Thomas More Society at Bringing America Back to Life Conference

 

Andy Bath and Molly Smith, Executive Director of TMS client, Cleveland Right to Life.

Thomas More Society attorney Andy Bath traveled to Independence, Ohio for the annual Bringing America Back to Life Convention. Organized by Cleveland Right to Life, the event is a yearly premiere educational platform to serve as a resource for national pro-life organizations.

On Friday morning, hundreds gathered in the exhibit hall to connect with pro-life organizations from across the country through in-depth information and giveaways. Throughout the day, attendees were able to participate in a formal program designed to focus on Bringing America Back to Life’s mission to PAVE the way to life. PAVE, which stands for Pray, Act, Vote, Education, is a program designed to provide encouragement and confidence for pro-life supporters. This year, the event featured Abby Johnson and Bobby Schindler, who were among the 24 speakers presenting on various life issues.

During the conference, Andy Bath was able to connect with Molly Smith, Rebecca Kiessling, Dan Miller, and other Thomas More Society clients to catch up and discuss how Thomas More Society can continue to support their good work.

Andy Bath and TMS client, Rebecca Kiessling, founder of Save the One.

Andy Bath and TMS client Dan Miller, State Director of Pro-Life Wisconsin.

PRO-LIFE ADVOCATES SUE HHS SECRETARY AND ILLINOIS GOVERNOR

State Law Compels Pro-Lifers to Counsel About Abortions and Provide Referrals Against Their Faith

The Thomas More Society filed suit on March 16, 2017 in federal court on behalf of a pro-life physician and two pro-life pregnancy resource centers challenging Public Act 99-690, the controversial law that forces physicians and other health care providers to provide information about the so-called benefits of abortion and to give referrals to abortion providers upon request. The suit advances claims under the federal constitution as well as a number of federal laws, including the Hyde-Weldon Amendment.

The plaintiffs are Dr. Ronald L. Schroeder, 1st Way Life Center, and Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs (PASS). Dr. Schroeder provides pro bono medical care to women in crisis pregnancy situations. PASS and 1st Way are pregnancy resource centers that help women choose life for their babies by providing emotional and material assistance to women and families. All the plaintiffs are pro-life Christians whose efforts are inspired by their religious faith, but their faith also precludes them from counseling about the supposed benefits of abortion or referring clients to abortion providers. P.A. 99-690 requires them to do just that and exposes them to discrimination, sanctions, and liability if they do not comply.

Thomas Olp, attorney for the Thomas More Society, observed, “Our clients have spent decades helping women choose life for their unborn babies. This law targets pro-life physicians and pregnancy centers, which do not refer for abortion, and whose pro-life mission is to advise clients of abortion alternatives such as parenting and adoption. But the law forces center personnel to discuss supposed ‘benefits’ of abortion with clients and, upon request, to refer them to an abortion provider or give information about such providers. This law only targets those who, like our clients, conscientiously oppose discussing so-called benefits of abortion and referring for abortion, and leaves non-conscientious objectors unregulated. Our clients view this as a nefarious attempt by the abortion industry to protect its abortion business by silencing pro-life physicians and pregnancy resource centers, that, without a profit motive, try to convince pregnant women to choose life for their unborn child, not abortion.”

Olp continued by noting that P.A. 99-690 attempts to “circumvent federal laws designed to protect pro-life physicians and other health care providers.” As he put it, “P.A. 99-690 frustrates the purpose of the Hyde-Weldon Amendment and similar federal laws prohibiting federal funds from going to states that permit discrimination against health care workers who refuse, because of conscience, to be involved in abortion referrals.” He expressed hope that the Trump Administration would issue guidance requiring the State of Illinois to respect the conscience rights of the plaintiffs and other pro-life health care providers in this area of abortion referral and discussion of abortion.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois against Governor Rauner and his Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider. It asserts several constitutional claims, including compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. Federal officials, including Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, were joined given their interest in ensuring that federal monies are spent as required by federal law; but the suit seeks no relief against them at this time. The suit seeks a preliminary injunction against enforcement of P.A. 99-690 pending final resolution of the litigation.

