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A Light at the End of the Tunnel for Pro-Life Supporters

February 16, 2017

On January 31, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Niel Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. This nomination, while promissing for optimistic Republicans, is astonishing for Christians and specifically Jesuits. Neil Gorsuch is just the third Jesuit educated member of the United States Supreme Court, having attended Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit college preparatory school in Maryland. With this nomination, Christians now hope that key legislation and rulings, specifically Roe v. Wade, will be overturned.

Officially, Justice Gorsuch has never ruled on abortion, but he is publicly pro-life on the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia is a 2006 book written by Neil Gorsuch which presents legal and moral arguments against euthanasia and assisted suicide, advocating for the retention of bans on the practices. It explores case histories from jurisdictions that have legalized the practice, including Oregon and the Netherlands. In The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Gorsuch treats physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia as morally identical acts. He sharply criticizes judge Richard Posner of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who wrote that government should not interfere with a person’s decision to end their life. Gorsuch argues that Posner’s view could require the legalization of consensual homicide and would lead to mass suicide pacts, duels, and organ sales.

In other rulings, Gorsuch has shown that he advocates a broad definition of religious freedom. In Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius (2013) Gorsuch wrote a concurrence when the en banc circuit found the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate on a private business violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That ruling was upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014). When a panel of the court denied similar claims under the same act in Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell (2015), Gorsuch joined Judges Harris Hartz, Paul Joseph Kelly Jr., Timothy Tymkovich, and Jerome Holmes in their dissent to the denial of rehearing en banc. That ruling was vacated and remanded to the Tenth Circuit by the per curium Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell (2016).

the law … doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance”

— Gorsuch

In Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (2007), Gorsuch joined Judge Michael W. McConnell’s dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, taking the view that the government’s display of a donated Ten Commandments monument in a public park did not obligate the government to display other offered monuments. Most of the dissent’s view was subsequently adopted by the Supreme Court, which reversed the judgment of the Tenth Circuit.

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