The ProLife Team Podcast 132 | Thomas Glessner, J.D.

Thomas Glessner, J.D. answers several questions for The Abortion Museum and this is the raw footage of our interview. This footage will assist us in creating a series of museum exhibits on the truth/history surrounding abortion.


The transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors.

Welcome to the Pro-Life Team Podcast. My name is Jacob Barr, and in this episode, we’re sharing footage captured for the Abortion Museum. Hello, my name is Thomas Glessner. I am an attorney and present founder of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, or NIFLA, and NIFLA is a legal organization providing legal help, counsel, advice to pro-life pregnancy centers around the country. We have 1,700 members nationwide. I’ve been involved in this issue since 1979, and my wife and I founded the first crisis pregnancy center in the Northwest in 1982. Been on the national level since 1987 through the Christian Action Council, which is now known as Care Net, and then NIFLA, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.

So our work involves providing legal counsel training for pro-life pregnancy centers, both in the legal area and also in the medical area, because we have converted, of our membership, 1,400 of those members into licensed medical clinics. Awesome. So what are rights, whether civil rights, human rights, or some other kind of right, and does abortion qualify as one or more of these rights? Read it one more time. What are rights, whether civil rights, human rights, or some other kind of right, and does abortion qualify as one or more of these rights? A right is a benefit given to every individual by an authority, and there are various levels of this. So for instance, your city council might give you the right to park in certain spaces during certain hours of the day.

That’s called a statutory right or a right given to you by an ordinance. Your state law might give you certain rights that your state legislature grants you. And then there are fundamental rights, which are constitutional rights that are guaranteed to you as an American citizen. But ultimately, the ultimate rights are the inalienable rights that come from God, and that comes from our Declaration of Independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men, or all human beings, are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. These are rights that come from God, and they’re granted to us because we are his creation made in his image. And as such, we are endowed those rights from the creator.

Abortion gives no rights. Abortion takes away a right. Abortion takes away the right to life. That is a fundamental right given to us by God. So abortion, there’s no right to abortion. There’s no right to kill another human being, and therefore, it’s really a tragedy that it got defined as a constitutional fundamental right when it, in fact, is not. Perfect. Does legal equal moral?

In other words, does legality entirely define morality? It used to be that the law and theology were intertwined. Some of your great lawyers in history were also theologians and church leaders, John Calvin, Martin Luther, for instance. And so morality of the law was based on the morality in scripture, and the two were intertwined. So what happened in the late 19th century into the 20th century, the school of positivism came into the legal field. Positivism means that you can separate law from morality. They’re not necessarily the same.

I think Oliver Wendell Holmes was the one who said morality and right is simply what 51% of the public says it is. No foundation for it. So law and morality are no longer linked together like that. Something can be very, very legal but totally immoral because the two aren’t linked. That was the case with abortion. Abortion denies the right of an unborn child to live. And by separating morality from the law, the court in Roe v.

Wade could very easily now say, well, you know, you can believe that, but we’re going to allow it in our constitution. So the two are totally separated now. Just because something is legal does not make it moral. I think that’s a really critical point now. In the old days, using morality and legality were one and the same because of the link between theology and law. Very good. So the next question is, the Dobbs decision, what is it, and why does it matter?

The Dobbs decision was a constitutional decision. It just simply stated the issue of abortion and its legality or restrictions on it are to be decided by the elected officials of a state or in the federal government. The Dobbs decision was not a pro-life decision in the sense that it protected unborn children from abortion. It leaves that decision up to the states.

Now, by throwing out Roe v. Wade, it certainly gives the opportunity for our elected officials to protect unborn children, and that’s a good thing. But it’s far from a pro-life decision. Some people have interpreted the Dobbs decision to mean, well, it puts a decision on the legality of abortion and restrictions to the states. It does that, but it isn’t restricted to the states. It says elected officials, and that means our federal elected officials as well have a role to play in restricting or even banning abortion. Very good.

