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Meet Sister Jean: 98-year-old nun and March Madness Twitter celebrity

Chicago, Ill., Mar 22, 2018 / 10:55 am (CNA).- In the first weekend of the March Madness tournament, the most tweeted-about person might not have been a basketball player, but a 98-year-old religious sister.

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, is the chaplain of the Loyola University Chicago Men’s Basketball team, and the unlikely breakout star of the college tournament.

Sister Jean burst onto the scene when her beloved Ramblers upset the University of Miami in the first round of the tournament with a down-to-the-wire three-point basket.



— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 15, 2018


Following this win, Twitter featured Sister Jean in a Twitter moment, and she received shout outs from high profile accounts including ESPN and former President Barack Obama. The New York Times also ran a profile on her.

Sister Jean leads the team in prayer before each game, and she prays for her players to be safe, for the referees to be fair, and for God’s assistance during the game. She also admitted to praying for the opposing team, but “not as hard.”

Sister Jean provides more than just spiritual support for the team: in 2011, when the Ramblers hired Head Coach Porter Moser, she presented him with a stack of scouting reports for each of his players. She still compiles notes on Loyola-Chicago’s opponents and will warn the team about different players during their pregame huddle. Until she broke her hip this past November, Sister Jean had only missed two home games over the past 23 years--and still followed the team on an iPad while she was recovering from surgery.

The Ramblers proved they weren’t one-and-done when they proceeded to upset the University of Tennessee and move on to the Sweet 16. This is their first time advancing to this round of the tournament since 1985. Sister Jean was thrilled.



— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 18, 2018



I’m gonna tell myself that Sister Jean saw this crying girl on the Jumbotron and this was her reaction idc idc

— Clemzingis (@TheClemReport) March 18, 2018


Loyola-Chicago will continue its Cinderella run through the tournament on Thursday night, against Nevada.


Get serious about human rights for people with Down syndrome, Vatican tells UN

New York City, N.Y., Mar 21, 2018 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The promotion of targeted abortion and other practices mean U.N. member states and agencies are not serious about protecting people with Down syndrome, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has said.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza on March 20 decried “the eugenic trend of ending the lives of the unborn who show some form of imperfection.”

Despite international conventions protecting the disabled, including their right to life, “so many members of the international community stand on the sidelines as the vast majority of those diagnosed with Trisomy-21 have their lives ended before they’re even born,” the archbishop said in a side event at the U.N. in New York City.

“Rather than stop it, some in the international community are abetting it,” he charged.

He cited a U.N. Human Rights Committee member who said during an official meeting that if a woman is told her unborn child has Down syndrome or some other permanent handicap, “it should be possible for her to resort to abortion to avoid the handicap as a preventive measure.” Defending those with disabilities, this committee member said, “does not mean that we have to accept to let a disabled fetus live.”

“Is such a position consistent with the U.N.’s concern to leave no one behind and to protect the rights of those with disabilities?” the archbishop asked.

Archbishop Auza heads the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, which sponsored a side event to for World Down Syndrome Day ahead of its March 21 observance.

The side event, held during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, considered questions such as “Are girls and boys with Down Syndrome being left behind?” and whether homes, rural villages and cities have room for those with Down syndrome.

Auza cited then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s March 21, 2012 remarks reaffirming that people with Down syndrome are entitled to full human rights and freedoms.

“Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down Syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others,” Ban said. “Let us build an inclusive society for all.”

According to Archbishop Auza, Pope Francis has countered eugenic trends targeting the unborn by advocating authentic love.

“(N)ot that false, saccharine and sanctimonious love, but that which is true, concrete and respectful,” the Pope said in Oct. 21, 2017 remarks. “To the extent that one is accepted and loved, included in the community and supported in looking to the future with confidence, the true path of life evolves and one experiences enduring happiness.”

Archbishop Auza cited a U.S. television show’s claim that Iceland was on the verge of “eliminating” Down syndrome, meaning the elimination of people with Down syndrome. The show said 100 percent of parents of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome chose abortion. This is almost the case in other countries, a phenomenon which some critics have called “genocide.”

“Here at the United Nations there is much sincere talk and normally passionate action to fight against any form of discrimination,” Auza said, specifically citing work to end discrimination against women and the disabled. The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he noted, seeks to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities,” including those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

“But as firm as these commitments are in principle, in practice many states, U.N. agencies and members of civil society tolerate gross violations of these commitments,” he lamented. “The international community says that it wants to leave no one behind and to defend the rights and equality of women and girls, for example, but then refuses to do anything when data show that the youngest girls are being systematically discriminated against in the womb, as in the case of sex selective abortion.”

