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Providence diocese won't comment on bill expanding liability for child sex abuse

Providence, R.I., Mar 3, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Providence is refusing to comment on a bill that would provide increased opportunities for victims of child sexual abuse to sue people and entities which enabled their abuse.

The bill, which was introduced to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in February, would expand the definition of a “perpetrator” in a 2019 piece of legislation known as “Annie’s Law.”

“Annie’s Law” changed the statute of limitations for filing suits related to child sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years after the abuse victim’s 18th birthday.

Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-South Kingstown), whose sister, Annie, for whom the 2019 bill was named, was abused by a priest as a child, is the sponsor of the bill.

The bill would name a  “perpetrator” as not only the person who committed the crime, but institutions as well, if there was a cover-up of the abuse. Similar bills have passed in other states, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits against institutions, including Catholic dioceses, the Boy Scouts, and other entities.

The Diocese of Providence told CNA that "it is premature to comment on the recently introduced legislation."

The bill comes after a superior court judge ruled last year that men who were abused as boys could not sue the Diocese of Providence in civil court. The men filed separate suits in 2019 and in 2020 against the diocese just prior to their 53rd birthdays, the deadline for filing a suit.

The suits were dismissed by Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel in October 2020. Vogel ruled that the diocese was not a perpetrator of abuse under the existing law, but rather the offending priest was the sole perpetrator who was liable. 

The bill is pending in both the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate.

Christian medical groups urge conscience protections amid Covid-19 vaccination push

CNA Staff, Mar 3, 2021 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- In a joint statement Tuesday, several Christian medical organizations highlighted the importance of conscience protections as COVID-19 vaccines are being administered.

Governing authorities ought to respect an individual’s decision to accept or refuse a vaccine according to their conscience, the organizations stated.

“While the pandemic remains a significant public health crisis, the individual rights of American citizens also remains of paramount importance. The guarantee of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ includes the right to make individual health care decisions while taking into account our responsibility for the common good,” the March 2 statement reads.

Signers included the Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical and Dental Association, the American College of Pediatricians, and the National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A.

The signers noted that some people may object to accepting a vaccine on moral grounds, as many modern vaccines have some connection with HEK-293 tissue which is descended from a baby who was likely aborted in the 1970s.

Guidance from the Vatican and the U.S. bishops’ conference has clarified that though Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines do have some connection to abortion, it is extremely remote and Catholics may morally accept them. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines both use mRNA technology and are not produced using fetal cells.

Even Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which was developed, tested, and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines, can be accepted by Catholics if there are no alternatives available, the US bishops’ conference has said.

“An individual’s decision to be vaccinated will also depend upon their personal assessment of the medical risks, a choice that should be respected. The decision not to be vaccinated must be accompanied by a commitment to take necessary precautions to lessen disease transmission,” the statement continues.

The organizations noted that vaccine distribution ought to prioritize those at greatest medical risk and those directly involved in the care of the sick.

“Attention should also be given to making vaccines available to smaller independent hospitals and clinics serving in underserved and rural areas where the vaccines to date have been less available.”

At the same time, the groups reiterated that vaccinations should be voluntary, respecting those who choose to object.

“It is fundamental that the right of individual conscience be preserved. Coerced vaccination would irreparably harm Constitutional rights and the patient-physician relationship,” the groups said.

“Conscience is an individual belief influenced by many factors such as faith, culture, family, and reason. Each individual makes a conscientious decision in any given situation. Respect for conscience rights is always of primary importance.”

Nation- and state-wide vaccination mandates for all people do not exist, but private businesses are allowed to implement vaccine mandates for their employees.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, certain populations have borne the brunt of virus deaths, and become the subjects of discussions about who should receive a vaccine first.

While residents of long-term care facilities accounted for 7% of COVID cases in the U.S., they reportedly make up 40% of deaths from the virus. More than 100,000 residents of long-term care facilities have died of the virus so far.

Prisons have reportedly suffered many virus outbreaks as well, although the data at hand do not show as high of a fatality rate among this population.

