Can you explain what ‘stare decisis’ means in legal decisions e.g. Morgentaler. J.S. Mississauga

‘Stare’ is the Latin for ‘to stand’. Decisis explains itself – decision. With reference to the law, ‘stare decisis’ means that once a legal principal is decided upon it should apply to all future cases where the facts are essentially the same. That first decision stands. A well known American writer, Russell Kirk explained the legal doctrine of stare decisis in these words:

“The purpose of stare decisis is to ensure that evenhanded justice will be administered from one year to another, one decade to another, one century to another.”

Following precedent (or the doctrine of stare decisis) is not an ironclad rule. The US Supreme Court, for example, has overturned judgments of previous Courts, and there is always some hope that Roe v Wade will be reversed.

Is there anything in Canada similar to the hospices in Britain with an outreach program that cares for the terminally ill in their own homes, with the aid of volunteers? J.D. Unionville

Yes, there is, though not as well known. The Community Hospice Association of Ontario could give you further information. The address is 40 Wynford Drive, suite 313, Don Mills, Ontario, Tel. 416-510-3880

I understand the Association stresses the need to help those with life-threatening illnesses to remain where they are most comfortable, in their own homes. It helps to co-ordinate the efforts of the medical professionals with those of volunteers from the local community.

As in Britain, the dedicated unpaid volunteers are at the heart of the program. I imagine, too, that as in Britain, many of the volunteers are those who have been helped in the past by this Hospice Association, and who now repaying their “debts.”

It is important to note that the high regard for hospices in Britain has acted as a shield against all movements to legalize assisted suicide and so-called “mercy killing.” If any readers have further information I should be grateful to receive it.

My family in the US claims that Clinton is not really pro-abortion. He, so they say, wants fewer and safe abortions. What argument can I use? E.K. Toronto

We can only judge by what Clinton does, not what he says. His actions are not pro-life: they are intended to make abortion even easier, and more repulsive.

  • He authorized abortions in military hospitals.
  • He gave taxpayers’ money to Planned Parenthood.
  • He lifted the ban on the use of fetal tissue for medical research.
  • He opened the door for the abortion drug RU 486 to be used in the USA.
  • He appointed a pro-abortion feminist, Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.
    • He proposed a health care program that would guarantee that taxpayers provided abortion.
    • He vetoed legislation that would have outlawed “partial-birth” abortions. In these abortions the baby is manipulated to provide a feet-first delivery. When all the baby-except the head is out of the mother, the abortionist drives scissors into the baby’s skull, inserts a suction device and sucks out the brain.

Thus the baby is deliberately and cruelly killed just three inches away from complete birth.

A few inches later, the abortionist could be convicted of infanticide.

The Bill to make these abortions illegal was passed with a large majority by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but Clinton has vetoed the legislation by refusing to sign it.

Despite all his claims, Clinton is not only pro-abortion, he is a pro-abortion activist.

Some see his action as an indication of his pandering to the most extreme pro-abortion elements in society.

I have been trying to understand what led up to Roe v. Wade in the U.S. and various U.S. Supreme Court decisions. What was Griswold v. Connecticut about, and why was it important? J.S. Mississauga

Thank you for this question because it led me back to Judge Robert H. Bork’s book, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law.

Judge Bork calls this case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) “insignificant in itself, but momentous for the future of constitutional law.” Connecticut had an ancient statute making it a criminal offence either to use contraceptives or to aid someone else to do so, but as Bork says: “There was, of course, no prospect that it would ever be enforced . . . Indeed, some Yale law professors had gotten the statute all the way to the Supreme Court a few years previously, and the court had refused to decide it because there was no showing that the law was ever enforce.”

Judge Bork said that when he lived in New Haven, he had no idea that the law existed, “until it was challenged for ideological and symbolic reasons.”

According to Bork, the case against the law “worked up” by the Yale Law School faculty, and supported by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Catholic Council for Civil Liberties, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The law professors needed a test case, and after some difficulty they found two doctors to give birth control information. The doctors were fined $100 each as accessories; and the professors were on their way to the Supreme Court.

Justice Douglas who wrote the minority report treated the Connecticut law – (which had never been enforced until this contrived case) as though it “threatened the institution of marriage” and “the marital bedroom.”

He created a new right of privacy clause not found in the Constitution, claiming to find it in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bill of Rights. But, the Judge Bork observes: “The Connecticut statute was not invalid under any provision of the Bill of Rights . . . and did not threaten any freedom.”

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Hugo Black made it clear that the Supreme Court was giving a power to itself, to alter both laws and the Constitution to accord with its own views: “any broad unlimited power to hold laws unconstitutional because they offend what this Court conceives to be the ‘conscience of the people’ . . . was not given by the Farmers [of the Constitution] but rather has been bestowed on the court by the Court.”

Griswold was indeed “momentous for the future of constitutional law” because it “has had generative power, spawning a series of wrong decisions and unjustifiable claims before federal courts.” Roe v. Wade (1973) only became possible because Griswold created a new right of privacy.

But before Roe, the U.S. Supreme Court in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) struck down a Massachusetts law which regulated the distribution of contraceptives; these were available to married couples, but (usually) not to single people.

The Court abandoned arguments about the “sanctity of marriage” and the “marital bedroom” and used the newly Court ordained right of privacy. It is significant that in the Roe decision, the Court did not feel obliged to say where the new right was found.

It is ironic that a judgment which struck down laws passed by all the State Legislatures talks of “reservation of rights to the people,” and it was harshly criticized by legal experts, even those favoring abortion. Judge Bork states: “In the years since 1973, no one, however pro-abortion, has ever thought of an argument that even remotely begins to justify Roe v. Wade as a constitutional decision.” But Roe, child of Griswold, is also a potent generative power, spawning new generations of wrong decisions.

Does Scripture condemn embryo experimentation? M.L. Markham

The Bible does not deal specifically with the biological aspects (or the morality) of embryo experimentation that have only arisen in the latter part of the 20th century.

That having been said, Scripture does go to the heart of the matter which is God’s plan for humanity. Human beings at every stage of life are accorded great dignity; each one is known and loved by God, and each is made in His own image and likeness.

Embryo experimentation which involves the slicing of human embryos, cloning, etc., all attack the dignity of humanity. To create, by invitro fertilization, human embryos for the purpose of killing them in experiments is a slap in the face for all humanity and an insult to God.