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Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

Medicare for All Act would fund abortion

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates have responded to a bill introduced Thursday which would transform radically health care in the United States and provide government funding for abortion services through Medicare expansion.

 

The Medicare for All Act of 2019 was introduced February 28 by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI). The bill is co-sponsored by more than 100 House Democrats. Jayapal is also the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus.

 

In a statement published to her website, Dingell said that “the time is now to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care,” and that this bill is a “critical step in this long journey.”

 

If the bill were to become law, the federal government would effectively remake the healthcare system, banning private insurance plans. Under its provisions, all citizens would be covered and would receive most primary care free at the point of use, not paying costs out-of-pocket for care including vision, dental, and long-term care.

 

The bill also aims to introduce universal “comprehensive reproductive health" coverage for women, including abortions. It is unclear what the scope of abortion provisions would be, or if doctors would be able to refuse to participate in abortions if they are morally opposed to the procedure.

 

Representatives from Dingell’s office did not reply to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.

 

Currently, federal law prohibits Medicare money from paying for abortion services via the Hyde Amendment, but some states have programs that assist low-income women with affording abortions. Some private insurance policies cover, or partially cover, abortion services.

 

The Medicare for All bill would require the Hyde Amendment to be repealed.

 

Abortion advocates have expressed enthusiastic support for the bill’s inclusion of abortion services.

 

“Representative Jayapal has been an unwavering champion for women and reproductive freedom and we applaud her leadership today,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president and CEO Ilyse Hogue said in a statement.

 

“Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare for All proposal recognizes the simple truth that women will never be equal members in society until we have full access to reproductive healthcare. Put simply, a right is not a right if you cannot access it.”

 

Tom Shakely, the chief engagement officer at Americans United For Life, underscored the need to retain the Hyde amendment and prevent government funds from being used for abortions. He also told CNA that he was concerned by the bill’s aim to ban private insurance, noting the it could have serious consequences for healthcare choice and accountability.

 

"Every American of goodwill endorses medical care for all persons who need care, but Medicare for All’s regressive approach would create a single and unaccountable government monopoly on healthcare,” Shakely told CNA in a statement.

 

“We would never want the U.S. Postal Service to be granted a monopoly over the delivery of all goods in America. Take that principle and apply it to healthcare, if you’re not certain of how you feel about Medicare for All.”

St. Katharine Drexel's tomb at Philadelphia cathedral named an archdiocesan shrine

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 05:06

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 1, 2019 / 03:06 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced that the recently constructed tomb of St. Katharine Drexel at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul has been declared an archdiocesan shrine.

“We are the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and the Archdiocese Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel,” the cathedral’s rector and pastor, Father Dennis Gill, explained. 

“The tomb [had] already taken on a level of importance in the life of our local Church being here at the cathedral,” he told CNA.

Drexel’s sacred remains were transferred to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia last year. Previously, her body was buried at the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Motherhouse and Shrine in Bensalem, Pa. That shrine closed at the end of 2017, about 18 months after the sisters announced that they intended to sell the property. The smaller number of sisters found it difficult to maintain the relatively large property.

Drexel and her family had attended Mass at the Cathedral Basilica when she was a child.

A solemn celebration for the tomb’s installation was held in November and led by Archbishop Charles Chaput.

Gill said the Cathedral quickly saw an increase of pilgrims seeking to visit and pray at the saint’s tomb. The priest then suggested the idea to the archbishop, who welcomed the decision and granted the decree on Feb. 19.

“We noticed very quickly that people where coming in larger numbers with each week to come and visit the tomb and pray,” he said.

“Once it was established that the tomb had become a place of significant pilgrimage, visitation, and prayer, that was sufficient enough to warrant the title of archdiocesan shrine.”

The site is now a shrine at the archdiocesan level, but Gill hopes it will be soon considered a national shrine. He said this title has steeper qualifications – including a program of devotion to the saint and catechesis about the saint – and must be petitioned by a bishop to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gill said the shrine has already achieved nearly all of the requirements for designation as a national shrine. He expressed hope that a petition for this title will be submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the coming months.

The shrine is important to the community’s faith, he said, because it recognizes someone who grappled with the faith and chose Christ. He said the shrine is a light, proving to pilgrims that this Christian obedience is possible, no matter the generation.