A link to the Complaint can be found here

 

Ban on Late-Term Baby Dismemberment Defended Before Kansas Supreme Court

Thomas More Society Brief Argues that State Constitution Does Not Grant “Right to Abortion”

The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments on March 16, 2017 in a lawsuit dealing with the state’s law prohibiting the performance of dismemberment (dilation and evacuation) abortions on live, unborn children.  The Thomas More Society’s friend of the court (amicus) brief in Hodes v. Schmidt supports the ban, which is being challenged by two abortionists, Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser.  The law was passed by the Kansas legislature and signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback.

The plaintiffs argue that the measure violates Section One of the Kansas Bill of Rights, which provides that, “all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Hodes and Nauser insist that this phrasing guarantees a woman a right to abortion at any stage.  A state trial court entered a temporary injunction against the ban and a divided appellate court affirmed that injunction.

The Thomas More Society brief was filed by Special Counsel Paul Benjamin Linton on behalf of the Family Research Council, a national organization dedicated to promotion of marriage, family and the sanctity of human life. Linton maintains that the Kansas Bill of Rights’ provision cited does not create a right to abortion in Kansas and therefore cannot be used to block enforcement of the state law that aims to end the widely-opposed gruesome practice of dismemberment abortions.

A constitutional scholar, Linton reviews similar provisions from 28 other states, none of which support the view that Kansas’ Bill of Rights provision creates a right to abortion. In fact, Kansas outlawed abortion until Roe v. Wade. Linton points out that Kansas courts have never previously interpreted Section One of the Kansas Bill of Rights to create judicially enforceable substantive rights, and he demonstrates that the dismembering of live, unborn children has no foundation in the Kansas constitutional law.

Read the Brief Amicus Curiae of the Family Research Council filed by the Thomas More Society in the case of Hodes v. Schmidt, heard March 16, 2017, in the Supreme Court of Kansas here

Nebraska Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Bill is “Unconstitutional, Vague and Litigious”

Thomas More Society Attorney Speaks Against Nebraska LB 173

Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffron testified before the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2017, in defense of the rights of churches, religious organizations and individuals to operate businesses in accordance with their religious or moral beliefs. Heffron addressed the proposed LB 173, its probable unconstitutionality, its vagueness, and the deluge of litigation it would invite.

Heffron analyzed the legal flaws in the proposed law that would create two new protected classes for sexual orientation and gender identity. He testified that neither LB 173 nor the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act include exemptions that would give needed protection for any churches or religious organizations.  Nor are there protections for other Nebraska organizations or individuals whose deeply held religious or moral convictions do not endorse homosexuality or who uphold a traditional, biological understanding of gender.

The attorney’s testimony supported the positions of the Nebraska Catholic Conference and the Nebraska Family Alliance.

Read Heffron’s presentation to the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Thomas More Society’s Omaha Attorneys Support ENDA Opposition

Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffron presenting at the Norfolk Nebraska Public Library.

On February 9, 2017, Thomas More Society Attorney Matt Heffron toured Northeast Nebraska, explaining to groups in four cities and towns the legal and moral reasons to oppose Legislative Bill 173. Arranged by Nebraskans for Founder’s Values, the tour also featured Heffron’s presentation via video during the remaining two days of the tour in additional cities and towns in central and southeastern  Nebraska.

LB 173 is this year’s re-iteration of a Employment “Nondiscrimination” Act, or ENDA, which has failed in the last two legislative sessions. The Nebraska Catholic Conference, and the Nebraskans in general, have roundly opposed it because it creates two new protected classes (sexual orientation and gender identity), using vague terms, and threatening coercive lawsuits against any conscientious objectors, not even having an effective religious-organization exemption

For the last three legislative sessions, Thomas More Society attorneys have worked with the Nebraska Catholic Conference, analyzing proposed legislation, writing widely used position papers, testifying before committees of the Legislature, and providing timely legal research on numerous fast-evolving issues.

Thomas More Society Celebrates Namesake

Thomas More Society celebrates the birthday month of its namesake, Sir Thomas More, the patron saint of attorneys, statesmen and politicians by asking Thomas More Society employees how Sir Thomas More inspires them today.

