Action Alert! Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!

On November 7, during floor debate on the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), the House approved, 240 to 193, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, to enact a permanent ban on federal funding of elective abortions or health plans that include such abortions. The House then narrowly passed H.R. 3962.
The Senate is preparing for a vote on its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). A final vote on cloture is expected on December 23 and the vote on passage is expected on December 24. On December 8, the Senate voted to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, 54-yes, 45-no. This amendment, like the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, would prevent the legislation from mandating abortion coverage or providing federal funds for coverage that includes elective abortions.
Subsequently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced his Manager’s Amendment, which represents the health care reform bill that the Leader intends the Senate to pass. The abortion and conscience provisions in this proposal are not acceptable. In a December 22 letter to the Senate, the U.S. Bishops state that the Manager’s Amendment does not meet the three moral criteria articulated by the bishops throughout the debate: keeping in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protection; protecting access to health care that immigrants currently have and removing barriers to access; and including strong provisions for affordability and coverage standards. “Specifically, it violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions. . .” The bill also does not provide adequate conscience protection. The bishops strongly urged the Senate “not to move its current health care reform bill forward without incorporating essential changes to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.” The bishops conclude: “Until these fundamental flaws are remedied the bill should be opposed.” For the full text of this letter, see:
nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=313.
ACTION: Contact Members through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters. 1) To send an e-mail, click here. 2) Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043 
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648 
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457 
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030 
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601 
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703 

http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/

MESSAGE—SENATE: "The health care reform proposal now before the Senate violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions. It also fails to provide adequate conscience protection. Please do not move this bill forward at this time but continue to discuss and approve changes that would make it morally acceptable. If this does not occur, the bill should be opposed.”
WHEN: In the Senate a final vote on cloture is expected December 23 and the vote on passage is expected December 24. Thanks!

Health Reform Bill Needs More Work Despite New Language On Abortion, Say Catholic Bishops

Federal government must not expand its role enabling abortions

Bill should not go forward unless and until problems remedied

Protection of life, conscience rights; fairness to legal immigrants; affordability top issues


WASHINGTON--The Senate health reform bill should not move forward in its current form, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said December 19, as senators proceeded closer to a vote. Cardinal DiNardo chairs the bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities. Bishop Murphy chairs the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Wester chairs the bishops' Committee on Migration.

"Yesterday the bishops commented on good-faith efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the pending Senate health care reform bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights," Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Murphy and Bishop Wester said. "Today a Manager's Amendment was proposed to make final changes in that bill. The amendment includes some improvements from Senator Casey's proposal, including adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, but differs from that proposal in other ways: It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to "opt out" of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage. Instead it will require purchasers of such plans to pay a distinct fee or surcharge which is extracted solely to help pay for other people's abortions. Further the government agency that currently manages health coverage for federal employees will promote and help subsidize multi-state health plans that include elective abortions, contrary to longstanding law governing this agency.

Therefore, while we appreciate the good-faith efforts made by Senators Robert Casey and Ben Nelson (D-NE) to improve the bill, our judgment is the same as it was yesterday: This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. The bishops' conference continues to study that 383-page amendment's implications from the perspective of all the bishops' moral concerns -- protection of life and conscience, affordable access to health care, and fairness to immigrants. We will continue to work vigorously for authentic health care reform that clearly reflects these fundamental principles because such reform is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority."

‘Abortion Compromise’ Does Not Address Core Problem In Senate Health Bill, Says Cardinal DiNardo, Bishops’ Pro-Life Chair -Update

IMPORTANT INFORMATION : THIS POST REFERS TO A COMPROMISE PROPOSED BY SENATOR CASEY THURSDAY AND FRIDAY. IT DOES NOT REFER TO THE COMPROMISE WITH SENATOR NELSON IN THE MANAGER'S AMENDMENT. MORE INFORMATION ON THAT AMENDMENT IS FORTHCOMING.



‘Compromise’ would make citizens pay for others’ abortions Senate should mirror House of Representative’s Hyde amendment language Bill doesn’t meet goals of affordability, fairness to legal immigrants, protection of life

WASHINGTON—Responding to reports of a new “compromise” proposal on abortion in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo today reaffirmed the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the legislation will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment. Cardinal DiNardo is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the Conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The Cardinal commented on efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the Senate bill’s treatment of abortion. “Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage
is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”

“I welcome Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to improve this bill, said Cardinal Dinardo.” In particular he has sought to improve protection for conscience rights, and to include programs of support for pregnant women and adoptive parents that we favor in their own right. However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”

Cardinal DiNardo had written to the Senate on December 14, saying that “the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support authentic reform of our ailing health care system.” His letter cited “three moral criteria for reform: respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants,” noting that so far the Senate bill “has fallen short of the example set by the House version of this legislation in each of these areas.”

On abortion funding, the Cardinal urged the Senate to “incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself” when it approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the new fiscal year on December 13. This Act reaffirmed the Hyde amendment and other laws that exclude elective abortions from health plans receiving federal funds -- including the plans that cover the Senators themselves and all other federal employees. The Senate so far has failed to reflect this same policy in its health care bill as the House has done, he said [see
www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf].

Cardinal DiNardo said December 18: “We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied. And whatever the immediate outcome in the Senate, we will continue to work for health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. As the bishops have said many times, ‘providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.’ In particular we will work vigorously to ensure that the substance of the House’s provision on abortion funding is included in final legislation. A special debt of gratitude is owed to House and Senate members, especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who have placed their votes and reputation on the line to stand up for unborn children. Making this legislation consistent with longstanding federal law on abortion will not threaten needed authentic reform, but will help ensure its passage.”

Hyde Amendment and Nelson-Hatch Compared

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made available a side-by-side comparison of the language of the Hyde Amendment, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and the proposed Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment. The resource can be found online at: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/hyde-s-by-s-landscape--AP-Marks.pdf.

The Hyde and FEHBP provisions, which prohibit federal funding of abortion or insurance benefits packages that include abortion, are current law. The Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment, which applies the same policy to the Senate health care bill, was tabled by the Senate in a December 8 vote, after many Senators claimed that, by not allowing use of federal funds for health plans that include elective abortions, the amendment marked a radical departure from current law.

On December 13, however, the Senate approved both the Hyde and FEHBP language as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

The next day, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote to the Senate: “
In that vote, almost all Democrats, including almost every Senator who claimed the Nelson amendment’s policy goes too far, voted in favor of that exact policy. For these Senators voted to retain the actual current language of the Hyde amendment, and of the parallel provision governing abortion in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program – and that language clearly requires a policy in all other federal health programs that is identical to that of the Nelson amendment.”

Bishops Want Health Care Reform Aligned With Current Abortion Funding Laws; Urge Support For Menendez Amendment To Waive Waiting Period For Legal Immigrants

Don’t permit federal funds for elective abortion coverage for first time in decades
Let legal immigrants access health benefits for which they pay taxes
Three issues for bishops: respect life and conscience; affordability; fair access for immigrants

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops again urged senators to place Hyde Amendment language into proposed health care reform legislation, a step that would align the legislation with policies now governing all other federal health programs and the just-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act.

They made their request in a December 14 letter from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities (
http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf)

In a separate letter, also sent Dec. 14, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee, urged support of the Menendez Amendment (
http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/legalfiveyears.pdf). The Menendez Amendment, proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would give states the option to lift the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage.

The letter on the Hyde Amendment sought to clarify misrepresentation of an amendment sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch ((R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) that the Senate tabled on December 8. The bishops pointed out the irony that senators supported the policy of the Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment when they voted overwhelmingly for the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 13. The appropriations act contains Hyde language banning federal funding for health coverage that includes elective abortion, and maintains laws protecting conscience rights such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment.

A major problem with the current health care reform legislation in the Senate , Cardinal DiNardo said, is that “it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history.”

“Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law,” Cardinal DiNardo added.

In supporting the Menendez Amendment, Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Wester and Bishop Murphy noted that “legal immigrants, who work, pay taxes, and are on a path to citizenship, should have access to health care services, such as Medicaid, for which they help pay.

“Moreover, providing low-income legal immigrants access to Medicaid would help ensure that the general public health of immigrant communities and the nation is served,” they said.

Restore Ban on Funding of Elective Abortions in D.C.

The House and Senate are poised to vote on the Conference Report for the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (H. R. 3288), the House on Thursday, December 10 (1 hour of debate began at 12:30 p.m.), the Senate perhaps shortly thereafter. This bill reverses a longstanding ban on the funding of elective abortions in the District of Columbia.
Please urge your Representative and Senators to vote "no" on the passage of H.R. 3288 so that the measure can be returned to committee to restore the D.C. policy. To send e-mails or to make phone calls, please see the latest NCHLA Action Alert at: www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=281.
Please act immediately! We realize that the notice is short and that the time frame is short. Please do what you can. Thanks!

Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043 
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648 
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457 
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030 
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601 
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703 

http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/

Representative Earl Pomeroy

Washington: United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760
http://www.house.gov/formpomeroy/zipauth.htm

URGENT - Tell Senators Don't Weaken Hyde Amendment

Contact Senators Conrad and Dorgan and tell them not to weaken the Hyde Amendment.

The full Senate is considering their health care reform bill. The bishops are strongly urging the Senate to incorporate essential changes to the Senate’s health care reform bill to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all. The amendment to maintain the prohibition on federal funding of abortion could be voted on as early as Monday, December 7. Please contact your Senators today!

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have submitted an amendment that like the Stupak amendment that was included in the final House bill, prevents this legislation from mandating abortion coverage or providing federal funds for coverage that includes elective abortions. Those wishing to purchase abortion coverage may continue to do so with their own private funds, but not in the government-run health care plan or with the help of federal subsidies.

Senate: On November 18, Senate leadership unveiled its health care reform bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This bill has been brought to the floor by inserting its text into H.R. 3590, an unrelated House-passed tax measure. Debate and votes have begun and may continue until the Christmas recess.

In a November 20 letter to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. bishops urged essential changes in the Senate bill: to retain federal policy on abortion funding and conscience protection; to protect access to health care for immigrants; and to provide for adequate affordability and coverage standards. The bishops said: “Sadly, the legislative proposal recently unveiled in the Senate does not meet these moral criteria.” The bishops specifically said that if the bill’s serious defects on abortion are not corrected, “the current legislation should be opposed.”

Message: Vote Yes on the Hatch-Nelson Amendment to Preserve the Hyde Amendment in Health Care Reform.

When: Now! The Senate could vote on the amendment within the next few days.

Where:


Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043 
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648 
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457 
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030 
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601 
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703 

http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/

WATCH FOR ADDITIONAL ACTION ALERTS! As the Senate continues to consider amendments to the health care bill on abortion funding, conscience protections, improving affordability and coverage and protecting immigrants’ health care, the USCCB will send Action Alerts to update you on advocacy needed to support health care legislation that protects the life and dignity of all people from conception until natural death.

What the Stupak Amendment Really Does

On November 7, 2009, during consideration of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and other pro-life members offered an amendment to prevent the health care reform bill from subsidizing coverage of elective abortions. Other sponsors included Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Marcy Kaptur (D- OH), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL). The amendment was adopted 240 to 194, with the support of 64 Democrats. The bill was later approved 220 to 215, and sent to the Senate where debate will continue.

There are a number of misunderstandings and false claims regarding the Amendment adopted by the House.
Here is a summary of what it really does,1 and some answers to frequently asked questions.

New Fact Sheet on Capps Amendment

Tired of misinformation about abortion and health care reform but not sure how to respond? Check out this fact sheet.

Urgent Bulletin Inserts

The U.S. Bishops are asking that the following action alert be distributed at every parish as soon as possible. Every priest, deacon, and parish administrator should download the following materials immediately.

(1)
Nationwide Bulletin Insert

(2)
Pulpit Announcements

(3)
Flyer

Thank you for your cooperation on this vital issue!

Federal Abortion Funding: What Some People Want to "Hyde" from You

LIFE ISSUES FORUM
For Immediate Release
October 16, 2009
Federal Abortion Funding:
What Some People Want to “Hyde” from You
By Susan E. Wills

Addressing health care reform in his September 9 speech to Congress, President Obama assured the American public that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

This was truly a welcome pledge. Up to this point, one Congressional committee after another has rejected pro-life amendments to do exactly this.

At press time for this column, we are approaching the eleventh hour. Five bills have been reported by Congressional committees, and all five would permit or mandate the use of federal revenues for health coverage that includes elective abortions.

Now would be an excellent time for the Administration to weigh in on a federal abortion funding ban. Such a move would make sense politically as well as morally. A September 2009 survey commissioned by the Catholic bishops’ conference found that 67% of Americans oppose “measures that would require people to pay for abortion coverage with their federal taxes” while only 19% favor such measures; 68% said they do not want abortion in their own insurance coverage while 24% said they do. Earlier this year, Catholics mailed over 30 million postcards to Congress, asking their elected representatives to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act “and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”

But recent comments by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggest that the Administration may not be lobbying Congress for a funding ban. Twice Mr. Gibbs took issue with letters the Catholic bishops have written urging Congress to remove abortion funding from the health care reform bills.

In one letter the bishops noted: “So far the health reform bills … have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion.” Asked if the President agreed, Mr. Gibbs responded: “I would mention there’s a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion. That isn’t going to be changed in these health-care bills.” He refers, of course, to the Hyde Amendment, which Congress has reaffirmed every year for over three decades.

Two days later, a reporter asked Gibbs if the President will “call on Congress to have an explicit prohibition of abortion funding.” He replied: “My answer isn’t different than it was on Wednesday. There may be a legal interpretation that has been lost here, but there’s a fairly clear federal law prohibiting the use of federal money for abortion. I think it is – again, it’s exceedingly clear in the law.”

Contrary to Mr. Gibbs’ assertion, however, it is “exceedingly clear” that the Hyde Amendment does not apply to any of the health care reform bills. Here’s why:

Between 1973 and 1976, courts interpreted broadly-worded language on health benefits in the Medicaid statute to include abortion. Taxpayers were forced to pay for the abortion deaths of about 300,000 children annually. In 1976 the Hyde Amendment was passed, as a rider to the annual Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill. Hyde prevents federal funding of elective abortions and of health benefits packages that include such abortions. But it is not permanent law, and it applies only to funds appropriated under the annual HHS bill, not to funds appropriated under other statutes. So specific prohibitions on abortion funding have been written into laws governing other federal programs, such as federal employee health benefits, foreign aid, and military hospitals. An explicit prohibition must also be included in the final health care reform bill to avert a huge expansion of federal abortion funding. Without it, and notwithstanding their strong support for health care reform, the bishops will have no choice but to oppose the final bill vigorously.

Please contact Congress today to state your opposition to expanded federal abortion funding. A visit to www.nchla.org will allow you to send a message to your Senators and Representative with just two clicks. For more information on supporting genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all, go to www.usccb.org/healthcare.

Susan Wills is assistant director for education and outreach, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

U.S. Bishops: Current Health Care Bills Violate Essential Principles; Will Seek Changes or Have to Oppose

WASHINGTON—Three chairmen of the bishops’ committees working on health care reform urged the U.S. Congress to improve current health care reform legislation, expressing their “disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform” cited in their previous letters.

The October 8 letter from Bishop William Murphy, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop John Wester reiterated the bishops’ main concerns: that no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, and that the needs of legal immigrants are met.

Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Wester chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Immigration, respectively.

