London, Ont., Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - In light of the birth control pill's 50th anniversary this year, a group of Evangelical Christians released a documentary addressing the controversial claim that the pill acts as an abortifacient, and that women across North America are largely uninformed on what the drug actually does.
In his documentary titled, “28 Days on the Pill,” Trent Herbert of London, Ontario discussed how he set out with his wife and nurse friend on a journey across the U.S. and Canada “to uncover the truth about the birth control pill.”
The interviews garnered from women, medical professionals and church leaders provide the footage for their recently released film, and include commentary from Baptist seminary leader Dr. Albert Mohler, the Duggar family, author Randy Alcorn and Dr. Walt Larimore, a family physician formerly with Focus on the Family.
“Whether Christian or not, women across the board do not have a real understanding of how the pill actually works,” the group said in a press release on the documentary. “Does it only prevent ovulation? What do the inserts and pharmaceutical guides really say? How is it that women consume something when they know very little about how it actually works?”
Explaining to CNA in an exclusive interview the motivation behind this project, Herbert said that he and his wife several years back read Randy Alcorn's notable work, “Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?”
After praying about the issue, “we felt that it was important to get the word out to as many individuals as we could,” Herbert told CNA.
“To our knowledge there hasn't been a full length documentary on it,” Herbert explained, saying that the process of filming and production took them about two and a half years. Despite having no previous experience in film making, the three gathered up their camera equipment and journeyed through multiple states and provinces to seek out interviews.
On the controversial claim that the pill acts as an abortifacient, the group explains in their video the three functions that the birth control pill performs in a woman's body, stating that a startling number of people are uninformed on how it actually works.
“The woman's normal menstrual cycle involves the ovary, cervical mucus and the uterine lining,” the film explains. “In a normal cycle, a woman releases an egg every month due to the natural hormones estrogen and progesterone.”
“For a woman on the pill,” however, “the artificial hormones usually prevent ovulation.”
“Secondly, in a normal cycle, cervical mucus changes to improve sperm migration.” Yet, for a woman on the pill, the group adds, cervical mucus thickens to prevent sperm penetration.
Last, “the natural hormones in a normal cycle cause the lining of the uterus to build up in preparation for a newly conceived child to implant.”
But for woman on the pill, “artificial hormones cause the lining to shrink and do not allow it to mature properly.”
“So if the first two mechanisms of the pill fail, and the woman does ovulate and conceive, implantation of a new child may be hindered, which would be an abortion.”
Dr. Larimore, a family physician who formerly worked with Focus on the Family, says in the film that in his extensive research on the topic, he discovered that the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. requires that the information on how drugs work must be given in handout form to the patient.
However, in his studies and in those of his colleagues, it was found out that “all of the birth control pills, except one, excluded that information.”
Though the companies stated the first two effects of the pill in handouts to women, said Dr. Larimore, no where did they state that the drug shrinks the uterine lining creating a hostile environment for implantation.
“We wrote every one of those companies as part of our study,” he said. “None of them gave us an answer.”
Dr. Larimore claims that since the days of his research the handouts have been changed for the worse, as none of them now contain any information on the three effects of the pill.
Herbert told CNA that one of the main objectives in making the film is to ask the question, “do women really understand how it works and are they being fully informed?”
No matter what one's conclusions may be, said Herbert, the group believes everyone has the right to full information and informed consent.
More information can be found at: www.28daysonthepill.com
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday testified before Congress on the need for immigration reform, characterizing it as “ultimately a humanitarian issue.” Emphasizing the dangers and difficulties migrants face, he called for the legalization of migrants who face a “proportionate penalty.”
Speaking as vice-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the bishop addressed the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. His remarks came in oral testimony and in written testimony, copies of which were provided to CNA.
Bishop Kicanas noted that his diocese runs along the entire Arizona-Mexico border, which he called the “epicenter” of migrant movement.
“I witness the human consequences of our broken immigration system in my diocese’s social service programs, hospitals, schools, and parishes. Regularly, anxious and troubled immigrants come to ask our priests or employees for assistance for a loved one—a parent who has been detained, a child who has lost a parent, or, tragically, a family member who has lost a loved one in the harsh Arizona desert.”
