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Biden administration reconsiders abortion pill regulations

Ivanko80/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-abortion groups last week praised the Biden administration for reconsidering federal safety regulations of the abortion pill regimen.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on Friday said it was “thrilled” that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was reviewing restrictions on the regimen that have been in place since the year 2000. The FDA has long required the abortion pill regimen to be dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting, but pro-abortion groups have recently pushed for the pill to be prescribed remotely and dispensed through the mail.

In its statement on Twitter, ACOG supported the FDA’s “evidence-based review” of the “burdensome” and “unnecessary” regulations.

“We are confident that due to the FDA's commitment to regulatory decision-making that reflects science and patient-centered care, the needless restrictions on #mifepristone will soon end and patients will have less restrictive access to medication abortion & miscarriage care,” ACOG stated on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the review “long overdue, but a major move forward.” The group, on behalf of ACOG and other pro-abortion groups, sued the Trump administration last year for leaving the abortion pill regulations in place during the pandemic.

Since it approved the abortion pill regimen in 2000, the FDA has listed the protocol on its “REMS” list, reserved for higher-risk procedures. Under the classification, the abortion pill regimen must be prescribed by a certified health provider and dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting.

The regimen involves women taking mifepristone, which blocks nutrients to the unborn child, up until 70 days gestation. That is followed by a dose of misoprostol 24 to 48 hours later, which expels the deceased unborn child.

A federal judge last year sided with the pro-abortion groups, blocking the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirements during the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Trump administration, allowing them to continue with their restrictions on chemical abortions.

In April, the acting FDA commissioner said that the agency would allow for remote dispensing of the abortion pill during the pandemic by not enforcing its regulations.

Now, however, the agency is reviewing its regulations with the prospect of altering them beyond the pandemic.

On Friday, both the Biden administration and groups challenging the FDA regulations jointly filed for a stay on the case until Dec. 1, due to the FDA’s ongoing review of its regulations.

“The Parties jointly seek a stay of this matter in light of Defendant U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (‘FDA’) current review of the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (‘REMS’) at issue in this case,” the motion stated.

The parties cited the FDA’s recent “review of the in-person dispensing requirement” for the abortion pill regimen “in the context of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The motion noted that “the outcome of FDA’s review of the REMS could have a material effect on the issues before this Court.”

The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has said he not only supports lifting the regulations during the pandemic, but added at his confirmation hearing that he favors increased use of telemedicine, in response to a question about the abortion pill regimen.

Calif. bill targets university healthcare links to Catholic hospitals, demands further moral compromise

Chaikom/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2021 / 17:08 pm (CNA).

A bill threatens to ban University of California health systems from partnering with institutions that follow Catholic ethics, prompting concern ideological motives on abortion and LGBT issues will damage longtime partnerships and limit medical care access.

 

An organization of Catholic hospitals has defended its efforts to adhere to Catholic ethics, but also defend the partnership on the ground that they or their network hospitals provide some procedures related to gender transitioning and have won recognition from major LGBT groups.

 

“Currently there are many, many, many, contracts with the University of California and Catholic healthcare,” Edward Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “Primarily because we provide services in a variety of underserved communities, and the University of California wants access to those communities and wants to train their physicians in those communities.”

 

Dolejsi said Catholic institutions are “proud” to partner with the university system.

 

“But as always if you’re working at one of our facilities, we follow the (Catholic bishops’) ethical and religious directives,” he said. “We do not allow abortions, elective sterilizations, transgender surgeries etc. in those healthcare facilities.”

 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, last revised in 2018, aim to ensure ethical treatment at Catholic hospitals.

 

However, prospective state legislation called the Equitable and Inclusive University of California Healthcare Act would require the University of California health system to renegotiate agreements with Catholic hospitals. The hospitals would be forced to allow its staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary or to end its links to the state university medical system. The proposal, numbered Senate Bill 379, is under consideration in the California Senate.

 

A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, told an LGBT California publication that partnering with institutions like Catholic ones violates California standards.

 

“It is unacceptable to subject patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care,” the spokesman said. “California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-affirming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.”

 

Co-sponsors of the legislation include the ACLU of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Equality California.

 

Dolejsi said the controversy is “primary ideological.” Passage of the bill would end up limiting medical access for many Californians, particularly the poor and struggling. It would also limit physicians’ abilities to practice or train.

 

“That’s always the challenge here: do you want to provide services and resources in a quality way for all the people of California or do you want to expand an ideology?” Dolejsi asked. He suggested that Catholic health care  systems are “probably one of the larger providers of medical services in California.”

 

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it moves forward,” he said, adding that legislators are “trying to require us to allow physicians to do whatever they wish to do within our facilities.”

 

In February Weiner’s office said the university system’s agreements “explicitly prevent (University of California) doctors and students from providing reproductive and LGBTQ inclusive care, including: contraception, sterilization, abortion, gender-affirming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.”

 

In a May 3 letter to Sen. Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Alliance of Catholic Health Care made its case against the bill. Critics of Catholic healthcare have made allegations with “numerous inaccuracies,” the alliance letter said. It stressed that Catholic hospitals’ services are “provided to all, without discrimination.” Resident physicians trained at Catholic hospitals are not arbitrarily assigned, but choose their training.

 

“Catholic hospitals agree to uphold Catholic values, and therefore we do not provide elective abortion or procedures for the primary purpose of sterilization such as tubal ligations, hysterectomies (when no pathology is present), vasectomies and in-vitro fertilization (the latter two services are not typically performed in hospitals regardless of religious affiliation). Catholic hospitals do not limit availability of emergency or medically-necessary pregnancy care,” the letter said.

 

The alliance said Catholic hospitals “provide the standard of care for women with pregnancy complications, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.” They always provide “urgent and emergent care”  to the mother, “even if it results in the foreseen, but unintended, death of the fetus.”

 

“Our health facilities provide compassionate and comprehensive care to victims of sexual assault, including the provision of emergency contraception,” the alliance said, adding, “More than 10 Catholic-affiliated facilities are designated as the comprehensive rape treatment center or are the sexual assault response team.

 

Catholic ethics forbid direct abortion and direct sterilization. The U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives allow medication to sex assault victims to prevent conception if there is no evidence conception has already taken place. The directives add: “it is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

 

The Catholic alliance letter described intra-uterine devices, which prevent implantation, as a “multi-purpose device.” If the appropriate care for a patient is “elective sterilizations,’ the letter said, “we expect the physician to ensure that care is provided in a facility that provides that service.”

 

The alliance’s health systems include 51 acute care hospitals, nearly 15% of all hospitals and 16% of hospital beds in California. Affiliations with the University of California health system are “essential to ensuring and expanding access to quality health care services across our State – especially so for underserved communities,” the alliance’s letter said. University of California Health has estimated the bill would cost millions of dollars in lost revenue currently generated through partnership agreements.

 

In some parts of California, University of California health care is reliant on its Catholic partners.

 

The alliance said its health systems played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing “scarce front-line medical, bed-capacity, PPE, testing and vaccine resources.”

 

The alliance letter added that its hospitals offer primary, specialty, and urgent care for LGBTQ persons. It added: “specifically for transgender patients, we provide hormone therapy, breast augmentation or reduction, and facial feminization or masculinization”

 

CNA asked the Alliance of Catholic Health Care why its hospitals provided transgender-specific drugs and procedures. Lori Capello Dangberg, vice president at the alliance, told CNA May 10 that “numerous states in which Catholic hospitals operate have statutes that prohibit discrimination against patients on the basis of sex and gender identity, among other things.”

 

“Should the hospitals decline to provide a service to one protected class of people that they can morally provide to another class of people, they will be in violation of these statutes. Such a practice cannot be defended on the basis of religious freedom, as the courts will hold that it’s first and foremost a matter of discrimination against a protected class of people.”

 

Dangberg did not address the question of legislation, but there are concerns that proposals like the federal Equality Act and other decisions advocated by the Biden Administration could further mandate the provision of drugs and procedures which violate Catholic ethics while also stripping religious freedom protections. While Catholic institutions have some protections under existing federal rules and laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, California has fewer religious protections at the state level.

