Faith, hope and love are stronger than death

We need this reminder.

Lately, Pope Francis has been talking about death in messages like this one just over a week ago.

Noting that death is a reality that modern civilization “tends, more and more, to set aside” and not reflect upon, Pope Francis said that for believers death is actually “a door” and a call to live for something greater.

Christians endearingly celebrate All Souls Day and ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’, remembering their deceased loved ones in special prayers and liturgies, for their ‘eternal rest’ and ‘life everlasting’. Some populations celebrate it as Día de los Muertos, a day when families create traditional altars in honor of their beloved departed, with photos, memorabilia, their favorite foods and traditional Pan de Muerto, or ‘bread of the dead’. These altars are set up at cemeteries throughout the world including Mexico, Central and South America and Europe, with processions and music taking the faithful from one to another.

In northern Romania, one of Europe’s last remaining peasant cultures still observes a similar centuries-old tradition on this occasion. Villagers decorate and light candles on graves, many with already lavishly carved wooden grave markers in the ‘Merry Cemetery’. It’s a celebration of life, faith and hope in resurrection.

They observe these traditions because they live what they believe, that life is sacred and eternal. It’s distinctly counter-cultural to prevailing forces pushing a utilitarian ideology of human existence that exalts abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide as a ‘choice’ to eliminate suffering and inconvenience when each diminishes us all.

Pope Francis told people to prepare for death, which had to be a startling message for the current culture. And on Wednesday, when he greets and addresses the large crowd assembled in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address, he shared what he would be doing on All Souls Day, inviting anyone willing to join him.

Before concluding his address, the Pope reminded the faithful that he would be travelling to the American Cemetery of Nettuno, South of Rome and then to the Fosse Ardeatine National Monument on November 2nd to mark the feast on Feast of all Souls. Pope Francis, said,” I ask you to accompany me with prayer in these two stages of memory and suffrage for the victims of war and violence. Wars produce nothing but cemeteries and death: that is why I wanted to give this sign at a time when our humanity seems not to have learned the lesson or does not want to learn it.”

(Emphasis added.)

HHS mandate rolled back, Little Sisters exempted, government overreach revealed

“The new rule is a victory for common sense.”

Last Friday, the Trump administration issued new HHS mandate interim rules finally giving relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other religious and faith based groups and institutions burdened by the Obama era mandate to provide contraception in their health care plans, or pay prohibitively heavy fines if they didn’t.

They have been in courts on all levels in many states and at the federal level for the past five years secure protection from coercion to violate their consciences over a ‘contraception delivery scheme’ made up under the guise of ‘women’s preventive health care’. The only thing it prevented was a healthy woman’s natural reproductive cycle.

Becket Law has represented many or most of those cases, and provided ‘HHS Central’ info updates for years. Friday’s new rule changes provided the latest welcomed victory in a string of many.

The rule aligns with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last year protecting the Little Sisters in Zubik v. Burwell protecting the Little Sisters, which says the government cannot fine the religious groups for following their faith. The contraceptive mandate issue went to the Supreme Court five times, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups.

 

“The new rule is a victory for common sense,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with Becket. “The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war. It was always ridiculous to claim you need nuns to give out contraceptives. This new rule shows that you don’t.”

That it took a government administrative rule to override a previous administrative rule to prove the obvious is a sign of how far the dictatorship of relativism has reached in its grasp of public consciousness, or at least the control of public opinion by government, media, social media and entertainment media, all of which work together often to advance based more on ideology than science and fact.

For facts, this is the best one stop source I’ve found so far, but I’m a footnote reader and you have to read the footnotes to appreciate the scope of research it covers.

In brief, it counters everything the Obama administration claimed in the original ‘federal fiat’ known as the HHS mandate, based on nothing demonstrable.

1) The HHS Mandate is ineffective, even counterproductive.

2) HHS has no meaningful data to support its claims that free contraception causes
improved women’s health.

3) The mandate is unconstitutional.

4) The Mandate is misleading and irresponsible regarding women’s health.

5) The Mandate is demeaning to women…

Each of those points has sub-points, deeply grounded in footnoted source documents, so everyone has access to the full truth to engage in robust public debate.

Becket Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi declared:

“It should be easy for the courts to finalize this issue now that the government admits it broke the law. For months, we have been waiting for Department of Justice lawyers to honestly admit that fact, like the President did in the Rose Garden five months ago,” said Rienzi. “Now that the agencies admit the mandate was illegal, we expect the leadership of the Department of Justice will cooperate in getting a final court resolution so the Little Sisters can stop thinking about lawyers and mandates and return to spending all their energies caring for the elderly.”

 

With an interim rule now in place, the ongoing court battles between religious groups and the federal government may be resolved soon. The interim rule acknowledges that the earlier mandate violated the Little Sisters’ religious liberty and that there are many other ways to obtain contraceptives.

And that’s another statement of the obvious. The Little Sisters of the Poor, and all the other groups defending their rights to religious liberty guaranteed under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have not intended, nor tried, to take birth control away from women nor keep women from obtaining it in the myriad ways available to them before the Obama HHS mandate was issued 2011. (The fact sheet tells the fuller background story.)

That’s common sense. So is this comment from a woman following coverage I provided on radio Friday with a Becket Legal Counsel about the new HHS rules restoring religious freedom and conscience rights to the Little Sisters and others by exempting them from having to provide birth control and other potentially abortifacent drugs, under the guise of health care.

I’ll never understand why insurance companies want to pay for medication that is not used to treat a disease or disorder but is given to try to “fix” something that works perfectly! Most contraceptives are elective and should not be covered. Women take them because they want to, not because they are sick.

Another said this, echoing many such expressions over the past five to six years.

