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Thomas M. Messner, J.D.

Senior Fellow in Legal Policy

Thomas Messner, J.D., is Senior Fellow in Legal Policy at CLI where he researches and writes on issues involving life and conscience. Messner earned his law degree from Notre Dame Law School and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. After law school, Messner clerked for Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, and practiced law in Washington, D.C. Previously Messner served as a Visiting Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, where he researched and wrote about religious liberty and other issues.


Latest Research & News

  • Title X Litigation Update: What’s Next for Trump’s Protect Life Rule after Huge Win in Ninth Circuit? | April 7, 2020

    This is Issue 44 in CLI’s On Point Series. To view this report as a PDF, see: On Point 44 Pro-Life Topics for Lawmakers Regarding Coronavirus   In February 2019 the Trump administration finalized the Protect Life Rule, a new regulation governing Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the federal […]

  • The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Ethics of Triage | March 26, 2020

    by R. J. Snell, Ph.D. This paper can be viewed as a pdf here: The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Ethics of Triage   As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Italy, many hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, necessitating difficult triage decisions that can seem like choosing who lives and who dies. In the United States, already […]

  • 8 Reasons for Hope: Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Pregnancy | March 25, 2020

    Last Updated: April 6, 2020   Are you or is someone you know pregnant and worried about the coronavirus?   There is a lot we do not yet know about the coronavirus and pregnancy.  While current published studies and reports help to advise pregnant women and their families about risks associated with COVID-19 (the disease […]

  • Pro-Life Topics for Lawmakers Regarding Coronavirus |

    This is Issue 43 in CLI’s On Point Series. To view this report as a PDF, see: On Point 43 Pro-Life Topics for Lawmakers Regarding Coronavirus.   Abortion advocates have found a new ally—COVID-19.   During this intensely stressful time, the vast majority of Americans are focused on protecting their health and the health of […]

  • The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2019—Ten Things You Need to Know About H.R. 2975 | February 11, 2020

    This is Issue 39 in CLI’s On Point Series. To view this report as a PDF, see: On Point 39 The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2019—Ten Things You Need to Know About H.R. 2975.   The views expressed in this paper are attributable to the author and do not necessarily represent the position of […]

  • The Supreme Court Has Said It Will Hear a Major Abortion Case from Louisiana. Here’s What You Need to Know. | December 30, 2019

    Editor’s Note (2/27/2020): Since the time of initial publication, the name of the case, June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Gee, has changed to June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo. This report may be viewed in its entirety as a PDF at: ARS_The Supreme Court Has Said It Will Hear a Major Abortion Case from Louisiana […]

  • Legislative and Litigation Overview of Five-Month Abortion Laws Enacted Before or After 2010 | August 13, 2019

    The entire paper may be viewed as a pdf here: On-Point-34_Legislative-and-Litigation-Overview-of-Five-Month-Abortion-Laws-Enacted-Before-and-After-2010_Final   This paper sets out legislative and litigation information involving state laws that prohibit abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, roughly five months or more than halfway through pregnancy.   Summary   Since January 2010, twenty-one states have enacted statutes prohibiting abortion at 20 […]

  • Justice Thomas Confirms that Down Syndrome Issue Presents Question of “First Impression” | June 7, 2019

    On May 28, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a long-anticipated ruling in an abortion case from Indiana involving disposition of fetal remains and whether a state may prohibit abortions performed because of the child’s race, sex, or diagnosis of Down syndrome or other disability.   The lower courts had struck down both policies. The […]

  • Federal Appeals Court Upholds Kentucky’s Informed Consent Ultrasound Law | May 1, 2019

    On April 4, 2019 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld Kentucky’s “Ultrasound Informed Consent Act,” also known as House Bill 2 (“H.B. 2”). The opinion draws heavily from the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in the NIFLA v. Becerra pregnancy help center case. In upholding Kentucky’s ultrasound informed consent law, the Sixth […]

  • Top 7 Quotes from Justice Stegall’s Opinion Dissenting from Kansas Supreme Court Abortion Ruling | April 26, 2019

    On April 26, 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court declared that the Kansas state constitution guarantees a right to abortion.   The case involves a challenge to a Kansas statute banning the practice of dismemberment abortion—i.e., “with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such […]

  • Federal Trial Court Won’t Block Missouri Admitting Privileges Requirement Pending Further Litigation | February 27, 2019

    A federal district court has denied a motion by abortion providers to temporarily block a health and safety law in Missouri.   The case is Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains v. Randall Williams, No. 2:16-cv-04313 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The case is on remand following a […]