 

The letter to the Senate appropriations committee chairman also mentions non-Catholic hospitals under the Alliance for Catholic Health Care umbrella that provide specialty transgender care.

 

“We are proud to offer the only specialty transgender care center in San Francisco, the Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital,” the letter said. The institute has been established “to deliver compassionate, high-quality, affordable health services to transgender patients and their families.”

 

The letter noted that St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach is the first in the Dignity Health System to be recognized with health equity leader status by the Human Rights Campaign, an influential LGBT advocacy group.

 

The Human Rights Campaign has been effective at recruiting major companies to advocate for compliance to LGBT policies and political demands, including for a federal Equality Act stripped of religious freedom protections. It has asked the Biden administration to create accreditation regulations of religious schools that would enforce the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages and other LGBT causes.

 

In 2014, the campaign launched a lobbying effort linked with the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family, targeting leading Catholic bishops it said have been “most outspoken in their rejection of LGBT Catholics, their civil rights, and their rightful place in the Church.”

 

Another proposed California bill, S.B. 642, purports to defend medical staff’s clinical judgement from hospital administration’s “non-clinical” standards, including ethical standards, that hinder a doctor from providing a particular medical treatment. Such treatment could include legal abortion and legal assisted suicide. The legislation would significantly impact the ability for Catholic hospitals to require staff to follow Catholic ethical directives.

 

“Catholic healthcare is fighting on two fronts here in California,” Dolejsi told CNA.

Joe Bukuras contributed to this report.

Biden will not address Notre Dame commencement, was invited by the university

University of Notre Dame / CNA

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

In a break with recent tradition, President Joe Biden will not be delivering the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this year - although he was invited by the university to do so.

On Tuesday, the university announced that its May 23 commencement speaker will be Jimmy Dunne, a finance executive and trustee of the university. During the last three presidential administrations, U.S. presidents or vice presidents have addressed the university's commencement in their first year in office, but that trend will not continue in 2021. 

Although a university spokesman told CNA that, as a policy, “we do not discuss who may or may not have been approached to address our graduates,” sources from the White House confirmed to CNA that Biden had indeed been invited by the university but could not attend due to scheduling. 

The White House expressed its hope that Biden would appear at a future commencement ceremony of the university, during his first term. 

U.S. presidents have customarily been invited to address graduates at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama addressed the university’s commencement in their first year in office, while other presidents have appeared later on in their presidential terms. 

In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence - a Catholic who now identifies as simply a “Christian” - addressed Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony. President Trump, who had been invited to speak, was in Saudi Arabia at the time. 

“While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office--or at all,” the university spokesman said on Tuesday. 

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush each addressed Notre Dame’s commencement in their last year in office, Brown noted. President Gerald Ford did speak on campus, but the event was an academic convocation on St. Patrick’s day.

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lydnon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump did not address Notre Dame’s commencement at all. 

Obama’s address in 2009 drew controversy due to his ardent support of legal abortion. Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix sent a letter to Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, saying that the invitation of Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at Notre Dame’s commencement is a violation of the USCCB’s 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life.”

Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who served as the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend until his retirement in November 2009, issued a statement at the time that Jenkins gave a “flawed justification” for the university’s commencement invitation to President Obama, and should have consulted with his bishop before extending the invitation. 

Biden is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history. While he has mentioned his faith on the campaign trail and has attended Sunday Mass while in office, he has supported taxpayer-funded abortion and pushed for the passage of the Equality Act in defiance of the U.S. bishops’ conference. 

His administration has begun rolling back restrictions on public funding of abortion providers, and is fighting in court to keep a mandate in place that doctors provide gender-transition surgeries upon referral, regardless of their medical or conscientious beliefs.

While Biden will not be speaking at Notre Dame’s commencement this year, he has spoken at the university in the past. 

In 2016, Biden appeared at the Notre Dame commencement with former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); the two were given the Laetare Medal, the highest honor given by the school. 