“It is shocking to realize that about 5,000 men, women, and children have died in the desert since 1998,” he continued.
Because of the “broken” system, he said, families are being separated, workers are exploited by unscrupulous employers, and migrants are being abused by human smugglers.
Bishop Kicanas warned that the undocumented immigrants do not presently have the same rights as others, a situation which “perpetuates a permanent underclass.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform would honor the rule of law and help restore it by requiring 11 million undocumented to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and get in the back of the line,” he continued. “We believe this a proportionate penalty for the offense.”
Legal avenues for migrants’ entry would also free up law enforcement resources for smugglers, traffickers, and “other criminal elements.”
“Church teaching acknowledges and upholds the right of a nation to control its borders,” he added, arguing that “enforcement-only policies” have not solved the problem.
Bishop Kicanas also addressed the Arizona legislation SB 1070, saying he believed the law reflects “frustration” with Congress for not addressing the issue of immigration reform.
“The message is to break the partisan paralysis and act now. Without Congressional action on immigration reform---sooner rather than later---other states will pass similar laws, to the detriment of our nation,” he commented.
The bishop also reported observing “hardening attitudes, deepening divisions, and growing rancor” on immigration.
In his written testimony, Bishop Kicanas urged the minimization of “harsh rhetoric” in the immigration debate and condemned terms that characterize immigrants as “less than human.” “Such harsh rhetoric has been encouraged by talk radio and cable TV, for sure, but also has been used by public officials, including members of Congress,” he commented.
Real reform, according to the bishop, would legalize undocumented migrants and their families in the U.S., provide legal means for migrants to enter the U.S. to work, and reform family reunification. Further, the “root causes” of migration should be addressed so that migrants may remain in their homelands.
Describing the Catholic Church as “an immigrant Church, his written testimony noted Catholic immigration programs’ involvement in the implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in the 1980s. There are currently 158 Catholic immigration programs throughout the country, he reported, saying such efforts are rooted in the belief that every person is created in God’s image.
This Catholic response is also rooted in Scripture, he explained, citing Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
The bishop’s testimony also urged a permanent extension of the immigrant non-minister portion of the Religious Worker Visa Program, which now permits 5,000 non-minister religious and lay persons each year to enter the U.S. to work on a permanent basis both for their denominations and for the benefit of the community.
He reported that the bishops oppose a point system for migrants which places a higher value on highly educated and skilled immigrants than on family ties. Families start family businesses, provide for each other, and contribute their talents to local neighborhoods.
“Family reunification has been the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system since the inception of our republic. It would be foolhardy to abandon this system, as the family unit represents the core of our society and culture.”
The testimony also reiterated the bishops’ opposition to legislation that would grant homosexual partners the same immigration benefits as married couples, saying it would erode the institution of marriage and family and create additional controversy.
Bishop Kicanas’ statement endorsed legislation such as the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2009 and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM).
CNA STAFF, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - Relics of Blessed Mother Teresa are scheduled to visit several cities across the Midwest this weekend, as part of a tour of the United States and Canada. The tour is being held in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the sister's birth on August 26.
The relics are in the care of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, and include her sandals, crucifix and rosary, as well as a lock of her hair and drops of her blood contained in reliquaries.
The tour has already traveled through Boston and Baltimore, among other cities, and is scheduled to make stops in Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota in the coming days.
On Friday, the relics will arrive in Peoria, Illinois. They will be enshrined during a noon Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, which will be celebrated by Bishop Daniel Jenky.
According to The Catholic Post, newspaper for the Diocese of Peoria, the visit is a “surprise stop” that diocesan officials only learned about “earlier this week.”
While alive, Mother Teresa had visited the Diocese of Peoria in 1995 and again in 1960. The Missionaries of Charity first came to serve Peoria's poor in 1991, when Mother Teresa sent the first Sisters to the cathedral soup kitchen, The Catholic Post reported.
On Saturday morning, the relics will be transported to the Diocese of Gary, Indiana.
