Author archives: Laura Grossberndt

Ted Cruz is Right: Certain FDA-approved Birth Control Can Cause Abortions

by Laura Grossberndt , Ruth Moreno

October 15, 2020

During the second day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked the Supreme Court nominee about threats to religious liberty. Cruz correctly pointed out that certain kinds of birth control pills induce abortion and criticized the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) attempt to fine religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor “in order to force them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, among others.”

Planned Parenthood responded to Sen. Cruz’s remarks with a tweet contradicting Cruz and asserting that birth control cannot cause an abortion.

Despite mainstream media outlets framing the situation as Planned Parenthood “correcting” Sen. Cruz, it is actually Planned Parenthood who is in the wrong. Cruz referred to abortion-inducing drugs, “among others.” Of course, not all forms of birth control cause abortions. However, some do, including the notorious “morning-after pill” Plan B and a newer, lesser-known FDA-approved drug called Ella (also known as ulipristal acetate or Ella-One).

The FDA misleadingly labels Ella a more effective “Emergency Contraception.” Like Plan B, Ella can cause an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg (embryo) from implanting in the uterus. But unlike Plan B, Ella can also terminate a pregnancy after the embryo has already implanted. It does this by starving the embryo of a chemical known as progesterone, which the embryo needs in order to continue developing inside the uterus. By inhibiting progesterone, Ella functions similarly to the “abortion pill” mifepristone (also known as Mifeprex or RU-486), which is used to end the lives of babies in the first trimester. Like mifepristone, Ella can induce abortions both pre- and post-implantation.

Numerous studies reported by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) show that Ella causes abortions in animals, including macaques, close relatives to monkeys. Researchers have also concluded that just a 30-milligram dose of Ella will abort human babies.

Ella’s proponents claim that the drug will not interfere with pregnancy because it is only approved for use within five days of sexual intercourse, and implantation usually occurs six to 10 days after fertilization. Although Ella’s online provider, Project Ruby, requires a prescription, it does not require an in-person examination from a doctor prior to purchase. Planned Parenthood itself attempts to create confusion by calling Ella a type of “morning-after pill” when, in reality, the pill can be taken for several days after having intercourse.

Planned Parenthood should get its fact straight before criticizing Sen. Cruz’s valid concerns about abortifacient drugs and the federal government’s attempts to force religious groups to pay for them. By propagating the lie that birth control is always contraceptive and never abortifacient, Planned Parenthood continues to mislead countless women about their options before and after becoming pregnant. Women have the right to know what drugs can do to their own bodies and those of their unborn children.

Planned Parenthood is also failing to treat a complex discussion about health care and religious liberty with appropriate nuance. Fortunately, the court case involving the ACA and the Little Sisters of the Poor was decided in support of the Little Sisters’ right to freedom of conscience. However, many of our nation’s officials, both elected and unelected, would have liked to see the case settled differently. Religious liberty is the most fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment, but it is under attack from those who would rather see an overbearing federal government force religious organizations, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their consciences.

Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.

The Washington Monument: A Tribute to Leadership and Religious Heritage

by Laura Grossberndt , Hayden Sledge

September 21, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Joan of Arc Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial, the Japanese American Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Titanic Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

The Washington Monument serves as a memorial to the life of George Washington, particularly his leadership as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and as the first president of the United States. It also stands as a reminder of America’s rich religious heritage.

Washington was so pivotal to America’s founding that he has been called the “father of his country.” He was a member of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and then was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in 1775. As a general, he is especially remembered for his stalwart leadership during the winter encampment at Valley Forge in 1777-78. After leading America to victory and independence on the battlefield, Washington presided over the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, he was unanimously elected the nation’s first president.

President Washington and his administration laid a strong foundation for the United States of America. Some notable events during Washington’s presidency include the celebration of the first federally-recognized Thanksgiving, the putting down of the Whiskey Rebellion, the induction of new states (North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee), and the approval of the Bill of Rights. Washington also oversaw the signing of the Jay Treaty (normalizing trade relations with Great Britain), Pinckney’s Treaty (friendship with Spain), and the Treaty of Tripoli (access to Mediterranean shipping routes). Washington also set the presidential precedent of selecting a cabinet of advisors and stepping down after two terms.

Even before Washington became president, members of Congress wanted to create a statue of him to honor his wartime accomplishments. However, because the young country was lacking in funds, the project was scrapped.

Pierre L’Enfant, the designer of the federal capital (which was officially named after the first president in 1791), envisioned a monument honoring President Washington and even designated a special spot for an equestrian statue of Washington in his initial layout of the city.

The Washington National Monument Society, a private organization started by President James Madison and Chief Justice John Marshall, raised funds for the monument’s construction. First Lady Dolley Madison and Elizabeth Hamilton, widow of Alexander Hamilton, were also instrumental in raising funds. In 1833, the Society facilitated a contest to design the monument. The contest’s winner, Robert Mills, also designed the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Patent Office. The latter building now holds the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

On July 4, 1848, a cornerstone-laying ceremony was held. President James K. Polk and future presidents James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson were in attendance. Embedded in the cornerstone is a box of artifacts, including a portrait of Washington.