Mobile clinic to offer ultrasounds outside Utah Planned Parenthood 

Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The group Pro-Life Utah will park a mobile ultrasound clinic outside one of the largest abortion clinics in the state, it announced this week. 

The “Pregnancy Choice Utah Mobile Ultrasound Clinic” will be parked outside of Planned Parenthood Metro in Salt Lake City, the group said on its website. The “bright pink mobile clinic” will offer women free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and options counseling about pregnancy, parenting, and adoption resources. The mobile clinic’s ultrasound machine was donated by the Knights of Columbus.

In a video promoting its mobile clinic, the group said its services are offered by “licensed medical staff and trained client advocates.” 

“Pregnant women will have the opportunity to actually see their own baby and hear the heartbeat,” the Pro-Life Utah website stated. “

“Statistics show that up to 80% of abortion-minded women experience a change of heart and choose to keep their baby upon seeing the ultrasound. The ‘clump of cells’ lie is exposed, and women who view their ultrasound can realize that this is a baby!” the group said.

Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said in the group’s video that the ultrasound for the mobile clinic was donated by the Knights of Columbus. 

“I have to take a minute and thank the Knights of Columbus,” Taylor said. “They’ve raised money and donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers across the state and across the country. We are so grateful to be a recipient of this project.” 

Through its initiative that began in 2009, the Knights of Columbus has donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers around the world. State and local Knights councils raise 50% of the cost of the machine while the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council provides the other 50%. In the case of a mobile medical unit, the Supreme Council provides 100% of the cost of the ultrasound machine.

The 1,000th machine donated under the initiative was given to an abortion clinic-turned-medical clinic, the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, Virginia.

Karrie Galloway, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah - the affiliate that operates the Planned Parenthood Metro clinic in Salt Lake City - said in a statement provided to CNA that "We acknowledge first amendment rights to publicly gather and disagree with our mission.”  

“At Planned Parenthood, our patients are always our number one priority, and we do all we can to ensure each person has the information they need to make health care decisions that are best for them. That includes providing ultrasounds to every patient who comes to us for abortion care,” Galloway added.  

Local Catholic association supports physicians in their vocation

Dr. Saad Jazrawi, president of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, holds daughter Samar, age 7 months, during a dinner following the annual White Mass for Catholic health care workers in 2019. “If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi. / Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel

Portland, Ore., May 11, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

As a committed Catholic and newly minted medical doctor, Saad Jazrawi was clear about his mission: treat patients with Christlike compassion.

He also knew distractions would abound, from the allure of a bigger house or fancier car to the stress of navigating insurance companies and administrative demands. And he’d encounter an array of moral issues — if not regularly in his own work, in his interactions with colleagues — abortion, medically assisted suicide and new views on gender.

“If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi, a gastroenterologist who deals with digestive diseases and abdominal cancer. “I wanted to make sure that the two would not be in conflict, and I needed support.”

When Jazrawi moved to Oregon, he found the spiritual and practical encouragement he sought in the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild.

“It’s a small community of morally sound physicians who have been so helpful,” said Jazrawi, who was named guild president seven years ago. “I’ve become more comfortable not being distracted by things and can focus on what’s important — caring for patients with respect for the whole human person.”

Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel
Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel

The Portland guild is a chapter of the Catholic Medical Association and one of about 110 such organizations nationwide. It aims to uphold principles of Catholic morality in medicine, communicate Catholic medical ethics to the broader community, and fortify medical professionals in their faith.

The local guild began in the early 1950s as a loose affiliation of Catholic doctors. Most were parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Southwest Portland and lived near “Pill Hill,” so dubbed for its proximity to Oregon Health and Science University.

The group grew more active in the 1960s, and members gave talks on natural family planning at Oregon parishes. The guild essentially dissolved for a time, but in the 1990s Dr. Thomas Pitre and his wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, revitalized it.

Physician-assisted suicide was gaining support locally, and within a few years Oregon would become the first state in the nation to legalize lethal prescriptions.

Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel

“We felt the need as Catholic physicians to get Catholic doctors together to preserve our ethic that the Catholic faith is not incompatible with being a physician” and to address new practices that violated core tenants of the faith, said Pitre, who retired last year after 45 years in urology. He and Bissonnette-Pitre, a psychiatrist, are converts.

