Press Release

Supreme Court rejects abortion groups’ attack on Texas Catholic bishops Leaves in place lower court’s ruling protecting church leaders’ right to private religious discussions

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by abortion groups to pry into Texas Catholic bishops’ private discussions about religious doctrine. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, several abortion advocates targeted and subpoenaed Texas’ Catholic bishops to demand their internal deliberations regarding abortion. Last year, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected the surveillance attempt as intimidation and an invasion of the church’s right to privacy. Today’s Supreme Court ruling finally puts an end to the abortion group’s intrusion efforts.

In 2016, Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas-based abortion facility chain, sued over a state law that would require hospitals and abortion facilities to dispose of aborted human remains by burial or cremation, rather than in a landfill or the sewer, as is currently allowed. Because of the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance, the Texas Catholic Church’s leadership––the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops––acted according to its faith and offered to provide burials to all unborn children who were aborted. Although the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops was not part of that lawsuit, last year the abortion groups retaliated against the bishops by subpoenaing decades of internal religious deliberations among the bishops regarding abortion.

“Thank goodness the Supreme Court saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs.”

Last June, a trial judge ordered the bishops to hand over their internal communications about abortion to Whole Woman’s Health—even though they had already provided 4,000 pages of external communications. The bishops appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted them permanent protection from the order. The court ruled that the bishops’ claims “go to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.” Whole Woman’s Health asked the full Fifth Circuit to rehear the case. The full court rejected their request. They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which today also rejected the group’s bid.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is also represented by Steven Levatino and Andrew McRae of Levatino | Pace PLLC in Austin, Texas.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).