By 1854, Mills had built 156 feet of the monument. His design was incredibly daunting, and he encountered many obstacles during its construction. For example, when Pope Pius IX donated a stone from the Roman Temple of Concord, the gift sparked an outcry from the “Know Nothing” Party that opposed Catholicism and Catholic immigrants.

Unfortunately, Mills died in 1855 before the monument could be completed. The unfinished monument stood untouched for two decades.

In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant approved funding to finish the monument, and work resumed in 1879. When Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army of Engineers could not find the original rock quarry, they were forced to use different stone. As a result, three different shades of stone from three different quarries were used in the monument’s construction.

In 1885, 36 years after the cornerstone had been laid, the monument was finished. On February 21, 1885, the day before Washington’s birthday, the monument was dedicated. At the time, the 555-foot-tall Egyptian-style obelisk was the tallest building in the world.

The Washington Monument has been the location of a few notable events. In 1982, veteran and anti-nuclear weapons activist Norman Mayer drove to the bottom of the monument and threatened that he would blow it up with 1,000 pounds of dynamite. Thousands of people were evacuated, but some were held hostage with Mayer. After ten hours, he let the hostages leave and was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police. Authorities later carefully inspected Mayer’s van and did not find the explosives he had claimed to have.

On August 23, 2011, the monument endured a severe earthquake. Although people were inside the monument at the time, no one was injured. It cost $15 million to repair the damage incurred by the earthquake.

It is worth noting that the Washington Monument represents more than the nation’s first president. The monument itself honors and reflects the Judeo-Christian values America was founded upon.

Many people and institutions contributed stones for the Washington Monument. Many of these stones are inscribed with names and short messages. One such stone donated by Sabbath School Children of the Methodist E. Church in Philadelphia is engraved with John 5:39 (“Search the Scriptures”), Luke 18:16 (“Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of God.”) and Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”) An image of the stone can be found here.

Other stones are engraved with phrases including “The memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7), “Holiness to the Lord,” “In God We Trust,” “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” (“He who transplanted sustains”), and “May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence.” At the top of the monument is an aluminum cap engraved with the Latin phrase “Laus Deo” (“Praise be to God”). A list of memorial stones and their inscriptions can be found here. A gallery of photos of some of the stones can be found here.

In 2007, a controversy arose involving the monument’s cap. While the monument was being renovated, a replica cap in the monument’s museum was removed and later put back in such a way that the “Laus Deo” inscription was not visible. Also, the accompanying plaque omitted the meaning of “Laus Deo.” After public outcry, the National Park Service later apologized and included the meaning of “Laus Deo” on the new plaque.

The Washington Monument isn’t just a soaring memorial to “the father of his country.” The verses and religious phrases inscribed on its stones serve as reminders of the Judeo-Christian values and religious freedom that played an important role in America’s founding.

Pregnancy Is Not an Illness - And Abortion Pills Are Not a Cure

by Laura Grossberndt

September 4, 2020

Abortion activists recently took offense at a congressional letter addressed to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alleging it called pregnancy “not life-threatening.”

But this is not a faithful representation of what the letter, signed by 20 Republican senators, said. In actuality, the letter stated that “pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness.” This is an important distinction. Senate Republicans are not denying the life-threatening complications that can emerge during pregnancy and labor. They are stressing the point that pregnancy—and by extension, the unborn child in the womb—is not a disease for which the abortion pill is a “cure.”

Certainly, pregnancy has associated health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. maternal mortality rate is 17.4 per 100,000 live births as of 2018. But pregnancy, the natural biological process of bringing new human life into the world, is not a disease, and should not be treated as if it were one.

The two-pill abortion regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol, on the other hand, carries its own set of risks to women’s health that are far from natural. These risks include severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. There are over 4,000 documented cases of abortion pills endangering the lives and health of women. Said health risks are the reason why the FDA placed safety restrictions on the procurement of abortion pills. We don’t even know the full extent of the damage that abortion pills have inflicted on women’s health, because reporting of adverse events is voluntary. The FDA admits that it “does not receive reports for every adverse event or medication error that occurs with a product.”

One of the FDA’s safety restrictions required women to make an in-person visit to a certified prescriber in order to receive abortion pills. This restriction, meant to mitigate some of the risks of taking abortion pills, was recently waived for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic by a federal district judge. This decision sought to protect women’s health, but in reality, it merely substituted one health risk (COVID-19) for another (severe abortion complications).

But even with these FDA restrictions fully in place, the abortion pill (also known as chemical or medical abortion) has been shown to pose a greater risk to women’s health than surgical abortion in the first trimester. As Michael J. New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Donna Harrison of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists write:

[A] 2015 study of abortion safety in California, based on comprehensive and reliable data from Medicaid billing records rather than surveys, found that medical abortions resulted in four times the complication rate of first-trimester surgical abortions. Given that chemical abortions are already riskier than early surgical abortions, it stands to reason that performing medical abortions without physician supervision only increases those risks.