What was Roe v. Wade, and in your legal opinion, was it a legally sound decision, constitutionally evidentially strong, responsible jurisprudence, etc.? Roe was the most ridiculous opinion of the Supreme Court throughout history. It was not based on precedent. It was not based on sound law. It was based on political whims of the justices who decided they just feel like we need abortion on demand in this country. And that’s not the role of the justices.

That’s not the role of the courts. The court’s role is to interpret laws passed by our elected officials. As a republic, by being a constitutional republic, we are governed by the decisions of our elected officials. The fact that they’re elected means we have the power to take them out if they do things wrong. We choose our leaders. If they rule in ways we don’t want, we then don’t elect them again. That’s a constitutional republic.

And so Roe v. Wade denied that because it said our constitution grants abortion and states can’t restrict it or prohibit it. Well, that was a total denial of a republican form of government.

Up until recently, the Roe v. Wade decision basically got all the attention when people talked about federal abortion policy and Supreme Court rulings. Roe was the reference point. Obviously, the Dobbs decision changed the conversation, but are there other landmark abortion cases that people should know about? Let me think about that. With Roe being gone, the precedents set after Roe are no longer valid. Other than to say even under Roe, the court held that certain restrictions could be allowed, such as the Hyde Amendment, which denied federal funding in Medicaid.

States can deny funding for abortion, and those decisions are still valid. Parental consent laws apply to the constitutionality of abortion. If abortion is a fundamental constitutional right, then that’s going to restrict the ability of a state to require parental consent and parental notification. But those cases that essentially restricted the ability of states to do that are no longer in effect because of Roe. So it’s just a new day. It’s a new day as far as what decisions the court is going to give us and how important they’re going to be in future years. Some say that abortion was legal in the U.S.

until religious activists started getting involved through the American Medical Association around 1860. That, they say, is when the state started banning abortion. In other words, abortion choice wasn’t controversial before about 1860. Is that even correct? Was abortion legally and morally controversial before that time? Yeah, that’s totally incorrect. What happened in 1857, the American Medical Association issued a report that said medical science at this point proves without a shadow of a doubt that life begins, human life begins at conception, the union of the sperm with the egg.

Prior to that time, the belief was, well, human life, really we can’t say it exists until the point of quickening. That’s when the mother first feels a baby kick. Now, the reason that viewpoint was there was simply because it was an evidentiary view. It wasn’t a statement on true biology. When a baby kicks inside, the mother knows she has life. Prior to that time, she doesn’t know she has life. So until there’s evidence of life, we just don’t know.

So the AMA comes out with this report, says, no, we know now that life begins at conception. It was in response to that report that states began to ban abortion with their anti-abortion laws. It was not in response to religious pressure and people imposing their religious values at all. It was based on a very scientific report of scientific fact. If a human being begins with the union of the sperm and the egg, i.e. conception, then the law has a duty to protect the life of that human being. An atheist can believe that.

Most atheists probably would put it in that way. An agnostic can believe that or a Christian can believe that. That is a scientific fact and a statement of the basic moral principles in our law. Law should protect innocent life. You don’t have to pass a religious litmus test to agree with that.

I think we’re good. They’re going to get the elevator. Jacob, we’re also going to need to ask question two again when we’re all done. So just go through the normal poll and then just make sure to save a little bit of time for question two. I took some notes. There was a little bit of rustling happening, but otherwise it was good. Everything else is good.

Okay, let me make a note at the bottom that they do questions. Re-ask please.

Would you like a water bottle? Oh no, I’m fine. Okay, I made a note. All right. Okay, question seven. In the 1970s and 80s, legislators tried and failed to pass a personhood amendment. Would you explain that strategy, what came of it, and whether it’s still an option? Roe v.

Wade, the Supreme Court was faced with a really difficult question to answer, and they answered it wrongly, by the way. But the state of Texas argued that you cannot possibly allow a constitutional right to abortion, because abortion takes the life of an innocent person. The word innocent isn’t even there. It takes the life of a person without due process of law. Now the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says no state shall deny to any person life without due process of law. Okay, and the court knew that was correct, so they had to do some juggling here and come out with the decision, well, however, an unborn child is not a person, therefore doesn’t apply. Now what they did in that decision was essentially say that some human being, that the court did not say that it’s not a human being, by the way, it says it’s not a person.

