1. Republican Women, Fearing Backlash on Abortion, Pivot to Birth Control, A group of politically vulnerable G.O.P. women has backed legislation that purports to expand birth control access but would have little effect. Critics say the bill is meant to distract from their anti-abortion stances., By Annie Karni, The New York Times, August 30, 2023, 5:01 AM It is an increasingly common strategy among vulnerable House Republicans — especially those in politically competitive districts — who are trying to reconcile their party’s hard-line anti-abortion policies with the views of voters in their districts, particularly independents and women. While many of these G.O.P. lawmakers have cast votes in the House this year to limit abortion access — maintaining a stance that some Republicans concede hurt their party in last year’s midterm elections — Ms. Miller-Meeks and others spent part of the summer congressional recess talking up their support for birth control access, which is broadly popular across the country and across party lines. Appearing to embrace access to contraception has become an imperative for Republican candidates at all levels who are concerned that their party’s opposition to abortion rights has alienated women, particularly after the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade and the extreme abortion bans in G.O.P.-led states that have followed.  Just ahead of lawmakers’ long summer break, Ms. Miller-Meeks was part of a group of House Republican women who introduced the Orally Taken Contraception Act of 2023, a bill that they pitched as a way to expand access to contraception and that she called “a significant step forward for health care.”  The contraception bill introduced in July, co-sponsored by at least eight Republican women and endorsed by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, would direct the Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance for companies that want to make oral contraception available without prescriptions. But it is not clear what practical effect it would have.  Abortion rights groups have dismissed the bill as a stunt aimed at masking Republicans’ drive to crack down on both abortion and contraceptive access. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/30/us/politics/abortion-birth-control-republican-women.html__________________________________________________________ 2. Pope heads to Mongolia to minister to its few Catholics and complete centuries-old East-West mission, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 30, 2023, 5:29 AM When Pope Francis travels to Mongolia this week, he will in some ways be completing a mission begun by the 13th-century Pope Innocent IV, who dispatched emissaries east to ascertain the intentions of the rapidly expanding Mongol Empire and beseech its leaders to halt the bloodshed and convert.  His trip is nevertheless a historic meeting of East and West, the first-ever visit by a Roman pontiff to Mongolia to minister to one of the tiniest, newest Catholic communities in the world. “In a way, what’s happened is that both sides have moved on,” said Christopher Atwood, professor of Mongolian and Chinese frontier and ethnic history at the University of Pennsylvania. “Once upon a time, it was either/or: Either the world was ruled by the pope, or the world was ruled by the Mongol Empire. And now I think both sides are much more tolerant.” Officially, there are only 1,450 Catholics in Mongolia and the Catholic Church has only had a sanctioned presence since 1992, after Mongolia shrugged off its Soviet-allied communist government and enshrined religious freedom in its constitution. Francis last year upped the Mongolian church’s standing when he made a cardinal out of its leader, the Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/30/pope-mongolia-climate-china-russia/dcdc1a3c-4709-11ee-b76b-0b6e5e92090d_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Pope says a revised environmental encyclical will be released Oct. 4, feast of St. Francis of Assisi, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 30, 2023, 6:46 AM Pope Francis said Wednesday he will be releasing an update to his landmark 2015 environmental encyclical on Oct. 4, the feast of his nature-loving namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, as he called for an end to the “senseless war against our common home.” Francis recently revealed he was writing a “second part” to the document “to address current problems.” The Vatican spokesman said the update would take into account in particular recent climate crises. On Wednesday, Francis told his weekly general audience that he intended to publish the update on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis and also the start of Francis’ big Vatican meeting on the future of the Catholic Church.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/30/francis-vatican-environment-encyclical/78273fe6-4712-11ee-b76b-0b6e5e92090d_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Moscow thanks Pope for controversial tribute to ‘Great Mother Russia’, By Crux, August 30, 2023 Russian spokespersons have praised what they called Pope Francis’s “balanced approach” to the war in Ukraine, in the wake of protests by both Ukrainian civic and Church officials that the pontiff recently used rhetoric which, even if unintentionally, could be seen as boosting Russia’s imperial ambitions. The controversy erupted in the wake of an Aug. 25 video address by Pope Francis to a group of Russian Catholic youth gathered in St. Petersburg, when the pope told the young people they are “heirs of the great Mother Russia.”  Yet in an interview Tuesday with the Italian news agency Ansa, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, expressed appreciation for the pope’s language. Dialogue between the Vatican and Russia about the conflict in Ukraine “is continuing,” Zakharova said, describing relations between the Holy See and the Kremlin as marked by “a mutually respectful and constructive” spirit. The Kremlin, she said, “greatly appreciates the balanced approach of the Vatican on the conflict in Ukraine and the efforts of the Holy See, and Pope Francis personally, to seek a peaceful solution, which unfortunately have been rejected by the regime in Kyiv.”  For its part, the Vatican issued a statement Tuesday insisting that the pope’s comments to the Russian youth had been misinterpreted, and that he “certainly did not intend to exalt imperalistic logic.”  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2023/08/moscow-thanks-pope-for-controversial-tribute-to-great-mother-russia__________________________________________________________ 5. Anti-abortion activists, including one who kept fetuses, convicted of illegally blocking DC clinic, By Associated Press, August 29, 2023, 7:41 PM Five anti-abortion activists, including a woman who was discovered to have five fetuses in her home, were convicted Tuesday of illegally blocking a reproductive clinic in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported. Lauren Handy of Virginia was part of a group accused of violating federal law when they blocked access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic in October 2020. Handy and four others — John Hinshaw and William Goodman of New York, Heather Idoni of Michigan and Herb Geraghty of Pennsylvania — were all found guilty Tuesday, the Post said. A trial for four others involved in the blockade begins next week. Members of the group, known as the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, were prosecuted under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act, which prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services.  