The Republican senators who signed the letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn are not denying—as some news media headlines and abortion activists would apparently have the American public believe—that pregnancies can have life-threatening medical complications. These senators are making the legitimate claim that abortion pills are “an ‘imminent hazard to the public health’” that should not be considered a viable solution to an unplanned pregnancy or any potential pregnancy complications.

100 Years After the 19th Amendment, Another Right the Suffragists Fought for is Still Unsecure

by Laura Grossberndt

August 18, 2020

We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all women are endowed by their Creator with the same certain unalienable rights as men, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

One hundred years ago today, on August 18, 1920, the United States of America effectively affirmed this truth by ratifying the 19th Amendment (also known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment”) to the Constitution, thus securing American women’s right to vote:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It is right and good for our government’s laws to acknowledge the unalienable rights and human dignity of women. Not only do these rights emanate from the Creator, but they also exist because women—like their male counterparts—are God’s image-bearers. As I wrote in a previous blog analyzing the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

[O]ur worth and dignity as human beings is directly contingent upon the identity of our sovereign, omnipotent Creator. Those who bear the Creator’s image (all humans) are due a certain type of treatment from their fellow image-bearers […] Such due treatment can be said to be “unalienable” in the sense that our status as God’s image-bearers cannot be taken away.

Governments are instituted for the purpose of securing humans’ unalienable rights, our Declaration explains. These governments, if just, derive their powers from the consent of the governed. In America, suffrage (the right to vote) is a key ingredient in giving one’s consent to be governed. By securing the right to vote, American women finally joined men in being able to give their consent to the government tasked with securing their unalienable rights.

The State Department’s recently launched Commission of Unalienable Rights cited the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, notable for propelling the women’s suffrage movement, in its inaugural report. It was at this convention that suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton appealed to the unalienable rights found in the Declaration of Independence: “[S]trange as it may seem to many, we now demand our right to vote according to the declaration of the government under which we live … The right is ours. Have it, we must. Use it, we will.”

But while American women have secured the right to vote, they have yet to wholly secure a much more fundamental right, the first right enumerated in the Declaration of Independence: life.

Today, a significant portion of our nation’s political discourse revolves around women’s rights. Not if women deserve rights, mind you, but what is to be included among those rights. Some believe “reproductive rights”—the ability for women to obtain contraception and abortions—ought to be included in the list.

However, early feminists, including members of the American women’s suffrage movement, saw abortion in a very different light than the self-proclaimed pro-choice feminists of today. They viewed abortion as being an unjust outcome of men’s exploitation of women. In her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Mary Wollstonecraft condemned such acts: “Nature in everything deserves respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.”

Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America, observes about the American suffragists:

Without known exception, the early feminists condemned abortion in no uncertain terms. In the radical feminist newspaper The Revolution, the founder, Susan B. Anthony, and the co-editor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refused to publish advertisements for “Foeticides and Infanticides.” Stanton, who in 1848 organized the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., classified abortion as a form of “infanticide” and, referring to the “murder of children, either before or after birth,” said, “We believe the cause of all these abuses lies in the degradation of women.”

Abortion’s degradation of women hasn’t been left in the distant past, either. Today, American women are expected to be sexually available to the men they date, and then expected or even pressured to abort an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. Men often face little to no consequences for their sexual behavior, whether consensual or nonconsensual, and abortion—by eliminating the children produced by their actions—makes holding men accountable even less likely. Worse yet, in other countries, abortion and sterilization have—and presently are—being used as tools of genocide.

Contrary to a commonly-held belief in our culture, supporting women’s rights and opposing abortion are not at odds. A culture in which women’s bodies can be used for sexual pleasure by men and then discarded, together with any resulting human life, is not a culture that upholds women’s unalienable rights or recognizes their human dignity.

It isn’t just adult women who have been harmed by the prevalence of abortion. Millions of girls were never allowed the chance to grow up, consent, vote, dream, or earn any kind of wage because they were aborted before they were born. Some are aborted due to sex discrimination: untold numbers of girls worldwide have been aborted due to their sex. The first right enumerated in our nation’s Declaration of Independence is life, yet it is still denied to so many.

It is right and good for governments to acknowledge the unalienable rights and human dignity of women. The United States did this one hundred years ago, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. But there is much more that we can do for women’s rights, including defending them both in and outside the womb.

Disavowing Margaret Sanger Doesn’t Change Planned Parenthood’s Culture of Eugenics, Racism, and Death

by Laura Grossberndt

July 22, 2020

By removing founder Margaret Sanger’s name from its New York City building, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York has taken a first step in acknowledging its racist and eugenic roots. However, removing Sanger’s name from a building is little more than a superficial public relations move meant to mollify the racial justice movement.

This checked box does nothing to change the day-to-day operations of the organization. Planned Parenthood would like Americans to think that its troubled history with eugenics is long over. However, the history of “reproductive harm within communities of color” cited in Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s statement is not some blemish in Planned Parenthood’s distant past—it continues in the present day. Planned Parenthood will need to do a lot more than disavow Sanger to atone for the harm it has wrought on minority communities and other discriminated groups.

