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NY governor vows to help Texas women have abortions in her state

Aug. 11, 2021: Then-Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addresses people of New York at the state capitol building in Albany / lev radin/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday said that she will help Texas women come to her state for abortions. 

A Texas law went into effect on Sept. 1 that prohibited most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It is enforced through private civil lawsuits. 

Hochul - a Catholic who became governor on Aug. 24 following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo - on Thursday said that her state is reviewing options to help Texas women come to to New York for abortions.

“For women in Texas, they need to know: we will help you find a way to New York and we are right now looking intensely to find what resources we can bring to the table to help you have safe transport here and let you know there are providers who will assist you in this time of your need,” Hochul said in a Sept. 15 interview with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell. 

“You are not alone,” Hochul said to women in Texas. “Your sisters and brothers, enlightened brothers, in the state of New York will help you in any way we can.”

A spokesperson for Hochul’s office was not immediately available for comment on Thursday, regarding the question of whether public funds would be used for transporting women from Texas to New York for abortions.

Hochul’s comments come shortly after her announcement on Sept. 13 that she would roll out a new aggressive agenda to maintain abortion in New York state.

Her administration plans to create of a “Patient Bill of Rights” including information on abortion providers, legal rights, and “abortion care.” In addition, the state’s health department will consult with a group of “experts” from pro-abortion groups to create a “guidance document on the provision of abortion care in New York State.”

Those “experts” include members of the pro-abortion groups Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, National Abortion Federation, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, and American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.

The state health department will also work to increase remote access to chemical abortions via telehealth.

"Abortion access is safe in New York - the rights of those who are seeking abortion services will always be protected here," Hochul said. "To the women of Texas, I want to say I am with you. Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms."

Hochul also sent a letter to Facebook on Sept. 13 urging it to crack down on abortion “misinformation.” 

She requested “information on any and all existing efforts to combat misinformation regarding abortion laws, procedures, and their ability,” and urged Facebook to “take additional action to curb the spread of this misinformation.”

“The truth is that abortion is a safe, common medical procedure,” Hochul’s letter stated. “One in four women will undergo an abortion in her lifetime. I am proud that New York is leading the fight to ensure that every woman and birthing person has access to abortion care.”

Hochul took over as governor of New York after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, who was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment of current and former employees. 

In 2019, Cuomo signed the an abortion law, the Reproductive Health Act, that eliminated restrictions on abortion until the moment of birth in cases deemed necessary for the mother’s "life and health." He ordered New York landmarks to be lit up in pink lights, the official color of Planned Parenthood, to mark the signing. 

According to Hochul’s Sept. 13 announcement, the state health department will help clarify “the full scope of individual provider discretion under the Reproductive Health Act, and the definition of the term ‘commencement of pregnancy’ as it relates to abortion care.”

Theodore McCarrick faces new sex abuse lawsuit in New Jersey

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick arrives at Massachusetts' Dedham District Courthouse for his arraignment, Sept. 3, 2021. / Andrew Bukuras/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Three sex abuse lawsuits, including one naming disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick as the alleged abuser, were filed on Thursday, Sept. 16 in a New Jersey court. All three lawsuits also named the Diocese of Metuchen as a defendant.

Jeff Anderson, a prominent attorney who represents sex abuse victims, brought the lawsuits. In an online press conference on Thursday, Anderson called on the Metuchen diocese to release additional information on accusations against current and former clergy. 

“We challenge you to account and take responsibility for each of these cases, and also challenge you to come clean with the full truth,” Anderson said.  “[We] invite you, implore you, to release more names and information that have been kept secret by the Diocese of Metuchen for too long.”

A spokesman for the diocese told CNA on Thursday afternoon that two of the lawsuits involved clergy who were not ordained for the diocese, adding that the diocese would not have access to their personal records or outcomes of investigations against them.

The first lawsuit filed named McCarrick, who served as the first bishop of the diocese from 1981 until 1986, as the abuser in question. According to the lawsuit, McCarrick engaged in “unpermitted sexual contact” with the plaintiff while he was bishop of Metuchen from approximately 1982 to 1985. The plaintiff was between the ages of 19 and 22 during that period.

