Letter From the Editors
Bioethics in Law & Culture Fall 2021 vol. 4 issue 4
Joe Kral, M.A.
Ana Brennan, J.D.
Since our last publication, there has been a lot of exciting news in the realm of pro-life public policy, particularly when it comes to the Texas Fetal Heartbeat Law. The law has faced numerous challenges since it went into effect on September 1, 2021. Yet, the law has stayed in effect precisely because of some unique legislative engineering when enforcing the law. Traditionally, pro-life laws had been crafted and enacted with criminal penalties the state would enforce. However, the Texas law did something different; it provided for a private enforcement mechanism.
Interestingly, the Texas Fetal Heartbeat Law was not the first pro-life legislation to use the private enforcement mechanism. Its origin comes from the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances passed in Texas, Ohio, and Nebraska. The provision's first real test came in June when Lubbock, Texas, passed a Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance and Planned Parenthood sued. The case was dismissed since the city was not enforcing the ordinance, but rather private citizens were. The law is still in effect, and abortions have not been performed in Lubbock since June 1, 2021.
At the writing of this letter, the Texas law has been in place for two months. One study showed that within a month, abortion numbers in Texas dropped by half. Many states are now wishing to pass the new Texas-Model Fetal Heartbeat Law, having seen how the law can remain in effect while being challenged and also save lives at the same time.
But in addition to state legislation, we have seen a boon in local legislation as well. Arkansas is seeing several counties pass "Pro-Life County Resolutions" while more and more local cities in Texas and Ohio have passed Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances. While the resolutions are not law, they certainly show the respect for a Culture of Life and the need to pass pro-life legislation. The ordinances, as stated above, can be enforced. It is wonderful to see the local level become even more involved with pro-life public policy.
In December, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments regarding Mississippi’s 15-week late-term abortion ban. Many think this may be the vehicle that overturns Roe. While there is no absolute certainty this will happen, we certainly hope it will. At a bare minimum, we certainly hope to see a victory for the pro-life movement and have the law upheld, which would be a first since the law is a pre-viability ban. Ever since the Casey decision, no pre-viable ban has stood. Yet, to be clear, viability is a loose standard, to begin with insofar as it changes as the science gets better. As you will notice, there are three amicus briefs published in this edition dealing with the Mississippi case. We urge you to read these briefs and get to know the legal arguments. Each of them is fascinating.
We hope you enjoy this edition of The Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture. Four excellent authors to help each of us become more informed on the particular issues. Katie Glenn, JD, and Natalie Hejran, JD, of Americans United for Life, discuss the crucial issue of conscience laws. Sadly, the Biden Administration has been unfriendly towards conscience laws, seemingly more comfortable with authoritarian laws that dictate what a health care professional is to do rather than protect the First Amendment rights of those professionals. They explore the need for states to pass protective legislation to help ensure that pro-life health professionals do not have to violate their consciences.
Chris Maska, JD, of Texas Alliance for Life, explores the state's interest in protecting unborn human life. Interestingly, many people do not realize that in the mid-1800's the fight to make abortion illegal was a state-by-state fight. As science began to learn more about the unborn child in the 1800's, there was a critical shift in ensuring the protection of the unborn child under the law. While abortion was seen as a moral evil, culturally speaking, it was never formally outlawed. Historically speaking, protecting the unborn has always been an interest of the states, and Mr. Maska helps us better understand the issue.
Finally, Andrew Shirvell, JD, of Florida Voice for the Unborn, writes on Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances (SCUO) in Florida. Sadly, it would seem that current Florida law would not allow for an enforceable SCUO in the state. Mr. Shirvell proposes how the legislature can pass legislation to help change that situation and allow municipalities to pass these pro-life ordinances. As these SCUO's become more popular, it is clear that the pro-life movement in the Sunshine State wishes to share in other states' successes when it comes to passing this very popular piece of pro-life legislation.
No doubt, the private enforcement mechanism has become an intriguing device that has stirred much debate. It has stymied pro-abortion advocates, and no doubt it will be an issue that the US Supreme Court will have to settle. In fact, the US Supreme Court just held oral arguments on the Texas Fetal Heartbeat Law regarding two principle procedural questions: 1) Can a federal court bar private citizens from filing lawsuits to enforce the law, and 2) Can the Biden Administration challenge the law in federal court? Prayers that the US Supreme Court will rule in favor of a Culture of Life.
Joe Kral, M.A.
President & Editor-in-Chief
Ana Brennan, J.D.
Vice President & Senior Editor