Thomas More Society attorneys won a victory in court for several pro-life organizations in the City of St. Louis. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has declared a city ordinance intended to make St. Louis a “Sanctuary City” for abortion to be unconstitutional and violates several Missouri state statutes, including the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In May 2017, the Thomas More Society sued the City of St. Louis for violating the rights of a home for pregnant women, a group of Catholic grade schools, and a for-profit holding company and its Catholic owner. St. Louis’s unconstitutional ordinance extended protected class status based on “reproductive health decisions,” requiring pro-life organizations to hire abortion proponents and rent to abortion clinics and required non-religious employers to cover or pay for abortions through their employee health plans.
Judge Audrey Fleissig found that the ordinance violated the First Amendment rights of Our Lady’s Inn and the Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of St. Louis by compelling the pregnant women’s home and the group of Catholic grade schools “to employ or house individuals who advocate for or perform abortions,” practices that are contrary to the missions of both organizations. On September 30, 2018, Fleissig issued a Memorandum and Order that, “the forced inclusion of individuals who do not share Our Lady’s Inn’s commitment against abortion would significantly affect the ability of Our Lady’s Inn to advocate for its services and encourage women to forgo abortion.”
Judge Fleissig similarly found the housing and employment provisions of the ordinance unconstitutional as applied to the Catholic archdiocese and its schools, noting that “[t]he forced inclusion of teachers or other staff who do not adhere to [their Catholic, pro-life] values would significantly affect the Archdiocesan Elementary Schools’ ability to advocate their viewpoints, through its teachers and staff, to their students.”
Additionally, Judge Fleissig found that the ordinance was unlawful as applied to Frank O’Brien, CEO of O’Brien Industrial Holdings, because it interfered with his “exercise of religion” under the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act. She recognized that the ordinance “fails to exempt employers like the O’Brien plaintiffs from providing health care benefits covering abortion, contraception, or sterilization, in direct violation of the Missouri Act.”
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Sarah Pitlyk was satisfied with the ruling. “This law that claims to protect abortion supporters from discrimination is actually an attempt to suppress the viewpoint of those who believe that abortion is harmful or wrong by making it impossible for them to operate in accordance with their beliefs within the City of St. Louis,” Pitlyk explained. “We are especially pleased with the Court’s acknowledgement that there is no evidence whatsoever of the kind of discrimination that this ordinance purports to address, because it exposes the law for the sham that it is. It’s unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to vindicate the fundamental rights of St. Louis citizens, but the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has now been made aware that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life organizations to hire or rent property to abortion proponents, and that it is illegal to require pro-life employers to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans.”
Read the Memorandum and Order issued in Our Lady’s Inn et al. v. The City of St. Louis, by the United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division on September 30, 2018, by United States District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig here.
Pregnant illegal alien girls caught at the border can leave the U.S. rather than force the government to help them facilitate an abortion, the Trump administration argued to a federal appeals court.
But the ACLU, and at least one of the three judges on the panel hearing the cases, seemed skeptical, saying illegal aliens appear to have a right to abortion, and it’s unfair to give them a choice of either continuing their pregnancy against their wishes or accepting deportation.
The case is testing the limits of abortion and immigration law — and even invokes Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who ruled in an earlier iteration of the case in a decision that was later overturned by his colleagues on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
At issue are perhaps dozens of illegal alien teens who attempted to sneak into the U.S. unaccompanied by their parents, and who are now in custody of the Health Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The government says it’s searching for sponsors to take the illegal aliens, but in the meantime, it is acting instead of their parents, has an interest in helping the teens make the best choices possible regarding abortion, and has a general policy against facilitating the procedure.
A lower court ruled against the Trump administration, certifying a class action for all pregnant illegal alien juveniles in government custody and ordering they be granted unfettered rights to abortion.
“This is an unprecedented expansion of abortion jurisprudence,” August Flentje, arguing the case for the Justice Department, told the three-judge panel.
The administration is asking the appeals court to cancel the judge’s class certification and to curtail her broad order applying to every illegal alien teen in ORR custody — including the vast majority the government said aren’t seeking abortions.
Some conservatives have warned that Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling turns the U.S. into an abortion “sanctuary,” giving illegal alien girls from places where abortion is illegal an incentive to attempt to illegally enter the U.S., knowing that the government will have to facilitate their decision.
The panel of judges pressed the government on the burden it is imposing on the illegal alien children by denying them speedy abortions.
Mr. Flentje countered that the children always have control over the situation.
“The government is not imposing a burden. The child can leave custody by going back,” he said.
He said that takes the government out of the equation.
Judge Sri Srinivasan, though, said abortion is a right the illegal alien girl has against the government, and going back to her home country strips her of that right she gained once she entered the U.S.
“If you leave the country, the right is gone,” he said.
For its part, the American Civil Liberties Union argued Judge Chutkan got it right in issuing a broad ban on the government interfering in any way with pregnant illegal immigrant teens.
“The defendants in this case basically stopped at nothing to prevent unaccompanied minors accessing abortion,” said Brigitte Amiri, the ACLU’s lawyer.
An earlier iteration of the case came before the circuit court late last year when it involved a specific illegal immigrant who the government was refusing to help transport to get an abortion, even though she had arranged private funds.
The government at that point argued federal law prohibited it from spending any money to facilitate the procedure, and that included transportation and staffing costs.
Judge Kavanaugh was part of a three-judge panel that ruled for the government, arguing ORR should be given more time to find a sponsor to take custody of the child. He said Judge Chutkan’s ruling amounted to “immediate abortion on demand” — which he said went beyond the rights the Supreme Court established in the Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
October 4th, 2018