McCarrick’s attorney Barry Coburn declined to comment on the lawsuit on Thursday. 

McCarrick, 91, on July 28 was criminally charged in a Massachusetts court with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. The incidents allegedly took place with a 16-year-old male in the 1970s. McCarrick appeared for his arraignment on Sept. 3 in Massachusetts’ Dedham District Court, and pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. His next court date is Oct. 28.

He was once an influential and high-ranking figure in the Catholic Church, before numerous accusations against him were made public in 2018, alleging past sexual misconduct with children and seminarians. McCarrick was laicized in February 2019, after a Vatican canonical investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The second lawsuit filed on Thursday named Fr. John Butler, a laicized priest who died in 2016, as the alleged abuser of a minor. Butler, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, served in numerous dioceses throughout his career including in Metuchen. 

According to the lawsuit, Butler abused a minor between the ages of 9 to 12, from approximately 1995 to 1998. The plaintiff was attending St. John Vianney school in Colonia, New Jersey at the time, where Fr. Butler was employed.

Butler was removed from public ministry in 2002 and was laicized shortly thereafter. He is not on the list of credibly-accused priests from the Diocese of Metuchen, but does appear on the list of accused priests from the Diocese of Richmond, his home diocese. 

The third lawsuit names Br. Regis Moccia, S.C. of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who similarly does not appear on the list of credibly-accused priests from the Diocese of Metuchen. Moccia is accused of abusing a young teen at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, in 1981 and 1982. He died in 2000. 

Moccia was first accused of abuse in a September 2020 lawsuit; Anderson claimed that this suit inspired another alleged victim of his to come forward. 

“It’s also notable that Moccia is not on the list [of credibly-accused clergy] released by the Diocese of Metuchen, even though that suit has been brought by us naming him as an offender of children at St. Joseph’s high school in Metuchen, earlier,” Anderson said on Thursday.  

Anderson called on the Diocese of Metuchen to release additional names of credibly accused clergy, and claimed that there are at least 15 additional names that have not yet been released.

In a statement to CNA on Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the Metuchen diocese promised prayer for abuse survivors, and said that neither Fr. Butler nor Brother Regis were ordained priests of the diocese.

“First and foremost, we hold in prayer all survivors of abuse, among them those survivors who have courageously come forward to bring their past abuse to light,” said Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq., spokesman and chancellor for the diocese.

Regarding the case of Fr. Butler, he was ordained for the Richmond diocese “and is listed accordingly on their list of credibly accused clergy,” Kearns said. Brother Regis was a member of a religious order and not a diocesan priest, he said.

“In both cases, the diocese would not have access to any personnel records nor the outcomes of any investigations that would have resulted from allegations against them,” Kearns said.

“The Diocese of Metuchen has taken more aggressive steps forward since the adoption of the abuse prevention policies in 2002 and was recently found compliant with all audited Articles within the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the audit period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2021,” he said.

New Jersey in 2019 relaxed the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases, allowing for new lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse and sex abuse of adults. The two-year window for such lawsuits to be filed expires Nov. 30.

Anderson has filed other civil sex abuse lawsuits naming McCarrick. In July, he filed a civil lawsuit in a New Jersey court accusing McCarrick of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1986.

In July 2020, Anderson filed a lawsuit alleging that McCarrick had sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests in the early 1980s, characterizing McCarrick as leading a "sex ring."

Anderson has sued many Catholic dioceses and religious orders over the years. While some say he has been an effective advocate for sex abuse victims, critics say he has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation, and that he is a self-promoter.

According to the lawsuit naming McCarrick, the plaintiff’s family resided in the Archdiocese of New York and had contact with McCarrick while he was a representative of the archdiocese. McCarrick was a priest secretary to Cardinal Terrence Cooke of New York beginning in 1971, and served as auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese from 1977 until 1981, when he was made bishop of Metuchen.

McCarrick later served as Archbishop of the Archdioceses of Newark and Washington, and played an influential role in the global Catholic Church. He helped craft the U.S. Church’s response to revelations of widespread clergy sex abuse in 2002. He also made numerous international trips for peacebuilding and ecumenical causes, and was known as an effective fundraiser.