And what they did was they separated the concept of personhood from humanity. Now look at the dictionary definition of person. One of the definitions will be a human being.

So Roe v. Wade separated the idea of personhood from humanity, and therefore we have a system where some human beings are not persons, therefore not protected under the law. And in fact, other non-human beings, such as corporations, are persons and are protected under the law. A corporation, which is not a human being, has the same constitutional rights as human beings who have those constitutional rights, because they’re persons. Or I shouldn’t call a corporation they, it is a person. A corporation is a person and therefore protected under Roe, an unborn child is not a person. The strategy was simply by overturning Roe, a constitutional amendment needs to be passed that overturns Roe, but the best way to do it was to simply declare personhood in the constitutional amendment for unborn children.

Because Roe said it doesn’t apply, so the strategy was okay, so we’re going to make it apply with the constitutional amendment. That strategy still is a viable strategy. I don’t think it’s logical right now with the current court. However, with Roe v. Wade gone, I would say we probably don’t need that anymore.

You know why? Because the 14th Amendment already protects persons. We have the 14th Amendment, and we can make the very persuasive argument that the 14th Amendment applies to unborn children because of the AMA report of 1857. States then adopting anti-abortion laws as they approve the 14th Amendment, so we don’t really need a constitutional amendment in my opinion. We already have it in the 14th Amendment. Sounds good. All right, so the next question I have is, Democrats seem to be united in the pro-choice—Democrats seem to be united in the pro-choice camp and Republicans in the pro-life camp.

Is that correct, and how have the parties’ views on abortion evolved over the years, say from 1972 forward? Democrats used to be pretty much pro-life. In the early 70s, you’d get statements from people like Senator Ted Kennedy, who was a very liberal senator, but at the end of his career was totally supportive of abortion. You can find quotes from him saying abortion is wrong and should not be allowed. Reverend Jesse Jackson, who ran for president in 1984, earlier in his days, he spoke out strongly against abortion. He changed his view after he decided to run for president. So what happened in the Democrat Party then was that you had this movement of far-left, feminist, Planned Parenthood types to take over the party and dictate that view of abortion.

So it got so bad that pro-life Democrat governor from Pennsylvania, Governor Bob Casey, very pro-life—he was a liberal Democrat, but very pro-life—he wasn’t allowed to speak at the Democrat nominating convention. I believe it was in 1996 when Bill Clinton was nominated again. They wouldn’t allow Casey to speak because he was pro-life. So what’s happened is essentially the Democrats have walked away as a party. There are pro-life Democrats, of course, who don’t agree with their party stance, but they do not have the clout to get that changed. Republicans, on the other hand, in the early days, there were some really bad pro-abortion Republicans. In fact, a senator from Oregon, Senator Bob Packwood, a Republican, was one of the worst, worst abortion supporters in the Senate.

You had other liberal Republicans, Jacob Javits from New York, the same. And what happened during that time, particularly during the Ronald Reagan years, is the Republican Party solidified around a pro-life position. Many Democrats left the Democrat Party because of the issue of abortion and therefore became Republicans. But that’s not to say that the Republican Party is really filled with true believers on abortion. It does say as a political posture they take a pro-life position officially. Some of those people are very suspect, but at least that’s the differences of the two national parties right now. Q. How has the wider abortion debate in America evolved or changed in the last 50 years or so, and then also in the last five to 10 years? A. Well, in the very old days, the line of attack of abortion supporters was, no one could know when human life begins.

So you think about the logic of that, that’s really stupid logic, because I’ll give an example. Let’s pretend you’re deer hunting. You’ve got a rifle in your arm, under your arms, and you’re looking for deer, and you see movement in the brush. You don’t know if it’s human or not, so does that justify pulling the trigger? Because we don’t know if it’s human, so you pull the trigger. Of course not. You don’t pull the trigger until you’re absolutely certain it’s not human.