The couple added additional events to the guild’s calendar and restarted a White Mass, held for medical professionals on the feast day of St. Luke. The saint was both Gospel writer and physician.

Cardinal Francis George, former head of the Portland Archdiocese, spoke at several functions and encouraged Lynne and Thomas’ efforts. He also connected them with the Catholic Medical Association.

In 2005, the Portland guild hosted the association’s annual conference, drawing more than 300 medical professionals to the city for a gathering that included talks and daily Mass. The following year Pitre began a term as president of the national association.

The local guild’s most notable achievement is Holy Family Catholic Clinic, founded by three guild members and opened last year in West Linn, a suburb of Portland.

“They are doing marvelous work there at the medical clinic,” said Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, guild chaplain. The monsignor is director of the Portland archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship and recently was named rector of St. Mary Cathedral.

“Holy Family is a great resource for me now as a parish priest,” Msgr. O’Connor said. “I can send young couples who are planning to marry to the clinic to learn about natural family planning.”

Membership in the Portland guild has fluctuated over the past few decades, but it currently has about 25 core members, with many others attending special events such as the White Mass and annual dinner. There are meetings the first Saturday of the month, occasional social gatherings and retreats.

Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel

“It’s been a tremendous comfort to know there are other like-minded physicians in a culture that is increasingly at odds with what we believe,” said Pitre, echoing fellow members.

Periodically multiple guilds convene to learn about issues or upcoming legislation with ethical or religious liberty implications. Members also have engaged in advocacy, testifying at the Oregon state Capitol against euthanasia and collecting signatures for various respect-life measures. The guild sometimes collaborates with other Christian associations on issues.

In November of last year, the Portland group sent a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown conveying concerns about pandemic-related restrictions on communal worship. They were most worried about how the rules would impact psychological well-being. The physicians praised Brown for responding to an uptick in COVID-19 infections but asked her to consider each church’s capacity, an approach backed by science. Archbishop Alexander Sample also sent a letter to the governor, who eventually reworked the guidelines.

Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel
Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel

Archbishop Sample has been a champion of the Portland guild, as have previous archbishops. “We’ve also been fortunate to have many great chaplains,” said Pitre, noting Benedictine Father Bernard Sander, Msgr. Richard Huneger and Father Eric Andersen.

The current chaplain expressed his immense respect for guild members.

They work within a culture that’s not pro-life and even encounter hostility to Catholic teaching at some Catholic hospitals, said Msgr. O’Connor.

The camaraderie the guild affords, plus the support from the national organization, “allows men and women of faith to share with courage and knowledge church teaching in the world,” he said. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

This article was first published by the Catholic Sentinel and is reprinted with permission.

N.D. governor vetoes parts of pro-life funding bill

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

North Dakota’s governor last week partially vetoed a bill penalizing state universities for conducting business with abortion providers.

The state’s legislature had passed SB 2030, which prohibited challenge grant money from going to universities that partner with organizations that provide or support abortion. The legislature passed the bill to sanction North Dakota State University for its continued refusal to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

The bill also set up penalties for university partnerships with abortion providers, mandating operating budget cuts to the schools in violation and fines and jail time for school officials. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) vetoed those provisions, however, saying they were “void of due process” and that the penalty was “egregious in its amount.” 

In his veto letter, the governor affirmed his administration’s pro-life record.

“In the end, it’s a win,” Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference (NDCC), told CNA. “The bill doesn’t have the higher penalties, but it still says if those universities want the matching grants to help their students, all they have to do is not do business with Planned Parenthood. It’s that simple.”

For every two dollars raised by state colleges and universities for scholarships and academic initiatives, the state matches one dollar, under North Dakota’s challenge grant program.

Because of the challenge grants statute, Dodson called it “a pro-life victory.”  He also said it is good for students because the matching grants are still available.

He said the state Catholic conference has not taken a stance on supporting an override of the veto.