Planned Parenthood paints a rosy picture of its beginnings, declaring on its website: “Planned Parenthood was founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits.” This hyper-positive interpretation deliberately neglects to mention that Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger believed birth control to be “nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit.” Articles she wrote on the subject included: “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics,” “The Eugenic Conscience,” “The Purpose of Eugenics,” “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics,” and “Birth Control: The True Eugenics.” Whatever desire she felt for women to “live strong, healthy lives” was commingled with the belief that “unfit” people should not reproduce.

Planned Parenthood’s troubled eugenic legacy does not begin and end with the personal views of its founder, however. For many years, it permeated the organization’s leadership. In 1933, Planned Parenthood (then known as the American Birth Control League) and the American Eugenics Society (AES) attempted an unsuccessful merger. Dr. Alan Guttmacher, the namesake of a leading abortion research organization the Guttmacher Institute, was a eugenicist and served both as vice president of the AES and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1962-1974.

While Planned Parenthood’s current leadership publicly disavows eugenics, the evidence indicates that the corporate practices of America’s largest abortion supplier disproportionately impact the birthrates of minority communities. Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of communities identified as black and Hispanic by the 2010 census.  While blacks currently comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, black women are 3.5 times more likely to have an abortion than white women, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Louisiana, where the total number of abortions in 2018 was 8,097, over half (4,958) were abortions of black babies, despite blacks only comprising 32 percent of the state population. And in New York City, where the building formerly named for Margaret Sanger is located, more black pregnancies resulted in abortion than live birth in 2016. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the black population “grew at a slower rate than most other major race and ethnic groups in the country” between 2000 and 2010.

Not only are Planned Parenthood’s facilities disproportionally represented in minority communities, and not only do they and other abortion suppliers abort black pregnancies at far greater rates than white pregnancies, but they also oppose legislation that seeks to prevent racial discrimination against the unborn. Planned Parenthood strongly opposes prenatal nondiscrimination legislation (PRENDA laws) that prohibit abortion on the basis of the unborn child’s race, sex, or disability. Planned Parenthood does not deny that such cases of discrimination (in their words, “reproductive coercion”) occur, but insists such nondiscrimination bills place “harmful restrictions” on women’s health care. It is unclear what steps Planned Parenthood takes, if any, to prevent prenatal discrimination from occurring at Planned Parenthood facilities. As long as Planned Parenthood champions unrestricted access to abortion, prenatal discrimination will be a reality within their facilities. In May 2019, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood, in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential:

Whereas Sanger believed that birth control could prevent “unfit” people from reproducing, abortion can prevent them from being born in the first place. Many eugenicists therefore supported legalizing abortion, and abortion advocates—including future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher—endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons. Technological advances have only heightened the eugenic potential for abortion, as abortion can now be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, such as a particular sex or disability.

Family Research Council believes human life begins at conception. Therefore, we understand abortion to be the taking of human life. We believe the surest way for Planned Parenthood to end the reproductive harm it has wrought within minority communities is to cease performing abortions entirely. We know Planned Parenthood is unlikely to ever make this decision on its own, especially since former president Cecile Richards admitted under oath in 2015 that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood’s non-federal revenue comes from abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York removed Margaret Sanger’s name from its New York City building to signal care for minority communities and opposition to racial discrimination and eugenics. But if Planned Parenthood really cared about minority communities, it would stop setting up abortion mills in these communities. If it really cared about racial discrimination, it would stop opposing and start supporting PRENDA laws. If the organization truly cared to deal with its racist and eugenic roots, the entire Planned Parenthood Federation of America—not just the Greater New York branch—would disavow both Margaret Sanger and Alan Guttmacher.

Don’t hold your breath.

For more information on Planned Parenthood, check out these FRC resources: Planned Parenthood Is Not Pro-Woman and The Real Planned Parenthood: Leading the Culture of Death.

Loosening Abortion Pill Restrictions Sends Women Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

by Laura Grossberndt

July 20, 2020

On July 13, a Maryland district judge granted a preliminary injunction that waives the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety limitations on administering abortion pills for the duration of the present health crisis. These limitations, part of the FDA’s drug safety program called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), require women to visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office in person in order to obtain abortion pills. By waving these requirements, the preliminary injunction allows providers to mail abortion pills directly to women without an in-person visit. This contact-free process allegedly mitigates risks to women’s health by making them less likely to be exposed to COVID-19. However, loosening the FDA’s risk-mitigation requirements merely substitutes one health risk for another, effectively sending women out of the frying pan of COVID-19 and into the fire of severe abortion complications.

Abortion advocates have argued that the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements place a significant burden on women seeking abortions, particularly during the present health crisis. District Judge Theodore Chuang agreed, saying, “By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the in-person requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients.”

