A perfect storm

Supreme Court of the United States.

As part of their longstanding pro-life effort, the nation’s Catholic bishops and the grassroots mobilizing network assisting them, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), have urged Congress in recent years to do two things: maintain longstanding and widely supported policies against federal funding and promotion of abortion, and protect the conscience rights of those who respect human life in our health care system.   

In July, both goals came under attack, from two of the most extreme legislative proposals I have seen in over three decades of public policy work. Their enactment would create a “perfect storm” of policy against unborn human life, pushing pro-life convictions to the margins of public life. Both bills are advanced using titles and slogans that mask what they do.

The first is the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act,” (S. 2578).  It has little to do with either women’s health or “corporate interference.” It’s been called a response to the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which upheld the religious freedom of family-owned businesses that object to covering abortifacient drugs and devices in their health plan. 

The bill’s supporters say they are defending women’s “access” to the contraceptives they want. But as leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference explained in a letter to the Senate, “the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates.”

 

The enactment of two of the most extreme legislative proposals I have seen in over three decades of public policy work would create a “perfect storm” of policy against unborn human life, pushing pro-life convictions to the margins of public life. 

 

The operative text of the bill never mentions contraception. It says that when a federal law or regulation requires inclusion of any item in health plans across the country, that mandate will override “any other provision of federal law” — including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protected Christian families in the Hobby Lobby case. Such mandates will apply to all kinds of health plans, not just employer plans, and will override everyone’s religious freedom — including the freedom of women themselves, some of whom may not want their health plans promoting “free” late-term abortions, for example, to their minor daughters.

And yet the bill is supported by 58 out of 100 U.S. Senators — all 55 Democrats and three Republicans. It was blocked from coming to the Senate floor in July, but supporters may try again soon.

The other bill, which makes the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion look tame by comparison, is called the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 1696). It would knock down almost every state or federal law that seeks to restrain or regulate abortion, by demanding that the law treat abortion as a routine “women’s health procedure.” The unborn child would be given no greater respect than a decayed tooth or a troublesome tumor.

Is this bill committed to women’s health? Well, it says that even if a pro-life law “significantly advances … the health of women,” it must still be knocked down, unless “clear and convincing evidence” shows there is no way to serve women’s health that is “less restrictive” of abortion. In other words, women’s health is not the goal — maximizing and “mainstreaming” abortion is. Alarmingly, this bill has 36 sponsors and just received a committee hearing.

How can such extreme proposals receive serious attention in what some call “the greatest deliberative body in the world”? One answer is that, in a very politicized mid-term election year, legislators think this is what we constituents want. I hope we will tell them that just isn’t so. For help contacting your elected representatives, see the action alerts at www.nchla.org.

 

Richard M. Doerflinger is associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more on the bishops’ pro-life efforts see www.usccb.org/prolife.


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

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Events

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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