Burgum had vetoed provisions including a 2.5% operating budget cut penalty for universities in violation of the legislation. School officials signing agreements with abortion providers would be subject to jail time and a $1500 fine.

North Dakota State University (NDSU) would have been penalized $2.8 million as a result of the original language in the bill.

For over eight years, NDSU has been accepting a federal grant for a “PREP: Making Healthy Choices” sex education program. The grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since accepting the grant in 2012, NDSU has given over $1.5 million to Planned Parenthood for its sex education program.

“Two years ago, 90 legislators wrote to NDSU’s president saying, this has got to stop,” Dodson told CNA. “And basically, the university thumbed their nose as they renewed their grant, and that’s why the legislators said enough is enough and put this language on the existing bill.”

No federal or state money going through universities was used for abortions, Dodson mentioned. “That was never the issue,” he said. “The issue was that the state should not partner with an abortion provider on anything, even if abortion is not involved.”

NDSU’s federal grant expires in September 2021. The university said they will not be renewing the grant, the AP reported.

“The bill is not saying what you can teach, how to teach, or how to research,” Dodson said. “All its saying is don’t do it with an abortion provider. Because in our view, you don’t partner with someone with so much death on their hands.”

In April, Gov. Burgum vetoed a bill that prohibited biological males identifying as transgender females from participating in girls’ public elementary and secondary sports.

Louisiana legislature recognizes anniversary of Roe v. Wade as ‘Day of Tears’

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Louisiana state legislature last week passed a resolution recognizing Jan. 22, 2022, the 49th anniversary of legalized abortion throughout the United States, as a “Day of Tears.” 

“This week we passed a resolution calling for a Day of Tears in Louisiana,” state Sen. Beth Mizell (R), who introduced the resolution, said May 10 in a statement provided to CNA. 

The May 4 passing of the resolution recognizes Jan. 22, 2022, as a “Day of Tears” in the state, and citizens are encouraged to lower their flags to half-staff on that day to mourn unborn children who have lost their lives from abortion.

"As a pro-life state we must continue to bring attention to the loss of innocent lives from abortions yearly.  Let us work together to demonstrate that we value life and strive to protect the unborn,” Mizell said.

The “Day of Tears” resolution is a campaign for states to officially recognize the tragedy of legalized abortion in America. The Day of Tears, Inc. is a national pro-life organization that aims to introduce and enact resolutions similar to Louisiana’s in states around the country.

“Louisiana joins Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama in recognizing January 22nd as the Day of Tears,” wrote the organization, Day of Tears in a May 5 press release. “Similar Resolutions have been introduced in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives,” they said. Earlier this year, legislatures in both Arkansas and Alabama passed “Day of Tears” resolutions.

The Louisiana resolution said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, “erroneously ruled that abortion was a right secured by the Constitution of the United States of America.” 

“Since that ill-fated day,” the resolution said, “over sixty-one million pre-born children in the 9 United States have perished.”

The legislation comes amid what one pro-life leaders calls an “unprecedented surge” of pro-life bills at the state level.

According to a report published April 30 by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 536 pro-life bills have been introduced in 46 states in the year 2021, with 61 new pro-life laws.

“The unprecedented surge of pro-life activity in state legislatures this year proves life is winning in America,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stated following the report. She said that the state bills include bans on abortions after five months of pregnancy and bans on abortions conducted solely because of prenatal diagnoses such as Down syndrome.

New Montana law aimed at protecting women’s sports

lzf/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Montana’s governor signed a bill on Friday requiring public school athletic teams to be designated by biological sex rather than gender identity.

The "Save Women's Sports Act,” signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), would limit participation in women’s sports to only biological females, excluding biological males identifying as transgender females. The law states, “Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex.” It is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

The bill follows a wave of comparable legislation in states including Idaho, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kansas. 

In a statement, Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said, “Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.” 

ADF is currently representing female track runners in a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut; the state in 2017 began a policy allowing biological males identifying as transgender females to compete in women’s athletics.

The lawsuit is based on Title IXof the Education Amendments of 1972, federal law which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally-funded education activities and programs. The group has argued that policies allowing athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity can put girls at a disadvantage. 

