The Last Five Times the Supreme Court Considered Abortion, It Went Pro-Life

National   |   Josh Shepherd   |   Sep 23, 2014   |   3:26PM   |   Washington, DC

With a new Supreme Court term set to begin on October 6 and national mid-term elections coming on November 4, abortion continues to be a hotly contested issue in American public policy. 

Unfortunately, the abortion policies supported in U.S. laws — the taking of a human life, for any reason, at any point in the pre-born baby’s 40 weeks of development — are among the most radical worldwide.

Only North Korea, China and Canada follow similar policies, lacking substantial protections for a woman’s safety in this dangerous, scarring procedure.

Supreme Court Justices of the United States

The U.S. Supreme Court has largely set abortion policies in America, according to how precedent has proceeded since 1973. However, the Supreme Court tends to take into account the American public’s perception of policy issues in its rulings.

“Public sentiment is everything,” President Abraham Lincoln once said. “With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.”

Gallup polling clearly indicates how the abortion issue has shifted in recent years. Americans increasingly identify as pro-life — with a large majority of 71% favoring at least some restrictions on abortion.

Furthermore, leaders elected at the state level in recent years are following through on their promises to uphold and strengthen a culture of life. As Vox notes, ”States enacted 205 abortion restrictions between 2010 and 2013, more than the total number passed in the prior decade.”

These indicators of cultural shift partly explain what few have considered — the last five times the Supreme Court considered abortion policy, it ruled in favor of life:

5. Gonzales v. Carhart
Decided April 18, 2007

Following the enactment of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, Dr. Leroy Carhart and other abortionists sued to continue to perform the procedure — defined in the law as “[when] the entire baby’s head is outside the body of the mother… [and a] person [knowingly] kills the partially delivered infant.”

The Supreme Court held that the law was Constitutional and not an “undue burden” as some claimed. Five years following the ruling, Alliance Defending Freedom used Guttmacher Institute’s own numbers to estimate that over 10,000 pre-born babies may have been saved due to this policy shift.

Baby High FivePhoto: Alexandre Duarte

4. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott
Court Order Given November 19, 2013

With support from a large bipartisan majority of Texas legislators, HB 2 (also known as Texas Senate Bill 5) was signed into law on July 18, 2013. By November, the question of the state law’s constitutionality was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the emergency appeal to halt the Texas law, finding Planned Parenthood did not “[assert] that the law is even probably unconstitutional.” Safety regulations in the Texas law — requiring abortion centers to follow surgical clinic standards, banning dangerous “telemed” abortions, and ensuring abortion providers are properly licensed — have since been enacted in other states. Last fall, Bound4LIFE team members traveled to Texas in a targeted prayer effort that coincided with legal action on this case.

3. Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius
Court Order Given January 24, 2014

This past January, Justice Sonia Sotomayor faced an emergency appeal from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Under Obamacare, would a group of Catholic nuns who perform charity work in a non-church capacity be forced to pay for contraceptives in their insurance plan? Justice Sotomayor decided in favor of Little Sisters of the Poor, granting them an injunction against the Obama Administration’s mandate.

Following the Hobby Lobby ruling (see below) pertaining to family-owned for-profit businesses, many court observers assumed the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) would drop its case against this non-profit charity group. Instead, they doubled down.

“Merely offering the Little Sisters a different way to violate their religion does not ease their conscience,” said their counsel Adele Keim after reviewing DOJ’s revised September 8 lawsuit against the nuns.

Little Sisters of the Poor
Little Sisters of the Poor
in ministry (courtesy of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)

2. McCullen v. Coakley
Decided June 26, 2014

In this case brought against 77 year-old sidewalk counselor Eleanor McCullen, she won the right to speak up freely to women entering abortion centers in Massachusetts.

Only weeks after the ruling, however, Massachusetts passed a severe new law that reinstates “buffer zone” requirements. Today, even a peaceful grandmother like McCullen who distributes literature within 25 feet of an abortion center’s entrance could face steep penalties — fines that reach up to a whopping $50,000 and up to 5 years in jail.

1. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Decided June 30, 2014

In this much-discussed court case, Hobby Lobby — a national arts-and-crafts chain which employs over 16,000 Americans — successfully defended its policy of not covering in employee insurance plans four drugs and devices that can end the life of a pre-born baby.

Following months of focused prayer at the Supreme Court, Bound4LIFE team members joined the crowds outside the court who hailed the decision as a victory for life and liberty. Legislation in Congress intended to reverse the decision was voted down in an initial vote of the U.S. Senate on July 16.

Adele Keim / The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Counsel Adele Keim and the Becket Fund Legal Team, Following Hobby Lobby Victory at the Supreme Court

As a new Supreme Court term begins on October 6, many speculate at least one case concerning abortion policy will be on the docket.

Law professor Stephen Wermiel, in a SCOTUS Blog analysis entitled “Abortion’s time is coming,” recently stated: “The status and scope of the right to abortion may hang in the balance… it is only a matter of time before the Court confronts another major milestone in the fight over abortion.”

Advancing a culture of life is a matter for prayer and action. Pray for the nine justices serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, for their wisdom in choosing, deliberating and deciding court cases that reverberate in every city in America — and beyond.

LifeNews Note: Josh M. Shepherd has served in communications/marketing roles for the past 10 years at Focus on the Family and The Heritage Foundation. Reprinted with permission from Bound4LIFE.