What about the struggling mother who needs blood pressure meds, antibiotics, or other medication? Why mandate free birth control and no other meds? It doesn’t treat illness, but is a carcinogen that thwarts nature. There were just two reasons for the HHS mandate: population control and the elimination of freedom of conscience.

As courts have ruled, and the administration has now agreed, government had no right to compel people, groups, organizations or institutions to provide those birth control and emergency birth control medications. And as Mark Rienzi echoed, the new interim rule was a victory for common sense.

When a man in a woman’s restroom is finally seen as wrong

And a proudly progressive mom calls for a reality check.

After opening the blog post she felt necessary to write by saying that she was reluctant to write it, as a tolerant person who would likely be labeled and derided as intolerant, ‘The Get Real Mom’ stated clearly: “This is a story about a biological man in the women’s restroom.”

Innate sensibility prevailed when a startled young mother was disturbed enough by her own experience at a Disneyland women’s restroom when a man walked in, and stayed, while women and children nervously looked for someone to say or do something. But…not…them.

First, she felt the need to establish liberal bona fides.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over a decade and have seen my fair share of transgender/gender fluid people. They in no way offend me. I’d consider myself pretty progressive and tolerant of most things…how transgender people feel, how they choose to dress or any surgeries they get, don’t infringe on any parts of my life, so I support their decision to live as they see fit. I’ve also seen my fair share of transgender women in the women’s restroom before. Not ALL the time. But over the past few years, I’d say 4-5 that I noticed. Men…who were in some stage of transition and making every attempt to be a woman from mascara to heels. Transgenders who certainly felt comfortable in the women’s room and probably frightened to go into the men’s. At these times, I smiled…I peed…and life went on. But 2 weeks ago something very different happened.

She and her friend took their young sons to the park for an outing, stopped for lunch and headed for the women’s restroom before the next adventure. They took turns, each watching the children for the other.

I was off to the side waiting with the two boys, when I noticed a man walk into the restroom…He took a few more steps, at which point he would’ve definitely noticed all the women lined up and still kept walking. My next thought was, “Maybe he’s looking for his wife…or child and they’ve been in here a while.” But he didn’t call out any names or look around. He just stood off to the side and leaned up against the wall. At this point I’m like, “…Am I the only one seeing this?” I surveyed the room and saw roughly 12 women, children in tow…staring at him with the exact same look on their faces. Everyone was visibly uncomfortable. We were all trading looks and motioning our eyes over to him…like “what is he doing in here?” Yet every single one of us was silent. And this is the reason I wrote this blog.

Somebody has to be willing to speak up, and they were all afraid. She realized that reality, as one who had been among the unwilling to be considered judgmental, or to call any behavior or boundary crossing wrong. Until clearly it was.

We had been culturally bullied into silenced. Women were mid-changing their baby’s diapers on the changing tables and I could see them shifting to block his view. But they remained silent. I stayed silent. We all did. Every woman who exited a stall and immediately zeroed right in on him…said nothing. And why? B/c I…and I’m sure all the others were scared of that “what if”. What if I say something and he says he “identifies as a woman” and then I come off as the intolerant ass… at the happiest place on earth? So we all stood there, shifting in our uncomfortableness…trading looks. I saw two women leave the line with their children. Still nothing was said. An older lady said to me outloud, “What is he doing in here?” I’m ashamed to admit I silently shrugged and mouthed, “I don’t know.” She immediately walked out…from a bathroom she had every right to use without fear.

This was more than a dawning awareness. It was sudden. “I’m ashamed to admit I silently shrugged…” shows the revelation this woman had in that moment that ‘the culture’ has ‘bullied us into silence’, but we still have our sensibilities, and they come alive in a moment when visceral reaction tells us what’s wrong is wrong, no matter what anybody calls it.

And let me be clear, my problem wasn’t JUST that there was a man in the restroom. Its that he wasn’t even peeing, washing his hands or doing anything else that you’d do in a restroom. He was just standing off to the side looking smug…untouchable… doing absolutely nothing. He had to of noticed that every woman in the long line was staring at him. He didn’t care. He then did a lap around the restroom walking by all the stalls. You know, the stalls that have 1 inch gaps by all the doors hinges so you can most definitely see everyone…

So yes… there were women and small children using the restroom and this man was walking around knowing no one would say anything.  So here I am…writing this blog, because honestly I need answers. We can’t leave this situation ambiguous any more. The gender debate needs to be addressed… and quickly. There have to be guidelines. It can’t just be a feeling… this notion that we’re shamed into silence b/c we might offend someone, has gone too far.

There are answers. People, experts and organizations and rights groups, have been engaging this debate for a long time, and she’s right in calling out those who have been trying to bully them and everyone into silence about saying what is true and right and good, and what is wrong.

There was a man who felt entitled to be in the woman restroom, because he knew no one would say anything. There were 20-25 people by the time I left, who were scared and uncomfortable by his ominous presence. And the only thing stopping us, was our fear of political correctness and that the media has told us we don’t know what gender is anymore. I never want to be in the position again. Im not asking for permission to tell transgender people to get out my bathroom. I need to know it’s ok to tell a man, who looks like a man, to get…out. Gender just can’t be a feeling. There has to be science to it. DNA, genitals, amount of Sephora make up on your face, pick your poison, but as a very progressive woman…I’m sorry it can’t just be a feeling when theres but a mere suggestion of a door with a peep hole separating your eyes from my…or my children’s genitals.

There is science to it. Here’s an exceptionally good and thorough report in The New Atlantis for anyone who didn’t encounter it before, and is willing to now, like ‘The Get Real Mom’. We don’t need to listen to or obey the media, or the culture, or prevailing forces in politically driven movements. We don’t need permission to tell a man hanging out in the women’s room to leave. It’s not about feelings. It’s about human truths and dignity, and the courage to stand for them.

New Congress quick to focus on abortion

Planned Parenthood is doubling down.

