WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The Supreme Court’s new term begins Oct. 2, and on its docket will be legal challenges concerning both the First and Second Amendments, as well as potentially other related major cases.

Texas and Florida both have passed laws designed to combat what they alleged were social media companies’ content policies that disproportionately restricted conservatives through what critics called censoring, shadow-banning or de-platforming. Those laws are currently blocked from enforcement while the court considers the matter.

In this undated file photo, James Earle Fraser’s statue “The Authority of Law” sits at the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (OSV News photo/Mark Thomas, Pixabay)

Among controversies over such allegations includes an effort by social media companies to reduce the spread of inaccurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic or COVID-19 vaccines.

John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, told OSV News the group is interested in O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier and Lindke v. Freed, the cases concerning social media accounts.

“This is an important pair of cases for the court to get right to make sure that everybody is able to freely participate in public debate,” he said.

In United States v. Rahimi, the justices will consider a challenge to the constitutionality of a federal ban on the possession of firearms by those who are under domestic violence restraining orders.

A federal law enacted in 1994 prohibits those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. The case concerns Zackey Rahimi, a Texas man who was placed under a restraining order after assaulting his girlfriend in 2019 and threatening to shoot her. Rahimi later took part in crimes and was involved in five shootings, after which authorities searched his home and charged him with violating that federal ban.

But after the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, striking down part of New York’s handgun-licensing law, an appeals court threw out Rahimi’s conviction, arguing Rahimi still had the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment per that case.

The Supreme Court may also choose to take up a case concerning a challenge brought by a coalition of pro-life opponents of mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion. The coalition challenged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of that drug, arguing the FDA violated its own safety standards when it first authorized the drug’s use for abortion in 2000. The Justice Department and the manufacturer of mifepristone have asked the high court to take up that case.

ADF is representing the pro-life coalition in that case.

Speaking broadly on cases the group is watching, Bursch said, “the court has been very protective of free speech and free exercise rights over the last decade and a half roughly.”

He said there are “definitely more possibilities to move the law in that area and protect people’s ability to live their faith in the public square.”

Other potential cases the court may add to its docket include a federal ban on machine guns applied to bump stocks, or devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to rapidly fire multiple rounds, and school bans on students who identify as transgender using bathrooms not consistent with their biological sex.

Becket, a Washington-based religious liberty law firm, has also asked the Supreme Court to take up Vitagliano v. County of Westchester, concerning Debra Vitagliano, a Catholic sidewalk counselor challenging a New York county law prohibiting pro-life protesters from approaching people outside abortion clinics.

Her case seeks the high court to review its 2000 ruling in Hill v. Colorado, which involved a Colorado law enacted in 1993. That law regulated First Amendment activity within 100 feet of an entrance to any health care facility and prohibited approaching a person within eight feet without their consent to provide any protest materials or counseling.

“Religious liberty and free speech are central to our ability to live together in peace,” Mark Rienzi, president and CEO at Becket, said in a statement about cases the group is seeking to be considered this term. “The Court has an important role to play in protecting the First Amendment rights for people of all faiths.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Sheila and David Porter left their home in Newport News, Virginia, at 5 a.m. to celebrate the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington June 24.

Together, the couple attended the 2023 National Celebrate Life Day rally held by national pro-life groups on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The event commemorated the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and freed states to decide abortion policy.

With the Washington Monument in the background, a crowd gathers at the Lincoln Monument in Washington June 24, 2023, for the National Celebrate Life Day rally to commemorate the first anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

“I hope next year, this time, that we have much more to celebrate,” 64-year-old David told OSV News. “In order to do that, I and the rest of the people that are pro-life have much work to do.”

Sheila, 63, agreed: “We can’t stop fighting.”

The Porters brought with them shirts, available for a donation, that cited the Bible verse Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you, I knew you.” In between the text, an image of an unborn baby appeared, resting in the palm of a hand.

The event invited pro-life Americans to celebrate the anniversary, honor past pro-life heroes and unite to protect the unborn from abortion as persons under the 14th Amendment, which says, in part, that no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

“I think it’s very important now that we’re living in this post-Roe era, this new dawn for our nation, that our generation, the pro-life generation, understands we haven’t reached high noon yet,” Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, or SFLA, which organized the rally, told OSV News.