“Thomas More exemplifies conscience in action.  His principled refusal to take the oath required of him by King Henry VIII was based on a lifetime of active discernment in law and morality.  He is an example for all lawyers and public servants, whose mission is to effectuate justice and the common good.”

— Thomas Olp, Co-Executive Director

“The great English saint is a model for our confused time in that he clearly perceived the imperfect ability of man, and so knew that efforts to build a heaven on earth are futile—literally Utopia (nowhere).   Imagine the evils avoided over the past century had that been well understood in Germany, Russia, China, and too many other places to name.   Yet his example testifies that each of us can grasp a good life through quiet practice of the traditional Christian virtues.  Thomas More’s courage, fortitude, and charity in the face of tyranny and adversity should console and inspire every Christian who senses that such virtues will be necessary to sustain the Faith in coming years.”  

— Mike Hartnett, Development Coordinator

Read more about Sir Thomas More here.

Planned Parenthood Zoning Battle Continues in Aurora

Thomas More Society Attorneys Appeal Case Against Abortion Giant

Thomas More Society attorneys again appealed the long-running case against Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois. The appeal, filed February 15, 2017, in the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, challenges Circuit Court Judge Paul Fullerton’s dismissal of a lawsuit over Planned Parenthood’s manipulation of zoning laws to construct an abortion clinic in Aurora, Illinois. The lawsuit, in process since the 2008 filing on behalf of residents who live near the Aurora Planned Parenthood facility and an unincorporated association of Fox Valley Families, charges that the nation’s largest abortion provider misled and lied to Aurora zoning and building officials to get permission to build its mega-abortion clinic.

The appeal filed in this case, Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood et al v. Planned Parenthood of Illinois et al, is the latest action in a case that Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen says illustrates Planned Parenthood’s “blatant disregard for and manipulation of Illinois law.” He added that the Aurora abortion facility was the product of deception and continues to operate illegally.

In 2006, under a shell company named Gemini Office Development, LLC, Planned Parenthood built a non-profit business at a site explicitly designated to accommodate for-profit corporations. To circumvent Aurora’s zoning laws, Planned Parenthood claimed to be paying property taxes in order to fulfill the “for-profit” zoning requirement. However, at the same time, Planned Parenthood also received $8 million in financing at Illinois taxpayer expense for its “non-profit activities.”

Records obtained from the DuPage County Supervisor of Assessments show that, just after proceedings were completed in the trial court, Planned Parenthood sought to have its property taxes reversed, on the basis that it had been operating the property for charitable purposes from its inception. After the circuit court approved Planned Parenthood’s zoning as a for-profit medical clinic, Planned Parenthood informed DuPage County and the Illinois Department of Revenue that its use was, and always had been, exclusively charitable, and that the organization was therefore entitled to a full property tax exemption.

View copies of the Thomas More Society’s Notice of Appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court Second Judicial District here and the Notice of Filing Notice of Appeal here, both filed on February 15, 2017.

Read Judge Fullerton’s Memorandum Opinion and Order issued January 17, 2017, from the Circuit Court for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, DuPage County, Illinois, here.

Spotted: Thomas More Society at March for Life 2017

Thomas More Society attorney Andy Bath and Matt Heffron with Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus (center).

Thomas More Society joined pro-life organizations across the country at the annual March for Life Expo in Washington D.C., which allows pro-life supporters to connect with pro-life organizations through in-depth information and giveaways. Thomas More Society proudly greeted over 500 supporters who traveled from across the country to participate in the March for Life weekend events.

The annual March for Life rally kicked off Friday morning with a speech from Vice-President, Mike Pence, echoing, “Life is winning again in America,” and setting the tone for the thousands of people anticipating the annual march. The massive crowd, including employees from Thomas More Society’s Chicago and Omaha offices, adorned with signs and banners, marched along Constitution Ave and concluded with a rally in front of the Supreme Court building.

Thomas More Society and their honorary guests, pro-life activists, Joseph and Ann Scheidler, clients, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, and Defend Life’s Founder and Editor, Jack Ames, joined hundreds of pro-life supports at the annual Rose Dinner Friday evening to celebrate another successful march. Key speakers included Jeanne Mancini, President of March For Life D.C., who spoke of “the true power of one – every person has the power to be a light in this often dark world.”