Last Wednesday, a Select Investigative Panel in the U.S. House of Representatives released a report accusing Planned Parenthood of serious abuses and possible criminal violations in transactions between abortion businesses and fetal tissue harvesters. This came after months of hearings and investigations into a series of undercover videos showed abortion clinic workers in different parts of the country discussing ‘fetal product sales’ and the value of different baby body parts, especially if obtained intact after an abortion.

Congress started this investigation months ago and with the election year frenzy, it was probably forgotten by anyone not somehow involved with a vested interest. But it’s a whopper (full report here), finding a range of abuses in a number of clinics across the country. That same day, the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom issued this report on waste, abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers in billing for Medicaid reimbursement.

The next day, Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced essentially the defunding of Planned Parenthood and reallocation of those funds to federally qualified comprehensive community health centers for women. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser responded quickly.

“Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider, performing over 300,000 abortions per year. Today’s commitment by Speaker Ryan to re-direct the abortion giant’s taxpayer funding to community health centers is a victory for women’s health care. Community health centers provide far more services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber them 20 to 1 nationwide…

“Polling in 2018 Senate battleground states shows that voters support re-directing Planned Parenthood’s funding to community health centers. Vulnerable pro-abortion Democratic Senators need to do a serious gut check, especially following the 2016 election outcome, and decide if they will stand with their constituents and women’s health care or continue to funnel money to big abortion.”

President-elect Trump has made key, distinct promises to the pro-life coalition of advisers he assembled and consulted over the final months of the presidential campaign, and in their messages of thanks and congratulations after his victory, they assured him and their nationwide followers that they look forward to seeing him follow through on those promises. Some of his top aides are pro-life, and his party platform was built partially on pro-life planks.

After the the House Select Panel issued its report last week and then Speaker Ryan announced the intent to redirect federal funds to community health centers for women, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins was my guest on radio to talk about these and other developments in the lead up to the Inauguration and the March for Life DC just days later, which grows larger and younger and more exuberant every year. She said Planned Parenthood is on a major new, urgent campaign to raise funds and build support, and the abortion giant is taking its appeal to every social media platform and major media outlet where they can reach the most people to convince them of the importance of Planned Parenthood’s work and necessity.

It’s a battle for hearts and minds, with directly competing narratives. We will be talking and hearing a lot about abortion, and we should, for everyone’s sake. This will be a very big year for the test of scrutiny.

Government imposes transgender regulation not supported by its own experts, or science

The risks are high, benefits unclear, say HHS’ own medical advisers.

On Tuesday, lawyers with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of faith based hospital and medical networks, and five states, against a federal regulation

that would force doctors to ignore science and their medical judgment and perform gender transition procedures on children.

Yes, on children. Now read this next part slowly:

The government does not even require Medicare and Medicaid to cover these same gender transition procedures because the Health & Human Services’ (HHS) medical experts found the risks were often too high and benefits too unclear. But any doctor citing the same evidence and their judgment in an individual case would be in violation of the new mandate and face potential lawsuits or job loss.

Correct. It’s hypocritical and agenda-laden. It’s ‘the other shoe dropping’ in yet another HHS mandate, after the contraceptive one led to years of litigation with the Little Sisters of the Poor (for crying out loud) having to go through court hearing after court hearing on different levels of the legal system just to be able to continue to serve and care for the elderly sick and poor, without having to violate their consciences by letting their health care provider provide for contraceptives already provided for by other government programs. (Yes, it’s that simply  insane.)

In these latter days of the Obama administration, nonetheless, the mandates continue, and this latest one the government’s own medical experts advise against is nonetheless required of “virtually every doctor in the U.S., many of whom have chosen the medical profession because they are inspired by their faith to serve those in need and to heal others”, as Becket Fund explains.

There are other areas where government and activists are pushing new requirements based on transgender theory with sweeping impact but virtually no basis other than politics and ideology.

The stories are everywhere. Monday, USA Today’s front page was emblazoned with this headline story: ‘Judge in Texas blocks Obama transgender bathroom rules’. What the story repeatedly calls the U.S. Department of Education’s ‘guidance’ is a nice way of referring to a federal regulation “that required school districts to allow transgender students to choose which restroom and locker facilities to use”, with a thinly veiled threat of losing federal funding if schools failed to comply.

While the article is weighted with words leaning toward a sympathetic reading of transgender ideology, it also says this:

“The sensitivity to this matter is heightened because defendants’ actions apply to the youngest child attending school and continues for every year throughout each child’s educational career.”…

The plaintiffs argued that the Obama administration guidance came with the implicit threat that federal education funds could be withheld if school districts refused to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their chosen gender identity. The guidance also had implications for federal student privacy laws, threatening education officials with sanctions if they fail to address students by their preferred gender pronouns.

So what drives this directive is an individual student’s claim about their feelings, whether relating to sexual identity, or their sense of acceptance and belonging, in the most private settings in which young people are most exposed.

What few people are asking publicly is what’s behind all of this, what the thinking is or better yet, the science. Which is why a long term study into exactly that aspect of ‘gender theory’ came out this week, published in The New Atlantis, just as federal regulations continued to force new regulations favoring transgender ideology on doctors and school systems across the country. The editor’s note sums it up well:

Questions related to sexuality and gender bear on some of the most intimate and personal aspects of human life. In recent years they have also vexed American politics. We offer this report — written by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, an epidemiologist trained in psychiatry, and Dr. Paul R. McHugh, arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century — in the hope of improving public understanding of these questions. Examining research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences, this report shows that some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence. The report has a special focus on the higher rates of mental health problems among LGBT populations, and it questions the scientific basis of trends in the treatment of children who do not identify with their biological sex. More effort is called for to provide these people with the understanding, care, and support they need to lead healthy, flourishing lives.

