Michael NortonMichael NortonJanuary 20, 20165min392
Michael J. Norton
Michael J. Norton

Something odd happens when some judges consider cases involving the issue of abortion. The legal principle of stare decisis — the idea that a principle or rule established in a previous legal case should be binding or at least persuasive in a later case — seems to fly out the window and pro-abortion emotions take control.

As a frequent result, court orders seem to result in as few restrictions on abortion on demand as possible, and taxpayers end up responsible for funding abortion on demand even if they have expressed their will that their taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund abortions.

This phenomenon runs contrary to the truth that America was built by people who believed in individual responsibility and the rule of law. As Winston Churchill said, “The stability of the law is the safety of us all.”
But, when it comes to cases involving the issue of abortion, the idea of personal responsibility and the rule of law are frequently ignored. And that has happened again.

Without citing a single case in support of its conclusion that the Colorado Constitution does not prohibit the subsidization of abortions, a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed on Jan. 14 a Denver District Court order dismissing the complaint of former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Jane E. Norton. All one need do is read the language of the Colorado Constitution to know this is wrong. It provides that “No public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion. …”

Norton had claimed that, since at least 2009, Colorado state government agencies had been violating this Colorado constitutional provision by directing nearly $14 million in state taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, which has subsidized its Rocky Mountain affiliate’s abortions.

After all, Norton does have some experience with these constitutional provisions. In 2002, she defunded Planned Parenthood on the basis of this very same constitutional provision. She had carefully read the Colorado Constitution and the “Blue Book” promises of the proponents of the 1984 voter initiative that resulted in the adoption of this provision that “taxpayers are not required to subsidize abortions.”

Ignoring that language and Norton’s 2002 order, newly elected Gov. Bill Ritter, fulfilling a campaign promise to Planned Parenthood, restored state funding to Planned Parenthood. That led to Norton’s lawsuit and to this recent appellate court decision. Reading the word “indirectly” out of this provision and without citing any case supporting its interpretation, the Court of Appeals ruled that Norton’s “subsidization theory cannot support a claim.”

The decision was certainly disappointing. Plenty of case law exists to support Norton’s position, but the Court of Appeals apparently ignored it. Courts should not be able to thwart the will of the people in their enactment of a citizen initiative of this kind, but that is what is happening here — and, of course, Planned Parenthood, the abortion behemoth that benefits from these state taxpayer dollars has, at the expense of the taxpayer, won again.

Norton plans to appeal this decision to the Colorado Supreme Court. Quoting Winston Churchill again, “Never, never, never, never give in.” When it comes to enforcing the legitimate will of Coloradans as expressed in the Colorado Constitution, Norton plans to take Mr. Churchill’s advice.

Michael J. Norton, a former U.S. Attorney during the Reagan administration, is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and represents the former executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, his wife, Jane Norton, in her lawsuit against Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood.