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Report: Hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits filed against New Jersey Catholic priests during 2-year window

Theodore McCarrick arrives at Dedham District Court on Friday morning, Sept. 3 for his 9 a.m. arraignment / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Boston, Mass., Dec 3, 2021 / 21:30 pm (CNA).

At least 820 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the past two years — including some 180 in the past month alone, according to an analysis by news outlet NorthJersey.com.

About 250 of the lawsuits, representing 30% of the total, involved priests, with religious sisters and lay church employees also named as abusers, the analysis showed.

The flood of civil complaints came during a two-year period New Jersey provided under the 2019 Child Victims Act to allow victims who otherwise would have been barred by the state’s statute of limitation to file lawsuits. The two-year “lookback” window closed on Nov. 30.

More than 1,200 lawsuits were filed in all. About two-thirds of these were filed against Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Among the findings by NorthJersey.com:

  • The Archdiocese of Newark, the largest of New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses, accounted for the most abuse lawsuits, with 432.

  • The Diocese of Trenton had the next highest total, with 182 suits, followed by the Diocese of Paterson with 85. The Diocese of Metuchen was named in 70 lawsuits, and the Camden Diocese had 54.

  • The Order or St. Benedict of New Jersey, which runs the local Delbarton school in Morristown, was the most sued among New Jersey’s religious orders, with 36 suits and another case pending.

  • Twenty-three lawsuits were connected to Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, which is run by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. That religious order, however, can’t be sued, the website reported, per a nationwide settlement agreement that happened years ago.

  • The Salesians of Don Bosco, which runs Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, have been sued 19 times. Five of those lawsuits were connected to the high school.

  • Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was named in 10 lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Nov. 24.

  • McCarrick’s predecessor as the head of Newark Archdiocese, Peter Gerety, is named in two lawsuits. The most recent suit, filed on Nov. 16, accuses Gerety of abusing a girl from 1984 to 1989. The alleged abuse, starting when she was just 5 years old, allegedly took place at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NorthJersey.com reported.

  • While many of the alleged abusers have died, several are still alive and could be prosecuted. One of these defendants is Father Benoît Guichard, FSSP, who is accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when she was a child, a claim that Guichard has denied through his attorney. Another is former Ridgefield Park priest Gerald Sudol, who was named in seven lawsuits.

  • Two priests were named in at least 20 lawsuits each: John Capparelli, of the Newark Archdiocese, and Timothy Brennan, a former teacher at the Delbarton school. Both men have died.

Under the Child’s Victim Act, people alleging sexual abuse as children can still file lawsuits up to age 55 or within seven years of when they first realized the abuse caused them harm, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the signing of the law, child victims had to file by age 20 or two years after first realizing the abuse caused harm. 

Archbishop Aquila urges Catholics to 're-acquire a biblical worldview' this Advent

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says a Mass of diaconal ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a pastoral note for Advent, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver urged Catholics to seek a way of seeing the world informed by the Bible and the story of salvation brought about by Christ’ death and resurrection. 

“God is inviting us...to move beyond ideologies in order to ‘put on the mind of Christ and re-acquire a biblical worldview,” Aquila wrote in the letter

“This proclamation of what God has done in Christ, known in theological circles as the kerygma, is meant to do more than be an interesting re-telling of events that happened in the distant past...the first element needed for the renewal of the Church is not strategic planning, changes to structure or doctrine. The initial battle is for our minds and hearts; it is a question of worldview, a question of how we see,” Aquila continued.

From the feast of Christ the King through Christmas, the entire Archdiocese of Denver is “going on retreat together,” Aquila said, with the goal of  “systematically unpacking the story of salvation” through the homilies Catholics will hear each Sunday. 

“Even lifelong Catholics receive Communion, baptize children, get married, and go to Mass every Sunday without ever really coming to a deep awareness of the point of it all,” Aquila said, explaining why he chose to focus on the topic of salvation in particular. 

Aquila noted that “our Church no longer benefits from carrying out its life and mission in a Christendom culture...One which, while imperfect in its own ways, had an imaginative vision for reality that arose from and largely aligned with Christian beliefs.”

Instead, Christians today find themselves in a missionary context, “increasingly at odds with the broader society.”

Aquila noted that while all human beings will inevitably ask and attempt to answer life’s biggest questions, the Gospel message— the answer to all of life’s biggest questions— is not merely a result of human thinking, but rather comes from God. 

“Our earth-shattering profession is that God himself has provided answers to these questions that are rooted in our being. Revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, gives us the answer. These present not disconnected individual lives, but a story of salvation – the Father’s love for humanity,” Aquila wrote. 

“More than a confusing collection of disparate books, if you have eyes to see, you discover in the pages of the Bible a narrative, told by God to humanity, of why he made us, what happened to interrupt his plan and how he came to win his world back.”