Senate committee splits on Becerra confirmation

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate Finance Committee was divided on the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday.

In voting to favorably recommend the confirmation of Becerra to the entire Senate on Wednesday, the committee was equally divided by party, with 14 members of each party voting for and against Becerra. Democrats supported his confirmation while Republicans opposed.

Per Senate rules, the vote will now be transmitted to the secretary of the senate and either party’s leader can move to force a confirmation vote by the entire chamber.

Becerra, currently California’s attorney general, has been vociferously opposed by pro-life groups as health secretary nominee. On Wednesday, Republican senators brought up his record on abortion and religious freedom as reasons to oppose his confirmation.

“His qualifications for HHS Secretary seem to be minimal, beyond suing HHS,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Becerra was grilled over his treatment of Catholic religious last week at his confirmation hearings. As attorney general of California, he defended state mandates that required even Catholic religious to provide abortion coverage, and forced crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. Regarding the latter mandate, the Supreme Court ruled against Becerra in 2018 in NIFLA v. Becerra.

Becerra also sued the Trump administration over its religious and moral exemptions that it granted to the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate—an act which forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to go back to court.

The Little Sisters of the Poor had benefited from the religious exemption to providing coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. They moved to return to court to defend their exemption after California and Pennsylvania sued to take it away.

Senate Pro-Life Caucus chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) called Becerra “as radical as it gets” in a statement on Wednesday, saying that he “is extremely pro-abortion” and “attacks religious freedom.”

In an exchange with Daines last week, Becerra would not name one abortion restriction that he supported. As attorney general, he also filed briefs in opposition to other states’ abortion restrictions, and fought to liberalize federal restrictions on the abortion pill regimen. At his confirmation hearing last week, Becerra pushed for women to be able to receive the abortion pill regimen remotely.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the finance committee, invoked “women’s health care” to support Becerra on Wednesday.

“I just feel very strongly over the last four years, women across the country saw their health providers close down, their access to reproductive health care, including abortion, ripped away. And the attacks that were leveled against the attorney general, in my view, twist reality when it comes to women’s health care,” Wyden said.

In his written responses to questions for the record submitted after his confirmation hearing, Becerra committed to acting to fund abortion providers—but would not commit to religious freedom protections for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In response to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Becerra committed to reviewing the Title X family planning program—an act that is expected to roll back the Trump administration’s requirements that recipients not refer for abortions or be co-located with abortion facilities.

Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program in 2019 due to the prohibitions. President Biden pledged to repeal the requirements and, in a recent order, instructed the health secretary to review the program—the first administrative step toward repealing the requirements.  

Planned Parenthood Action has also pushed for Becerra’s confirmation, calling it “a big deal.”

Becerra also would not commit to not re-imposing the contraceptive mandate on the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Supreme Court last July sided with the sisters in their defense of their religious exemption to the mandate. Biden has said he would repeal that exemption.

“I strongly believe women should not be put through unnecessary hurdles to access to health care,” Becerra said when asked by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) if he would commit to keeping the exemption in place.

In written questions, submitted for the record, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) noted that Becerra’s positions on “late-term abortion, life, conscience protections, and overreaching government policies that infringe on religious freedoms have raised significant concerns among many South Carolinians.”

Becerra, in response, cited his Catholic faith as a defense of his record.

“As a person of faith, I believe deeply in religious freedom,” he said. “I was raised in a Catholic home, and we would get up early on Sunday mornings to go to mass.”

He also would not directly answer questions on the transgender issue.

When asked if his agency would “ensure that children are not subjected to experimental hormone therapy,” and if he believed that “doctors and hospitals should have the right to refuse to participate in gender transition therapies and treatments due to medical, religious or moral convictions,” Becerra said he would rely on the expertise of “doctors and scientists.”

“I believe medical decisions should be left to individuals and their health providers,” he said.

