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‘The most radical abortion bill of all time’: House to vote this week on codifying ‘right’ to abortion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) / Michael Candelori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 14:49 pm (CNA).

The House this week will vote on a bill that the U.S. bishops’ conference warns would effectively impose abortion on-demand throughout pregnancy.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), recognizes the “statutory right” of women to have abortions. It also states the “right” of doctors, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners and doctor’s assistants to perform abortions. It prohibits many limitations on this right, such as state pro-life laws requiring ultrasounds or waiting periods before abortions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic, announced the House vote on the bill earlier this month after a Texas law went into effect restricting abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat; a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The Texas law is enforced through private civil lawsuits.

After the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law on Sept. 1, Pelosi vowed to bring up the Women’s Health Protection Act and “enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.” The bill is scheduled to be voted on this week in the House.

In an action alert, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) calls the legislation “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann – chair of the USCCB's pro-life committee – outlined how the bill would expand abortion, in a Sept. 15 letter to members of Congress.

“This deceptively-named, extreme bill would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute,” Archbishop Naumann wrote. The legislation, he said, would also override state and local pro-life laws such as parental notification and informed consent requirements.

“It would force all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars,” he said, and “would also likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.”

The bill overrides prohibitions on abortion “pre-viability,” or before the age an unborn child is determined to be likely to survive outside the womb.

However, the bill also allows for late-term abortions when a physician’s “good-faith medical judgment” deems the mother’s life or health at risk from the pregnancy. This, the USCCB argues in a fact-sheet, is not a “meaningful limitation” on late-term abortion and would effectively allow abortions until birth.

The bill would also likely require health care workers to perform abortions, overriding possible conscience exemptions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the conference argues. For states defending their pro-life laws in court, they would have to meet a form of “strict scrutiny” test – “a heavy burden of proof,” the conference said.

On Monday, the White House stated its support for the legislation.

“In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live,” the White House stated.

Former Republican congressman Keith Rothfus stated on Twitter that Pelosi “makes a big deal about being #Catholic. But this week she plans to bring the most pro-#abortion bill ever up for a vote.”

The White House statement comes after President Joe Biden promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas, following implementation of the state’s “heartbeat” law.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a “three-pronged” response to the Texas law, increased funding for emergency contraceptives and “family planning services” in the state.

This article was updated on Sept. 20 with new information.

Supreme Court sets argument date for challenge to Roe v. Wade

null / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 12:02 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in a critical abortion case on Dec. 1.

In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the court will decide the question of whether all state abortion bans pre-viability are unconstitutional. “Viability” is the court’s legal standard from 1973, regarded as the point at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb.

The court on Monday announced the date of oral arguments in the Dobbs case, scheduled for Dec. 1. Both the state of Mississippi and the abortion clinic challenging the law will have an opportunity to present arguments in-person to justices both for and against the law.

The Dobbs case is considered to be the latest and perhaps the best opportunity for pro-life advocates to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. States, the court ruled in Roe, could not ban abortions pre-viability.

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the law in question, was signed into law in 2018 but is not currently in effect. Although it restricted most abortions after 15 weeks, it included exceptions for when the mother’s life or major bodily function is in danger, or in cases where the unborn child has a severe abnormality and is not expected to survive outside the womb at full term.

The law would be enforced by revocation of state medical licenses for doctors in violation, and a fine of up to $500 for falsification of medical records about the circumstances of an abortion.

One pro-life leader on Monday expressed support for Mississippi’s law.

“It is time to follow the science and modernize our laws,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence has hampered state efforts to regulate abortion, she said, arguing that it has “made the United States one of only seven countries in the world – including China and North Korea – that allow abortion on demand for any reason up to birth.”

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, submitted its legal brief to the Supreme Court last week arguing that the court should maintain its abortion jurisprudence in Roe, as well as the 1992 case that upheld Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The clinic is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Although the case regards Mississippi’s abortion law, both the state and Jackson Women’s Health Organization focused their legal briefs on either overturning or upholding Roe and Casey.

The state of Mississippi asked the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

Meanwhile, the brief of Jackson Women’s Health claimed that Mississippi’s law was a violation of rights established in the Roe and Casey decisions. Because of the two abortion rulings, “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” the clinic argued.

Furthermore, Mississippi’s standard of 15 weeks violates Roe’s standard of viability, the brief argued.

“Medical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey,” the brief stated.

On Monday, Dannenfelser stated that “[s]cience reveals the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.”

