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Archive of March 12, 2010

Vandals tear down pro-life posters and attack Australian campaigner

Adelaide, Australia, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - A pro-life campaigner in Australia was assaulted with rocks and a waste bin after he recorded people taking down pro-life election posters. He suffered a possible broken arm in the attack, which caused pro-life candidate Trevor Grace to voice concern about the well-being of his supporters.

Grace is an independent with the Save the Unborn party running for the Upper House of South Australia.

One of his supporters, an election volunteer in Adelaide, filmed youths jumping up to a campaign poster high on a telephone pole and ripping it down.

The poster in question showed a 3-D sonogram of an unborn child with X-shaped lines drawn over it. It is captioned “Save the Unborn,” encouraging a vote for Grace and publicizing the web address of the campaign, abortSA.com.

The election volunteer’s video, posted on the site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), then shows one of the youths throwing rocks and a large waste bin at the cameraman while shouting.

Responding to the attack, Grace reported that his party has received a string of threats during the South Australian election campaign.

"We've had phone calls, we've had death threats, you know particularly on Facebook, we've been intimidated again and again when we put up posters," he told ABC.

"There's also been people coming up to my place, my driveway, stalking me and also tearing up, vandalizing posters."

The other abortSA.com poster shows an infant in a crib reaching out to grab a woman’s index finger.

Jeanie Walker, a candidate with the Democrats, claimed that Save the Unborn acts in a way that provokes attacks, calling the posters offensive and inflammatory, according to ABC.

The incident where youths tore down posters, she said, "doesn't surprise me and that's why I've been calling for the posters to be taken down right from the first day they were put up."

Posters have been dumped at Grace’s house 2,000 of the 3,000 produced have been either vandalized or stolen.

The assault, the theft of the posters and the online threats have been reported to police.

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Bishop Wenski: Serious flaws must be fixed before health care bill’s reconciliation

Orlando, Fla., Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - Citing “serious flaws” in the health care bill Bishop Thomas G. Wenski has advocated a genuine reform that protects human life from conception to death. He urged Congress to correct the lack of conscience protections and the possible expansion of abortion coverage in the legislation before the Congressional reconciliation process.

The Bishop of Orlando, Florida, writing in March 10 column for the Orlando Sentinel, said that the U.S. bishops have been involved in health care reform for more than 40 years and believe such care is a basic human right.

While almost everyone agrees about the need to fix health care in the U.S., he commented, “no health care legislation is better than bad health care legislation.”

“We fear that the reconciliation process will give us bad legislation,” Bishop Wenski continued. “Any genuine health-care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death.”

In his view, advocates of using the reconciliation process to pass the Senate health care bill have “opened the door to an expansion of abortion coverage” by refusing to incorporate conscience protection language given to individuals and institutions by the Church, Hyde and Weldon Amendments.

Taxpayer funding for abortion is also a violation of conscience because it makes citizens complicit in “a morally heinous act.”

“The lack of conscience protections in proposed health-care legislation — like recent attempts at redefining the traditional understanding of marriage — undermines the religious freedom that has been part of the history of this country for more than two centuries,” the bishop wrote. “Religious freedom is at the foundation of all other freedoms.”

He called for these “deep moral flaws” to be corrected by Congress before reconciliation is attempted.

“Congress must not dismantle a social order that respects religious freedom and recognizes that government should never stand between the consciences and the religious practice of its citizens and Almighty God,” the bishop’s Orlando Sentinel piece concluded.

“If congressional reconciliation gives us expanded abortion coverage and eliminates conscience protection, the results will not be a healthier nation but one more divided and less reconciled than it had been before this debate began.”

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Virginia legislators drop bill restricting pregnancy centers, praise them instead

Richmond, Va., Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - Rather than passing two bills headed by abortion supporters which aimed to impose restrictions on pregnancy centers, Virginia legislators chose to pass a resolution this week that praised the pregnancy centers' work.