Judge Chuang continued, “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”

Such a decision fails to consider the irreparable harm that can befall women who take abortion pills. The abortion industry markets the abortion pill as straightforward and safe. However, there are over 4,000 documented cases of abortion pills endangering the lives and health of women. The pills can cause extensive physical trauma, including severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. And that’s with the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements in place. Imagine how much more harm abortion pills could cause now that the safety restrictions on them have been temporarily waived.

There are two general types of abortion: surgical and chemical. The act of taking abortion pills is a chemical abortion. Abortion providers and activists like chemical abortions (often called by the more palliative name “medication abortion”) as an option because they require less overhead for the clinic and can be performed virtually anywhere. But this locational flexibility is precisely what makes chemical abortions so incredibly risky. While surgical abortions are performed in a clinic, chemical abortions take place at least partially at home.

Under the FDA restrictions, a woman seeking a chemical abortion would visit a physician in-person. In order to be a certified prescriber, the physician must have the ability to 1) assess the duration of pregnancy accurately; 2) diagnose ectopic pregnancies, and 3) provide surgical intervention or ensure necessary care in the event of severe complications. The woman will then take the first pill (mifepristone) in the two-part regimen. The physician would give her instructions on when to take the second pill (misoprostol). Ideally, there would be a follow-up in-person appointment to ensure the abortion was completed without any serious complications for the woman.

This process is already risky, but it at least involves a local physician in the process. Under the preliminary injunction, a woman would merely need to complete a virtual consultation in order to be mailed abortion pills. The injunction does not even specify if the prescribing physician must be local or not.

It can be difficult for the woman to know if her life or health is seriously at risk during a chemical abortion. The abortion pill’s medication guide brushes off the following types of physical trauma as normal, even a sign that the treatment is “working”:

Cramping and vaginal bleeding are expected with this treatment. Usually, these symptoms mean that the treatment is working…Bleeding or spotting can be expected for an average of 9 to 16 days and may last for up to 30 days…You may see blood clots and tissue. This is an expected part of passing the pregnancy.

In the event of severe complications from the chemical abortion, it is entirely the woman’s responsibility to get herself to a hospital. Furthermore, the cost of this emergency care is assumed by the patient, who may or may not have health care coverage.

Loosening restrictions on chemical abortions does not protect the health of women. Rather, it plays into the abortion industry’s long-term strategy of making abortions “self-managed.” Why do they want abortions to be self-managed? Because it makes abortions more commonplace and readily available—which is better for their business and bottom line. But the ready availability of abortion pills has the potential to expose women to a whole host of problems. As Patrina Mosley writes:

Making the abortion pill a “self-managed” over-the-counter (OTC) drug product has radical implications for women’s health and safety, especially as it pertains to intimate partner violence, sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and accurate patient assessment. Furthermore, it would also dangerously bypass state laws governing parental rights and informed consent on the issue of abortion.

Abortion advocates once claimed that legalizing abortion would eliminate life-threatening risks to women. Now they are attempting to make abortion completely “self-managed” despite the abortion pill’s life-threatening and health-damaging risks to women.

Judge Chuang took what ought to have been a regulatory decision (i.e., does the FDA have the authority to regulate this drug?) and turned it into constitutional privacy question based on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He also attempts to be a medical doctor who would know the ins and outs of what is medically necessary, instead of leaving that to the health experts—specifically, those at FDA—who wrote the regulations. Judge Chuang’s opinion sets a dangerous precedent for where the courts could go on this question in the future.

Judge Chuang made an ill-founded decision. Citing the current public health emergency as a reason for loosening the FDA’s medically justified risk-mitigation requirements for the abortion pill is not in the best interest of women’s health. Rather, it sends women out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Our Founders Were Flawed, But Our Founding Ideals Endure

by Laura Grossberndt

July 3, 2020

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The United States of America is a nation founded on ideals, particularly ideals relating to the dignity of the human person. Unfortunately, the laws of our government and the personal lives of our leaders have not always perfectly reflected these ideals. For example, consider the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, who—despite penning the words “all men are created equal”—owned slaves. Such blatant moral failings and hypocrisies have led some to disparage America, the men who founded it, and even question the ideals for which the Founders stood. But the moral failings of men like Thomas Jefferson don’t automatically invalidate the ideals they claimed to espouse. Truth is truth, regardless of human behavior. But how do we know if the ideals Jefferson wrote about are true? Is there anything supporting them besides a purported “self-evidence”?

Jefferson and the rest of the Committee of Five charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) were students of Natural Law theory. They believed certain things could be self-evidently true (that is, known through ordinary human reason and not needing further proof). But Christians should nevertheless evaluate such truth claims against Scripture, no matter how self-evidentially true they might seem.

Let’s put our deeply ingrained, patriotic feelings about the Declaration aside for a moment and ask ourselves: Are its underlying claims about human beings true? As Christians, we believe the standard of truth is God’s revealed Word. As self-evident as the truths of America’s founding documents may seem to those of us who have grown up in this country, we must examine its claims against Scripture, as we must do with any truth claim.