Deacon Mark Plaiss, director of communications for the diocese, told CNA that a Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Dale Melczek at 9:30 a.m. at St. Mark's Church.
In the afternoon, the relics will be taken from Gary to Chicago, a city that Mother Teresa visited on several occasions during her life.
The schedule indicates that the relics will stop at St. Procopius parish for Mass and veneration on Saturday evening. The next morning, they will be transported to St. John Cantius parish, where they will be available for veneration after every Mass. Later in the day, they will be taken to the convent for the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago.
As the weekend comes to a close, the relics will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota. They will be venerated at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Monday evening, followed by a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché.
Commenting on the visit to St. Paul was the cathedral's rector, Fr. Joseph Johnson, who said, “If you ask Mother Teresa what guided her life, she would say prayer first and hard work second. We will be seeing the very items which supported those goals – her rosary which she used in daily prayer, and her sandals which carried her little feet as she ministered to the poorest of the poor.”
The tour of the relics will continue throughout the rest of the month. Exact locations for stops along the way have not yet been announced.
Born in Albania on Aug. 26, 1910, Mother Teresa spent decades serving the poor and sick in Calcutta, India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, and the order continues to carry on her work throughout the world today.
As the order grew, Mother Teresa's work came to be well-known and recognized across the globe, and in 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The cause for her canonization began shortly after her death in 1997. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Vatican City, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Thursday, the Holy See published new norms for the treatment of crimes considered to be "most serious" within the Church. In a press briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained the updates, including an extension of the statute of limitations for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and the official addition of other "delicta graviora" to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
The release of the updates took place in an unannounced meeting with the press in the Holy See's Press Office, which was hosted by Fr. Lombardi and Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the promotor of justice within the CDF. The modifications are included in 31 articles divided into two parts: Substantive Norms and Procedural Norms.
Fr. Lombardi released a statement meant to facilitate the reading of the norms for the "non-specialist public," in which he outlined the most important elements of the modifications to the "most serious sins" or "graviora delicta." They were originally promulgated by John Paul II in the motu proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" in 2001.
According to the Vatican spokesman, the updates to this document were meant to "organically integrate" the "new 'faculties'" given to the CDF by the Pope for the last nine years, "so as to streamline and simplify the procedures and make them more effective and to take account of new problems."
Although the norms touch on a variety of sins considered to be "most serious,” Fr. Lombardi's explanation of the modifications concentrated mostly on Church policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors.
In that regard, he first pointed out that updates incorporate measures to "accelerate procedures," particularly wording that gives the CDF the possibility of reaching a decision in cases without a full judicial process. Further modifications also establish that particularly serious cases are to be sent straight to the Pope, who will decide whether or not to dismiss the offender from the priesthood.
Fr. Lombardi noted there is another simplifying norm which establishes that a doctorate degree in canon law is no longer required for a person, including members of the lay community, to take part in the judicial process as a member of the tribunal, a lawyer or a prosecutor.
He went on to explain that the statute of limitations for pursuing a case of sexual abuse against an alleged abuser was increased from 10 to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday, with the possibility of further extension on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, the mentally disabled will be considered on par with minors in the consideration of cases of sexual abuse, and involvement with pedophile pornography is now counted among the most serious sins of the Church.
In the explanatory note, Fr. Lombardi stressed that the question of collaboration with civil authorities "remains untouched" in the documents published on Thursday. "It must be borne in mind," he said, "that the Norms being published today are part of the penal code of canon law, which is complete in itself and entirely distinct from the law of States."
The matter of collaboration with civil authorities, he explained, was taken up in the guidelines released by the Holy See last April. In that document, the CDF suggested that local Church authorities "comply with the requirements of law in the various countries, and ... do so in good time, not during or subsequent to the canonical trial."
Fr. Lombardi went on to say that "Today's publication of the Norms makes a great contribution to the clarity and certainty of law in this field; a field in which the Church is today strongly committed to proceeding with rigor and transparency so as to respond fully to the just expectations of moral coherence and evangelical sanctity nourished by the faithful and by public opinion, and which the Holy Father has constantly reiterated."
Turning to further modifications to the norms, the spokesman outlined three in particular, noting that they are already in force.