The story of salvation, Aquila wrote, is about how God created the universe out of love, how humanity was captured by sin, how Christ came to rescue humanity, and how each and every person has been given a chance to offer their own response to Christ’s love. 

When Catholics see the world from a biblical perspective, “we come to consider the span of our lives as a brief but essential moment in a grand epic narrative, unfolding from long before we were born and continuing long after we go into eternity. We accept that no life is an accident; you and I have been chosen, intentionally, to play a definite part in this epic adventure.”

“We see clearly who God is: that he is Lord, and he is for us, so we can trust him. We recognize that everything he has done to rescue us means that we matter, he loves us more than we could have ever imagined. We understand that the mission and identity of the Church, in all she teaches and celebrates, are oriented to help God get his world back by rescuing his children from sin and death…to bring us home.

“We begin to see on both sides of the veil, to have an eye and a heart on eternity and to see our daily lives in light of the supernatural mysteries of our faith. Whatever difficulties life presents, we have the courage to hold fast to the truth that God is always on the move, he is not worried about the state of things, and he wins in the end.”

A temptation among many people today is to let a secular or ideological worldview inform one’s perspective of the Gospel or “what the Church should do,” adapting and changing the difficult teachings of Christ. 

“Jesus does not gain a single disciple by his followers watering down or adapting his Gospel on his behalf, in order to make it, and therefore him, seemingly more palatable,” Aquila said. 

“We have only to look at his teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6 as confirmation. Jesus told his followers the Eucharist was his body and blood and he let them walk away when it wasn’t something they could accept.”

Aquila concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism… is the fruit of an anxious…lack of trust,” (Evangelii Gaudium 85).

Benedictine nuns in Missouri honor Christ the King with new album

null / Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec 3, 2021 / 15:06 pm (CNA).

After the harrowing experience of shootings at their abbey in rural Missouri, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles resolved to record an album for Christ the King in thanksgiving for His protection and governance.

“We were talking about a CD dedicated to Christ the King last year, realizing it was a feast we had not yet covered in our recording history. It seems a tumultuous time on so many levels, we thought that focus on Christ as our true leader and Prince of Peace was apt for these days. This was drilled home especially after some unfortunate incidents at the Abbey,” Mother Cecilia, abbess of the community, told CNA.

“In March, we had a series of three shootings at the Abbey, and one of the bullets entered my room, five feet from my bed. The incidents really lit a fire under us to get going on the CD we had discussed, since we realized the power of the protection of Christ and His angels over our Abbey. So the CD is also an act of gratitude to Christ our King and to all the many people who have shown their love and concern for us.”

The generosity of the abbey's benefactors has allowed the closing of the road alongside the property, “and a wall in front of our property was installed for our protection,” Mother Cecilia explained.

“We see in it a symbol of the spiritual protection Christ our King is always giving us, and it was appropriate to hail Him as the 'inexpugnable wall' in the ancient chant of Christ the King, the Laudes Regiae, sung at Charlemagne’s coronation over 1220 years ago.”

Christ the King at Ephesus is the latest offering from the chart-topping community of nuns, who have also released seasonal albums for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter; and in honor of saints and the Eucharist.

The album includes 20 songs, from well-known works such as “the traditional and melodic Christus Vincit, as well as To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King,” to pieces which have significance to the abbey, such as Catherine Maguire’s King of Kings, which Mother Cecilia noted “was sung at the high school graduation of a priest friend of the community.”

“We could not leave off The King of Love My Shepherd Is, nor Palestrina's Jesu Rex Admirabilis, familiar to many through its inclusion in The Sound of Music,” the abbess said.

“Byrd’s Non Nobis was always the starting piece for the Burke family singers. It was the father’s idea, in order to keep the kids humble! Vexilla Christus Inclyta was written for the Office of Christ the King by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi, and it was released by Pius XI the day after his publication of Quas Primas, extending the feast of Christ the King as a universal feast.”

Also included is St. Robert Southwell's The Bonnie Prince. The Jesuit priest and poet's work is set to the music of Auld Lang Syne.

Christ the King at Ephesus is the first album that the nuns have recorded in their new abbey church, which they have now been using for three years.

“We finally got to [record] in this edifice that is not only beautiful, but offers amazing acoustics, which was a real boon for the process - which has been a whirlwind!” Mother Cecilia related.

The album was recorded over two days in September, and was released the following month.

The recording and sound engineering was done by William Crain of BRC Audio in Kansas City, the abbess said. “We did the editing and production, and Will brought it all together along with the mastering.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the ancient use of the Roman rite, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Since the abbey's last album release, its church has been built, as has a guest house for families and those wishing to make a silent retreat. The community's foundress, Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, “went to her heavenly reward at 95 years old,” Mother Cecilia added. The abbess said Sr. Wilhelmina's “life and the amazing circumstances of her death” were both “a grace beyond our imaginings.”

The community has been blessed with abundant vocations in recent years, Mother Cecilia said.