Holcomb said that Gianforte and the state legislature “have acted to preserve a level playing field for all female athletes in the state, whether in high school or college.” 

“This bill protects athletic opportunities for women and girls and gives them vital legal recourse against unfair policies that arise,” she added. 

“In the face of ongoing pressure from woke corporations and special interests to reject this type of legislation, we are especially grateful to Gov. Gianforte, Rep. Fuller, and the Montana Legislature for taking a courageous stand and ensuring fairness for women and girls as they continue to pursue their dreams,” she said. 

The Human Rights Campaign, a group that says it fights for “LGBTQ equality and inclusion,” said in a tweet referencing the Montana law, “Sports are for everyone. This law is wrong.”

Some state governors, including Kristi Noem of South Dakota (R), have vetoed transgender sports bills or have pledged not to support them; Noem herself requested an amended version of a transgender sports bill to exclude strict requirements for college sports. Once her proposed amendments failed to pass the state legislature, she issued an executive order to “protect” women’s sports, adding that she would still work for a special legislative session to address the issue. 

Colorado Springs bishop calls for prayers after deadly shooting

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs / CNA

Washington D.C., May 10, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Colorado Springs called Catholics to prayer on Monday after a shooter killed seven people, including himself, at a local mobile home community on Sunday .

“I join the people of Colorado Springs and the nation in mourning the tragic deaths of six family members and a gunman on Sunday,” Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs stated on Monday afternoon.

“We have seen far too many of these horrific acts in recent decades, and only the love of Christ will overcome the crushing despair that is a common symptom of the culture of death,” he said. 

The shooting occurred shortly after midnight on Sunday morning. The Colorado Springs Police Department said in a statement that officers arrived on the scene at Canterbury mobile home park and discovered six adults shot dead, with another mortally wounded. The injured man was taken to the hospital and later died from his injuries. 

The department said it believed the shooting occurred at a birthday party, and that “friends, family, and children were gathered inside” a home to celebrate. 

The shooter, who is believed to have been a boyfriend of one of the women shot and killed, “walked inside and began shooting people at the party before taking his own life,” said the police. None of the children present were harmed, and they are currently with relatives. 

The names of those killed have not yet been released, pending the notification of relatives. Police said they were seeking to determine a motive in the shooting.

“I invite all the faithful to pray for both those who died and for the survivors, and I especially invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that, through her motherly care, the children impacted by this senseless act of violence will find consolation and healing,” Bishop Sheridan said. 

Department Chief Vince Niski expressed his sorrow at the shooting. 

“Words fall short to describe the tragedy that took place this morning. As the chief of police, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, as a member of this community, my heart breaks for the families who have lost someone they love and for the children who have lost their parents,” said a statement from Niski. 

Niski said that the officers of his department were “left incredibly shaken” by the crime scene. 

“This is something you hope never happens in your own community, in the place that you call home,” he said. “When these types of unspeakable acts happen, there is nothing that can be done to fully rebuild what was lost or replace those who are no longer with us.” 

Niski vowed that “this department will do everything we can to find you the answers you deserve and be here with you with an unwavering support.”

 

CDF highlights its Note on Catholics in politics in letter to US bishops on Eucharistic coherence

Luis Cardinal Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome, June 28, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 10, 2021 / 15:16 pm (CNA).

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote Friday to the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding admission to Communion, affirming the centrality of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic’s participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

A 2004 memo from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the same congregation, should “be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note,” read the May 7 letter by Luis Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, which was obtained by CNA.

Archbishop Gomez had written the congregation in March to inform it that the US bishops will be addressing the situation of Catholics in public office who support permissive legislation regarding abortion, euthanasia, or other moral evils.

Cardinal Ladaria opened his reply by emphasizing that the 2004 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick about the same problem “was in the form of a private communication to the bishops” and that “insofar, therefore, as these principles are not published by the Conference, they may be of assistance in the preparation of the draft of your document.”