First, let’s take a closer look at the structure of the Declaration. It is comprised of five parts: an introduction, a preamble (providing a philosophical justification for separation), an indictment (a list of 27 grievances against the King of Great Britain), a denunciation (detailing America’s efforts to make peace with the British people), and a conclusion (asserting that the necessary conditions for declaring independence from Great Britain have been reached).

We will concern ourselves with the preamble, the most famous of the five parts. It provides the philosophical justification for American separation from British rule. Crucial to this justification are three truth claims about human beings, claims which the Declaration considers to be “self-evident”: 1) all men are created equal; 2) all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; 3) these unalienable Rights include Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Does the Bible support these claims? Let’s examine them one by one:

1. All men are created equal

While the Bible never says the words “all men are created equal,” Scripture tells us in clear, unambiguous language that all human beings have equal standing before God. We are all created by God (John 1:3) and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We were all created out of dust (Psalm 103:14). Finally, we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory and perfect standard (Romans 3:23). 

Scripture also tells us of God’s impartiality towards humans (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, Ephesians 6:9). As it is commonly said, the ground at the foot of the cross is level, and all come to God in need of His grace. He will redeem people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). Eternal life is available to anyone who believes (John 3:16). Thus, from the Bible’s point of view, all humans are indeed created equal.

2. All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

While the Bible never uses the phrase “unalienable Rights,” it does talk a great deal about our Creator. This is significant for our discussion because the Declaration purports that our inalienable rights proceed from our Creator. To put it another way, our Creator is the reason or grounds for why we have rights in the first place.

The Bible does tell us that our worth and dignity as human beings is directly contingent upon the identity of our sovereign, omnipotent Creator. Those who bear the Creator’s image (all humans) are due a certain type of treatment from their fellow image-bearers (one might even call this proper treatment “rights”). Such due treatment can be said to be “unalienable” in the sense that our status as God’s image-bearers cannot be taken away. To unjustly harm another image-bearer is an offense against the Creator (Psalm 51:4; 2 Samuel 12:9, 13). From these considerations, the Declaration’s claim of certain unalienable rights agrees with a Christian worldview.

3. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness

According to the Declaration of Independence, all of us are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while the Bible does not enumerate these rights in exactly the same way, it is clear, on closer examination, that the biblical text speaks to these issues. Consider the following rights and their biblical support:

Life

Murder is explicitly forbidden in the Bible (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) precisely because humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). Human life can only be justly taken away under the authority of God—either by an authority established by God (Romans 13:1-4) or in a situation authorized by God.

Liberty

Stealing another person’s autonomy through kidnapping and forcible enslavement is prohibited (Exodus 21:16). Jesus proclaimed a (spiritual) liberty to the captives and oppressed (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 14:18-19). Stealing other people’s possessions is prohibited (Exodus 20:15, Deuteronomy 5:19).

Pursuit of happiness

True happiness is found in God (Psalm 16:11, 37:4). Finding satisfaction in one’s labor is called a gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

Forming a “More Perfect Union”

It is tragic—and a horrible stain on our country’s reputation and conscience—that some of the men who helped found the United States of America willingly participated in the institution of slavery, which was so fundamentally inconsistent with the high ideals professed by the Declaration of Independence. Whether it was due to love of money or comfort, fear of financial ruin, or fear of their fellow (white) man’s opinion, enough of these men balked at the idea of relinquishing their slaves that the nation built on the conviction of the universal dignity of humanity began with a monstrous hypocrisy.

Thomas Jefferson’s personal failure to respect the human dignity of the men and women he enslaved is just that, a personal failure, albeit one that affected far more people than just himself. Just because the purveyors of our founding ideals failed to live up to those ideals does not mean that those ideals are flawed. Rather, it means that human beings are flawed, as Scripture tells us repeatedly (Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, etc.).

It has been said that you cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start right now and change the ending. There was a lot of good about America’s beginning, along with a great deal of shamefulness. We can allow the shamefulness of America’s original sins to continue to define us, or we can learn from them, reject them, and press on toward the “more perfect union” that our Founding Fathers aspired toward and that we are capable of being.

7 Things You Should Know About D.C. Statehood

by Laura Grossberndt

June 26, 2020

The effort to make the District of Columbia a state is in the news again. D.C. statehood is often cited as a solution to residents’ “taxation without [congressional] representation” problem. But is D.C. statehood constitutional? Here are some things you should know about our capital city and the current campaign for D.C. statehood.

1. The seat of government of the United States cannot be part of a state.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the seat of the federal government (the “District”) to be contained within a state. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 states that the District was to be comprised of ceded land. This means the state(s) providing the land for the creation of the District gave up all claims of ownership and authority over said land. Soon after the ratification of the Constitution, Maryland and Virginia each ceded land that would comprise the District. (Although the land ceded by Virginia was later ceded back.)

2. Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the District. This means Congress has the authority to govern the District’s laws, including its budget. Without this authority, the federal government could be endangered or rendered ineffective in its duty of serving the entire nation.