  • Justice Thomas to Supreme Court Justices: Don’t “consult popularity,” rely only on “the Constitution and the laws” | December 18, 2018

    Last week Justice Clarence Thomas issued a respectful but strong admonition to his colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court.   Justice Thomas’s admonition comes in his opinion dissenting from the decision of the Court to deny review in Gee v. Planned Parenthood, No. 17-1492, and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood, No. 17-1340.   As the Supreme […]

  • Former Kennedy Law Clerk Argues Stare Decisis No Obstacle to Reversing Roe and Casey’s “Viability Rule” | November 10, 2018

    To view as a PDF, see: Former Kennedy Law Clerk Argues Stare Decisis No Obstacle to Reversing Roe and Casey’s “Viability Rule”   Table of Contents   I. The “viability rule”—the “most central principle” of Roe v. Wade   II. “Stare decisis”—what it is and why abortion activists invoke it with vigor   III. The three exceptions to […]

  • Indiana Seeks Supreme Court Review in Down Syndrome Abortion Case | October 25, 2018

    In employment law, the rule of “at will” employment provides that an employer may dismiss an employee at any time for any nonprohibited reason or no reason at all. However, that general rule is subject to exceptions, such as the rule that employers may not dismiss an employee based on a protected status such as […]

  • Federal Appeals Court Hands Louisiana Major Pro-Life Victory on Admitting Privileges Regulation | September 28, 2018

    Louisiana has won a major pro-life victory in federal appeals court.   On September 26, 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling and upheld a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions.   The Fifth […]

  • Supreme Court Pro-Life Ruling Has Local Impact: ADF Secures Victory for Hawaii Pregnancy Centers | September 24, 2018

      National elections have local consequences.   The President nominates Supreme Court justices. Supreme Court justices decide important cases. And sometimes those cases make a big difference at a very local level.   Last week a federal trial court in Hawaii ruled in favor of A Place for Women in Waipio, a local pregnancy help […]

  • Eighth Circuit on Hellerstedt: Supreme Court did not find, as a matter of law, that “abortion was inherently safe” | September 19, 2018

    Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an important opinion in the abortion case Comprehensive Health v. Josh Hawley (No. 17-1996).   At issue were two pro-life laws from Missouri.   The hospital relationship requirement requires all doctors who perform abortions at ambulatory surgical centers to be privileged to perform […]

  • Pregnancy Centers Win Major Legal Contest at Supreme Court | June 26, 2018

      Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that pregnancy help centers are likely to succeed in a challenge to a California law forcing them to advertise for abortion.   The case isn’t over. It will go back to the trial court for additional fact finding and then a final ruling on the legal issues. But […]

  • Supreme Court Denies Planned Parenthood Request for Review | June 4, 2018

    On May 29, 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed earlier this year by Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma.   Planned Parenthood had asked the Supreme Court to review the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in a case involving the […]

  • Mississippi Launches Challenge to Roe v. Wade | April 25, 2018

    In March 2018 the Governor of Mississippi signed a law banning elective abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy and beyond.   The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may not ban abortion before the unborn child reaches “viability”, i.e., before the child can potentially survive outside the womb, albeit with what the Court called […]

  • Ohio Vigorously Defends Down Syndrome Antidiscrimination Law | March 21, 2018

      Ohio HB 214 prohibits abortion where the abortionist knows that the mother is seeking the abortion, in whole or in part, because the baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, because a test result indicated Down Syndrome in the baby, or because of any other reason to believe the baby has Down Syndrome.   HB […]

  • Report from the Supreme Court: Lozier Interview with Bioethics Defense Fund Attorneys Nikolas Nikas and Dorinda Bordlee on Oral Argument in NIFLA v. Becerra | March 20, 2018

      Earlier this year I joined attorneys Nikolas T. Nikas and Dorinda C. Bordlee as counsel on the amicus brief the Charlotte Lozier Institute submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the pregnancy care center case, NIFLA v. Becerra. Nik is co-founder, president and general counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF) and Dorinda is Vice […]

  • Federal Trial Court Strikes Down Texas Dismemberment Abortion Ban | November 30, 2017

    A federal trial court in Austin has struck down a Texas law prohibiting the practice of dismemberment abortion. The court issued its ruling one day before Thanksgiving.   The law struck down by the court, known as S.B. 8, provides that “[a] person may not intentionally perform a dismemberment abortion unless the dismemberment abortion is […]