A group of eight sisters was sent to found a daughter house in southern Missouri, and “We now number 55 Sisters between the two houses, and young women continue to knock on our door,” she related.

The sisters at the daughter house “are living in a temporary residence, and one which does not lend itself to growth. So the construction of this monastery is imperative, as we have no more room here at the abbey either. We certainly do not want to turn away young women who are called to this life on account of no space!”

15 photos from outside the Supreme Court during the Dobbs abortion case

Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Thousands of abortion supporters and pro-life Americans rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 as justices heard oral arguments in the historic abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

Here’s what it looked like outside of the Supreme Court:

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA

'Come to our rescue': Nigerian priest to international community after month of captivity

Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, who was held captive for more than a month by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria's Kaduna state earlier this year. / Aid to the Church in Need.

Kaduna, Nigeria, Dec 2, 2021 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

A Nigerian priest who spent more than a month in captivity following his abduction earlier this year has called on the international community to come to the aid of the people of God in Nigeria’s Kaduna State amid heightened insecurity.

Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, told Aid to the Church in Need Nov. 25 attacks from the predominantly Muslim Fulani herders “have become very common in Kaduna state.”

“I am therefore calling on the international community to please come to our rescue,” Fr. Awesuh told the pontifical charity organization.

In a September 2021 report, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) ranked Kaduna as one of Nigeria’s least secure states.

Intersociety members said in the report that at least 608 people in Kaduna state have lost their lives in what has been described as “Christian butcheries” perpetrated by Fulani bandits in the first nine months of the year. 

The report also indicated that 4,400 Christians in Nigeria have been killed, while at least 20 priests and pastors have been murdered or abducted in the West African nation.

Fr. Awesuh told Aid to the Church in Need that Fulani herdsmen stormed his residence in Kachia Local Government Area at 11 pm May 16. 

“I heard gunshots and I quickly turned off the television set. Turning off the light, I saw shadows and heard footsteps. I carefully opened the curtain to see what was going on. I saw five bulky Fulani herdsmen who were well-armed. I recognized them by their dress and by the way they spoke. I stood there confused, not knowing what to do, as I felt completely lost,” the priest recounted.

He added that his body became stiff and started sweating profusely after the attackers knocked at his door.

“They kept on knocking, but, afraid, I refused to open the door. They broke down the door and forced themselves inside. One of the men pushed me to the floor, tied me up and flogged me mercilessly, saying ka ki ka bude mana kofa da tsori (‘you are getting tortured because you kept us standing outside for so long and refused to open the door when we were knocking’). They stripped me naked down to my shorts.”

Abducted along with ten of his parishioners, the priest said that for the next three days they trekked in the bushes feeding only on mangos.

“We were hungry, tired, and weak and our legs hurt a lot and our feet were swollen as we trekked barefoot. There was rain on the second and third days, but we had to keep moving. On the third day, we arrived at a camp deep in the forest,” Fr. Awesuh said.

They remained in the forest for nearly five weeks, where they were fed with rice, oil, and salt. The food was prepared by the women who had been kidnapped, he added.

“We were not allowed to bathe throughout our captivity. We had to urinate and defecate in the hut. We were smelling like dead bodies and the hut smelled like a mortuary. We were tortured and threatened with death if a ransom of 50 million naira ($120,000) was not paid,” Fr. Awesuh said. 

He related that “Our families pleaded and negotiated with our kidnappers, until they finally accepted the sum of 7 million naira ($17,000).”

The priest recalled that three parishioners tracked down the abductees, meaning to rescue them, but they lost their lives in the process.

“Oh, what sorrow to have watched three of my parishioners shot dead in cold blood, right before my eyes—and I couldn’t do anything. It was very painful! At this point, I felt helpless, hopeless, useless, and restless! I urgently craved for death to take me, as the scene of the killings kept playing in my head.”

“Whenever I opened my mouth to pray, words failed me. All I could say was ‘Lord have mercy,’” Fr. Awesuh recounted.

He thanked God for his freedom saying, “To the greater glory of God’s name, we were released and came out alive. I narrowly escaped death. I know of so many priests kidnapped before and after me who were killed even after a ransom was paid.”

Fr. Awesuh, whose current location remains undisclosed for security reasons, said he has undergone counselling.

“The love I received and experienced from my family, friends and especially the Church, was enormous,” he concluded.

Dobbs Day: Here's what it was like at the rallies outside the Supreme Court

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Anna Del Duca and daughter, Frances, woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to brave the 30-degree weather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. They arrived hours before oral arguments began in the highly-anticipated abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

“We're looking forward to the end of Roe versus Wade in our country,” Anna, who drove from Pittsburgh Tuesday night, told CNA. In her hands, she held a sign reading, “I regret my abortion.”

Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

“I would like to use my testimony to be a blessing to others,” she said, so that “others will choose life or those who have regretted abortion or had an abortion would turn to Jesus.”

