Cardinal O’Malley Welcomes House Passage of ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’

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USCCB Pro-Life Activities chair says House took ‘decisive step’ toward respect for unborn human life

‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion’ policy reflects will of the people, says Cardinal

Disclosure policy lets Americans ‘choose health coverage that reflects their values’

January 23, 2015

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015” (H.R. 7) by the U.S. House of Representatives. “By passing this legislation, the House has taken a decisive step toward respect for unborn human life, reflecting the will of the American people,” he said.

Co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the pro-life bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 242-179 on January 22, the day of the annual March for Life in Washington. The House approved identical legislation a year ago by a closer margin, 227-188.

The bill codifies a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. It also requires health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act to disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion and the amount of any surcharge for that coverage to consumers.

Cardinal O’Malley wrote to Congress last January urging support for the legislation, saying it “will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 37 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence. Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court’s words) to ‘encourage childbirth over abortion.’”

“H.R. 7 also requires health plans under the Affordable Care Act to provide full disclosure on their abortion coverage to consumers,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “This lets Americans choose health coverage that reflects their values.  Just as most Americans do not want their tax dollars used for abortion, they do not want their own health coverage misused to pay for abortions.  I hope the U.S. Senate will take up this important legislation soon.”

February 8 is the First International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking

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Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.48.52 AMThe feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8, has been designated as the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration designated such date as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. Later that year, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General at the Vatican, that the 2015 event will also be observed internationally.

St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and taken to Italy. Once Josephine demanded her freedom, she entered the religious life with the Canossian sisters and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.

The day is intended to raise awareness and to encourage reflection on the violence and injustice that affect the numerous victims of trafficking. The observance is being promoted for all dioceses, parishes and church groups.

Pope Francis highlights in Evangelii Gaudium that human trafficking affects everyone. “How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone!” Pope Francis wrote.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled that the focus will now be international. Our brothers and sisters around the world want to prevent human trafficking as much as we do. It’s awe-inspiring to think that Catholics from so many different countries will gather together on the same day to pray for the same cause,” said Ambassador Johnny Young, executive director of USCCB Migration and Refugee Services.

Bishop Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, will hold a special Mass on Sunday, February 8 at noon, for the victims and survivors of human trafficking at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Catholics who do not live near Washington are encouraged to host or attend prayer services or awareness-raising events in their own communities and parishes. More information is available at www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/day-of-prayer.cfm

USCCB’s Anti-Trafficking Program advocates for better protection for victims of human trafficking, provides training and technical assistance to service providers and educates the public on the prevalence of human trafficking. In 2013, USCCB launched the Amistad Movement to empower immigrants and local leaders to prevent human trafficking in their communities.

Cardinal O’Malley Urges Congress to Support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

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Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act when it comes before the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 36, introduced by Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), proposes a ban on abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization.

In a January 20 letter to the House, Cardinal O’Malley wrote that there are many lessons learned from Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s imprisonment in 2013 for murder and other crimes committed while providing abortions. “This tragic circumstance led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures. All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in Gosnell’s clinic, and in other clinics that abort children after 20 weeks,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote.

“The Supreme Court’s past insistence that unborn children must be ‘viable’ to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable,” Cardinal O’Malley added. Whether “viable” by the Court’s definition or not, he said, eyewitnesses confirmed that “the children were born alive and crying or screaming in pain, until their lives were intentionally and deliberately ended.”

“These procedures after the middle point of pregnancy also pose serious dangers to women – as evidenced by Dr. Gosnell’s own manslaughter conviction for one woman’s death, and news about the death or serious complications of other women undergoing such procedures,” he said.

“For all these reasons, the proposed ban on abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and as ‘pro-choice,’” Cardinal O’Malley added. “On behalf of our country and the children whose lives are at stake, I urge you to support the common-sense reform offered by H.R. 36 and to oppose all weakening amendments.”

The full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/Letter-to-House-of-Representatives-HR-36-Pain-Capable-Unborn-Child-Protection-Act-2015.pdf.

Archbishop Lori Praises Unanimous Supreme Court Decision Protecting the Religious Freedom of Muslim Prisoner

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WASHINGTON—Yesterday, in the case of Holt v. Hobbs, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a Muslim inmate in an Arkansas state prison who sought to wear a half-inch beard in accordance with his faith.

“The decision in Holt v. Hobbs is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, “because it underscores that each and every person enjoys this basic human right.”

“You don’t lose it if you subscribe to a minority faith, or even if you enter prison — in fact, you never lose it,” Archbishop Lori explained.  “That is because, as the Second Vatican Council taught 50 years ago in Dignitatis Humanae, ‘the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person.’”

The Court found that the State of Arkansas could not meet the requirements of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which forbids the imposition of a “substantial burden” on religious exercise, unless the burden is the “least restrictive means” to serve a “compelling government interest.”

This “exceptionally demanding” test is virtually identical to the one established by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which is the principal basis for the successful federal civil rights lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that employers cover sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortion.

In May 2014, USCCB joined other religious groups in filing an amicus curiae brief at the Supreme Court in support of the position that prevailed in yesterday’s decision.  That brief is available online: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/Holt-v-Hobb-Arkansas-Dept-of-Correction.pdf

Action Alert: Contact House Tax and Finance Committee

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The House Finance and Tax Committee will decide whether to give a favorable recommendation to two important bills.

HB 1278, which was heard by the committee today, would provide a sales tax exemption to charitable and religious organizations.  This exemption would help charitable and religious organizations better serve the public by giving them some tax relief.

Who: House Finance and Tax Committee Members (See below)

Message: Please give a Do Pass recommendation to HB 1278, which would give a sales tax exemption to charitable and religious organizations so that they can be better serve the people of North Dakota.

When: Now.  The committee could make a recommendation any day now.

HB 1254, which has not been heard, would provide a tax credit for books and tuition for children in nonpublic schools. This credit would help relieve the burden of parents who exercise their right to choose a non-government school for their child’s education.

Who: House Finance and Tax Committee Members (See below)

Message: Please give a Do Pass recommendation to HB 1245 to give a reasonable tax credit to relieve the expenses of parents with children in nonpublic schools.

When: Within the next week.

House Finance and Tax Committee Members:

Chairman Craig Headland cheadland@nd.gov

Vice Chair Mark Owens mowens@nd.gov

Jason Docter  Jddocter@nd.gov

Glen Froseth  gfroseth@nd.gov

Patrick Hatlestad  phatlestad@nd.gov

Tom Kading  tkading@nd.gov

Matthew Klein mklein@nd.gov

Vicky Steiner vsteiner@nd.gov

Nathan Toman  nptoman@nd.gov

Wayne Trottier  wtrottier@nd.gov

Column: Human Trafficking and Abortion

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Although it was emotionally hard to read at times, the Forum News Service’s seven part piece on human trafficking in North Dakota came at an important time.  Human trafficking is a serious issue in the state and the state legislature, which just convened, has the opportunity to do something about it.Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.48.52 AM

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is supporting a complete rewrite proposed by the Uniform Laws Commission to the state’s human trafficking laws.  This bill, and several companion bills, focus on the enforcement side of the issue.  It strengthens the laws, increases penalties, and gives law enforcement and states attorney more tools to combat human trafficking.

One tool that legislators should add is a penalty for a trafficker who forces a woman to have an abortion.  Studies, reports, and even the federal government have acknowledged that victims of human trafficking are often forced to have abortions.  In fact, repeated abortions and signs of self-induced abortions are two signs that health care workers are told could be an indication that a woman is a being sexually exploited by a trafficker.

One study published in the Annals of Health Law concluded “The prevalence of forced abortions is an especially disturbing trend in sex trafficking. Prior research noted that forced abortions were a reality for many victims of sex trafficking outside the United States and at least one study noted forced abortions in domestic trafficking. The survivors in this study similarly reported that they often did not freely choose the abortions they had while being trafficked.”  One subject in the study stated: “in most of [my six abortions,] I was under serious pressure from my pimps to abort the babies.” Another subject reported seventeen abortions and that at least some of them were forced on her.

For this reason, the North Dakota Catholic Conference supports making forced abortions by human traffickers an additional crime that could be tacked on to a trafficker’s sentence.

A critical piece missing in previous efforts to address human trafficking is support for victims of trafficking.  Victims of human trafficking have needs and issues that are unique from victims of other crimes, including domestic violence. If services are not available to help them escape traffickers and survive, they may never get help.  Moreover, unless the services are available that assist them, victims may never feel comfortable and free to help law enforcement prosecute the perpetrators.  The North Dakota Catholic Conference strongly supports efforts to provide services to victims of human traffickers.