Rachel Levine, a man identifying as a transgender woman, is currently under consideration to be nominated as assistant HHS secretary, and would serve under Becerra if both were to be confirmed.

Levine has previously stated support for hormone therapy for teenagers, provided that the individual, parents, doctor, and therapist all supported the procedure.

In response to a series of questions by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on conscience protections for doctors, religious freedom, the Hyde Amendment, and protections for infant survivors of abortions, Becerra simply said he would “follow the law” if confirmed.

Pro Choice Caucus calls on Biden to end Hyde Amendment

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Congressional Democrats called on President Joe Biden this week to remove pro-life protections from the 2022 federal budget.  

The Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus leaders, and other members of the House and Senate sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday asking him to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, the Weldon Amendment, and the Helms Amendment from the budget. 

The Hyde and Helms amendments restrict the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions in the U.S. and abroad, respectively. The Weldon Amendment restricts funding of states that discriminate against health care entities opposed to abortion.

These abortion funding restrictions have been enacted in law for years - decades, in the case of the Hyde and Helms amendments which have been law since the 1970s.

However, in recent years an increasing number of Democrats have pushed for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment - including President Biden, once a supporter of the policy.

Pro-life lawmakers made a request to preserve these amendments in a letter sent earlier this year to congressional leadership. 

Republican Study Committee chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) - who led the letter - told CNA Wednesday in a statement that the Hyde Amendment “is supported by the overwhelming majority of voters, was endorsed by President Biden as recently as 2019 and was passed each year in a bipartisan, noncontroversial manner for decades.” 

“The modern day Democrat Party has fully embraced anti-life radicalism, but the Republican Study Committee is equally determined to make sure the Hyde Amendment continues to save unborn lives,” Banks said. “Because of our campaign, almost every Republican in Congress has pledged to vote against any bill that would weaken Hyde protections.” 

The RSC has listed saving the Hyde Amendment as one of its top priorities for the 117th Congress. 

Pro-abortion lawmakers argued in their letter that the ongoing pandemic “yet again showed the long-standing structural racism and inequities in our health care system, with communities of color, particularly those in the Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander communities, and Indigenous people facing high rates of infection and death from COVID-19.” 

“We are ready to work with the Biden Administration to undo harmful abortion access policies that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote. 

The Hyde Amendment, they argued, blocks subsidized abortion for “people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare; federal employees and their dependents; Peace Corps Volunteers; Indigenous people; women in federal prisons and immigration detention centers; and residents of the District of Columbia.”

“We are committed to ensuring all people can access reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter how much money they make, where they were born or live, their age, their immigration status, their race, or their sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity,” they wrote. 

The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute has estimated that the Hyde Amendment has resulted in fewer abortions annually since it was first enacted in 1976, and has saved the lives of more than 2.4 million people. 

USCCB: Moderna's and Pfizer's coronavirus vaccines ethically preferable to Johnson & Johnson's

CNA Staff, Mar 3, 2021 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday reiterated the Vatican’s teaching on COVID-19 vaccines produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines, after a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson received FDA approval over the weekend.

The bishops echoed the Vatican in stating that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available, but if possible, Catholics ought to choose a vaccine with a more remote connection to abortion.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available…it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,’” the bishops wrote in a March 2 statement.

That description applies to the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which used abortion-derived HEK-293 cell lines in design and development, production, and lab testing.

In contrast, mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna have an extremely remote connection to abortion in the design and testing phases, leading ethicists to judge those vaccines “ethically uncontroversial.”

“[I]f one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen,” the USCCB said. “Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

The statement was signed by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who head the USCCB committees on doctrine and pro-life activities, respectively.

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good,” the bishops concluded.

The USCCB’s clarification follows a Feb. 26 statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans calling the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “morally compromised” because of its connection with abortion.

While not prohibiting Catholics from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if no other ethical alternative is available, the archdiocese advised Catholics to seek out the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines if possible.

“[W]e advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines,” the statement reads.

