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McMONAGLE: Dobbs One Year Later: Mixed Results, Renewed Challenges

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court, with its Dobbs decision, reversed its intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision, which invented a “constitutional right to abortion” under a “right to privacy” and a “trimester scheme.”

As a result, as reported by the state Department of Health (DOH), abortions in Pennsylvania rose from 8,540 in 1972 to a peak of 65,777 in 1980 to approximately 34,400 in 2022. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 24 states now have greater protections than allowed under Roe, with 12 states banning all or most abortions.

According to FiveThirtyEight, these protections have resulted in 24,290 fewer abortions between July 2022 and March 2023. However, such an expansion in Pennsylvania, from our current 24-week gestational limit, with some exceptions, is not currently realistic because of the election of another pro-abortion governor. However, our movement remains able to defeat pro-abortion legislation, such as H.B.428, introduced by the narrow Democrat majority in the Pennsylvania House, which seeks to eliminate many of Pennsylvania’s current abortion regulations, such as parental and informed consent, and permit non-physicians to commit abortions.

Dobbs has also renewed the public square debate on the “abortion issue,” which has produced mixed results. Governors who articulately defended their signing protective legislation (such as in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio) easily won reelection in 2022. However, candidates who did not articulately defend their pro-life position and did not criticize their opponents for support of legislation such as H.B.428 (e.g., Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano) lost.

State referenda results also emphasize the need to articulate the pro-life position regarding “exceptions.” The pro-life movement supports the most protective legislation that is politically viable. Such a position allows support for legislation with “exceptions” (which will still save many mothers and children from abortion) as long as the pro-life position is publicly expressed.

Abortion is the direct and intentional killing of a child in the womb. Thus, a procedure done to preserve the life of an expectant mother, such as the removal of an ectopic pregnancy or a premature delivery, is not an abortion. Support for a “rape exception” removes all of the love and justice from the pro-life position.

The basis for banning abortion then becomes whether the expectant mother consented to sexual activity that led to the child’s conception. Such an exception also punishes the child for the crime of his or her biological father. We acknowledge the need to better persuade our fellow citizens to the pro-life position, which is that every child should be welcomed in life and protected by law.

However, we will never persuade our fellow citizens to this position if we abandon it. In addition to changing public policy, the pro-life movement seeks to change our culture and the minds of abortion-minded women. Both of these efforts require renewing a proper view of human sexuality, which is a God-given gift ordered to unity and procreation in marriage.

Restoring this order will greatly reduce abortions (according to the Pennsylvania DOH, almost 90 percent of abortions continue to be committed on unmarried women) and will yield many other benefits. These include reducing crime, as most of Philadelphia’s record number of murders are committed by young men raised without fathers.

Our area’s cultural and political leaders continue to ignore this reality by euphemistically labeling these murders as “gun violence,” as if guns are shooting themselves. The position that “abortion is health care” requires a view that motherhood is a disease and the child in the womb may be treated as a tumor.

The pro-life side needs to emphasize that, along with his or her mother, children in the womb are patients who have been successfully cured of numerous adverse conditions. This website presents the details of these amazing stories, which are summarized by, “A patient is a person, no matter how small.”

Our Philadelphia area pro-life movement observed the first anniversary of Roe’s reversal on Saturday, June 24, with a Center City March For Life and a rally on Independence Mall. We also conducted the world’s largest Baby Shower to benefit our area’s network of services to expectant mothers and their families, which remains one of the most extensive in our nation.

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FLOWERS: In 2022, SCOTUS Righted a Grave Wrong

I generally hate year-in-review columns. They seem forced, like a list of things you must buy at the grocery store. Check this off, and then this, and we did this, and I need that, and we are out of this, and can we have extra of that, etc. Years blend into each other and it’s often hard to pick exceptional events, particularly since the same things seem to happen over and over again: Wars start and continue, and we think they end, and then they’re prolonged.

People die (surprise!) and we reflect on their lives, even when we might have forgotten they were still alive. Couples divorce and then find other partners they will eventually cast off in search of the perfect fit. Fads spring out of nowhere and insecure people with no particular talent film themselves on once-obscure social media apps in the hopes of boosting their self-esteem (after artificially boosting their lips and bosoms). Year after year, the same things tend to happen, and we try and frame them in a context where they seem historic.