"These include crimes against the faith (heresy, apostasy and schism) for which competency normally falls to ordinaries, although the Congregation becomes competent in the case of an appeal; the malicious recording and disclosure of sacramental Confession about which a decree of condemnation was published in 1988; and the attempted ordination of women, about which a decree was published in 2007."
They should not be considered as "novelties," Fr. Lombardi observed, rather they are norms that were already in practice that have been "inserted" into the wording of canon law.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Spain’s Constitutional Court rejected a request on Wednesday for an injunction against the country’s new law on abortion filed by the Popular Party. The decision allows the new law to remain in effect while the justices rule on lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.
On June 30 the government of the country's province of Navarre along with the Popular Party filed an injunction against the law to push back its effective date until appeals could be made.
However, according to Europa Press, administration officials then filed a brief arguing that placing an injunction against a new law passed by Congress is beyond the court’s competency.
The new law took effect on July 5, the 25th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Spain. It allows abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and up to the 22nd week if approved by a medical committee. It also allows 16-year-old girls to obtain abortions without parental consent.
Harrisburg, Pa., Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) claimed earlier this week that a new federally funded insurance program in Pennsylvania will cover abortions, CNA contacted the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to verify the charges, with the department ultimately evading the allegations.
NRLC is one of many critics this week who have condemned the Obama administration's approval of a federally funded $160 million high-risk insurance coverage initiative in Pennsylvania that was created as a part of the recent health care overhaul.
The federal fund is being accused of covering abortions if they are deemed necessary by a physician.
National Right to Life issued a statement on Tuesday evening explaining that the $160 million plan is part of a $5 billion federal funding program set up under the Affordable Health Care Act that was signed into law in March.
Although the language of the Pennsylvania insurance plan states that the funding does not cover “elective abortions,” NRLC argued that nowhere in the document is the term “elective” defined.
Rather, abortions will be covered if they are prescribed under the necessary “requirements” of several state statutes. Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania if a single physician believes that it is “necessary” based “all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman,” according to section 3204 of Pennsylvania's consolidated statute 18.
NRLC asserted the language bars abortion only if it is motivated by gender discrimination, in other words “sex-selection.”
CNA contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance with NRLC's charges that the plan will ultimately fund non-elective abortions.
Rosanne Placey, press secretary for the department's Communications Office, replied, “Our high risk proposal and any subsequent contracts must comply with federal law and regulations.”
“So that means that federal law as well as the Hyde amendment would control the high risk plan here,” she said. “We could not and would not use federal money to cover elective abortions. The benefits do not include elective abortions. Our plan says that.”
“Also, we could not and would not use federal money to go beyond the scope of the Hyde amendment,” Placey added. “The Hyde amendment says that is only to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. So beyond that very limited scope – funds cannot be used to include abortions.”
In response to Placey's argument, Douglas Johnson, legislative director of NRLC, countered that “there is no language in the law, in the Affordable Health Care Act as they call it, that in any way restricts the use of these funds for abortion,” particularly within the higher risk pool program.
“Everything she is talking about is entirely beside the point,” he charged.
The pool program, Johnson explained, has “nothing to do with the Hyde amendment,” since “the Hyde amendment controls only money that flows through a single pipeline which is the annual HHS (Health and Human Services department) appropriation bill.”
“This program involves no such money – the money for this program is federal money.”
Commenting on the executive order President Obama signed in March, Johnson explained that the Hyde amendment, as stated in the executive order on abortion, only applies to insurance exchange programs and community health center programs.
According to him, the Hyde amendment does not apply to and has nothing to do with high-risk pool programs.
Johnson's points were not countered by Placey, instead the insurance department spokeswoman held to her previous statement, saying, “I do think this is pretty clear.”
High-risk pool programs for states across the U.S. have been the subject of increasing criticism among pro-life groups. NRLC also reported this week that the language within the high-risk program in New Mexico explicitly covers elective abortions.
Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Vicar General of the Legionaries of Christ recently denied media reports claiming that the congregation's general director knew of Legion founder Father Marcial Maciel's double life.