Bishop Michael Duca of Baton Rouge also weighed in on the matter this week in a March 1 letter to the faithful.

“[M]y guidance to the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is to accept as your first choices the vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, but if for any reasonable circumstance you are only able to receive the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, you should feel free to do so for your safety and for the common good,” Bishop Duca wrote.

By contrast, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote March 3 that “on the concrete moral and pastoral question of receiving the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson or Astra-Zeneca vaccines, I want to make clear to the Catholic communities of San Diego and Imperial Counties that in the current pandemic moment, with limited vaccine options available to achieve healing for our nation and our world, it is entirely morally legitimate to receive any of these four vaccines, and to recognize, as Pope Francis has noted, that in receiving them we are truly showing love for our neighbor and our God.”

America Magazine published a March 2 article with Catholic commenters suggesting it is “unhelpful” for the USCCB and other bishops to imply that people will have a choice in which vaccine to receive and arguing that Catholics should be comfortable taking any vaccine they are offered.

Many vaccines are produced by using certain human cell lines; common vaccines, including those used to inoculate children for smallpox, measles, and rubella, have been produced with cell lines derived from aborted babies, such as the HEK-293 cell line.

One of the touted advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it does not require specialized refrigeration and can be delivered in a single dose, making it more attractive to some healthcare professionals than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Those vaccines require deep freeze storage and are administered in two doses.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has said that Catholics should advocate for ethically-produced vaccines which do not use cell lines of aborted babies.

Opponents of campaign finance bill say it presents pro-life, religious liberty concerns

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- An campaign finance bill under consideration in the House could present grave concerns for religious liberty, an opponent of the bill told CNA.  

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1), alongside Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.), saying the bill is necessary because the state of American democracy is in “deep disrepair.”

But some opponents of the bill--including pro-life groups--have warned of First Amendment implications to religious freedom and free speech.

Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA in an interview that he considers the For the People Act of 2021 the worst bill he’s seen in his 20 years in Washington. 

“It’s filled with so many unconstitutional provisions,” he said. “I think it would change the face of American politics.” He said it could even impose a religious test on people seeking to serve on redistricting commissions. 

Among the bill’s provisions is one that would take away the power to draw congressional districts from state legislatures and grant it instead to “independent redistricting commissions.” In order to serve on such a commission, an individual would need to meet certain criteria, including disclosing “any involvement with, or financial support of, professional, social, political, religious, or community organizations or causes.” 

That language could amount to the implementation of a religious test, von Spakovsky said. 

“It’s very concerning that to get on a commission like this you have to disclose which church, which religion, you’re a member of,” he said, adding “it would discourage individuals from participating.” 

Pro-life groups have come out in opposition to the bill as well. March for Life Action shared its concerns about the legislation to CNA in January, that pro-life donors could be subject to unnecessary public harassment.

The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) said in a letter to members of Congress that the legislation would put “onerous and unworkable regulatory standards on the ability of pro-life voters and the pro-life community to discuss policy issues with elected officials and the public.”

“It would subject citizens who contribute to nonprofit organizations to harassment and intimidation by making their personal information available in a government-controlled data base, and through an expansion of the definition of ‘electioneering communications’ it would subject virtually all issue-related ads to burdensome disclaimer requirements,” SBA List said.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, warned that the bill “would allow lawmakers to employ the threat of criminal sanctions to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves.”

The White House supports the legislation, with President Biden issuing a statement Monday saying that his administration “supports House passage of H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021.” 

“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen American democracy,” the statement said. 

The statement added that as with any bill “of this scope and complexity,” it intends to work with Congress “to refine provisions of H.R. 1 as it proceeds through the legislative process to ensure that the bill achieves lasting reform consistent with Congress’ broad constitutional authority to strengthen our democracy.”

The ACLU opposed a 2019 version of the bill and has criticized portions of the 2021 bill, but has not formally opposed the latest version. 

EWTN News to launch weekly discussion show

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).- On Friday, EWTN News will launch a new weekly discussion show “EWTN News In Depth,” covering the intersection of faith and current events.

Montserrat “Montse” Alvarado, a Hispanic Catholic who also serves as Vice President and Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will be hosting the hour-long discussion program.

On Friday March 5 at 8 p.m. ET, EWTN News In Depth will launch its inaugural episode after being in production since January. The episode will encore on Sunday, March 7, at 11 a.m. ET.



Alvarado told CNA she hopes the show’s thorough treatment of issues will foster “encounter” and “engagement” in a time of widespread social isolation and division.

“Our Catholic community, our global community, has suffered intense division through a shifting political environment, a global pandemic, and a lack of fundamental truths,” Alvarado said.

“To drive out the effects of isolation and fear, we need to come together and encounter each other— and our faith— in a genuine way. My hope is that this show will be a forum to encourage deeper engagement,” she said.

The show will air weekly on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. ET, and will re-air on Saturday mornings at 1 a.m. ET, and again on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. ET. Viewers can watch the show on EWTN or on the social media handle @EWTNNewsInDepth, streaming on Fridays.

The show’s one-hour length will allow for thorough coverage of current events, culture, politics, and the Church—all from a Catholic lens. EWTN News correspondents from the network’s global bureaus will contribute to the conversations, as well as newsmakers and experts.

Alvarado said that she cannot “take credit for the idea” of the show, but aims to advance its goal of “informed discussions, in depth interviews, and explainer packages from EWTN correspondents that break down news and events from an authentically Catholic perspective.”

EWTN CEO and board chairman Michael Warsaw said he hopes the show will be a “resource” for Catholics everywhere.

"My hope is that EWTN News In Depth becomes a resource for people around the globe that they can turn to have a better understanding of the most important, most significant issues that are impacting them today, but also impacting us for generations to come,” Warsaw stated.

Alvarado said she hopes the show will better inform global Catholics to bring the Church’s teaching into the world.

“The Church is global and the Church is growing,” Alvarado said. “This show comes at the right time to accompany Catholics of all backgrounds so we can face our quickly changing world together with faith and hope for the future.”

Oscars voter: 'There is nothing entertaining or inspiring about killing unborn babies'

Denver Newsroom, Mar 2, 2021 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences— the nationwide body that votes for the Academy Awards— recently declined to watch a film that critiques abortion regulations, drawing public ire from a pro-choice filmmaker who created it.

The film, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” follows a 17-year-old girl as she travels from Pennsylvania to New York to obtain an abortion. The fictional film was inspired by news stories of women traveling from areas with more restrictive abortion laws to areas with more permissive laws, the director has said. 

The film has drawn praise from abortion advocates, with director Eliza Hittman awarded the 2020 “Media Excellence Award” from Planned Parenthood last month.

However, when recently asked via email by Hittman’s publicist if he had seen the film yet, filmmaker Kieth Merrill replied that he was not interested in reviewing it.

“[A]s a Christian, the father of 8 children and 39 grandchildren. AND pro-life advocate, I have ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child,” the email, purportedly from Merrill to the filmmaker’s publicist, reads.

“75,000,000 of us recognize abortion for the atrocity it is. There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child.”

Hittman, the film’s director, took to Instagram to denounce Merrill for declining to watch her film and consider it for an Oscar.

“This email came in last night and was a harsh reminder that the Academy is still so painfully monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard. I wonder how many other voters out there won’t watch the film,” Hittman wrote in a now-deleted post, calling Merrill “puritanical.”

Merrill has been a member of the Academy for nearly 50 years, having won an Oscar in 1973 for the documentary “The Great American Cowboy.” He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and has produced films in the past for the Mormon church, a nontrinitarian religion founded in the 19th century in New York.

The Academy has nearly 10,000 members, all of whom are eligible to vote for Best Picture. Voting ends March 10, with the Oscars ceremony set to be held April 25.

Members are not required to watch every film that qualifies for the Oscars, but are encouraged to watch as many as possible, Variety reported.