Just one week after H.B. 452 and S.B. 188 headed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL were introduced, subcommittees in both the Virginia House and Senate dismissed the bills after legislators heard from numerous pregnancy center workers and their affiliates. The pro-abortion groups had sought to impose restrictions on pregnancy centers and to limit the revenue they receive from pro-life license plates.

During a stunning turn of events in the initial hearings in January, “SB 188 was heard by a Senate subcommittee, and after an extensive hearing featuring compelling testimony by directors of pregnancy resource centers and women who have been helped by them, the bill's patron decided to withdraw his bill from consideration for the year,” Jeff Caruso, founding director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, told CNA on Thursday.

“Immediately after this amazing reversal, a House subcommittee heard similar testimony and then voted to reject HB 452,” he explained.

“One topic that resonated especially at these hearings was the high degree of skepticism legislators had about the 'study' done by NARAL of pregnancy resource centers in Virginia,” Caruso added. “One committee member noted that it was very much akin to one industry doing an investigation of a competing industry, and that you would not expect such a study to be objective or credible.”

Caruso also said that he found “it particularly ironic that Virginia's abortion clinics are not even required to be licensed by the state despite the fact that they perform invasive surgeries, and yet the same groups who have opposed legislation year after year to require abortion clinic licensing were leading the charge for intrusive regulations on pro-life centers this year.”

After the two bills were defeated on Jan. 26, a resolution praising the work of pregnancy centers in the state was introduced in early March and was passed this week by both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate.
 
“Pregnancy resource centers provide extremely valuable, life-affirming services to Virginia women and their babies,” Caruso explained. “These centers are financially supported by partner churches and by generous individuals, and through the work of many volunteers. They have saved our Commonwealth millions of dollars by stepping up to the plate to provide vitally important services to those who are in need.”


“States should be helping these centers, not hindering their good work,” he underscored.

Since similar legislative efforts have taken place in other states by pro-abortion groups, CNA asked Caruso if he believes these initiatives are part of a wider agenda.

“I think it's obvious from their pursuit of this legislation that Planned Parenthood and NARAL see pro-life pregnancy centers as threats, both to the ideology they seek to promote and to the abortion industry's bottom line,” he replied. “It seems clear to me that they are looking for openings to push these bills where they can. Their effort certainly did not receive a warm welcome in Virginia, that's for sure. I hope that the result here will serve notice and lead to the same outcomes in other states.”

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Cuban dissident urges political prisoner to cease hunger strike

Havana, Cuba, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - The head of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, is urging political prisoner Guillermo Farinas to end his hunger strike, “because your struggle and life are extremely valuable and we don’t want to lose you.”

In a statement Paya asked, “What purpose does it serve to hold our position (for the freedom of Cuba) if someone’s life, in this case, that of a fighter like our brother Farinas, is lost?  He has given clear signs of his willingness to offer his life for the people of Cuba.”

Last week, Paya encouraged the efforts of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in the country, but asked that their demands be made without resorting to hunger strikes.

In this week's statement, the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) leader called on Farinas to back down so he doesn't suffer the same fate as Orlando Zapata, who died at the end of February after a prolonged hunger strike.

Paya then recalled the struggle of the Cuban people and called for solidarity “with political prisoners.”

“To all Cubans and to all listening we say: They are dozens of men in prison for defending the rights of Cubans, for defending hope, like Farinas is doing now.  It is not a matter of defending concepts, but of defending him as a person,” Paya said.

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Archbishop of Turin presents Pope's schedule for Shroud visit

Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Severino Poletto, Archbishop of Turin and Guardian of the Holy Shroud, has announced the schedule for Pope Benedict XVI's visit this spring to the Shroud. Among the encounters through the day, the Pope will meet with young people, and the elderly and sick of the northern Italian city.

On the morning of May 2, the Holy Father will fly to Turin where he will arrive in time to share greetings with the mayor and Cardinal Poletto in St. Charles Square before the celebration of the Mass at 10 a.m.