So to say nobody can know when human life begins, therefore abortion is allowable, is the same logic that it would be for a hunter to say, well, I don’t know if it’s human or not, so I’m going to fire. That’s just kind of an example. But as medical technology changed, that comment just got lost. We proved beyond a shadow of a doubt with ultrasound, for instance, that the unborn child is a human being, without a shadow of a doubt. So now supporters of abortion have to come up with another justification for it. They rely more on this woman’s right to choose. You can’t force a woman to be a mother against her will.

A lot of people would probably say, yeah, I know it’s a human being and killing a human being, but it’s justifiable killing. A lot of them would say that. So we’ve crossed over into a very dangerous situation where people just find the killing of human beings, and that’s where the culture is gone. All right, so question 10. To the best of your knowledge, is the anti-abortion pro-life lobby outmatched in terms of financing, influence, popularity, compared to the abortion pro-choice lobby? The pro-life lobby is definitely outmatched on the money end. Planned Parenthood alone is probably now close to a billion dollar industry.

Planned Parenthood is the number one abortion provider in the world. And the resources there to Planned Parenthood and abortion providers far, far exceed what’s available to pro-lifers, far exceed that. So in that end, it’s really not a level fight. As far as supporters go, polls seem to indicate that a slight majority of the public identify themselves as pro-choice. I’m always skeptical of polls, because usually polls prove what the pollster wants it to prove. And so the result of a poll depends upon who the audience surveyed, the number of people interviewed, even the interpretation of the answers if questions are kind of gray and not clear. So I’m not quite sure that’s true, but it would appear that, anyway, that public opinion polls give a slight edge to those who call themselves pro-choice. All right. Question 11.

What are some of the most effective legal arguments for abortion? And the same question for against abortion. There’s no—when you say effective, you mean something that might sway a court or something? I don’t. Yeah, not— Read it again. So in your opinion, what are some of the most effective legal arguments for abortion and against abortion? There’s no effective legal argument for abortion.

Abortion kills a human being. What legal argument can ever justify killing an innocent human being? There’s no effective legal argument for it. For pro-life position, our argument is simply that’s a human baby. When do you ever justify killing a human baby? When? When is that ever justified?

You know, maybe they tried to insert—years ago it didn’t go anywhere—but, oh, it’s self-defense. That mother’s been invaded by a parasite, and so for her to abort is out of self-defense. That’s nonsense. And, you know, it’s so nonsensical it’s not even worth responding to. So the moral and legal arguments are all on the pro-life side as far as abortion.

So question 12. Explain the abortion choice argument, my body, my choice. Is this bodily autonomy, bodily sovereignty, and is it a sound argument? My body, my choice. Okay. It’s not her body. A woman who’s pregnant with a little boy can’t be a little boy—can’t be a male and female at the same time.

There’s a body of a little boy there, to give an example. It’s not her body. There’s a male and female. There’s another body there. And in medicine and science, doctors are taught to treat two patients when you have a pregnant mother there. It’s not her body. And this is not like removing a wart, which is her body.

She’s got a wart on her finger, and she can make a choice to have that wart removed. Nobody’s going to argue with that. But this is another life, and nobody can argue with that either. That’s good. Some argue that pro-choice policy is an extension of the First Amendment, separating church and state. In other words, they say churches and their religious laws have no business telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Is this a correct application of the First Amendment? No. But freedom of religion never justifies killing another human being.

Let’s put it in another context. What if you had a cult that believed in human sacrifice and it was part of their religious beliefs? Would the law say, okay, that’s freedom of religion, we’ll allow that? And of course they wouldn’t. Because religious practices believe what you want. But when it comes to killing another human being, it ends there. Period. And again, that argument is based on the false statement that it’s her body, her right.

There’s another body there. There’s another human life there. You can believe what you want. You can be a cannibal as far as your religious practices. That’s fine. Believe it. But if you practice cannibalism, you should be prosecuted for murder. That’s good.