Variety reached out to Merrill for further comment.

“Her film is an expression of who she is. My absence of interest in watching her film is an expression of who I am,” Merrill wrote in an email response to Variety.

“We are equally valid in our choices, what we do, and how we choose to live our lives.”

He noted that with over 360 films in contention for best picture in 2021, Academy voters have to be discerning about what they choose to watch, lest it consume all their time.

Merrill told Variety that he does not watch any horror films or movies with “graphic sex or gratuitous violence or radical social agendas.”

“For me, there is nothing entertaining or inspiring about killing unborn babies. I chose not to watch [Hittman]’s film because it legitimizes abortion...I believe abortion is wrong in all but the most extreme circumstances. Not only wrong, I believe it is an evil, and incomprehensible atrocity.”

Merrill did not reply to CNA’s request for further comment.

Hittman has said that in researching her film, she visited Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country, and pretended to be a pregnant woman in need of aid in order to gain access to pro-life pregnancy centers.

“Abortion tourism,” the topic of the film, is common in the United States as some states move to restrict abortion, while others seek to liberalize it.

Women in states such as Missouri, which has robust pro-life protections, often avail themselves of abortions in the neighboring states of Kansas and Illinois, which offer far less protection for unborn children.

Abortion clinics in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, which did not introduce any pandemic-related restrictions on abortion last year, saw increases in patients traveling from other states, such as Texas, to undergo the procedure during spring 2020.

Straw poll of conservative activists reveals pro-life policies to be least important issue

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders responded to a recent straw poll of conservative activists where pro-life policies received the least number of votes for the activists’ most important issues. 

Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando were allowed to select up to three issues as their top policy priorities for the Washington Times/CPAC straw poll. Options included “election integrity,” “immigration/border wall,” and “second amendment.” 

A mere 16% of conference-goers choose pro-life policies as one of their top three issues, making it the issue that received the least number of votes among attendees. Election integrity, constitutional rights, and immigration were the three top-rated issues of importance, respectively.

 

#CPAC2021 poll on the most important issues... re-opening the economy was fourth pic.twitter.com/cPrnR1XTps

— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) February 28, 2021  

The straw poll is conducted at the annual event, and measures attendees’ policy preferences as well as their preferred presidential candidate. CPAC, a project of the American Conservaive Union, describes itself as “the largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world,” and the conference is often billed as representative of the wider conservative movement. 

The American Conservative Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its attendees’ enthusiasm for the pro-life cause. 

Several pro-life leaders cautioned that the pro-life cause may already be a high priority for many Republicans, and thus the poll is not necessarily indicative of future GOP priorities. 

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA in an interview that it’s possible CPAC attendees didn’t prioritize pro-life policies because they believe the Republican Party has already demonstrated its opposition to abortion. 

“It’s obviously already something the party already fights really hard for,” Day said. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told CNA that abortion “was not always the partisan issue it is today and that better reflected the American people who may disagree on politics while embracing the humanity of the preborn.” 

“The rankings at CPAC show that abortion is among the issues animating people's votes, even when it isn't issue number one for everyone as it is for me and the Pro-Life Generation,” Hawkins said. 

“We are educating people on the need to vote pro-life first, and we will continue to work with people wherever they are at, to build a coalition dedicated to ending abortion,” she said. 

In an email to CNA, Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, wrote that election integrity--the highest-rated issue at CPAC in terms of importance--and the pro-life cause are both connected.

“Those who used COVID-19 to expand access to dangerous chemical abortion drugs and try to suspend pro-life laws also used the pandemic as an excuse to weaken state laws that ensure free and fair elections, which severely compromised Americans’ faith in our elections process,” Quigley said. 

Quigley called this year’s CPAC straw poll “a snapshot of a particular moment in time – a time when voters are sincerely concerned about the integrity of our nation’s elections.” 

“We share deeply in this concern,” she continued. “The issues of protecting life and honest, fair elections are inextricably linked, especially for those of us in the pro-life movement who have chosen to engage in politics as the primary means of effecting change. Without this, we lose our ability to use the political system to bring about lifesaving law and policy changes.”

