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Clandestine medical abortions reportedly on the rise in the US

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- While the number of in-clinic abortions in the United States is reportedly down, the sale of illicitly acquired abortion pills may be up, according to recent data from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

According to data from Guttmacher, a total of 339,640 medication abortions occurred in 2017, making up about 39% of all abortions. But because of the “black market” abortion pills acquired online or otherwise surreptitiously, it is difficult to track exactly how many abortions are occurring this way. Researchers told the New York Times that they estimate that secret medical abortions are making up a growing and “irreversible” portion of abortions in the United States.

“This is happening,” said Jill E. Adams, executive director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, told the New York Times. “This is an irreversible part of abortion care here in the United States.”

According to Guttmacher’s data and analysis, in-clinic abortions were down by about 19% in 2017 when compared to data from 2011. Guttmacher estimated that the abortion decline could be related to a decrease in overall birthrates, as well as increased contraceptive use and “increases in the number of individuals relying on self-managed (i.e. medical) abortions outside of a clinical setting.”

Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said he welcomed the decline in overall abortions, but that he was concerned about the rise in clandestine medical abortions.

“There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” he said. “American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies. This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent.”

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing as it carries with it the possibility of increasing the overall abortion rate over time and also carries with it a higher rate of injury, about which women are often under-informed or deceived,” he added.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women additional doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of mifepristone, if the woman regrets taking the pill and hopes to reverse the abortion.

Earlier this month, a European doctor filed a lawsuit against the United States Food and Drug Administration in order to continue selling medical abortion pills online. The FDA argued that Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and her group, Aid Access, were in violation of FDA regulations which state that abortion pills cannot be sold online, as part of an FDA risk mitigation program called REMS, which is used for all higher-risk medications.

The news of an increase in medical abortions also comes shortly after a North Dakota judge nixed part of a new law that would have required doctors to inform their patients about abortion pill reversal protocol, as well as after Planned Parenthood announced its plans to expand access to medical abortions through telemedicine.

In response to this increase in medical abortions, a new federal bill has been drafted which aims to preserve restrictions on abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders, and was sponsored by Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio).

In a Sept. 18 article in the New York Times, Elizabeth Nash, senior state policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said that while abortions have decreased throughout the U.S., “there’s no clear pattern linking these declines to new restrictions.”

Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, told the New York Times that the data and analysis from Guttmacher were “a patchwork put together to serve an agenda, and I don’t give any of it any credence whatsoever.”

He said that the Guttmacher Institute simply wants to present the message that “abortion is good, abortion should be legal and state laws that try to limit or regulate abortion are ineffective.”

“I’m sure that there are many factors that have contributed to the decline,” Forsythe told the New York Times. “Some state laws do contribute to a reduction in abortion.”

Several states have passed abortion restrictions in the past year, including Alabama, Arkansas, and Utah, which have passed laws that would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio, passed heartbeat bills that would restrict abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs between six and eight weeks of pregnancy. A lengthy clinic licensure debate in Missouri could mean the closure of the last Planned Parenthood in the state. Most of these laws have yet to go into effect.

Medical migrant ordered to leave gets hope of reprieve, highlights similar cases

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- An immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for more than 16 years while receiving life-saving medical treatments is hoping for a reprieve after being given weeks to leave the country. 

Maria Isabel Bueso, a 24 year-old immigrant from Guatemala, has lived in the U.S. without citizenship since 2003 through temporary extensions of “deferred action,” or delays of deportation, so that she can stay and receive treatment for her rare medical condition.

Bueso traveled from Guatemala to the U.S. with her family in 2003 to participate in clinical trials for her rare genetic disorder. After more than 16 years, she was notified in August that she would not be able to renew her status in the U.S. because the administration would stop considering non-military requests for deferred action. She was given 33 days to leave the country.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would resume granting non-military deferred action on a case-by-case basis, 

Bueso was “thrilled” by the news, her nurse, Wendy Bloom, told CNA, but remained only “cautiously optimistic” until she has full certainty of her status and hopes her case will draw attention to the plight of others like her.

“She’s really nervous until she actually gets an official letter that says ‘you are allowed to stay here,’ then she’ll be ready to have a party,” Bloom, a member of the California Nurses Association, told CNA.