The defendants face up to 11 years in prison.  In March 2022, just after Handy and the others were indicted, police found five fetuses in a house in Southeast Washington where she was staying. The Metropolitan Police Department said officers were responding to a tip about “potential bio-hazard material” when they located the fetuses. The group claimed the fetuses came from medical waste being disposed by the Washington clinic. Members said they contacted the police to collect the fetuses in hopes that an autopsy would prove that the clinic was conducting federally illegal late-stage abortions. Authorities have not charged anyone in that matter, the Post reported. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/08/29/abortion-activists-clinic-blockade-trial-fetuses/a3450294-46c2-11ee-b76b-0b6e5e92090d_story.html__________________________________________________________ 6. New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on local abortion-ban ordinances, By Associated Press, August 29, 2023, 7:29 PM New Mexico’s Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding a request to strike down recent abortion-ban ordinances in several cities and counties. The high court on Tuesday announced it will hear arguments in December and agreed to consider legal briefings filed by an array of advocacy groups. The state attorney general in January petitioned the high court to strike down abortion-ban ordinances approved by local governments spanning much of eastern New Mexico. Attorney General Raúl Torrez argued that the local laws violate state constitutional guarantees — including New Mexico’s equal rights amendment that prohibits discrimination based on sex or being pregnant. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2023/08/29/abortion-restrictions-new-mexico/f44dcf4e-46c3-11ee-b76b-0b6e5e92090d_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. Pro-Lifers Could Face 11 Years In Prison For Trying To Protect Innocents From Harm, By Nora Kenney, The Federalist, August 23, 2023, Opinion Last week, a judge ruled that defendants on trial in Washington, D.C., this month for obstructing access to an abortion facility in 2020 cannot claim as their defense that they were acting to protect others from bodily harm. “A defendant may not don a vigilante’s hood to insert themselves into a situation of their own making and subsequently claim defense of a third person to justify their actions,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a three-page order. But is the idea that abortion ends the life of another human being “a situation of [a defendant’s] own making”? Or is it a fact? That’s a question Louis C. K. surprisingly explored in his Netflix special “2017,” when he made viral comments about the extreme tactics pro-life activists sometimes use to convince expectant mothers not to pursue the procedure. “They think babies are being murdered,” he explained in the show’s opening. “What are they supposed to be like? ‘Uh, that’s not cool. I don’t wanna be a dick about it, though. I don’t want to ruin their day as they murder several babies all the time.’” It’s in that spirit that 10 pro-life activists entered an abortion facility in D.C. in 2020 and, in the words of the Department of Justice (DOJ), “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes.” Accompanying Lauren Handy, the lead defendant in the case, the other nine include Jonathan Darnel of Virginia, Herb Geraghty of Pennsylvania, Jay Smith and John Hinshaw of New York, Paulette Harlow and Jean Marshall of Massachusetts, Heather Idoni and William Goodman of Wisconsin, and Joan Bell of New Jersey.   Nine of those defendants now face a two-count federal indictment. (Smith, under pressure from federal investigators, accepted a plea deal and received a 10-month sentence.) Charged with conspiracy against federal civil rights, as well as violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, the defendants each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000. The question of whether the nine are guilty hinges, of course, on one’s answer to Louis C. K.’s question: Does abortion actually end a child’s life? The judge has already signaled her opinion, suggesting the defendants’ behavior constitutes vigilantism imposed onto narratives of their own creation.  But the judge’s conclusion, whether true or false, raises more questions. For example, even if one agrees with her that there’s no “third person” in need of defense in abortions — a contention which the defendants fiercely dispute — does the punishment fit the so-called crime? Eleven years is a long time. In previous years, pro-life activists convicted of similar behavior have often received one-, three-, and six-month sentences, avoiding longer sentences on the technicality that they have not blocked entrances to the facilities, which the FACE Act specifically prohibits. Father Fidelis Moscinski, for example, is currently finishing a three-month sentence in Nassau County for entering an abortion facility on Long Island and providing roses and counsel for expectant mothers. By the standard of Moscinski’s current sentence (and the fact that no one’s been seriously injured by the defendants’ actions), 11 years seems extreme. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that through the application of the FACE Act, disproportion and immoderation are par for the course for a DOJ that’s excessively punitive toward pro-life Americans.  At the same time, the FACE Act should also theoretically protect pro-life pregnancy centers and their providers. Yet it has seldom been used by the current administration for those purposes — a charge which has led some to question whether the DOJ is “abusing the FACE Act to silence pro-life advocates.”  Until Americans contend seriously with the question Louis C. K. raised — however irreverently he raised it — judges will have discretion to punish activists who peacefully protest an industry the FACE Act protects, even while applying the law lopsidedly. In the meantime, the outcome of the current case will signal to what extent pro-life defendants will be punished for protesting what they see as an unjust law that violates the most vulnerable, helpless victims. “Draconian federal punishments like these against peaceful Americans have not been used since members of the underground railroad worked to free innocent people from bondage and were thus charged under the enormously unjust Fugitive Slave Act,” Goodman said. “The FACE Act is a similar tool of legal injustice instrumentalized to protect violence and those who perpetrate it.” https://thefederalist.com/2023/08/23/pro-lifers-could-face-11-years-in-prison-for-trying-to-protect-innocents-from-harm/__________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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