“In order to achieve that moment, every human being must be recognized as they are: A unique, unrepeatable human person,” she added. “And the 14th Amendment does acknowledge that, and that is our path to success.”

Ahead of the event, crowds slowly gathered in front of the memorial as the threat of thunderstorms loomed. Curious tourists passed through, asking questions. Printed signs handed out by SFLA read, “Equal rights for all, born and preborn.” Others held handmade signs.

The crowd in the hundreds appeared significantly smaller than the March for Life rally, which challenged Roe each year in Washington. But, like the March for Life, the crowd was youthful. Nearly 2,000 joined to watch the event online, via livestream.

A dozen or so protesters crashed the start of the event, but soon disappeared. By the end, the hot afternoon sun replaced the cloudy morning.

In addition to SFLA and SFLA Action, the event was hosted by Pro-Life Partners Foundation, Live Action and 40 Days for Life. Sidewalk Advocates for Life and Patriot Mobile served as co-hosts. Heartbeat International and The Vulnerable People Project participated as partners.

The slew of speakers included Hawkins, former Vice President Mike Pence, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Live Action President Lila Rose, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, activist and author Alveda King, and Catholic University of America professor Chad Pecknold.

People traveled from near and far to celebrate Dobbs and share their stories.

Kaylee Stockton, 20, traveled with her baby boy, Colton, from Phoenix. She carried a sign reading: “This Teen Mom didn’t build her SUCCESS off of MURDERING her CHILD.”

She was 18, she said, when she became pregnant.

“My biggest challenge being a teen mom was everyone telling me to get an abortion,” she told OSV News, before describing her life as a young mom. “It’s scary, and I think every mom feels that when she first finds out she’s pregnant, but it’s so rewarding.”

Kayla Garcia, 22, traveled to the event from Los Angeles. She used to defend abortion clinics. That changed when, at 18, she visited a Planned Parenthood while pregnant and in a physically abusive relationship.

“The only thing that they offered me was abortion, and so I took it because I really thought that was my only option,” she remembered, noting that Planned Parenthood failed to report the bruises on her arm.

Today, she leads a pro-life group with SFLA at her college, Citrus College, in Glendora, California. For women contemplating abortion, she encouraged them to visit StandingWithYou.org, run by SFLA.

Nearby, 23-year-old Redi Degefa from the Washington area, held a sign reading “PRAY THE ROSARY TO END ABORTION.” She wanted to show people her age, especially young girls, that young people exist who believe that abortion is evil and that life starts at conception, she said.

The event followed a letter published June 15 by National Review in which pro-life leaders and scholars across the political aisle argued that “our North Star in the pro-life movement remains the same as ever: the end of abortion through ensuring the equal protection of the laws.”

The speakers June 24 appeared to come from more right-leaning groups, but more progressive groups, such as Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAUU) attended. Founder Terrisa Bukovinac said she arrived after PAUU held an event at the Supreme Court.

“I just want to join with my pro-life community in celebration of the overturning of the deadliest Supreme Court case in history,” Bukovinac, one of the signers of the letter, said. “We support equal application of the law for every single human being. And the unborn are human beings. They are persons.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Prior to the first anniversary of a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its prior abortion precedent, pro-life activists lauded legislation passed in multiple states while advocating for additional support services for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.

The Supreme Court issued its historic decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization June 24, 2022, little more than a month after Politico leaked an earlier draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion. The leak caused a public firestorm before the court issued its official ruling and is seen as the most significant breach of the court’s confidentiality in its history.

A memorial stone dedicated to the unborn children of the world is seen at St. Patrick Parish Cemetery in Smithtown N.Y., Jan. 22, 2021. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The Dobbs case involved a Missisppi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, in which the state directly challenged the high court’s previous abortion-related precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Supreme Court ultimately overturned its own prior rulings, undoing nearly a half-century of its own precedent on the issue.

Under Roe and its ensuing precedents, states were generally barred from restricting abortion prior to viability, or the point at which a child could survive outside the womb. When Roe was issued in 1973, fetal viability was considered to be 28 weeks’ gestation, but 50 years later, estimates now are generally considered to be 23-24 weeks, with some estimates as low as 22 weeks.