Note that last line, which is the most motivating factor behind the study. The two main authors and their research team used abundant and long-term scientific and medical findings to identify real health concerns and urge treatment that optimizes benefit and minimizes harm to people. The full report is available at that site, unlike so many peer-reviewed journal articles far beyond the reach of the general population, behind the firewall of a professional subscription to journals people don’t read and wouldn’t understand in the language used in most high level professional journals.

This study is for everyone to read and share and discuss.

After it was published early Monday, some coverage welcomed the scientific based research to bring to the debate. Michael Cook even opened his article with several links to opposing ideas, to show clearly the many claims that have been published about human biology and psychology without proof.

Pope Francis has been talking about this for a while, did so again this week, and doesn’t mince words.

Shortly after Pope Francis’ trip to Poland in late July, the Vatican released a transcript of the pontiff’s Q&A session with local bishops, which took place behind closed doors. His remarks caused a stir…because he once again denounced what he called “ideological colonization” and “gender theory.”

“In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these?-?I will call it clearly by its name?-?is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’ Today children?-?children!?-?are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex.”

“Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this [is] terrible!” Francis said…

For Francis, “gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion,” as he said in 2015, and it’s one reason why “the family is under attack.” In an interview book titled This Economy Kills, the pontiff compared gender theory to nuclear weapons.

Recent developments in Colombia, Mexico and Spain suggest that the pontiff’s campaign against gender theory, or gender ideology, may be emboldening Catholic bishops in various parts of the world to speak out themselves.

A couple of things occur to me in all this. One is how often, and rightly so, social media posts about some inconvenience or complaint winds up with someone commenting that it’s a #FirstWorldProblem. True, usually. But this is one that has grown very rapidly to span the globe, so it’s an issue on different continents, and has become a sort of ‘colonization of ideologies’ as Francis and some bishops declare it.

The other is the frequent claim by activists and ‘the new atheists’ that religion or faith-based beliefs have no place in public policy, where reason and science should rule (and usually what such claimants mean is consensus by those in power). But in this case, leading scientific experts have issued a very important, long-term, thoroughly researched, well documented and objective study based on reason and science. That it doesn’t uphold (and goes against) prevailing cultural trends virtually assures it and its authors being discredited.

So it’s up to people of goodwill and common sense and concern for the welfare and well-being of all people to be well informed and engaged on this thorough and accessible study.

The National Catholic Register makes an important note here, from the study:

The authors make clear that the report does not provide an exhaustive review of their subject in all its dimensions.

“Science is by no means the only avenue for understanding these astoundingly complex, multifaceted topics; there are other sources of wisdom and knowledge — including art, religion, philosophy, and lived human experience,” they acknowledge.

“However, we offer this overview of the scientific literature in the hope that it can provide a shared framework for intelligent, enlightened discourse in political, professional, and scientific exchanges — and may add to our capacity as concerned citizens to alleviate suffering and promote human health and flourishing.”

Little Sisters have new champions, defenders in court

And one fewer Justice on the high court.

On Thursday of last week, Women Speak for Themselves (WSFT) launched a campaign, loosely aligned with Valentine’s Day weekend and beyond, to ‘show a little love to the Little Sisters‘. It coincided with a new website for WSFT, loaded with resources and links to amicus briefs its founder filed at the Supreme Court, including this latest one on behalf of the Little Sisters in their struggle to uphold their religious freedom rights. Two days later, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, great religious freedom defender, suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Why are the Little Sisters of the Poor even in court in the first place? Especially the court system at different levels, reaching all the way to the Supreme Court, doing whatever they can to save their nearly two centuries long ministry to the poor from the threat of government overreach that threatens their services and institutions? Why would the government even do that?

Let’s review. (It’s stunning that we’re still in this situation more than four years after the federal fiat known as the HHS Mandate was issued by the administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, as a contraception delivery scheme slipped into the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.)

For clarity and accessibility, this HHS Info Central has it all: graphics, charts, court challenges, case names and dates and outcomes or facts about pending hearings. It’s a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ snapshot of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare.

The Little Sisters of the Poor represent the most emblematic case. By far.

In November 2015…

the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns facing tens of millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot, according to their faith, include contraceptives in their employee health plan. This is the second time the Sisters have been forced to ask the Supreme Court for protection against the government’s HHS Mandate. The Court’s decision will finally resolve the crucial question of whether governmental agencies can, wholly without legislative oversight, needlessly force religious ministries to violate their faith.

Yes, that’s explicitly the situation.

The Little Sisters, who care for more than 13,000 of the elderly poor around the world, had no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court due to the government’s refusal to exempt them from the HHS mandate, which is currently in its 9th unacceptable iteration. The mandate forces the Little Sisters to authorize the government to use the Sister’s employee healthcare plan to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs – a violation of their faith – or pay massive fines, which would threaten their religious mission. The Supreme Court entered a temporary order protecting the nuns in January, 2014, but the government has continued litigating, asking lower courts to remove that protection. (emphasis added)

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welcomed as Christ. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “All we ask is that our rights not be taken away. The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing our case, and pray for God’s protection of our ministry.”

They don’t want to be in court. They didn’t pick this fight. They’re about the last people in public service the government should be forcing to deliver contraception and morning after pills in their healthcare plans. And yet, here we are.

So with the Supreme Court taking on the case again, legal scholar Helen Alvare saw the opportunity to present a real challenge to the government’s claim or defense that it has a “compelling interest” in a mandate that burdens religious freedom, one of a two-prong test the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires for government to enforce anything that violates so fundamental a protected liberty.