Day added that because pro-life policies are “a winning issue,” both parties would be wise to oppose “abortion extremisim.” 

“It’s very dangerous for Democrats to have abortion funding in the COVID relief bill and giving Republicans this ammunition,” she said. 

A massive COVID relief package under consideration by the Senate this week does not contain pro-life funding protections--thus possibly allowing for increased funding of abortion coverage and abortion providers. House Democrats rejected pro-life amendments to the bill that would have established safeguards against abortion funding.

“Republicans know it’s a winning issue. Abortion extremisim is not helping the Democrats at all,” Day said of pro-life issues.

A majority of respondents in the CPAC straw poll selected former President Donald Trump as their choice for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Trump addressed the conference on Sunday, repeating his claim that he won the 2020 presidential election but without offering any evidence.

Leading Christian adoption agency changes policy, will now work with same-sex couples nationwide

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A leading Christian adoption agency will now work with same-sex couples looking to foster or adopt children, in a change of its nationwide policy reported on Monday.

Bethany Christian Services, which is the largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency in the United States, has updated its inclusivity policy on matching children with same-sex couples. The new “nationwide policy of inclusivity” will “serve all families across Bethany's core service lines.” 

In addition, the new policy also removes the agency’s 2007 statement that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman,” according to the New York Times.

After a 2019 lawsuit, Bethany Christian Services began placing children with same-sex couples in 12 states, including in Michigan. Its updated policy extends this practice to all of its locations in the United States. Meanwhile, Catholic adoption agencies in several states have closed rather than comply with mandates that they work with same-sex couples.

Bethany said that it “recognizes that Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.” 

In an email to its employees, Bethany said that its new policy was approved by the agency’s board of directors in January, after about a decade of discernment on the issue. 

The agency’s headquarters is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and it has offices in 32 U.S. states as well as seven countries in Europe, South and Central America, and Africa.

Nathan Bult, the senior vice president of public and government affairs at Bethany, told CNA in a statement that “faith in Jesus is the core of our mission,” and that “Bethany Christian Services has never wavered from our mission of demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus to Children and families.” 

“We help families stay together, we reunify families who are separated, and we help vulnerable children find safe, stable homes when they cannot remain in their own,” said Bult. 

Placing children in stable homes is the key to Bethany’s mission despite any doctrinal concerns, Bult said. 

“We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children,” said the statement. 

“Unlike many other child and family welfare organizations, Bethany is committed to partnering with churches to find as many families for vulnerable children as possible, and we seek to place children with families that share our mission,” the organization stated. “We believe that Christians with diverse beliefs can unify around our mission of demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus. It's an ambitious mission, and we can only accomplish it together.”

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia suspended its contracts with both Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services of the archdiocese, due to their refusal to work with same-sex couples. The city had enacted a nondiscrimination ordinance, and also oversees the entire foster care system.

No same-sex couple had approached Catholic Social Services for foster care placement. There are numerous foster care agencies in Philadelphia that will work with same-sex couples.

Shortly after suspending these contracts, the city put out a call for additional foster homes due to increased demand for services. 

While Bethany Christian amended its policy and began working with same-sex couples, Catholic Social Services maintained that it could not do so according to the Church’s teaching on the family.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, two foster mothers from Philadelphia who worked with Catholic Social Services, sued the city of Philadelphia over the severed contract. 

The Supreme Court heard arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia back in November, and is expected to decide on the case later in 2021. 

Catholic Charities in several states have had to end their adoption and foster care programs, due to state and local mandates that agencies work with same-sex couples. 

In 2010, Catholic Charities D.C. shuttered its adoption program because of the city’s law redefining marriage, and in subsequent years Catholic adoption programs stopped in other states such as New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Legislation repealing faith-based exemptions for adoption and foster care agencies passed the Virginia house of delegates in February, and is under consideration in the state senate.