“By 15 weeks, an unborn baby’s heart has beat nearly 16 million times. She already shows a preference for her right or left hand, responds to taste, and can feel pain. They and their mothers deserve protection in the law,” she said.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the group March for Life, said on Monday, "We look forward to when the Supreme Court will reconsider the status quo of abortion jurisprudence which currently allows abortions to take place through all nine months of pregnancy."

"States have the right to protect all of their citizens, including those developing in the womb," she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 20 with a statement from March for Life. 

Massachusetts bishop: Clergy can support individuals' own vaccine exemption requests

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts / Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Mass., Sep 20, 2021 / 11:28 am (CNA).

Bishop William Byrne of Springfield in Massachusetts said Tuesday that clerics in the diocese should support Catholics who themselves seek conscientious exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandates by attesting to their baptism and practice of the faith.

“It is important for us to recognize and encourage the well-formed consciences of those who both desire the vaccine for themselves and the common good, as well as those who for health concerns or other reasons, may desire not to receive the vaccine,” Bishop Byrne wrote Sept. 14 to clerics of the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.

“In charity as priests and deacons, we should help to support the conscience rights of our Catholic faithful on this and all matters. We can do this by attesting to their Sacramental Baptism and the ‘practicing’ of their Catholic faith, as a separate letter or statement, to support their letter or request for religious exemption, but not to compose or sign a letter or form ourselves.”

The bishop wrote his letter to assist his clerics who are receiving requests from parishioners seeking “religious exemption” from mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.

He cited documents from the US bishops' conference, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which indicate that the vaccines may be taken, but that their reception is not a moral obligation and must therefore be voluntary.

“Many organizations and institutions are beginning to require the vaccine, and so in understanding conscience rights objections, we as leaders of our congregations, may be asked to assist Catholics in our parishes to pursue an exemption,” Bishop Byrne wrote.

The bishop said that “on the basis of conscience, it is not possible for anyone to act or speak on behalf of another person seeking an exemption.”

“Such a conscience right’s request for exemption must come from the individual themselves by way of

their own letter or the completion of an organization's form applying for exemption,” he noted.

However, he directed his clerics to provide accompanying letters that support individuals' own requests for religious or conscientious exemption.

“I hope the clarification of these points on what we can do, and what is beyond our scope of responsibility, is helpful to you as these requests may arise among our good people in the future,” Bishop Byrne concluded.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected. Therefore, vaccine participation must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that some persons may have conscientious objections to the taking of the COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious convictions ought to be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

The bishops of South Dakota and Colorado have both issued statements supporting Catholics wishing to seek conscience exemptions. The Colorado Catholic Conference issued a template for Catholics and their pastors to send to employers for religious exemption based on conscience.

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly have both stated that any Catholic seeking an exemption places the burden on the individual’s conscience rather than on Church approval, and thus priests of their dioceses are not allowed to vouch for the conscience of another person in seeking an exemption from a vaccine mandate.

The five bishops in Wisconsin in late August issued a statement encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, while maintaining that people ought not be forced to accept a COVID vaccine. The bishops added that, in the cases of Catholics conscientiously objecting to receiving a vaccine, clergy should not be intervening on their behalf.

Many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago and Philadelphia, have instructed clergy not to assist parishioners seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, stating that there is no basis in Catholic moral teaching for rejecting vaccine mandates on religious grounds.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.

The Vatican Nativity scene 2021 will include llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus

A screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Peruvian Nativity scene that will be featured at the Vatican during the 2021 Christmas season. / ACI Prensa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Last year, the Vatican nativity set came, for some, from outer space; in 2021 it is coming from the Andes.  

The 2021 manger that will be placed in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to celebrate Christmas will arrive from the town of Chopcca, Peru, a small town nestled in the Andes over 12,000 feet high. 

"As of December 15 and for 45 days, more than 100 million tourists and followers of the media will be attentive to the Christmas celebrations in the Holy See that will revolve around the Andean manger," indicates a note from the Andina news agency, the official media outlet for Peru.

Last year's nativity scene, a set of 54 figures dating to the 1960s and 1970s, was panned by many on social media. One detractor described it as "some car parts, kid toys, and an astronaut."

The Vatican has not announced the details yet, but the local news agency released a video with a 3-D rendering of the nativity scene. You can a video from ACI Prensa (in Spanish) about the 3D rendering below:

Chopcca's nativity scene will have more than 30 pieces and will be made by five renowned Huancavelica artists. Huancavelica is located nearly halfway between Lima and Cusco.

The images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Child Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds will be made on a realistic scale with materials such as ceramics, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will wear the typical Chopcca clothing.

The Child Jesus will be represented by a "Hilipuska" child, wrapped in a “chumpi” or woven belt and covered with a typical Huancavelica blanket.

