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For Immediate Release

MISSOURI BAPTISTS DEFEND SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE AT SUPREME COURT

WASHINGTON –  Feb 4, 2016-  The Missouri Baptist Christian Life Commission filed a friend of the court brief Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving Texas abortion laws, the first case since 2007 that the Court has agreed to hear regarding statutory regulation of abortionists.

MBC CLC filed its brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which the Court has agreed to hear on March 2, 2016.   The brief addresses two provisions of the law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld: one that requires abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and one that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in the event a woman must seek hospital care due to post-abortion complications.

The last major abortion case heard by the court was Gonzalez v. Carhart, in which the court upheld the federal ban on partial birth abortions.  

A father-son team and a husband-wife team of Missouri attorneys filed the brief.  Missouri Baptist attorneys Michael and Jonathan Whitehead, from suburban Kansas City teamed with Joshua and Erin Hawley, both law professors at the Missouri University Law School in Columbia.  Mr. Hawley is on unpaid leave from Mizzou while he campaigns for the office of Missouri Attorney General. 

“The laws in Texas protect women’s health by imposing commonplace medical standards on abortionists and their surgical facilities, “said Michael Whitehead, general counsel for the MBC.   "The abortionists complain that these rules  burden their businesses and might result in fewer below-standard abortion clinics being available—as if that were a bad thing.”

The Baptist brief argues that common sense regulations like Texas HB 2 do not unduly burden women seeking health care during pregnancy.  Instead, the people of Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere, have a compelling governmental interest in regulating abortionists to protect women from medical treatment that is sub-standard.

"There is no right to offer sub-standard surgery, yet abortionists claim they're protecting women's rights by rejecting common sense medical standards," observed Jonathan Whitehead, a Harvard-trained lawyer who often works with his father on matters involving religious liberty and sanctity of human life.
  

“Abortionists claim their women customers may be inconvenienced if the clinics go out of business rather than complying with these health standards,” added Michael Whitehead. “But customer convenience and abortionist profits are not constitutional rights.   These state regulations are not an “undue burden” on women’s health care, as the Supreme Court has defined that doctrine.”

The MBC brief was joined by Christian Legal Society, a national association headquartered in the Washington DC area.  CLS counsel Kim Colby signed onto the brief.   Also joining the brief was the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, affiliated with Fowler Law School in Orange, CA,  and Prof. John Eastman. 

The brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the 5th Circuit’s ruling and affirm that the quality of medical care provided to women seeking abortion should not be any lower than the quality of care provided to women undergoing similar invasive procedures. The health and safety of all women should not be compromised for the financial health of the abortion industry.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade recognized an “important interest” in protecting a pregnant woman’s health and a “legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient.” In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court additionally wrote that “the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman.”  Michael Whitehead filed a friend-of-the court brief in that case as well, on behalf of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission (now ERLC), when he was its general counsel. 

In passing HB 2, Texas relied upon long-standing Supreme Court precedent that recognizes the states’ constitutional authority to regulate abortion and their strong interests in doing so, especially with regard to the health and safety of women. One of those precedents came from a Missouri case, which is highlighted in the MBC brief.  In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, (1989), the Supreme Court addressed a series of Missouri regulations ranging from mandatory “viability” medical examinations to prohibitions on the use of public employees and facilities to perform or assist abortions not necessary to save the mother’s life. A majority of the Supreme Court upheld the restrictions at issue, with a plurality of the justices signaling either their tacit or explicit belief that Roe should be overruled.

In an earlier release by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, President Russell Moore said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that the abortion rights lobby fights legislation that creates accountability for surgeons and clinics. The abortion industry has always operated at the expense of women and families.

“My prayer is that the Supreme Court will act in defense of the lives of women and the unborn in empowering states to cut through the political armor of the abortion industry and keep it accountable to the public,” Moore said.

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