  • Down Syndrome Bill Would Represent a Major Challenge to Both Discrimination Abortion and Roe v. Wade | November 28, 2017

    Ohio Right to Life reports that the Ohio Senate has passed S.B. 164, a bill that would prohibit abortion when the abortionist knows that the mother is seeking the abortion because the baby has Down Syndrome. According to Ohio Right to Life, two weeks earlier “the Ohio House passed an identical piece of legislation, H.B. […]

  • Supreme Court Will Hear Pregnancy Help Center Case | November 16, 2017

    The U.S. Supreme Court has granted review in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The case involves a challenge to a California law forcing pro-life pregnancy help centers to post information about public programs that provide free or low-cost access to abortion.   This lawsuit is very important. Pregnancy help centers play […]

  • Texas Dismemberment Abortion Ban Headed to Trial | September 26, 2017

    The Texas law banning dismemberment abortions is heading to trial. A federal court in Austin, Texas has scheduled the law, known as S.B. 8, for a bench trial starting November 2, 2017.   Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed S.B. 8 on June 6, 2017.   Under S.B. 8, “A person may not intentionally perform a […]

  • Abortionist Suspended for Violating Child Rape Protection Act | September 21, 2017

    A Kansas abortionist has had his license suspended for 90 days for violating the Kansas Child Rape Protection Act. The final order suspending the license of Allen S. Palmer, D.O. to practice osteopathic medicine and surgery was issued on September 13, 2017 by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

  • Supreme Court to Decide Whether to Hear Three Cases Involving Pregnancy Help Centers | September 19, 2017

    As early as September 25, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether to hear three cases involving pregnancy help centers (PHCs).

  • Lozier Institute Submits Supreme Court Brief in Surrogacy Case | September 18, 2017

    In August 2017 the Charlotte Lozier Institute submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief describes the risks to mothers and children from gestational surrogacy.

  • Pregnancy Help Centers Win Another Legal Victory in Struggle Against Oppressive Regulations | July 21, 2017

    Pregnancy help centers (PHCs) have won a victory in their struggle against oppressive regulations.

    At issue is a 2016 Illinois law regulating physicians and other health care personnel. Plaintiffs, including the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), challenged the law, arguing, in the words of a federal district court, that it “compels [PHCs] to tell pregnant women the names of other doctors they believe offer abortions, and compels them to tell pregnant women that abortion has ‘benefits’ and is a ‘treatment option’ for pregnancy.”

  • Oregon Lawmakers Promote Abortion, Crush Civil Liberty, and Hate on Social Justice | July 13, 2017

    Oregon lawmakers have passed a bill that would force health benefit plans offered in the state to provide coverage for abortion and voluntary sterilization.

    The bill, known as HB 3391, also would require health benefit plans to cover any contraceptive drug, device, or product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As this Lozier paper explains, some contraceptives can also cause abortions.

  • Lozier Institute Submits Supreme Court Brief in Pregnancy Help Center Case | May 15, 2017

    Charlotte Lozier Institute submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 in support of pregnancy help centers (PHCs). The PHCs have challenged a California law, arguing that it forces them to post contact information for a county office that refers for abortion and burdens their ability to advertise their services.

  • Baltimore Pregnancy Center Refuses to Stop Fighting, Wins another Legal Victory against Local Ordinance | October 31, 2016

    A pro-life pregnancy help center (PHC) in Baltimore has won another legal victory in its fight against a city ordinance.

  • Three Life Policies that Challenge Supreme Court Abortion Standards | May 16, 2016

    Today I’m going to talk about three legal policies involving life protections for unborn children. I’m going to explain how each of these policies could actually be upheld under current Supreme Court abortion precedent. However, at the same time, each of these policies represents a serious challenge to current Supreme Court abortion standards by forcing the Court to consider and, hopefully, uphold policies that narrow the abortion right and call into question its continued legitimacy. But first, let’s step back and consider three basic points that help us put pro-life legislative initiatives into context.

  • On Top of Everything Else, Contraception Mandates Don’t Work | March 23, 2016

    It’s hard to believe the Obama Administration is still fighting the nuns over abortion and contraception.

    The Little Sisters of the Poor object on religious grounds to the government hijacking their health insurance plan to provide contraceptives including some that can cause abortions.

    They’ve filed a lawsuit and today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

  • Testimony of CLI Legal Policy Fellow in Support of Ohio’s Defund Planned Parenthood Bill | November 24, 2015

    On November 17, the Ohio House Committee on Community and Family Advancement held a hearing on proposed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and reallocate over $1 million yearly in government funding to other Ohio medical health centers. Following the hearing, the Committee recommended and the Ohio House passed H.B. 294 by a vote of 62-33.

