Daniel McConchie

The pro-abortion legacy of Justice O’Connor: 30 years after joining the court, the damage continues

Daniel McConchie

30 years ago last week Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as the first female justice on the US Supreme Court. During the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan made a promise to nominate the first woman to high court. He got that chance shortly after taking office when Justice Potter Stewart left the bench. A review of O’Connor’s career reveals why the judicial nominee process has become so heated and why new laws had to pass what I call ‘the O’Connor test.’

Justice O’Connor was a former state legislator and judge from Arizona. During her interview with Reagan, she told him that she didn’t remember whether she had voted to repeal Arizona’s law banning abortion. In reality, O’Connor had voted twice on abortion – once for repeal of the state’s law criminalizing abortion and once against a prohibition on abortions in some Arizona hospitals. Reagan wrote in his diary on July 6, 1981, “Called Judge O’Connor and told her she was my nominee for supreme court. Already the flak is starting and from my own supporters. Right to Life people say she is pro abortion. She says abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she’ll make a good justice.”

In the early days of her tenure, O’Connor did vote to uphold restrictions on abortion and against an expansive view of Roe v. Wade - in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health in 1983 and in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 1986, with impressive dissents against invalidating common sense regulations.  That started to change in 1989 in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services when she sided with the majority to uphold a Missouri statute that prohibited use of public facilities or personnel to perform abortions and required ultrasound tests to determine viability after 20 weeks, but refused to overturn Roe. The following year O’Connor solidified her role as the court’s abortion swing vote in Hodgson v. Minnesota where she decided to strike down Minnesota’s law that required two parent notification before a minor could get an abortion, but upheld it when there was a judicial bypass option in place.

But the real kicker was in 1992 when she and Justice David Souter heavily lobbied Justice Anthony Kennedy who had voted in 1989 to overturn Roe to change his vote. In his book The Nine, Jeffery Toobin chronicles the highly unusual effort by these two justices to convince Kennedy that the nation simply wasn’t ready to overturn Roe. Their efforts paid off and the Supreme Court mandate that abortion cannot be outlawed remained. Over 20 million more abortions have happened in the 19 years since.

O’Connor didn’t stop there. In 2000 she sided with the majority in Stenberg v. Carhart to approve a right to partial-birth abortion. She did this despite knowing full well that this was the destruction of a perfectly normal unborn human being. It wasn’t until O’Connor was replaced by Justice Alito that we saw the tide turn and a more faithful holding of the constitution, at least as it comes to life issues, returned to the court.  In 2007 in Gonzales v. Carhart, the new majority with Alito upheld the federal PBA law and virtually overturned Stenberg.

A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing Justice Scalia speak to a group of students at the Supreme Court. It was shortly after the Roberts and Alito confirmations, and he was asked why the nomination process for Supreme Court Justices had become so politicized. He replied that it was simply because over the past 50 years the court had politicized the law. He went on to say that when the court decided to make law instead of interpret it, it was inevitable that the nomination process would become political.

In many ways, Justice O’Connor’s decisions on abortion over her 24 years on the court only served to further politicize that body and result in the countless deaths of others. Those abortion laws that met her personal test, whatever that was, was allowed to stand. Cross the invisible line, and the law would get tossed on its ear.

No, Sandra Day O’Connor didn’t rule from the bench; she legislated from it. That is the one legacy of Justice O’Connor. How ironic it is that a Justice who cared so much about judicial independence contributed so much to the politicization of the Court.


Planned Parenthood says its services are necessary in Oklahoma: the numbers show otherwise

Daniel McConchie
Daniel McConchie

Co-authored with Veronika Johannsen

A local Planned Parenthood facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma is set to close its doors beginning February 1, 2013 after losing funding for the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) at the beginning of this year. This marks a new front in the defunding battle as Planned Parenthood continues to be on the defensive regarding many of the various services it bills to the government.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health chose not to renew its contract with the organization in September 2012, citing a low-case-load and higher cost of patient participation. This decision is justifiable, especially considering the several cases of alleged Medicaid fraud, including a suit filed against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, which is Oklahoma’s affiliate. "This is a renewal period, and the agency has taken the option not to renew based on the needs of the Health Department, the contractor's performance and funding availability," according to a statement the department released.

WIC is a Federal grant program of the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which annually receives specified funding amounts from Congress. The program provides food-vouchers for supplemental nutrition assistance to income-eligible women who are pregnant (including six weeks after pregnancy), breastfeeding (up to child’s 1st birthday), and non-breastfeeding postpartum women (up to six months after pregnancy) as well as infants up to their 1st birthday and children under the age of 5. Few Planned Parenthood centers are currently known to participate in the program.

In response to the decision by the Oklahoma Department of Health, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Jill June wrote in an official statement: “Without any justification, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPHeartland) received notification that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is eliminating funding for the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program from three Planned Parenthood health centers in Tulsa.” June decried the decision as being politically motivated. “Politics should never interfere with a woman’s access to health services – or food for her children.”

Further investigation of this fantasized “war on women’s healthcare” shows June’s claim that Oklahoma’s decision was purely political proves to be untrue. June exaggerates the accessibility of Planned Parenthood in the Oklahoma community by insinuating that women and their children across the state will be denied basic healthcare and supplemental nutrition.  Consider that of the eleven Planned Parenthood clinics located throughout the state, only three of them provided WIC services. These three clinics are all centralized in Tulsa County – not in various counties throughout the state, thus limiting accessibility to those who live in other counties. Terry Bryce, the state’s WIC services director responded, “Their performance does not tie into politics for me.”

Of the 199,171 individuals who obtained WIC benefits in the county, two-thirds of them went to Tulsa County Health Departments which has ten different locations to serve the public. Additionally, women in need have the option of obtaining WIC services from four other independent clinics located throughout the county. Less than one-fifth of current WIC clients receive services at Planned Parenthood and most likely have easy access one of the other 14 locations in the area:

Tulsa is the only place in the state where Planned Parenthood currently provides WIC services. While the statement by Planned Parenthood encourages residents to believe Planned Parenthood is a major asset to the community by providing WIC services to women and children, in reality they only account for a mere 2.94% of the total state of Oklahoma – and were strictly limited to one county. Bryce also said that the decision would offset another round of cuts by saving the state $154,000.

Planned Parenthood is often known for attempting to convince the public that without them, women would be without access to basic health care and necessities for themselves and their families. After taking a closer look however, it is evident that this Planned Parenthood “service” to the state of Oklahoma is miniscule at best, and the loss of their status as a WIC provider is unlikely to negatively impact those dependent upon the Federal program. These Planned Parenthood’s WIC services are more expensive for the state and the county has a broad infrastructure to easily handle the clients that Planned Parenthood currently services. There is little reason to continue giving Planned Parenthood the people’s money simply because they exist.

Activists in other states who discover Planned Parenthood providing WIC services should investigate to see if there are similar conditions to that of Oklahoma. There is no reason for taxpayers to be subsidizing the abortion giant, especially in cases where there are a significant number of entities providing services to women and when Planned Parenthood’s redundant provision of services is at a higher cost.

Daniel McConchie is Vice President of Government Affairs for Americans United for Life. Veronika Johannsen is government affairs intern.


New Republican Party platform strongly pro-life

Daniel McConchie
Daniel McConchie

Over the last two days I had the privilege of working once again on the pro-life provisions of the Republican Party Platform in the meeting they hold once every four years. And once again the Committee approved a new party platform that strongly defends the sanctity of human life. A key provision in the document is a call for a Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution, a provision that has been in place since 1976, just three years after Roe v. Wade. 

And, in an historic first pioneered by myself and Kellie Fiedorek of AUL Action, the document now includes information about the negative impact of abortion on women, a provision that was approved unanimously by the delegates. Introduced by Illinois Delegate Sharee Langenstein, the mother of six daughters, for the first time the fact that abortion is bad for women is included in the section on health:

“Through Obamacare, the Obama Administration has promoted the notion that abortion is healthcare.  We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life.  Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women and we stand firmly against it.”

Some of the other key provisions included in this year’s document are:

“Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion, and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth.”

“We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by exacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties to health care providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended.”

“We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion or contraception.”

“We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulations.”

“We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy.”

“We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican initiatives.”

“We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.”

These kinds of party platform planks represent the ideals people hold and describes their motivations for future public policy that the Party will pursue. In this case, we have yet again an unambiguous declaration that the Republican Party will work to defend human life in the law.


Another state (13th) opt-outs of abortion in Obamacare

Daniel McConchie
Daniel McConchie

This week the federal government moved ahead with regulations that will require everyone in the soon-to-be-established state exchanges who are in an insurance plan that includes elective abortion coverage to pay a separate monthly premium from their own pockets to fund abortion. However, at the same time, South Dakota became the thirteenth state to stand up and say no.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed into law HB 1185, a bill sponsored by state representative Jon Hansen and drafted from an AUL model bill on the subject. So far Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas,  Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have all opted-out of having abortion covered in their federally-mandated insurance plans.

And South Dakota won’t be the last. At least seven other states have bills pending on this question right now while other states are looking to include such a provision as an amendment to the bill that establishes the state exchanges.

This is yet another proof that Americans are not interested in subsidizing abortion with their own money.


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