Bueso has become an advocate for other patients with rare diseases—some of who needed to travel from outside the U.S. for treatment.

She has Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome (MPS-VI) which is a rare genetic disorder, and was invited to the U.S. at age seven to participate in clinical trials conducted by Dr. Paul Harmatz at Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California.

Bueso traveled to the U.S. on a B-2 visa with her family, and has since remained in the country for weekly treatments. Bloom says she has known Bueso for 13 years, and that Bueso has been coming to the hospital for almost 17 years.

After she initially participated in clinical trials for her condition, that program helped develop a commercial drug—Naglazyme—that is now used to treat patients with MPS-VI.

In 2009, Bueso applied for and was granted deferred action of deportation, with a renewal every two years.

Several weeks after her notice to leave the U.S., Bueso testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at a hearing held on September 11 on “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children.”

“The medical treatment I need is not available in Guatemala. If I’m sent back, I will die,” she told members of the subcommittee. Bloom explained that the treatment is expensive and requires special skills to administer; Bueso would not be able to receive the necessary treatment in Guatemala.

On Sept. 2, DHS had announced that it would review the change in policy for “deferred action,” but Bueso’s status was still in limbo.

“It was incredibly stressful for the family, incredibly stressful, and for all of us that care for her and love her too, it was really heartbreaking,” Bloom said.

Then on Sept. 19, DHS informed the House Oversight Committee that it would once again consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis for non-military immigrants in the U.S.

In the statement, DHS said that USCIS would resume consideration of “non-military deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, except as otherwise required by an applicable statute, regulation, or court order.”

Oversight Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) stated in response that “it appears that the Trump Administration is reversing its inhumane and disastrous decision to deport critically ill children and their families who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the United States.”

The decision draws attention to the importance of allowing immigrants like Bueso to come to the U.S. for treatment.

“Medical research needs to be ongoing, and if we can’t have the type of patients enrolling in these studies then we have a problem,” Bloom said.

Msgr. Rossi takes leave of absence from CUA board of trustees

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2019 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Msgr. Walter Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of trustees at The Catholic University of America, while the priest is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

“Last month the chairman of the Board of Trustees approved Msgr. Rossi’s request to take a voluntary leave of absence pending the resolution of the investigation launched jointly by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton. During the leave of absence Msgr Rossi will not participate in any board activities,” Karna Lozoya, spokesperson for the university told CUA Sept. 20.

Lozoya told CNA that the university is “in contact with the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington, who have jointly launched an investigation. We will cooperate with them as needed. We don’t have any information at this point to warrant our own investigation.”

In August, the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that it had commenced “the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised,” about Rossi, who is rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Rossi is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton.

“The Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the diocese told CNA Aug. 14.

Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

During that session, Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.

Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Fr. Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was made in 2013.

In August, Gregory said he was unfamiliar with the allegation.
 
“That’s news to me. And I am not doubting it, but I have not heard about [this situation].”
 
“I suspect – I hope – that there is a forensic investigation. But in today’s environment, even a forensic investigation that either proves or disproves, will not satisfy the people. But I would like to see that, I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”

Rossi “is not an employee of Catholic University, nor does he have regular duties or responsibilities to fulfill on our campus. We do have students who are active either as part-time employees or volunteers at the Shrine. We have not received any complaints from our students regarding Msgr. Rossi,” Lozoya told CNA Friday.

“The safety of our students is our first priority. If we ever have good reason to believe the safety of our students is in danger, we will take the necessary action,” she added.

While Rossi is the subject of a canonical investigation, he has not been removed from his post at the National Shrine, and neither the scope nor the timeline of the investigation have been delineated by the Archdiocese of Washington or the Diocese of Scranton.

“If anyone harms a student at The Catholic University of America, we want to know about it. If any member of our community has experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has first hand knowledge of an incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Police Department, our Dean of Students, or our Title IX coordinator,” Lozoya told CNA.

After Chaput warning, bishops weigh in on Fr. James Martin

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 20, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- After the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution regarding the message Fr. James Martin, SJ, other bishops have weighed in on Martin’s message regarding homosexuality and Catholicism, as Martin and the archbishop have continued to exchange views on the matter.