At the same time, we need to be cautious.  The Catholic Church worldwide has one of the best systems of services to help victims of trafficking.  As I previously explained in a column from November 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had for six years received grants from the Department of Health and Human Services to help victims of trafficking.  Then one day the conference was informed that the grant would not be renewed but given to an organization that scored lower in the application process.  Eventually, the reason came out: the Obama Administration decided that only organizations that counseled and referred for abortions could apply.

Unfortunately, there are some activists who insist government should not help victims of human trafficking unless taxpayer money is used to counsel or refer for abortions.  North Dakota law prohibits the use of state funds for the performance of abortions, but prohibitions on the use of state money for the referral of abortions is piece-meal.  There is, for example, a law prohibiting it in family planning programs and another law prohibiting it in the abortion alternatives program.  For that reason, we need to ensure that legislation appropriating funds to help victims of trafficking excludes using the money for counseling or referring for abortions.

Christopher Dodson is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference

Br. Dave Andrews, former CRL executive director, passes away

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From Catholic Rural Life:

Br. Dave Andrews, former CRL executive director, passes away Br. Dave Andrews CSC, executive director of Catholic Rural Life from 1995 to 2007, passed away at the St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York, on Monday morning, Jan. 5. He was 70 years old and had been battling with ill health over the past year. b.1944 – d.2015 “Br. Dave served as CRL executive director for 13 years, the second longest tenure in the 91-year history of Catholic Rural Life,” said James Ennis. “He was passionate in his advocacy on behalf of family farmers and care for creation, and he inspired many people of faith to respond to the call to action to support family farmers and a more sustainable future. He will be missed.” See our remembrance of the life and work Br. Dave.

Important Series on Human Trafficking in North Dakota

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Addressing human trafficking in the state will be an important issue for the North Dakota legislature.  As the first week of the session gets on its way, Forum Communications is releasing a series on the problem in North Dakota. It is a must read.

http://www.traffickedreport.com

To help the North Dakota Catholic Conference address this and other issues, be sure to join our legislative action network.

Story on one effort to address behavioral needs

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People with mental illness are of “the least among us” and deserve our attention this legislative session.

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/agencies-join-forces-to-advocate-for-mental-health-services/article_210e47f6-953f-11e4-9f5e-3fc8b6befedb.html

To help the North Dakota Catholic Conference address this and other issues, be sure to join our legislative action network.

National Migration Week 2015 To Be Celebrated January 4-10

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Theme is “We Are One Family under God” 
Migrants, refugees, victims of human trafficking “our spiritual brothers and sisters”
Resources and educational materials available online
 
December 31, 2014
WASHINGTON—National Migration Week 2015 will take place January 4–10 with the theme, “We are One Family under God.” The celebration of National Migration Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the hardships faced by migrants, including children, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

“Migrants –including children, immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking– are our spiritual brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “They often find themselves isolated, alone and separated from family, their ability to live out their lives in fullness severely restricted. Often family members are separated from one another because of deportation, detention, or related immigration laws that inhibit family reunification.”

As part of the 2015 National Migration Week celebration, the USCCB established a small grant program that will provide Catholic parishes, schools and other organizations funding to help them better integrate the Church’s teaching on migration into new or existing programs, materials, events and other activities. Grant recipients will be announced during National Migration Week.

“We are all created equal in God’s image,” said Bishop Elizondo. “There is no such thing as an illegal human being. During National Migration Week we should not only pray for our brothers and sisters who are marginalized but also advocate that protections are provided to them, for they need them most.”

The observance of National Migration Week began over 25 years ago by the U.S. bishops to give Catholics an opportunity to take stock of the wide diversity of peoples in the Church and the ministries serving them. The week serves as both a time for prayer and action to try and ease the struggles of immigrants, migrants and vulnerable populations coming to America and a time for reflection on the Church’s call to “welcome the stranger.” The 2015 National Migration Week marks 50 years of service by USCCB Migration and Refugee Services.

Dioceses across the country have planned events for National Migration Week. Masses will be celebrated in Los Angeles; Palm Beach, Florida; San Bernardino, California; Chicago and Miami among others. Forums, vigils, and other special events will take place in Minneapolis; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chicago and Washington.

Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download at www.usccb.org/nationalmigrationweek. Posters, prayer cards, and booklets can be ordered through the USCCB publishing service at www.usccbpublishing.org or by calling 800-235-8722.