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to working with Congress and the Administration toward genuine health care reform, but stated, “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”

“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” wrote the bishops. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”

The full text of the letter can be found online at:
www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-10-08-healthcare-letter-congress.pdf

USCCB: Senate Committee Addresses Some Issues, Failies to Correct Abortion Problems and Immigration Concerns

WASHINGTON— Officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) saw mixed results when the Senate Finance Committee completed voting on amendment to its proposed health care reform bill this week.

In a recent letter to the Senate, the USCCB had called for improvements in the bill to meet the bishops’ key criteria for genuine health care reform: protecting life and dignity, affordability, and inclusion of immigrants.  For the text of this letter see
www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf.

The Committee rejected pro-life amendments offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which the USCCB supported.  One amendment would write into this bill the abortion funding policy that has long governed all federal health programs: no federal subsidies for benefits packages that cover abortion, with rare exceptions; insurers could offer supplemental abortion policies if they were funded solely by the private premiums of those choosing to purchase them. Another amendment would forbid federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds under this bill, to discriminate against health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortions. 

“The bill remains deeply flawed on these issues and must be corrected,” said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “It is especially disheartening that the Senate committee would not even support longstanding conscience language on abortion that has already been accepted as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health care reform bill.”

The USCCB’s recent letter had said that “so far, the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.”  Doerflinger said this remains true, so “these problems must be corrected on the House and Senate floor.”        

On affordability, Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development for the USCCB, said the bill took some steps toward making health care more affordable, but that “many families are still vulnerable to high health care costs. As Congress continues to debate health care reform, it should take further steps to help at-risk poor and low-income families and implement access as soon as possible.” As an example, Saile said, “Expansion of access to programs such as Medicaid should be implemented as soon as possible.”

On inclusion of immigrants, the Committee defeated amendments opposed by the USCCB, which would have placed additional restrictions on legal immigrants and their families from accessing health-care, but failed to improve the access immigrants currently have. 

“Legal immigrants, who work hard and pay taxes, should be treated equally with U.S. citizens,” said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the USCCB.  “It is counterproductive to the general public health to leave them outside of the system, unable to access preventive treatment and dependent on emergency care.  The U.S. bishops will continue to push for affordability grants to legal immigrants and their families and a removal of the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access Medicaid.”

For more information on the U.S. bishops’ position on health care reform, visit
www.usccb.org/healthcare.

UPDATE: Committee Rejects PL Amendments; Thank Conrad for Vote

The Sentate Finance Committee yesterday rejected Senator Orrin Hatch's pro-life and conscience protection amendments to the health care reform bill.

Senator Kent Conrad voted
in favor of the amendments. Please contact Senator Conrad and thank him for his vote in favor of the Hatch amendments on abortion funding and conscience protection. Hearing from constituents will help solidify his support if the full Senate votes on the same amendments.

Senator Conrad also voted in favor of restoring funding for abstinence education. The committee approved
that amendment.

Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043 
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648 
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457 
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030 
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601 
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703 

http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

U.S. Bishops Raise Concerns Over Health Care, the Protection of Life, Immigrants and Affordability in Letter to Senate

U.S. Bishops Raise Concerns Over Health Care, the Protection of Life, Immigrants and Affordability in Letter to Senate

WASHINGTON—Three U.S. bishops raised their concerns over human life and dignity, immigrants and affordability in a September 30 letter to the U.S. Senate. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester chair the Committees on Pro-Life Activities, Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Migration, respectively, for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“Our Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity,” the bishops wrote. “These moral principles and our everyday experience lead us to work for three central priorities for health care reform.”

The bishops outlined three criteria that need special attention as legislation moves forward: respect for life and dignity, affordability, and inclusion of immigrants.

“Health care reform legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality,” the bishops wrote. “So far the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws. These deficiencies must be corrected.”

On affordability, the bishops criticized the Senate Finance Committee bill for it “would impose financial burdens on low-income and moderate-income families and those families with significant and chronic illnesses.” They urged Congress to support measures that would help low-income families, including further limiting premium costs and other out of pocket expenses for all citizens and legal immigrants.

“The Catholic bishops renew our appeal to provide equity for legal immigrants in access to health care,” the letter said. “Immigrants pay the same taxes as citizens and their health needs cannot be ignored. Leaving them outside a reformed system is both unfair and unwise,” the bishops concluded.

The full text of the bishops’ letter can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf

Respect Life Sunday Statement

www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/09rigali-stmt.pdf.
In a statement to mark Respect Life Sunday, October 4, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia called attention to those who are most vulnerable in recent debates on health care reform – the unborn, the poor, the elderly and the immigrant – and called upon Catholics to “examine how well we, as a nation and individually, are living up to our obligation to protect the rights of those who, due to age, dependency, poverty or other circumstances, are at risk of their very lives.”

Cardinal Rigali chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Cardinal Rigali noted that the lives of the unborn are those most at risk in America and “despite the opposition of 67% of Americans to taxpayer-funded abortion, all current health care proposals being considered by Congress would allow or mandate abortion funding, either through premiums paid into government programs or out of federal revenues.”

Noting that the unborn are not alone in being under attack in current proposals, Cardinal Rigali called for health care that recognizes the humanity of the immigrant. “How can a just society deny basic health care to those living and working among us who need medical attention? It cannot and must not,” he said.

Cardinal Rigali also addressed a dangerous and false cultural attitude that some persons are not worth protecting because of their perceived “low quality of life.” He stated that “death is not a solution to life’s problems. Only those who are blind to the transcendent reality and meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.”

“The antidote to such myopia is to recover an appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of each unique human being,” he said.

Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. This year's theme is "Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile.” The full statement follows and may be found online at

Still Time to Contact Conrad on Health Care Reform Amendments

The Senate Finance Committee will start work again tommorrow (Tuesday, September 29.) There is still time to contact Senator Conrad and urge him to vote for the Enzi and Hatch amendments to the health care reform bill. Get the action alert here.

Action Alert: Fix Pro-Life Provisions of Senate Finance Bill -REVISED

On September 22, the Senate Finance Committee, which includes Senator Kent Conrad, began markup of its health care reform bill, America’s Healthy Future Act. The bill is written in a descriptive or conceptual form and was introduced by committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) as the chairman’s Mark.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) have submitted amendments to correct flaws in the chairman’s Mark on abortion and conscience rights. It is especially important that the following amendments be supported:

1. Hatch Amendment #C14: Abortion Funding Prohibition. The Mark authorizes federal tax credit subsidies for private health benefits packages that cover elective abortion. Everyone purchasing such a package would be required to pay a surcharge to help pay for others’ abortions. This is contrary to longstanding federal policy, including the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program, where benefits packages with elective abortion may not receive federal support. Hatch Amendment #C14 prohibits federal funds authorized or appropriated in the Mark from being used for abortion and the cost of plans that cover abortion, except to save the mother’s life, or in cases of rape or incest. Insurers wanting to offer broader abortion coverage may do so only in a supplemental policy funded solely by the private premiums of those who choose to purchase it. This policy has worked in North Dakota for decades. Urge Senator Conrad to support this amendment because it reflects the wishes of North Dakotans and the policy of our state.

2. Hatch Amendment #C13: Nondiscrimination on Abortion. The Mark lacks a provision in current law that prevents government bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who decline involvement in abortion (Weldon Amendment). Hatch Amendment #C13 states that a federal agency or program, or state or local government receiving federal funds under this Act, may not discriminate against individual or institutional health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortion. Identical language has already been approved as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s version of the health care reform bill, H.R. 3200.

3. Enzi Amendment #C15: Respect for Moral and Religious Convictions. The Mark does not apply longstanding federal policies on conscience rights in health care to this new program. Enzi Amendment #C15 ensures that governmental bodies receiving funds under this bill may not discriminate against health care providers who do not provide specific items or services to which they have a moral or religious objection. This amendment respects conscience and religious freedom beyond the abortion context.

ACTION: Contact Senator Kent Conrad through e-mail, phone calls, or FAX letters.

MESSAGE: “Support the Hatch and Enzi Amendments on abortion funding and conscience rights. Give us health care reform that respects the life and conscience of all!”

WHEN: The Senate Finance Committee began markup on September 22. Please act immediately! Thanks!

WHERE:

Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703

State Abortion Numbers

The North Dakota Department of Health has released data on abortions performed in the state in 2008. You can download the report here. We'll post more analyses of the data in coming days.

Abortion and Health Care - plus ça change, plus c'est pareil ?

Efforts to include abortion funding and mandates threaten to derail genuine reform. We faced this problem before. North Dakota Catholic Conference executive director, Christopher Dodson wrote the this column in January of 1993 for the Inland Catholic. It is reprinted here with permission from the Diocese of San Bernardino.

Catholic Health Association Reiterates Position

Rumors continue to spread that the Catholic Health Association has endorsed specific health care proposals. Today, CHA reiterated that it has not endorsed any proposal and that the current proposals are unacceptable because of their abortion funding and mandate provisions. Here is the statement:

Catholic Health Association Reaffirms Long-Standing Commitment to Reform Health Care But Waits to Endorse Any Specific Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 28, 2009) — The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) has long been committed to a goal of health coverage for all people in the United States. CHA has not, however, endorsed any of the bills currently under consideration.
"Our message has always been clear," said Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive office of the association. "Health care must respect and protect human dignity from conception to natural death. In that spirit, coverage for everyone is a moral imperative and a matter of social justice."
Nearly two years before the national reform conversation began, CHA put forward a set of principles to guide the effort. The "Vision For U.S. Health Care" document, developed collaboratively with members of the Catholic health ministry, begins with values from Catholic social teaching including human dignity, justice and the common good. "The values and principles set forth in the Vision document guide our advocacy for effective health reform," Sr. Carol noted.
"To date, CHA has not endorsed any health care reform bill, but our message to lawmakers is unchanged: Health reform should not result in an expansion of abortion, and it must maintain conscience protections for health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions or other morally objectionable procedures," Sr. Carol stressed.
CHA is working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to bring about health reform that respects the life and dignity of every person, from conception to natural death. This means care that respects the unborn, the patient with multiple sclerosis, the person living with cancer, the young mother, the addicted, the mentally ill, the frail elderly, the dying patient.
CHA did collaborate earlier this summer with other major hospital groups to reach an agreement with the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, and the White House on contributions to finance health care reform. The agreement, which holds hospitals to Medicare payment reductions and delivery system reforms that amount to approximately $155 billion over 10 years, protects hospital payments until there is significant new coverage of the uninsured. The agreement is also consistent with the principle in CHA's Vision document calling for shared responsibility for financing.
"The agreement did not include any commitments to endorse specific legislation but marked major progress in advancing reform and working together to finance health care in this country," Sr. Carol added.
"Catholic health care is privileged and proud to serve our patients, our communities and our country — and to be sure the most vulnerable are always represented and cared for," Sr. Carol said. "Now, as the reform conversation reaches a pivotal point, our message stays the same: it's time to create the health care system the American people deserve and can be proud of."

FAQs on the Bishops and Health Care Reform

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently launched a web site devoted solely to the subject of health care reform.  Here's a look at just one resource from that site.

"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation" - Bishop William F. Murphy

Questions and Answers About the U.S. Bishops' Position on Health Care Reform

From the USCCB Health Care Reform Web Site


The Catholic bishops support health care reform. What are the bishops’ key criteria for health care reform?


The bishops have been consistent advocates for comprehensive, life-affirming reform to the nation’s health care system. Health care reform needs to reflect basic moral principles. The bishops believe access to basic, quality health care is a universal human right not a privilege. In this light they offer four criteria to guide the process: a truly universal health policy that respects all human life and dignity, from conception to natural death; access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants; pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.

Why are the bishops so vocal about health care reform?

One out of three Americans under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. Of these, four out of five were from working families. Sixty four percent of the uninsured are employed full time, year round. This state of affairs is unacceptable. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right not a privilege. It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity.

Are the bishops trying to promote an anti-abortion agenda through health care reform?

No. The bishops will continue to fight against the evil of abortion by all means available. But they have not demanded that urgently needed health care reform become a vehicle for advancing the pro-life cause, and they likewise believe it should not be used to advance the cause of abortion. In this sense, the bishops have asked that health care reform be “abortion neutral,” this is, that existing laws and policies with regard to abortion and abortion funding be preserved, allowing health care reform to move forward and serve its legitimate goals.


Why are the bishops insistent that healthcare reform be “abortion neutral”?

Abortion advocacy groups are trying to use health care reform to advance their agenda, by having Congress or a federal official establish abortion as a “basic” or “essential” health benefit, guaranteeing “access” nationwide and requiring Americans to subsidize abortion with their tax dollars or insurance premiums. This would reverse a tradition of federal laws and policies that have barred federal funding and promotion of abortion in all major health programs for over three decades (e.g., the Hyde amendment, 1976), and have respected the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion or abortion referrals. This agenda would also endanger or render irrelevant numerous local and state laws regulating abortion. The bishops cannot, in good conscience, let such an important and pressing issue as health care reform be hijacked by the abortion agenda. No health care reform plan should compel anyone to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong and politically unwise.

Are the bishops promoting socialized medicine by advocating for universal access?


All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage in life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.

Health care is already expensive. Why advocate for legal immigrants to be covered too?

Legal immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the U.S. economy and social life in the same manner as U.S. citizens do. Therefore, there should be equity for legal immigrants in access to health care. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right, like education, and having access to it should not depend on where you were born. Achieving equality in this case, for instance, means repealing the five year ban currently in effect for legal immigrants to access Medicaid, and ensuring that all pregnant women in the United States, who will be giving birth to U.S. citizens, are eligible along with their unborn children for health care.

What kind of actions do the bishops recommend to make quality healthcare accessible for all and genuinely affordable?

Many lower income families simply lack the resources to meet their health care expenses. For these families, significant premiums and cost sharing charges can serve as barriers to obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor. Medicaid cost-sharing protections should be maintained and new coverage options should protect the lowest income enrollees from burdensome cost sharing. The bishops have urged Congress to limit premiums or exempt families earning less then 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level from monthly premiums; they also recommend limiting co-payments and other costs which could discourage needed care, and increasing eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). They have urged Congress to provide states with resources to expand coverage and ensure sufficient funding for safety net clinics, hospitals and other providers serving those who will continue to fall through the cracks even after the system is reformed.


Have more questions? Looking for resources? The USCCB Health Care Reform Web Site is full of information for Catholics and anyone concerned about health care reform.

Respect Life Program Packet for 2009-10 Now Available

WASHINGTONThe 2009-10 Respect Life Program is now available in preparation for Respect Life Sunday, October 4.  This year’s theme—“Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile”—comes from a homily of Pope Benedict XVI (January 7, 2007, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord).               The Respect Life flyer explores this theme and provides a fascinating timeline of fetal development along with photos showing the humanity of unborn children.             Topics addressed in this year’s Respect Life Program reflect the diversity of pro-life concerns:
  • the way ahead in building a culture of life (by Cardinal Justin Rigali)
  • the essence of human dignity
  • assisted suicide
  • facts about contraception
  • infertility 
  • same-sex marriage
Articles are available as printed pamphlets, on the Website of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities (www.usccb.org/prolife) and on the CD included in each packet.  In addition to the articles, poster, and flyer, the CD contains a liturgy guide, program models, memorable pro-life quotations and more, in both English and Spanish. This year’s liturgy guide offers  Intercessions for Life, suggested preaching reflections for Respect Life Sunday and January 22, a “Litany to Mary, Mother of Life,” a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a Holy Hour for Life. Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program brings Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and the wider public. The program combines education, prayer, service and advocacy.  Respect Life Sunday is observed in virtually all of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. -  - - Keywords: Respect Life Sunday, abortion, contraception, infertility, same-sex marriage, culture of life, Respect Life Program, fetal development, pro-life, Cardinal Justin Rigali # # # # #
NOTE: The Respect Life packets may be ordered from the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities by calling toll-free (866) 582-0943, or by faxing orders to (301) 779-8596.  Downloadable copies of Respect Life materials from 1996 onward are posted in English and Spanish on the Secretariat’s Website at www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp.

