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Scholar tells court: Arkansas law protecting unborn has historical, scientific support

ADF files brief on behalf of constitutional scholar asking 8th Circuit to uphold Arkansas law
Baby's Feet

ST. LOUIS – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on behalf of a constitutional scholar asking the court to uphold an Arkansas law limiting abortions after 18 weeks.

The brief in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Rutledge, filed on behalf of professor Justin Buckley Dyer, notes how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade relied on a flawed historical account of state laws protecting unborn children—wrongly suggesting that these laws were concerned only with protecting women. The brief argues that these historical errors have pervaded abortion cases and prevented states from enacting sensible protections for unborn life. The brief recommends that the 8th Circuit reverse a district court’s previous ruling striking down Arkansas’s law.

“It is scientifically indisputable that the life of every human being—with their own unique DNA and all other building blocks of life—starts at the moment of conception,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle. “Abortion advocates have tried to rewrite history and pretend that widespread disregard for unborn human life was normal in American state laws. But an honest look at our history reveals a record of deliberate protections for unborn children, even before advances in embryology and medical technology gave us insights into and literal pictures of the intricate details of an unborn child’s development and movement. Every innocent human life—whether born or not—is valuable, precious, and worthy of full protection.”

The ADF brief notes that the historian most frequently cited in the Roe decision served as legal counsel for NARAL and touted his own “original contribution” to legal history—a history that selectively elevated and ignored historical facts. The brief also notes that when the country ratified the 14th Amendment, in which abortion advocates purportedly find a right to abortion, “36 states and territories had statutes explicitly prohibiting abortion—many from the onset of pregnancy and several deeming abortion manslaughter or murder.”

Roe v. Wade is bad law, and even legal scholars who support abortion agree that it was poorly decided,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg even wrote, ‘Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.’ That conflict continues, and states—including Arkansas—have legitimate interests in regulating and limiting abortion out of profound respect for the life of the unborn and commitment to protecting the health of women.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR'-lee), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Kevin Theriot
Kevin Theriot
Senior Counsel
Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom