More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there is a constitutional right for women to have an abortion. Since that time, approximately 60 million abortions have taken place, and the term “pro-choice” has dominated the landscape. Modest restrictive measures on abortion, such as parental notification for minors or bans when babies can survive outside the womb, are opposed by the abortion industry and its proponents. They loudly proclaim that such measures restrict a woman’s right to choose.
Yet when mothers want to exercise their right to choose life through nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) nationwide, it is the abortion industry that is using government to restrict options for women.
Unlike abortion clinics, pro-life PRCs encourage and empower women to keep their children. Medical services such as ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy, STI testing and treatment, and referrals for prenatal care are provided by over 1,100 PRCs. Material assistance — pre-birth and post-birth — is provided as are housing, education, and job assistance. Counseling by caring, unpaid volunteers dominates the experiences of these usually poor women, who simply want a way to help their child enter this world.
For mothers who are unable or unwilling to raise their child, 250 pro-life centers nationwide offer adoption as an alternative solution. These centers offer a choice to mothers that is ignored by Planned Parenthood, which in 2014 provided more than 327,000 abortions — and just 2,024 adoption referrals.
Rather than embrace the right of mothers to choose life, Planned Parenthood and its allies have aggressively pursued legislation to severely restrict and even close down the operations of pro-life pregnancy centers. Courts have defeated such efforts across the country, but in California an anti-choice alliance with Governor Jerry Brown has found a government-enforced formula to eliminate options for pregnant women.
In the fall of 2015, Brown signed into law a measure that requires pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to post a sign in their waiting areas that provides information to all patients on how they may obtain a state-funded abortion. The information must include a phone number to call to get further information.
This bill clearly violates the constitutional rights of the PRCs. It compels speech that is contrary to their deeply held principles and, as such, violates their First Amendment rights. In addition, the law clearly forces those who work at prolife centers to violate religious convictions which prohibit them from facilitating the act of abortion.
The law has been challenged in federal court, and the U.S. Congress has taken up the charge to protect conscience rights by enforcing the Weldon Amendment, a federal law that California is clearly and knowingly violating.
In addition to violating current law and Supreme Court precedence, Governor Brown’s alliance with the abortion industry ignores the clear intentions of America’s Founders to protect the unborn. As outlined in my new book, Created Equal, the foundation for our Constitution is the Declaration of Independence, which declares that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with an unalienable right to life. Although these words were penned by Thomas Jefferson, they have their foundation in the writings of William Blackstone, an English jurist and the author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England.
Blackstone specifically wrote that the legal, God-given right to life begins in the womb. Jefferson, as a lawyer, studied these commentaries, which formed the foundation of the common law in England and the colonies. Hence, our Constitution – which was adopted to implement the principles of the Declaration of Independence – simply cannot be interpreted to allow for the modern-day slaughter of the unborn through abortion.
In a rational world, “pro-choice” should mean that a mother and her baby have options – including the ability to not be pressured or manipulated into abortion. The abortion industry has co-opted this expression, however, twisting the ultimate life-affirming option and turning it into an illegal, anti-women rallying cry for killing unborn children.
Thomas A. Glessner is an attorney and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a national legal nework of more than 1,300 prolife pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics. He is also the author of the new book Created Equal: Reflections on the Inalienable Right to Life.