Abortion Provisions in House Bill "Unacceptable"

Pro-Life Chairman urges Representatives to amend H.R. 3200
Abortion as a mandated benefit is ‘radical change’ from current law
Says much-needed reform cannot become vehicle for promoting abortion

 
ABORTION PROVISIONS IN HOUSE’S HEALTH CARE BILL UNACCEPTABLE, SAYS CARDINAL IN LETTER TO HOUSE
 
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia urged preservation of “longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights,” and called current House health care legislation “seriously deficient” on the issue of mandated   coverage and funding of abortion. He cited his concerns in an August 11 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cardinal Rigali, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reaffirmed the bishops’ position that genuine health care reform that respects life and dignity is urgently needed. He also welcomed provisions in America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200) that do not preempt state laws regulating abortion or current federal conscience laws on abortion. But he criticized the bill for delegating to the Secretary of Health and Human Services “the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit in the ‘public health insurance plan’ the government will manage nationwide.” He called this a “radical change” since federal law excludes most abortions from federal employees’ health benefits, and no federal health program mandates coverage of elective abortions.

Cardinal Rigali also criticized the bill for bypassing the Hyde Amendment and other longstanding provisions that prevent federal funding of abortion and health benefits packages that include abortion. He called the provisions to separate funding for abortion created by the House Energy and Commerce Committee a “legal fiction,” one that would force low-income Americans, who may only be able to afford the public plan, to subsidize abortions for others and abortion coverage for themselves “even if they find abortion morally abhorrent.”

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding policies against federal funding and mandated coverage of abortion,” Cardinal Rigali said. He added that “no federal program mandates coverage for elective abortions, or subsidizes health plans that include such abortions. Most Americans do not want abortion in their health coverage, and most consider themselves ‘pro-life,’ with a stronger majority among low-income Americans.”

“By what right, then, and by what precedent, would Congress make abortion coverage into a nationwide norm, or force Americans to subsidize it as a condition for participating in a public health program?” he asked.

Cardinal Rigali reiterated the USCCB’s long-time support of genuine health care reform that respects human life and dignity from conception till natural death, provides access to quality care for all with special concern for the poor and immigrants, respects pluralism and conscience rights, and shares costs equitably. He urged members of the House to support amendments to correct the “unacceptable features” currently in H.R. 3200 and to oppose any rule for considering the bill that would block such amendments.

The full text of the letter can be found online at:
http://www.usccb.org/prolife/CardRigaliHealthCareReformLetter-08-11-09.pdf

Lines in the Sand

LIFE ISSUES FORUM                                                                   August 7, 2009
                                                                                               
For Immediate Release
Lines in the Sand
By Tom Grenchik  
As members of Congress head home for their August recess, we now have a better picture of where everyone stands on health care reform. While the U.S. bishops support genuine health care reform, there is a clear line in the sand between our bishops and some congressional leaders.
On July 17, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote to Congress saying: “The USCCB looks forward to working with you to reform health care successfully in a manner that offers accessible, affordable and quality health care that protects and respects the life and dignity of all people from conception until natural death.”  Then Bishop Murphy drew a line, declaring that “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”
Some seemed surprised at this, since abortion was not specifically mentioned in draft health care bills until recently. Those with longer memories may recall that the Medicaid statute doesn’t mention abortion either, but it was funding 300,000 abortions a year in the 1970s until we put a stop to that with the Hyde amendment.  In any case, numerous amendments to keep abortion out of health care reform have been defeated in committee, and it is now apparent that some leaders have every intention of threatening the health care reform process by forcing Americans to accept abortion mandates and/or fund unlimited abortion in their health coverage.  
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, followed up with a July 29 letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, declaring that “much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding.”  The Cardinal urged Committee members to preserve longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights. 
But Bishop Murphy and Cardinal Rigali are not the only ones drawing lines. Millions upon millions of American Catholics are with them. Earlier this year, dioceses across the country broke all previous records by ordering more than 34 million postcards so their parishioners could urge Congress to “retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”  Now that members of Congress are heading home, they need to be reminded of this message at the local level, in the context of health care reform.
As Congress takes its vacation, various proposals have been left behind.  These proposals need to be examined to see how well they provide accessible, affordable and quality health care and how they impact immigrants and the poor. But one thing is certain. The bills approved so far by House and Senate committees include mandated abortion coverage and abortion funding, and that is a line we can never cross. 
Now is the time to take action. Contact congressional members through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters. E-mails can be sent by visiting
www.usccb.org/prolife and clicking on the Health Care Reform Action Alert. You can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, attend town hall meetings in your local district, or call the local offices of your representative and senators. Full contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
The message is simple: “Support genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all. A fair and just health care reform bill must exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”
 
Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.
 

Statement of Catholic Charities USA on Health Care Reform

"In response to inaccurate online media reports, Catholic Charities USA states unequivocally that it does not support any plan to reform health care and/or any proposed legislative provision that allows or promotes the funding of abortions or that compels any health care provider or institution to provide such a service. In fact, Catholic Charities USA will continue to work with the Catholic Health Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to ensure that any health care reform legislation will not include such provisions. All media accounts or public comments that misrepresent this position are inaccurate.

'These attacks appear to be politically motivated by opponents of health care reform. They are distortions of the truth and disingenuous. Catholic Charities USA will continue to work to reform health care in a way that is consistent with the teachings of our faith.' said Fr. Larry Snyder, President."

Summary of Current Life-Related Amendments to House Health Care Bill

This just in from USCCB Pro-Life Department:

Here’s an analysis of amendments on abortion in health care reform, as approved in House Energy and Commerce Committee last night.

While meeting last night to mark up the health care reform legislation (HR 3200), the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a confusing set of amendments on abortion -- some of them helpful, others showing that more work needs to be done.

The Capps amendment, presented as a compromise, has the following features. Beginning with the most unacceptable features and working our way down to those that are more positive:

- The "public plan" (government-run health plan offered in every region of the country) will include whatever abortions are eligible for federal funding in a given year, and will include ALL abortions if the HHS Secretary approves that.

- Federal subsidies will help pay the premiums for health benefits that include unlimited abortions. But if abortions in the plan do go beyond what the Hyde amendment allows funding for in that year, the premium amount for the additional abortions must be paid for by the covered party's private funds. This is a bookkeeping exercise, a complicated actuarial exercise that artificially separates the abortion premium on paper from the rest of the premium. The plans including elective abortions will cost (at a minimum) one dollar more a month. This is a major departure from the Hyde amendment and similar provisions in current law, which simply prohibit federal funding of elective abortions and of any benefits package that includes them.

- Each regional poll or "Exchange" must have at least one plan that includes abortions, and at least one that does not include them beyond the Hyde exceptions (and the latter may, if it wishes, exclude all abortions).

- Neither the Act nor the HHS Secretary may mandate that private plans either include or exclude abortions.

- Nothing in the Act alters rights and responsibilities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (religious accommodation for employees) or current state or federal laws requiring provision of emergency services. (The federal law on this subject, known as EMTALA [Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act], does not mention abortion and has never been used to require anyone to perform an abortion.)

- No health plan in an “Exchange” may discriminate against a health care provider or facility based on his, her or its willingness OR unwillingness to provide abortions.

- Nothing in the Act may be construed to preempt state laws on abortion or abortion coverage, or federal laws on conscience protection or discrimination based on abortion.

Also approved was a very positive Pitts/Stupak amendment that writes the Weldon amendment on conscience protection into the Act: A federal agency, or state or local government receiving federal funds under the Act, may not discriminate against an individual or institutional health care provider because the provider does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. (The amendment originally included a provision on conscience rights in contexts other than abortion, but this drew strong opposition and had to be dropped.)

There was a second Stupak/Pitts amendment to apply the traditional Hyde amendment language to federal funding under this Act, so federal funds would not subsidize any part of a health plan that includes elective abortions. This would mean purchase of such abortion coverage would be truly private and voluntary, done by purchasing an optional rider with one's own funds. This amendment failed late Friday afternoon.

In addition to the "paper separation" provision of the Capps Amendment, weakening application of the Hyde amendment, the major objectionable abortion-related provision in the bill now is the requirement that the "public plan" (the government-run plan that may become a norm for health plans across the country) will include abortions, contrary to the practice in every other federal government-run health program in the nation. However, we have made good progress in terms of retaining current abortion laws, preserving conscience rights (at least on abortion), and ensuring that some private plans excluding abortion will be available. We hope to improve the legislation further on the House floor and to pursue better solutions to some of these problems in the Senate.

In this situation I would simply like to acknowledge the special and courageous role played by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Democratic co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus. He tried to negotiate a solution with committee chair Henry Waxman, and when that broke down over the issues of public funding and mandates for abortion he stood up to his own party leadership by insisting that Congress should do a better job of advancing health care reform that respects human life. He will continue to work to improve this legislation and will need our help.

CARDINAL RIGALI URGES HOUSE COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT PRO-LIFE AMENDMENTS TO HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL

Health care: a basic right for all, from conception to natural death
Reform must not be vehicle for ‘abortion rights’ agenda
Congress: Follow President Obama’s pledge to preserve conscience rights

 
CARDINAL RIGALI URGES HOUSE COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT PRO-LIFE AMENDMENTS TO HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL
 
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote on July 29 to the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging them to amend “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” (H.R. 3200) to retain longstanding government policies on abortion and conscience rights.
Cardinal Rigali reiterated criteria for “genuine health care reform” set forth by Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy, in his letter to Congress on July 17.  He described health care as “a basic right belonging to all human beings, from conception to natural death” and said that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that needed health reform is not undermined by abandoning longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates and in favor of conscience protection.”
           
The Cardinal enumerated several problems with the bill as introduced: It would be used to mandate abortion coverage in private health plans, expand abortion funding, override state laws that limit or regulate abortion, and endanger existing laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers.

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding,” he wrote. “In this sense we urge you to make this legislation ‘abortion neutral’ by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.”

“Several federal laws have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers,” Cardinal Rigali added. “President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them. Congress should make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights.”

The Cardinal closed by urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support amendments by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) to address these problems in H.R. 3200. The full text of his letter is available at:
www.usccb.org/prolife/CardRigali-AbortionNeutralReform-7-29-09.pdf.

 
For more information on the USCCB position on Health Care Reform, visit
www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/healthcare and www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/health1.shtml

Let the Taxpayers Beware!

Let the Taxpayers Beware!
By Susan E. Wills

It should be called the Planned Parenthood Economic Stimulus Package of 2009.

Instead, co-sponsors Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have given their “new” (though largely recycled) bill the promising title “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act.” Sponsors describe the bill as a “common ground” approach to reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions, one that should appeal to opposing sides in the abortion debate.

Sure, the bill is dressed up with some funding for after-school programs, and some (very poorly crafted) efforts to provide support for pregnant students. But make no mistake. The bill is “about access to birth control,” according to Congressman Ryan (MSNBC’s “Hardball,” May 19, 2009). In the same interview, Ryan explained: “We have to have birth control and contraception offered to these poor women who don’t have access to contraception, period, dot. There’s no other way we’re going to be able to reduce [abortions].” About what you’d expect in a bill whose co-sponsors enjoy a 100% pro-choice rating from NARAL.

Accordingly, their bill calls for grants for comprehensive sexuality education (abstinence-only educators need not apply!). It substantially increases funding for the federal Title X Family Planning Program. It denies state choice, making family planning services a mandatory Medicaid entitlement in all states, and greatly expands family planning eligibility under Medicaid to all women who are eligible under state law for prenatal, labor, and delivery care.

Some people might find this approach sensible. But they ignore at least two things. First, since at least 1980, taxpayers have been funding “family planning services” to the tune of over $1 billion per year. In 2006 such public expenditures totaled $1.85 billion. So today, virtually all teenagers who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant are already using contraception. Only 7% are not using it, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Second, contraceptives don’t work very well in real life. In the first 12 months of contraceptive use, 16.4% of teens (1 in 6) will become pregnant. Among low-income cohabiting teens, the failure (pregnancy) rate over 12 months is 48.4% for birth control pills and 71.7% for condoms.

Numerous studies in the United States and Europe have found that greater access to contraception fails to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions. A recent $10 million intervention in England giving at-risk teens comprehensive sex education and contraception is a perfect example. Teens in the program had a pregnancy rate 2.5 times higher than a similar group of at-risk teens (16 vs. 6 percent).

Why does increased access to contraception fail at the population level? Thinking they are protected from pregnancy and disease, more young people become sexually active and have more partners, offsetting any reduction in pregnancy from individual contraceptive use. And the increased level of sexual activity causes STD rates to soar. In the U.S., 1 in 4 teen girls has at least one STD; many of these are incurable and some are fatal.

The sharpest decline in unintended pregnancies and abortions since 1990 has occurred among those under 18, due not to comprehensive sex ed or contraception, but chiefly to the growing number of young people choosing to remain abstinent. Visit the Secretariat’s website for contraception facts and citations at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/contraception/index.shtml, and let your member of Congress know that the Ryan/DeLauro bill cannot fulfill the promises in its title. The real abortion-reduction bill in Congress now is the Pregnant Women Support Act (S.1032, H.R.2035), which needs our support.

Susan Wills is Assistant Director for Education and Outreach in the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, see www.usccb.org/prolife.

Abortion Center Should Comply With Law

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo is challenging a portion of North Dakota's new ultrasound law. HB 1371, which legislators overwhelmingly supported (a combined vote of 121 to 10), requires that, in addition to the opportunity to view an ultrasound, a woman have the opportunity to hear her unborn child's heartbeat. The center is challenging that requirement, contending that the language is vague.

Legislative acts should be interpreted in a manner that makes them enforceable and consistent with the legislative intent. The intent here is clear. The legislature wanted women to have the opportunity to see
and hear their unborn child.

It is disappointing, to say the least, that the abortion facility chose to challenge, rather than comply, with the law. It is also disconcerting that facility waited until the week before the law goes into effect to make these claims. No one from the abortion center testified against or raised concerns about the bill at the legislative hearings, and several months have passed since the Governor signed the bill into law.

Women deserve to have all information about an abortion, including the sights and sounds showing the unborn child's humanity, before making a final decision. If the Red River Women's Clinic truly believed in informed choice, it should have no problem complying with the law.

New stories about the suit can be found
here, here, and here.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference's testimony on HB 1371 is
here and here.

Action Alert from NCHLA on Abortion and Health Care

“A fair and just health care reform bill must exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”

This
action alert should be read and used with the information posted here.

Three Important Documents on Health Care Reform and Abortion

Bishop William F. Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB Committee Domestic Justice and Human Development has written a strongly worded letter to members of Congress calling for health care reform that protects human life and dignity.

The letter states that the "bishops want to support health care reform" but "must insist that health care reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of life." It goes on to state that any plan that includes abortion would be morally wrong, politically unwise, and would not pass.

In addition, the letter states the bishops believe that health care "should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable," leaving no one out. Anticipating that some individuals, such as immigrants, may not be included in health care reform, the letter urges maintaining a safety-net system for those providers who serve those who fall through the cracks.

Read the full text of the letter.

USCCB also released today a fact sheet on current policies on abortion coverage in federal law. The facts demonstrate that the bishops are not asking Congress to "roll-back" existing policies, but to maintain what has been the accepted
status quo.