The Three Wise Men, or Magi, will carry saddlebags or woven sacks from the region with popular superfoods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes, they will be accompanied by llamas that will have the Peruvian flag on their backs.

Several other local Peruvian animals such as alpacas, vicuñas (a more beautiful relative of the llama), sheep, vizcachas (related to rabbits with squirrel-like features), parihuanas or Andean flamingos, and the condor will also be present.

The Regional Government of Huancavelica will present the manger to Pope Francis in gratitude for having chosen Peru in the year in which it celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

Justice Clarence Thomas credits Catholic nuns’ anti-racist example

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 16:41 pm (CNA).

Catholic nuns and his grandparents’ example helped instill in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises, he said in a lecture Thursday.

“My nuns and my grandparents lived out their sacred vocation in a time of stark racial animus, and did so with pride with dignity and with honor. May we find it within ourselves to emulate them,” Justice Thomas said at the University of Notre Dame Sept. 16.

“To this day I revere, admire and love my nuns. They were devout, courageous and principled women.”

Thomas, only the second Black Supreme Court justice, delivered the Tocqueville Lecture at the invitation of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, a new Notre Dame initiative that focuses on discussions and scholarship related to Catholicism and the common good.

“In my generation, one of the central aspects of our lives was religion and religious education,” he said. “The single biggest event in my early life was going to live with my grandparents in 1955.”

His grandfather was a “very devout” Catholic convert, while his grandmother was a Baptist. Thomas, then a second grader, was sent with his brother to St. Benedict the Moor Grammar School in Savannah, Georgia. He was not Catholic at the time, but would convert at a young age.

“Between my grandparents and my nuns, I was taught pedagogically and experientially to navigate through and survive the negativity of a segregated world without negating the good that there was or, as my grandfather frequently said, without ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water,’” the Supreme Court justice said.

“There was of course quotidian and pervasive segregation and race-based laws which were repulsive and at odds with the principles of our country,” he said, but there was also “a deep and abiding love for our country and a firm desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship regardless how society treated us.”

Said Thomas: “There was never any doubt that we were equally entitled to claim the promise of America as our birthright, and equally duty-bound to honor and defend her to the best of our ability. We held these ideals first and foremost because we were raised to know that, as children of God, we were inherently equal and equally responsible for our actions.”

Thomas spoke of his second grade teacher Sister Mary Dolorosa’s catechism lessons, during which she would ask the class why God had created them.

“In unison our class of about 40 kids would answer loudly, reciting the Baltimore Catechism: ‘God created me to know love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next,’” he said.

“Through many years of school and extensive reading since then, I have yet to hear a better explanation of why we are here. It was the motivating truth of my childhood and remains a central truth today," he said.

“Because I am a child of God there is no force on this earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth,” he said. This truth was “repeatedly restated and echoed throughout the segregated world of my youth” and “reinforced our proper roles as equal citizens, not the perversely distorted and reduced role offered us by Jim Crow.”

Thomas questioned what he saw as a “reduced” image of Blacks today, deemed inferior by bigots or “considered a victim by the most educated elites.”

“Being dismissed as anything other than inherently equal is still, at bottom, a reduction of our human worth,” he said. “My nuns at Saint Benedict's taught me that that was a lie. In God's eyes, we were inherently equal.”

His grandparents also believed in equality before God. Because of that, “not only did we deserve to be treated equally, but we also were required to conduct ourselves as children of God. Hence, we were to live our lives according to his word. My grandparents repeatedly stressed that because of our fallen nature we had to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.”

Thomas continued: “There was no room to doubt this and even less for self-pity. As they saw things, on judgment day we would be held accountable for the use of our God-given talents and our opportunities.”

Thomas became a Catholic seminarian and studied for a year at Conception Abbey Seminary in Missouri, but left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elsewhere, Thomas has said he was repelled to witness fellow seminarians make disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and he only returned to the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

He said he regretted that he ignored or rejected the lessons of his youth, including “not to act badly because others had acted badly.” For a time he saw this morality “as a sign of weakness or cowardice.” After King’s assassination, he said, “I lost faith in the teachings of my childhood and succumbed to an array of angry ideologies.”

“Indeed, that was why I left the seminary in May of 1968. I let others and my emotions persuade me that my country and my God had abandoned me. I became disoriented and disenchanted with my faith and my country and deeply embittered, and perhaps worst of all, I let my family down,” he said.

At the age of 19, his grandfather asked him to leave his house. He then became a student at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where, he said, “I fell in quickly with radical ideologies such as Black Power. It was an era of disenchantment and deconstruction. The beliefs of my youth were subjected to the jaundiced eye of critical theories or, perhaps more accurately, cynical theories.”