“I think what it does is it makes available to people someone who lived the Catholic faith in a very sincere way, and [it] is an inspiration” he said. “I feel like it’s this real bright spot.”

Drexel was canonized in 2000 and is only the second saint to have been born in America. Having come from a wealthy a family in Philadelphia, she gave up her life of privilege to serve the needs of racial minorities.  

During a trip to Rome when she was 20, she was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. There, she explained that missionary priests were needed to evangelize and serve those in need. The Pope then asked her to become a missionary herself, which solidified her own desire to join religious life.

She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy in 1889 with the idea of beginning her own congregation to specifically attend to the needs of the Native American and African American communities. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891.

More than 30 mission foundations were established and 400 sisters served across 17 states by 1940.

Drexel’s order opened 50 schools for African American children, 12 schools for Native American children, and over 140 missions for these populations.

Her order founded what would eventually become Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic university in the United States. Today, a school named after her stands on the site of the original college.

She died in 1955 at the age of 96, and the canonization process began 11 years later.

At the tomb’s installation last year, Archbishop Charles Chaput highlighted the saintly qualities of Drexel. He said her life teaches Catholics many things, especially a dedication to compassion and charity, even at a young age.

“Katharine Drexel teaches us that holiness, which means total generosity of one’s life, is for the young and not just the old,” he said. 

“[She] is a model for young adults of our time…Would that they would follow her example of commitment to justice, would that they wanted to follow in her footsteps of holiness.”

 

Vandalism at Brooklyn parish being investigated as hate crime

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 02:15

New York City, N.Y., Mar 1, 2019 / 12:15 am (CNA).- New York police officials have declared an act of vandalism against a statue at a local Catholic church last week to be a hate crime.

The incident occurred at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“At approximately 12 p.m. noon on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt entered the Church, removed the statue of Our Lady of Cisne and threw it in the trash across the street, causing damage to the statue,” the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement.

A parish staff member retrieved the statue, and the police were notified.

The police department has released a surveillance video showing the vandal taking the statue. Police are still looking for the suspect. The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is heading the investigation, the diocese said.

Our Lady of Cisne is the patroness of Loja, Ecuador. The Virgin Mary is depicted holding the baby Jesus. Many Ecuadorean immigrants in the United States have a strong devotion to Our Lady of Cisne.

Last week’s incident was the second act of vandalism at the church over the past month, the diocese said.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn strongly condemns this incident of religious hatred and is fully cooperating with the New York City Police Department’s investigation,” said parish administrator Father Willy Kingsley Ndi.

He said in a statement that the act of vandalism “has not deterred, but only strengthened, the resolve and faith of the parishioners.”

 

As LGBT push fails, Methodists reaffirm marriage, sexuality teachings

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 21:34

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 28, 2019 / 07:34 pm (CNA).- A major gathering of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching on homosexuality, rejecting same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals, prompting predictions that some American congregations who reject this teaching will leave the denomination.

The international gathering, called a Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC, drew over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates to St. Louis Feb. 22-26.

The debate drew out different approaches to the authority of Scripture, marriage, and sexuality, but ultimately left the ecclesial community's official teaching unchanged.

Scott Jones of the Methodists’ Texas Conference said the decision resolves a longstanding debate and is consistent with the ecclesial community's teachings on human sexuality, which it has listed in its Book of Discipline since 1972.

That teaching states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth,” said Jones, according to the United Methodist News Service. “I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.”

The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant ecclesial community in the U.S., where it has about 6 million members. Almost one-third of its membership is from Africa. Non-U.S. speakers from countries like Liberia and Russia were among the strongest backers of the successful proposal called the Traditional Plan.

“The progressive groups are loud, but they don’t have the numbers,” said Jerry Kulah, head of the UMC Africa Initiative, who said he was sorry so much time and money was spent debating homosexuality.

A pro-LGBT vote would have made the ecclesial community a “laughingstock” in Africa, he said, according to the Washington Post. “I’m happy to go back to old ladies and old men in villages who received the Bible from missionaries and let them know that the Bible hasn’t changed.”

UMC rules have officially barred same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. However, many American congregations perform same-sex ceremonies and ordain sexually active LGBT people as clergy.

The approved plan strengthened some disciplinary action against ministers who reject it. A minister who attempts to perform a same-sex wedding faces a minimum one-year suspension without pay for the first offense, and permanent removal for the second offense.