Get the fact sheet.

Finally, USCCB has provided an action alert on health care reform suitable for parish use.

Get the Action Alert.

Labor-HHS Appropriations Affirm Conscience Protections

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee has approved its FY2010 appropriations legislation with conscience clause protections for health care providers intact. The protections, known as the Hyde-Weldon amendments, have been included in previous Labor-HHS appropriations and are strongly supported by the Catholic health ministry. Following the subcommittee's approval, the amendments are likely to remain in the legislation as it goes to consideration by the full House Appropriations Committee. Source: Catholic Health Association

Pomeroy Votes to Fund D.C. Abortions

North Dakota's Representative Earl Pomeroy voted to fund abortion on demand for the District of Columbia. The vote was 219 in favor of funding to 208 against.

Please contact Representative Pomeroy and politely express your disappointment with his vote - which is a departure from his usual votes on abortion funding. Other important abortion funding bills are coming up. It is important that he know that North Dakotans do not their tax money used for abortion.

Representative Earl Pomeroy
Washington: United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760
rep.earl.pomeroy@mail.house.gov

Restore Ban on Public Funding of Abortion in D.C.!

Urgent Action Alert!

Every year since 1989 (except for Fiscal Years 1994 to 1996), Congress has approved the Dornan Amendment to prevent the use of all congressionally appropriated funds for elective abortion in the District of Columbia. Under the U.S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Congress has responsibility to appropriate all funds for the District.

The funding bill that covers D.C. is the Fiscal Year 2010 Financial Services Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3170). The House Appropriations Committee has reported out this bill with language that reverses the Dornan Amendment. The restriction on abortion funding would no longer apply to all funds appropriated under the act, but only to the “federal” funds, leaving the “local” funds available to pay for elective abortion.

H.R. 3170 could be considered on the House floor as early as Wednesday, July 15.

In a letter to the House, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, argued that this narrowing of the ban to cover only “federal” funds is a bookkeeping exercise: “The impact in terms of human lives will be exactly the same as if the amendment were reversed in its entirety.” He noted that while some may try to defend this action as an aspect of “home rule” for the District, in fact some bans on the use of local District funds for other purposes remain intact in the bill. In reality, this action is about public funding for abortion, and presumably is “the first step in a broader effort to restore such funding throughout the federal government.” Cardinal Rigali concluded his letter by urging Representatives to oppose any effort to enact the bill without restoring current law on D.C. abortion funding.

Time is short! Please contact your Representative immediately!

ACTION: Please contact Representative Earl Pomeroy by e-mail or phone.

Representative Earl Pomeroy
Washington: United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760
rep.earl.pomeroy@mail.house.gov


MESSAGE: “Please vote against the Financial Services Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3170, if it does not restore the ban on all public funding of elective abortions in the District of Columbia. Funding abortion will not reduce but greatly increase the number of abortions.”

WHEN: The House could vote on H.R. 3170 as early as Wednesday, July 15. Please act immediately! Thanks!

Find out more and
download the Action Alert!

Cardinal Protests Move to Fund D.C. Abortions

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to members of the House Appropriations Committee today urging them not to fund abortions in the District of Columbia. Last week the House subcommittee considering the Financial Services appropriations bill for 2010 voted to permit direct public funding of abortion in the nation’s capital.

Cardinal Rigali said that the subcommittee’s action “effectively nullifies the Dornan amendment,” which for a total of 18 years has prevented public funding of elective abortions in the District. He said this move, “presumably the first step in a broader effort to restore such funding throughout the federal government,” is misguided for three reasons.

“First, public funding of abortion is rejected by the American people, as numerous surveys of public opinion have shown,” Cardinal Rigali said. He also noted that Catholics recently sent “tens of millions of postcards to their elected representatives in Congress, opposing…any weakening or reversal of current appropriations riders on abortion.”

“Second, no lawmaker or Administration can support such a policy change and still claim to support ‘reducing abortions.’ The evidence is overwhelming, and universally recognized by groups on all sides of the abortion issue, that the availability of public funds for abortion greatly
increases abortions,” the bishops’ Pro-Life Committee Chair argued.

“Third, this action takes place as Congress is working to win broad support for a much-needed major reform of our health care system,” Cardinal Rigali noted. “This is the worst of all possible times to be injecting the divisive issue of public abortion funding into the debate on government health policy.”

Cardinal Rigali concluded by urging the full House Appropriations Committee to reverse the subcommittee’s action and retain the funding ban in current law. The full text of his letter is available at:
www.usccb.org/prolife/Rigali-DornanAmendment-2009.pdf.

Most Americans Pro-Life

A new Gallup poll shows that for the first time since 1995 most Americans consider themselves "pro-life." The results should not surprise those who have paid attention to the trend in recent years toward a culture of life. See the Gallup poll results here.

Governor Signs Abortion, Human Trafficking Bills

On April 8, Governor Hoeven signed into law:

  • SB 2265, which requires a notice to be posted at abortion facilities informing women of the right not to be coerced into an abortion; and
  • SB 2209, which prohibits human trafficking.

New Poll Shows Strong Support for Conscience Rights

WASHINGTON—A nationwide poll conducted on March 23-25 found that 87 percent of adults surveyed believe it is important to “make sure that healthcare professionals in America are not forced to participate in procedures and practices to which they have moral objections.” Conducted by the polling company™, inc./WomanTrend on behalf of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), the survey also showed majority support even among self-identified “pro-choice” respondents for the two-month-old conscience protection regulation now at risk of being rescinded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman on abortion at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed the data and urged HHS to keep the current regulation in place.
            “The Obama administration has moved to rescind a vital HHS regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care providers,” McQuade said, “But according to this new survey, the majority of Americans—whether ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’, male or female, Republican or Democratic—support the regulation and oppose its rescission.”
            The survey summary and methodology are available at
www.freedom2care.org. The Freedom2Care Coalition is an ad hoc coalition organized by the CMA to defend the conscience rights of health care professionals and students.
            The USCCB and Freedom2Care are helping Americans voice their support for the regulations by midnight April 9 when the public comment period draws to a close. To date, a total of over 73,000 e-mail messages have been sent to HHS through Freedom2Care.org and the
USCCB’s e-mail campaign facilitated by its partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment.
“Only one day remains to defend the existing regulation,” McQuade explained. “I urge all concerned citizens to e-mail HHS and pray for the protection of conscience rights.”
            The USCCB has advocated for the strongest possible protection for conscience rights since the current regulation was first considered in the summer of 2008. For additional resources, including links to the e-mail campaign and bi-lingual YouTube videos of medical professionals and USCCB president Cardinal Francis George, visit: www.usccb.org/conscienceprotection.

Senate Passes Pro-Life Legislation

The North Dakota Senate passed two bills and a resolution concerning abortion.

HB 1445, which requires that before a woman consents to an abortion she is informed that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being, passed 34 to 11.

HB 1371, which requires that a woman be given an opportunity to view an ultrasound before consenting to an abortion, passed 44 to 1.


HCR 3015, which expresses the Legislative Assembly's opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act, passed by a voice vote.


Action Alert! Women Deserve the Truth II

Now is the time to call or email your state senator and express your support for HB 1445, which requires that before a woman consents to an abortion she is informed that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave HB 1445 a Do Pass recommendation. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.

Message: Please vote Yes on House Bill 1445, women deserve to know the truth about abortion.
Who: North Dakota Senate
When: Now. The Senate could vote on HB 1445 as early as Monday, April 6. Today, Friday, April 3
Where: 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local) or e-mail at the address listed at the Legislative Council website.
More information on contacting your legislators.

Update on Various Bills

The state legislature will take up several important bills when it returns from the flood-fighting recess. Now is the time to contact your legislators on these bills.

Senate Bill 2278 - Adds Sexual Orientation to Human Rights Act


The bill goes to the House floor for a final vote next week.

While the Catholic Church condemns arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against a person because of sexual attraction, the North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes this bill for several reasons.

  • The bill contains no real protections for religious entities
  • The bill contains no protections for faith-driven organizations not owned by churches
  • It does not expressly exempt youth and scouting organizations
  • The bill’s definition of “sexual orientation” encompasses acts, including sexual acts outside of marriage
  • Existing law already protects workers engaged in lawful activities outside of work

Contact your Representatives and urge them to vote No” on SB 2278. Let them know you do not condone unjust discrimination because of sexual attraction, but that SB 2278 is a bad bill.


Senate Bill 2283 - Health Care for Pregnant Women and Unborn Children


The bill is on the House calendar and could be voted on as early as Monday.

Contact your Representatives and urge them to vote “Yes” on SB 2283.

Go here to find out more.


House Bill 1371 - Ultrasound Bill


Received a favorable recommendation from the Human Services Committee, but the full Senate still has to vote on it.

Contact your Senator and urge him or her to vote “Yes” on HB 1371.


House Concurrent Resolution 3015 - Anti-FOCA Resolution


Received a favorable recommendation from the Human Services Committee, but the full Senate still have to vote on it.

Contact your Senator and urge him or her to vote “Yes” on HCR 3105.


House Bill 1445 - Woman told before abortion that the act will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.


The bill is still in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will probably act on it early next week.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference does not send out action alerts until a committee completes action on the bill. You may contact the Judiciary Committee and urge them to support HB 1445 without amendments.


House Bill 1572 - “Personhood Bill”


The bill is still in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will probably act on it early next week.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference does not send out action alerts until a committee completes action on the bill. You may contact the Judiciary Committee and urge them to support the Catholic Conference’s proposed amendments to HB 1572.

Go here for more information.


House Bill 1478 - Children’s Health Insurance


The Human Services Committee restored the Governor’s recommendation to expand coverage to 200% of the federal poverty level. The bill is now being reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference does not send out action alerts until a committee completes action on the bill. You may contact the Appropriations Committee and urge them to support funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program to at least 200% of the federal poverty level.

Contact Information:

1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local) or e-mail at the address listed at the Legislative Council website.

More information on contacting your legislators.

Senate Judiciary (for HB 1445 and HB 1572)
Dave Nething - Chairman
Curtis Olafson - Vice Chairman
Tom Fiebiger
Stanley W. Lyson
Carolyn Nelson
Mac Schneider

Senate Appropriations Committee (For HB 1478)
Ray Holmberg - Chairman
Bill Bowman - Vice Chairman
Tony S. Grindberg - Vice Chairman
Randel Christmann
Tom Fischer
Ralph L. Kilzer
Aaron Krauter
Karen K. Krebsbach
Elroy N. Lindaas
Tim Mathern
Larry J. Robinson
Tom Seymour
Rich Wardner
John Warner

House Passes Abortion Non-Coercion Sign


The North Dakota House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 2265 - the abortion non-coercion sign bill by a vote of 83 to 6. The bill was not amended by the House, so it now goes to the Governor for his signature!
















Three Pro-Life Victories - Call Your Legislators

Legislative committees gave favorable recommendations on three pro-life bills today.

HB 1371 - the ultrasound bill - received an unanimous “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Human Services Committee and now goes to the Senate floor.

HCR 3015 - the anti-FOCA resolution - received a 5-1 “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Human Services Committee and now goes to the Senate floor.

SB 2265 - abortion non-coercion sign posting requirement - received an unanimous “do pass” recommendation from the House Human Services Committee and now goes to the House floor.

Call your Senator and ask him or her to vote “yes” on House Bill 1371 and House Concurrent Resolution 3015.

Call your Representatives and ask them to vote “yes” on Senate Bill 2265.


Where: 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local) or e-mail at the address listed at the Legislative Council website.

More information on contacting your legislators.

Catholic Bishops Voice Support for Pro-Life Bills

Catholic Bishops Voice Support for Pro-Life Bills

Bismarck, North Dakota - Speaking at the state capitol in Bismarck, North Dakota’s Roman Catholic bishops affirmed their support for state legislation to protect unborn human life, including a modified version of the “personhood” bill.

In a joint statement released at the event, Bishop Paul A. Zipfel of Bismarck and Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo reaffirmed their “steadfast commitment to defending human life from conception to natural death” and urged passage for legislation that would bring the state closer to ending abortion and to establishing legal protection for all unborn children.  “The people of North Dakota, through their public officials, have steadily and strategically advanced the cause for life, making the state one of the most pro-life in the nation,” the bishops said.

The bishops stated that several bills introduced this legislative session provide “another opportunity to move forward.”  The bishops expressed support for House Bill 1445 which requires that a woman considering an abortion be told that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being, HB 1371, which gives a woman an opportunity to view an ultrasound of her unborn child, SB 2265, which helps ensure that women are not coerced into abortions, and SB 2391, which improves the successful alternatives-to-abortion program.  The bishops also voiced their support for House Concurrent Resolution 3015, which expresses the legislature’s opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act.

Discussing House Bill 1572, which some have called the “personhood” bill, the bishops proposed a set of amendments to remedy perceived problems with the bill’s current language.  After consulting with various experts, including some with extensive and lengthy experience in abortion law, the bishops concluded that the bill’s existing language raises many unanswered questions, could lead to unintended consequences and injustices, and would not achieve the goal of providing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and its progeny.

Expressing support for the bill’s concept, the bishops stated that they could support HB 1572 if it was amended to address the concerns. 

Download the statement here.

Download a summary of pro-life bills and the bishops’ positions here.

Download the proposed amendments here.

Download a description of what the amendments would do here.

Read a letter by Catholic University of America Law Professor Robert Destro on the amendments

Non-Coercion Sign Bill Heads to Floor

Senate Bill 2265, which requires abortion facilities to post a sign warning women that no one can force them to have an abortion, received a Do Pass recommendation from the Senate Human Services Committee. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Call your state senator and urge him or her to support SB 2265 to help prevent coercive abortions.

Where: 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local) or e-mail at the address listed at the Legislative Council website.

More information on contacting your legislators.

Updates - HB 1445 and HCR 3015 Pass House

The state House of Representatives today passed House Bill 1445 and House Concurrent Resolution 3015.

House Bill 1445 requires that that before a woman consents to an abortion she is informed that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being. It passed 61 to 31.

House Concurrent Resolution 3015 expresses the Legislative Assembly’s opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act. It passed 65 to 24.

Action Alert! Women Deserve the Truth

Now is the time to call or email your state representatives and express your support for HB 1445, which requires that before a woman consents to an abortion she is informed that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.

The House Human Services Committee gave HB 1445 a Do Pass recommendation on an 8-5 vote. The bill now goes to the House floor for a final vote.

Message: Please vote Yes on House Bill 1445.

Who: North Dakota Representatives

Where: 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local) or
e-mail at the address listed at the Legislative Council website.

More information on contacting your legislators.

When: Now. The House could vote on HB 1445 as early as Wednesday, February 10.

Read the conference’s testimony on HB 1445.

Women Deserve the Truth

The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified today in favor of HB 1445, which requires that before a woman consents to an abortion she is informed that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being. Read the testimony here.

Cardinal Rigali to Congress: Keep Existing Pro-Life Laws

WASHINGTON— Writing as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Justin Rigali sent a letter on February 5 to all members of Congress, urging them to maintain pro-life provisions in the appropriations bills they must soon approve to keep government programs funded past March 5. “I urge you not to use this legislation to weaken or rescind longstanding provisions that protect U.S. taxpayers from being forced to fund and promote the destruction of innocent human life,” Cardinal Rigali said.

“In making this plea,” he said, “I am joined by millions of Catholics and others who, in the weeks to come, will be sending postcards to their elected representatives with this message: ‘Please oppose FOCA [the ‘Freedom of Choice Act’] or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.’ While an extreme proposal like FOCA would overturn hundreds of pro-life laws at once, we are equally concerned that such laws may be overturned one at a time during Congress’s appropriations process.”