First, fleshing out the contents of the “compelling state interest” requirement will provide much-needed guidance in future religious freedom cases. Lawyers are accustomed to encountering compelling state interest analyses in due process and equal protection cases involving fundamental constitutional rights and suspect classifications. There are a significant number of cases interpreting the meaning of a “compelling state interest” in the areas of speech or racial discrimination. But there are fewer in the area of religious freedom…

Second, a “compelling state interest” analysis in the context of a mandate case would shed light on the government’s tendency – especially when contraception programs are concerned – to make extravagant claims without empirical foundation, while threatening the religious freedom of institutions providing unparalleled amounts of service to women. Governments at both the federal and state level have fallen into the habit of using contraception to “signal” their commitment to women’s rights. The facts on the ground, however, are much more complex.

Enter Women Speak for Themselves, which started as an open letter in response to high level women in government purporting to represent women’s rights and claims on services that really didn’t represent vast numbers of American women outside the Washington beltway and across the country. Helen Alvare was co-author of that letter with another lawyer, Kim Daniels. The open letter turned into a grassroots movement that has spread across the country, across demographics and age groups and backgrounds of women engaging these issues at their most local levels and on the national level, through media and initiatives that allow them to contribute to and change the conversation by sharing their lived experiences. It’s a remarkable range of stories from women speaking for women and their families and health and rights.

The Little Sisters are among those for whom they speak. These nuns don’t seek nor want the spotlight, but Pope Francis paid them a surprise visit last September while in DC during his US apostolic journey, and House Speaker Paul Ryan featured them as his guests among invited attendees – in a moment of irony – to President Obama’s final State of the Union Address in January.

Interestingly, the American Spectator noticed, and pointed out that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the one who granted them a temporary injunction against punitive fines for not following the mandate, as they pursued permanent relief. Her vote will be needed again when the case is argued before the Supreme Court during Holy Week, in March 2016. Because if she comes down on the liberal side of reading religious freedom as applied to this case, and the court votes 4-4 in the absence of Justice Scalia, religious liberty will face a ‘calamity‘.

The Little Sisters would be forced to violate their faith by subsidizing the distribution of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives to their employees or face ruinous IRS fines. The government exempts a wide variety of religious ministries from the contraception mandate. But the Obama administration insisted that this organization run by Catholic nuns, which has been providing free health care to elderly patients of every race and religion since 1839, is somehow not eligible for the usual exemption. Incredibly, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government.

…Before Justice Scalia’s tragic death, there was a reasonable chance that the Little Sisters and six other organizations with which the Court consolidated their case might prevail.

Now, unless one of the four liberal justices — Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor — casts an uncharacteristically nonpartisan vote, a 4-4 vote is all but inevitable.

For once, instead of Justice Anthony Kennedy holding the pivotal swing vote, it may rest with Sotomayor. Or Chief Justice John Roberts, who can work to sway the court in a couple of directions to avoid a calamity.

In the immediate aftermath of Justice Scalia’s untimely death, the Little Sisters of the Poor (with the help of technically proficient friends) released this new website making this whole story much pithier and easier to grasp than ever. Have a look, it’s all there.

Who they are:

The Little Sisters of the Poor have dedicated their lives to living with and caring for the elderly poor. They have been focused on service, not advocacy or policy, and, in this case, they’ve exhausted every option possible before going to court.

What this case is about:

After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters to change their healthcare plan to offer services that violate Catholic teaching. But 1 in 3 Americans do not have a plan that is subject to the mandate HHS is fighting so hard to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to follow. Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi — as well as other large corporations — are exempt from the mandate, because they never changed their plans and are grandfathered. And the government is not even requiring our own US military to provide these services through their family insurance.

The government is arguing that since it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it wants the Little Sisters to provide, they should have no moral objection to offering them. The Little Sisters are saying this is not about money, but conscience, and whether they should be forced to change their healthcare plan to offer services they have a moral objection to when those services could be provided more effectively through the government’s healthcare exchange.

And what the solution may, or can, be.

There is an easy solution that protects the Little Sisters’ religious freedom and the right of the government to offer these services to women who want them. Rather than trying to force religious plans to offer these services, the better solution is for the government to provide these services through the ACA healthcare exchange to any employees who want them but can’t get them through employer plans.

The Little Sisters are not trying to prevent the government from providing these services, but object to the government’s insisting the Little Sisters provide them (especially since the government has already refused to ensure that those free services are provided to one in three Americans). Giving all women access to contraception through the healthcare exchange is a simpler and fairer way for the government to provide these services to more women while protecting the religious freedom of the Little Sisters, who never wanted this fight and just want to get back to caring for the elderly in need.

They can use all the help and advocacy they can get. Women Speak for Themselves is providing the vehicle, and the avenue. It’s up to people to drive it home.

 

Ninth Planned Parenthood video reveals “tissue collection” business motives, tactics

First the kill the small human life, then they market his or her body parts, counting profits, but missing the true cost.

In the case of other horrifying stories, like just over a year ago when ISIS burst onto the global radar of awareness with beheadings graphically carried out on video that got posted online, the crimes against humanity continued at such a pace that they a) didn’t all make the news, nor even a small percentage of the mass scale of atrocities carried out weekly, daily, against innocent human lives, and b) got no less inhumane and barbaric, but did get more familiar and therefore part of the landscape of modern crises we must steel ourselves against when they come cascading out in the news. Remember Boko Haram? Remember the Rwandan genocide? Remember the atrocities in Kosovo?

Here’s what President Bill Clinton said about the latter:

“We see these pictures of the refugees on television every night and most people would like another story, but we must not get refugee fatigue.”

That’s the usual human response. Crisis fatigue. Outrage fatigue. Inability to feel the shock and horror anymore.

Not so with the video revelations coming out of the abortion industry, filmed at Planned Parenthood clinics or at other locations with their officials talking about the business of selling the dismembered body parts of aborted babies. The outrage is building.

Enough is enough.

