On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Texas-based abortion chain which would force the state’s Catholic bishops to release all their internal communications related to abortion.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Bishops, stems from a Texas law which required that the remains of preborn children either be buried or cremated, rather than disposed of through other means, like flushed into the sewer system or sent to a landfill. Whole Woman’s Health and other abortion providers decried the law, saying that burying aborted babies would be expensive and burdensome. In contrast, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops (TCCB) praised the law, offering to bury the remains of aborted children free of charge.
TCCB’s response drew ire from Whole Woman’s Health, who immediately attacked the bishops. In an outrageous move, they sued and subpoenaed the bishops, demanding access to all internal communications regarding abortion. The bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communication regarding the issue, but refused to hand over decades-worth of private internal correspondence and communication. In June 2018, when a trial judge ordered them to hand over these private internal documents, the TCCB filed for emergency relief to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court handed down a 2-1 majority ruling in favor of the bishops in July 2018. Whole Woman’s Health brought its appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose refusal to hear the case marks a victory for the TCCB.
“Thank goodness the Supreme Court saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas,” Eric Rassbach said in a statement to Catholic Philly. Rassbach serves as vice president and senior counsel at Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm which represented the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in the case.
The TCCB offered its own statement to Catholic News Agency. “The bishops are very grateful the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which protects the private religious communications of the bishops from a fishing expedition by abortion providers seeking access to our ministry information,” it said.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case puts an end to Whole Woman’s Health’s interference with the bishops. As Rassbach said in a statement, “Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs.”
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