The plan now goes to the ecclesial community's top court, the Judicial Council, to address constitutional issues. The delegates also adopted a minority report on how congregations may disaffiliate from the community.

A different proposal, the One Church Plan, was recommended by the denomination’s Council of Bishops. That plan would have allowed local congregations, conferences and clergy to make their own decisions about whether to conduct same-sex marriages and ordain LGBT pastors.

This plan was rejected with opposition from 53 percent of delegates, after failing a previous day’s committee vote.

An alternative “Simple Plan” would have removed all teaching regarding sexual relations limited to husband and wife. This would have removed teachings against premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual behavior. About 60 percent of delegates rejected this plan.

Some foes of the Traditional Plan attempted various delaying tactics, including amendments stating that according to the Bible any candidate for pastor or bishop who is divorced or remarried is as ineligible as a practicing homosexual.

One critic, Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, executive director of the group Mainstream UMC, lamented the decision, saying “No way around it, this hurts. My heart breaks for all the LGBTQ persons in our connection.”

In a statement on his group’s website, Holland said the plan’s felt like the ecclesial community had “shattered” and “spilled.” He contended that the general conference is a “charade” that is “completely controlled by a well-funded, well-staffed, U.S. based advocacy group.”

“Our church was hijacked from the inside out,” he said, charging that the Traditional Plan was “gutted” and its unconstitutional parts were not fixed. Describing the exit plan as “fatally flawed and unconstitutional,” predicting it would be “dead on arrival” at the judicial council in April.

“They have a symbolic victory only. We are essentially at status quo,” he said.

John Lomperis, United Methodist Director of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, backed the Traditional Plan. Writing at the blog Juicy Ecumenism, he said the conference showed “the very deep divides in our denomination.”

“There was plenty of loud, angry protesting. So much hurt all around. It was a rather stressful day,” he said.

In his view, the failure of the One Church Plan was a “dramatic rebuke” of the leadership efforts of the UMC leaders and if it could not be passed at this general conference it is difficult to see how it could pass in the future, when American delegate numbers will likely decrease and overseas delegates increase.  

The Reconciling Ministries Network called the passage of the Traditional Plan “deeply unjust and painful.” It attributed its passage to “the efforts of organized opponents to gospel inclusion who have funded and promoted the demise of Christian witness across denominations who have dared to call out a white nationalist strain of Christianity.”

“For decades, they sought the decline of biblical justice-rooted Christian traditions and have built the infrastructure and narrative that has now risen to power in The United Methodist Church.”

The network said the 1972 teaching is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and has been “so harmful to so many lives.” It said harm is done when “LGBTIQA+ lives” are not affirmed.”

The network dates back to 1982, when its founders sought to encourage congregations to affirm gays and lesbians. It claims 900 “Reconciling Communities” and over 35,000 members.

The future of some American Methodist schools of higher education is also in doubt. Jan Love, a dean of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, said Feb. 26 she and the other heads of the 13 official United Methodist theological schools believe “unequivocally” that the Traditional Plan threatened the future of the UMC in the U.S.

The Wesleyan Covenant Association, a group within the UMC, backed the successful Traditional Plan but still might leave, association head Keith Boyette told The Atlantic.

LGBT advocacy within Christian denominations and Churches has external support. The Arcus Foundation has long backed LGBT advocates within Christian denominations and Churches.

A $150,000 grant to Church Properties Reimagined, Inc. in 2018 backed the Inclusive Coalition’s Project advocacy to “influence pro-LGBT Church policy,” while a 2017 grant of $30,000 aimed “to bring together moderate and progressive church leaders to develop shared strategies on LGBT issues” ahead of the 2019 special session of the general conference.

The foundation’s Spring 2018 grant announcement said the group’s grant aimed to deepen support for LGBT inclusion as an official UMC policy. The group has “recruited a group of well-connected individuals to provide leadership to the project.”

Since 2011 the Arcus Foundation has given $1.9 million in various grants to the group Reconciling Ministries Network for LGBT advocacy within the UMC.

Specifically, a 2017 grant of $220,000 backed “work to win over religious leaders in the Southern United States, Liberia, and Cote D’Ivoire, three crucial conservative strongholds within United Methodism.” A 2014 grant backed “clergy who engage in acts of ecclesial disobedience in the name of LGBTQ justice and work with coalitions for policy change” within the UMC.