    Thomas M. Messner, J.D., Senior Fellow in Legal Policy for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, submitted the following written testimony in support of the bill

  • March for Life Wins Major Victory in Federal Court | September 2, 2015

    The national pro-life organization March for Life has won an important federal court case against the Obamacare “contraception mandate.”

    The “contraception mandate” stems from the Obamacare health care law and regulations issued by the Obama administration. The contraception mandate includes drugs that can cause abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

    Earlier this week a federal district court judge ruled that March for Life should be free to offer employee health insurance coverage that does not include drugs and devices that can cause abortions.

  • Little Sisters of the Poor Ask Supreme Court to Hear Case | August 13, 2015

    The Little Sisters of the Poor are heading back to the Supreme Court in their quest to defend their religious freedom.

    The Little Sisters are represented by legal counsel including attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. According to a statement issued by the Becket Fund, “for the second time in two years, the Little Sisters of the Poor must ask the Supreme Court to protect them from the government.”

    The Little Sisters case involves the “contraception mandate” stemming from the Obamacare health care law and regulations issued by the Obama administration. The contraception mandate includes drugs that can cause abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

  • Constitutional Law Scholar Urges Constitutionality of Five-Month Abortion Laws | May 11, 2015

    Professor Randy Beck is the Justice Thomas O. Marshall Chair of Constitutional Law at the University of Georgia School of Law. He has authored a new article discussing the constitutionality of five-month abortion laws. The article is not yet published in a journal but has been posted on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) with a date of March 2, 2015.

    The article is titled “Fetal Viability and Twenty-Week Abortion Statutes.” According to the abstract, the article “advances four arguments for the constitutionality of a 20-week statute, including three based on current case law or minor modifications to current case law.”

  • Faith-Based Charities Serving Vulnerable Children Should Not Be Required to Facilitate Abortion | March 12, 2015

    Federal regulations issued by the Obama Administration have raised concerns that Christian charities operating federally funded care provider facilities housing unaccompanied alien children could be required to facilitate access to abortion.

  • The Constitutional Viability of Five-Month Abortion Laws | January 19, 2015

    Five-month abortion laws restrict abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy—when an unborn child can feel pain from abortion. Opponents of five-month abortion laws argue they violate the “viability rule” created by the U.S. Supreme Court. The viability rule provides that government “may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.” In most cases viability will occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the viability rule is unworkable, arbitrary, unjust, poorly reasoned, inadequate, and extreme. The viability rule cannot be justified, especially as applied to five-month laws. In a challenge to a five-month law it is reasonable to conclude that the Court might abandon the viability rule altogether or not apply it to five-month laws.

  • Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Abortion Regulations: What Happened and What Now? | October 16, 2014

    This Q&A-style fact sheet explains the background and implications of the Supreme Court ruling on October 14, 2014 regarding challenges to abortion-related laws enacted in Texas. It answers questions regarding which abortion provisions are at issue, whether the Supreme Court ruling deals with the constitutionality of the provisions, what the key court rulings are leading up to this ruling, and what happens next.

  • The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013: The Sweeping Impact of S. 1696 | July 1, 2014

    This Special Report outlines the sweeping impact that the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013” would have on current abortion-regulating legislation if passed. Introduced on November 13, 2013, S. 1696, if enacted would jeopardize or outright invalidate a wide range of both state and federal abortion-limiting laws.

  • Charlotte Lozier Institute Submits Brief in Hobby Lobby Case | April 1, 2014

    Charlotte Lozier Institute submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of abortion-related conscience rights. The Court recently heard arguments in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood religious freedom cases and will decide those cases later this year.

  • Federal Court Upholds Arkansas Heartbeat Testing Requirement | March 20, 2014

    On Friday a federal district court in Arkansas upheld the Arkansas heartbeat testing requirement. The heartbeat testing requirement provides that abortions in Arkansas shall not be performed before testing whether the unborn child possesses a detectible heartbeat.

  • Supreme Court Will Review Abortion Drug Cases | November 26, 2013

    Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review two cases where the government is trying to force Christian-owned businesses to provide health care coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs.

  • Twenty-Week Bans Raise Issue of Disability Discrimination Abortion | November 24, 2013

    This paper examines how laws limiting abortion after twenty weeks can have the effect of prohibiting disability discrimination in the womb.