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Religious Tolerance logo

Part 1

Abortion access: 2017-JAN to MAR

"Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection"
act is introduced. "Mexico City Policy"
is restored. Judge Neil Gorsuch is
nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2017-JAN-03: The federal "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" is introduced into the House:

Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced this bill as H.R.36. If it is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, it will prohibit all abortions performed after 20 weeks following conception, except under very limited circumstances. The stated rationale by the authors of the bill is the belief that the a fetus 20 weeks or older following conception can feel pain. More details.

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2017-JAN-23: President Trump restores the U.S. "Mexico City Policy" on abortion:

The Mexico City Policy was created by former president Ronald Reagan in 1984. It states that the federal government cannot fund any foreign non-government organization (NG)) that performs abortion or promotes abortions as a method of family planning. Within a day or so of their inauguration, Presidents Bill Clinton overturned the policy om 1993: George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001; Barack Obama oveturned it in 2009; Donald Trump reinstated it on 2017-JAN-23.

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2017-MAR: Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, stated that he accepts Roe v. Wade:

Roe v. Wade is a lawsuit formally called Roe Et Al. v. Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County. During 1973, the High Court's ruling in that case made early abortions freely available to women upon request throughout the U.S. Abortions performed later in pregnancy became available subject to state laws that increased restrictions based on when in pregnancy they were to be performed. The pro-life movement in the U.S. has been trying to overrule this decision for decades without success.

On MAR-21, during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate for the post of Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch commented that if President Trump had asked him to vote in favor of repealing Roe v. Wade that he would have:

"... walked out the door. That’s not what judges do. They don’t do it at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and they should not do it at this end either, respectfully." 2

The phrase to "that end of Pennsylvania Avenue" refers to the location of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington, DC. This is the normal residence of the President of the United States.

On Mar-22, Judge Gorsuch said that he accepts Roe v. Wade to be the "law of the land."

However, in his book titled: "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia." 3 Gorsuch wrote that:

"... the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."

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Webmaster's note:

Unfortunately, the term "human life" is ambiguous. Some use it to refer to the status of a zygote. That is a just-fertilized ovum after having gone through the process of conception. It is alive, and contains human DNA; therefore it is logical to call it a form of human life. Others use the same term to refer to a human person: that is, a form of human life which is also a human person, a human being.

There is no consensus on when during pregnancy human life becomes human person. Some believe it happens at conception. Others believe that it happens when the maturing fetus' higher brain functions first turn on and the fetus become sentient. Still others, with Biblical citations, say that it happens when the newborn takes its first breath. Some aboriginal tribes believe that human life becomes a human person when the newborn is given a name at a naming ritual. There are other beliefs as well. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any dialogue to reach a consensus.

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The following exchange occurred between Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judge Gorsuch concerning that passage in the latter's book:

  • Durbin: "How could you square that statement with legal abortion?"

  • Gorsuch: "As the book explains, the Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment and the book explains that."

  • Durbin: "Do you accept that [ruling by the court]?"

  • Gorsuch: "I accept the law of the land, senator, yes."

Kate Scanlon, writing for The Blaze, said:

"Trump pledged to appoint a 'pro-life' justice to the court in an effort to woo pro-life voters skeptical about his candidacy. Though Gorsuch has never ruled on abortion, pro-life groups have largely supported Trump’s selection while pro-choice groups have opposed it." 4

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Judicial philosophies held by the Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court:

The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, like the general U.S. population, are profoundly divided on how to interpret the U.S. Constitution:

  • "Strict Constructionalist" is an umbrella term that refers to Justices who view the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, and its amendments, as fixed at the time that they were written. They are to be interpreted today as the authors originally intended them to mean.

  • More liberal justices view the Constitution as a living document. Its contents are to be reinterpreted in accordance with changes in the culture that have occurred since it was written.

    For an example of a gradual shift in public opinion, consider same-gender sexual behaviors by persons with a homosexual orientation. Most Christians during the colonial era interpreted the Bible as requiring the death penalty for those found guilty of same-gender sexual behavior. Laws in all of the original 13 colonies called for execution of sexually active male couples, typically those over 14 years-of-age. For a brief interval, laws in New Haven colony also called for the execution of sexually active female couples. 5

    However, acceptance of minority sexual orientations has increased in the approximately two and a half centuries since the U.S. constitution was written.
    • During the 1950's, Evelyn Hooker studied a group of persons with a homosexual orientation and showed that they were not mentally ill.
    • In 1973 the American Psychriatric Association’s Nomenclature Task Force recommended that homosexuality be declared a normal sexual orientation for a minority of persons. That was ratified by a vote of the APA membership in 1974. That year, the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-II) no longer listed homosexuality as a mental illness.
    • During 2003, in a case Lawrence v. Texas, five liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, a majority, voted decriminalized private same-gender sexual behavior in Texas and in the remaining 12 states where it was still a criminal offense.
    • During 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage -- marriage by two women or two men.
    • Starting in 2008, national public opinion polls showed that same-gender sexual behavior is viewed as morally acceptable by a majority of U.S. adults. 6
    • In 2011, a majority of U.S. adults approved of gay marriage
    • In mid-2015, the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples access to marriage in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four out of five territories.
    • By mid-2016, 61% of adults favored allowing same-sex committed couples to marry. 7

Thomas Jefferson, one of the most famous and influential founders of the U.S., appears to have taken a liberal point of view concerning constitutions. He wrote in 1789:

""Every constitution, ... and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right." 8

  • However, when a "strict constructionalist" Justice on the High Court interprets the U.S. Constitution, she or he will attempt to adopt the intent, thought processes, and values of the document's authors. The U.S. Constitution was drafted during the Summer of 1787 and ratified in mid 1788 CE. During the colonial era and up until the early 1800's, abortion was considered a crime throughout the entire United States. In most cases, if the abortion was performed prior to quickening -- before the woman felt the fetus moving -- it was considered a misdemeanor. After quickening it was a felony.

  • When a Justice who views the Constitution as a living, evolving document is considering an abortion-related case, she or he will include how Americans view abortion today, and probably include the findings of medical science in recent centuries.

All judges nominated to the High Court need to be intelligent, thoughtful, experienced, and very knowledgeable in legal matters. However, since Justices can be expected to be involved in controversial topics like abortion access, equal rights for the LGBT community including transgender persons, physician assisted dying, etc. then their judicial philosophy is an important consideration. Among liberals, it might be the most important consideration.

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This topic is continued in the next essay, Part 2.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Kate Scanlon, "Trump reinstates ‘Mexico City policy’ on abortion," The Blaze, 2017-JAN-23, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  2. Kate Scanlon, "Gorsuch says he would have had a very blunt answer if Trump had asked him to repeal Roe v. Wade," The Blaze, 2017-MAR-21, at: http://www.theblaze.com/

  3. book cover Neil M. Gorsuch, "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia," Princeton University Press (2009). The book was given a rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars, probably because of its controversial topic. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. Kate Scanlon, "Gorsuch: ‘I accept [Roe v. Wade as the] law of the land’," The Blaze, 2017-MAR-23, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  5. Louis Crompton, "Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America," University of Nebraska, 1976-JAN-01, at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/englishfacpubs/60/
  6. Lydia Saad, "U.S. Acceptance of Gay/Lesbian Relations Is the New Normal," Gallup, 2012-MAY-14, at: http://www.gallup.com/
  7. "President Trump restores pro-life Mexico City Policy," Catholic News Agency, 2017-JAN-23, at: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2017-MAR-23
Latest update : 2017-OCT-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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