The archbishop cited studies that indicate up to 160 million unborn girls have been targeted for abortion.

“The inconsistency, however, is even more pronounced when we turn to what is happening with those prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome,” he said.

The Holy See’s permanent observer mission co-sponsored the event with the Pujols Family Foundation, the Center for Family and Human Rights, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, and the film “Summer in the Forest,” which will be released soon.

How one organization helps the Church welcome Catholics with disabilities

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Around 14 million Catholics in the U.S. are living with a disability.

Since 1982, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) has been working to make sure those Catholics are welcomed as members of the Church and have opportunities to participate in the faith.

“The goal of NCPD is to ensure that people with any disability…can actively and meaningfully participate in the faith by using their gifts and interests,” said Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

“By virtue of baptism, everyone belongs to the body of Christ, and our work is to make sure that we are doing that with the proper attitude and spirit to make sure everyone can feel at home in their parishes,” she told CNA.

The organization works in in a variety of ways to “affirm the dignity of every person,” Benton said.

For example, they support people with Down syndrome by supporting campaigns that fight against discriminatory legislation, such as disability-selective abortions, while also working with individuals with Down syndrome as they prepare for sacraments and take an active part in the their faith.

“We remind church communities that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities are agents of evangelization and people gifted in their own right,” Benton said.

Founded in light of the 1978 document, “Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops of People with Disabilities,” the group has been promoting the pastoral guidelines for individuals with disabilities, particularly through access to the sacraments and Church life.

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability is a collaborative organization made up of various councils to serve people who live with physical, intellectual, sensory, mental or emotional disabilities. They also partner with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop Kurtz serves as their episcopal moderator.

“We work very closely with the bishops and the offices at the USCCB,” Benton said, noting that the bishops currently do not have a disabilities office, so the NCPD plays a huge role in this area.

One of the organization’s primary tasks is working closely with publishers to provide resources for catechists and leaders who are working directly in faith formation, but they also are involved in a number of different councils and speaking engagements around the nation.

The ministry provides catechesis, resources, spirituality and awareness building tools, trainings, conferences, and ministry models to dioceses throughout the country, and additionally offers online tools such as YouTube training videos.

“We are really set up to support the people in the dioceses, and even directly in parishes, to provide the support, resources, and training that the church might need,” Benton said.

She noted that the NCPD played a major role in the revision to the “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments,” which now aids priests, catechists and Church leaders in preparing the proper reception of the sacraments for individuals with disabilities.

While primarily ministering in the U.S., the disability resource group also works internationally with the Vatican and other groups. Esther Garcia, the outreach director for organization, said that she works with minorities, such as Asian, African, and Hispanic groups within the Church.

“The NCPD is working to ensure we are meeting the needs of families with disabilities in the Hispanic community,” Garcia said.

“We are all children of God…and it is our responsibility as a Church to provide resources and ways to ensure that [those with disabilities] have ways to receive the sacraments,” Garcia continued.

Moving forward, Benton told CNA that they are currently working on an app for sacramental preparation and Mass attendance for people with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

“We are always trying to develop resources that can easily be made available.”


Sacraments are the best spiritual armor – Bishop Olmsted

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 21, 2018 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a Lenten reflection, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said spiritual war needs spiritual amor, and the best armor is accessed through the sacraments.

"The sacraments, then, are the armor of choice in this spiritual war," he wrote in a March 20 column at the Catholic Sun.

“Through them, Jesus continues to heal, to forgive, to strengthen and to sustain us in our fight against the devil and his minions."

He said this spiritual war is a crucial battle, where the devil and his demons are determined to attack the souls of the faithful. Pointing to the ideology of secular culture, he said the devil's hostility can be seen in society's view on sin, heaven, hell, and repentance.

"This spiritual war against the devil and his minions has crucial consequences in our daily life with an outcome that determines our eternal destiny. The devil does all in his power to destroy the work of God in us."

This is a great and dramatic battle for souls, he said, and it needs the help of a God who encounters Christians in the present with living sacraments. But Catholics must be willing to embrace sacramental grace with the proper disposition, he said.

Taken from the Latin term sacramentum, he said the word originally referred to an oath Roman citizens would swear upon entering the military. He said, as soldiers, the men promised to defend the empire from from whatever force threatened it.