Hundreds of eager students awaited Thomas More Society and pro-life organizations at the Students for Life event on Saturday. The event was a great way to end the successful weekend. Thomas More Society employees were thrilled to meet their supporters who offered congratulatory messages as well as thank you’s and praises on the hard work that defending life, family, and religious liberty entails.

Thomas More Society, Executive Assistant, Victoria Holmen, at the TMS booth.

Thomas More Society supporters modeling the TMS tote bags.

Thomas More Society attorneys photographed with client, David Daleiden, by the Supreme Court building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas More Society Gains Ground on Case Defending Sisters Against Illegal Strip Club

Thomas More Society represents the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and other local residents in their ongoing battles with the owner and operator of Club Allure, a strip club illegally operated across the backyard fence from the Sisters’ campus.  The Sisters’ campus includes their convent, several chapels, a home for aged and infirm nuns, and a school for novices. Based on a challenge brought by VIllage of Stone Park residents represented by the Thomas More Society and Thomas J. Murphy, on November 10, 2016, the Village of Stone Lake revoked the liquor license it had issued to Stone Lake Partners, LLC, the owner and operator of Club Allure.  Subsequently, on January 18, 2017, the Circuit Court for Cook County entered an Order of Possession in favor of the owner of the Club Allure property, Ralph Nicosia, and against the property tenant, Stone Lake Partners, LLC.  The Order of Possession served to evict Club Allure from the premises.    The same Order entered judgment against Stone Lake Partners, LLC and in favor of the property owner in the amount of   $736,784.45.  A copy of the Order of Possession can be found here.  (ADD LINK))  Stone Lake Partners, LLC is still pursuing an appeal of the Village of Stone Park’s decision revoking its liquor license, but Club Allure’s eviction from the premises likely means the Club will remain permanently shuttered. .

Read more information on the Sisters of St. Charles vs. Stone Lake Partners here.

Illinois Pregnancy Resource Centers Sue Governor for First Amendment Violations

State Law Compels Staff to Refer for Abortions Despite Religious Objections

 

Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations sued Governor Bruce Rauner on February 9, 2017 over Illinois’ new law forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy resource centers to discuss abortion benefits and refer pregnant women for abortions despite their conscience-based opposition to abortion. The controversial SB 1564, which amended the Health Care Right of Conscience Act effective January 1, 2017, has left Illinois’ over 90 not-for-profit pregnancy resource centers with little choice but to file suit seeking a judicial determination that the law unconstitutionally abridges their free speech and interferes with their religious beliefs. The Thomas More Society filed for injunctive relief on behalf of 18 of the centers, citing violations of multiple rights under the Constitution of the State of Illinois. It filed an action on behalf of two others on February 2, 2017, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland and Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois. Some of the centers have been forced to stop medical services, which include pregnancy tests, sonograms, and STD testing, until the legal issues are resolved.

Thomas Olp, Attorney for the Thomas More Society, observed, “This law targets pro-life pregnancy centers, which do not refer for abortion, and whose pro-life mission is to advise clients of alternatives to abortion. The new law requires these pro-life centers, and only them, to discuss ‘benefits’ of abortion with their clients and to name abortion providers. This is the essence of forced government speech prohibited by the free speech provisions of our federal and state constitutions. The First Amendment equally protects the right to speak and not to speak. The government cannot show a compelling reason for this requirement since information about abortion is readily available from many public and private sources. It is as easy to find the location of an abortion clinic as to find our clients’ pregnancy resource centers. Moreover, the law is content-based and viewpoint-discriminatory, meaning it applies to a certain type of speech, and targets only conscience-based objectors, but leaves all others free from regulation. Its intent really is to directly interfere with pro-life pregnancy centers that have aided many thousands of pregnant women over the years learn that abortion is not the only choice in a problem pregnancy, and that adoption and parenting are not only healthier choices for the mother but avoid the tragedy of abortion, which kills an unborn child. In my view, the law is nefarious and pernicious in its targeting of pro-life physicians and pregnancy resource centers.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, charges Governor Rauner and his Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider, with several constitutional violations resulting from enacting SB 1564. The Plaintiffs advance claims under the free speech, religious liberty, due process, and equal protection clauses of the state constitution.