The Arcus Foundation also funds dissenting Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice, Dignity USA and the Equally Blessed Coalition. Some of this work has targeted Catholic Church synods.

CNA contacted the Arcus Foundation, Reconciling Ministries Network, and Church Properties Reimagined but did not receive a response by deadline.

Omaha, Lincoln dioceses push back on subpoenas for child sex abuse records

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 19:07

Omaha, Neb., Feb 28, 2019 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Lincoln intend to ask a Nebraska court to suspend subpoenas compelling the Catholic institutions of the state to provide all records related to child sex abuse, CNA learned on Thursday.

The state attorney general's office issued subpoenas Feb. 26 to more than 400 Catholic churches and institutions, seeking any records related to child sexual assault or abuse.

Last year, the office had requested that the state's three dioceses voluntarily provide information on sexual abuse and other misconduct committed since 1978. Each of the dioceses have indicated their cooperation with that request.

An official of the Omaha archdiocese told CNA Feb. 28 that that archdiocese, along with the Lincoln diocese, are preparing to apply for injunctive relief from the subpoenas, in part to clarify their scope.

The attorney's general office announced Tuesday that “The Nebraska Department of Justice has appreciated the voluntary cooperation demonstrated by the churches. However, the Department believes that subpoenas are necessary in order to ensure all reports of impropriety have been submitted to the appropriate authorities.”

“It is our goal that all reports of abuse are subject to complete law enforcement review and investigation as warranted.”

The subpoenas, issued to institutions such as parishes and schools, as well as the dioceses, “request all records or information related to any child sexual assault or abuse that has occurred by those employed or associated with each church or institution, whether previously reported or not.”

Each of the state's dioceses have indicated their cooperation with a request made by the attorney general in September 2018 voluntarily to provide information on sexual abuse and other misconduct since 1978.

The Archdiocese of Omaha announced Nov. 30 that it had submitted to the attorney general “documents pertaining to church personnel accused of criminal sexual misconduct since 1978.” The documents included information on alleged abuse or misconduct with minors that dated back as far was 1956, but was not reported to the archdiocese until 1978.

In the Omaha archdiocese, documentation regarded 38 clerics with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of or misconduct with minors since 1978. Of these, four were deacons, and 34 had offended before 2002. Information about the offenders was also made public, and the release noted that seven deceased priests were accused, but the claims could not be substantiated, and five former seminarians were dismissed for substantiated claims of sexual misconduct with a minor.

The Diocese of Lincoln stated Feb. 26 that it has “voluntarily cooperated with the investigation since it was announced last September, and pledged its ongoing support to stop criminal behavior by predators.”

It added that it was reviewing the subpoena it had received.

Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island said Feb. 26 that his diocese had received the subpoenas, noting that they are “a commonly used legal tool to define the parameters of the inquiry.”

“While we don’t believe subpoenas were necessary, we will continue to share information with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office to bring this investigation to a conclusion,” Bishop Hanefeldt continued. “The Diocese is committed to the protection of children and safety of all, and to that end, has cooperated with the Nebraska Attorney’s Office in a voluntary review of files.”

The Diocese of Grand Island had also noted in November that it was completing a review of clergy files regarding sexual abuse of minors.

The inquiry in Nebraska follows new or revisited allegations of sexual abuse of minors or other misconduct committed by priests in the Lincoln diocese as far back as the 1980s. Several priests have resigned as pastors, while alleged misconduct of a former vocations director for the diocese, who died in 2008, also became a matter of public attention.

Sex abuse in the Church has been a matter of national attention since last summer.

In mid-August the Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report following an 18-month investigation into the files of six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses. The report included allegations against 300 priests of abusing over 1,000 victims over a 70-year period.

And in June, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. He was laicized in January after being convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on charges of sexual abuse of minors and adults and solicitation in the confessional.

 

 

J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley and director of communications for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict-of-interest.

Bishop Olmsted finds roots of abuse scandal in poor priestly formation

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 19:01

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 28, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- In face of the sex abuse scandals in the Church, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix issued a column this month asking the question: “What went wrong in priestly formation?”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted highlighted in his Feb. 17 column at The Catholic Sun three factors that contributed to the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the sexual revolution, weak seminaries, and clericalism.

