LIFE ISSUES: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Pioneering law saves the unborn, protects women
, September 1, 2012
Two American lawyers, who have helped devise groundbreaking pro-life legislation in their country, toured Australia and New Zealand in August to promote their pioneering approach to saving the unborn.
Nikolas T. Nikas and Dorinda C. Bordlee, president and vice-president respectively of the US-based pro-life legal organisation Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF), played a key role in framing a unique law, passed last year in the state of Louisiana, which is designed both to save the unborn and to protect women’s health.
During their speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand, which was sponsored by Endeavour Forum Inc., Nikas and Bordlee met numerous parliamentarians, church leaders, lawyers, doctors and pro-life activists.
Louisiana in recent years has tightened its abortion laws by ensuring that any woman seeking an abortion must first undergo a 24-hour reflection period during which she must be provided with information on the risks associated with, and the alternatives to, abortion.
Under a new law, passed last year, the state’s department of health requires the prominent display in abortion clinics of 40 cm x 50 cm “signs of hope”, which inform a woman that it is unlawful for anyone to make her have an abortion against her will, and that there is help available to enable her to carry her child to term and to assist after her child’s birth. The sign features a web address that converts to a mobile format when it is accessed by an iPhone or any mobile device.
On August 16, Nikas and Bordlee spoke at an Endeavour Forum meeting in Melbourne.
Nikolas T. Nikas drafts life-protective model legislation, provides strategic counsel to state attorneys-general and appears in court to defend pro-life laws against legal challenges.
He told his Melbourne audience that it is better not to rely on religious-based arguments when arguing the pro-life cause in the secular world. There are powerful rational arguments, not just religious reasons, for upholding Judeo-Christian ethics. “Even a thief doesn’t like to be stolen from,” he tells law students.
Nikas discussed the 1857 US Supreme Court ruling, in the famous Dred Scott case, that made slavery legal in all US territories. Here were well-educated men in court, he said, who could describe a human being as a mere commodity.
In 1858, the state of Illinois hosted seven famous debates between Abraham Lincoln (before he became President) and Justice Stephen Douglas on the question of slavery. Douglas said that it didn’t matter to him personally whether states voted for or against slavery (i.e., in today’s terms, he was “pro-choice”), to which Lincoln replied that no one has a right to commit a wrong.
After World War II, at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, accused Nazi officials pleaded that they were only obeying orders. However, the Allied military tribunal which conducted the trials, deemed this as no defence for committing crimes against humanity.
Nikas warned that abortion legislation, such as Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, which overrides doctors’ right to exercise their conscience, makes all doctors complicit in abortion. Forbidding doctors from exercising their conscience, he said, means that professionals can no longer offer independent advice because they are mandated by government to act in a particular way. This means they are no longer professionals, but clerks.
Nikas said that in order to protect the independence of the medical profession from government interference, pro-life bodies must recruit more doctors to complain to legislators. Pro-life activists alone are not enough.
Dorinda C. Bordlee has drafted both pro-life legislation and user-friendly education for dozens of US states on abortion and its impact on women’s health, healthcare rights of conscience, human embryo research and end-of-life issues.
She emphasised that a pro-woman, pro-life strategy was an essential combination for achieving desirable outcomes and that it was wrong for the abortion debate to be characterised as a choice between the rights of the baby and the rights of the woman. An integrated pro-woman, pro-life approach, she argued, deflates the myth that to be pro-woman means you must be pro-abortion.
Bordlee quoted the words of US suffragettes — the original feminists — who pioneered the struggle for women’s rights.
Susan B. Anthony (1794-1862) said of abortion: “It will burden [a woman’s] conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), mother of seven, was also adamantly against abortion. She saw the rights of women and the rights of the unborn as inextricably linked. In an 1873 letter she wrote, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
“Woman’s Right to Know” legislation now operates in 30 US states. The incidence of abortion in these states, says Borldee, is one quarter that of states, such as New York and California, which lack informed consent laws.
She says that today’s legislators are open to the pro-woman, pro-health aspects of the pro-life cause, especially after they have heard testimony from post-abortive women who have filled in Silent No More affidavits and want to testify in person.
However, so-called “pro-choice” activists fight these pro-woman, pro-health measures tooth and nail. In 1995, Bordlee invited Louisiana’s pro-choice movement to collaborate with Louisiana’s Right to Life organisation to offer help to women. She was turned down. “These ‘pro-choice’ activists deny medical facts and refuse to give women options, i.e. ‘choice’!,” she told her Melbourne audience.
Ultra-sound is important for reminding the mother of life in her womb, but is also essential for the woman’s health, said Bordlee, as it revealed the age and position of the unborn child and whether the pregnancy was ectopic.
She said it was important to get accurate statistics: miscarriages should not be numbered with elective abortions.
Nikas and Bordlee stressed they would both like to see no more abortions, but incrementalism is a justifiable strategy so long as pro-life activists are committed to moving forward.
“Be reasonable, but don’t compromise,” said Nikas. He concluded by quoting one of America’s Founding Fathers, Samuel Adams (1722-1803), who said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.”
Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national and overseas coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.