Those abuses include infringement of the following rights:

  • The Constitution of the State of Illinois’ guarantee that, “All persons may speak, write, and publish freely.” The Plaintiffs’ freedom of speech is abridged when the state compels them to discuss treatment options and disclose abortion providers to which they possess sincerely-held religious objections.
  • The statute is vague and therefore violates constitutional due process because it does not give fair notice to a person of common intelligence as to what it requires. Rather, one must guess as to its meaning.
  • The statute denies plaintiffs equal protection of the laws in that it targets a class of conscience-based objectors but does not regulate health care providers who do not have conscience-based objections.
  • The law interferes with the Illinois Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Article I, Section 3 guarantees “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination.”
  • The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects Illinoisans’ free exercise of religion. SB 1564 substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion.

Mary Strom, Executive Director of The Women’s Centers, which has three sites in the Chicago area, stated that the organization’s success is directly tied to its Catholic identity, even while it serves women of all faiths. “I credit the success we have had in helping women to the power of prayer,” she shared. “Everything comes from that.”

Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois, was founded by Laura Petigoue and her husband, Mark. “It was after I learned about the devastation that abortion brings that we dedicated ourselves to addressing the needs of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies and providing loving, Christ-centered alternatives,” recalled Petigoue, who is greatly saddened by Illinois’ adoption of this law she calls, “monstrously prejudicial.”  Debbie Case, the Executive Director of Hope Life Center, noted, “For over 30 years, Hope Life Center has been the only organization in our community dedicated to providing women with the education and medical services they need to make informed decisions about unwanted pregnancies. Now we have had to suspend all our medical services because this new law mandates us to serve these women in a way that is harmful to them and to their unborn children. We’re seeking relief from this law so we can get back to doing what we do best, taking care of vulnerable women in our community.”

Mr. Olp also observed, “Most of our Plaintiffs have literally spent decades helping women by providing information about alternatives to abortion (parenting and adoption), thereby helping to empower and encourage them to recognize that a choice for life for their unborn child is much preferable to abortion both for them and for their unborn babies. The new law strikes at the Plaintiffs’ faith-based ability to render effective assistance to pregnant women about child bearing and child rearing by requiring them to substitute a secular government-sponsored message totally at odds with their faith position. The government is not permitted constitutionally to do this, in our view.”

The Pregnancy Resource Centers who filed their suit on February 9, 2017 were:

ABIGAIL WOMEN’S CLINIC, Mendota;

CHOICES PREGNANCY AND HEALTH, Charleston;

CORBELLA CLINIC, South Elgin;

FAMILY LIFE CENTER, INC., Effingham;

FIRST STEP WOMEN’S CENTER, Springfield;

FREEPORT PREGNANCY CENTER, Freeport;

HOPE LIFE CENTER, INC., Sterling;

LIGHTHOUSE PREGNANCY CENTER, Vandalia;

NEW LIFE PREGNANCY CENTER, Decatur;

OPTIONS NOW, Godfrey;

PREGNANCY INFORMATION CENTER, Aurora;

PREGNANCY RESOURCES, Moline;

PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTER, Rushville;

SOUTHSIDE PREGNANCY CENTER, INC., Oak Lawn;

SPOON RIVER PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTER, Canton;

THE WOMEN’S CENTERS OF GREATER CHICAGOLAND, Chicago;

WATERLEAF WOMEN’S CENTER, Aurora and Bolingbrook;

WE CARE PREGNANCY CENTER, DeKalb.

Link to the February 9, 2017 amended filing here

Read the Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, filed February 2, 2017, in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, in the case, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland, a not-for-profit Illinois corporation, and Hope Life Center, Inc., a not-for-profit Illinois corporation v. Bruce Rauner, in his official capacity as Governor of State of Illinois, Bryan A. Schneider, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, in his official capacity here