Here’s the ninth video, just released, focusing on “Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), the small and secretive company that has harvested and sold fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood clinics longer than any other entity…”

The video features undercover conversations with Dr. Katharine Sheehan, the long-time medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest until 2013; Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for ABR; and Cate Dyer, the CEO of rival fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress.

At one point, Larton said

“I literally have had women come in and they’ll go in the [operating room] and they’re back out in three minutes, and I’m going, ‘What’s going on?’” Perrin said. “Oh yeah, the fetus was already in the vaginal canal whenever we put her in the stirrups. It just fell out.”

This is so sick, so devoid of any sense of human life in the abortion business. The industry already profits hugely from doing abortions, taking the human life from the womb of his or her mother by any number of gruesome and barbaric procedures. These videos reveal how much more that industry profits, Planned Parenthood in collaboration with multiple businesses for the buying and selling of baby body parts, and each video is worse than the last.

The video also reveals that organ brokers vying with one another for access to Planned Parenthood’s “volume” of aborted babies’ body parts sometimes boast that, by paying taxes, they fund the abortion giant.

That’s right, this is still a taxpayer funded organization, as mind-boggling as that is. Until these videos came out, attention was focused on abortion as a ’cause’, whether “pro-choice” (a true misnomer), or “pro-life”. Organizations like Project Rachel and others directed people, energy, resources, to helping post-abortive women. Who thought about post-abortive babies?

Planned Parenthood and ‘bioscience’, ’tissue procurement’ companies. And all the while, Larton said in this latest video

federal policy had focused on banning taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research, but medical experimentation on aborted cadavers “got lost in the mix,”…

So they were easily able to get away with it, with no real push back from an unaware public.

No more. One of the most vocal and active pro-life leaders, National Director of Priests for Life and  Abolishing Abortion author Fr. Frank Pavone, said this:

“The bottom line is simple. To deny the fact that Planned Parenthood sells body parts, alters the abortion procedure to do so, and is involved in this illegal activity at the highest corporate level, is now tantamount to asserting that the Earth is flat…

“As Congress convenes again next week, Priests for Life, and numerous other national and local pro-life organizations, will press our elected officials to do their job and investigate Planned Parenthood and hold the organization accountable for its actions.”

This is indefensible. Planned Parenthood has no cover anymore. They may have complicit partners in media and politics trying to silence growing opposition to their callous and unethical treatment of women and barbaric handling of aborted human bodies, but they cannot erase what we have now seen nor silence what we have now heard.

Everyone in or running for public office will be held accountable for what they do to protect and defend human life and dignity, at the most vulnerable stages, no matter what.

Obama, Clinton, Planned Parenthood, truth, lies and videos

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!”

Whatever one thinks of Walter Scott’s 19th Century epic poem perhaps best remembered by that line, you have to give him and his writing credit for pithy insight.

Enduring insight, given the politics of our time. Take this Wall Street Journal column by William McGurn, for instance.

‘When the science is inconvenient, when the facts don’t match up with the ideology, they are cast aside.”

So charged Sen. Barack Obama in a Planned Parenthood speech in 2007. The line was a dig at George W. Bush for his approach to abortion and reproductive rights. Eighteen months later, the new president repeated his snipe in his inaugural vow to “restore science to its rightful place.”

Today President Obama is the one finding the science inconvenient. In the past, the president hasn’t hesitated to weigh in on other controversies while they were in progress—from an altercation between a black Harvard professor and a local white cop to more recent comments about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Suddenly, however, he has nothing to say about two [now five] secretly recorded videos that include one Planned Parenthood doctor talking about a “less crunchy” abortion technique that would leave fetal organs intact for harvesting.

Nothing.

Then again, for all Mr. Obama’s talk about restoring science to its proper place, his promises made clear that, if elected, he would not only be the first African-American president but have a good claim to be deemed as the first Planned Parenthood POTUS as well. The price was jettisoning the soothing Bill Clinton language—“safe, legal and rare”—for a more militant approach in which no abortion is beyond the pale.

In the process, President Obama has had to overlook the contradictory approach to science among his own allies. Take sonograms, or ultrasounds. In the first video, Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatola describes using ultrasound to help those doing the abortion “know where they are putting their forceps.”

On “Fox News Sunday” last weekend, Carly Fiorina underscored the contradiction. Planned Parenthood lobbies against laws requiring women to have an “opportunity to look at an ultrasound before she makes an incredibly difficult choice to end the unborn life within her,” said the Republican hopeful. “And yet they are using that same technology to harvest body parts.”

Just follow the logic. And the story line.

At other times when the facts don’t match up with his ideology, Mr. Obama retreats to silence. In 2013, when Kermit Gosnell’s abortion horrors were before the American people, Mr. Obama’s then-spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the president couldn’t comment on an ongoing trial.

The reporter pressed for an answer, noting that the president’s position had special relevance for this case. As an Illinois state senator, he pointed out, Mr. Obama had opposed a bill that would have provided medical care “to babies who would be born after a botched abortion” like those that Dr. Gosnell was accused of killing.

That’s worth pausing on for a moment, since it was so overlooked during both election cycles. This was all foreseeable, for those who paid attention.

Two weeks after that White House news conference, Mr. Obama made history as the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood. Two weeks later, Dr. Gosnell was convicted of murdering three babies. Still, the president has said nothing.

Now we have two Planned Parenthood docs on film [and five videos so far] talking about the value of human organs in a fetus whose humanity they would deny. In private the euphemisms disappear. “When they talk to the public or to women about to get an abortion they talk about ‘tissue,’ ” says Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “But when they talk to someone buying body parts, it’s about intact hearts, livers and lungs.”

Tuesday, the WSJ Opinion page carried this response from Gail Finke.

William McGurn’s “The Political ‘Science’ of Planned Parenthood”… about President Obama’s sudden ignorance of science when it comes to abortion doesn’t go far enough.

