What the Alabama IVF Ruling Says About the Right to Life

By: - February 29, 2024

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A ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court last week has been the cause of immense hyperventilating in the mainstream press—and the predictable invocation of scare terms like “theocracy” and “Christian nationalism.”

In LePage v. Center for Reproductive Medicine, P.C., a fertility clinic that neglected to properly secure its frozen embryo nursery from a prying patient was found in breach of Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, after several embryos were killed.

The parents of the dead embryos were within their rights to sue the clinic, the court found.

In penning the majority opinion, Justice Jay Mitchell explained that the state’s highest court had consistently viewed an unborn child as a “minor” under the statute, regardless of his or her stage of development.

As lawyer and commentator Josh Hammer has pointed out, “Crucially, neither the plaintiffs nor defendants contested this understanding, and the question was not before the court.”

So, why does this case matter? What does it have to do with one of the most fundamental rights—the right to life?

At issue, writes Hammer, was “whether the court should legislate from the bench and decree that which the Alabama legislature had opted not to do itself”—namely, to remove longstanding legal protections from certain unborn lives simply because they happen to be located outside of a womb.

“The court, appropriately, declined to do so,” Hammer summarizes. “That’s it. That’s the whole case.”

What really drew the ire of America’s media overlords, however, was the concurring opinion of Chief Justice Tom Parker, who appealed to Christian teachings to buttress Alabama’s commitment to the sanctity of life. He argued that the word “sanctity” has little meaning outside of a Judeo-Christian context:

In summary, the theologically based view of the sanctity of life adopted by the People of Alabama encompasses the following: (1) God made every person in His image; (2) each person therefore has a value that far exceeds the ability of human beings to calculate; and (3) human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.

Beyond the book of Genesis, Chief Justice Parker quoted several other verses, including Jeremiah 1:5—“When I had not yet formed you in the womb, I knew you”—along with theologians Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.

Typical of the pressroom reactions against the ruling was a USA Today column that set aside all historical context in Alabama to scoff that “abortion opponents say life begins at conception, and even a handful of cells deserves the same legal protections as a person.”

The authors lined up abortion activists and other secularists to frame the court’s references to God variously as “out of bounds,” “extreme,” “problematic,” “a path to theocracy,” and a “middle finger” to America.

One of their favored experts was Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit based in  Washington, D.C.

“She saw the verdict in Alabama as part of a larger Christian nationalist movement—the idea that America was created by and for Christians and its laws should reflect that,” they wrote.

The authors then quoted a warning from Laser: “The agenda doesn’t stop with reproductive rights. It’s much, much bigger. And that should concern every American, because America wouldn’t be America without the separation of church and state.”

In the days since, MSNBC has leaned into  the “Christian nationalism” scare campaign in discussing the broader context of a looming Trump re-election. In a video that quickly went viral, a guest appearing on ‘All In With Chris Hayes’ gave the game away when she asserted:

The thing that unites them as Christian nationalists … is that they believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don’t come from any earthly authority—they don’t come from Congress, they don’t come from the Supreme Court—they come from God.

Never mind the U.S. Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 55 other American Founding Fathers, which states, “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.”

In case you missed it, according to left-wing talking points, the Founding Fathers of the United States were Christian nationalists.

Notice that Christians who invoke the Bible and theology to advocate for progressive politics are conveniently exempted from this self-serving standard.

The playbook is simple: label any Christian impulse for conservative policy as “Christian nationalism” and it goes away.

Again, Josh Hammer cuts through the fog:

America was quite literally founded on the notion that ‘all men are created equal’ and that ‘they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.’ Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned those words but redacted his Bible to remove those parts he did not himself believe, was about the furthest thing imaginable from an Orthodox [sic] Christian. Yet even Jefferson held that our rights flow from our Creator—the very God, we know from Genesis, who made man in His image. The political theory of the American founding is that man is made in God’s image and that we accordingly possess certain rights that no other man or ruler can deny.

“This is not ‘theocracy,’ he concludes. “It is basic American history.”

The good news? Christians need not be ashamed of America’s cross-pollinating religious and political heritage.

After all, that’s what preserved for us the right to life in the first place.

Image credit: Pexels

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