be forced to offer policies with abortion coverage, and
  2. employees who objected to having their health care dollars pooled into plans that paid out for abortions.

The plaintiffs were women (primarily two former Kansas abortion lobbyists) claiming they lost their abortion coverage under the new law and that it showed gender discrimination.  It was rough going for the ACLU side from the start: they did not merit an injunction, a variety of their legal claims were advanced and then scrapped, and they were told more than once that their claims “lacked evidence.”

On Jan. 7, 2013, federal Judge Julie Robinson soundly rejected the ACLU motion for a bench ruling instead of a trial, responding that, as a matter of law, the ACLU failed to provide any evidence that the Legislature’s predominant motivation in passing the law was to make it more difficult to get abortions.

Judge Robinson wrote, “Whether one agrees or disagrees with [the State’s] asserted cost and/or “freedom of conscience” rationale, there is nothing in the record to show that this was not the legislature’s purpose in adopting the law. Moreover, the claimed interests are rational ones.”

Abortion supporters –who sued three of Kansas’ 2011 pro-life measures– are fond of complaining that too much money has been spent by the state on defense litigation. They argue that these pro-life laws were only sued because they are “wrong,” but in this case, the court has recognized that it was the ACLU wasting taxpayer money.

Abortion is always the taking of an innocent human life; and the upholding of  this law, which stops society from “normalizing” and mainstreaming abortion as health care, is a victory.

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A.G. Schmidt

Kansas pro-lifers got good news from a federal court May 18th: two Kansas city-area abortion clinics will have to pay their own attorney fees of over $220 thousand dollars without Kansas’ taxpayer reimbursement. Judge Carlos Marguia ruled the clinics had not “prevailed on the merits,” and thus did not qualify for state reimbursement.

Attorneys from the Center for Women’s Health (CWH) and Aid for Women (AFW) had been petitioning for state payment of their attorney fees incurred when the clinics filed to halt both the new state abortion facility licensure law and the provisional clinic regulations written by the Kansas health department (KDHE).

The clinics had sought a permanent injunction in a rushed proceeding July 1, 2011 in front of federal Judge Murguia, claiming irreparable harm would ensue if the law went into effect that day. Judge Murguia awarded only a temporary injunction, largely in order to “maintain the status quo” while issues moved forward.

In November 2011, KDHE issued permanent abortion facility regulations, using a slightly modified version of the original set. Both clinics dropped the federal lawsuit, but the injunction was retained and the lawsuit was refiled in state court by only one clinic CWH (the business of abortionists Herb Hodes and Traci Nauser).

The office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt had filed motions in opposition to paying all the abortion attorneys involved, arguing they were not entitled because such reimbursement is available for “claimants who had prevailed on the merits” in civil rights cases.  [Yes, this is a civil rights case because (hold your groans) one of the claims is that clinic regulation violates a woman’s civil right to obtain an abortion.]

Beyond ineligibility for reimbursement, the Attorney General claimed national and local abortion attorneys had inflated billable hours and wage rates to make a “windfall” off of Kansas taxpayers.  The irony is evident: abortion advocates have been complaining that the defense of pro-life laws is a wasteful depletion of the treasury, and then their own attorneys try to rip-off that same treasury!

Thankfully, that won’t happen at this juncture, due to the litigators working for the AG office.

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