In June 2018, the Archdiocese of New York revealed that a decades-old allegation of sex abuse against McCarrick was “credible.” News reports subsequently detailed more allegations of McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct with children and seminarians. According to a July 2018 New York Times report, Metuchen was one of the dioceses to have reached a settlement with a former priest, regarding allegations of abuse against McCarrick committed while the priest was a seminarian.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018, and was laicized in February 2019. He is the first U.S. Catholic cardinal to be criminally charged with sex abuse.

The Vatican in November 2020 released a report of more than 450 pages on the “institutional knowledge and decision-making” regarding McCarrick and his clerical career.

This article was updated on Sept. 16 with a statement from the Metuchen diocese.

Catholics the most vaccinated religious group for COVID-19, new study shows

null / Ball Lunla/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 16, 2021 / 12:36 pm (CNA).

Catholics are the religious group most vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center. 

The survey of 10,349 U.S. adults found that 82% of self-identified Catholics had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 75% of religiously unaffiliated adults and 73% of White Protestants. Hispanic Catholics were slightly more likely than White Catholics to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  

Of the major religious groups in the United States, White evangelical Protestants had the lowest vaccination rate, with only 57% saying they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pew Research Center.
Pew Research Center.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey from Aug. 23-29, more than a year and a half into the pandemic. 

The figures come as U.S. Catholic bishops continue to issue policies regarding vaccine exemptions for religious reasons. Some, including Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, have upheld the rights of Catholics to decline COVID-19 vaccines out of conscience, while also encouraging Catholics to get vaccinated. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, meanwhile, said “[t]here is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated,” and required all diocesan employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.

Some Catholics have raised concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines’ remote connection to aborted fetal tissue, using cell lines derived from fetal tissue of babies believed to have been aborted in the 1970s. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use because of their remote connection with abortion, but if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should be chosen over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were tested using the controversial cell lines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was both produced and tested using the cell lines.

Pew’s survey also found that 73% of Americans aged 18 or older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The survey found lower vaccination rates among younger adults, as well as among those with lower family incomes and those living in rural areas. Black adults are now about as likely as White adults to say they have received a vaccine, according to the survey. 

Democrats were more likely to have received a vaccine than Republicans, with 86% of Democrats and left-leaning Independents having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 60% of Republicans. 

About half of vaccinated Americans surveyed said that there is too much pressure to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and 88% of unvaccinated Americans answered the same. 

About half of those vaccinated Americans who were surveyed reported difficulty in making sense of information about COVID-19 vaccines. They said they still worried about possible serious health risks from the vaccine. About half of surveyed adults said that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

Federal judicial nominee grilled over 1990s religious freedom case

Hon. Beth Robinson, associate justice on the Vermont Supreme Court, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 14, 2021 / Senate Judiciary Committee/live stream

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Multiple senators accused a judicial nominee of being hostile to religious freedom during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Beth Robinson, nominated by President Joe Biden to be a judge on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, was grilled by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday. They asked her about her representing a woman who sued a Vermont Catholic-owned print shop in the 1990s for not printing business cards of a pro-abortion group.

The print shop, Regal Art Press in St. Alban’s, Vermont, was owned by two practicing Catholics, the Bakers. Robinson’s client, Linda Paquette, sought to order membership cards for the now-inactive organization Vermont Catholics for Choice. The Bakers refused the order, saying that they did not believe Catholics could be in favor of abortion, and Paquette sued, saying that her rights were violated. 

In a legal brief supporting Paquette in state courts, Robinson referred to the Baker family’s pro-life beliefs as “invidious” and “pernicious.”  

Cruz described the brief as containing “strong and even incendiary language” regarding the Bakers’ Catholic faith, and said that she had a “marked hostility” towards religious liberty. 

“How might a litigant in the Second Circuit have any confidence that as a judge you would actually follow the law, and in particular, honor the religious liberty protections in the Constitution,” asked Cruz. 

Robinson explained to Cruz that the case was 30 years ago, during her first year of law practice in the state of Vermont. Her client, she said, claimed that she had been discriminated against as a Catholic who was in favor of abortion rights.