He said the sexual revolution, which in the 1960s challenged the ethics of sexual behaviors in the West, had sought to promote a false idea of “free love.” With the surge of an overly sexualized culture, he said, the movement created long-lasting problems.  

“This revolution promised ‘free love,’ happiness and liberation from purported encumbrances of religion and tradition, particularly the Commandments,” he said.

“Sadly, the over-focus on sexual pleasure, the reducing and labeling of persons to their attractions (LGBTQ, etc.) and the viewing of persons as objects for pleasure have led to unprecedented numbers of infidelity, divorce, loneliness and abuse in the greater culture.”

He said the crisis was worsened by inadequate responses from the Church, citing silence and “harsh moralizing.” This only strangled the message of God’s love and distorted a full understanding of the human person, he said.

However, the bishop said there were also appropriate responses, including St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body. He said this answer promoted a greater comprehension of true love alongside responsibility.

“Related to the general confusion about human love caused by the sexual revolution, we also suffered from an insufficient understanding of priestly celibacy,” Bishop Olmsted noted, adding that Pope Francis has affirmed the value of celibacy for the priesthood.

“Indeed, in a world that believes that sexual pleasures must have free reign, even at the cost of innocent unborn children, there is need for those men and women who proclaim by their lives that ultimate love and fulfillment come from God and that self-mastery is certainly possible with God’s grace. Chaste celibacy, received as a gift of God and formed through spiritual and human direction, is a needed response to a false idea of 'free love.'”

Amid the confusion caused by the sexual revolution “Church leaders faild to adequately screen applicants” to seminary, he said. “It was often assumed that the human and the spiritual qualities of the man were present and sufficient. This was a poor assumption, and it led to too little consideration of a man’s human virtues and of his relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result, some candidates unfit for ministry were accepted.”

Dissent from orthodoxy was present in many seminaries in the 1970s and '80s, he said, especially regarding sexual ethics.

“For example, the masculine spousal dimension in which a priest is called to love as Christ loved His Bride the Church (Cf. Eph 5) was not taught much at all. As a result, the priesthood was too frequently seen, not as a life of masculine love, but merely pertaining to certain ministerial functions. It was erroneously thought among some that the nature of the priesthood itself would change.”

Bishop Olmsted added that “some seminaries became places with not only men who lacked a true calling from Jesus to the priesthood but even where a homosexual subculture sprang up.”

“It is difficult to deny this problem considering the high percentage of abuse cases that occurred between men and post-pubescent boys.”

“On several occasions, our Holy Father has stated that clericalism played a part in the current scandals as priests and bishops sought to cover up abuses,” the bishop noted. He added that “disproportionate esteem for priests by the faithful, at times, was (and still can be) problematic.”

He said the priest, like any man, is a sinner in need of redemption, but the state is one of service.

“One should enter the priesthood through a calling from Jesus to share in His mission. That mission is to proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead,” he recalled.

“Especially in this country, Church leaders have been slow to embrace this mission and settled for simply maintaining her membership rather than boldly evangelizing the culture.”

The bishop noted that “instead of being Catholic out of conviction and a deep relationship with Jesus, the faith has become for too many something merely cultural,” and he recalled Archbishop José Gomez' statement that Christ “did not come to suffer and die so that He could make ‘cultural Catholics'”.

“Cultural Catholicism”, Bishop Olmsted said, “lacks true conviction to follow Jesus when His teachings differ from ways of the culture.”

He said that many of the concerns in priestly formation “are now being addressed well,” and recalled that St. John Paul II was “convinced that the answer to these scandals is great fidelity.”

“Like other times of storms in the Church, Jesus continues to renew His Mystical Body through holiness,” Bishop Olmsted concluded. “You and I are called to be saints.”

Missouri lawmakers closer to passing expansive pro-life bill

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 17:09

Jefferson City, Mo., Feb 28, 2019 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- The Missouri House of Representatives voted 117-39 Wednesday to send the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act to the Senate.

The bill approved by the House Feb. 27 would ban most abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

State Representative Nick Schroer, the bill's sponsor, told CNA in an interview that his bill started out as a simple "Heartbeat Bill" that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. He said courts have thrown out similar bills in the past in other states, including last month in Iowa. Still, he expressed confidence about this bill’s chances.