Following Mass with cardinals, bishops, priests and the faithful, Benedict XVI will lead the Regina Caeli prayer and offer a reflection. After having lunch with the bishops of the Piedmont region in the nearby chancery, he will return to the square for an encounter with the youth. Cardinal Poletto and two young people will speak before the Holy Father's discourse.

At the conclusion of this meeting in the square, the Pope will then go to the Cathedral of Turin to venerate the Shroud and offer a meditation themed "Passio Christi, Passio hominis." Among many others, cloistered nuns from different monasteries throughout the diocese will be present.

Rounding out the afternoon, Benedict XVI will pay a visit to the residents and the sick at a local care facility before heading back to Rome around 7:30 p.m.

In a communique announcing the schedule, Cardinal Poletto called for the people of the region to live the time of anticipation for the visit in prayer for the Holy Father and his intentions.

He noted that on May 2, no Masses would take place at the same time as the Pope's to promote the participation of priests and faithful from the archdiocese in the celebration.

Cardinal Poletto concluded the announcement by highlighting the importance of the occasion as "a new, glorious page" in the history of the diocese.

The 2010 Holy Shroud exposition committee announced last week that the total number of visitors who have booked tickets to date is close to 1.2 million. The committee has also decided to extend the hours that the exhibit is open on Fridays and during the final week of the rare exposition to make it more available to possible pilgrims.

The Shroud will be on exposition in the Cathedral of Turin from April 10 to May 23.

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Bishops of Argentina call for laws respecting human dignity

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - In a statement released following the 155th meeting of the executive committee of the Argentinian bishops' conference, prelates called for the creation of laws respecting human dignity, the family and society.

In their message, the bishops encouraged government leaders to respect their autonomy and emphasized that those who struggle the most when the nation suffers are the poor.  “For this reason it is time to prioritize the creation of laws that meet the real needs of our people,” instead of pushing “interests that do not taken into account the nature of the human person, family and society,” they said.

The bishops went on to recall that, “our homeland is a gift we have been given.  Our nation is a task that brings us together and demands the commitments of our efforts.  To assume this mission with a spirit of fraternity and solidarity is the best way to celebrate our country’s bicentennial.”

“We Christians invite all men and women of good will to be united with us in prayer to invoke the Lord, who is the strength of his people, and to pray to him for our beloved Argentinian country,” the bishops concluded.

 

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Solid priestly identity essential as secularism grows, Pope tells priests

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict met with priests and bishops participating in an international theological convention on Friday and spoke with them on the importance of understanding what it means to be a priest. This awareness of their identity is all the more important as secularism advances and some try to reduce the priesthood to being almost a 'social worker.'

Speaking of priestly identity in the modern "policentric" context, which often fades our idea of identity, "it is important clearly to bear in mind the theological specificity of ordained ministry, in order not to surrender to the temptation of reducing it to predominant cultural models," the Pope began.

In the presence of "widespread secularization which progressively tends to exclude God from the public sphere and from the shared social conscience, the priest often appears 'removed' from common sense," Pope Benedict said, adding that it's often a result of “the most fundamental aspects of his ministry."

For this reason, he explained, "it is important to avoid a dangerous reductionism which, over recent decades... has presented the priest almost as a 'social worker,' with the risk of betraying the very Priesthood of Christ."

Reacting to this dangerous reduction of priestly identity, the Pope proposed understanding the priesthood by looking at it as the Church sees the texts of the Second Vatican Council, using a “hermeneutic of continuity.”

In the same way, the Pope explained, “there appears to be a need for a hermeneutic that we could describe as 'of priestly continuity,' one which, starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and passing through the two thousand years of history, the greatness, sanctity, culture and piety which the Priesthood has given the world, reaches our own day."

In the times in which we live, he continued,"it is particularly important that the call to participate in the one Priesthood of Christ in ordained ministry should flower from the 'charism of prophecy.'”

"There is great need for priests who speak of God to the world and who present the world to God; men not subject to ephemeral cultural fashions, but capable of authentically living the freedom that only the certainty of belonging to God can give.”