He said Cardinal Ratzinger had “offered general principles on the worthy reception of Holy Communion in order to assist local ordinaries in the United States in their dealings with Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions. Cardinal Ratzinger’s communication should thus be discussed only within the context of the authoritative Doctrinal Note which provides the teaching of the Magisterium on the theological foundation for any initiative regarding the question of worthy reception of Holy Communion.”

The cardinal noted that the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life was discussed during the 2004 US ad liminas, during which “it was clear that there was a lack of agreement regarding the issue of communion among the bishops,” and that “the development of a national policy” was not then under consideration.

He added that the problem arose again during the 2019-20 US ad liminas, and that the congregation “advised that dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic. The formulation of a national policy was suggested during the ad limina visits only if this would help the bishops to maintain unity.”

“This Congregation notes that such a policy, given its possibly contentious nature, could have the opposite effect and become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger Church in the United States. Thus, we advised during the ad limina visits that the effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Cardinal Ladaria urged that the episcopal dialogue would help the bishops “agree as a Conference that support of pro-choice legislation is not compatible with Catholic teaching.”

“The bishops should therefore discuss and agree to the teaching in the above-mentioned Doctrinal Note which affirms in article 3 that ‘Christians are called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism and accept that democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society.’ The bishops should affirm as a Conference that ‘those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life’,” the prefect of the CDF wrote.

Having done this, local ordinaries “would reach out to and engage in dialogue with Catholic politicians within their jurisdictions who adopt a pro-choice position regarding abortion legislation, euthanasia, or other moral evils, as a means of understanding the nature of their positions and their comprehension of Catholic teaching,” stated Cardinal Ladaria.

After these “two stages of extensive and serene dialogue”, then would the USCCB “face the difficult task of discerning the best way forward for the Church in the United States to witness to the grave moral responsibility of Catholic public officials to protect human life at all stages.”

“If it then decided to formulate a national policy on worthiness for communion, such a statement would need to express a true consensus of the bishops on the matter, while observing the prerequisite that any provisions of the Conference in this area would respect the rights of individual Ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See.”

The cardinal added that “any statement of the Conference regarding Catholic political leaders would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholic, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament.”

He said that “it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.”

Cardinal Ladaria urged that “every effort” be be made “to dialogue with other episcopal conferences” so as “to preserve unity” in the universal Church.

Archbishop Gomez transmitted Cardinal Ladaria’s letter to each of the bishops in the US May 8, as requested. He noted that the prefect “has provided us with important background and insight that should prove helpful to us in our continued prayer and discernment of this matter.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memo told US bishops that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, adding that if the Catholic perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

That 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Local ordinaries have in recent months been teaching about admission to Communion.

In March, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois told a regional conference of the Canon Law Society of America that Catholics who publicly and obstinately advocate for abortion, including politicians, can and should be denied Communion: “I'm talking about their external actions. If they're living in a way or holding positions that are contrary to church teaching, then the Minister of Communion has to deny them the sacrament.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix released Veneremur Cernui, an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in April. It says that “Holy Communion is reserved for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” This is why the Church “requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance,” Bishop Olmsted taught.

In an April 14 column on Eucharistic coherence, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver wrote that “the Eucharist is a gift, not an entitlement, and the sanctity of that gift is only diminished by unworthy reception. Because of the public scandal caused, this is especially true in the case of public officials who persistently govern in violation of the natural law, particularly the pre-eminent issues of abortion and euthanasia, the taking of innocent life, as well as other actions that fail to uphold the church's teaching regarding the dignity of life.”

In a May 1 pastoral letter, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco taught that any Catholic formally cooperating with abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

During his homily at the Vigil Mass for Life in January, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas taught that Catholics should not receive Communion if they are contradicting “fundamental” Church teaching.

Bishop McElroy of San Diego recently wrote an essay in America Magazine arguing that refusing Holy Communion to pro-abortion rights politicians politicizes the Eucharist, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago took issue with Archbishop Aquila’s column on Eucharistic coherence.

In October 2019, while campaigning for president, Joe Biden was denied Communion at a parish in the Diocese of Charleston. A Charleston diocesan policy, which is also that of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Charlotte, states that “Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance.”