But this year, something historic did happen, something that many people despaired of ever seeing, even though hope is the last thing to die. Since this is my column, this is my perspective. You won’t hear me talking about the tragic war in Ukraine, the January 6th Committee results, the disappointing red trickle at the mid-terms, the death of Sidney Poitier, or any of the other things that were indeed important (and about which I’ve written) but which did not stand out as the central, sea change event of 2022.

What defines for me the alpha and the omega of this year, the San Andreas Fault that splits two diametrically opposed tectonic plates, the BC and AD of our current historical timeline, is the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

That case, like Brown v. Board of Education, brought down a monolith of injustice: Legalized abortion by judicial fiat. The fiat was created by seven old men who ignored the voices of the American people and reached into some insubstantial and fictitious folds of constitutional jurisprudence to pluck out the right to kill a child.

Most would not be quite so blatant about it. They would replace “child” with “pregnancy” and “kill” with “terminate.” Those are the accepted terms in polite conversation, even though there is never anything polite about discussions around abortion. But the truth is clear and has been for almost 50 years.

January 22, 1973 would have marked one of the bloodiest half centuries known to modern society. That would have been the anniversary of the date Roe v. Wade, the decision to legalize abortion, was handed down and announced by that all-male court. I keep emphasizing the gender of the justices since we have been force-fed a diet of “if you can’t get pregnant, you have no right to have an opinion” by pro-choice advocates. I am going to be generous herein using the term that they prefer, pro “choice,” even though I would invite the reader to reflect on what “choice” we are discussing. There are only two: Life and death. Pro-choice advocates find both to be equally acceptable. Roe v. Wade supported that position and perpetuated a myth that there was virtue and legitimacy to the idea that women have dominion over their own bodies and the body growing within them.

But in 2022, after 50 years of lost potential and lives sacrificed to convenience and a skewed sense of autonomy, a court composed of men and women ruled that abortion was no longer a “right” and that, indeed, it never had been. And even though the reaction was brutal and there are continued attempts to codify abortion rights into law, and even though there are states where women will continue to be able to “choose” termination, there is now in this great country where immigrants find shelter and the oppressed find solace, an understanding that you cannot simply make up a right to do whatever you want, simply because you want to do it.

That principle transcends the issue of abortion. In 2022, women and men were told that no matter how much they want to engage in magical thinking and read the Constitution as a blueprint for living the lives they want, in the way they want, on the timeline they want, there are principles that are larger than their own narcissistic desires. One of them is the respect owed to other lives.

That is a lesson we should have figured out after the Civil War. It’s still a lesson we need to learn, and 2022 is bringing us closer to the point where we’re finally getting the message.

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Dobbs Decision Spurs Voter Registrations Among DelVal Women

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Pennsylvania women have been outpacing men by 12 percent in registering to vote, according to voter data firm Target Smart. That is significant because both Democrats at the top of the ticket are outperforming their GOP opponents among women, the latest polls show.

A Pew Research Center poll released in August revealed abortion was an essential issue for 56 percent of voters this election — a 10 percent jump since March. While there has been no difference in the importance of the abortion issue among Republican voters since March, the importance among Democrat voters increased to 71 percent — a 25 percent jump since the landmark ruling.

In Montgomery County, female voters registering as Democrats has been six times higher than Republican registration since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Comparing male voters, Democrat registration is around two times greater than Republicans. According to data, 511 women have switched to the Democratic Party, while just 211 women have switched to the Republican Party, according to Kelly Cofrancisco, Montgomery County’s director of communications.

In Bucks County, the shift in women’s voter registration hasn’t been as significant. Four days before the ruling, 19,061 more women were registered as Democrats than Republicans, according to Bucks County voter registration data. On September 6, the gap between Democrat and Republican registrations for women increased only by 559. During the same period, the gap between Democrat and Republican male registrations grew by 336.

Both Chester and Delaware County spokespeople told DVJournal they couldn’t provide complete information about the sex of newly-registered voters. However, since the ruling, the Chester Democratic Party added 1,471 more new voters than the GOP.

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) said abortion rights are a priority for her campaign, providing a distinct difference between her GOP opponent, business leader Guy Ciarrocchi.