On July 14, Vicar General of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Luis Garza Medina, released a statement following an MVS radio program which featured an audio recording of a previous conference the priest gave to a group of consecrated women from Regnum Christi—the lay branch of the Legion. In the recording, Fr. Garza addressed the misconduct of Fr. Maciel and those who had knowledge of his actions.
In his Wednesday statement, Fr. Garza said, “Yesterday, Tuesday, July 13, several Mexican newspapers published stories about a recording of a private meeting I held in the month of September, 2009. This recording was aired yesterday during the MVS news program with numerous edits and comments that, in part, distorted the meaning of my words.”
The priest then remarked that he “would like to clarify” some of the assertions made by some in the media, particularly “from an article published online by the newspaper, Reforma.”
“The article states: ‘Luis Garza Medina, vicar of the Legionaries of Christ, said top officials of the congregation chose to hide the abuses of Marcial Maciel'.”
“This statement does not reflect the facts or what I said,” the vicar explained.
“Neither Father Alvaro Corcuera, LC, the General Director of the congregation, nor I, nor other superiors of the congregation hid or sought to hide the conduct we began to slowly learn about after Father Marcial Maciel resigned his post as General Director,” Father Garza stated.
“Nevertheless,” he continued, “it has taken time to completely grasp and examine, as best possible, the veracity of the accusations against our founder. Beginning in the Summer of 2008 after obtaining sufficient certainty of the facts, we gradually began to personally inform the superiors of the congregation, the religious members of the Legion of Christ, the consecrated men and women and the other members of the Regnum Christi Movement ... and finally the media and society, expressing our profound sorrow for those gravely reproachable actions.”
Fr. Garza also pointed to another assertion made by Reforma which claimed that he “admitted that at least three members of the Legion's leadership knew of Fr. Maciel's conduct and preferred to hide it and not act to prevent it from continuing.” The priest clarified that the “statement is also incorrect.”
“In response to the question of whether there were members of the congregation who knew of the hidden behavior of our founder, I mentioned the case of three older priests who, after the death of our founder, said they had knowledge of some information. I pointed out that one of them explained that he never denounced [Maciel] because he had no way of proving what he had learned and because Father Maciel, because of his authority as founder and general director, had been idealized by many.”
“None of the current superiors had knowledge of the behavior we now know about our founder, much less did they consent to it,” Father Garza stated. “In addition, as our statement from last March 25 indicated: ‘If it turns out there were some guilty of collaboration, we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity and hold those persons responsible’.”
Fr. Garza said he was confident “the media that have reported on this recording want to provide their readers with the truth of the facts. For this reason, I would appreciate that they publish the contents of this statement in the place and position it deserves in order to clarify the statements that I have singled out above.”
Vatican City, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a briefing today with journalists for the release of new norms on cases of "the most serious sins" in the Church, Fr. Federico Lombardi spoke about the work that continues to be done in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He said that the congregation is working on new, comprehensive documents compiled from the experiences of individual bishops' conferences to create better guidelines for handling abuse cases on a local level.
The announcement came within an officially published comment from Fr. Lombardi, who explained the scope of the direction further during the briefing.
The Vatican spokesman informed reporters that the CDF is "currently examining how to help the bishops of the world formulate and develop, coherently and effectively, the indications and guidelines necessary to face the problems of the sexual abuse of minors, either by members of the clergy or within the environment of activities and institutions connected with the Church ...”
These additional documents, he said, will bear in mind “the situation and the problems of the societies in which they operate."
Straying from his prepared notes, Fr. Lombardi explained, "It has always been said that the episcopates that know the different situations in the different countries and the different norms and cultural situations should make their own guidelines to confront the problem of the abuse of minors by clergy ... and (in) other Catholic institutions.
"Episcopates," he went on, "have an important role because they know the specific situations in each place. The CDF is studying and working, based on the experience of the different guidelines given by the Episcopates to give the directions to help to establish a coherent framework between the different episcopal conferences" to take advantage of positive contributions offered.
"It's a work of coordination, integration, suggestions and harmonization of the guidelines but without eliminating the role of the Episcopates in this field."
