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SCOTUS Won't Take Up Abortion Group's Appeal to Access Catholic Bishops' Communications on Abortion

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case Tuesday of Whole Woman’s Health vs. TX Catholic Conference in which abortion groups attempted to access the private communications of Catholic bishops on the abortion issue. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling denied the group access to the bishops’ internal communications and that ruling is now left in place as the Supreme Court refused to take up the abortion groups’ appeal.


The case came about when Whole Woman’s Health sued the state over a law requiring abortion clinics to cremate or bury fetal remains. When Judge David Alan Ezra blocked that law arguing that it constituted an “undue burden” to abortion access. The state pointed out that the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) offered free burials for the remains of unborn babies that had been aborted so there would be no additional cost burden. In response, Whole Woman’s Health subpoenaed all of the bishops’ internal communications regarding abortion in March 2018.

The bishops did turn over more than 4,000 pages of communications with outside groups on the matter but declined to release their internal communications. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the request by the abortion groups in July.

“That internal communications are to be revealed not only interferes with TCCB’s decision-making processes on a matter of intense doctrinal concern but also exposes those processes to an opponent and will induce similar ongoing intrusions against religious bodies’ self-government,” Judge Edith Jones wrote in her majority opinion.


Whole Woman’s Health then appealed the matter to the Supreme Court which refused to take it up Tuesday morning.

“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,” commented Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, the firm representing the bishops. “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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