While supporters often described Roe as settled law, opponents argued the court in 1973 improperly legalized abortion nationwide, a matter that should have been left to legislators in Congress or state governments. Many, including the Catholic Church, also argued that abortion is murder and its legalization should be opposed on moral grounds. Opponents of the ruling challenged it for decades, both in courts and in the public square, such as the national March for Life held annually in Washington.

In a June 6 statement marking the first anniversary of Dobbs, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said, “We have much to celebrate.”

“By the grace of God, the nearly fifty-year reign of national abortion on demand has been put to an end. Roe v. Wade — a seemingly insurmountable blight on our nation — is no more!” Bishop Burbidge said. “Over the past year, while some states have acted to protect preborn children, others have tragically moved to enshrine abortion in law — enacting extreme abortion policies that leave children vulnerable to abortion, even until the moment of birth. … The work that lies ahead continues to be not just changing laws but also helping to change hearts, with steadfast faith in the power of God to do so.”

Bishop Burbidge said the “task before us begins with the knowledge of the truth and our courage to speak it and to live it with compassion,” calling for the faithful to show “radical solidarity” with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy.

“In this shifting political landscape, we persist confidently in our efforts to defend life,” he said. “The work that lies ahead continues to be not just changing laws but also helping to change hearts, with steadfast faith in the power of God to do so. The task before us begins with our knowledge of the truth and our courage to speak it and to live it with compassion.”

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life organization, told OSV News the first post-Roe year has been “amazing in so many ways” in reducing abortion. Mancini said the sheer overturn of Roe itself “is a huge accomplishment.”

“I’m not sure many of us thought that would happen in our lifetime,” she said.

But, Mancini said, the year following the Dobbs decision has come with many challenges and also introduced “an element of confusion.”

In the months following Dobbs, some women in states that restricted abortion said they were denied care for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, or other adverse pregnancy outcomes as a result of unclear abortion legislation.

Pro-life activists said pro-life bills restricting abortion contained exceptions for such circumstances, while opponents claimed bill texts insufficiently addressed those circumstances or lacked clarity on exceptions.

Public support for legal abortion also increased after Roe was overturned, according to multiple polls conducted in the months following the Dobbs ruling.

“I think the overturning of Roe has revealed how conflicted our culture is about abortion,” Mancini said. “It shows me our work is still very much cut out for us.”

May 2023 polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42% of U.S. adults said the Democratic Party best represents their views on abortion, while 26% said the same of the Republican Party. A substantial portion, 32%, said neither major political party best represents their views on abortion.

In the November elections following Dobbs, voters in states across the U.S. either rejected ballot measures meant to restrict abortion, or voted to codify measures protecting the procedure.

“We’ve got a long way to go towards the day abortion is unthinkable,” Mancini acknowledged.

The way forward, Mancini said, must be to “lean into this and do it with a lot of love.”

“And then also, of course, to emphasize the truth that pro-life is pro-woman, whether it’s the support of a pregnancy care center or funding support at the state level,” she said.

Since the Dobbs decision, more than 20 states have moved to ban or restrict abortion. Some states like Texas implemented a near-total ban on the procedure at any point in pregnancy, while others, such as Georgia, banned the procedure after six weeks, effectively before many women know they are pregnant and thus banning most abortions in practice. Other states, including North Carolina, have approved restrictions at later gestational points in an unborn child’s development, such as North Carolina, where a 12-week abortion ban is scheduled to go into effect in July.

Bans or other limitations are blocked pending legal challenges in South Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah and Wyoming. South Carolina’s bill, for example, would ban abortion after six weeks if it remains in effect; a judge put a temporary hold on it one day after Gov. Henry McMaster signed it into law, asking the state Supreme Court to review the law. The state’s high court previously struck down similar legislation.

Meanwhile, some other states have moved to keep or expand abortion access within their borders, including Oregon, which allocated about $15 million dollars to pay for travel expenses for women who come to the state seeking abortions. California enacted legislation its Gov. Gavin Newsom said would shield patients and providers who travel from other states to perform or undergo abortions in California from laws in other states. New York enacted similar legislation.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists, told OSV News that the U.S. birth rate may be one indicator of the long-term impact of the end of Roe.

But the U.S. may already be seeing the effects of the fall of Roe without a substantial shift in the culture toward life. Abortion pills, Herndon-De La Rosa said, are representing a higher share of U.S. abortions, and their impact is still being tallied amid ongoing legal disputes.