“On one hand, Chrissy will continue to fight until Roe is the law of our land,” said Shane Wolfe, her campaign manager. “On the other is a candidate who supports the extremists in Washington and Harrisburg trying to pass a nationwide abortion ban without exceptions for rape and incest. Voters need to know where their candidates stand on this key issue. And since the Dobbs decision, we have seen a surge of volunteers, donations, and voter registrations to support Chrissy’s election.”

Ciarrocchi pushed back on Houlahan’s attacks.

“I don’t rely on the media to educate me on ‘what women think,” said Ciarrocchi, the father of two daughters and a son, who has coached girls’ softball for 23 years. “The Inquirer story, unfortunately, continues a pattern of dividing-up Americans into political ‘camps’—based on gender, race, geography, etc. and making generalizations.”

A weak economy, rising crime, and students falling behind are at the forefront of Ciarrocchi’s campaign because those are the issues that unite everyone, he said.

“There have been a lot of twists and turns and news stories during this campaign, but the issues have remained constant,” Ciarrocchi said. “Gas is too expensive, inflation is robbing us of our paychecks and savings, violent crime is on the rise, and too many parents feel powerless as their kids fall behind academically and emotionally.”

EMILY’s List, a pro-choice political action committee, has donated $11,600 during this current election cycle to Houlahan’s campaign according to Open Secrets.

That PAC also donated $34,845 to Rep. Susan Wild’s campaign. Wild also received $8,500 from another pro-choice PAC known as A Woman’s Place. Redistricting led Wild’s seat to lean more Republican, according to the Cook Political Report. A recent poll revealed that 47 percent of respondents would vote for Republican challenger Lisa Scheller and 43 percent for Rep. Wild.

Among Democrat Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon’s top ten donors this election cycle is A Woman’s Place. Thus far, Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) has received $10,000. Her opponent, Republican Dave Galluch, is also unfazed by the uptick in voter registration among women, according to campaign manager Joe Luongo.

“From the start of his campaign, Dave has been focused on issues that are hurting families and women,” Luongo said. “Having been raised by a single mother, Dave knows first-hand the impact higher grocery and gas prices have on families, especially single mothers. Dave doesn’t need a poll to know that real leadership would never allow for a shortage of baby formula.”

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Supreme Court Arguments Show Ongoing Divisions on Abortion

With oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Wednesday in a Mississippi case that could determine the future of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, various Pennsylvania politicians and interest groups weighed in.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would ban abortions after 15 weeks in Mississippi. It’s possible the high court could uphold the law by effectively striking down the 1973 ruling. It established a legal right to abortion and restricted the ability of elected legislators to pass laws regulating the controversial medical procedure.

The court is also considering a Texas law that imposed a “fetal heartbeat” restriction on abortions in the Lone Star state. Justices allowed that law to take effect but may issue a ruling abrogating it later.

Pennsylvanians in the pro-life camp say they fervently hope the court upholds the Mississippi law.

“It’s all about the constitutionality,” said Tom Stevens, president and CEO of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, which held a prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia Wednesday morning to ask God to give the Supreme Court justices “wisdom.”

“We’re hopeful that this could even be an overturning of Roe v. Wade and, as we know, Roe v. Wade is bad law,” Stevens said. “And also, the world has changed since then. With today’s modern technology, we’re able to see clearly that a baby early in the womb is a baby.”

The Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania (PPAP) also held demonstrations around the commonwealth Wednesday.

“We are a state with some abortion access in limited areas, with a limited number of providers,” said Signe Espinoza, PPAP executive director. “The results of this Supreme Court case could put pressure on the entire abortion access network throughout the country — including Pennsylvania.”

Some statewide 2022 political candidates offered their thoughts on Wednesday’s hearing.

“It appears the Supreme Court is leaning toward upholding the rights of the states to set limitations on abortion,” said Kathy Barnette, a Republican Senate candidate. “If that ends up being the final decision by the court, that states have the power to limit and restrict abortion, it would be in keeping with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Democrats for Life President Monica Sparks addresses a crowd outside the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C. on November 30, 2021.