While there is no time line for the release of these guidelines and it is still unknown what form the documents might take on, Fr. Lombardi assured that "they are working (at the CDF).”
"This is an important element to keep in mind," Fr. Lombardi explained. "It isn't as if with the publication of the norms concerning the delictus gravioribus, the congregation has finished its task and won't think about it any more. It works, rather, to help develop, clarify and coordinate."
Going back to his prepared remarks, he said that "This will be another crucial step on the Church's journey as she translates into permanent practice and continuous awareness the fruits of the teachings and ideas that have matured over the course of the painful events of the 'crisis' engendered by sexual abuse by members of the clergy."
Vatican City, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Monsignor Charles Scicluna took part in a press briefing on Thursday for the release of modified Vatican norms on how to examine and punish cases involving the "most serious sins." He fielded a number of questions as to its content but underscored the importance of ongoing action for successfully bringing about change in the Church.
Journalists in the Holy See's Press Office spoke of the encounter as "unseen since the days of Cardinal Ratzinger." The Maltese promotor of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith fielded questions on complex matters with apparent ease, answering journalists' queries regarding many aspects of the updates to the Motu Proprio of 2001 in both English and Italian.
About the concern in the media that sexual abuse against minors was being equated with the attempted ordination of women in the eyes of canon law, Msgr. Scicluna said in English, "They are not on the same level." Serious sins are divided into those against Christian morality and those committed during the administration of the sacraments, he explained.
Sexual abuses of minors and child pornography are the graver sins and represent "an egregious violation of moral law." And while the attempted ordination is grave, it's "on another level," he said, explaining that it is a wound that goes against the Catholic faith and the sacrament of Holy Orders.
"So they are (both) grave but on different levels," Msgr. Scicluna said, noting in Italian that their comparison is incidental as both "are found in the only document that attempts to put in order all of the competence on the delicts that are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
He also defended Pope Benedict XVI's stance on the obligation to obey civil law in cases of sexual abuse of minors. Msgr. Scicluna said the Pope has been "very clear. The Christian obeys civil law when it is just and there is no doubt that in this case civil law is just."
The promotor of justice added that when the law allows the victim to choose whether or not to report a crime, their wishes must also be respected.
He also called an additional wording that gives the CDF the ability to examine the actions of Church prelates and functionaries an "important signal because it means that the congregation will be able to investigate and then submit its results to the Pope."
On behalf of the CDF, Msgr. Scicluna thanked the Holy Father for his "stamp" on the revision of the norms.
"So," he concluded, "I think this is a very important step from the point of canon law, from a technical point. But, a document is always a document, it does not solve all the problems. It is a very important instrument, but it is the way you use the instrument that is going to have the real effect on the Church."
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Press inquiries and pressure from pro-life groups appear to have caused a federally funded New Mexico health insurance program to drop elective abortion from its list of covered procedures.
The New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool (NMNIP), an effort of the Obama Administration's recent health care overhaul, was the subject of media inquiry and intense criticism by pro-life groups as it previously covered elective abortions using federal funds.
The state's insurance pool program for high-risk patients is part of a $5 billion federal funding program set up under the Affordable Health Care Act that was signed into law last March.
On its website, NMNIP had previously linked to a document explaining the “Federal High Risk Pool Summary of Benefits.” On the second page, under the heading, “Covered Services,” elective abortion was listed.
The entry read: “Routine Maternity/Elective Termination of Pregnancy: Includes routing (sic) delivery, pre- and post-natal care, anesthesia, assistant and diagnostic tests.”
However, in a dramatic reversal this week, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday evening that the insurance program had dropped abortion coverage from the plan.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, deputy director of NMNIP, had initially told the AP that the state intended to follow through with the plan as it was. Yet Grisham called the AP back a short time later, saying, “We are in the process of correcting the package so it will not have elective abortion coverage.”
CNA also made inquiries into the situation, contacting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to find out how New Mexico's program was consistent with the executive order President Obama signed in March to maintain the ban on federal funding of abortion.
Speaking to HHS spokeswoman Jessica Santillo, CNA was provided with an updated copy of the NMNIP plan, which no longer has elective abortion listed under covered services.