His grandfather warned him that he had taken the wrong path, and Thomas later came to believe that “the theories of my young adulthood were destructive and self-defeating.”

“The wholesomeness of my childhood had been replaced with emptiness, cynicism and despair,” he said. “I was faced with a simple fact that there was no greater truth than what my nuns and my grandparents had taught me: We are all children of God and rightful heirs to our nation’s legacy of civic equality. We were duty-bound to live up to obligations of the full and equal citizenship to which we were entitled by birth.”

In April 1970 Thomas returned to his college campus from a riot early one morning. There, he said, “I stood outside the chapel at Holy Cross and asked God to take hate out of my heart.”

This was his background for his later encounters with the Declaration of Independence and the legacy of the founding of the United States. He praised the “self-evident” truths of the Declaration, which had been “beyond dispute” in the society, school and home of his youth,

“As I rediscovered the God-given principles of the Declaration and our Founding, I eventually returned to the Church which had been teaching the same truths for millennia,” he said, reflecting on American history and its fierce debates about slavery and racial equality.

While radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison depicted America as “a racist and irredeemable nation,” Thomas sided with those who “were unwilling to give up on the American project.”

“Equal citizenship was a black man's birthright and to give up on America was to concede that America's Blacks never were equal citizens as the Declaration of Independence had promised them,” he said. “To demoralize freedmen and slaves in that way, as Frederick Douglass argued, served only to increase the hopelessness of their bondage.”

Douglass, a former slave who became a famous American orator, aimed to convince Americans “that the country was unmoored but not lost.” Both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King similarly emphasized the promise of equality in America’s founding documents.

“While we have failed the Declaration time and again, and the ideals of the Declaration time and again, I know of no time when the ideals have failed us,” said Thomas.

“Ultimately, the Declaration endures because it articulates truth. … As Lincoln taught us, the Declaration reflects the noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures, and the enlightened belief that ‘nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows.'"

In his other comments, Thomas reflected on his friendship with the late justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that despite their different backgrounds they both thought similarly because of their shared Catholic background, their shared formation in Catholic schools, and a “common culture.”

Thomas knew Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, from her time as a clerk for Scalia. “I pray that she has a long and fruitful tenure on the court,” he said of the newest justice.

The justice was introduced by Notre Dame student Maggie Garnett, whose mother was clerking for Justice Thomas while pregnant with her. Garnett said she claims to be “the first unborn Supreme Court clerk,” though she joked that Justice Thomas might not agree that that is a “faithful interpretation of the original meaning.”

A new pro-life saint? This Italian mother sacrificed her life for her unborn baby

Facebook screenshot of photo of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, an Italian mother who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. / Facebook

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 12:07 pm (CNA).

“Riccardo, you are a gift for us.” These are the words a 26-year-old Italian mother wrote to her newborn 26 years ago. They were words she was willing to live by – and die for.

On Aug. 30, Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. Catholics already are comparing her to another saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, because both women refused medical treatment that would have endangered their unborn babies, according to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. After close examination, the Church now recognizes Maria Cristina as a “venerable” for leading a heroically virtuous life.  

This is the story of that life.

Maria Cristina was born in 1969 in a town called Cinisello Balsamo, located in Milan. According to La Stampa, she grew up next to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret, and served as a catechist and youth leader. She strongly considered religious life while still a young teenager. 

“Lord, show me the way: it doesn't matter if you want me as a mother or a nun, what really matters is that I always do your will,” she wrote in her spiritual diary in 1985.

Her vocation became clear when, at 16 years old, she met Carlo Moccellin. She was called to marriage – a marriage with him. She never wavered from that conviction, even when doctors discovered a sarcoma in her left leg, Vatican News reported. 

“I realized that everything is a gift, even a disease, because if lived in the best way it can really help to grow,” she wrote to Carlo in 1988.

She was successfully treated, and finished her high-school education before marrying Carlo in 1991. They soon welcomed two children into their home, Francesco and Lucia. They were expecting a third – Riccardo – when they found out that her cancer had returned. 

Her first thought was of her unborn baby boy. 

“My reaction was to say over and over: ‘I am pregnant! I am pregnant! But doctor I am pregnant,’” she wrote in a 1995 letter to her little Riccardo. “I fought with all my power and did not give up on the idea of giving birth to you, so much so that the doctor understood everything and said no more.”

Maria Cristina refused the chemotherapy treatments that would have threatened her unborn baby’s life. Instead, she waited until after Riccardo was born, in 1994. But at that point, the cancer had already spread to her lungs and caused her tremendous suffering. 