The prelate’s letter highlighted several pro-life provisions, including: the Hyde amendment and similar measures protecting American taxpayers from being forced to subsidize abortions; the Dickey/Wicker amendment preventing federal funding for research in which human embryos are created, harmed and destroyed; and the Kemp-Kasten amendment preventing U.S. funding of organizations that support or help manage programs of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Cardinal Rigali also called on Congress to maintain the Hyde/Weldon conscience protection amendment, a key measure preventing discrimination against health care providers who do not perform or refer for abortions. “Clearly ‘choice’ is an empty slogan if physicians, nurses and hospitals must ‘choose’ to provide abortions or be forced out of the health care field,” he said.

“Like Congress’s decision about requiring taxpayers to fund abortion, the decision whether to maintain current conscience protections could play a major role in determining whether Americans of different backgrounds, viewpoints and religions will be able to work together toward a consensus on much-needed health care reform,” Cardinal Rigali advised.

ND House Passes Ultrasound Bill

The North Dakota House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to require abortion facilities to offer a woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound of her unborn child before consenting to an abortion. The bill, HB 1371, passed with 77 yeas, 9 nays, and 8 absent and not voting. Go here to find out how your representative voted. (Search for 1371 or scroll down about half way.)

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Ultrasound Bill Gets Committee's Approval

House Bill 1371, to require giving women the opportunity to view an ultrasound before having an abortion received an unanimous “do pass” recommendation from the House Human Services Committee. The bill goes to the House floor and is on today’s (January 28) calendar.

If you have time today, contact your House Representatives and ask them to vote “yes” on HB 1371.

North Dakota One of Top Pro-Life States

North Dakota is among the top ten states when it comes to pro-life laws.

On Thursday, January 22, Americans United for Life released its sixth annual ranking of the most and least pro-life states. While AUL's criteria covers states' treatment of all life issues, final rankings depend largely on each state's enactment of prudent and well-supported laws. Such laws fence in the abortion license granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. Among the laws AUL looks for are informed consent, parental involvement for minors, medically-supported regulation of abortion providers, and limitations on the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion.

According to the ranking:

‘North Dakota has taken the lead in two important and emerging areas: public funding for abortion alternatives and meaningful regulation of biotechnologies. North Dakota has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds to organizations promoting alternatives to abortion. North Dakota is also one of only a handful of states that bans human cloning and destructive embryo research.’

Read more from AUL’s website.

President's Reversal of Pro-Life Policy "Very Disappointing"

WASHINGTON—The decision by President Barack Obama to reverse the Mexico City Policy is “very disappointing,” said Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

He made the statement January 23, after President Obama issued the executive order restoring U.S. funding to organizations that perform and promote abortion in developing nations. Cardinal Rigali’s statement follows.

“It is very disappointing that President Obama has reversed the Mexico City Policy, which prevents U.S. funding of organizations that perform and promote abortion as a family planning method in developing nations. An Administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions.

“Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to President-elect Obama last week urging him to retain this policy. As Cardinal George said in his letter:

“‘The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.’”

FOCA Would Wipe-Out 18 State Laws

The North Dakota Catholic Conference has identified at least 18 state laws that the “Freedom of Choice Act” would invalidate. They include laws that protect women’s health, respect the rights of parents, protect the conscience of health care providers, place common-sense limits on abortion, and ensure that taxpayers are not forced to fund actions they find morally objectionable.

Read the statement on how FOCA would impact North Dakota laws.

Bismarck to Launch Fight FOCA Campaign with Event

The Diocese of Bismarck will launch its Fight FOCA Campaign on Monday, January 19 with a press conference and “newspaper stuffing” event at Ascension Parish. The stuffing event starts at 6:30.

The
Bismarck Tribune has this story on the event.

Ultrasound Bill Introduced - Endorsed by Fargo Forum

Representative Betty Grande has introduced a bill that would require abortion facilities to give women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of their unborn child before receiving an abortion. The bill is HB 1371 and will be heard in the House Human Services Committee on January 20 at 10:30 a.m.

Come and show your support for this bill!

In Friday’s
Forum, the editorial board endorsed the proposal as a consumer information bill and criticized its opponents for not truly being in favor of “choice.”

Fight FOCA Campaign

The Bismarck Diocese will be stuffing the Dakota Catholic Action newspapers at a special event on January 19.  At least 250 volunteers are needed to insert 24,000 postcards.  This will happen on Monday, January 19, 2009 from 6:30-8:30 pm at Church of Ascension, 1905 S 3rd St, Bismarck. Bishop Paul A. Zipfel will be in attendance and coffee will be served.   For more information, contact Joyce McDowell at 701-222-3035 or toll-free at 1-877-405-7435.

The Fargo Diocese is distributing postcards to the parishes.  Every parish should receive their order by January 16.  For more information, contact Rachelle Sauvageau at 701-356-7910.

The Pro-Life Majority

From USCCB:

SURVEY SHOWS MOST U.S. ADULTS SUPPORT LAWS LIMITING OR REGULATING ABORTION

WASHINGTON—A nationwide survey commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has found that four out of five U.S. adults (82 percent) think abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11 percent) or would limit its legality. Thirty-eight (38) percent would limit abortion to the narrow circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33 percent would limit abortion to either the first three or first six months. Only 9 percent said abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy.

“These findings are remarkable,” said Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “Fewer than one in ten Americans support legal abortion for any reason at any time during pregnancy. But that is precisely the current state of abortion law under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made abortion legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason.”

The survey of 2,341 adults, conducted online December 10-12, also found that laws limiting or regulating abortion enjoyed support as high as 95 percent among those expressing support or opposition to the six kinds of laws examined in the survey:
    “Support for these measures cuts across ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ positions. Over a third (35 percent) of the small minority who said abortion should be legal for any reason throughout pregnancy nevertheless supported three or more of the six laws presented,” McQuade said.

    “This research indicates how out of touch pro-abortion groups are with mainstream America,” McQuade said.

    “These same widely-supported, constitutionally valid measures, some of which have been proven effective in reducing abortion rates, are now seriously threatened by abortion advocates and their allies in Congress,” McQuade said. “On behalf of children and their mothers, we will have to fight to keep such laws in place.”

    “Pro-abortion groups have already sent a comprehensive 55-page blueprint for their agenda to the incoming Administration,” McQuade said. “But their agenda—including publicly-funded abortions, passage of the so-called ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ (FOCA), and attacking the Hyde amendment and other longstanding pro-life provisions in appropriations bills—won’t sell in the general public.”

    “Most people agree we should work to reduce abortions, but you can’t reduce abortions by promoting abortion and eliminating all the policies that have proven effective in reducing abortions,” McQuade said. “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will oppose all such threats to human life in whatever manner they are proposed.”


    Survey Methodology
    Harris Interactive® fielded the study on behalf of USCCB from December 10-12, 2008 via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,341 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

    Dignitas Personae

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released an important document on the dignity of human life at its earliest stages. The document addresses a number of issues, focusing on how the dignity of the human person is violated, challenged, and threatened by new scientific and political practices.

    Find the the document and related items here.

    Cardinal George to Obama: Abortion Destroys the Common Good

    STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

    “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

    The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

    The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself. 

    In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

    Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

    FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil. 

    On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

    The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

    This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

    Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.

    Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Bans Abortion

    North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa adopted a resolution prohibiting abortion on the reservation and property owned by the tribe. According to newspaper accounts here, here, and here a critic of the resolution claims that it violates procedural rules, Roe v. Wade, impacts the Violence Against Women Act, and imposes religious beliefs.

    Putting aside for now the procedural questions and
    Roe, it is difficult to see how it would violate the Violence Against Women Act since that act does not mandate abortion procedures. The religious imposition claim also makes no sense. The mere fact that some or even a majority of citizens rely on a religious belief in support of a particular policy does not make the policy invalid.

    Urgent: FOCA Opposition Resources

    As parishes across the country begin to observe Respect Life Month, we encourage you to make use of the new resources to highlight the significant dangers of the Freedom of Choice Act and to ask parishioners to urge Congress to oppose FOCA. The “bell tower” bulletin insert can be placed in parish bulletins or handed out. It can be printed locally in black and white or color.

    Also just released is a
    Fact Sheet on the dangers of FOCA.

    Cardinal Rigali Urges Respect for Human Life, Opposition to ‘Freedom of Choice’ Act

    Cardinal Rigali Urges Respect for Human Life, Opposition to ‘Freedom of Choice’ Act
     
    WASHINGTON—In a statement to mark Respect Life Sunday, October 5, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia urged Catholics “to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.”

    “Let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance,” he said. Cardinal Rigali chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

    Cardinal Rigali cited encouraging trends that “most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases,” and that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26 percent between 1989 and 2004, with a 58 percent decline among girls under 18. He also addressed the threat posed by “FOCA,” a federal “Freedom of Choice Act” which, he said, “if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket.” 

    “We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America,” Cardinal Rigali said.

    He hailed therapeutic successes using adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood.

    “The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research – and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells,” he said.

    Cardinal Rigali also noted the continuing need to protect vulnerable patients at the end of life. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide, as proposed in a Washington State ballot initiative this November, would “betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.”

    The Respect Life program, begun in 1972, stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. This year’s theme is “Hope and Trust in Life!” The full statement follows.
     

    STATEMENT FOR REPECT LIFE SUNDAY
    Cardinal Justin F. Rigali
    Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-life Activities
    September 30, 2008
     


    On October 5, 2008, Catholics across the United States will again celebrate Respect Life Sunday. Throughout the month of October, Catholic parishes and organizations will sponsor hundreds of educational conferences, prayer services, and opportunities for public witness, as well as events to raise funds for programs assisting those in need. Such initiatives are integral to the Church’s ongoing effort to help build a culture in which every human life
    without exception is respected and defended.
     

    Education and advocacy during Respect Life Month address a broad range of moral and public policy issues. Among these, the care of persons with disabilities and those nearing the end of life is an enduring concern. Some medical ethicists wrongly promote ending the lives of patients with serious physical and mental disabilities by withdrawing their food and water, even though – or in some cases precisely because -- they are
    not imminently dying. This November, the citizens of Washington State will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. In neighboring Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal, the state has refused to cover the cost of life-sustaining treatments for some patients facing terminal illness, while callously informing them that Oregon will pay for suicide pills. Such policies betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.
     

    Embryonic stem cell research also presents grave ethical concerns. The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research – and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells. We applaud the remarkable therapeutic successes that have been achieved using stem cells from cord blood and adult tissues. We vigorously oppose initiatives, like the one confronting Michigan voters in November, that would endorse the deliberate destruction of developing human beings for embryonic stem cell research.
     

    Turning to abortion, we note that most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases (danger to the mother’s life or cases of rape or incest). Also encouraging is the finding of a recent Guttmacher Institute study that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26% between 1989 and 2004. The decline was steepest, 58%, among girls under 18. An important factor in this trend is that teens increasingly are choosing to remain abstinent until their late teens or early 20s. Regrettably, when they do become sexually active prior to marrying, many become pregnant and choose abortion -- the abortion rate increased among women aged 20 and older between 1974 and 2004, although the rate is now gradually declining.
     

    Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The “Freedom of Choice Act” (“FOCA”) has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.
     

    FOCA establishes abortion as a “fundamental right” throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could “interfere” with that right or “discriminate” against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.
     

    We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.
     

    For twenty-four years, the Catholic Church has provided free, confidential counseling to individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion, whether their own or a loved one’s. We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.
     

    In this Respect Life Month, let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance. In this and in so many ways we will truly build a culture of life.
     

    Bishop Samuel Aquila cites Sen. Joseph Biden’s “lack of knowledge and understanding of Catholic teaching on abortion”

    Two weeks after stating that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s Aug. 24 comments about Catholic teaching concerning when human life begins, made on NBC’s Meet the Press, were “misinformed” and “created confusion,” Bishop Samuel Aquila of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo cited Sen. Joseph Biden’s “lack of knowledge and understanding of Catholic teaching on abortion.”

    During a Sept. 7 interview on Meet the Press, Biden said he accepted Catholic teaching that life begins at conception but would not “impose that judgment on everyone else.” Bishop Aquila, who has frequently cautioned Catholics about separating their faith from their public life, responded firmly to Biden’s statement, noting that both Pelosi and Biden, who are Catholics, misrepresented Church teaching and disregarded science.

    “Senator Biden, and all others who mistakenly claim that the beginning of life is a matter of religious opinion confuse matters more by implying that the time of when life begins is a matter of faith, and not that of science, the natural law, or truth,” Bishop Aquila wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to priests which was posted on the diocesan Web site. “Any person who has studied biology, whether they are a Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Christian, agnostic or atheist, knows that human life begins at the moment of conception.”

    Bishop Aquila asked priests to share with people in their parishes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fact sheet, “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” which was written in response to Pelosi’s Aug. 24 comments and to “address this clarification of teaching from the pulpit.”

    The bishop noted the responsibility of priests to “clearly articulate the truths of natural reason and the teaching of the Church and help all of our faithful understand the teaching.”

    “We cannot be silent in the face of such a holocaust of innocent human life,” Bishop Aquila added.

    The full text of Bishop Aquila’s letter can be found at
    www.fargodiocese.org.

    Bishops Respond to Senator Biden’s Statements Regarding Church Teaching on Abortion

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

    Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see
    www.usccb.org/prolife/whatsnew.shtml). On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

    Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

    However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

    The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see
    www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml). The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

    The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral values and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

    While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

    Church Teaching Against Abortion Constant Through Centuries, Says New Resource

    To help end confusion caused by recent misrepresentations of Catholic Church teaching on abortion, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a two-page fact sheet called “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching.”

    Public debate on the topic was prompted by misleading remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, August 24 in an interview on
    Meet the Press. On August 26, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of their Committee on Doctrine, issued a statement to correct her remarks. Other Catholic bishops released similar statements.
     
    “This well documented fact sheet will help Catholics and others form their consciences in accordance with the Church’s unchanging teaching in defense of unborn human life,” said Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

    Among other points, the fact sheet states that “modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.”

    The full text of “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” is available online at
    www.usccb.org/prolife/constantchurchteaching.shtml.

    Pelosi - Wrong on History, Wrong on Science

    U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview on “Meet the Press,” misrepresented church history and basic embryology when asked questions about when human life begins.

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statement setting the record straight
    is here. (Currently on the web site’s front page.)

    Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and Denver auxiliary Bishop James Conley have
    issued a statement here, which Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila has endorsed in a letter to all the priests, deacons, and diocesan staff.

    And: New York Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan
    responds here.

    And: Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl
    responds here.

    Image: The Apostles enjoy the Didache. (The Didache is Church manual from the first century which rejects abortion.)

    HHS Secretary Leavitt Praised For Defending Physicians’ Conscience Rights

    WASHINGTON— Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was praised for defending physicians’ conscience rights by Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson on pro-life issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She made her comments on March 19 following a public attack on Secretary Leavitt by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

    The attack was prompted by a March 14 letter from Secretary Leavitt to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), expressing concern about a new ethics opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) calling on conscientiously opposed physicians to perform or refer for abortions. Ms. McQuade’s statement follows.


    “Secretary Leavitt should be commended for defending federal laws protecting the conscience rights of physicians. The new ACOG ethics opinion calling on pro-life OB/GYNs to perform or refer for abortions is in direct conflict with the policy reflected in federal law since 1973. Indeed, just yesterday, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge to a federal law protecting physicians in government programs from being forced to do abortion referrals.
     