Likewise, Christ promised to accompany his Church, he said. "In a distinct way, he fulfills this promise through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. So, whenever a sacrament is celebrated, Christ is there to fight along our side for our salvation."

However, he said the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of Catholics, who should receive these rites with repentance and faith.

"A sacrament can be validly given and received but still may not be fruitful. Sadly, it is an outcome that seems to be widespread today."

“Repentance from any attachment to sin is essential to conduct one’s life in harmony with the purpose of the Sacraments, i.e. to increase divine life within us. Therefore, renunciation of sin and the devil is essential for receiving the true spiritual values of the Sacraments.”

And where faith is strong there is transformation, but where faith is dismal the fruits will be vague, he said.

"When we participate with sincere faith in prayer and the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of Scripture and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we do so with greater awareness and expectations of encountering the living God, an encounter that changes us for the better."

Bishop Olmsted expressed hope that Catholics may finish this Lenten season with spiritual fruit and a freedom from evil.

"During Holy Week we will be reminded of the battle that our Lord waged and is still waging in us members of his Mystical Body. May this season of Lent be a time to free our spiritual life from the evil one. And may the fruits of the great spiritual struggle - sacrifice, prayer, fasting and the witness of our faith - hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God."

Pro-life Democrat Lipinski survives primary challenge

Chicago, Ill., Mar 21, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats, narrowly won the Democratic primary election Tuesday night for Illinois’ 3rd District. Lipinski’s challenger, NARAL-backed Marie Newman, made her opposition to Lipinski’s pro-life views a central part of her campaign.

While media outlets called the race for Lipinski several hours after polls closed March 20, Newman initially refused to concede, even going as far to say that she hoped her opponent had a “very painful evening.” On Wednesday morning, however, Newman posted a message on her Facebook page acknowledging that she had lost the election and that she would continue to press Lipinski further to the left.

“Since we started our campaign, Dan Lipinski has moved his position on healthcare, a path to citizenship, and the need for a fair minimum wage. We put him on notice that we expect better for all of the people in our district,” said Newman.

“I plan on continuing to hold him accountable so that every person in our district has access, opportunity, and equal rights.”

The race was notable for the amount of outside money spent to primary a sitting member of Congress in an extremely safe Democratic seat. An estimated $2.5 million was spent on various campaign ads and mailings, with about two-thirds of that money supporting Newman’s campaign. Lipinski was hammered in attack ads for his opposition to Obamacare, as well as his support of pro-life legislation and for defunding Planned Parenthood.

Despite Lipinski’s moderate tendencies, Democrats For Life of America Executive Director Kristen Day took issue with the claim that was a “conservative” or a bad Democrat. In a published statement, Day said that Lipinski’s victory was a “win for the Big Tent Democratic Party,” and that the race was an effort to expunge pro-life Democrats from the party.

“His [voting] record says otherwise, with an 88 percent party-loyalty rating and solid lifetime records with labor, education, and environmental groups,” said Day.

“The race was not about Dan’s record on traditional Democratic values. It was, plain and simple, about abortion and an effort to ‘purify’ the Democratic Party of pro-life voices.”

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said March 21, “We are thrilled with Congressman Lipinski’s victory over Marie Newman and the abortion industry which is increasingly pushing the Democratic Party left on abortion. Dan Lipinski is a pro-life hero of legendary courage and integrity … It was an honor and a privilege for our team to support him and we look forward to continuing to work with him in Congress.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially declined to endorse Lipinski, but changed their minds about two weeks ago. House Democrats announced Wednesday after the race was called that Lipinski had their full support for the general election.

Lipinski was first elected to Congress in 2004, after his father retired from the seat. This election was his most significant primary challenge.

He is expected to win the general election in November by a wide margin.

Ultimatum for Catholic college CFO raises questions about university policy, guns

Miami, Fla., Mar 21, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Having been given an ultimatum, chief financial officer of St. Thomas University in Florida Anita Britt resigned last week after being told she had to choose between her CFO position and her membership on the board of a company that manufactures guns.

Britt sits on the board of American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Smith & Wesson, which manufactures guns including the AR-15, the weapon that was used to kill 17 students in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting last month. Britt joined the board on Feb. 6, a month after beginning her position at the university.

Originally, Britt was told that her position at the Catholic school and her membership on American Outdoor Brands’ board did not conflict.