“In a culture where we are rapidly moving through the Constitution like a whale moves through a net, where our legislators are interacting with the Constitution as if it’s just a list of suggestions, the court’s decision to actually uphold the U.S. Constitution would be a welcome salve for our limping document. Personally, as someone who was conceived through rape when my mother was just 11 years years old, I will always stand alongside those who stand in the defense of life.”

Charlie Gerow, a GOP strategist who is running for governor, agreed the justices may rule in favor of upholding the Mississippi statute.

“I’m very, very grateful to my birth mother for doing the right thing,” said Gerow, who was adopted. “I’m incredibly blessed she made that decision.”

If he becomes governor, Gerow says he would sign a law to make abortion illegal after a baby’s heartbeat can be heard. A similar law was previously vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

“I’m a great believer in the blessings of life,” said Gerow.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Lou Barletta said, “Abortion takes the life of a child, who if it were allowed to be born, would have all of the rights of any other human being. At that point, killing the baby would rightly be called murder. Abortion activists like to say that abortion is ‘healthcare,’ but where does the unborn baby go for healthcare?

“As Americans, we should do all that we can to protect the most vulnerable, and that should include unborn children,” said Barletta. “I am hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold the Mississippi law.”

Board member Patrick Stanton prays with members of the Pro Life Union of Pennsylvania outside Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia.

Republican Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who is running for governor said, “As one of 14 children in my family, I’m a strong supporter of life. It’s our duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, and I’ll be following this case closely.”

For Democrat Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and U.S. Senate candidate, the issue is a woman’s right to choose.

“This case represents the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade in decades, just a month after the Supreme Court heard arguments over the six-week Texas abortion ban,” said Arkoosh. “As a doctor on the labor and delivery floor, I sat with patients learning hard truths about their pregnancies and facing difficult choices. But they were choices that were theirs to make. I have seen firsthand how important it is that every patient have access to the full range of healthcare choices and the danger that could come with limiting those decisions. It is truly life and death and we need to act to codify Roe v. Wade.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Guy Ciarrocchi, who is on hiatus from his job as the president of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce said, “I am pro-life. But, whether or not one agrees with Roe v Wade, we should all be saddened to know that millions of babies have died—30,000 each year in our state. The decision focused on a baby’s viability in 1973. At a minimum, we should all agree that viability is now much, much earlier due to scientific advances. So, Roe is now not only bad law, it’s based on very, very outdated science. It is time for Roe to be replaced.”

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a candidate for governor, promised to “protect every child from the moment of conception. Allowing the most defenseless and voiceless among us to be murdered in the womb is unacceptable, unethical, and unforgivable. Under my leadership, Pennsylvania will be a sanctuary state for innocent unborn human life.”

A spokesman for state Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), who is also running for governor, said Corman is “pro-life and a supporter of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act and has worked to strengthen the law. With advances in medical care, he supports doing all we can to protect the sanctity of life.”

Dr. Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon who is running for governor said, “All human life is precious, including the unborn, and must be cherished and protected.”

“While I am not supportive of unsustainable, and historically-ineffective, draconian and vigilante policies such as we have witnessed in Texas, I understand that there are extremely rare cases where an abortion is medically indicated,” said Zama,  Republican. “Like many clinicians  I do believe that a woman faced with a decision to commit an abortion is really crying out for help and no policy on this matter can ever be effective if it is punitive, does not address root cause, and fails to consider her an important stakeholder. She needs counseling and other resources that can enable her to appreciate the alternative of preserving human life including the option of adoption. What the general public may not be aware of is the long term adverse remorseful psychological impact on a woman after an abortion. By the same token the woman who has rejected the abortion alternative should never feel abandoned by society as she struggles socially and economically to raise the child. To be effective and meaningful our commitment to the preservation of human life must be holistic and not only to satisfy a fleeting agenda.”

In contrast, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only Democrat running for governor so far, released this statement:

“The Mississippi case before the United States Supreme Court could nullify the law of the land set by Roe v. Wade, and rob women of their constitutional right to control their own bodies. The extremists behind these laws won’t stop with abortion. A decision upholding Mississippi’s law would threaten many rights Americans have come to depend on, including the right to marry and access to contraception, based on a radical, narrow-minded, and unilateral reinterpretation of the Constitution. My office filed an amicus brief in this case supporting a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, and we will continue to use the full force of this office and decades of precedent to defend that right.”

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