“In particular, she had asked to print cards for Vermont Catholics for Free Choice,” said Robinson. “Her contention was that the Bakers said ‘we won’t print these cards because we don’t think Catholics can be for choice.’ She brought a claim for discrimination on the basis of creed.” 

Robinson acknowledged that Paquette would not have had a case had the Bakers refused to print the cards because of their opposition to abortion, and not because of their religious beliefs. 

Cruz pressed Robinson further, asking her if she was effectively arguing that the Vermont Supreme Court should have been able to rule on how the Baker family decided to interpret their faith. 

“‘We’re going to force you to say that the Catholic Church is pro-abortion, even if you don’t believe it is.’ Is that right?” asked Cruz, paraphrasing the hypothetical argument. 

The case pre-existed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, federal 1993 law that required the government to pass a legal standard when substantially burdening a person’s religious freedom. Cruz reminded Robinson that the act was passed to fill gaps in the legal precedent she cited. 

Missouri senator Hawley raised similar concerns, telling Robinson that he was “troubled by your history of compelling individuals to express pro-abortion viewpoints against their religious convictions,” and that he had “profound concerns” about her nomination.

Hawley noted that in the 30 years since the case was filed, the Supreme Court has stood on the side of religious liberty in similar cases. He asked Robinson if she would acknowledge that “today your client would not have the right to compel other individuals to speak in a way that she favors,” and if she would “stand by” the brief.

Robinson said that she did not remember all of the words in the brief as it had been 30 years. 

The Papal Foundation provides $800K in scholarships for studies in Rome

Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 16, 2021 / 09:34 am (CNA).

The Papal Foundation has awarded nearly $800,000 in scholarships to 96 priests, brothers, sisters, and lay faithful as part of the Saint John Paul II Scholarship Program.

The scholarships will enable the recipients to study at 16 universities in Rome. The recipients hail from five continents.

“We are committed to Saint John Paul II’s vision to prepare Catholic leaders and educators for service,” said Eustace Mita, president of The Papal Foundation Board of Trustees, in a published statement. “We aim to ensure those called to build up the Church all over the world are trained and prepared to lead in their own dioceses.”

Since the Saint John Paul II Scholarship Program launched in 2000, it has provided nearly $13 million in scholarships to over 1,600 recipients. Recipients, known as Saeman Scholars in honor of major donors John and Carol Saeman, are from disadvantaged countries. The aim of the program is to provide recipients an opportunity to study in Rome, after which they will return to their home dioceses and continue to educate others in a manner faithful to the Magisterium of the Church.

David Savage, who became executive director of the Papal Foundation July 12, 2021. The Papal Foundation
David Savage, who became executive director of the Papal Foundation July 12, 2021. The Papal Foundation

David Savage, the executive director of The Papal Foundation, said that the chance to “play a role in the formation of leaders in the Catholic Church is a blessing.”

“Saint John Paul II will always be remembered for the lessons in leadership he personified, which is one reason we at The Papal Foundation are honored to carry forward his vision of training scholars to effectively lead in their communities,” he said in a published statement.

Father Julius Madaki, a priest from the Archdiocese of Kaduna in Nigeria, is one of these leaders. Madaki defended his doctoral thesis in July, after being given a scholarship from The Papal Foundation to study in Rome.

“Words alone cannot express the sentiments of gratitude and appreciation in me,” he said in a published statement. “Studying under the auspices of The Papal Foundation has influenced my life in no small way. I promise to make you proud, be of service to the Church, and keep you always in my prayers. Rest assured that your commitment to spreading the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth will never go unrewarded.”

The Papal Foundation was founded in 1988 in response to calls “for a unique, sustainable way to support the Holy Father and his witness in the world.”

According to its website, the mission of The Papal Foundation is to “serve the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church” by means of “gathering in a corporal and cooperative collaboration of laity, clergy and hierarchy within the Church, in witness to one another of our faith, and drawing strength from the witness of the Holy Father.”

The mission statement continues: “We bring and contribute our faith, our energy and our financial resources, to serve those needs of the Church that are of particular significance to the Holy Father, always with a commitment to walk in union with the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church.”

