ProPublica profiles Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, whose “rulings over the last nine years have fueled the biggest threat to abortion rights in a generation.”

Parker is a religious man, who, in 2005, said, “The very God of Holy Scriptures, the Creator, is the source of law, life, and liberty.”

That was at what reporter Nina Martin describes as a gathering of homeschooled young men:

The atmosphere at Parker’s Witherspoon appearance was far warmer, and his remarks there were even more candid. A DVD of the session shows him gripping the lectern, dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, as he railed against the perceived sins of jurists at every level. “It’s the judges who have legalized abortion and homosexuality … They are shaking the very foundation of our society.” Parker made it clear that he had no intention of letting legal precedent get in his way. “We cannot fall under that trap,” he insisted. “We have to stand for what’s right.” The one thing he most wished for the young men before him was that they find a way to gain positions of influence and turn them to God’s purpose. No opportunity to do so should be shrunk from or wasted.

Parker’s particular genius, Martin explains, is his method of co-opting cases that don’t appear to have anything to do with abortion in order to undermine Roe. The key vulnerability is the 1973 Supreme Court’s reasoning that a fetus is not a person. If such a determination were made, the fetus could not be aborted legally.

Here’s an example of what Parker does, as reported by Martin:

In 2013, a case landed on the Alabama Supreme Court docket that presented Parker with yet another opportunity to attack Roe v. Wade. One of the plaintiffs, Hope Ankrom, from Coffee County south of Montgomery, had pleaded guilty after her son tested positive for cocaine and marijuana at birth. The other, Amanda Kimbrough, from rural northwestern Alabama, had used methamphetamine while pregnant, giving birth 15 weeks prematurely to a boy who soon died. Facing the possibility of life in prison, she opted for a plea deal and a 10 year sentence in the notorious Tutwiler state penitentiary for women. But no Alabama laws specifically authorized the women’s arrests and convictions. Instead, prosecutors had charged them under a felony “chemical endangerment” statute enacted in 2006 to protect children from the noxious fumes and explosive chemicals that make home-based meth labs so dangerous.

Lawyers for Ankrom and Kimbrough argued that the state had grossly overreached, pointing out that legislators had debated — and rejected — expanding the meth-lab law to cover pregnant women. Parker, along with five other justices, didn’t buy it. He declared that the chemical-endangerment law did indeed apply to fetuses exposed to drugs in the womb. But again, Parker didn’t leave it at that. His main opinion in Ex Parte Ankron and Kimbrough ran 55 pages. His concurrence ran another 20.

This time, Parker’s goal was to establish the many ways that existing statutes recognize fetuses as persons with legally enforceable rights. The document is a kind of masterpiece of pro-life reasoning. “He’s someone who really takes time to read history and the development of jurisprudence,” said Mat Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel and a leading Christian legal theorist. “He’s not a surface thinker.” Step by step, Parker lays out his evidence: laws that give inheritance rights to unborn children, laws that ban pregnant inmates from being executed, laws that give fetuses legal guardians for the purposes of protecting their interests, laws that allow parents to sue for damages if fetuses are injured or killed as the result of negligence or some other wrongful act. Several pages of the concurrence consist almost entirely of lists of statutes from around the country conferring fetal rights. “Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion,” he concluded, “and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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