PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—A public hearing in a lawsuit to block the use of taxpayer money for abortions was held on Friday, Oct. 14, at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
The suit was filed by the Thomas More Society on behalf of Philadelphia residents. It seeks to block the city's half-million dollar donation to the Abortion Liberation Fund of Pennsylvania (ALF-PA).
After almost three hours of arguments by lawyers in the case, Judge Joshua Roberts ended the hearing and said he would issue an order the following week.
This complaint was filed on Aug. 16, 2022, on behalf of Philadelphia pro-life activists Charles P. Kuhar, Sr. and Theresa M. Kuhar, in response to the city's allocation of $500,000 in public funds for ALF-PA. The city of Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney, Treasurer Jaqueline Dunn, and Controller Rebecca Rhynhart are named in the lawsuit.
The city made the donation Aug. 4. “Abortion is health care no matter where you live,” Kenney said at the time, in a statement. “Providing financial support for people seeking abortions is one of the ways we will support Philadelphians in their fundamental right to bodily autonomy.”
Commingling of Funds an IssueFriday's hearing was largely focused on whether the plaintiffs have legal standing to challenge the donation.
Breth, who is a special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said he appreciates that the judge has taken the time to listen to the oral arguments and testimony. But he disagreed with the city’s arguments.
However, Breth added that Judge Roberts also "focused a lot on the commingling of funds, federal funds, commonwealth funds, and the city's position that these are local funds, and somehow they're free to spend local funds in their own manner."
Breth said "We disagree with all of that. Once all those funds go into [the] general fund account, they all become subject to the restrictions. And that means none of those funds can be spent as public funds for abortions.”
The lawsuit cites the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982, which states, ‘No commonwealth funds and no federal funds which are appropriated by the commonwealth shall be expended by any state or local government agency for the performance of the abortion.’”
Attorney: Court Dodged Key IssueBreth said he felt that the court tried to avoid talking about the key issue: the city’s government funding abortion. He said Philadelphia’s city administration wants to show support for abortion because after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, abortion is no longer a constitutional right.
“Philadelphia felt the need to try to fund and provide financial assistance for abortions. That's what this money is for. They kind of dodged around that a little bit today,” said Breth.
“But that's absolutely what they said this money was for, and that's absolutely what the Abortion Liberation Fund said the money would be used for, and as to help finance abortions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Plaintiffs: Fighting an Uphill BattleThe husband and wife plaintiffs in the case, Charles and Theresa Kuhar, are longtime residents of Philadelphia. Charles is a professional truck driver; Theresa is a registered nurse and board-certified case manager. Both are active in the pro-life movement.
They told The Epoch Times that when they filed the lawsuit, they knew they would be fighting an uphill battle.
“We're hopeful that the merits of our case will stand,” Theresa said. “We're hopeful that the judge will see our argument as valid and will side with us.”
“I think the judge did a very good job, as did the attorneys on both sides. They were very professional,” said Theresa Kuhar. “I think the judge was very careful and considerate and deliberate, which I appreciated. We will wait patiently for his decision, I know that he is going to put a lot of thought into it.”
Charles said he is a bit concerned about their safety, following the arrest of pro-life activist Mark Houck by FBI agents on Sept.23. “But we do put a lot of faith in God that He will take care of us because we're doing his work. So we can't be fearful of what's going to happen.”
‘A Tough Case, a Tough Judge, and a Tough City’About 30 people, supporters and opponents of the lawsuit, attended the hearing.
“We're just fighting the good fight," said Tom Stevens, president of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, after the hearing. “I think it's a tough case, a tough judge, and a tough city.”
Stevens was surprised to hear attorneys for the defense say that the funds had already been distributed to ALF-PA and could not be given back to the city.
“It's outrageous that the city would give $500,000 to this organization that solely has a mission to help women have abortions,” said Stevens. “The state has a prohibition about funding going to abortion, and the federal government has a prohibition. The state and federal money that is in this fund paid for this $500,000 grant.” Stevens said he hopes that the lawsuit will prevail through the Court of Common Pleas or a future appeal.
The plaintiffs’ son, Charles Kuhar, Jr., an IT consultant, attended to show support for his parents. He said he repeatedly heard from the court that his parents didn’t have standing to bring the lawsuit, because once the money was transferred to a third party, such as ALF-PA, taxpayers do not have input about what is done with the money.
Concerns About Judicial BiasEdward Lawrence, a retired schoolteacher who attended to show support for the couple, said he was concerned about bias in the case. “I could almost see where he was going with this. But, you know, sadly enough, the city of Philadelphia is really not known for acting appropriately,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence said he attended the hearing to object to the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions.
“You would just hope that everything is applied fairly. If it's applied fairly, then you know that there's a case that could be made, that that money should not have been sent out, and that it should go back into the city fund, not someplace else," said Lawrence."They should be enjoined not to do this again.”
Elizabeth Madden is a social worker who has worked with women in crisis pregnancies. Madden said, “I'm not sure the judge was objective. I felt that some of the questions that he was asking were slanted toward the prosecution.” At 12 weeks, Madden emphasized, a child in the womb has already developed a human face with distinctive features.