Paterson bishop: Vaccination exemption for clergy 'will be minimal'

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson. Photo courtesy DeSales Media Group. / null

Paterson, N.J., Sep 15, 2021 / 17:32 pm (CNA).

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson wrote to clerics of his diocese Tuesday to ‘strongly encourage’ their vaccination against COVID-19. Non-medical exemptions, he said, will be minimal, and there may be discussion of whether non-vaccinated priests ‘can remain in active ministry.”

“As teachers and religious educators must be vaccinated by statewide mandate, our clergy should be vaccinated voluntarily as a good example to others and in solidarity with them,” Bishop Sweeney wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to clergy of Diocese of Paterson.

“If you have not been vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to be vaccinated.”

He characterized his encouragement as “one step short of a mandate.”

“This is an essential time when you must be vaccinated to protect yourself and the health of others,” the bishop wrote. “If you feel that you are unable to be vaccinated, please be in touch with one of [sic] diocesan Vicars General in order to discuss your reasoning with them so that they may consult with me for further discussion on particular individual exemptions and whether a priest who is not vaccinated can remain in active ministry. Exemptions from vaccination for clergy, other than those for legitimate medical reasons, will be minimal.”

Writing on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Bishop Sweeney noted that “we celebrate the life giving power of the holy cross that was borne by Christ ‘so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life’ (John 3:16). We have often called upon the Lord to heal those whom we love and serve. The emergence of vaccines which helped to quell the progress of this dreaded illness is God sent.”

 

The bishop recalled that Pope Francis has called receiving vaccination “an act of love,” and that most of the diocese’s clerics and their staff have already been vaccinated. 

 

The bishop said that a cleric’s doctor can help him with information on how or where to be vaccinated, and that the Office of Clergy Personnel can be of additional assistance.

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 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. 

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.

Justice Department asks judge to block Texas abortion law during legal challenge

US Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Austin, Texas, Sep 15, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The US Department of Justice asked a federal judge on Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction against Texas’ law prohibiting most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, following a suit from the DOJ against the law last week. 

A preliminary injunction, if granted, would prevent the law from being enforced while the DOJ’s lawsuit plays out in court. 

Such an injunction "is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact," attorneys for the Justice Department said in its Sept. 14 court filing

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department had argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions.” 

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies. The law allows for at least $10,000 in damages in successful lawsuits; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. 

In response, President Joe Biden – a Catholic – directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.” 

As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law and “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.

Bishops around the country reacted with praise to a Texas law, and noted that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have resources available, instead of abortion.

The bishops of Texas have said that opponents of the law, who have described a fetal heartbeat as “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue” or “embryonic cardiac activity,” are making a “disturbing” effort to “dehumanize the unborn.”

“Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life,” said the Texas bishops Sept. 3. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”

Pro-life leaders pointed out that the state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.

“Texas is further leading in compassion for women and families with its $100 million Alternatives to Abortion state program and ten times as many pro-life pregnancy centers as abortion facilities,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, last week.

Live Action says Google’s removal of pro-life ads ‘unprecedented’

Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, addresses the 2021 Live Action Life Awards Dinner at Dana Point, California; Aug. 21, 2021 / Francesca Polio/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

According to the pro-life group Live Action, the search engine Google canceled its advertisements for abortion pill reversal services. The act is further evidence of Google’s pro-abortion biases, a leading pro-life activist tells CNA. 

“In a dramatic and unprecedented move, Google has sided squarely with extremist pro-abortion political ideology, banning the pro-life counterpoint and life-saving information from being promoted on their platform,” Live Action founder Lila Rose told CNA in a statement. 

Rose said that Google was no longer “hiding their bias,” and that the censorship of the advertisements “baldly reveals that the corporation is in the pocket of the abortion industry.”

On Sept. 13, Rose said, 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 over four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. 

Rose disputed Google’s label of “unreliable claims,” noting that the abortion pill reversal regimen uses progesterone treatment that has been FDA-approved to prevent miscarriages. She said Google “obviously failed to understand” what abortion pill reversal actually entails.