"The climate has changed to encourage bills like this to be refiled," Schroer said. "And we've seen that throughout the nation, with strong pro-life bills being filed."

For this reason, Schroer, a Catholic and an attorney by trade, said he worked with fellow lawyers to craft the bill so that it would stand up to judicial scrutiny.

"We looked at a bunch of case law and worked with attorneys on this," Schroer said.

"What we tried to do is craft legislation which, number one, would save as many lives as possible; number two, continue to help promote the betterment of the health, the well-being of the mother and everyone involved; but number three, if this were to go into the courts, which we are fairly confident that [Democrats] are drafting their petition right now, we wanted something that is going to withstand judicial scrutiny and be upheld in our courts."

State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman's amendment to the bill modified it to include either heartbeat or brain function, roughly at the eight-week period, which would prevent abortions if either can be detected in the fetus. Schroer said if for some reason the district court throws out that provision, then the bill would still include a 14 week ban. He said roughly two-thirds of abortions in Missouri take place before 10 weeks.

If the court were to throw out the 14 week ban, then the bill would still be able to prevent abortions at 18 weeks, Schroer said, because at that stage a doctor must certify that the baby has not reached the stage where they can feel pain. If that provision is then thrown out, then abortions would still be banned at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Other provisions included in the bill would change the law on parental notification to require that both parents be notified about a minor seeking an abortion. In addition, another provision would prohibit certain "selective" abortions relating to a diagnosis or disability such as Down syndrome, or even the race or sex of a baby.

"For me as a Catholic, for me being pro-life, this is common sense to me," Schroer said.

In terms of the bill's next steps, Schroer says he is confident about its chances in the state Senate. The Democratic minority has the power to filibuster the bill, he said, which they are likely to do, but the Republican supermajority could invoke the so-called "nuclear option" to counter a filibuster.

"I think [the nuclear option] should be administered when we have lifesaving measures on the table like this," Schroer said.

He said he has seen some support among Missouri lawmakers for abortion legislation, similar to what has been passed or proposed in New York and Virginia, radically to expand access to abortion.

"The majority of people in Missouri have made their voice heard loud and clear when it comes to pro-life issues by electing these pro-life legislators that I serve with," Schroer said.

"For those that aren't pro-life or have no opinion...life is the most important aspect of what we do down here in Jefferson City. Everything we do impacts life in some way. shape, or form. For this bill, which protects life at the very early stages, I think that should be important to anyone."

Rep. Steve Butz, a Democrat from St. Louis, was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying that the bill would not eliminate abortion in Missouri because women could simply cross the border into Illinois. Planned Parenthood of Illinois recently said they have no plans to drop any of its services in the state, after the Trump administration implemented a new rule to place restrictions on the use of Title X funds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that since peaking at more than 20,000 per year in the 1980s, in 2017 the annual number of abortions in Missouri had dropped to fewer than 7,000. Missouri is down to one abortion provider in the state, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia is still blocked from performing abortions, with a U.S. District judge last week refusing to allow abortions to resume at that clinic. Abortions ended there during October 2018 after the facility failed to adhere to state rules, and its state license to perform abortions expired Oct. 3.

Missouri passed regulations in 2017 which granted the state attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal. The new rules also required that doctors have surgical and admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The local hospital in Columbia has since 2015 refused to grant admitting privileges to Planned Parenthood.

The effort to restrict the practice of abortion in largely Republican-led Missouri come amid pushes in other states, such as New York and Vermont, to pass laws expanding abortion access, amid prospects that the Supreme Court may soon overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

Circuit Court nominee passed by Senate Judiciary Committee

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Neomi Rao was given and affirmative vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. She is President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Dictrict of Columbia.

 

Rao cleared the committee on a party-line vote of 12 to 10. Her nomination will now head to the full Senate.

 

Earlier in the week, Rao’s nomination seemed to face an uncertain future as questions about her suitability arose on both sides of the aisle and it was not clear if she could garner enough support from committee members.

 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a freshman senator from Missouri, raised concerns about Roa’s judicial philosophy, particularly her views on judicial activism and substantive due process. But on Thursday morning, Hawley issued a statement saying he had met one-on-one with Rao on Wednesday, and said that he was no longer opposed to her advancing to the full Senate.