"Today," said the Holy Father, "the most necessary prophecy is that of faithfulness" which "leads us to live our priesthood in complete adherence to Christ and the Church."

Priests, said the Pope, cannot forget about this fundamental association with God which "is the right framework in which to understand and reaffirm, also in our own time, the value of celibacy which in the Latin Church is a charism imposed by Holy Orders" and "an expression of the gift of the self to God and to others."

"The vocation of priests is an exalted one, and remains a great mystery even for those of us who have received it as a gift."

He continued saying that the "limitations and weaknesses" of priests "must cause us to live and safeguard this precious gift with great faith, a gift with which Christ configured us to Himself, making us participants in His mission of salvation."

"Dear priests," the Holy Father concluded, "the men and women of our time ask us only to be priests to the full, nothing else.

"The lay faithful will be able to meet their human needs in many other people, but only in the priest will they find that Word of God which must always be on his lips, the Mercy of the Father abundantly and gratuitously distributed in the Sacrament of Penance, and the bread of new life."

Five hundred priests and 50 bishops attended the two-day convention from March 11 - 12 at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

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Pope gives full support to German bishops' plan for responding to abuses

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch met with Pope Benedict on Friday to speak of the revelations of sexual abuse against minors and measures being taken to investigate and prevent further occurrences. Pope Benedict, he said in a press conference afterward, expressed his "full support" for the steps put in place by the bishops' conference to respond to abuses.

Archbishop Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops' Conference, hosted a press conference at the Teutonic College in the Vatican after the papal audience. There, he told reporters about the content of his meeting with the Holy Father which he had come from directly.

Archbishop Zollitsch said that he had informed the Pope further about the abuses that had come to light in recent weeks. The Pope, he added, listened to his account with "great dismay, attentive interest and deep emotion." The fundamental theme of the meeting was the Feb. 25 statement devised in the Spring Plenary Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference, where the bishops laid out a plan for addressing the issue.

The bishops established a four point plan to reveal the truth, appraise current guidelines for dealing with abuses, intensify prevention measures and appoint individuals to positions of oversight and responsibility.

The archbishop said he discussed these measures with the Pope, who in turn told him they should continue with these measures, as they are "decisive" and "courageous."

"We need to bring the truth to light" out of respect for the victims, even if they are facts that took place decades ago,” said Archbishop Zollitsch.

The episcopal conference, he added, is discussing new procedural measures, based on those used in Austria, for abusive priests. Besides these punitive measures, he pointed out, they foresee health-related, therapeutic or pastoral assistance for the victims and their families.

In each diocese, he revealed, there will be "contact people" to turn to for assistance and he expressed the desire of the Catholic Church in Germany to have contact with educators from schools and people involved in youth activities to develop a means of preventing future cases.

Furthermore, the president of the bishops' conference announced that on April 23, 2010 there will be a "round table" meeting organized by the Ministers of the Family and of Education to bring together everyone involved, including the families and religious to speak of the sexual abuses and possible preventive measures.

Members of the German Bishops' Conference will be in attendance at this conference, he said.

The archbishop also expressed the intention of the Church to collaborate with state justice authorities to investigate and punish those who have committed the crimes. He explained that the Church always collaborates with state justice, except in cases where the victim decides against it.

Church procedure, he added, does not put any obstacles in the way of state proceedings, they are independent of each other.

Explaining further the contents of his meeting with the Pope, which lasted between 40 and 45 minutes, he said that the Holy Father had approved of the decision to select a bishop to oversee the process of investigating possible abuses, and had additionally approved of the individual to which the job has been entrusted, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier.

German clergy are prepared to accept responsibility for confirmed abuses within the Church, said the archbishop, who used the occasion to once again ask forgiveness on behalf of the episcopal conference of Germany.

Archbishop Zollitsch said he was "thankful" that Pope Benedict has lent his support to the plan of the bishops.

The Pope, he said, "gives us the courage to seek the truth."

The archbishop added that he was "confident that we will be able to continue on our path to heal the wounds of the past and possibly avoid wounds in the future."