    “If the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology relies on the ACOG opinion when deciding whether to grant board certifications, hospitals could find themselves illegally discriminating against perfectly qualified physicians who have been denied certification for ideological reasons. Any HHS Secretary should be concerned about the possibility of federal health care institutions placing themselves in conflict with federal law.
     
    “The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights (RCRR), formerly known as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, has nonetheless launched a personal attack on Secretary Leavitt for doing his job. RCRR’s March 18 news release accuses the Secretary of displaying a ‘narrow view of conscience,’ ‘disregard’ for women,’ and a ‘dogmatic indifference to the patient.’ 
     
    “But it is RCRR that has a narrow view of conscience – so narrow as to recognize a genuine conscience claim only among those who happen to agree with RCRR about abortion. In fact, women and men, physicians and non-physicians, have a fundamental right not to be forced to participate in actions they believe are gravely wrong, especially actions involving the taking of an innocent human life. Moreover, most OB/GYNs in training today are themselves women, and these women have rights, too.
     
    “The abortion industry -- and its allies in medical groups -- have often complained that so few doctors are willing to perform abortions, but that is no excuse for coercing pro-life physicians to do their dirty work. The movement that used to call itself “pro-choice” is becoming a parody of itself.”
     

    Letter on Contraceptive Programs - with Citations

    The following letter appeared in the Fargo Forum on March 7, 2008. We have posted it here with citations to the referenced studies.

    Dear Editor:


    Planned Parenthood’s Amy Jacobson argues that North Dakota needs more subsidized family planning to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Her letter, however, overlooks some important facts.

     
    For one thing, North Dakota and the federal government already spend over two million dollars a year for family planning services in the state. 1  

    Predictably, Planned Parenthood, a major recipient of government funding nationally, thinks two million dollars is not enough and wants North Dakota’s taxpayers to spend more money.  We should not be fooled.  Ample evidence now exists showing that the contraception and “comprehensive sex education” campaigns cannot achieve their alleged goals of reducing abortions and unplanned pregnancies.
     
    A report from Planned Parenthood’s own research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, shows that states that most aggressively promote contraceptives have some of the highest abortion rates in the country.  States that do not, like Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, have the lowest abortion and teen pregnancy rates. 2 Studies from other countries also show the ineffectiveness of contraceptive programs.3  Concludes one recent overview: “Most studies that have been conducted during the past 20 years have indicated that improving access to contraception did not significantly increase contraceptive use or decrease teen pregnancy.”4  New studies also show that large part of the reduced abortion rate in recent years is due to an increase in the number of teens nationwide who delay initiating sexual activity,5 in effect, responding to the very “abstinence only” initiatives Planned Parenthood wants to eliminate.
     
    Finally, we cannot ignore that in Planned Parenthood’s view, “comprehensive reproductive health care” includes unfettered access to, and taxpayer funding for, abortion.  Policies that limit abortion, however, such as restricting public funding, ensuring informed consent for women seeking abortions, and protecting parental rights in the case of minors seeking abortions, have a well-documented and significant effect of reducing abortions.6
     
    In short, Planned Parenthood says it wants to reduce abortion, but proposes only failed, and ultimately flawed, government programs. 

    Christopher Dodson
    Executive Director
    North Dakota Catholic Conference


    1. (
    Public Funding for Family Planning, Sterilization and Abortion Services, FY 1980–2006; Adam Sonfield, Casey Alrich and Rachel Benson Gold; Guttmacher Institute, January 2008)

    2.
    http://www.guttmacher.org

    3.
    David Paton, “The Economics of Family Planning and Underage Conceptions,” Journal of Health Economics, 21.2 (March 2002): 207-225; abstract available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V8K-4537PJR-3/2/7b0ac0ed4b84065fae3119e1663e50bc; Edgardh, K. et al. Adolescent Sexual Health in Sweden, Sex Trans Inf 78 (2002): 352-6, available at http://sti.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/78/5/352

    4. Douglas Kirby, “Reflections on Two Decades of Research on Teen Sexual Behavior and Pregnancy,” Journal of School Health 69.3 (March 1999.)

    5. JK Mohn et al. “An analysis of the causes of the decline in non-marital birth and pregnancy rates for teens from 1991-1995,” Adolescent and Family Health 2003; 339-47; available at www.afhjournal.org; National Campaign to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, “Science Says: Pregnancy Among Sexually Experienced Teens, 2002,” No. 23, April 2006, available at www.teenpregnancy.org/press/pdf/sciencesays23.pdf.

    6. Theodore Joyce et al., “Changes in Abortions and Births and the Texas Parental Notification Law,” New England Journal of Medicine, 354: 1031-1038 (March 9, 2006); available at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/10/1031; [The authors. found a reduction in abortion rates among minor teens in Texas following enactment of that state’s parental notification law. “[A]bortion rates fell by 11 percent among 15-year-olds, … 20 percent among 16-year-olds, and 16 percent among 17-year-olds, … relative to the rates among 18-year-olds.” Joyce et al. also report: “Results from [five] previous studies have indicated that the abortion rate of minors decreases 13 to 42 percent after enforcement of a parental notification or consent law, if abortions are measured according to state of occurrence.”]; J. “Impact of Minnesota Parental Notification Law on abortion and birth,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 81, Issue 3, 294-298. See also Michael New, “Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion During the 1900s,” Heritage Foundation Data Analysis Report #04-01 (2004), available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/CDA04-01.cfm. [“The pre-enactment to post-enactment change in the Minnesota abortion rate reflected a greater decline for minors (less than or equal to 17 years old) than for 18-19 year-olds (who were not under the law). An increase in abortion rate occurred for women ages 20-44. The law appeared to have had no impact on birth rate in minors. … These data suggest that parental notification facilitated pregnancy avoidance in 15-17 year-old Minnesota women. Abortion rates declined unexpectedly while birth rates continued to decline in accordance with a long-term trend.”]; M. New, "Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors," Heritage Foundation Data Analysis Report #07-01 (2007), available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/CDA07-01.cfm; M. New, “Using Natural Experiments to Analyze the Impact of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion,” Heritage Center for Data Analysis Report #06-01 (January 23, 2006); available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/cda06-01.cfm.

    Senate Approves Pro-Life Vitter Amendment -- North Dakota Senators Voted Against

    Today, February 26, the U.S. Senate approved the Vitter Amendment, 52-yes, 42-no, 6-not voting (Roll Call 30). The Vitter Amendment places the language of the Hyde Amendment abortion funding restrictions in the bill reauthorizing the Indian Health Service, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments, S. 1200.

    Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan voted AGAINST the amendment.

     
    Please contact them and express your disappointment that they did not support this amendment to ensure that taxpayer funds are not used for abortion on demand.

    Senator Byron L. Dorgan

    Washington: (202) 224-2551
    Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
    Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
    Fargo: (701) 239-5389
    Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
    Minot: (701) 852-0703
    senator@dorgan.senate.gov

    Senator Kent Conrad

    Washington: (202) 224-2043
    Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
    Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
    Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
    Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
    Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
    senator@conrad.senate.gov
       

    Update on Vitter Amendment

    Late Wednesday afternoon, February 13, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the Senate would re-commence consideration of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments (S. 1200), and that consideration would continue through Thursday, February 14, and Friday, February 15, until work on the bill is completed
    Pending since January 22 is an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that would incorporate the language of the Hyde Amendment into the authorizing legislation. NCHLA issued an Action Alert in support of the Vitter Amendment on January 18. Please take whatever last minute efforts you can to urge your two Senators to vote for the Vitter Amendment. For NCHLA’s latest alert, see: nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=259. Thanks!
    For the earlier alert see: http://ndcatholic.org/2/index.html#unique-entry-id-432

    Urgent Action Alert

    Urge Senators to Support Vitter Amendment to Restrict Indian Health Service Funding for Abortion

    On Tuesday, January 22, the U.S. Senate is expected to take up a reauthorization bill for the Indian Health Service.  Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is prepared to offer the Hyde Amendment language as an amendment to this bill.  The amendment would, as is the case of all other federal programs, prohibit the use of Indian Health Service funds to pay for abortions except to save the life of the mother, and in cases of rape or incest.

    It is especially important to reach Senator Byron Dorgan. Senator Dorgan has supported the Hyde Amendment in the past. However, as sponsor of the Indian Health Service reauthorization bill and chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, he may resist any floor amendments to the bill.
    Urge Senator Dorgan to not resist the Vitter Amendment and to support the amendment when it comes to a vote.

    Message: Please support the Vitter Amendment to the Indian Health Services bill, to limit taxpayer funding for abortion.

    When: Now! The Senate will vote on this as early as Tuesday. Note: Monday is a federal holiday.

    Who: Senator Byron Dorgan and Senator Kent Conrad

    Where:

    Senator Byron L. Dorgan

    Washington: (202) 224-2551
    Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
    Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
    Fargo: (701) 239-5389
    Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
    Minot: (701) 852-0703
    senator@dorgan.senate.gov

    Senator Kent Conrad

    Washington: (202) 224-2043
    Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
    Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
    Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
    Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
    Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
    senator@conrad.senate.gov

    Click here for more information on the Vitter Amendment.

    Action Alert: Support SCHIP and the Unborn Child Rule

    Please call your Senators and tell them to support a State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill that includes codifying the unborn child rule.  
     
    The Senate is expected to vote on the SCHIP bill the week of October 29.
     
    You may call your Senators through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or:

    Senator Kent Conrad
    Washington: (202) 224-2043
    Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
    Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
    Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
    Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
    Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
    senator@conrad.senate.gov

    Senator Byron L. Dorgan
    Washington: (202) 224-2551
    Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
    Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
    Fargo: (701) 239-5389
    Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
    Minot: (701) 852-0703
    senator@dorgan.senate.gov

      
    Action Needed:
     
    Congress should improve the SCHIP bill and garner strong bipartisan support. The bill can be improved in ways that will strengthen and increase support for SCHIP by making the regulation providing states the option to enroll the unborn child in their SCHIP programs permanent.
     
    A final SCHIP reauthorization should codify the unborn child rule, so states are secure in being able to choose life-affirming health services for needy children and their mothers without involvement in abortion. Without the unborn child option, the only way states could provide prenatal care would be by defining the pregnant woman as the patient in need of “child health assistance," which would trigger funding for abortion. Also, many children born as U.S. citizens would not receive needed prenatal care because of their mother’s immigration status.
     
    The legislation should also maintain and expand coverage, reduce enrollment barriers, and expand outreach. Sufficient funding should be included in order to provide health care coverage to an additional four million more low-income children, reducing the number of uninsured children by nearly half. 

    USCCB Position:
     
    “As Catholic organizations united by our common faith and committed to the principles of Catholic social teaching, we recognize and affirm the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and the inherent dignity of every human being. We consider access to adequate health care to be a basic human right, necessary for the development and maintenance of life and for the ability of human beings to realize the fullness of their dignity. A just society is one that protects and promotes fundamental human rights and dignity, with special attention to meeting the basic needs of children and the vulnerable, including the need for safe and affordable health care.” (Letter to Senate Budget Committee from USCCB, Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Health Association, March 15, 2007)
     
    “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has worked persistently to support and strengthen the nation’s vital efforts to provide adequate and affordable health care, especially to the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. We have joined with Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA to encourage Congress to strengthen, expand and improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We urge the Congress not to turn away from this essential national priority, but to renew its efforts to enact a strong, effective and improved national investment in the health of our children.
     
    ...We are convinced the bill can also be improved in ways that will strengthen and increase support for SCHIP. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services improved SCHIP by allowing states to interpret the word “child” in the statute to include the period from conception to birth. Twelve states (AR, CA, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, RI, TN, TX, WA, WI) have already chosen to provide health care to pregnant women and their unborn children under this regulatory option.
     
    Codifying this option will allow states to retain choice and  flexibility in how best to provide essential health services to pregnant women and children. Access to prenatal care will allow more children to be born in good health, without a need for more extensive and expensive medical intervention. States will be able to choose improved coverage for unborn children and their mothers, without being required to expand state funding for abortions which would be especially tragic in a program dedicated to the lives and health of children…” (Letter to members of U.S. Congress from Bishop DiMarzio, Chairman of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee, October 24, 2007)

     
    We urge Congress not to turn away from the effort to reauthorize SCHIP. Congress has a responsibility to support this successful program and improve it by including coverage of the unborn child. Congress should enact a strong, effective, and improved national investment in the health of our children.
     

    Background:
     
    The SCHIP program is now in the process of being reauthorized. Temporary funding for SCHIP has been included in the Continuing Resolution (H.J. Res. 52) that will keep the government running to November 16, 2007. A first bill (H.R. 976) was vetoed by the president, and the veto was sustained. A revised bill (H.R. 3963) was passed by the House on October 25, 2007 by a vote of 265-142. This is not a veto proof majority. It is expected that the Senate will act on the legislation during this week. The president has threatened to veto the revised bill in its current form.

    For more information on the unborn child rule see:
    http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=258
    To see a copy of at letter from USCCB to the Senators: http://ndcatholic.org/files/SenateSCHIPLetter.pdf

    Senate Votes on Two Internation Abortion Issues

    WASHINGTON—A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Deirdre McQuade, praised the Senate’s vote last night to maintain the longstanding federal law against any involvement in coercive abortion programs overseas.  She also faulted the Senate for voting to overturn the Mexico City Policy, which denies U.S. funds to organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning.  Both votes occurred during debate on the State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 2764).

    On September 6, the Senate voted 48-to-45 to approve an amendment by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) to restore the “Kemp-Kasten Amendment” deleted from the bill in committee.  Since 1985, this provision has denied U.S. funds to any organization or program that, as determined by the President, “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

    “I commend the Senate for refusing to participate in such atrocities against vulnerable women and their children in the developing world,” Ms. McQuade said.  “At the same time, it is disconcerting to think that this was considered debatable at all – and that the vote was so close. By a vote of 53 to 41, the Senate also passed an amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to negate the Mexico City Policy. An amendment offered by Senator Brownback to reinstate the policy was defeated by the same margin.

               
    “After witnessing their good sense on the Kemp-Kasten provision, I am extremely disheartened to see our Senators reject the Mexico City Policy,” Ms. McQuade said.


    In a letter sent to all Senators before the votes, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, had urged Senators to preserve both the Mexico City and Kemp-Kasten policies.  Without the Mexico City policy, he said, “abortion-promoting organizations will exploit their status as the conduits for U.S. aid to promote abortion to vulnerable women in the Third World.”

    Before the votes, President George W. Bush also reaffirmed his pledge to veto any appropriations bill that “weakens current Federal policies and laws on abortion.”  Deirdre McQuade expressed her appreciation for the President’s veto pledge: “We are very grateful to the President for his commitment to these basic, long-standing policies protecting both mother and child.  We hope and expect that due to his pledge, and the pledge by many members of Congress to uphold such a veto, the Mexico City Policy will be preserved in law this year.”

    The full text of Cardinal Rigali’s letter to the Senate can be found at:  www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/foreignops2008.pdf

    Nation's Bishops Decry Amnesty International Decision to Support Abortion

    The U.S. bishops decried Amnesty International’s recent decision to support abortion, calling the change in the organization’s longstanding position divisive and an affront to “people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights.” The bishops also urged the organization to reverse its policy to correct its error. Their position was outlined in an August 23 statement from Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    The statement follows.


    A Statement of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

    Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane
    August 23, 2007
     

    After nearly a year of dialogue with leaders of Amnesty International (AI), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly protests the recent action of AI’s International Council to promote worldwide access to abortion.  This basic policy change undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members (many of whom are Catholics and others who defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights. 