Anna remembered having an abortion when she was just 19. Today, she and her daughter run a group called Restorers of Streets to Dwell In Pittsburgh that offers help to women seeking healing after abortion. 

Anna and Frances were among thousands of Americans who rallied outside the Supreme Court before, during, and after the oral arguments. To accommodate them, law enforcement closed the street in front of the court. Capitol police also placed fencing in the space in front of the building in an attempt to physically separate rallies held by abortion supporters and pro-lifers.

At 21-weeks pregnant, pro-life speaker Alison Centofante emceed the pro-life rally, called, “Empower Women Promote Life.” The event featured a slew of pro-life women of diverse backgrounds and numerous politicians.

“It’s funny, there were so many diverse speakers today that the only unifying thread was that we want to protect preborn children,” Centofante told CNA. They included Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, women who chose life, and women who regretted their abortions, she said.

She recognized women there, including Aimee Murphy, as people who are not the typical “cookie cutter pro-lifer.”

Aimee Murphy, 32, founder of pro-life group Rehumanize International, arrived at the Supreme Court around 6:30 a.m. She drove from Pittsburgh the night before. Her sign read, “Queer Latina feminist rape survivor against abortion.”“At Rehumanize International, we oppose all forms of aggressive violence,” she told CNA. “Even as a secular and non-partisan organization, we understand that abortion is the most urgent cause that we must stand against in our modern day and age because it takes on average over 800,000 lives a year.”

She also had a personal reason for attending. 

“When I was 16 years old, I was raped and my rapist then threatened to kill me if I didn't have an abortion,” she revealed.

“It was when he threatened me that I felt finally a solidarity with unborn children and I understood then that, yeah, the science told me that a life begins at conception, but that I couldn't be like my abusive ex and pass on the violence and oppression of abortion to another human being — that all that I would be doing in having an abortion would be telling my child, ‘You are an inconvenience to me and to my future, therefore I'm going to kill you,’ which is exactly the same thing that my rapist was telling me when he threatened to kill me.”

On the other side of the police fence, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Access Coalition and NARAL Pro-Choice America participated in another rally. Yellow balloons printed with the words “BANS OFF OUR BODIES” escaped into the sky. Several pro-choice demonstrators declined to speak with CNA.

Voices clashed in the air as people, the majority of whom were women, spoke into their respective microphones at both rallies. Abortion supporters stressed bodily autonomy, while pro-lifers recognized the humanity of the unborn child. Chants arose from both sides at different points, from “Whose choice? My choice!” to “Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!”

At 10 a.m., the pro-life crowd sudddenly went silent as the oral arguments began and the rally paused temporarily as live audio played through speakers.

Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

During the oral arguments, students from Liberty University knelt in prayer. One student estimated that more than a thousand students from the school made the more than 3-hour trip from Lynchburg, Virginia.

“Talking about our faith is one thing, but actually acting upon it is another,” he said. “We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. So to me this is part of doing that.”

Sister Mary Karen, who has been with the Sisters of Life for 21 years, also stressed the importance of prayer. She drove from New York earlier that morning because, she said, she felt drawn to attend. She came, she said, to pray for the country and promote the dignity of a human person. 

“Our culture is post-abortive,” she explained. “So many people have suffered and the loss of human life is so detrimental, just not knowing that we have value and are precious and sacred.”

Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA

She stood next to Theresa Bonopartis, who traveled from Harrison, New York, and ministers to women and others wounded by abortion.

“I've been fighting abortion for 30 years at least,” she told CNA. 

Her ministry, called Entering Canaan, began with the Sisters of Life and is observing its 25th anniversary this year. It provides retreats for women, men, and even siblings of aborted babies.

Abortion is personal for Bonopartis, who said she had a coerced abortion when she was just 17. 

“I was kicked out of the house by my father and then coerced into getting an abortion,” she said. “Pretty much cut me off from everything, and that's something people don't really talk about … they make it try to seem like it's a woman's right, it's a free choice. It's all this other stuff, but many women are coerced in one way or another.”

She guessed that she was 14 or 15 weeks pregnant at the time.

“I saw my son. I had a saline abortion, so I saw him, which I always considered a blessing because it never allowed me to deny what abortion was,” she said. Afterward, she said she struggled with self-esteem issues, hating herself, guilt, shame, and more. Then, she found healing.

“I know what that pain is like, I know what that experience is like, and you know that you can get past it,” she said. “You just want to be able to give that message to other people, that they're able to heal.”

Residents of Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson case originated, also attended. 

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, drove from Mississippi to stand outside the Supreme Court. She said she was in her early 20s when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. 

“At the time, of course, I could care less,” she said. Since then, she had a change of heart. 

“We were the generation that allowed it,” she said, “and so we are the generation who will help close that door and reverse it.”

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA

The crowd at the pro-life rally included all ages, from those who had witnessed Roe to bundled-up babies, children running around, and college students holding up homemade signs. 

