In a strongly-worded ruling this week, a federal judge criticized the abortion industry’s apparent attempt to “retaliate against people of faith” who believe unborn babies deserve a right to life.
Judge James C. Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit also described abortion as a “moral tragedy” in his opinion about a case involving pro-abortion groups and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Fifth Circuit permanently blocked a ruling that would have forced the Texas bishops to hand over private emails and other communications as part of a lawsuit between the abortion business Whole Woman’s Health and the state, World News Daily reports. The bishops are not part of the lawsuit.
The abortion chain is challenging a law that requires abortion facilities to bury or cremate the remains of aborted babies.
The Catholic bishops offered to allow the free burial of aborted fetal remains in Catholic cemeteries in Texas after abortion activists complained about burdensome costs of the new law, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the bishops.
Earlier this year, a lower court sided with the abortion industry in its subpoena for documents, but the Fifth Circuit disagreed this week.
Judge Edith J. Jones wrote the majority opinion, but Ho’s strong concurring opinion has received the most attention. Ho is an appointee of President Donald Trump.
“The First Amendment expressly guarantees the free exercise of religion – including the right of the Bishops to express their profound objection to the moral tragedy of abortion, by offering free burial services for fetal remains,” Ho wrote.
Referencing the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving Masterpiece Cakeshop and gay wedding cakes, Ho wondered if the abortion groups sought the documents “to retaliate against people of faith for not only believing in the sanctity of life – but also for wanting to do something about it.”
“It is hard to imagine a better example of how far we have strayed from the text and original understanding of the Constitution than this case,” he continued.
In a move that has been described as punitive by Becket Law, who is representing the Conference, Whole Women’s Health subpoenaed the bishops in March 2018 to release all of its internal documents concerning embryonic and fetal tissue remains, miscarriage, or abortion – including deliberations on matters of theology and philosophy, along with all correspondence between state agencies and their employees and any documentation pertaining to the lawsuit.
While the bishops provided more than 4,000 pages of documents, they insisted that all internal communication remain private. Last month, however, a district court ruled that they must turn over all documentation within 24 hours.
The decision, which came down on June 17 – Father’s Day – provided a 24 hour window to comply, which the bishops appealed, leading to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granting an emergency stay in the case.
WND reports the circuit court also said the request “looks like an act of intimidation” against the bishops whose representative agreed to testify in the case. The pro-abortion groups agreed to withdraw the request for documents if the representative would not testify, according to the report.
Bishop Brendan Cahill, on behalf of the conference, praised the ruling in a statement.
“We are grateful for the court’s ruling,” Cahill said. “We believe it will protect religious freedom not just for Catholics, but for Americans of all faiths.”
The Texas law has been blocked temporarily while the lawsuit moves through the courts. Abortion activists have argued the law creates an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion by increasing the cost of an abortion through the required burial/cremation.
More states are moving to require dignified burials of aborted babies’ bodies after undercover videos revealed evidence that Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities may be selling aborted babies’ body parts. The Center for Medical Progress videos prompted a number of states and the U.S. House to open investigations into the matter.