NASHVILLE (Christian Examiner) – Several Christian leaders have condemned the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Texas abortion law which required the abortion centers to meet the same clinical standards as ambulatory surgical centers (for outpatient care).
House Bill 2, the subject of controversy since 2013 when it was initially passed, was immediately challenged when the law went into effect in 2014. An Austin, Texas, judge blocked the law but that decision was overturned last year by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Several weeks later, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the high court's other liberal justices stayed the appellate court's ruling and the case was taken up by the high court.
A 4-4 ruling would have left the decision of the appellate court in place until the case could be retried before a full court (once the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia is filled). But in the ruling June 27, Justice Anthony Kennedy, normally a swing vote, sided with Justices Ginsburg, Sonja Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer to render the 5-3 verdict against the Texas law.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, with Thomas writing a scathing dissent of the ruling. Thomas said the court had proven that it was willing to "bend the rules" to protect the "putative right of abortion" it had created years ago.
Thomas also said the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a case yet where a woman was actually harmed by the abortion clinic law. Instead, he said, doctors and abortion providers were allowed to sue on behalf of women potentially unable to obtain an abortion.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Supreme Court was "on the wrong side of justice, the wrong side of human dignity, and the wrong side of the gospel."
"The Court's laissez-faire attitude toward the abortion industry reminds me of the tobacco lobby's work in the legal battles around cigarettes. Nothing but a completely uncontrolled and unaccountable abortion mechanism will suffice. This isn't 'reproductive freedom'; it's the sacrificing of life and human flourishing for the sake of profit," Moore said.
Moore criticized the abortion industry as fiercely resentful of any attempt to control it or make it accountable to the people. It is, he said, content to walk in darkness.
"That is why ultrasound machines, waiting periods, and crisis pregnancy counseling centers are all enemies of the abortion lobby. They each point to the self-evident truth that unborn babies are indeed persons with inalienable human rights."
Evangelist Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, also lamented the ruling on social media, but said it wasn't a surprise.
"In the absence of more conservative justices, rulings are going the other way. This is another example of how critical the positions of Supreme Court Justices are to our country. Remember, the next president we elect will appoint one justice immediately, and then be able to possibly appoint up to five more during his or her term. Those appointments are of paramount importance to the future of this country," Graham said.
Graham pointed out that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had promised to appoint conservative justices to the court and had already released a list of potential nominees. He called on presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton to do the same.
There is, however, little doubt where Clinton stands. She praised the court for overturning Texas HB 2 and called the guidelines is set in place "medically unnecessary."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has enormous input into policy at Catholic hospitals nationwide and which filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the law, said the law offered common-sense protections for women.
"The Court has rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities that put profits above patient safety," Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said.
"The law simply required abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers – standards like adequate staffing, soap dispensers, and basic sanitary conditions. It required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that hallways be wide enough to allow emergency personnel through with stretchers, should a life-threatening emergency arise," McQuade also said.
First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who stood with Texas Gov. Rick Perry when Texas HB 2 was signed into law, agreed. He said the nation's highest court has again placed profit over people and created a law which shows the "hypocrisy of liberalism."
"Liberals want to regulate everything including lemonade stands. But when it comes to providing a facility that is same for women, they look the other way," Jeffress said.
Jeffress frequently comments on FOX News on issues where politics and religion intersect.