One group of young friends traveled across the country to stand outside the Supreme Court. They cited their faith and family as reasons for attending.

Mathilde Steenepoorte, 19, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, identified herself as “very pro-life” in large part because of her younger brother with Down syndrome. She said she was saddened by the abortion rates of unborn babies dianosed with Down syndrome.

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, arrived Tuesday. He woke up at 6 a.m. to arrive at the Supreme Court with a crucifix in hand.

“I believe that God is the giver of life and we don't have the right [to decide] whether a baby should live or die,” he said.

He also said that he believed women have been lied to about abortion. 

“We say it's their right, and there's a choice,” he said. When girls tell him “I have the right,” his response, he said, is to ask back, “You have the right for what?” 

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.
Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, also woke up early but emphasized “it was worth it.” A pro-life podcast host, she called abortion a “human-rights issue.”

“I hope that it overturns Roe,” she said of the case, “but that doesn't mean that our job as pro-lifers is done. It makes this, really, just the beginning.” 

Pro-life leaders react to President Joe Biden's statements about Dobbs abortion case

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis Oct. 29, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:52 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden reaffirmed his support of Roe v. Wade on Wednesday, in response to a question about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn the nation’s abortion precedent, though he said he did not listen to the oral arguments that took place earlier in the day.

"I didn't see any of the debate today, the presentation today,” Biden said. “And I support Roe v. Wade.” 

Biden’s presidency, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and expanded access to abortion and abortion rights, has been a source of continued contraversy owing to his Catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” 

“If Joe Biden had paid attention today, he would have heard the most rigorous debate the Supreme Court has ever had on abortion — the kind of debate all Americans deserve, but have been denied for almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade,” said Prudence Robertson of the Susan B. Anthony List. 

“President Biden may have missed the debate at the Supreme Court today, but it's impossible to miss how much technology has advanced in fetal development, how far women have come in being able to carve their own path without abortion, or the rise of pregnancy help centers across the nation that stand ready to help her not need an abortion,” said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. 

Megan Wold, an attorney practicing in appellate and constitutional law who is a former law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito and a former deputy solicitor general in Ohio, said that “Roe v. Wade did not hold that abortion was simply rational, it held that abortion was so fundamental that states are obligated to allow abortion on demand until viability. That was wrong when Roe was decided and it is still wrong now.”

Wold continued: “I think the Supreme Court knows that. As we heard today, a majority of the court understands that Roe has no basis in the Constitution or in our history and traditions, and that the passage of time has only further exposed how deeply flawed Roe is.”

Andrea Trudden, senior director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, told CNA that if Biden had paid attention he “would have heard that women do not ‘need’ abortion to be successful. Through technological and scientific advances over the last 50 years, women have resources at their fingertips to help them overcome hurdles and set them up for success. Pregnancy help organizations offer compassionate care and support while providing practical needs to pregnant women through parenting classes, job training, and even housing so that no woman feels that abortion is her only option.”

Brian Burch, president of Catholic Vote, said that it was almost impossible for him to believe the president would not have tuned in to Wednesday’s oral arguments “given the historical significance of the case and the politics surrounding it.”

“I can't help but think his conscience is agitating him. He knows he's wrong, and yet persists in doubling down on defending the killing of millions of innocent children," Burtch said of Biden.

During a press conference, Biden defended his support as the “rational position to take,” adding, “And I continue to support it.”

“Even former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood Roe was wrongly decided,” Godsey told CNA. “Keeping the country captive to a culture of death is far from rational. Women deserve better than abortion.”

“In 1974, Biden stated that I ‘went too far.’ Indeed, it put us in the company of a tiny handful of nations that allow abortion on demand more than halfway through pregnancy, when unborn babies can clearly feel pain, even up to birth,” Robertson of Susan B. Anthony said.

“That is the radical status quo our ‘devout’ Catholic president swears allegiance to today," she said. "The American people and their elected representatives overwhelmingly reject this extremism. It’s time to restore their right to protect women and children.”

Added Burch: “The Holy Spirit doesn't stop working, and neither should we."

Dobbs v. Jackson: What did Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett say?

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 13, 2020. / null

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

As the wait begins for a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case, close attention will be paid to the comments and questions of three conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that some observers view as possible swing votes: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

At issue is a 15-week abortion ban passed in Mississippi, which challenges the court’s precedent of allowing abortions before viability, roughly 24-28 weeks into pregnancy. Pro-life groups are hoping the court, where conservative appointees have a 6-3 majority, will strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

A number of questions from the justices focused on the principle of stare decisis, a Latin phrase roughly meaning “to stand by things that have been decided,” and understood to mean that the court generally stands by its own precedent.

The justices' questions and comments were made in response to the three lawyers who gave oral arguments in the case on Dec. 1. They are: Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi; Julie Rikelman, litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who was representing the Jackson Women’s Health abortion clinic in Mississippi, and U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who was representing the Biden administration in opposition to Mississippi’s law.