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. 

Banning the ads, she said, will have “devastating” consequences for women and girls who may turn to the search engine after regretting taking the first dose of the medication abortion regimen. 

“More women and girls will be marketed abortions through Google’s platforms, without also being offered life-affirming options,” said Rose. 

The office of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday sent a letter to Google’s CEO, asking why the ads had been removed and at what rate ads by pro-life organizations are ruled ineligible for Google’s platform, Live Action reported.

A chemical or medication abortion is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor to expel the body of the deceased baby.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol, although this action must be taken quickly. Live Action advertised a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help. 

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.

In 2019, Andrea Trudden, the director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International - which markets the abortion pill reversal hotline - told CNA of an estimated "64-68 percent success rate" for women who contact the hotline seeking to reverse their abortions.

Rose told CNA that she thinks Google should allow the ads back on its platform as a sign of compliance with its own policies. 

“The tech monopolies that have so much control over our information consumption and our daily lives are so tied in with the radical left that they work to restrict informed consent and censor life-saving options in order to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” said Rose. “It’s anti-choice and morally wrong. Google must apply fairness and uniformity to its policy and allow Live Action and pro-life partners back on its ads platform.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – which is pro-abortion and has fought in court to liberalize federal restrictions on the abortion pill regimen – claims that the abortion pill reversal regimen is “unproven and unethical.”

The organization points to a 2012 case series as “not scientific,” where four of six women continued their pregnancies after taking progesterone doses. That study “was not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee,” the college stated.

In 2019, a case study commenced at the University of California at Davis to study the abortion pill reversal treatment, but it was stopped due to safety concerns and lack of participants. According to NPR, only 12 women enrolled in the study while researchers had hoped for 40 enrollees. Three of the 12 were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding; one of those three had been given progesterone.

The lead researcher on the study – Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis – told NPR that not finishing the abortion pill regimen was “experimental” and cited “some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding." Crenin has a long history of performing abortions.

Pro-life groups countered that the study actually showed the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not been given progesterone after they had taken mifepristone.

Heartbeat International added that a previous study, in which Crenin participated, also showed hemorrhaging related to the abortion pill regimen.

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

A 2018 case study, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Issues in Law and Medicine, showed that in 261 successful abortion pill reversals, the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Rebekah Buell-Hagan, a woman who successfully underwent a reversal of the abortion pill regimen in 2013, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that she had used her phone to find out what she could do to reverse the procedure.

“I typed in ‘I took the first abortion pill and changed my mind,’ and back in 2013, there wasn’t a whole lot that came up,” Buell-Hagan said in her 2018 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “But there were a few girls that had asked the same question, and unfortunately the answers they were getting were not hopeful, it was very much ‘you have to finish what you started.’”

However, she found the website AbortionPillReversal.com which connected her with a doctor.

“We started progesterone injections for several weeks to counteract the abortion pill that I took,” she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 15 with new information.

US bishops push for pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants

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Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

As members of Congress this week advanced language providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, the U.S. bishops’ conference praised the development.

Congress is currently crafting a $3.5 trillion budget package that would fund many Biden administration priorities, such as universal pre-K, child care benefits, additional health care subsidies, green energy initiatives, and permanent residence for millions of immigrants.

Currently, House committees are in the process of approving language for the budget package. The House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 13 approved language creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

“For decades, the bishops of the United States have been proponents of such reforms, which promote integration and family unity,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference immigration committee, on Wednesday.

He urged that such immigrants be granted a pathway to citizenship, and not be allowed to reside in the United States with a dubious legal status.

“We cannot persist in relegating these members of our society to the margins, especially when we simultaneously depend on so many of them for our collective wellbeing,” he said.

While implying that parts of the budget package are contrary to Catholic social teaching, Bishop Dorsonville praised the immigration language.

“Undoubtedly, Catholic social teaching will be implicated by many aspects of this budget reconciliation bill, but this is a welcome milestone for many families and the common good,” he said of the immigration provisions.

Pro-life groups have warned that the reconciliation bill could ultimately include billions of dollars in health care spending without pro-life protections, thus allowing for a significant increase in federal funding of abortions and abortion providers.  