“Father Martin’s public messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church by promoting a false sense that immoral sexual behavior is acceptable under God’s law,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote Sept. 19.

“People with same-sex attraction are indeed created and loved by God and are welcome in the Catholic Church. But the Church’s mission to these brothers and sisters is the same as to all her faithful: to guide, encourage, and support each of us in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity,” the bishop added.

Paprocki’s statement came in response to a Sept. 19 column from Archbishop Charles Chaput, that urged caution about “a pattern of ambiguity” in the writing and teaching of Martin.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

“Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput wrote.

“Archbishop Chaput has provided a helpful caution to Catholics about Father James Martin. On the one hand, Father Martin correctly expresses God’s love for all people, while on the other, he either encourages or fails to correct behavior that separates a person from that very love. This is deeply scandalous in the sense of leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful,” Paprocki’s statement said.

“This matter is not one of opinion, it is our Lord’s own teaching, as we hear in Luke’s Gospel: ‘Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,’” the bishop added.

Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville also weighed in Chaput’s column.

On Twiter, Stika praised Chaput’s “column on the theological and moral errors of Fr Martin. He praises his outreach but challenges his moral and theological thoughts. He also states clearly that this is a great error. I would add the pain it causes by setting people for pain as morally it can never be accepted by the Church. The Archbishop also adds that the vicious attacks on Father is wrong and sinful. It is one thing to disagree but another to be vicious and hide behind a handle.”
 

Martin himself responded to Chaput’s column in an op-ed at CatholicPhilly, the news portal of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“I think my main response to his column is that it’s difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things about church teaching, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching on matters of sexual morality (or anything, for that matter).”

“One of the reasons that I don’t focus on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which I know are both impermissible (and immoral) under church teaching, is that LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church,” Martin wrote.

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest added.

“I remain grateful for the Archbishop’s asking people not to engage in ‘ad hominem’ attacks, and I appreciate the careful tone of his letter and have always appreciated his kind communications with me,” Martin concluded.

Chaput responded Martin’s column.

“I appreciate Father Martin’s typically gracious comments, which are consistent with the man,” Chaput wrote.

“They do not, however, change the need for my column. I’m sure Father Martin would agree that ‘official’ Church teaching (as opposed to some alternative, imagined, unofficial system of belief and practice) is simply what the Church believes based on the Word of God and centuries of experience with the human condition.”

“Moreover, the point is not to ‘not challenge’ what the Church believes about human sexuality, but to preach and teach it with confidence, joy, and zeal. Biblical truth liberates; it is never a cause for embarrassment,” Chaput added.

The archbishop noted that he and Martin agree that “persons with same-sex attraction are children of God and well loved by him. Thus they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The Church must earnestly seek to do that while remaining true to her convictions.”

“But it is clearly not true that the ‘only thing’ Catholics with same-sex attraction hear from their Church is a message of rejection. Or if it is, perhaps the responsibility can lie as much with the listener as it does with the Church. We each have the freedom to choose. Listening, like teaching, is an act of the will.”

 

Scottish Church says Catholics schools don't cause violence

Edinburgh, Scotland, Sep 19, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Wednesday the suggestion that Catholic schools in the country are a cause for bigotry is “staggeringly intolerant.”

“Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools,” Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote in an op-ed Sept. 18.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society,” he added.

Kearney’s comments came in response to a Sept. 16 column in The Scotsman, a leading newspaper in Scotland. The column, penned by Tom Woods, a former deputy chief constable in Edinburgh’s regional police force, argued that “religiously segregated education” is the source of sectarian demonstrations and violence in the country.

“I have no doubt that the provision for separate Roman Catholic education as enshrined by The Education (Scotland) Act 1918, was a good idea 100 years ago, but is it acceptable that in the 21st century, we emphasise differences by separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion?” Woods asked.

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our watchword, our century-old practice of segregated education is contradictory to say the least,” he wrote, adding that “if we really want to dig out the roots of sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious segregation in our schools.”

Kearney wrote that “there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up” Woods’ claims.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.”

The disagreement emerged after several political marches and demonstrations have turned violent in Scotland in recent weeks, with clashes between Republican and Loyalist groups leading to a ban on some political marches in the city of Glasgow.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Kearney said that schools are not to blame for the strife, which he attributed partially to anti-Catholicism.

“Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.”

 

Indiana bishop offers cemetery for burial of aborted remains

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered Thursday the use of a Catholic cemetery to bury the more than 2,000 remains of aborted children that were discovered in the garage of a recently-deceased former abortionist, as authorities in one state close their investigation into the discovery.

“I join my voice to the many people who have expressed their horror and disgust at the discovery of 2,246 medically preserved remains of unborn babies in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend,” Rhoades said Sept. 19.

“I strongly support the investigation being carried out by the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana. I also offer any assistance, including the use of our Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, for the proper and dignified burial of the remains of these unborn children.”

At a press conference Thursday, the Will County Sheriff’s Office announced that they will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of 2,246 “medically preserved fetal remains” in the Klopfer's garage. The remains were discovered by Klopfer’s family members Sept. 12, nine days after his death at age 75.

According to the sheriff’s office, the remains were discovered in more than 70 cardboard boxes that were stacked nearly up to the ceiling of the garage. He said Klopfer’s family has been cooperating with the investigation.

“The remains discovered were inside small sealed plastic bags, which contained formalin, a chemical used to preserve biological material,” said a joint statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Will County Coroner's Office. The statement said that these boxes were mixed with boxes that contained “various personal property” of Klopfer.

The statement said that the boxes were dated 2000-2002. During those years, Klopfer owned and operated three abortion clinics in Indiana. These clinics, which were located in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Gary, were all shuttered by the end of 2015 after numerous complaints against Klopfer’s practices.

In 2016, Klopfer’s medical license was suspended after he admitted that he performed abortions on two 13-year-old girls, and did not report them to the state in a timely manner. He also admitted that he did not give pain medication to adult patients unless they paid extra, and his clinic in Fort Wayne was described as dirty and unkempt, with broken equipment.

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said at the press conference that Klopfer left no documentation as to why he chose to store the remains in his garage.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that he was working with the Indiana Attorney General’s office to transfer the fetal remains to Indiana authorities, where the investigation will continue. He said that there will be an investigation into Klopfer’s admission that he performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor, who was then returned to her family without reporting the act.

Glasgow declined to state the estimated gestational age of the fetal remains, and did not elaborate as to how the bags were labeled. He said that once the remains are transferred to Indiana, the attorney general will ask women who were Klopfer’s patients at that time to contact the agency with any additional information that they may have.

While Klopfer cannot be charged with anything as he is deceased, the presence of fetal remains in his home suggests he violated Indiana law regarding the disposal of medical waste, as well as a law regarding records keeping. Authorities in Indiana will investigate whether Klopfer had an accomplice who helped him transport the remains to his home in Illinois. That person may be charged, although the age of the remains could be past the statute of limitations.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said that he found the discovery to be “extremely disturbing,” and he supported an investigation. He also said that he hopes it is not used to further restrict abortion rights.

“I hope that it doesn’t get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to healthcare,” he added.

As mayor, Buttigieg attempted to block the construction of a pregnancy center in South Bend, and supported the operation of Whole Women’s Health, an abortion clinic. Whole Women’s Health currently is operating without a license, and is administered by a former employee of Klopfer.

Transgender man will be allowed to sue Catholic hospital over hysterectomy

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 19, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Sacramento-area woman who identifies as a transgender man will be allowed to sue a Catholic hospital for cancelling and rescheduling a procedure to remove her uterus, following a ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal that overturned a lower court ruling on Wednesday.

Evan Minton, who identifies as a male, says in the lawsuit that Dignity Health, a Catholic health system that operates Mercy San Juan Medical Center outside Sacramento, in 2017 cancelled a planned hysterectomy when she mentioned to a nurse that she identifies as trangendered.

Dignity Health arranged for Minton to have the procedure done at a different hospital within 72 hours of the cancellation, the Sacramento Bee reports. The surgeon, Dr Lindsey Dawson, told the Bee that Dignity Health officials assisted her in getting emergency privileges at Methodist, a non-Catholic affiliated hospital, so she could perform the hysterectomy there.

Minton sued, arguing that the hospital’s actions violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which says businesses must offer full and equal access to state residents, the Bee reports.

