1. Power of the Parish: The potential may be greater than we realize —for our civic as well as eternal well-being.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, April 3, 2017, 4:00 AM, Opinion

This is one of those times of year when people who most weeks don’t go to church may find themselves in a pew. Maybe it’s part of a family visit… Or maybe it’s a desire — and one that could fuel civic renewal.

That’s what California businessman William E. Simon Jr. has set his focus on, with a group he’s founded called Parish Catalyst and with a book called Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive. Having surveyed 244 parishes, he’s in the business now of sharing what works.

Focusing on the Catholic piece of the engine, Simon points out that there are roughly 80 million Catholics in the United States, about 80 percent of them affiliated with a parish. … The highway to heaven affects not just the souls of individuals but potentially every aspect of American culture and life.

So how to renew and expand the reach of churches, whatever your religious persuasion? 

“Be active,” Simon says. “Be involved with the greatest engine for good in history.” And, he emphasizes, “God’s there, God’s love is there. Why wouldn’t you want to be involved in that?” And share it. Our nation’s church communities are home to some of the most powerful things in the world: faith, hope, and love. And couldn’t we use all of it that we can get these days?


2. The Next Battle. 

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, April 2, 2017, Pg. F3

But while Ms. Richards [,the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America,] stands at the forefront of efforts to protect access to abortion, another politically savvy woman, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who helped elect Mr. Trump and is a longtime ally of Vice President Mike Pence, is just as ardently on the other side, pushing hard to prevent Planned Parenthood from getting a single penny from taxpayers.

This week, she had reason to celebrate: Mr. Pence cast the tiebreaking vote when the Senate rolled back an Obama administration rule barring states from denying family planning grants to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The bill will now go to Mr. Trump’s desk.

“This is the result of decades of work, to defund this organization we think is evil,” said Ms. Dannenfelser, 51, president of Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. During last year’s presidential campaign, she agreed to back Mr. Trump (who in 1999 described himself as “very pro-choice”) in exchange for his written promise that he would pursue an anti-abortion agenda — including “nominating pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court, and stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funding if the group continues to provide abortions.

These are challenging times for Planned Parenthood, the reproductive rights behemoth known to millions of American women as the place to turn for cancer screening, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control — and yes, abortion. 

Instead, Mr. Trump’s election has given new life to the abortion wars in Washington, and thrust Ms. Richards — and women, many of them poor, across America who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic health care — into a pitched battle with the president. 

While the Obamacare repeal bill is off the table, for now, the fight over Planned Parenthood is not over. It could come up again next month; Republicans may try to attach the defunding provision to a bill financing government operations for the rest of the year. Or, Ms. Dannenfelser and other anti-abortion movement leaders say their Republican allies on Capitol Hill could tack it on to another measure, possibly a tax reform bill, this the spring.


3. No Room for Dissent in Women’s Movement Today.

By Cleta Mitchell, The New York Times, April 2, 2017, Pg. F3

Is there a “women’s movement” in 2017? What is it? Who is it?

In the 1970s, we fought for legal equality and eradication of the laws, based on English common law, that put women in the same legal category as children and insane persons. 

Our fight was ostensibly about respecting women’s choices, whatever they may be.

But the women’s movement doesn’t live up to that idea. If women choose to be chief executives and officeholders and columnists and doctors and partners in law firms, great! If they choose, however, to be moms and wives and attend Bible study or bake cookies, they are “bitter clingers” and “deplorable.” And if they happen to be conservative professional women, they are invisible.

The ugly truth is that the women’s movement has morphed into a giant abortion-rights lobby, demanding abortion far beyond the Roe v. Wade trimester construct. For someone like me, who has done a lot of soul-searching over the years, ultimately coming to believe that life begins at conception, I’m no longer welcome in the women’s movement. Women who oppose abortion are deemed contrary to the very idea of equality. Being a feminist in 2017 equals zero tolerance for anti-abortion views.

This is feminism today: abortion. No limits, no debate, no conversation. No nuances, no caveats, no tolerance. 

Are there still obstacles facing women in society? Yes, there are. But American women’s equality under the law is what I worked for and is, today, a reality. And I, for one, am not ashamed to declare victory.

Cleta Mitchell is a Washington lawyer who represents Republican candidates and conservative groups in matters involving campaign finance, election law, lobbying compliance, ethics and financial disclosure.


4. Arkansas Passes Law Barring Women From Seeking ‘Sex-Selection’ Abortions.

By Christine Hauser, The New York Times, April 2, 2017, Pg. A14

The governor of Arkansas has signed a law that requires doctors to investigate the pregnancy history of women seeking abortions and to make sure they are not using the procedure as a way to select the gender of the child. Abortion rights proponents said on Thursday that they planned to challenge the law.

The law, signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday, banning “sex-selection abortion” requires doctors to ask a woman seeking an abortion if she knows the gender of the fetus she is carrying, and if she does, to tell her it is illegal to choose an abortion based on that information. The doctor is also required to obtain the medical records that pertain to her pregnancy history.

Doctors who do not comply face misdemeanor charges, with up to a year in prison and a fine of up to a $2,500 as well as civil penalties, The Associated Press reported. It would also lead to revocation or suspension of the doctor’s medical license.


5. In Europe, Catholics and feminists unite against surrogacy.

By Catholic News Agency, April 2, 2017

Reproductive issues often leave Catholics and secular feminists at odds, but a recent anti-surrogacy conference in Rome has created an unusual camaraderie between the two.

“Se Non Ora Quando,” a feminist group known for its left-wing views, called surrogacy “incompatible with human rights and with the dignity of women,” according to The Atlantic.

The conference met last Thursday at a lower House of Parliament in Rome. Women intellectuals, doctors, and scholars from all over the world, pleaded with the United Nations to ban European citizens from traveling abroad to procure surrogate mothers.

Surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby to term for a third party, often involving payment. The pregnancy is achieved by in-vitro fertilization, in which an egg is fertilized in a lab then placed into the woman’s womb.

While the practice is legal in Canada and most of the United States, regulations vary depending on the state. Surrogacy is banned, however, in almost all of Western Europe, including France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Italy. Some countries, such as England, do not enforce surrogate contracts and women are not required by law to give up the baby they bore for a third party.

The Catholic Church opposed surrogacy in Donum Vitae, a document on biomedical issues written in 1987.

The United Nations’ parliament condemned surrogacy in 2015, labeling it as a practice which “undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity.” World leaders have also identified a high number of surrogate mothers are poor women in third world countries.