Louisiana, Before the Judgment Seat

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In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, there is a petition for “a good defense before the awesome judgment seat of God.” I often find that abortion flashes through my mind at that prayer. Given the outrageous atrocity that abortion is in the free world, the free people should expect to answer for it when the Judge takes His seat. Do we have a good defense? What did we do? What could we have done? An answer awaits us, yet again, in November. And though the Supreme Court judges, yet again, are failing in the cause of truth, there is still hope for a reversal.

On June 29, the Supreme Court struck down The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act by a narrow margin. This law would have required abortion clinics to follow the same standards of health and safety as mandated for hospital facilities, and that physicians who perform abortions hold admitting privileges at local hospitals. For all intents and purposes, the law would have closed every clinic in the state.

Four years ago, a similar law was passed in Texas. It would have closed all but about ten abortion clinics in the state, as most do not meet the health and safety standards for a surgical procedure. The 2016 Texas law was also overturned by the Supreme Court, setting the very precedent that guided the justices’ decision for Louisiana, with Chief Justice John Roberts swinging with the liberal bloc in the case.

In a statement issued by the White House, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said:

 

In an unfortunate ruling today, the Supreme Court devalued both the health of mothers and the lives of unborn children by gutting Louisiana’s policy that required all abortion procedures be performed by individuals with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. States have legitimate interests in regulating any medical procedure—including abortions—to protect patient safety. Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected Justices have intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of State governments by imposing their own policy preference in favor of abortion to override legitimate abortion safety regulations.

At least President Trump’s two nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were on the right side of the argument.

Like so many Americans four years ago, one of the main reasons (if not the reason) I voted for Donald Trump was because of his promise to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia’s seat was empty, and the Senate had blocked President Obama’s nod to Merrick Garland. It was a moment of tremendous import on the moral issue of our day and age—abortion.

All in all, President Trump has kept his word as a pro-life president—though recent betrayals by Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have shaken the faith of his base.

This ruling is another setback to the pro-life movement in America, and it only makes the election loom larger. With a strong Supreme Court nominee in the wings in Amy Coney Barrett, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg tottering on the edge of the grave (Stephen Breyer is no spring chicken either), it is even more imperative that the pro-life cause see another judge nominated that will defend the unborn from the bench.

The same motive so many had in voting for Trump in the first place will exist again in full force—though with even higher stakes, given the real chance of securing a conservative majority for the Supreme Court in a second term.

The elephant in the room is that the elephant has left the room—or transitioned into a RINO. Voting Republican hasn’t advanced the conservative agenda very far afield in recent years. The frustration over gridlock in Congress when the GOP controlled both House and Senate still rankles, and the conservative Supreme Court justices have recently sided with the liberals regarding the LGBTQ revolution and illegal immigration.

Demoralizing as it is, it is hard to counter the argument that it is better to vote Republican instead of strengthening the Democratic vote by voting for independents, third parties, or not at all. Even though Republicans may attack the pro-life, conservative movement accidentally from the inside, one thing we can be sure of, the Democrats will attack it purposefully from the outside. All Catholic citizens can do is what is most calculated toward the good, and be a voice for that good both in public and in prayer.

One cause for hope in the abortion debate is John Roberts’s finger-wagging footnote to the June ruling indicating that, though he sides with the decision to treat the Louisiana law just like the Texas law, there is that about abortion which he believes is not up to the courts to decide—a dissent that goes all the way back to 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey when Roe v. Wade was upheld:

In this context, courts applying a balancing test would be asked in essence to weigh the State’s interests in “protecting the potentiality of human life” and the health of the woman, on the one hand, against the woman’s liberty interest in defining her “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” on the other [quoting Justice Kennedy in Casey]. There is no plausible sense in which anyone, let alone this Court, could objectively assign weight to such imponderable values and no meaningful way to compare them if there were. Attempting to do so would be like “judging whether a particular line is longer than a particular rock is heavy” [quoting Justice Antonin Scalia]. Pretending that we could pull that off would require us to act as legislators, not judges… Nothing about Casey suggested that a weighing of costs and benefits of an abortion regulation was a job for the courts. On the contrary, we have explained that the traditional rule that state and federal legislatures have wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty is consistent with Casey.

Abortion rights survived the ruling, but so must the fight to topple them. Though Chief Justice Roberts pushes the envelope between being an incrementalist and a coward, the day will come when he will have the opportunity to be courageous and take a stand against over-reaching in the Supreme Court. Roberts’s “judicial modesty” may have submitted to his liberal colleagues this time, but conservative voters must not follow suit if there is to be a next time. Crestfallen voters lose elections, as the aftermath of 1992’s Casey showed, and Joe Biden will only prolong the slaughter.

Unborn children may never have had a stronger defender in the White House or as much potential for defense in the Supreme Court, but, rather than hold their breath, Catholics should remain bent upon results. At the same time, we should be grateful for President Trump’s accomplishments, and confident that he will continue to act accordingly and decisively in defending the sanctity of life. If Catholics do what they can to allow him to fill the judgment seats of men, we may all have a better defense before the awesome judgment seat of God.

Pictured: Handsmaid-themed protesters march down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans to protest the Heartbeat Bill. (Emily Kask/AFP via Getty Images)

Sean Fitzpatrick

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Sean Fitzpatrick is a senior contributor to Crisis. He's graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, Penn. with his wife and family of four.

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