Dignity Health provided a response to the Sacramento Bee.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” the Dignity statement said.

“Courts have repeatedly recognized the right of faith-based hospitals not to provide services based on their religious principles....In this case, Mr. Minton was able to quickly receive the sought-after procedure at another nearby Dignity Health hospital that is not Catholic-affiliated.”

A San Francisco Superior Court judge initially dismissed Minton’s lawsuit, on the grounds that the hospital followed court precedent in rescheduling the patient quickly at a different hospital.

Court records show that Minton underwent hormone replacement therapy in 2012 and a mastectomy in 2014, and planned to undergo the hysterectomy before having a penis surgically created.

Another Catholic health system in California, St. Joseph Health, is facing a similar lawsuit filed in March from another woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

After the surgery at St. Joseph was denied, Knight underwent a hysterectomy at a hospital unaffiliated with the St. Joseph Health of Northern California system, 30 minutes away.

Like Dignity Health, St. Joseph Health said in a statement that hysterectomies are only performed at their facilities when they have been deemed “medically necessary,” and not for purposes of sterilization.

The teaching of the Catholic Church recognizes a hysterectomy as licit when there is a grave and present danger to the life or health of the mother, and when the intention of the procedure is not to prevent the possibility of conception. The hysterectomy must be chosen for therapeutic reasons, so that it aims to curtail a serious present danger such as hemorrhage which cannot be stopped by other means; hysterectomy is illicit if it is intended to prevent an eventual pregnancy which can pose some risk for the mother.
 
A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that the denial of surgery to someone seeking to change their gender would not be discriminatory, noting that in such cases there would be nothing medically wrong with otherwise healthy organs to be removed.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.
 
“A hospital does not engage in 'discrimination' when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

 

Polls show majority support in US for medical conscience protections

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- New poll results show that a large majority of Americans believe that healthcare professionals should not be forced to provide procedures that violate their moral beliefs. 

The results of two polls, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 18, show widespread support for conscience protections in the healthcare industry, and for regulatory changes that take into account new pressures surrounding so-called gender reassignment procedures.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people — especially the poor and marginalized — with the highest ethical standards,” said a joint statement on the results released by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who chairs the USCCB committee on pro-life activities. 

The release was also signed by Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, chair of the committee for religious liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chair of the committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the subcommittee for the defense of marriage.

“If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need,” the bishops added. In many areas of the country, Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals are the only institutions present to serve a community. 

A total of 83% of all respondents in the Heart+Mind Strategies poll, conducted on behalf of the USCCB, said that it was important to not force healthcare professionals to participate in procedures to which they have moral objections. This total included 86% of women polled and 79% of men. 

The survey polled 1,004 adults over the age of 18 from July 18-21, 2019. The sample size was equally divided between men and women. 

Nearly six out of 10 respondents said that healthcare providers, such as doctors or nurses, should not be required to perform abortions if they are morally opposed to the practice. Only 20% thought it should be legally required for doctors or nurses to perform abortions, and another 22% said they were not sure.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they supported regulations to protect conscience rights, and 21% said they were opposed. An additional 21% said they were not sure if they supported these regulations. 

These numbers were slightly different when the question was modified to specifically ask about doctors opposed to performing “gender reassignment procedures.” This question saw 60% of respondents say they were in favor of regulations to protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform such procedures with 22% who said they were opposed. Only 18% said they were unsure if they thought doctors should be forced to violate their consciences in these cases. 

The poll also found that over eight out of 10 Americans believe that “having a moral alignment with one’s healthcare professional is important.” This figure rose four points to 85% among women, and fell to 77% among men. 

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule, which protects doctors and other medical practitioners who object to procedures like abortion, sterilization, or facilitating euthanasia. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights. 

After initially being scheduled to go into effect in July, it has been delayed until the end of November due to legal challenges.

Draft law would preserve abortion pill restrictions

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- New federal legislation has been drafted to preserve restrictions on the availability of abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders in response to efforts to broaden access to chemical abortions in the United States.

“While the national abortion rate decline is a welcome sign, the dramatic rise in use of the abortion pill should worry pro-life activists and pro-abortion activists alike,” stated Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), sponsor of the SAVE Moms and Babies Act which he introduced in the House Sept. 19.