Abortion advocates say that a fetus is a baby only if the mother wants it to be. A woman is 10 weeks pregnant with a baby if she wants to be a mother; another woman whose “fetus” is exactly the same age but who doesn’t want to have a baby can pay a doctor to “evacuate” the “products of conception.” If four embryos are created in one round of in vitro fertilization and two are implanted in a woman’s uterus, they are much-wanted children. The other two, their biological siblings, are nothing more than “extra embryos” that can be frozen or otherwise disposed.

The only difference between the thing being discussed (the person being discussed) is what the woman wants. You can call that many things, but one thing you can’t call it is science.

The tangled web is unraveling.

The fifth video was released Tuesday, involving negotiation of harvesting and selling body parts of five month old babies. More on that in the next post…

Mollie Hemingway lays out the different major strands of this sequential eruption of truth that is happening beyond the reach or control of the power elite who have controlled the message for so many years now, until now. She tells you that Planned Parenthood sought and got a temporary restraining order against the release of more videos, but that the injunction was not constitutional. Two more videos have been released since then.

She reports that Planned Parenthood hired a crisis communications firm to help manage its public relations crisis. The background is interesting.

There’s the suspicious claim that Planned Parenthood was hacked  in “an attack by extremists”, an intriguing account Hemingway unravels.

And the diminished attention major media outlets have given this major story.

The reaction last week by Hillary Clinton is very interesting, and Hemingway notes that, along with the link to Clinton’s interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader piece in which the Democratic front runner for the presidency called the videos “disturbing”. But since I first read that piece last week, it has been updated to read differently, giving Planned Parenthood a good deal of cover.

“Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions.

(No, they’re really not.)

I think there are two points to make,” Clinton said. “One, Planned Parenthood for more than a century has done a lot of really good work for women: cancer screenings, family planning, all kinds of health services.

(Another myth. “In 2013, abortions made up 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals accounted for only 5% (18,684) and 0.5% (1,880), respectively”, according to study findings by the Susan B. Anthony List.)

Hemingway continues on Hillary Clinton’s remarks:

And this raises not questions about Planned Parenthood so much as it raises questions about the whole process, that is, not just involving Planned Parenthood, but many institutions in our country.”

(Actually, the video series is about Planned Parenthood’s practices in our country.)

“And if there’s going to be any kind of congressional inquiry, it should look at everything and not just one part of it,” she said.

How about both/and. It indeed should look at everything in the abortion industry and ideology and the whole abortion culture. And it should look at Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and marketing of baby body parts in particular, and whether that breaks the law, as some of the videos seem to reveal. Like the latest one.

Captured on video is Planned Parenthod Gulf Coast Director of Research Melissa Farrell discussing with a potential buyer about the best way to harvest organs from aborted babies. Farrell states at 8:05 in the video that at Planned Parenthood, “if we alter our process, we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers.” She also notes that they are willing to modify the abortion procedure to collect body parts, saying, “We deviate from our standard in order to do that.” Modifying an abortion procedure to obtain organs is prohibited under federal law.

And let’s put that claim of screenings, at least mammograms (number 10 in Hemingway’s piece), to rest finally.

No…97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is not mammograms. In fact, zero percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is mammograms because Planned Parenthood doesn’t do a single mammogram. Planned Parenthood falsely made the claim that they did during their campaign to shame the Komen Foundation into continuing to fund them, and some media asserted it as well. President Obama has regularly made the claim during his War on Women messaging.

The only problem is that it’s just not true. From a Washington Post fact check a few years ago:

“The problem here is that Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms or even possess the necessary equipment to do so.”

So let’s get to the truth. And stop the deceptions.

Abortive reasoning evident in Planned Parenthood videos

Abortion clinic toll includes the living.

What happened to Planned Parenthood workers to deaden their sensibilities about human life? Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote this piece after the first of now four videos, some terribly graphic, that reveal the abortion industry giant’s business practice of marketing baby body parts.

When we think of evil, we think of something violent or demonic, something filled with hatred and wretchedly hungry to devour the good.

But what if evil eats a salad at lunch and is polite, speaking rationally with nice table manners?

I’ve just seen a video where evil casually spears lettuce on a fork and calmly, scientifically, discusses the market for the body parts of aborted fetuses, while sipping a glass of wine.

“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior medical director for Planned Parenthood, says in the video…

This absolutely horrific video was recorded last year by investigators from the Center for Medical Progress, a California-based group that is opposed to abortion.

They allege that federally subsidized Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and abortion rights advocate, is illegally selling body parts in violation of the law. The group said it plans to release other video in coming days.

They have. There are now four available for viewing, all over the internet. Like here.

John Kass characteristically spoke from the heart, and said what so many Americans have said, on every social media platform they have, after these videos started coming out.

What’s chilling is the absolute calmness in her voice.

I’m certain Dr. Nucatola — enjoying a nice lunch of salad and red wine and discussing organ harvests of the unborn — doesn’t consider herself to be evil. Perhaps you don’t either.

But I do. I have no other way to see it…

You’re free to go online and see for yourself. You might see things differently. But the way I see it, the way I hear it, is that this is the way evil works best, not as a growling beast crouching in the darkness, but in a rational, scientific voice. It is the way it’s always worked, the way it worked years ago, the way it works now…

Conservatives are publicly angry, but liberals haven’t handled this well at all. Some have argued for a more strident defense of Planned Parenthood’s organ policy. It’s obvious that they’d like a good dose of righteous moral indignation. But how do you invoke morality to defend this?

The left has recently celebrated Roman Catholic Pope Francis, who shares their position on global warming. They’ve used the pope as a cudgel in political debate, to mock those who think “climate change” is little more than a slogan for big government and redistribution of wealth.

So here’s my suggestion: Why doesn’t the left call the Vatican and ask Pope Francis to weigh in on this one? Ask him when life begins, and if there’s any morality in harvesting the organs of fetuses for research.