“It can feel very defeating sometimes,” she said. “Like that scene from Jurassic Park where they say ‘life always finds a way,’ sometimes it feels like abortion will always find a way, because when a woman is is desperate and terrified and that second line shows up (on a pregnancy test), I don’t know how much laws make a difference if she feels she has no other option.”

Abortion, she said, is a matter of both supply and demand.

“What are we doing to address the demand side?” Herndon-De La Rosa asked, arguing for further increases in affordable housing and child care.

Herndon-De La Rosa said that pro-life bills also need to be crafted carefully so health providers are not discouraged from timely medical interventions to save the lives of women during pregnancy.

The bills cannot “put women’s lives at risk, intentionally or not,” she said.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, co-authored a policy proposal in January alongside Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, about making birth free to mothers. Day told OSV News the pro-life movement should both seek to address “the needs of women and on bringing the U.S. more in line with Europe as far as limitations on abortion,” noting many European nations limit elective abortion to the first trimester.

“I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about with the pregnancy-support side of things,” Day said, adding that states including Mississippi, the impetus for Dobbs, also expanded resources for pregnant women and new mothers in its abortion restrictions.

Day said a challenge for the pro-life movement is a negative public perception of early limitation bills, which is all the more reason for pro-lifers to “really focus on more than just the limitation.”

“It’s complicated,” Day said. “It’s complicated in part because the Supreme Court made a law (in Roe), and so we’re just trying to move the legislative duties back where they’re supposed to be.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – A still-pending ruling by a federal judge in Texas could pull an abortion drug from the market across the United States.

A lawsuit by a coalition of pro-life opponents of the drug mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion, is demanding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoke its approval of the drug.

If U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk rules in favor of the plaintiffs, he could issue a nationwide injunction on the sale of mifepristone, as requested by the plaintiffs, which would affect even U.S. states where abortion is legal and the drug is permitted under state law.

Another drug used in combination with mifepristone for abortions, called misoprostol, would still be available. Misoprostol is sometimes prescribed by doctors for early miscarriage, but the FDA has not approved the drug for inducing abortion on its own.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. It opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

In January, the FDA eased restrictions on the sale of mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in a chemical abortion, permitting their sale at retail pharmacies for the first time. The decision followed the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, after which states moved to restrict or broaden abortion access.

“The FDA approved Mifeprex (mifepristone) more than 20 years ago based on a thorough and comprehensive review of the scientific evidence presented and determined that it was safe and effective for its indicated use,” the agency said on its website.

Proponents of the use of mifepristone for abortion argue the court should keep the FDA regulations in place.

Boxes of mifepristone, the first pill given in a medical abortion, are pictured in a Jan. 13, 2023, photo. A federal judge in Texas is poised to rule on whether to suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, potentially pulling the drug from the market nationwide. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

“There’s zero justification for removing this medication from the market that isn’t political,” the ACLU said in a March 15 tweet. “This case should’ve been laughed out of court.”

On its website, the FDA states that mifepristone “is safe when used as indicated and directed” through 10 weeks gestation. The agency’s adverse reaction guidelines for the drug state that “serious and sometimes fatal infections and bleeding occur very rarely.”

Opponents of mifepristone say those risks are more common and more dangerous than proponents of the drug say.

Dr. Ingrid Skop, a board-certified OB-GYN and senior fellow and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told reporters in a March 21 press call that the lawsuit is about “holding the FDA accountable to its own rules and protecting American women and girls from dangerous drugs.”

“Although like approximately 90% of obstetricians, I do not perform elective abortions, I have cared for women in emergency rooms or in my private practice who suffered complications from chemical abortions,” Dr. Skop said. “Because they have been told it’s safer than Tylenol, they are usually surprised and unprepared when complications occur.”

Dr. Skop said the abortion pill is marketed to women as more natural, and as allowing the process to take place “in her own home.” But she said that claim is for “the benefit of the abortion industry, not women.”

“Few physicians are willing to perform abortions,” she said, “so chemical abortions solve staffing problems.”

After a March 15 hearing in Amarillo, Texas, Kacsmaryk did not issue a decision, but indicated his ruling would come as soon as possible.