“Ms. Britt’s position with American Outdoor Brands provides her the opportunity to participate in helping the company achieve its objectives of making our communities safer and... does not conflict with her responsibilities here at St. Thomas,” Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president of St. Thomas University, initially said in a letter reported on by the Miami Herald.

However, after additional pressure due to the recent shooting, Casale backtracked from his initial stance and presented Britt with the choice of either staying on as CFO and resigning from American Outdoor Brands board, or leaving the university. Britt resigned from St. Thomas March 13.

Casale told the Miami Herald that he changed his original position regarding Britt because “it has become clear that many of the sensible and reasonable solutions to this gun epidemic, which have been discussed previously, were becoming less and less clear.”

“I came to the conclusion that St. Thomas was being associated with gun violence and that was not an image I thought was good for the university,” he added.

Professor Brian Scarnecchia, a professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Florida told CNA that while St. Thomas University is free to make personnel decisions, Britt’s position on the board of American Outdoor Brands does not conflict with Church social teaching.

“The president of St. Thomas University had it right the first time. There is no inherent conflict in working for a Catholic institution of high education and being on the board of a firearms manufacturing company. Both provide morally neutral products and services,” Scarnecchia said.

“A Catholic can work for a firearms company in good faith. A Catholic could not work for Planned Parenthood or Playboy magazine in good faith. The difference is that a firearm is a neutral product, but the principal products and services of Planned Parenthood and Playboy are not,” he added.

“I say a firearm is a neutral product because it has no inherently bad or good purpose. A firearm may be used for home defense, recreational target shooting, hunting or murder,” he said, whereas pornography and contraceptives can only be used for evil.

The university’s position about Britt raised questions about others affiliated with the university.

Victor Mendelson, who sits on the board of St. Thomas University, is the co-president of HEICO, a company that builds technology and components for military aircraft, drones, and weapons systems.

St. Thomas University did not respond to questions about Mendelson’s position or about whether it had investigated the standings, in light of Catholic social teaching, of other companies and institutions represented among their board members.

Casale himself previously served as board secretary to a nonprofit housing corporation that, during his time on the board, partnered with Miami’s Pride Center to develop an LGBT-focused housing complex.

Neither the archdiocese nor the university responded to questions about whether faculty members teaching theology have received the ecclesiastical mandatum required by Pope St. John Paul II's Ex corde ecclesiae. The mandatum is an acknowledgment by church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is teaching within the full communion of the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese of Miami, which sponsors St. Thomas University, told CNA that Archbishop Thomas Wenski “permits (per bylaws) the Board of Directors (of St. Thomas) to pursue their responsibilities and provide direction for the university’s success.”
“Decisions made by STU’s president,  Msgr. Franklyn Casale, and the university’s board members are made autonomously, permitting them to function within the realm of their positions,” Mary Ross Agosta, communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, told CNA.

Texas bishops call for prayers to heal community after bombings

Austin, Texas, Mar 21, 2018 / 10:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of central Texas have encouraged prayers for healing in a community reeling from a string of bombings over the last month.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin issued a joint statement on Tuesday urging prayers for the victims of the serial bombings as well as prayers for law enforcement officials.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families and friends of all those affected by the package explosions which have taken place this month in Austin and San Antonio,” said the bishops.

In recent weeks, two people were killed and half a dozen were injured in a series of explosions throughout Austin and in a FedEx distribution facility near San Antonio.

Suspected bomber Mark Anthony Conditt was confronted by police early on Wednesday morning, and drove off in a car before he detonated one of his own bombs, killing himself in the process, according to officials. His motive for the bombings remains unknown and police are continuing to investigate.

Police have warned that there may be additional bombs and have urged the public to remain watchful and alert.

In their message Tuesday, the bishops urged the community to remain strong, and to not be divided by fear. They voiced hope that prayer could serve as a uniting force in the face of terror.

“The randomness of these attacks and their increasing frequency are perhaps meant by their perpetrator to spread fear and cause division in our communities,” they said.

“However, as we have seen time and time again, tragedies such as these strengthen our bonds and bring our communities together in prayer and recognition of the sanctity and preciousness of life.”


What Mary Eberstadt told Notre Dame about 'Humanae Vitae'

South Bend, Ind., Mar 20, 2018 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Author Mary Eberstadt told students at the University of Notre Dame Tuesday that a 50-year-old document on contraception is critical to understanding the state of contemporary culture.

Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the Faith and Reason Institute, spoke at Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, explaining that the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae has become a reality.

“Contraceptive technology, as Paul VI foresaw, opens a Pandora’s box of mischief in which the stronger have the advantage,” Eberstadt told Notre Dame students March 20.

“For some while now, it’s been apparent that the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s bids fair to become one of the most formative disruptions in human history,” Eberstadt argued. “It’s having massive repercussions across the world – microcosmic, macrocosmic, moral, religious, political, and otherwise.”

Eberstadt mentioned an article she wrote a decade ago, published in the journal First Things, at the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. “It’s the same conclusion that was visible ten years ago, and that will remain visible ten, or one hundred, or two hundred years from now,” said Eberstadt. “It’s simply this: The most globally reviled and widely misunderstood document of the last half century is also the most prophetic and explanatory of our time.”

Fifty years ago, Eberstadt said, supporters of contraception argued that abortions and births to unmarried parents would diminish as a result of reliable birth control. Rather, she said, they have increased.

“Far from preventing abortion and unplanned pregnancies, contraception’s effects after the invention of the pill ran quite the other way: Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.”

Eberstadt argued that abortion rates have increased as a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and contraception in particular. She offered a series of proofs to support her claim.

First, she said abortions have increased because the responsibility of pregnancy has been increasingly placed on woman alone. While women may appear freer, she said, contraception has diminished men’s sense of responsibility for pregnancy, and therefore eroded their sense of responsibility toward pregnant women.

“By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father,” she said, citing analysis by George Akerlof, Janet Yellen, and Michael Katz.

She next argued that contraception promotes abortion-on-demand because it encourages career plans that depend on delaying children until later in life. If an unexpected pregnancy interrupts such plans, she said, abortion is more likely to be considered.

Eberstadt also argued that the legalization of contraception and abortion are tied to another. She said movements towards the legalization of abortion always begin as birth control devices become more popular and available.

“Legal reasoning justifying freedom to contracept has been used to justify freedom to abort. You can’t have one without the other.”

Eberstadt mentioned that support for contraception is not universal.
She said many African nations have “resisted the attempts of reformers to bring them into line with the secular Western sexual program.”

She quoted an open letter written by Nigerian-born author Obainuju Ekaocha in response to a contraceptive initiative by billionaire Melinda Gates: “I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of innocent chatter of children…. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

In contrast to Africa’s resistance to contraception, Eberstadt noted the demographic decline of Japan, where, she said, loneliness is pervasive, especially among the elderly, who often die alone.

As the destructive results of the sexual revolution become more obvious, Eberstadt said that many Protestant Christians have reconsidered prior positions on contraception.

“More and more people outside the Church are concluding from that same wreckage that Catholic moral teaching has called many things right, not only as of Humanae Vitae, but for the preceding millennia of consistent teaching.”

In conclusion, Eberstadt said that while people in the world will continue to oppose to the Church’s stance on contraception, the truth of Humanae Vitae will not stop pointing towards the destruction of the sexual revolution.

“To discern the record of the last half-century is to see that the Catholic Church was right to stand as a sign of contradiction to the devastation the sexual revolution would wreak; that accommodating top the revolution has been an epic fail for the churches that have tried it; and that the truths of Humanae Vitae and related documents burn all the more brightly against the shadowy toll of the destruction out there.”

“Be proud in the right way of your Church for getting one of the most important calls in history right,” Eberstadt encouraged. “And never let anyone put a kick-me sign on you for being an unapologetic Catholic.”


Pro-life pregnancy centers hopeful after arguing before Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2018 / 02:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys for a pro-life pregnancy center resource group are optimistic following Tuesday’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court, in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

In the pouring rain, the attorneys spoke to a crowd of supporters outside of the court, and said that they were pleased with the day’s events and remained hopeful that a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about free or low-cost abortions would be struck down.

“We hit a home run today in the court,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “In fact, [Alliance Defending Freedom CEO] Michael Farris hit a grand slam home run.”

Glessner added that he was “very optimistic” that the court would rule against California.

According to Farris, the Supreme Court justices were especially concerned about the provision in the law that mandated unlicensed, non-medical pregnancy centers to post a lengthy disclaimer in 13 languages on its advertisements.

“If you have just an ad that says ‘life counts’ with the name of your facility and a phone number, then you have to – in the same size as the ad itself, the main words – put a 29-word disclaimer in multiple languages. That crowds out the message,” said Farris.

