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Alive and Kicking

Missouri's Pro-Life Law Survives Court Challenge by Feminist 'Faith Leaders'



Protections for the unborn are still very much alive in Missouri, following a major win in the state's 22nd Circuit Court.


On Friday, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Jason Sengheiser rejected arguments that Missouri's "Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act" violates the separation of church and state.


The June 14 ruling allows the law — one of the nation's strongest pro-life measures — to stand.


Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, whose office defended the measure, celebrated Judge Sengheiser's decision:

"Today is a major win for women and their unborn children as a Missouri court sided with our office yet again in our efforts to defend the sanctity of life. Having lost a child, this issue is personal for me. My office will continue to use every tool at its disposal to protect the unborn. Our children are worth the fight."

THE STATUTE


Missouri was the first state to outlaw abortion after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022 — the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


Within minutes of the high court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and then-Attorney General Eric Schmitt signed a declaration activating HB 126, the "Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act" — a 2019 "trigger law" banning all abortions, except in cases where the mother's life is at stake.


"With Roe v. Wade overturned and statutory triggers provided in HB 126, we are issuing this proclamation to restore our state authority to regulate abortion and protect life," Gov. Parson said in a statement after Dobbs was announced.

"Thanks to decades of conservative leaders, Missouri has become one of the most pro-life states in the nation, and our Administration has always fought for the life of every unborn child. Today, our efforts have produced what generations of Missourians have worked and prayed for: Today, we have won our fight to protect innocent life."

THE LAWSUIT


Seeking to restore abortion availability within the Show Me State, a consortium of 14 Missouri faith leaders filed suit in January 2023, arguing that HB 126 violates the state constitution's Establishment Clauses.


Representing various liberal religious factions, the plaintiffs include pastors of Baptist, Church of Christ, Episcopalian and Methodist congregations, as well as Jewish and Unitarian-Universalist clergy. Their legal team includes Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as well as the National Women's Law Center.


The coalition attempted to portray HB 126 as imposing a set of religious beliefs on all Missourians, noting that the statute includes the statement, "that Almighty God is the author of life, that all men and women are 'endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life.'"


Likewise, the lawsuit quoted the act's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Nick Schroer, as saying that "as a Catholic I do believe life begins at conception and that is built into our legislative findings."


"We know this has a religious purpose because when the lawmakers passed the law 2019 [sic], they told us that," K.M. Bell, an attorney for the plaintiffs, insisted.


The state's legal team countered that, although some backers of HB 126 are motivated by faith, this doesn't mean that the act forces their religious beliefs upon the citizens of Missouri.


Maria Lanahan, Deputy Solicitor General for Missouri, noted that while the measure "was in harmony" with some lawmakers' religious beliefs, no one was "compelled to support any system of worship."


THE DECISION


Judge Sengheiser agreed, ruling on Friday, "The Court does not accept Petitioners' argument that the determination that human life begins at conception is strictly a religious one."


"The plain language of the Challenged Provisions stating that life begins at conception do not do so in religious terms," he noted. "While the determination that life begins at conception may run counter to some religious beliefs, it is not itself necessarily a religious belief."

"As such, it does not prevent all men and women from worshiping Almighty God or not worshiping according to the dictates of their own consciences; it does not control or interfere with the rights of conscience; it does not establish any official religion, it does not infringe a citizen's right to pray or express his or her religious beliefs; it does not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity; it does not compel anyone to erect, support or attend any place or system of worship, or to maintain or support any priest, minister, preacher or teacher of any sect, church, creed or denomination of religion."

Furthermore, Sengheiser observed that "Missouri has had some form of abortion restriction since 1825."


As such, he wrote, "The Court finds that the restrictions in the ban are consistent with Missouri's historical criminalization of and restrictions on abortion. Essentially, the only thing that changed is that Roe was reversed, opening the door to this further regulation."


FAITH-BASED FETICIDE


The plaintiffs, who have a right to appeal Judge Sengheiser's ruling, are vowing to continue their fight.


"We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and will be discussing next steps with our faith leader clients," their legal team said following the ruling. "Missouri's abortion ban is a direct attack on the separation of church and state, religious freedom, and reproductive freedom. Missouri lawmakers made clear that they were imposing their personal religious beliefs on all Missourians when they enacted these laws. We remain committed to restoring abortion access in Missouri."


In a testament to the state of Christianity in the United States today, the plaintiffs are portraying their crusade as a moral and religious duty.


"Missouri's abortion bans legislate a religious view of abortion that is entirely at odds with my religious beliefs and the reproductive counseling I've offered as a United Church of Christ minister," said Rev. Jan Barnes.


"I believe that God wants health and well-being for all people, which includes the ability for people to make the reproductive decisions that are best for them. When I've ministered to people contemplating abortions, I've explained that God supports individuals in making decisions for themselves about whether to have an abortion and that there is no biblical prohibition of abortion," Barnes added.


"For decades, the Episcopal Church has affirmed that the decision to have an abortion is a personal one that should not be legislated away by the government," said the Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson, Eleventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. "In 2018, the church's General Convention declared that reproductive health care is integral to the struggle to assert women's dignity and worth as human beings."


"I believe that abortion, which is based in reason and science, is not incompatible with scripture and is supported by my faith," Johnson continued. "The Missouri abortion bans are entirely at odds with my religious beliefs. Missouri legislators have enshrined in law a narrow religious view that does not reflect my own beliefs or the views of the Episcopal Church. That is a violation of my religious freedom and the separation of church and state."


"In the United Church of Christ, we believe that God intended people to have autonomy over their lives and bodies, and to have authority to make complex decisions, including whether to have an abortion," said Rev. Traci Blackmon. "Missouri's abortion bans are an unconscionable abuse of religion to oppress all Missourians. Legislators do not have the right to impose their faith on me or anyone else. They're betraying the separation of church and state that has enabled the religious plurality we enjoy in our state and in our country."


"My God is a God of choice," Blackman noted.


Indeed — and his name is Moloch.


Writer, editor and producer Stephen Wynne has spent the past seven years covering, from a Catholic perspective, the latest developments in the Church, the nation and the world. Prior to his work in journalism, he spent eight years co-authoring “Repairing the Breach,” a book examining the war of worldviews between Christianity and Darwinism. A Show-Me State native, he holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pepperdine University and an Executive MBA from the Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


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----"For decades, the Episcopal Church has affirmed that the decision to have an abortion is a personal one that should not be legislated away by the government," said the Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson, Eleventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.----


All decisions to murder someone are personal ones. This "bishop" is one dim bulb. Ditto for "Rev." Traci, who then says: "My God is a God of choice," --Traci Blackman.


Here's the verse, Traci; read ALL of it.


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live

--Deuteronomy 30: 19


Go MO!

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