So question 14. Oh, you reached that 28. Oh, yeah. Go ahead and stop there. Good. Okay, good.

That’ll help me sync it up. All right.

So question 14. Some argue that abortion choice policy has parallels to slavery, dehumanizing oppressed people group, legalized evil, etc. Is there a valid analogy between abortion and slavery? And what guidance or caution would you recommend for anyone using this analogy? Abortion and slavery are the same issue. The slavery issue that brought us into a horrible civil war where 700,000 men were slaughtered. That was really, you know, I mean, it was decades long argument about the morality of slavery.

You had abolitionists who opposed it, wanted to end it. And you had a slave industry in the South who wanted to keep it going. And it was just a moral issue that was being debated. But what triggered the civil war was the Dred Scott decision in 1857, where the court ruled that an African slave was not a citizen of the United States under the Constitution, and therefore had no legal rights under the Constitution, could be bought, sold by their master, beat up, even killed by their master because the African slave was considered property. That dehumanized the African slave to a point where there was no option but war. Abortion did the same thing. Abortion by the court saying it’s not a person, dehumanized the unborn child, and opened up the door for the exploitation, the murder, the exploitation of that unborn child by somebody else.

So abortion and slavery, really the same issue. That’s good. Number 15. Pivoting to another legal relevant issue in the abortion debate, what is the Equal Rights Amendment? How close was it to passing? Why hasn’t it been passed yet? And in your view, does equality between men and women mean identical treatment in every sphere of society, including the freedom to walk away from an unwanted pregnancy?

Well, the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated. It came close to passing. It needs 34 states to approve it. I think, I could be wrong on this number, I think 32 or 33 approved it. But it got stopped, and then some states rescinded it. And the abortion connection was one of the key reasons that states rescinded it, because the pro-abortion position has argued that abortion is a matter of equal rights, and to deny a woman her right to abortion is a denial of her equality under the law.

They’ve argued that. Equality does not mean sameness, okay? And this is a very controversial issue right now in our culture. A man and a woman are different physiologically. Everybody knows that. A woman can bear a child, a man cannot, at least biologically. That’s true.

Some are arguing differently, but biologically, that’s true. A man cannot bear a child, a woman does bear a child. That makes them essentially different, but being different doesn’t make them unequal. You know, when we talk about equality in the law, we mean equal value of a human being, equal opportunity. I’m not equal in ability to Michael Jordan, a basketball player, but I’m equal under the law with him, and that means I have equal opportunity and equal value under the law. So to mix this up and equate equality meaning sameness, which it does not mean, is a wrong turn in the law. Good. Number 16, question 16.

There are laws on the books against death profiteering. In your view, would abortion qualify as death profiteering, and would that connection qualify as a viable federal law banning for for-profit abortions? Say that again. Death profiteering, what’s that? Yeah, I don’t know what that is. Yeah, so number 16, here we go.

Well, number 16. There are laws on the books against death profit. See, I don’t know what that is. What laws are you referencing? Let’s skip that one. That’s a poorly worded question. I don’t know what that is.

Okay, let’s skip that. I know he says you got to go back to two eventually. Yeah, that’s fine. Okay. He’s going to go to the bathroom, but he said he’ll text us. Oh, no, he doesn’t walk in. Perfect. That’s what I was wondering. Okay. All right, let’s skip that. Okay, 17.

Does abortion qualify as a crime against humanity? Abortion is a crime against humanity. Abortion is the unwarranted killing of an innocent human being, and abortion policy is doing that en masse. Even with Roe not on the books, we still have at least 900,000 abortions every year, and that type of killing on a mass scale like that is definitely a crime against humanity. Question 18. Is abortion law and policy for sale to the highest bidder, irrespective of what’s right, good, or true? Hold on.