“The SAVE Moms & Babies Act helps ensure this abortion method is recognized for what it is: dangerous,” Latta said.

Mifepristone—also known as Mifeprex—is the first of two drugs used in the RU-486 chemical abortion process, and its use together with Misopristol is highly-regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mifeprex causes the mother’s body to stop nourishing the unborn child; Misoprostol, taken afterward, causes contractions and expels the child and placenta from the mother’s body.

The FDA has applied special guidelines, the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), to the two-drug process. Under REMS, the drugs can only be prescribed and dispensed by a certified health care provider in a health care setting, and can only be administered up to 70 days after the woman’s last menstrual cycle.

Abortion advocates are pushing for increased access to the drugs through mail order, online and through telemedicine.

In 2016, the FDA adopted revisions to its guidelines which included removing the requirement that the drugs be prescribed by a physician. The REMS process is still in place.

“Lawmakers and advocates pushing for this pill to be available on demand and over the counter are neglecting the safety and health of women across this country,” Rep. Latta said, noting that chemical abortions already pose danger for the mother even with medical oversight.

“Without proper medical oversight, it has resulted in hospitalizations, severe complications, and several deaths,” he said.

The SAVE Moms and Babies Act would prevent the removal of the FDA’s existing REMS standards for the abortion pill, and would also prohibit the remote dispensing of the pill through the mail or by telemedicine. It would also block new chemical abortion drugs from FDA approval.

Pro-life groups are warning that increased access to chemical abortions could result in more women experiencing dangerous complications if they self-administer the abortion pill without proper medical oversight.

According to a 2018 GAO report, the FDA recorded around 4,200 incidents of Mifeprex-related “adverse events” between its approval in September of 2000 and June 30, 2017. Out of approximately 3.2 million women who have used the drug, 20 deaths were reported during that period, the report found.

The report added that “FDA has conducted a variety of monitoring activities and these have not identified significant concerns with the safety and use of Mifeprex, in accordance with its approved REMS.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2271 teaches that “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion” and that direct abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law.” In addition to being a mortal sin, the procurement of a completed abortion is a canonical crime carrying with it the penalty of excommunication.

In 2009, when Italy legalized the abortion pill, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life Monsignor Elio Sgreccia said it was no different than a surgical abortion and stated that “there will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman, and anyone who encourages its use.”

“First abortion was legalized to stop it being clandestine, but now doctors are washing their hands of it and transferring the burden of conscience to women,” Monsignor Sgreccia said, as reported by Reuters.

Bishops in California are currently working to oppose state legislation, currently waiting for the governor’s signature, that would force the state’s universities to offer chemical abortions to students. 

Latta’s bill comes after Planned Parenthood’s research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reported an overall decline in the abortion rate to an all-time low in the U.S., with an estimated 862,000 abortions in 2017.

However, the percentage of chemical abortions in “nonhospital facilities” has gone up 25% since 2014, to a total of 339,640 abortions—39% of the overall abortion number.

Guttmacher admitted that the overall abortion decline might not be as steep as reported, in part due to unreported “self-managed abortions.” Mifeprex and Misoprostol “are becoming increasingly available online, as are resources about how to safely and effectively self-manage an abortion outside of a clinical setting,” the report stated.

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization. He also noted that the trend could push the abortion rate back up in the future but with a “higher rate of injury” to women.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony List, said the increase in chemical abortions is part of the abortion industry’s determination to profit “off the destruction of unborn children and wounding of mothers” while cutting overhead costs.

Chaput: Fr. James Martin's message causes confusion about Church doctrine

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2019 / 07:46 am (CNA).- After Fr. James Martin, SJ, spoke at a Philadelphia university, the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution about the priest’s message, especially regarding the possibility that Catholic teaching on sexuality might change.

“Father Martin has sought in a dedicated way to accompany and support people with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Many of his efforts have been laudable, and we need to join him in stressing the dignity of persons in such situations,” Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a Sept. 19 column published on his archdiocesan website.

“At the same time, a pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing. Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput added.