    Amnesty International's action will lead many people of conscience to seek alternative means to end grave human rights abuses, fight injustice, and promote freedom of conscience and expression.  The essential work of protecting human life and promoting human dignity must

    carry on.  We must continue to oppose the use of the death penalty and the crushing effects of dehumanizing poverty. We must continue to stand with prisoners of conscience, refugees and migrants, and other oppressed peoples. But we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.
               
    To some, the action of Amnesty International may appear to be a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, but this is a false compassion.  True commitment to women's rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children.  It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both.  As our Conference has argued, a far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against women.  The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world and will continue to do so.
            
       
    We call upon Amnesty International once again to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion.       
           

    Catholic Bishops Urge Amnesty International To Restore Its Neutral Position On Abortion

    CATHOLIC BISHOPS URGE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TO RESTORE ITS NEUTRAL POSITION ON ABORTION
     
    WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops have joined persons urging Amnesty International to restore its neutral position on abortion and to reverse a recent decision by its executive council to take a pro-abortion stand.
                The bishops’ position was outlined in a July 2 statement from Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He urged Amnesty International to reverse the decision when its International Council meets in Mexico in August.
                “The action of the Executive Council undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members (many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children), and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religion,” Bishop Skylstad said.
                Bishop Skylstad noted the words of Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who recently said that “if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.” 
                Amnesty International was founded by a Catholic layman, Peter Benenson, and has been a beacon of hope to thousands of prisoners of conscience and victims of abuse and torture.
                “AI has been a source of inspiration to millions of supporters, including the many Catholics who are members,” Bishop Skylstad said. “Much more urgent work remains, work which we believe will be harmed by this unprecedented and unnecessary involvement in the abortion debate.
                “While the proposed action by Amnesty International may appear to some to support women’s freedom or provide a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, abortion injures the health and dignity of women at the same time that it ends the life of the unborn child,” Bishop Skylstad added. “A far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against them.  The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world and commits itself to continuing to do so.
                “Based on this commitment to women, the Church does not object to AI’s stand against criminal penalties for women who have undergone abortion.  In fact, the Catholic Church has long held that these women need compassion and healing, not punishment.  However, AI’s policy also exempts abortion practitioners from meaningful penalties and thereby trivializes the harm done by abortion.  AI’s new policy appears to apply to every stage of pregnancy and has already led AI-USA to oppose laws against the killing of partially-delivered children.  Similarly, the policy of advancing access to abortion to preserve women’s ‘health,’ a word left undefined by AI, has not confined the practice to narrow circumstances, but in American law has led to abortion on demand.” 
                The complete statement follows.

    A Plea to Amnesty International Members
    A Statement of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
    Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane
    July 2, 2007

     
    It is deeply disappointing that the Executive Council of Amnesty International (AI) recently abandoned Amnesty International’s neutral stance on abortion to take a pro-abortion position.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been among those urging Amnesty to reject this proposed change when its International Council meets in August; however, action by Amnesty’s Executive Council in April 2007 preempted this process.  I call upon the members of Amnesty’s International Council to reverse this decision.

    The action of the Executive Council undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members (many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children), and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religions.  As Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, recently said, “if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.”        

    For many years, the Catholic community in the United States and elsewhere has admired and worked with Amnesty International in its efforts to advance the cause of universal human rights.  Founded by a Catholic layman, Peter Benenson, Amnesty International has been a beacon of hope to thousands of prisoners of conscience and victims of abuse and torture.  In this regard AI has been a source of inspiration to millions of supporters, including the many Catholics who are members.  Much more urgent work remains, work which we believe will be harmed by this unprecedented and unnecessary involvement in the abortion debate.

                While the proposed action by Amnesty International may appear to some to support women’s freedom or provide a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, abortion injures the health and dignity of women at the same time that it ends the life of the unborn child.   A far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against them.  The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world and commits itself to continuing to do so.

                Based on this commitment to women, the Church does not object to AI’s stand against criminal penalties for women who have undergone abortion.  In fact, the Catholic Church has long held that these women need compassion and healing, not punishment.  However, AI’s policy also exempts abortion practitioners from meaningful penalties and thereby trivializes the harm done by abortion.  AI’s new policy appears to apply to every stage of pregnancy and has already led AI-USA to oppose laws against the killing of partially-delivered children.  Similarly, the policy of advancing access to abortion to preserve women’s “health,” a word left undefined by AI, has not confined the practice to narrow circumstances, but in American law has led to abortion on demand. 

                I urge the members of the International Council of Amnesty International, when they meet in Mexico in August, to reconsider and rescind this new policy.  It is never too late to seek justice for all vulnerable and oppressed members of the human family.

    House Votes to Fund Abortion Advocacy - Abstinence Amendment Fails - Veto Forthcoming?

    This information was received from the Bishops' National Committee for a Human Life Amendment. Concerned North Dakotans should contact Representative Pomeroy to express disappointment with his votes.

    Committee Bill Negated Policy
    As reported to the House floor, the Fiscal Year 2008 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2764) contained language (Section 622) that would negate the Administration’s Mexico City Policy (MCP). The bill stated: ". . . no contract or grant which includes funding for the provision of contraceptives in developing countries, shall be denied to any nongovernmental organization solely on the basis of the policy contained in the President’s March 28, 2001, Memorandum to the Administrator of United States Agency for International Development. . . ."
    In the referenced 2001 memorandum, the President restored the MCP, which provides that U.S. international family planning funds can be given only to nongovernmental organizations that do not perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. H.R. 2764 would appropriate $441 million for global population assistance. The MCP does not reduce this funding level. It only guarantees that the monies would be used for family planning and not to support organizations that seek to export abortion on request into vulnerable poor countries.
    Two Floor Amendments
    Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) announced that on the floor they would offer an amendment to strike the pertinent language in Section 622 and uphold the MCP.
    However, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chairwoman of the committee that produced H.R. 2764, announced that she would modify the language in Section 622. In time, it became clear that the Lowey Amendment would strike "which includes funding for the provision of contraceptives in developing countries" and substitute "for the exclusive purpose of providing donated contraceptives in developing countries." Not funding contraceptives but donating contraceptives. The rest of Section 622 remained the same, including the reference to the President’s MCP.
    The Floor Votes
    On June 21, during floor debate on H.R. 2764, the House approved the Lowey Amendment modifying Section 622, 223-yes, 201-no, 14-not voting (Roll Call 533). "No" was a pro-life vote. Immediately thereafter, the House rejected the Smith/Stupak Amendment, 205-yes, 218-no, 14-not voting (Roll Call 534). "Yes" was a pro-life vote. The Smith/Stupak Amendment would have struck the language in Section 622 as modified by the Lowey Amendment.
    Administration Reaffirmed Veto Pledge
    Two days before these votes, a Statement of Administration Policy reaffirmed the President’s intent to uphold current policies and laws on abortion. "Consistent with the President’s letter of May 3, 2007, if the President were presented a bill, such as H.R. 2764, that weakens current Federal policies and laws on abortion, he would veto the bill."
    Church Support for MCP
    Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter to House Members, urging support of the Smith/Stupak Amendment. The Cardinal highlighted the origins and purpose of the MCP and, responding to those opposing the MCP and claiming to want to reduce abortion, made four observations: first, abortion does not plan a family but kills a member of the family; second, studies show that promoting contraceptives does not necessarily reduce abortions; third, when made available alongside preventive methods, abortion replaces prevention; and fourth, it is contrary to logic and common sense to say that abortions can be reduced by supporting groups dedicated to promoting abortion. For full text of the letter, see: nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=164.
    Responding to the House votes, Deirdre A. McQuade, Director of Planning and Information for the Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, affirmed that "Exporting abortion overseas will not lower abortion rates, is resented by developing countries, and is not supported by the American people." She expressed gratitude to President Bush for his pledge to exercise his veto power to uphold the MCP.
    Important Follow-Up
    Thanks to all those who responded to the Action Alerts on the MCP. The vote on the Smith/Stupak Amendment demonstrates that by-and-large pro-life advocates in the House stood firm in their support of the MCP and were not swayed or confused by Rep. Lowey’s maneuvers.
    Be sure to thank those Representatives who voted against the Lowey Amendment and for the Smith/Stupak Amendment. And express your disappointment to those who voted in any way to negate the MCP. To check how your Representative voted on these two Roll Call votes, see: clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll533.xml (Lowey Amendment, Roll Call 533) and clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll534.xml (Smith/Stupak Amendment, Roll Call 534).
    Abstinence Amendment
    In another matter of concern to the Church, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) offered an amendment to strike from H.R. 2764 language that would eliminate current policy whereby in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) one-third of HIV and AIDS prevention funds are allocated to abstinence-before-marriage programs. Bishop Thomas Wenski, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services, had sent a letter to the House urging retention of the current policy. See: nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/PEPFAR%20Funding.pdf. Unfortunately, the House rejected the Pitts Amendment, 200-yes, 226-no, 12-not voting (Roll Call 532). For how Members voted, see: clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll532.xml.

    Action Alert: No Tax Dollars for Groups Exporting Abortion Around the World

    The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up the Fiscal Year 2008 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (number to be announced) on Tuesday, June 19 or Wednesday, June 20. As reported by committee, the bill negates the Mexico City Policy (MCP), an Administration policy that denies federal funding to overseas nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. The MCP prevents the use of U.S. tax dollars to support organizations that export abortion around the world, especially into vulnerable poorer countries.
    First articulated by the Reagan Administration at a U.N. population conference in Mexico City in 1984, the policy was overturned by the Clinton Administration, then reinstated in 2001 by President Bush. Since 2001, abortion advocates have tried to reverse the MCP by legislation.
    The Fiscal Year 2008 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which designates $441 million for international family planning, stipulates that federal funding for contraceptives in foreign countries shall not be denied "to any nongovernmental organization solely on the basis of the policy contained in the President’s March 28, 2001, Memorandum" to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The President had restored the MCP on January 22, 2001, then implemented his policy decision through this March 28 memorandum.
    During House floor debate, an amendment will be offered to strike the language negating the MCP.
    In NCHLA’s list of key abortion votes, the last House vote on the MCP occurred in 2001. Many Members have never cast a floor vote on the issue. Members’ votes on the MCP can be found at: nchla.org/keyvotes.asp?ID=2.
    For more information on the Mexico City Policy, see "Issues" on NCHLA’s web page at: nchla.org/issues.asp?ID=2.
    ACTION: Please contact your Representative by FAX letter, phone, or e-mail. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, or call your Representative’s local office. For access to Representatives’ full contact information, see: www.house.gov.
    MESSAGE: "Please vote to uphold the Mexico City Policy. U.S. tax dollars should not be given to organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning in foreign countries."
    WHEN: The House could take up the Fiscal Year 2008 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill on June 19 or 20. Please act today! Thanks! 6/13/07

    Governor Hoeven Signs Bill Making Abortion Alternatives Permanent

    Governor John Hoeven has signed SB 2312, which makes the abortion alternatives program permanent.


    Sitting left to right: Senator Aaron Krauter, Governor John Hoeven, Representative Kim Koppelman.
    Standing left to right: Stacey Pfliiger, North Dakota Right to Life; Christopher Dodson, North Dakota Catholic Conference; Senator Judy Lee; Representative Jim Kerzman.

    HB 1466 Updates

    Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo has issued a statement on the passage of House Bill 1466.

    The
    Bismarck Tribune reports that Governor Hoeven will sign the bill.

    ND Legislature Approves Abortion Trigger Ban -- Statement by Conference

    The North Dakota Catholic Conference is pleased with today's passage of House Bill 1466 by both chambers of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly.  It is a step forward toward a better world -- one that does not turn its back on women in need or the unborn children they carry.

    House Bill 1466 would place in North Dakota law a ban on abortion to go into effect when it becomes constitutionally enforceable.  Some have asked why the state should place a law on the books that does not immediately go into effect.  We ask -- How can a state that claims to care for human life justify not having such a law?  Fortunately, a large majority of legislators from both political parties understood the importance of, and wisdom in, House Bill 1466.


    We now look forward to working with the legislature, state agencies, and all interested persons in preparation for the day when HB 1466 becomes effective.  We all must continually work for a society in which no woman ever feels that abortion is the answer to an unexpected or crisis pregnancy.  

    House Passes HB 1466 - Abortion Trigger Ban

    The House has just passed House Bill 1466 by a vote of 68 to 24. The bill now goes to the Senate, which may vote on it sometime today.

    Answers to Claims Being About HB 1466

    Answers to Claims Being About HB 1466

    Action Alert: Contact Legislators Now on Abortion Trigger Ban!

    North Dakota legislators will soon cast their final votes on where the state stands on the protection of unborn life. House Bill 1466 would place in North Dakota law a ban on abortion that would go into effect when it becomes constitutional. Our legislators need to hear from you now!

    Message for Legislators: Please vote "Yes" on HB 1466, to put North Dakota on the side of a culture of life.

    When: Immediately!

    Where: North Dakota Senate and House of Representatives
    Legislative Hotline: 1-888-635-3447 Bismarck: 328-3373
    Hearing Impaired: 1-800-366-6888

    Representatives’ e-mail addresses can be found at the Legislative Assembly Web Site: http://www.legis.nd.gov/

    For more information, go to:
    http://ndcatholic.org

    Clicking "E-Mail Helper" will automatically prepare a sample e-mail message for you to send. Try revising it with your own words. Replace "yourlegislator@nd.gov" with your legislator's email address. You can get that from the Legislative Assembly Site or contact the Catholic Conference. Be sure to include your name and address! They want to know that you live in their district. Thank you.

    Latest on Abortion Trigger Ban

    The North Dakota House has rejected a conference committee report that added to the abortion ban provisions about providing health care to pregnant minors without parental consent. The matter now goes back to the conference committee for more work. The committee could finish its work this morning. Come back here for the latest information.

    When the committee acts, both the House and the Senate could act quickly on the bill. There are only a few more days left in the legislative session!

    Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Partial-Birth Abortion

    From USCCB:

    This morning, on a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion in
    Gonzales v. Carhart.  As you know, we have been working toward this result for over a decade.  This is the first time in 34 years the Court has upheld an actual ban on ANY kind of abortion.
     
    There are many good and interesting things in the decision, including
    • the Court's straightforward recognition of the child in the womb as a "living organism" before as well as after viability
    • its forthright statement about the government's legitimate and profound interest in protecting life
    • its willingness to defer to legislative fact finding in the abortion context
    • its recognition of the pain and turmoil of women undergoing abortion. 

    New Action Alert -- Restore Abortion Trigger Ban

    Tell Legislators --
    Restore Intent of Abortion Trigger Ban

    Last week, a slim majority of the North Dakota Senate hastily amended House Bill 1466 -- the abortion "trigger" ban bill, replacing the entire bill with a requirement that the Legislature call a special session if the Supreme Court changes abortion law. The Senate's version of the bill does nothing to move North Dakota closer to building a culture of life. A conference committee will meet to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

    Tell your legislator to restore the intent of House Bill 1466 -- to place in law reasonable protections for human life that would go into effect when they become constitutional.

    Message for Legislators:  Please support efforts to restore the intent of HB 1466 – to place in North Dakota law reasonable protections for unborn human life. As your constituent, I am concerned about attempts to weaken House Bill 1466 that would do nothing to further the culture of life in North Dakota. Thank you.

    When: Immediately. The conference committee will start work next week.