Here are some of the highlights of what Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett said during the proceeding:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts to Stewart: “On stare decisis, I think the first issue you look at is whether or not the decision at issue was wrongly decided. I've actually never quite understood how you evaluate that. Is it wrongly decided based on legal principles and doctrine when it was decided or in retrospect? Because Roe — I mean, there are a lot of cases around the time of Roe, not of that magnitude but the same type of analysis, that went through exactly the sorts of things we today would say were erroneous, but do we look at it from today's perspective, it's going to be a long list of cases that we're going to say were wrongly decided.”

Roberts to Rikelman: “...if you think that the issue is one of choice, that women should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy, that supposes that there is a point at which they've had the fair choice, opportunity to [choose], and why would 15 weeks be an inappropriate line? Because viability, it seems to me, doesn't have anything to do with choice. But, if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?”

Roberts to Rikelman: “...I'd like to focus on the 15-week ban because that's not a dramatic departure from viability. It is the standard that the vast majority of other countries have. When you get to the viability standard, we share that standard with the People's Republic of China and North Korea. And I don't think you have to be in favor of looking to international law to set our constitutional standards to be concerned if those are your -- share that particular time period.”

Roberts to Rikelman: “It is certainly true that we cannot base our decisions on whether they're popular or not with the people. Casey seemed to say we shouldn't base our decisions not only on that but whether they're going to — whether they're going to seem popular, and it seemed to me to have a paradoxical conclusion that the more unpopular the decisions are, the firmer the Court should be in not departing from prior precedent, sort of a super stare decisis, but it's super stare decisis for what are regarded as — by many, as the most erroneous decisions. Do you think there is that category? Is there -- or is it just normal stare decisis?”

Roberts to Prelogar: “...your discussion of the reliance interests and the ability of women and men to control their lives in reliance on the right to an abortion, the argument would not be as strong, I think you'll have to concede, given what we're talking about, which is not a prohibition; it's a 15-week line. Is that right?”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh to Stewart: “I want to be clear about what you're arguing and not arguing … to be clear, you're not arguing that the Court somehow has the authority to itself prohibit abortion or that this Court has the authority to order the states to prohibit abortion as I understand it, correct?”

Kavanaugh to Stewart: “And as I understand it, you're arguing that the Constitution is silent and, therefore, neutral on the question of abortion? In other words, that the Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion but leaves the issue for the people of the states or perhaps Congress to resolve in the democratic process? Is that accurate? ... [I]f you were to prevail, the states, a majority of states or states still could, and presumably would, continue to freely allow abortion, many states; some states would be able to do that even if you prevail under your view, is that correct?”

Kavanaugh to Rikelman: “I think the other side would say that the core problem here is that the Court has been forced by the position you're taking … to pick sides on the most contentious social debate in American life and to do so in a situation where they say that the Constitution is neutral on the question of abortion, the text and history, that the Constitution's neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion, and they would say, therefore, it should be left to the people, to the states, or to Congress … and we [the Supreme Court] should be scrupulously neutral on the question … I want to give you a chance to respond to that.”

Kavanaugh to Rikelman: “I want to ask a question about stare decisis … history helps think about stare decisis … and the history of how the Court's applied stare decisis, and when you really dig into it, the history tells a somewhat different story, I think, than is sometimes assumed. If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this Court's history, there's a string of them where the cases overruled precedent. Brown v. Board outlawed separate but equal. Baker versus Carr, which set the stage for one person/one vote. West Coast Hotel, which recognized the states' authority to regulate business. Miranda versus Arizona, which required police to give warnings when the right to — about the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present to suspects in criminal custody. Lawrence v. Texas, which said that the state may not prohibit same-sex conduct. Mapp versus Ohio, which held that the exclusionary rule applies to state criminal prosecutions to exclude evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Giddeon versus Wainwright, which guaranteed the right to counsel in criminal cases. Obergefell, which recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In each of those cases...the Court overruled precedent. … So I assume you agree with most, if not all, the cases I listed there, where the Court overruled the precedent. So the question on stare decisis is why, if … we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, if that, why then doesn't the history of this Court's practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality and — and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases didn't?”

Kavanaugh to Prelogar: “When you have those two interests at stake and both are important, as you acknowledge … why should this Court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this? And there will be different answers in Mississippi and New York, different answers in Alabama than California because they're two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently. Why is that not the right answer?”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett to Stewart: “I have a question … about stare decisis. And I think a lot of the colloquy you've had with all of us has been about the benefits of stare decisis, which I don't think anyone disputes … You know, we have Plessy, Brown. We have Bowers versus Hardwick, to Lawrence. But, in thinking about stare decisis, which is obviously the core of this case, how should we be thinking about it — I mean, Justice Breyer pointed out that in Casey and in some respects, well, it was a different conception of stare decisis insofar as it very explicitly took into account public reaction. Is that a factor that you accept, or are you arguing that we should minimize that factor?. .. [Is there a distinct set of stare decisis considerations applicable to what the Court might decide is a watershed distinction?”