In his comments to reporters, the president of the German Bishops' Conference said he knew too little to say anything about Msgr. Georg Ratzinger—the Pope's brother—and the cases from the Diocese of Regensburg.

He also reiterated the words from the German bishops' statement that the abuses have nothing to do with the vow of celibacy. The statement says that being "a celibate priest can only be promised by those who have the necessary human and emotional maturity for this."

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Liturgical vestments sent to Haiti to revive liturgical life

Madrid, Spain, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - In response to a request by the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti for assistance in rebuilding and organizing liturgical life in the country, various bishops in Spain have donated and sent “almost 100 chalices, ciboria, patens and numerous liturgical vestments.”

According to a press release, the request for assistance was made by Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza through the NGO, “Messengers of the Peace.” Archbishop Auza met with founder and president of the NGO, Fr. Angel Garcia and communicated his request to the dioceses of Spain.

Fr. Garcia also urged listeners of his radio program on COPE Radio Network to donate liturgical items to the earthquake-stricken country.  The priest noted that several religious goods stores responded immediately, sending their donations directly to the churches in Haiti.

Fr. Garcia added that a box of rosaries from Rome was mailed to Archbishop Auza. They will be distributed to seminarians in Port-au-Prince.

The statement then noted that the donations from the Spanish bishops “will be personally delivered to Archbishop Auza by Fr. Julio Millan Medina, president of “Messengers of the Peace” in the Spanish region of Andalusia, during his trip to Haiti on March 13.

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Benedict XVI decides against alpine summer vacation

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - According to a communique released by the Holy See on Friday, the Pope will not be returning to the northwestern province of Valle d'Aosta for his holiday this summer, but will instead retire to the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo closer to Rome.

The announcement conveyed the Holy Father's appreciation for various invitations that have been offered to him to escape to "alpine locations" this year and his gratitude to the bishops who have extended them.

For this year, the Vatican statement says, the Pope "prefers to begin right away the summer period of rest and study without the commitment of 'ulterior' transfers."

Specific dates for the Pope's summer vacation have not been announced, but they traditionally occupy at least two weeks in the month of July.

Since becoming Pope, the Holy Father has gone to the Alps or the Dolomites in northern Italy for his vacation time.

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Mexican bishops urge return to a strong work ethic

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Oaxaca, Mexico have condemned the “curse” of the “rule of minimal effort" which they claim exists in the country and should be banished due to its encouragement of crime.

In a statement titled, "A Pernicious and Abominable Curse upon our Society," the bishops drew attention to "the way of life which seems to have become part of us: the rule of minimal effort" which "propagates the destruction of our social fabric, prevents our necessary development, discourages efforts to create common good, and fuels crime."

The bishops warned that this "rule" is found in education, politics, some businesses, and in many families. “Unfortunately, in our society, this attitude has eroded the real meaning and purpose of work," they lamented.

They then affirmed that "worse than the lack of jobs is work done poorly, fraudulently, corruptly, or dishonestly,” and then demanding a salary as if the work was done responsibly.

Honest work is the standard way in which people achieve success, fulfillment, and through which they project constructiveness, the bishops said. “It is the most effective manner in which workers humanize themselves and their workplaces.”

The bishops also noted that "good relations arise where people work with honesty and responsibility.” Such an environment can also lead to the growth of mutual friendships and mutual appreciation. Similarly, workplaces which foster these characteristics lead to an increase in levels of quality. “Through their lives, these people also illustrate that integrity is the most important asset to their work," the bishops noted.

"We urge the Mexican people to fight and eliminate this evil abomination in our families and communities because, with the 'rule of minimal effort,' and without responsible and honest work, neither individuals nor the community will be able to rise to new heights," the bishops concluded.

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Stupak still ‘optimistic’ about solution to abortion dispute despite Waxman remark

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak remains “optimistic” about a solution to disputed abortion restrictions in the new health care bill despite reports that negotiations have ended, a spokeswoman says. The Congressman has also said that Democratic leaders told him they want the federal government to pay for abortions.