“I believe that God would not allow pain if he did not want to obtain a secret and mysterious but real good,” she wrote. “I believe that one day I will understand the meaning of my suffering and I will thank God for it.”

On Oct. 22, 1995, she died at 26 years old. 

But her story – and her baby – live on. In her letter to Riccardo, which she penned a month before she died, she stressed the beauty of his life.

“Dear Riccardo, you need to know that you are not in the world by chance,” she began. “The Lord wanted your birth despite all the problems there were… when we found out about you, we loved you and wanted you with all our heart.”

“It was that evening, in the car on the way back from the hospital, that you moved for the first time. It seemed as if you were saying, ‘Thank you mamma for loving me!’ And how could we not love you?” she added. “You are precious, and when I look at you and see you so beautiful, lively, friendly, I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worth bearing for a child.”

Maria Cristina wrote regularly, and kept a spiritual journal, according to The Associazione Amici di Cristina (Friends of Cristina Association), which promotes the dignity of human life in honor of its namesake. The association’s website includes excerpts from her diary and from her letters.

“Lord I only want You! I only love you! I'm just looking for you!” the organization quotes her as saying. “What does it matter to suffer in life if you are around the corner waiting for me to give me immense joy?”

Joy appears repeatedly in her writings.

“It is my motto: ‘Do everything with joy!’” she stressed in a 1985 letter to Carlo. “Even if sometimes it costs me a lot, especially when my morale is low or when … ‘it seems to you that all things are against you …’ as you say, in your beautiful letter. But, as light comes after darkness, so, after despair, rediscover joy.”

This joy shaped her love of God and her love for Carlo.

“Don't you think it’s extraordinary?” Maria Cristina asked Carlo in 1987. “If it weren't for you and I who love each other, the world would lack that something that no one else in our place could give.”

You can learn more about the extraordinary life of Maria Cristina in this video from EWTN Pro-Life Weekly:

She also wrote of God’s love – and the call to perfection.

“I become holy to the extent that I empty myself of everything, I remove every impediment from my mind, heart and life to allow myself to be completely penetrated by the love of God,” she stressed to Carlo in 1990. “More concretely, it means living everyday life with great simplicity, in the family, in the study, in the relationship with you, Carlo. My place is in the simple and ‘routine.’”

In the simple, she found the miraculous. In the ordinary, she discovered the extraordinary.

The year that she died, she wrote in another letter that “Although my health is precarious… I AM HAPPY!” She concluded, “I am ashamed to ask the Lord for anything else, for us the miracle is already there: if He loves us and we love each other, nothing else matters.”

Virginia March for Life highlights importance of gubernatorial election

The Virginia March for Life in Richmond, Sept. 17, 2021. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Richmond, Va., Sep 17, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Virginians took to the streets of Richmond on Friday as part of the third annual Virginia March for Life.

The Sept. 17 march took place in the literal shadow of the Virginia capitol, and in the figurative shadow of the upcoming gubernatorial election. Early voting began Friday, and the election was a main point of many of the pre-march rally speeches. 

“Today is the first day of early voting. So we're excited to be ushering in this voting season with pro-lifers,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, told CNA prior to the rally. Cobb’s organization assisted with orchestrating the march. 


Virginia, said Cobb, has “a pro-abortion majority in our legislature and a pro abortion governor, and we're sending $6 million straight out of our tax dollars, straight into the hands of the abortion industry.”

“These folks are here to say enough is enough. And today they're going to March and they're gonna March around the Capitol and make their statement,” she said. “And then they're going to March on over to the registrar's office and they're going to go vote for pro-life candidates.”

Volunteers were on hand to register people to vote as they left the capitol grounds. 

If the election in November results in pro-life candidates getting elected, Cobb told CNA that she thinks their first priority should be to defund the abortion industry. 

“We've got to immediately strike all that funding that goes to the abortion industry out of the budget,” she said. “And we've got to get back the pro-life laws that we had for years and years on the books.”

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, also spoke at the pre-march rally. Quigley told CNA that Friday was an important day for “the future of pro-life policy here in Virginia.”

“We want to make sure that pro-life Virginians know who the pro-life candidate is in this very important upcoming race,” said Quigley, “Virginia's gubernatorial race is going to be a bellwether for 2022.” 

The leading candidates in the race are Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

Quigley said that it was important to remind people that Gov. Ralph Northam, who actively supported a law that would allow abortion until birth and removed protections for babies born alive after botched abortions, had endorsed McAuliffe. 