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

“In his book, ‘Building A Bridge,’ he writes: ‘For a teaching to be really authoritative it is expected that it will be received by the people of God . . . From what I can tell, in the LGBT community, the teaching that LGBT people must be celibate their entire lives . . . has not been received.’ One might easily, and falsely, infer from such language that the Church’s teaching on sexual intimacy lacks binding authority for same-sex attracted Catholics,” Chaput wrote.

The archbishop credited Martin for the priest’s insistence that he has never directly challenged Catholic teaching.

“But what is implied or omitted often speaks as loudly as what is actually stated, and in the current climate, incomplete truths do, in fact, present a challenge to faithful Catholic belief. When people hear that ‘the Church welcomes gay people’ or needs to be more ‘inclusive and welcoming’ without also hearing the conditions of an authentically Christian life set for all persons by Jesus Christ and his Church -- namely, living a life of chastity -- they can easily misunderstand the nature of Christian conversion and discipleship,” Chaput noted.

“For this reason, Catholic teaching always requires more than polite affirmation or pro forma agreement, particularly from those who comment publicly on matters of doctrine. Faithful Catholics who are same-sex attracted need support and encouragement in the virtue of chastity. They deserve to hear – as all people do – the truth about human sexuality spoken clearly and confidently. Anything less lacks both mercy and justice.”

Chaput’s column addressed other concerns about Martin’s work. 

Among those concerns is Martin's collaboration with New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group that has been criticized by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for "ambiguities and errors" in its teaching. The organization gave Martin its 2016 Bridge Building Award.

The archbishop noted that “Father Martin suggests that same-sex attracted people and those with gender dysphoria should be labeled according to their attraction and dysphoria, calling for use of the phrase 'LGBT Catholic' in Church documents and language. But while the Church does teach that the body is integral to human identity, our sexual appetites do not define who we are.”

“If we are primarily defined by our sexual attractions, then, in order to be fulfilled, it would follow that we must identify with and act on our attractions. Anything calling for the denial or restraint of our sexual appetites would logically amount to repression and even cruelty. This is the opposite of the Gospel's clear teaching that our identity is found in Jesus Christ, created in the image and likeness of God and called to be sons and daughters of God,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop also lamented that Martin “suggests that Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction as ‘objectively disordered’ (for example, in CCC 2358) is cruel and should be modified.”

That suggestion “misrepresents Catholic belief,” Chaput said.

“It’s worth recalling here that the Catechism also describes lust, extra-marital relations, and contracepted sex (2351), masturbation (2352), and even non-sexual sins such as lying and calumny (1753), as intrinsically ‘disordered.’ The suggestion that the wisdom of the Church, rooted in the Word of God and centuries of human experience, is somehow cruel or misguided does grave harm to her mission. Families have been destroyed because of this misperception, and Father Martin regrettably contributes ambiguity to issues that demand a liberating biblical clarity,” the archbishop added.

For his part, Martin tweeted a response to Chaput's column Thursday morning. The tweets took the form of a letter to Chaput.

“I think my main response is that it's difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching,” Martin wrote.

Martin noted that the lecture he offered at St. Joseph's University “is the same lecture that I presented at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last year, the text of which was vetted and approved beforehand by the Vatican.”

Acknowleding that same-sex relations and same-sex marriage are impermissable and immoral, Martin tweeted that “LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church.”

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest wrote.

During his World Meeting of Families lecture, which Martin said was the same lecture he gave in Philadelphia this week, the priest criticized “homophobic pastors” and said that “LGBT people bring special gifts to the Church, like any group.”

Chaput’s column, which explained that he was unable to prevent Martin from appearing at a Catholic college overseen by a religious order, also criticized “bitter personal attacks” against the priest from other Catholics.

“As I’ve said previously, such attacks are inexcusable and unChristian.”

Nevertheless, the archbishop said, he had a responsibility to raise objections to some aspects of Martin’s message.

“Supporters of Father Martin’s efforts will note, correctly, that several Church leaders have endorsed his work,” Chaput concluded.  

“Those Churchmen are responsible for their words -- as I am for mine, as pastor of the Church in Philadelphia.  And specifically in that role as pastor, I want to extend the CDF’s caution to all the faithful of the Church in Philadelphia, regarding the ambiguity about same-sex related issues found throughout the statements and activities of Father James Martin.”