“They’re not trying to inform anyone about anything, they’re trying to delude a message so that nobody ever comes to one of these facilities.”

According to Farris, multiple justices – including members of the court’s more liberal wing – were concerned that that this law was too far-reaching.

Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of ADF, agreed with Farris, and added that the government’s “last resort” should be to compel speech. Waggoner said she was hopeful that the court would agree that no one should be forced to promote something that violates their beliefs.

“We are hopeful, based on the comments of the court today, that they recognize that important principle. And we are hopeful that they will rule on the behalf of life.”

The attorneys told the crowd that they presented their argument to the court as one primarily based on free speech, not necessarily about abortion.

The First Amendment applies to all, NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor said, and the specific targeting of pro-life pregnancy centers by the Reproductive FACT Act should be troubling for everyone, regardless of political beliefs or feelings about abortion.

“Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice or whatever on the line, we should all be concerned about when a government can compel anybody to say something that violates what they believe,” said O’Connor.

Her sentiment was echoed by Josh McClure, the executive director of a California pregnancy clinic.

“No American should be forced to preach a message or speak a message that they don’t agree with. That’s the basis of why we’re here,” said McClure.

O’Connor also said that while the justices posed “challenging” questions, she believed that at least eight would rule in favor of NIFLA.

“But 9-0 is what we’re praying for.”

Pro-life advocates braved the freezing temperatures and rain to show their support for pregnancy centers.

Kelly Picardi, a non-denominational Christian, told CNA that she and her husband are in the process of adopting a child conceived in rape, due to be born next month.

“The conception of our daughter’s life came about through a difficult and unfortunate situation, but the decision of the birth mom not only choose life but to choose adoption is the most respectable thing I can think of,” Picardi says.

“That kind of decision is our inspiration, and an example to [my family] of what love looks like. Even though she’s had a really hard life, [the birth mother] is still making the kind of decision that will benefit someone else. That example of love is what we’ll live by every day.”

Picardi says she hopes that her family’s decision to adopt can serve as an example for others, ultimately helping to normalize the practice of adoption in society. “As hard as the adoption journey is, it’s really been affirmed by the people in our community,” she said. “Good can always come from broken situations.”

Rosemary Geraghty, a new media coordinator for Rehumanize International, said her beliefs as a self-identified feminist put her at odds with the pro-choice side of the argument.

“It’s hard for me to understand why someone who would call themselves pro-choice would be against the groups that give women more options than just abortion,” she told CNA. “To attack these pregnancy centers that are giving direct aid and resources to low-income women and pregnant’s just anti-’pro-life people.’ It’s viewpoint discrimination.”  

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stressed the important work that pregnancy care centers offer to serve women in need.  

“The bottom line is that abortion hurts women; it doesn’t do a service for women, and these centers can provide women what they need in a very stressful moment,” she said. “Things like diapers, but also more complex things like housing, education...these things are critically important.”


Jonah McKeown contributed to this report.


Judge temporarily blocks Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

Jackson, Miss., Mar 20, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday against a Mississippi law which bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy.

It is the most restrictive abortion law in the US.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the Gestational Age Act March 20, one day after it was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.


I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018


A suit was filed against the law within hours of its signing by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The center argues that a “state may not ban abortion before viability.” Viability is currently typically placed at around 24 weeks.

Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic, saying a woman at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon.

The state argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health.

The law was passed by the state legislature earlier in the month. It permits abortion past 15 weeks when the mother's life or major bodily function is in danger or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality which is incompatible with life outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Under the law, physicians knowingly in violation can lose their state medical licenses, and receive a civil penalty of up to $500 if they falsify records about the circumstances of the procedure.

State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant; according to the suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Jackson Women's Health Organization performed 78 abortions past 15 weeks in 2017.

Prior to the passage of the new law, Mississippi barred abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy. It also requires that those performing abortions be board-certified or -eligible obstetrician-gynecologists, and that a woman receive in-person counseling and wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion.

Signing the bill, Bryant said that “We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do? We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It'll be worth fighting over.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child. I was proud to stand with members of the pro-life community as Gov. <a href="">@PhilBryantMS</a> signed the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) <a href="">March 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said at the signing that the state would be prepared for pay to defend the law in court: “I don’t know if you can put any value on human life. We are all about fighting to protect the unborn. Whatever challenges we have to take on to do that, is something we’re willing to do.”