 

“In our discussion, Ms. Rao said she would interpret the Constitution according to its text, structure and history, not according to changing social and political understandings,” said Hawley.

 

“She said the text of the Constitution is fixed and the meaning must follow that fixed text,” he added, and that “she rejected the idea of ‘common law constitutionalism.’”

 

Hawley also said he was pleased that Rao told him she did not think there was textual support for substantive due process in the Constitution.

 

Concerns about Rao's commitment to an originalist approach to the Consitution also reflected anxieties of pro-life campaigners who had concerns she may be philosophically sympathetic to a consitutional right to abortion, rather than merely committed to defering to it as established precedent.

 

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) was also concerned with Rao, particularly her college newspaper op-eds concerning sexual assault and women. In some of the writing’s Rao made observations about the context in which assaults could take place which some observers said came close to victim-blaming.

 

Ernst, herself a survivor of sexual assault, said that she found the writings to be “abhorrent,” but also said she had since been satisfied about Rao’s suitability and agreed to vote her through to a final confirmation vote in the Senate.

 

During Rao’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is now running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, quizzed her about her views on morality, gay marriage, and sin.

 

Booker asked Rao to comment about whether she believed marriage only could exist between a man and a woman, or if two she thought men in a sexual relationship was immoral. Rao declined insisted that it was not her place asa  judicial candidate or judge to opinion on the nature of sin, and said she would follow precedent if she were confirmed to the bench.

 

Currently, Rao is the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and has taught law at George Mason University. She previously served in the White House counsel’s office under president George H.W. Bush and as a staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The final confirmation vote is expected in March.

Illinois Planned Parenthood announces new program to replace Title X funds

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 15:30

Chicago, Ill., Feb 28, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Ahead of a loss in federal funding, Planned Parenthood of Illinois have said they have no plans to drop any of its services in the state. The funding loss is expected to follow the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule, which places new restrictions on the use of Title X funds.

The Protect Life Rule was finalized on Feb. 22 and will come into effect in April. The policy forbids Title X family planning funds to be channeled to clinics that perform abortions, prohibits fund recipients from referring patients for abortions, and barrs funded programs from co-locating with abortion clinics.

The rule has been severely criticized by abortion providers and advocates, who have called it a “gag rule.”

Nine Democratic governors, including Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, co-signed a letter addressed to the Department of Health and Human Services demanding that the rule be rescinded. The letter also threatened legal action if the rule remained in place.

Pro-life advocates have welcomed the new measure. Marjorie Dannefelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, praised the move, saying that it was targeted at abortion provision alone and would not reduce other family planning services by “a single dime.”

“The Title X program was not intended to be a slush fund for abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which violently ends the lives of more than 332,000 unborn babies a year and receives almost $60 million a year in Title X taxpayer dollars,” she said in a statement.

Under the current arrangement, family planning centers that received Title X funds can co-locate with an abortion clinic, and fund recipients were required to offer the option of referral for an abortion.

Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide currently receive about $60 million in federal funds annually from this program, more than 10 percent of the half-billion dollars in total federal funding it receives per year.

Over the last six months, Planned Parenthood of Illinois received about $2.5 million in Title X funds--about 40 percent of the total Title X funds distributed in the state--despite operating only 17 of the more than 70 clinics that received funds. In 2017, about 112,000 people in Illinois acquired birth control through Title X.

“We will not violate our own medical ethics, and because of what the gag rule does, which blocks patients from getting accurate information about their care, we won’t accept the money,” Julie Lynn, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.

Lynn make it clear that Planned Parenthood of Illinois would adjust to ensure that their patients were still able to receive contraception, and forgo Title X funds.

Six days after the Protect Life Rule was finalized, Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced a new initiative, dubbed “Access Birth Control” (ABC), that would distribute contraception pills or devices, including IUDs, condoms, and Depo-Provera shots, free of charge to eligible persons.

It was not immediately clear as to how the new initiative is to be funded.

On its website, Planned Parenthood of Illinois said that the program will run through January of 2021, the end of President Donald Trump’s first presidential term, in apparent expectation of a victory for an opposition candidate more favorable to abortion.

In addition to the nine state governors, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have also indicated that they plan to sue the administration over the new rule.

The current policies were put in place during the Clinton administration in 1992, but the Supreme Court had previously upheld similar Title X rules in 1991.

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