In Federalist Paper No. 43, James Madison declared Congress’ complete authority at the seat of government an “indispensable necessity.” He and his fellow constitutional theorists knew from personal experience the dangers of the federal government being in any way dependent on a single state. At the time of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Congress was situated in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). When a mob surrounded the State House and demanded payment for the military service they had rendered during the American War for Independence, the Pennsylvania state government refused Congress’ requests for protection. This led to Congress fleeing Philadelphia and eventually choosing a locale for the national capital that would not be contained within a state or surrounded by one state.

3. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in Congress.

Because the District is not a state, nor a part of a state, it does not have voting members of Congress; it only has non-voting delegates. This means the District’s approximately 500,000 registered voters do not have voting representation in Congress. This has generated many policy proposals that seek to create voting representation. D.C. statehood is one of these proposals.

4. H.R. 51 would dramatically reduce the size of the District.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) currently being debated is one measure designed to try to make D.C. a state. It would carve out a smaller federal District, consisting of and limited to the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, and federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall. By dramatically reducing the size of the District in this way, H.R. 51 seeks to circumnavigate the need for a constitutional amendment by only admitting part of D.C. as a state, leaving behind a District that would theoretically still be independent of a state.

However, shrinking the federal District in this way would render congressional authority over the seat of government (in the truest sense) impossible. In such a scenario, the tiny federal District would be entirely surrounded by a “state of D.C.,” and Congress would not even have authority over the streets, necessary public services, and other elements on which it is dependent. The Constitution gives Congress authority to govern the federal District’s laws, including its budget. If the majority of Washington, D.C. were to become a state, it would no longer be subject to this congressional authority. The federal government and foreign embassies would be directly affected by the new state’s budgetary decisions and dependent upon the state for public services. The state of D.C. could grow inordinately powerful and might impose an “awe or influence” over the federal government that Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 43, called “equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”

5. A constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.

Even with H.R. 51’s reinterpretation of “seat of government,” a constitutional amendment would still be necessary before admitting D.C. as a state. The 23rd Amendment (which grants the District electoral college votes) would need to be repealed—or it would simply be rendered nonsensical (if D.C. were to become a state and the federal District reduced in size, the District’s only residents, the first family, would be the only individuals represented through all three electoral college votes).

6. D.C. statehood would have legislative implications for the entire country.

Knowing what we know from past budgets and laws proposed by the D.C. City Council, a “state of D.C.” would almost certainly support policies that undermine the sanctity of human life and are detrimental to the American family. A state of D.C. would most likely contribute two more votes for such policies in the U.S. Senate (as well as a yet undetermined number of votes in the House), directly impacting millions of Americans nationwide.

7. Statehood isn’t the only possible solution for D.C. voting rights.

Proponents of D.C. statehood like to claim that statehood’s opponents are opposed to D.C. residents’ voting rights. But this is simply not the case. By supporting H.R. 51, House leadership is rejecting other possible paths to securing congressional voting representation for D.C.—ones that would honor the Founders’ intent to keep the federal seat of government non-dependent on a single state. Instead, the backers of H.R. 51 favor a statehood campaign that threatens the federal government’s indispensable authority over its seat of governance while benefitting their own progressive political ends. H.R. 51 is not a solution the Constitution permits.

D.C. Christians Take to the Streets… to Sing, Lament, and Pray

by Laura Grossberndt

June 9, 2020

Over the weekend, protests in dozens of American cities were held as people continue to mourn the life of George Floyd and others who have recently lost their lives. On Sunday afternoon, another demonstration took place in the nation’s capital. But unlike other protests which have garnered national attention in recent days, this event was distinctly Christian in both messaging and tone.

I had the opportunity to march alongside thousands of Christian brothers and sisters through the streets of Washington, D.C., pointing our friends and neighbors to the love, compassion, and grace found in Scripture, as well as testifying to God’s love and concern for justice.

Like many cities across America—and even the world—Washington has experienced a great deal of social turmoil over the past couple of weeks, ever since the release of video footage showing the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This turmoil is magnified by D.C.’s status as the seat of the federal government. Protestors have been marching through neighborhoods and assembling at the White House and the Capitol on a daily basis.

Before Sunday, however, most responses had been organized by nonreligious activist groups with a wide range of agendas. By contrast, the leaders and organizers of Sunday’s faith-based event were pastors and lay members from evangelical churches in the D.C. area. The organizers explained in the event announcement that the focus of the gathering would be lamentation and crying out to God in prayer.

Attendees were instructed to wear red and white (to distinguish themselves from other demonstrators), wear masks, and keep social distance as much as possible. The organizers also stressed the event was to be peaceful and nonviolent. The march began from two different starting points in majority-black D.C. neighborhoods, then merged into one group shortly before reaching the Capitol.

As we marched, we sang hymns. And when we reached our destination, we prayed. Thousands of us walked down East Capitol Street in the direction of the Capitol building, singing songs like “In Christ Alone,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace.” People lounging on picnic blankets in parks or on lawn chairs in front yards turned to watch the peaceful, joyful, and lamenting procession go by.

Participants carried signs bearing messages like: “created in the image of God” and “love your neighbor.” Many signs directly quoted Bible verses, particularly Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

When the parade reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool, local pastors led those assembled in praying for the families mourning the loss of loved ones, for the governing authorities, and for the human dignity of black individuals to be respected—beginning from the womb and until death.