One evolving argument of Planned Parenthood, parroted by their media and political advocates, is that if no profit is made, then it is legal to sell the parts for research, since payment goes to defray expenses in transportation of the fetal organs and other costs.

But who cares if it’s legal? I don’t care if it’s legal. Slavery was legal once too, and not just in America, but just about every other country in the world. The powerful have always legalized their subjugation of the less powerful. And in our the modern world, there is nothing less powerful than life in the womb.

 

‘Assisted suicide’ is killing

Marketed under terminology crafted to trigger sympathy and compliance, it still is what it is.

The former Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion and Choices. Sounds nice and fuzzy. So does Death With Dignity, though less so Aid In Dying although that still softens the fact that someone is ending someone else’s life. At least Mercy Killing uses the word, though softened with the spiritual concept of charity.

Working closely with Terri Schiavo’s family and some of their legal and spiritual counselors during that ordeal which erupted on the national and then international consciousness in early 2005, I did investigative reporting that turned up facts, claims, contradictions and records that mostly didn’t make it to big media reports on the story, though my radio network covered it all. Someone sent me a letter from a man in the Netherlands warning that if America let this woman die by court ordered starvation and dehydration, Dutch euthanasia would come to this country. How prescient that was.

Not long after, Hollywood gave the euthanasia and assisted suicide movements huge momentum, though not without warning there, either. Hollywood professional Barbara Nicolosi laid it all out here.

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

Our response to the mercy-killing machine must be more than an occasional op-ed piece; we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

Shrewd means that we fight smart. It means appealing to the emotions of the masses through stories, not non-fiction tomes. Songs, not philosophical tirades. Heroes, not pundits.

That was 2011, we’ve had heroes and storytellers since then, but we still need that shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy. Because death has been peddled as an available and increasingly acceptable option, through semantic engineering. Barbara Nicolosi, one of the heroes, swung for the fences in this appeal to awareness and action, sanity and reason.

If we’ve learned anything from the abortion wars, it’s that the words “choice” and “right to choose” set our cause back decades. We need an emotionally winning language for this fight. The other side should not get away with christening themselves “mercy killers”; they are “death dealers,” “elder abortionists,” “needlers.” Please, not “death with dignity”; let’s get there first with “medical murder” and “unnatural death.” Not “end-of-life clinics” but “human garbage pits.” We need slogans like, “Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.” Or, “Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.”

We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

That message got a lot of currency with the sad and tragic Brittany Maynard story used to the advantage of the assisted suicide movement and sensationalized by complicit media. What didn’t get so much coverage were the stories, names, faces and voices of others who faced and knew extreme suffering, and tried to witness to the truth of Nicolosi’s message about human life, dignity, and living through suffering.

Like the seminarian who kept trying to reach Maynard through Facebook posts and interviews, mostly in pro-life media, with true compassion. Philip Johnson had the same diagnosis and knew the pain.

And Lauren Hill, the determined teenager, who played her beloved sport of basketball even through pain and increasing disability, because her motto was “never give up.” If you don’t click on these hyperlinks to check out the stories, at least read this short one on her legacy, written on a Marine news site by Pfc. Ned Johnson.She was a basketball player — an athlete. She scored legitimate points for her junior college. But more importantly, she scored a lot of points in life.

Hill was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Cancer. In high school. At 18.

That’s when Hill proved she was more than many of us could ever hope to be. She went to college with this tumor. Then she made the basketball team, scored 10 points across four games before her body became too weak for her to continue.

She started a fundraiser that raised more than $1.5 million for pediatric cancer research…

There are many others who witness to courage and hope and true dignity, through their own suffering. Mark Davis Pickup is one, and he’s appealing to California legislators to consider the gravity of the bill before them this week, and the consequences of their vote.

I am a Canadian. As you know Canada’s Supreme Court recently struck down my nation’s laws against assisted suicide, opening wide the gates for physician assisted killing of suicidal sick and disabled people. Please do not take California down a similar path. It is not the hallmark of a “civil society”. There is nothing civilized about euthanasia or assisted suicide. Do not be fooled by euphemisms for killing like “death with dignity”. Dignity is not bestowed on people by injecting them with poison when they are at their lowest point. That is abandonment not dignity. Death with dignity is not an event, it is a process, the end result of having lived a life with dignity, benefiting from the best 21st Century palliative care (which is capable of eliminating physical pain), and being surrounded by loved ones.

Someone may say “What about those who do not have loved ones?” Precisely! What about them? Is the answer to euthanize them or seek to include them within the tender embrace of community? Another person may say, “I should have the autonomous right to determine the time and place of my own death.” Really? That presumes decisions only affect the individual making them. That is not true. Our decisions always impact others. The idea independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the concept of interdependent community.

If I choose suicide (assisted or otherwise) it will not affect just me: It will affect my wife, children and grandchildren. It will impact my community and my doctor for I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. And it will affect my nation by helping to entrench the notion that there are some lives unworthy to be lived.

Doctors, patients and healthcare experts are appealing likewise to California lawmakers and the people who elected them to protect and defend human life at all stages. That state’s lesislature is poised to vote one way or the other on the assisted suicide bill before them. Stephanie’s Journey puts a personal face and family on a profound call for care taking in this delicate process. Carolyn Moynihan covered it well here.

Disability Rights & Defense Fund expert Marilyn Golden testified before the California State Senate Health Committee with this comprehensive, riveting report, so lawmakers at least would make an informed vote.

I’m covering this on radio Wednesday with a California expert speaking for the disability community, to hear what he’s been saying in calls to legislative offices in the state, and hearing in response.

Because as Terri Schiavo’s family continues to proclaim, in carrying on her legacy and give voice to the voiceless, where there’s life, there’s hope.