In its article, the AP offered an explanation for the plan's initial abortion coverage, writing that lawmakers had left it to “bureaucrats” at the HHS to write the rules for the $5 billion health care initiative.
In the “rush” to get the insurance pool programs for states up and running this summer, “many of the details,” specifically abortion coverage, “apparently were not made clear,” the AP said.
The apparent failure on the part of Obama Administration to rigorously enforce the president's executive order has been sharply criticized by some pro-life congressional leaders.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader, issued a statement on Tuesday decrying the apparent lack of effort to implement the executive order in federal health care programs. “Just last month at the White House I asked President Obama to provide the American people with a progress report on the implementation of his Executive Order, which purports to ban taxpayer-funding of abortions,” Rep. Boehner said. “Unfortunately, the President provided no information, and the American people are still waiting for answers.”
The high-risk pool program in Pennsylvania has also recently come under fire for alleged abortion coverage and other states are feared to have similar language in their plans.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, slammed the Cuban government this week for not respecting the rights of the recently-freed political prisoners and sending them into exile. He vowed the fight to free Cuba would continue forward.
The first group of 11 prisoners were released this week and immediately flown to Spain. The remaining 41 political prisoners will be freed in the next three months.
“The dignity, rights and even feelings of those who have been freed are not being respected,” Paya said. “They and those who remain imprisoned carry the torch of heroes. We thank them and we say to them: we shall continue together to fight for the freedom and rights of Cubans,” he said in a message.
“Some wish to portray this action by the government as change in Cuba (I wish it were change),” Paya continued. He noted that if the Spanish government and Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs “are saying this is the beginning of the changes, Cubans aren’t aware of it, and it seems the Cuban government isn’t either.”
For this reason, he said, the Communist government ought to be the one “telling the people that this is beginning of the changes.”
Paya criticized the decision to force the political prisoners into exile. “We must remember that these men were not blowing things up or engaging in violence,” Paya said, unlike Fidel and Raul Castro, who were released from prison in 1953 and were allowed to stay in the country. “So it seems the current government is more afraid the ideas of these brothers of ours … than the dictator Batista was of their rifles and bombs,” Paya added.
The exiled Cubans leave “with their hearts broken and full of uncertainty, but with high morale and with our sentiments of gratitude for what they suffered cruelly in prison for the rights and liberty of Cubans,” remarked Paya. “The world should know that these men carry with them the courage and dignity of an entire people.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 15, 2010 (CNA) - After a 14-hour debate beginning on Wednesday, Argentina's Senate passed a measure legalizing same-sex “marriage.”
According to the AICA news agency, the 4 a.m. roll call on Thursday resulted in a vote of 33-27 in support of the measure.
Passage of the bill came despite heavy public opposition, including a massive protest by more than 200,000 outside the Argentinean capitol building last week.
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine welcomed the Vatican’s recent clarification on the canonical penalties for the attempted ordination of women, saying the action shows “the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”
In a July 15 statement the Vatican said that the attempted ordination of women was a “grave delict,” a Church crime that is always referred to the Holy See for adjudication.
Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, said the clarification was “a welcome statement.”
“The seven sacraments are an integral and identifying part of the Catholic Church and the faith life of each Catholic,” he commented. “To feign any sacrament would be egregious. The Catholic Church through its long and constant teaching holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times.”
Archbishop Wuerl noted that all Catholics are called to “Christian service.”
Women have responded to this call with “extraordinary generosity” and have had an “essential role” in the life of the Church. They now serve in “Church leadership positions at all levels,” he commented, reporting that they hold nearly half of diocesan administrative and professional positions, about 25 percent of the top diocesan positions, and make up about 80 percent of lay parish ministers.
“The Church’s gratitude to women cannot be stated strongly enough. Women offer unique insight, creative abilities and unstinting generosity at the very heart of the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Wuerl continued.
Pope John Paul II, in his 1994 apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” reaffirmed that the Catholic Church has no authority to ordain women. The issue was also addressed by the U.S. bishops in their 1998 pastoral response.