“Last night during the debate McAuliffe said that the two of them have been a brick walls against pro-life policy here in Virginia,” said Quigley. 

With the conversation from the speakers at the rally mainly highlighting the need to elect pro-life candidates, at least one pro-life Democrat was at the march.

Craig Rew, from Short Pump, was clad in a pro-life Democrat hat and was toting a Democrats for Life of America sign. He told CNA that he was at the march “to show that there are pro-life Democrats.” 

Rew explained that he believed that “life is a progressive idea,” and that “abortion is not the solution to any problems.” 

Abortion, he said, “is the problem.” 

Hannah Clarke of Richmond came to the march along with her church, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church, and her nearly-four-month-old baby. She told CNA that while she had long considered herself to be pro-life, the experience of becoming a mother made her even more so. 

“What better reason to fight for life now that I have my own? I’m even more pro-life now that I have a baby. I didn't know if that was possible,” said Clarke. 

For Clarke, her pro-life beliefs are rooted in both faith and reason. 

“The root of the issue is that [those in favor of abortion] don't mind killing babies because they don't see them as human,” she said. “And that's where we need to get back to science. Like you don't even have to argue it from a religious standpoint, if you don't want to. The majority of scientists agree that life begins at conception.” 

She said it was particularly challenging to see the reaction to the law recently enacted in Texas. 

“I just want everyone, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, to realize you're just laughing in the face of science and damaging people more than more than they realize,” she said. 

Adulthood and motherhood reinforcing pro-life beliefs was a common theme among the attendees CNA spoke to. 

“I was always pro-life--my family was pro-life--but I think that it really came home for me as an adult,” Liz Ferraro, from King George, Va., told CNA. “When you learn how gruesome abortion is, when you learn what it is, and you learn what it looks like, and how it ends a human life.”

Abortion, she said, “is not just a choice, it’s a person.” 

The experience of having her own children, and “seeing the sonograms when they’re only six weeks old” with their “little nubs” for limbs, helped cement her views. 

“It’s just unbelievable that (people think) it’s okay to murder them,” said Ferraro. 

The Virginia March for Life is one of several state-specific marches this year. With the Supreme Court considering Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which will decide the constitutionality of pre-viability restrictions on abortion, abortion could once again become an issue to be decided by states. 

For Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, this represents an opportunity for the pro-life movement. In recent years, even prior to knowing that the Supreme Court would be considering Dobbs, the March for Life has focused on certain states to drum up pro-life support. 

“We’re very active in the states as well,” she said. “Last month we were in California. Here we are today in Richmond, and in two weeks, we’ll be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” 

She said it would be “interesting” to see how the state-level continues to progress. Virginia, Mancini explained, has undergone “a radical shift in the direction of abortion extremism” over the past two years. 

“So, in Virginia it is important to win it back,” she said. “I mean, the two candidates that are running for governor right now could not be more different in this particular issue. Do we want a Northam 2.0, or do we want to try to take Virginia back for life?” 

Looking ahead, Mancini told CNA that she is hopeful things will be changing both in the cultural and legal realms. 

“I certainly hope that the Supreme Court goes in the direction of sending these questions to the states,” she said.  

“Our goal at the March for Life is to make abortion unthinkable. I can’t tell you how happy I’d be to work myself out of a job. That would be wonderful.”

Bishops warn against abortion funding in reconciliation bill

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' pro-life committee / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday warned against abortion funding in a massive spending bill being considered by Congress.

“Congress can, and must, turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion, in the Build Back Better Act,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee.

“We urge all members of Congress and the Administration to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life,” they stated.

This week, House committees advanced portions of a federal spending package that could ultimately total $3.5 trillion. The package would include various policy priorities of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, such as funding of universal pre-K, free tuition for two-year community college, investments in “green” energy, and a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.

Included in the health care portions of the package are some proposals supported by the U.S. bishops’ conference. These include expansion of Medicaid coverage, postpartum coverage for mothers, and funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Catholic bishops have been strong advocates for proposals at both the federal and state level that ensure all people will have access to affordable healthcare,” both Naumann and Coakley said on Friday.

“However, the legislative text advanced by the two House committees also funds abortion, the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters - those in the womb. This cannot be included,” they said.

Pro-life leaders have warned that health care spending in the bill could fund abortions, unless specific pro-life language is added to the legislation to block such funding. Federal dollars could fund abortion coverage through Affordable Care Act health subsidies and through the creation of a parallel Medicaid structure for states that refused to expand Medicaid.

Some members, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), tried to insert amendments to the reconciliation bill prohibiting abortion funding; those attempts were blocked this week, in hearings of the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The budget package would need to pass through the process of "reconciliation," the process by which budget-related items can pass the Senate with only a simple majority vote. It is being considered in addition to the normal government funding "appropriations" bills for the 2022 fiscal year.

Supreme Court poised to hear biggest challenge to Roe v Wade in 48 years

An unborn baby at 20 weeks -- well within the second trimester, when dilation and evacuation abortions are commonly performed. / Steve via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 14:31 pm (CNA).

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, presented its legal argument Monday for why the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down the state’s 2018 law prohibiting abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, setting the stage for a momentous showdown over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The filing means that both parties in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, have now laid out their legal strategies. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case during its fall term, which begins Oct. 4.

While the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law is the primary question before the Court, both sides make clear in their respective briefs that the law is meant to be a direct challenge to Roe itself, and the decision that affirmed Roe’s central argument 18 years later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In its brief, the State of Mississippi explicitly asks the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

The parties' opposing arguments focus largely on two key points of contention: the legal doctrine known as stare decisis, which holds that legal precedents should not be easily overruled lest the rule of law be eroded, and the concept of fetal “viability,” or the point at which fetal life can survive outside the womb.

Catherine Hadro of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly interviewed Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves about the Dobbs case earlier this year. You can watch the interview below:

Citing Roe and Casey, courts have repeatedly shot down state efforts to restrict abortion prior to viability as unconstitutional. But in Dobbs, the State of Mississippi and other parties filing briefs supportive of its petition, argue that the Court’s viability standard — approximately 24 weeks into a pregnancy — is scientifically outdated and legally unworkable.

In their amicus brief, legal scholars Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead argue that stare decisis obligates the Court to overturn Roe and Casey, because doing so would protect the Court’s integrity.

“These precedents are notoriously badly reasoned, and involve unworkable, constantly shifting standards that have sown confusion in this and other areas of the law,” Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told CNA in an email.

“Indeed, there are not five justices on the Supreme Court now who agree on what these precedents require,” he wrote. “Moreover, they have caused grievous real world harms; there have been more than 60 million abortions because of these lawless, anti-democratic, incoherent precedents.”

In its brief, Jackson Women’s Health claims Mississippi is “re-litigating” Casey, which held that a woman’s “liberty interest” is stronger than the state’s interest in protecting fetal life before a baby is viable.

The brief maintains that the Casey Court “carefully considered every argument Mississippi makes here for overruling Roe,” asserting that no “legal or factual change occurred that justifies giving any less protection for that liberty interest today.”

In Jackson Women’s Health’s view, the need to rely on past precedents is compelling, since “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” and have “organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion.”

Additionally, the brief asserts that “no changed factual circumstances related to viability exist on this record,” and that “[m]edical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey.”

Jackson Women’s Health asserts that the viability line must be maintained because it is the only standard that can consistently be applied by the courts.

“There is no heightened scrutiny framework (stripped of the viability rule) that lower courts could administer against the inevitable cascade of abortion bans that would follow if the Court does anything other than affirm” the lowers courts' rulings that Mississippi's law is unconstitutional, the brief states.

Countering that assertion is an amicus brief filed by a group of women obstetricians and gynecologists and the Catholic Association Foundation. That brief calls the viability standard established by Roe and Casey “outdated according to current science,” adding that “’viability’ no longer means what it did at the time of Roe and Casey.”

The same brief also details the advances in ultrasound technology since Casey, now available in vivid 4D renderings, that have provided more precise knowledge about fetal development. At 15 weeks, the brief states, all the fetus’ major organs are fully formed and functioning, as is the cardiovascular system.

“This is the living reality of what is at issue in this case: a tiny boy or girl who, at 15 weeks, kicks, breathes, and hiccups, who has little fingers that open and close — and who has undeniably ‘assum[ed] the human form,’” the brief states.

Although viability remains a matter of debate, the State of Mississippi and others argue that it ought to be left to democratically elected state legislatures to decide how to handle such contentious questions, not the courts.

“The legal standard, set forth in Gonzales v. Carhart (upholding the constitutionality of the federal partial birth abortion ban act), is that when there is a disagreement among learned scientific experts, the state is free to legislate according to its best judgment,” Snead wrote in his email to CNA.

“There need not be unanimity among experts for a state to legislate in a contested domain,” he explained.

“But the deeper point here is that because this is an area of scientific and medical disagreement, the Supreme Court lacks the institutional competence to serve as the nation's ad hoc abortion medical review board of last resort,” Snead wrote. "That is best [left to] the political branches.”

