Kentucky judge dismisses life at conception as a ‘Christian and Catholic belief’

A circuit judge in Kentucky has again blocked a pair of state abortion bans from taking effect — in part, he said, because they adopt “a distinctly Christian and Catholic belief” about when life begins.

“The laws at issue here adopt the view embraced by some, but not all, religious traditions, that life begins at the moment of conception,” Judge Mitch Perry of the Jefferson County Circuit Court wrote in an opinion issued Friday.

“The General Assembly is not permitted to single out and endorse the doctrine of a favored faith for preferred treatment. By taking this approach, the bans fail to account for the diverse religious views of many Kentuckians whose faith leads them to take very different views of when life begins,” he said.

“There is nothing in our laws or history that allows for such theocratic based policymaking,” he added.

At issue are two laws Kentucky’s General Assembly passed in 2019. One is a six-week abortion ban, and the other a “trigger” law that would ban virtually all abortions in the state in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That happened on June 24, clearing the way for states to regulate abortion as they see fit.

Neither Kentucky law makes exceptions for rape or incest, Perry noted.

The plaintiffs in the case — two abortion clinics and an abortionist who owns one of the facilities — maintain the state laws are unconstitutional. They have asked Perry to issue a temporary restraining order to stop them from being enforced until the case is fully resolved in court.

Perry issued a stay June 29 and another one Friday.

Perry argued that in making the laws the General Assembly “essentially” established the “independent fetal personhood” of the fetus, noting in a footnote that the legislative body uses the term “unborn human beings.”

A matter of science and reason

Perry wrote in his opinion that there is a “substantial likelihood” that the abortion bans violated the rights to privacy, equal protection, and religious freedom guaranteed in Kentucky’s state constitution.

Regarding religious freedom Perry wrote: “Both the Trigger Ban and the Six Week Ban implicate the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses by impermissibly establishing a distinctly Christian doctrine of the beginning of life, and by unduly interfering with the free exercise of other religions that do not share that same belief.”

Pro-life advocates have noted, however, that Perry’s argument stands at odds with the position of the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups that it is a matter of scientific fact that human life begins at conception.

In 2019, the March for Life — which describes itself as the largest annual human rights demonstration in the world — chose as its theme “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.” 

“Science is behind the pro-life movement,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, said at the time.

“We see that medical and technological advancements always affirm the pro-life movement, for example, DNA is present at fertilization and no fingerprint on earth, past, present, or future, is the same,” Mancini said. “We know, too, a baby’s heart beats at just six weeks and we can distinctly observe it ourselves with ultrasound technology.”

Several pro-life organizations are not religious yet call for the protection of human life from its very beginning. These groups include Rehumanize InternationalProgressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, and Secular Pro-Life.

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