Ben Johnson

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Birth control becomes a major issue at GOP debate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE January 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – George Stephanopoulos, the moderator of Saturday evening’s Republican presidential debate in Manchester, introduced a new issue into this year’s ever-changing presidential race: banning contraception.

Stephanopoulos began a contentious exchange with Mitt Romney by asking, “Do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception, or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?”

The former Massachusetts governor replied that since no state is considering such a ban, the question was “an unusual topic” and “kind of a silly thing” to ask. After saying he “would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception,” he stated the Supreme Court had wrongly promulgated its “right to privacy” doctrine, and he supported the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Stephanopoulos was openly booed when he introduced a follow-up by saying, “You’ve given two answers to the question.” He later asked if the Constitution should be amended to ban birth control. “No, states don’t want to ban contraception, so why would we try to put it in the Constitution?” Romney retorted.

“Contraception? It’s working just fine,” Romney said. “Just leave it alone.”

Three of his Republican rivals weighed in on the issue. Ron Paul, whom Romney invoked as an expert on the Constitution, said the Fourth Amendment guarantees a right to privacy, and the Interstate Commerce Clause protected the sale of contraception.

Santorum said two Supreme Court cases had “created, through a penumbra of rights, a new ‘right to privacy’ that was not in the Constitution.”

“I have seven kids,” Jon Huntsman joked, after saying he supported civil unions for same-sex couples. “Glad we’re off the contraception discussion.”

The topic was raised in part by Santorum’s surge, after narrowly losing the Iowa caucuses last week. In October, he told a blogger he would use the bully pulpit to talk about “the dangers of contraception” and “the whole sexual libertine idea.” The two items represented, in his opinion, “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

He later said that, under the Tenth Amendment, states had the theoretical right to pass a law banning contraception.

Last Friday, he told ABC News’ Jake Tapper, “States have the right to pass even dumb laws,” including “a law against buying shoestrings.”

He added while he opposes funding Planned Parenthood, he does not favor outlawing contraceptives that prevent fertilization. “The idea I’m coming after your birth control is absurd,” he said. “I don’t think the government should be involved in that.”

However, many in the pro-life movement draw a clear connection between the two issues. “First let’s be clear: nobody is actually proposing that contraceptives be banned,” said Eric Scheidler, 45, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.  “But,” he told LifeSiteNews.com, “the close connection between contraception and abortion that Rick Santorum points to is one that we need to face squarely. In fact, an honest assessment of how contraception has impacted our society is long overdue.”

The 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a Connecticut statute banning the sale of birth control, after a Planned Parenthood activist opened a clinic in the state. Justice William O. Douglas ruled that, while the Constitution does not specifically contain a right to privacy, “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” 

In a scathing dissent, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that the Griswold case caused legal discourse to “descend to the level of a play on words.” Although he called the law “uncommonly silly,” he concluded, “With all deference, I can find no such general right of privacy in the Bill of Rights, in any other part of the Constitution, or in any case ever before decided by this Court.”

The case was raised to new importance eight years later, when Roe v. Wade cited Griswold’s new-found right to privacy as “broad enough to encompass” abortion.

Critics accuse Santorum of being obsessed with the issue of the unborn. The Sunlight Foundation critiqued “the degree to which Santorum favored topics such as abortion, fetuses and wombs when he was serving in Congress’ upper chamber.”

Media observers blasted Stephanopoulos, a former communications director in the Clinton administration, for asking biased and irrelevant questions. Committee For Justice executive director and constitutional lawyer Curt Levey said in a statement, “Knowing that Romney and most Americans would not support a government ban on contraceptives, Stephanopoulos’s apparent goal was to trip up Romney, who believes that Roe v. Wade — in which the Supreme Court relied on a supposed constitutional right to privacy — was wrongly decided.”

Others squirmed at frank talk of sexual issues in a partisan forum. Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post referred to the exchange as “the seven most awkward minutes of our collective lives.”

While some accuse Santorum and other Republican candidates of imposing their morality on the electorate, Newt Gingrich drew attention to the lack of media coverage against “anti-Christian bigotry.”

Gingrich, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, objected, “You don’t hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples – which is exactly what the state has done? ... Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration in key delivery of services because of the bias and bigotry of the administration? The bigotry question goes both ways, and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry than there is concern on the other side, and none of it gets covered by the news media.”

Deal Hudson of the Catholic Advocate said Santorum’s success proves “the political viability of a Catholic candidate who does not compromise on social issues and offers real world solutions to the challenges of the budget, the economy, and foreign policy.”

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary takes place on Tuesday. Some villages begin voting at midnight.


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LifeSiteNews staff

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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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