Senators ask Google why it removed ads for abortion pill reversal

Google offices in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York / MNAphotography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

A dozen U.S. senators on Thursday sent a joint letter to Google’s CEO asking why pro-life ads for abortion pill reversal were removed by the search engine giant earlier this week. 

The group of 12 senators, led by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) accused Google of suppressing information about a viable alternative to chemical abortion, while leaving numerous ads for dangerous abortion pills intact. 

“While banning pro-life [abortion pill reversal] ads, Google continues to allow ads for purveyors of the deadly abortion pill mifepristone by mail, despite the fact this drug has resulted in at least 24 mothers’ tragic deaths and at least 1,042 mothers being sent to the hospital,” the Sept. 16 letter reads. 

“Google’s double standard on abortion is disingenuous and an egregious abuse of its enormous market power to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” the senators stated. 

“The practical consequence of Google’s abortion distortion is that pregnant mothers in crisis will only have the option to be marketed abortion drugs through Google’s ad platforms, while life-affirming alternatives are suppressed.”

Medical abortions, procured by way of a two-drug abortion pill regimen, have become an increasingly common method of abortion in the United States, making up between 30% and 40% of all U.S. abortions. 

The two drugs involved are mifepristone (also called Mifeprex) and misoprostol. Mifepristone effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the pregnancy hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol - although this action must be taken quickly. The administration of progesterone to reverse the abortion pill regimen has not been specifically approved by the FDA, although many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe.

Live Action advertises a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help women. 

On Sept. 13, according to Live Action president Lila Rose, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s advertisements for abortion pill reversal, claiming they were “unreliable” and contained false information. The advertisements had been running for more than four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. One of the 18 ads has since been reinstated, she said. 

Google also pulled ads promoting Live Action’s “Baby Olivia” video, a three-minute narrated look at the development of a baby in utero from fertilization until birth.

According to the president of the pro-life group Heartbeat International - which operates a 24-hour hotline for women seeking abortion pill reversal - calls to the hotline have dropped significantly since the abortion pill reversal ads were removed from Google.

“As of this morning, none of our APR [abortion pill reversal] ads or Live Action's are running,” Jor-El Godsey told CNA on Friday, noting that calls to the group’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network hotline had dropped by 75%, and chats had dropped by almost 100%.

“What we are getting is coming from organic search, small third party advertisers, and sidewalk counselor outreach,” he said. 

Google, in blocking the ads, cited a brief from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which called abortion pill reversal treatments “unproven and unethical.” The brief failed to cite any controlled studies done on the procedure. ACOG has released statements in the past advocating for increased access to abortion, and has pushed in court for the federal government to deregulate the abortion pill regimen. 

The reversal regimen, promoted by Live Action and other pro-life medical professionals, “involves an FDA-approved, bioidentical pregnancy hormone called progesterone that has been used for dozens of years to prevent miscarriage and has already saved thousands of lives,” Rose said. 

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

Each woman who undergoes an attempt to reverse her abortion is also referred to a help center for support throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

The American Association of Pro-Life Gynecologists and Obstetricians (AAPLOG) has expressed support for the abortion pill reversal regimen, describing progesterone as an “antidote” to the mifepristone and noting that “There is a very long and solid history of safety of the use of natural progesterone in pregnancy.”

“[D]uring the development of Mifeprex, it was clearly demonstrated that Mifeprex is a REVERSIBLE blocker of progesterone,” the group said. 

"Google continues to deny women the choice to choose to keep their baby,” Godsey told CNA on Thursday. 

“Denying them the ability to find Abortion Pill Reversal is forcing these women to go through with an abortion they no longer want. More than 2,500 women have made this choice all ready. Google should not stand in the way of those seeking reversal help today."

Heartbeat International claims that more than 2,000 women have successfully used the abortion pill reversal to stop an abortion. 

A study published in 2018 in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal affiliated with the pro-life organization Watson Bowes Research Institute, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals. It showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol, and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009, wrote the study. Delgado sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and co-founded the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. 

Delgado told the Washington Post that he believed more research should be done on abortion pill reversal, but that he believes there should be nothing to stop doctors from using the progesterone protocol in the meantime.

“[T]he science is good enough that, since we have no alternative therapy and we know it's safe, we should go with it,” he said.

The director of a women’s clinic in Denver told CNA in April 2018 that she has found the abortion pill reversal protocol to be safe and effective with her patients, and her clinic has successfully treated several women who come in seeking a reversal after taking the first pill.

“I think the fact that we have now over 300 successful reversals is evidence that it works,” nurse practitioner Dede Chism, co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA at the time.

Disclaimer: CNA’s Executive Director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a board member of Heartbeat International