    Where: North Dakota Senate and House of Representatives
    Legislative Hotline: 1-888-635-3447 Bismarck: 328-3373
    Hearing Impaired: 1-800-366-6888

    Legislators' e-mail addresses can be found at the Legislative Assembly Web Site:
    http://www.legis.nd.gov/


    Clicking "E-Mail Helper" will automatically prepare a sample e-mail message for you to send. Try revising it with your own words. Replace "yourlegislator@nd.gov" with your legislator's email address. You can get that from the Legislative Assembly Site or contact the Catholic Conference. Be sure to include your name and address! They want to know that you live in their district. Thank you. More information.

    Poll Numbers on Abortion

    The Bismarck Tribune published Christopher Dodson's letter, but it did not include the web site address supporting the statement that most Americans oppose most abortions. The Second Look Project contains lists some of the data. Here is some from that site and others:

    In a recent Harris Interactive poll 72% of Americans said abortion should be illegal in the second three months of pregnancy, and 86% said abortion should be illegal in the last three months of pregnancy.

    61% of Americans said abortion should not be permitted after the fetal heartbeat has begun. This occurs in the first month. (Zogby, 2004)

    An overwhelming majority of Americans (86%) favor parental consent for minors seeking abortion (Gallup, 2005)

    A similar percent (89%) favor informed consent for women seeking abortions (Gallup, 2005)

    About 90% of Americans are opposed to performing abortions in the third trimester (Gallup, 2005)

    More than two in three Americans (70%) favor a ban on partial-birth abortions (Gallup, 2003)

    51% of women say abortion should be available only in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered (Center for the Advancement of Women, 2003)

    72% of 13-17 year olds believe abortion is morally wrong.
    (Gallup, 2003)

    60% of 18-29 year olds believe abortion should never be legal.
    (Zogby, 2004)

    Senate Guts Abortion Ban, Gives Pro-Life Forces Additional Opportunities

    The Senate took up the HB 1466 late Thursday (called the "trigger" bill because it would go into effect when it becomes constitutional). Although the Senate adopted a set of amendments to improve the bill, a few minutes later a slim majority passed another set of amendments that rewrote the entire bill. The House will now have to review those changes.

    The final version adopted by the Senate removed all restrictions on abortion and replaced the bill's language with a single paragraph. That paragraph requires the Attorney General to notify the Legislative Council whenever the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a decision that would allow the state to have more restrictive abortion legislation than it has currently. At that time, the Legislative Council must call a special session.

    The Senate version of the bill clearly goes against the intent of the bill. The irony is that the Senate changed HB 1466 from a "trigger" bill to a "multi-trigger" bill. It could provide pro-life forces with multiple opportunities to have legislative sessions devoted solely to pro-life legislation.

    In fact, right now North Dakota could have more restrictive abortion legislation. If this version of the law were to go into effect on August 1(the day most North Dakota laws take effect), the Attorney General could notify Legislative Council on August 2 and we could have a special session to examine those possible restrictions. If the Supreme Court issues a new decision next year, we could have another special session. And so on . . .

    This is probably not what either side of the issue wants out of HB 1466, but if that what comes from it, the North Dakota Catholic Conference and those who care about building a culture of life will be ready.

    Response to Tribune Column

    The Bismarck Tribune recently published a column by Clay Jenkinson about House Bill 1466. Mr. Jenkinson's column contains several errors in facts and logic. The Tribune's letter policy hinders our ability to respond to them all. Here is the letter we submitted in response to the column:

    Dear Editor:

    Mr. Jenkinson makes several mistakes in his column about the proposed abortion legislation.  For one thing, he repeats myths about public opinion on abortion.  Most Americans actually oppose abortion and would favor more restrictions on the act.  In fact, a majority of Americans think that most abortions should be illegal and more women than men hold this view.  (www.secondlookproject.org)

    Jenkinson also errs in his assessment of HB 1466's "trigger."  Conditional effective dates are not unusual in North Dakota legislation and they do not tie the hands of future legislatures.  

    The column's most significant flaw, however, is its failure to address the morality of abortion.  Jenkinson wrote that he did not want to address the morality of abortion, but only the wisdom of the proposed legislation.  By failing, however, to address the morality of abortion, he creates a "straw man" out of the proposed legislation, the unreasonableness of which is a foregone conclusion.

    Any discussion of abortion should begin with a look at what is abortion and the morality of the act.  If, as Jenkinson has done, a person evades the underlying issue and treats abortion as nothing more than a mere vice, it is easy to characterize the actions of pro-life advocates and legislation like House Bill 1466 as unreasonable moral posturing.  

    However, if a person concludes that the scientific evidence and the use of reason demonstrate that abortion is the deliberate destruction of developing human life, the actions of pro-life legislators and proposals like House Bill 1466 are reasonable and progressive.  Most Americans have reached that conclusion and the proposed legislation is a reasonable step toward a better future.

    Christopher Dodson
    Executive Director
    General Counsel
    North Dakota Catholic Conference

    Mississippi Governor Signs Abortion Trigger Bill

    Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has signed an abortion ban trigger bill similar to North Dakota's House Bill 1466. Like HB 1466, the new Mississippi law would trigger when the state's attorney general concludes that it is reasonably probably that the law would be constitutional.

    The Senate has still not acted on HB 1466. If you have not done so, there is still time to
    contact your senator.

    Minnesota's Abortion Alternatives Program Threatened

    Like North Dakota, the Minnesota legislature enacted an alternatives to abortion program in 2005. The 2007 North Dakota legislature has reauthorized its program. The Minnesota legislature, however, is considering cutting funding for its program by over 50%.

    If you have friends and relatives across the river in Minnesota, please pass on
    this action alert from the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

    Action Alert on HB 1466 Still in Effect

    The Senate has still not voted on House Bill 1466. The Action Alert is still in effect. This gives you time to contact your senator, if you have not already done so. The Senate is not likely to vote on the bill until Wednesday afternoon.

    Action Alert! Tell Senate: Vote Yes on Abortion "Trigger" Bill

    Tell Senate
    Vote Yes on HB 1466 –
    Vote Yes to Life

    House Bill 1466 would put a ban on abortion in North Dakota law. The ban would be “triggered” by Supreme Court or other action that would make the ban constitutional. The bill would firmly place North Dakota in support of human life.

    Message for Senator: Please vote "Yes" on HB 1466, the abortion “trigger” ban.

    When: Immediately. The Senate could vote on the bill early next week.

    Where: North Dakota Senate
    Legislative Hotline: 1-888-635-3447 Bismarck: 328-3373
    Hearing Impaired: 1-800-366-6888

    Senator’s e-mail addresses can be found at the Legislative Assembly Web Site:
    http://www.legis.nd.gov/

    Download the Bulletin Insert!

    Clicking "E-Mail Helper" will automatically prepare a sample e-mail message for you to send. Try revising it with your own words. Replace "yourlegislator@nd.gov" with your legislator's email address. You can get that from the Legislative Assembly Site or contact the Catholic Conference. Be sure to include your name and address! They want to know that you live in their district. Thank you. More information.

    Abortion Alternatives Bill Passes House!

    The state House of Representatives today passed Senate Bill 2312, the abortion alternatives services bill, by a vote of 87 to 6. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

    Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators in support of this important program.

    Conference Testifies in Support of Abortion Ban

    The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified today in support of HB 1466, which would ban abortion at a time when the law could be enforceable. The conference also testified in support of amendments offered by the bill's sponsor, Representative Jim Kerzman. Here is the testimony presented.

    The Senate Judiciary will now consider the bill.

    If your senator is on the committee, please contact him or her and ask the senator to support a "Do Pass" recommendation from the committee.

    Senate Judiciary Committee


    Dave Nething (District 12)
    Stan Lyson (District 1)
    Tom Fiebiger (District 45)
    Richard Marcellais (District 9)
    Carolyn Nelson (District 21)
    Curtis Olafson (District 10)

    Clicking on the senator's name will automatically prepare a sample e-mail message for you to send. Try personalize it with your own words. Be sure to include your name! Clicking on the district name will open a map of that legislative district.

    Action Alert: Abortion Alternatives

    Please contact your Representatives and ask them to vote "Yes" on Senate Bill 2312.

    Senate Bill 2312 would reauthorize a successful program that helps those agencies and organizations that provide alternative-to-abortion services, such as pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies, and maternity homes. Helping women is an essential part of building a culture of life where no woman ever feels that abortion is a “best” or only option.


    A vote for Senate Bill 2312 is a vote for hope. Go here for more information on SB 2312.

    "E-Mail Helper" will automatically prepare a sample e-mail message for you to send. Try revising it with your own words. Replace "yourlegislator@nd.gov" with your legislator's email address. You can get that from the Legislative Assembly Site or contact the Catholic Conference. Be sure to include your name! Thank you. More information.

    Abortion Alternatives Bill Gets Approval from Committee

    Yesterday, the House Human Services Committee gave a "do pass" recommendation to Senate Bill 2312, which would reauthorize the alternatives-to-abortion services program. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

    Bill Recognizing Unborn Children Heard

    The Senate Human Services held a hearing on SB 2400 this morning. The bill as introduced would recognize unborn children as individual persons under the law. The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified in support of the bill. The committee is likely to amend the bill to address some concerns about unintended consequences, but probably retain the bill's intent. Stay tuned . . .

    Senate Passes Alternatives to Abortion Bill

    Senate Bill 2312, which reauthorizes the state's alternatives-to-abortion services program, passed the Senate today 43 to 1. The bill now moves to the House.

    Update on Pro-Life Bills

    We have just learned that the House will not vote on House Bill 1464, the Pro-Life Law Enhancement Bill, until Monday afternoon.  This gives parishes a chance to set out or distribute Action Alerts this weekend.

    Here is an Action Alert that you can print and distribute this weekend.

    House Bill 1466 may still come to a vote as early as tomorrow.

    Action Alert! HB 1464 - Pro-Life Law Enhancement Bill

    HB 1464 - Pro-Life Law Enhancement Bill

    House Bill 1464 makes improvements to the state's laws on:

    - Parental Consent for Minors Seeking Abortions

    - A Woman's Right to Know/Informed Consent Requirement

    - The Right Not to be Forced to Perform or Participate in an Abortion

    Contact your Representatives
    today and ask them to Vote Yes on HB 1464.

    Message:    Please vote "Yes" on HB 1464, to affirm and strengthen our state's laws protecting unborn life, women, and families.

    When:    Immediately. The House could vote on HB 1464 as early as Thursday, January 25!

    Where:   North Dakota House of Representatives
    Legislative Hotline 1-888-635-3447  --- Bismarck 328-3373
    Hearing Impaired: 1-800-366-6888

    E-mail addresses can be found at the Legislative Council Site

    Action Alert! HB 1466 - Abortion Prohibition

    HB 1466 - Abortion Ban

    HB 1466 would prohibit the performance of abortions in North Dakota, except to save the life of the mother.  The law would not go immediately into effect, but only become effective when the attorney general of North Dakota certifies that as a result of new decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States, it is reasonably probable that this Act would be upheld as constitutional.

    Contact your Representatives
    today and ask them to Vote Yes on HB 1466.

    Message:    Please vote "Yes" on HB 1466.

    When:    Immediately. The House could vote on HB 1466 as early as Thursday, January 25!

    Where:   North Dakota House of Representatives
    Legislative Hotline 1-888-635-3447  --- Bismarck 328-3373
    Hearing Impaired: 1-800-366-6888

    E-mail addresses can be found at the Legislative Council Site

    Alternatives to Abortion Reauthorization

    SB 2312 would reauthorize the successful and important alternatives to abortion services program. This program gives financial assistance to crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and maternity homes that provide pro-life alternatives to abortion.

    The Senate Human Services Committee will hear the bill on Tuesday, January 23, in the Red River Room.

    Funding Restriction on Prenatal Testing for Abortion

    North Dakota law prohibits state funding for abortion and abortion counseling. Similarly, group health insurance policies cannot cover abortion unless the insured purchases coverage as a separate rider.

    The prohibitions, however, do not extend to funds used to pay for prenatal genetic testing that has no other purpose but to counsel for abortion. HB 1494 would fix that by extending the prohibitions to prenatal genetic testing that is not a precursor to treatment for the woman or unborn child. The most known example would be testing for Down's Syndrome. There presently is nothing that can be done to address Down's Syndrome in the womb, so the only medical purpose in testing for it would be as a precursor to deciding whether or not to abort the unborn child.

    HB 1494 would not prohibit such testing. It only would ensure that North Dakota citizens are not compelled to fund such tests with their tax or insurance premium dollars.

    HB 1494 will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on the morning of January 22.

    For a mother's perspective on the call for more prenatal testing for Down's Syndrome, check out
    this recent column from WashingtonPostOnline.

    Abortion Law Revision Bill

    House Bill 1464, also scheduled for a hearing on January 22, revises the state's existing laws on abortion to address new abortion practices, reflect current constitutional law, provide clarifications, incorporate some pro-life "best practices," and emphasize state policy favoring childbirth.

    Whether or not an abortion ban passes or is upheld, HB 1464 is needed to ensure that North Dakota has the best laws possible to protect women, parental rights, and unborn human life.

    Four Abortion Bills Set for Anniversary of Roe v. Wade -- Two Bans

    The House Judiciary Committee will hear four bills related to abortion on January 22, which happens to be the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

    Both HB 1466 and HB 1489 would prohibit abortion in North Dakota, though the bills are written differently. The most significant difference between them is that HB 1466 would not go into effect until the state Attorney General certifies that as a result of decisions by the Supreme Court, the act would probably be upheld as constitutional.

    Unlike bills introduced in previous legislative sessions, these bills
    do not punish the woman. As such the North Dakota Catholic Conference supports the intent of both bills and is willing to work with legislators to fashion the best bill possible.

    Four Abortion-Related Bills Filed

    HB 1464 would update existing laws regulating abortion.

    HB 1494 would prohibit state funding and insurance funding for prenatal genetic testing used to counsel for abortion. (State law already prohibits such funding for abortion itself.)

    HB 1489 would ban abortion.

    HB 1466 would ban abortion, but would not go into effect until Supreme Court decisions would permit it.

    U.S. Bishops Spokesperson Joins Republicans and Democrats Urging Amnesty International to Reject Pro-Abortion Rights Position

    Deirdre A. McQuade, Director of Planning and Information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, has called on Amnesty International to reject a proposal from some within the organization to abandon its neutral stance on abortion in favor of a policy advocating abortion as a human right.

    At a press conference today on Capitol Hill with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life, Ms. McQuade reiterated objections to the proposal that Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the USCCB, made in a September 15 letter to Amnesty International. His letter can be read at http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2006/06-174.shtml.

    Expect the full press release to be posted soon at USCCB's web site.

    Respect Life Resources

    In addition to the USCCB Respect Life Program, parish leaders may also be interested in a nice new set of prayers produced by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. The set includes prayers for adoption of a child, a memorial for deceased homeless persons, and a vigil at the time of an execution.

    2006-2007 Respect Life Program

    The 2006-2007 Respect Life Program from the USCCB Department for Pro-Life Activities is now available.

    The materials include these articles:

    The Ethics of Stem Cell Research
    by Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education of The National Catholic Bioethics Center

    Partial-Birth Abortion: A Bridge too Far
    by Susan Wills, J.D., LL.M., Associate Director for Education, USCCB

    Why Marriage Matters To Children and the Common Good
    by Maggie Gallagher, President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

    Go Organic: The Scientific Case for Catholic Sexual Ethics
    by Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.

    Victim Advocates Against the Death Penalty
    by Andrew Rivas, Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference

    Protecting Children in Their First Environment, the Womb
    by Roxana Barillas, Project Administrator, Department of Social Development and World Peace, USCCB