One more time. Is abortion law and policy for sale to the highest bidder, irrespective of what’s right, good, or true? Okay, I think I know what they’re drawing. You know, our political system is such that the reality is usually the candidate for office who has more money will win the election. And once you get elected, then incumbency brings in more money to stay elected. So if you’re in a state where the public split on the issue of abortion, you just say the right things to the right people who support abortion, it’ll give you more money, chances are you’re going to win. Public is highly persuadable about these 30-second political ads, and the pro-abortion ads are so dishonest.

Someone who’s uninformed will look at that and probably vote for them. And money buys the quality of the propaganda. So you could very well argue that abortion is for sale to the highest bidder.

Is that question 18? That was question 18. Yeah, I’d rather not do that one. That was a tough one. I was thinking, yeah, let’s skip that. Okay. Yeah. Question 19.

Well, when you debate the abortion issue, you’ve got to know who your audience is. And so to use inflammatory language, for instance, what is an abortion? Well, an abortion crushes the skull of an unborn infant, decapitates the unborn infant, cuts off her arms and her legs, scrapes her out of a mother’s womb, puts her in a bag, and she’s dumped in a waste can to be destroyed as garbage. Now, that’s an accurate statement I just said. Would it be wise for me to use that language in certain settings? Would it be wise for me to use that language in a debate on a college campus? Probably not.

I’d probably get tarred and feathered by the group. You’ve got to be more tactful depending on who your audience is. And so, yeah, there’s some hyperbolic language used on the pro-life side. And depending on the context and who’s the audience, it’s probably okay. On the other hand, it might not be the wisest thing to communicate to depending on your audience again. Somebody’s closing the door or something.

But it’s okay. I can clean that up. I don’t like it. Yeah. Can you hear it? I always thought these hotel rooms were so quiet. Yeah. Until I’m like listening until everybody drops.

It’s almost seven o’clock, so people are going in and out of the room to get dinner, go to bed, or whatever. Yeah. All right. We’ve got two more questions. Okay. We’re almost there.

So, question 20. There is a debate in the anti-abortion camp between abolitionism and incrementalism. Would you explain these two positions and what difference it makes? Well, we’re talking political strategy. And this has been a debate as long as I can remember. Incrementalism simply means you’ve got to take what you can get realistically in the political realm. And if that means agreeing to something less than perfect, you still take it because it’s going to save lives.

Now, let’s give you an example. Let’s say you have 100 children in a house. The house is locked and the house is burning down. Two of those children are in the attic. You come to save the children. And is it wise to say, well, I can’t save them all, so I’m going to save none. That’s an absolute position.

On the other hand, incrementalism would say, save who you can. And let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. Let’s work towards a better system in protecting homes from fire. Now, this debate’s been going on and it’s usually centered around the rape incest exceptions. Nobody in the pro-life movement says rape and incest are reasons for abortion. However, because they are emotionally charged issues, many so-called pro-life laws have to accept them as exceptions in the law, because without those exceptions, the law can’t get passed. And with passing of the law, you can save more children.

So that’s incrementalism. And it’s something in the political world. I’ve been in lots of debates and discussions about that, and depending on what the exceptions are, depends on how that debate turns out. Question 2.

Does legal equal moral? Well, what I’d like to do is I’d like to see what I can use from the first one, but I’d like to capture one last time just to have it, if that’s okay. Okay. Yeah, does legal equal moral? In other words, does legality entirely define morality? Used to be in the law that morality and theology went hand in glove, and many famous theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin were also lawyers. So the law was based on theology or moral truth in scripture.

Sir William Blackstone, who wrote commentaries on the laws, Common Law of England, starts out his whole commentaries on how God created the world, and then he created moral laws and physical laws, and we are to operate under both. But in the late 1900s, the school of positivism came in to play that separated law from morality, so that what is legal is not necessarily moral.

The two are different. Therefore, and we know that if something’s legal, that doesn’t mean it’s the ethical or right thing to do from an ethical and moral standpoint. So the two are very different today. Okay, and then the final question is, what would you like to say about legal slash abortion that you were not asked about?

I think I’ve been asked about everything about it. I don’t know. Part of it is I’m really tired, so I’m not sure I got it. You’re in good shape. The last one is just an extra.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.