Barrett to Rikelman: “... Petitioner points out that in all 50 states, you can terminate parental rights by relinquishing a child ... and I think the shortest period might have been 48 hours if I'm remembering the data correctly. So it seems to me, seen in that light, both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting, and insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women's access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it's also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy. Why don't the safe haven laws take care of that problem? It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn't seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden. And so it seems to me that the choice more focused would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion. Why didn't you address the safe haven laws and why don't they matter?”

Barrett to Rikelman: “I don't understand why 27 weeks is less workable than 24.”

Barrett to Prelogar: “... I asked Ms. Rikelman this question too, but I'm not sure that I fully understand the government's position or Ms. Rikelman's position. So, on pages 18 and 19 of your brief, you talk about reliance interests and you quote some of the language from Casey about a woman's ability to participate in the social and economic life of the nation. And I mentioned the safe haven laws to Ms. Rikelman, and it seems to me I fully understand the reliance interests. There are the airy ones Justice Kagan was referring to and then there are the more specific ones about a woman's access to abortion as a backup form of birth control in the event that contraception fails so that she need not bear the burdens of pregnancy. But what do you have to say to Petitioners' argument that those reliance interests do not include the reliance interests of parenting and bringing a child into the world when maybe that's not the best thing for her family or her career?”

Note: Transcripts obtained via the U.S. Supreme Court website. Most of the questions presented here have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Pro-life leaders, legal experts speak out after Dobbs arguments at US Supreme Court

Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerning Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks. Leading up to and in response following the oral arguments, pro-life leaders and legal experts offered their perspectives. 

Below is a collection of statements and social media posts. 

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie 
Senior Fellow, The Catholic Association

“Justice Sotomayor's assertions in today's oral argument in the landmark abortion case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health about fetal pain were wholly ignorant of the tremendous scientific advances in fetal medicine. As recently as last year, doctors in the Journal of Medical Ethics wrote, 'Current neuroscientific evidence supports the possibility of fetal pain before the 'consensus' cutoff of 24 weeks' and may be as early as 12 weeks. Not only does medicine agree that fetal anesthesia be administered for fetal surgery, a clear reflection of the medical consensus that unborn babies can feel pain, but like viability, the line marking when they feel pain continues to inch earlier.”

“As a practicing diagnostic radiologist, I can attest that advances in ultrasound technology continue to astonish the medical community as to the humanity of the unborn child, a truth and medical reality that we can now see clearly in the earliest weeks of life. To compare an unborn child to a brain-dead person or a corpse flouts science which tells us that at 15 weeks gestation, a baby's organs are fully formed, her heart pumps 26 quarts of blood a day, and her lungs are already practicing drawing breath. This case is before the Supreme Court today in large part because Americans have seen the evolving science and increasingly want a voice in a question of great moral consequence.” 

 

Sherif Girgis
Associate Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School

“Across the political spectrum, many close court-watchers who would've said at 9:59 a.m. that there is no chance the Court fully reverses Roe are now saying that's the likeliest outcome. The Chief repeatedly asked if there was a middle ground, and no one produced one. On the contrary, the lawyers for the Biden administration and the clinics repeatedly rejected any middle ground.” 

“Justice Kavanaugh repeatedly signaled that he thinks abortion is entirely for the states to decide. Justice Barrett showed that the availability of adoption undercuts many of the arguments for a constitutional abortion right. I would be very surprised if Roe survived the summer. "

Megan Wold
Legal Expert & Attorney Practicing Appellate and Constitutional Law

“During today’s argument, the justices signaled that Roe was wrongly decided as an original matter; that Roe has been undermined by subsequent scientific and legal developments; that the Constitution is silent on the question of abortion; and that no right to abortion exists in our country’s history and tradition. These views support overruling Roe.” 

“Moreover, no Justice proposed a new standard to replace Roe, and six justices suggested a willingness to eliminate Roe’s key viability holding.  It is clear that the court is likely to substantially weaken Roe, or more likely, to overrule Roe altogether." 

Stephen Billy
Executive Director, Charlotte Lozier Institute

“Chief Justice John Roberts correctly stated during today’s Dobbs oral arguments that United States abortion law is extreme in comparison to global and European norms. The United States is among a small handful of nations, including China and North Korea, that allow elective abortion more than halfway through pregnancy, or after 20 weeks.”

“I was stunned to hear the abortion industry counsel challenge Chief Justice Roberts on whether or not U.S. abortion law is extreme. The Chief Justice correctly cited CLI research that shows how Roe puts the United States in the same class with China and North Korea, allowing abortion-on-demand until the day of birth. Does the abortion industry not read the Washington Post?”

“Despite Ms. Rikelman’s claims, the black-letter law is clear:  47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to the 15-week limit proposed by Mississippi.”

Camille Pauley
Co-Founder, Healing the Culture

“Roe v. Wade is an archaic judicial artifact on life support, and the Supreme Court should seize this opportunity to dump it on the ash heap of history. But no matter how this decision falls, Roe is a crippled legal dogma that will not long survive.”

“Science, philosophy, and public opinion have passed it by. Our hope is that the Court’s ruling in Dobbs will bury this dead letter from the past and reinstate the principles of human rights that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.” 

“The lethal logic of Roe v. Wade is that your life won’t be protected unless you’ve attained a certain level of development, but this violates the most critical and important principles of civilization—do no harm, the ends don’t justify the means, every human being is intrinsically valuable, the right to life must take priority over the right to liberty, and numerous others. Without these principles, civilization collapses.” 

Chelsey Youman
National Legislative Advisor, Human Coalition Action

“Roe was egregiously bad jurisprudence and has resulted in millions of deaths. Ending an innocent human life is not justified by purported reliance interests. Continued fidelity to Roe and Casey is extraordinarily disruptive to a functioning and healthy society, and if the Court’s rulings are to have any integrity, this precedent must not stand any longer. It is time for Roe to be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

“We flatly reject the claim that abortion is necessary to the flourishing of women. We advocate every day for women who are able to parent, work, and succeed amid challenges. Human Coalition Action stands ready to advocate for a culture of life, regardless of whether Roe is overturned. We pushed for the expansion of the safety net in Texas for pregnant and postpartum mothers, and we will continue to advocate for protection of preborn children, and for prioritizing the health and safety of mothers.”

Tom Brejcha
President and Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society

“As the high court hears arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, we face the first real legal opportunity in over a decade to topple Roe v. Wade. The 1973 decision that legalized abortion in America has left a tragic trail of human carnage: more than sixty-two million dead children and countless broken families and wounded souls.”

Dr. David Prentice
Vice President of Research, Charlotte Lozier Institute

“Respectfully, we suggest that Justice Sotomayor follow the science, which has not stood still since Roe was decided in 1973.  Modern research is revealing that unborn babies do feel pain at an early stage, and we see that science in action regularly during fetal surgery, in which doctors apply analgesia in utero to prevent the suffering of the unborn child.”

Physician blasts Justice Sonia Sotomayor for 'dead brain people' comment about fetal pain

Ultrasound of a baby in the womb. / GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 16:22 pm (CNA).

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor drew criticism from an accomplished physician for comments that appeared to draw a comparison between an unborn child and a corpse, suggesting that fetal movements recoiling from pain can be likened to reflexes in dead bodies.

The comments came as Sotomayor attempted to create question marks within the larger argument for the humanity of unborn babies during the oral arguments Dec. 1 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a potentially landmark abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“To compare an unborn child to a brain-dead person or a corpse flouts science which tells us that at 15 weeks gestation, a baby's organs are fully formed, her heart pumps 26 quarts of blood a day, and her lungs are already practicing drawing breath,” said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a radiology specialist with more than 20 years of experience.

Sonia Sotomayor. Public domain.
Sonia Sotomayor. Public domain.

Sotomayor’s comments came on the heels of Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart’s argument that advances in medical science over the past 30 years have helped Americans grow in “knowledge and concern” about whether the unborn child is “fully human,” which are based in part on increased knowledge of the pain experienced by fetuses in the womb.

“Virtually every state defines a brain death as death. Yet, the literature is filled with episodes of people who are completely and utterly brain dead responding to stimuli,” Sotomayor said.

“There's about 40% of dead people who, if you touch their feet, the foot will recoil. There are spontaneous acts by dead brain people. So I don't think that a response to — by a fetus necessarily proves that there's a sensation of pain or that there's consciousness,” the justice said.

Christie, co-author of a science-based amicus brief presented to the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case, criticized the Supreme Court justice for her assertions, calling them “wholly ignorant of the tremendous scientific advances in fetal medicine.” 

“As recently as last year, doctors in the Journal of Medical Ethics wrote, 'Current neuroscientific evidence supports the possibility of fetal pain before the 'consensus' cutoff of 24 weeks' and may be as early as 12 weeks,” Christie said.

“Not only does medicine agree that fetal anesthesia be administered for fetal surgery, a clear reflection of the medical consensus that unborn babies can feel pain, but like viability, the line marking when they feel pain continues to inch earlier,” Christie added.

Christie emphasized that the medical awareness of the humanity of the unborn child has made its way to ordinary citizens, and not just doctors. 

“This case is before the Supreme Court today in large part because Americans have seen the evolving science and increasingly want a voice in a question of great moral consequence,” she said. 

Several pro-life organizations have extensive scientific information regarding the humanity of the unborn child, including the Charlotte Lozier Institute.