As the hour-long prayer session drew to a close, one pastor addressed any non-Christians in the crowd. He briefly shared the gospel, explaining if you do not know Christ as Savior, “you have an even bigger justice problem” than the problem of racial injustice. He encouraged anyone with questions about God or salvation to reach out to those around them. “As you are walking with us, you might find yourself walking in the light,” he explained.

Our nation is currently struggling to deal with the sobering realities of our fallen world. We live in a Genesis 3 world that is ravaged by the effects of sin (Romans 8:22). So often, people know no other way to respond to injustice and hatred than with more hate. But as Christians, we have an opportunity to show the “more excellent way” of love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13). We can start by coming alongside those within our own congregations who have been most directly affected by racial conflict: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). After all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Elsewhere, he instructed the Romans, “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

As we grapple with our country’s current civil unrest—in response to recent events and old hurts that date back to the sin of slavery—we can take positive, practical steps to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Sunday’s Christian prayer gathering in D.C., and similar events around the country, are just one example. But you don’t need to wait for an organized event to start praying—you can start right now (read some suggested topics to pray about here). In addition to praying, another step we can take to love our neighbors is being politically engaged. You can read more about political engagement and what it has to do with loving one’s neighbor in FRC’s helpful resource: Biblical Principles for Political Engagement.

Finally, we can love our neighbors by simply being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19) and looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). As Christians, we believe that every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and possesses inherent value and dignity. Any devaluation of a particular people group should concern us. Although we live in a world torn apart by sin, we believe that the power of the gospel can make real and lasting change: starting first in the hearts of individuals and moving outward to our nation. As we move forward, we must remain committed to loving our neighbors, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and showing by our lives what it means to know and follow Jesus.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Homeschooled Students Make Good, Knowledgeable Citizens, Despite What Elites Say

by Laura Grossberndt

April 24, 2020

Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently stirred up controversy when she suggested that homeschooling ought to be illegal. She is concerned that homeschooling poses significant risks to children, including depriving them of a “meaningful education,” and may even make them bad citizens.

Bartholet chose a curious time to try to convince the American public that homeschooling ought to be banned. For one thing, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, all schooling is currently taking place at home. And for another, there is the news that only 15 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency level in U.S. history on the recently released National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2018 Report Card.

What do U.S. history scores have to do with the validity of homeschooling as an educational model? A great deal. Bartholet fears that homeschooled children will not “grow up exposed to…democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” I believe this fear is misplaced. An education in history is crucial to forming high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respecting other viewpoints. After all, how is one supposed to value our democratic republic and the ideals it embraces if they don’t know what a democratic republic is or what sets it apart from other forms of government? How is one to recognize the tell-tale signs of discrimination, and how is one to learn to sympathize with the realities and struggles of those different than them, without hearing the stories of people from the past?

Homeschooled students have higher-than-average scores in U.S. history (or “civics” or “social studies” as it is often called in curricula), and adults who were homeschooled vote and participate in community service and public meetings more frequently than their peers. If education in history is crucial to instilling high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respect for other viewpoints, then most homeschooled students would appear to be in reasonably good shape, despite Bartholet’s concerns, and public schools likely have room for improvement.

I’m not just speaking theoretically, but from personal experience. I was homeschooled from first through tenth grade. This educational decision, while financially costly to my family (my mother, who holds a master’s degree, stayed home instead of earning our family a second paycheck), afforded my family with expansive learning opportunities. Because we weren’t bound by a school calendar, our family was free to take field trips wherever and whenever we wanted. Nearly every family vacation had an educational aspect to it. We visited Boston and Philadelphia. We trekked Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. We visited presidential homesteads and slave huts. We visited museums and watched documentaries. All these experiences brought history to life for me in a way no textbook ever could. Because we lived in the eastern U.S., none of these trips even required stepping onto an airplane.

You don’t have to be a homeschool family to take these kinds of trips. But time constraints certainly make them harder. And who knows if I would have enjoyed these trips half as much if my mother and teacher (for they were one and the same) hadn’t been experiencing them with me and transforming her passion for history into a lifelong passion of my own.

My rich education in U.S. history, provided by my homeschool experience, has taught me to cherish our form of government. It has taught me to grieve injustices in America’s past (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) and motivates me to fight against current injustices (abortion, sexual exploitation, etc.). It has taught me to respect the human dignity and opinions of others, including those who think very differently than I do. It even taught me to entertain the possibility that I may be wrong or underinformed on a topic of debate.

Homeschooling may not be the right educational choice for every student or family situation, but it provided me with an exceedingly “meaningful education,” despite Elizabeth Bartholet’s concerns. It has been said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” My mother did her best to raise a child who wouldn’t be condemned to such a fate. Let us all—parents, teachers, policymakers, and community members—recommit ourselves to teaching history in every educational model—home, public, and private—so that future generations can learn to treasure the good things in our history and how to avoid the errors.

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