The budget package would need to be passed through the process of reconciliation, a procedure by which budget-related items need only a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than the normal 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

The Senate parliamentarian rules whether certain items are budget-related, and thus can be included in a reconciliation bill. It is unclear if the parliamentarian would maintain immigration language in the bill; the parliamentarian reportedly met with Democratic staffers last week and this week, who presented their case for why the immigration proposals should stay.

“We call on both the House and Senate to include these provisions in the final reconciliation bill and for Congress to pass a bill that helps all those on the margins of our society, strengthens families, protects religious freedom, promotes care for creation, and respects the rights and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death,” Bishop Dorsonville stated.

Those eligible for citizenship, under the House Judiciary Committee proposal, would include Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, Deferred Enforced Departure beneficiaries, undocumented agricultural workers, and other undocumented essential workers.

“Dreamers” are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but who are eligible to apply for permanent residence. “Temporary Protected Status” is granted to immigrants from certain countries who are eligible for a delay of deportation, due to conditions in their home countries that prevent their safe return such as natural disasters or armed conflict.

At a Monday evening virtual event hosted by the advocacy group Faith in Action, other U.S. bishops emphasized the need to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation bill.

The present situation is the “closest we’ve come” since 1986 to reaching a pathway to citizenship, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said.

For immigrants working in certain essential industries, “it would be the height of ingratitude,” Wester said, “if we can’t at least do something to forge a pathway to citizenship.”

“I think what’s at stake is not simply the rights of eight million or more,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, “but really, our own salvation, our own holiness.”

Pope Francis, he said, has emphasized the issue of immigration “to show us the pathway to holiness,” who “profess that we have faith but not have works to show it.”

Judge temporarily blocks New York vaccine mandate, lacking religious exemption, for medical workers

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Syracuse, N.Y., Sep 14, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order against a New York state COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which disallowed religious exemptions, after a group of anonymous medical professionals filed suit against the governor and her administration. 

Then-governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all medical workers in the state in August, with a deadline of Sept. 27 to be fully inoculated. The mandate covers staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, adult care facilities, and other care settings, and did not include a religious exemption.  

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group, is representing a group of 17 medical professionals who claim the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and who have chosen to remain anonymous. They are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the mandate. 

In the ruling from the US District Court for the Northern District of New York, issued Sept. 14, Judge David Hurd wrote that the New York Department of Health is “barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination going forward.” 

The state has until Sept. 22 to respond to the temporary restraining order. 

The Thomas More Society says the plaintiffs include doctors, nurses, a medical technician and physician’s liaison, and that they are “now facing termination from employment, loss of hospital admitting privileges, and the destruction of their careers, unless they consent to be vaccinated against their will with vaccines that contradict their sincere religious beliefs.”

Many states have introduced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and teachers. President Joe Biden announced last week that he had directed the Department of Labor to draft a rule that would require employees at all companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. 

Bishops across the country have issued varying guidance for Catholics wishing to seek conscientious objections to COVID-19 mandates. A few have expressed explicit support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions; some have said that Catholics may seek exemptions, but must make the case for their own conscience without the involvement of clergy; and some have stated that Catholic teaching lacks a basis to reject vaccination mandates.  

All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have some connection to cell lines derived from fetal tissue likely derived from a baby aborted decades ago. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were tested on the controversial cell lines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine used the cell lines both in production and testing.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing guidance from the Vatican, has since stated that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use because of their remote connection with abortion, but if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.

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.” Pope Francis has encouraged COVID-19 vaccination, calling it an "act of love."

The bishops of South Dakota and of Colorado have explicitly expressed support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions, while in contrast, many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago, Seattle, 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. 

The Chicago archdiocese, along with the Diocese of El Paso, has introduced its own vaccine mandate for employees.

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. 

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly have both decreed similar policies, stating 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 National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, has been vocal about its opposition to mandatory immunization for COVID-19. While acknowledging that reception of COVID-19 vaccines is morally permissible, the center has maintained support for the rights of Catholics to refuse the vaccines because of conscience-based concerns.