Some pro-life Democrats say the language in the Senate health care reform bill is not strict enough to prevent taxpayer dollars from contributing to money that might be used to subsidize abortions.

Democratic leaders on Thursday said that they can’t resolve the dispute using budget reconciliation rules. Instead, they hope that only a few House Democrats who voted for the health care package will oppose the Senate version because of abortion.

Many House Democrats who oppose abortion are “either satisfied enough with the Senate provision, or they decide that that's as much as they're going to get and they don't want to defeat health care," claimed Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to the AP.

Some reports have characterized the legislative situation as the end to the opportunity to add abortion restrictions to the health care bill.

CNA sought comment from the office of Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who sponsored the successful Stupak-Pitts Amendment that restricted abortion in the House version of the health care bill.

Stupak press secretary Michelle Begnoche in a Friday e-mail told CNA that he has not reached an agreement on abortion funding in the health care legislation.

“Over the past week the Congressman had meaningful discussions with Chairman Waxman and Majority Leader Hoyer and remains optimistic that language can be worked out,” she commented.

However, Rep. Stupak gave an interview to Marquette, Michigan radio station WKQS’ Mark & Walk morning show in which he described a conversation he said he had with Rep. Waxman about the Senate version of the health care bill.

“I gave him the language. He came back a little while later and said, 'But we want to pay for abortions.'

“I said, 'Mr. Chairman, that's --we disagree. We don't do it now, we're not going to start.'

"'But we think should,'" Waxman answered, according to Stupak.

"I said, 'Well, I'm sorry but the House has spoken. We had that debate. We won 240-190. You forced the vote, a vote we won fair and square and we're not gonna, this is what it is. If you want to move health care keep current law,'" Stupak replied.

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Definite vote next week on Senate health care bill, abortion language unchanged

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2010 (CNA) - A confidential source says that House Democrats have been told there will “definitely” be a vote next week on the Senate’s health care reform bill but its abortion language is unchanged. Speculation also continues on how many pro-life Democrats will approve the Senate bill.

According to a House Democrat who was present at a Friday meeting called by Nancy Pelosi and asked to remain anonymous, members have been told to be prepared to stay in next weekend and through the following week until the vote happens.

The House rule governing the vote would reportedly be closed. It would allow one vote on the Senate health care reform bill which would include the reconciliation provisions and amendments.

“The Senate bill vote is not separate, it is wrapped into the single vote - when members vote for or against the reconciliation package they will also be voting for or against the Senate-passed health reform bill,” CNA’s source explained. “Once passed, the Senate bill will go to the president for signing, and the reconciliation provisions will go to the Senate where they will need to pass unchanged.”

The House member said that although the leadership has not yet shared the legislative language, the abortion language “has not been changed from the Senate bill.”

The reconciliation package has reportedly deleted the so-called “Cornhusker kickback” and the “Gator deal,” special provisions for Nebraska and Florida. However, a $300 million deal for Louisiana, nicknamed the “Louisiana Purchase,” still remains in the bill, and a hospital in Connecticut will still receive $100 million.

The question of whether or not Pelosi has the votes remains close, but most lawmakers think she is close. The administration and leadership are expected to roll out the details this weekend, or Monday at the latest, the lawmaker said.

Twelve Congressmen are believed to oppose the Senate health care bill because of its abortion funding. In addition to Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joseph Cao (R-Louisiana), they include ten Democrats. They are Illinois Reps. Jerry Costello and Dan Lipinski; Indiana Reps. Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth; Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee; Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar; Pennsylvania Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper; and Ohio Reps. Steve Driehaus, Marcy Kaptur, and Charlie Wilson.

Additionally, Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire and Ohio Rep. John Boccieri are both Democrats who voted no on the House bill but yes on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. They are now considered to be “wavering.”

Their votes and the votes of at least nine other pro-life Democratic Congressmen could play a key role in the House’s decision on the Senate bill.

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