1. Obama Administration Bars States From Withholding Federal Money From Planned Parenthood, By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times, December 14, 2016.

Mindful of the clock ticking down to a Trump presidency, the Obama administration issued a final rule on Wednesday to bar states from withholding federal family-planning funds from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other health clinics that provide abortions. The measure takes effect two days before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

The rule was proposed three months ago, when many Democrats assumed the next president would be Hillary Clinton; she presumably would have promoted the rule’s completion if it were still pending. It requires that state and local governments distribute federal funds for services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screening to qualified health providers, regardless of whether they also perform abortions.

The department initiated the rule-making effort in September after more than a dozen Republican-dominated states in recent years had moved to “defund” Planned Parenthood by blocking clinics from receiving public money. Those funds included so-called Title X money — named for the federal family-planning program — as well as Medicaid reimbursements for treating low-income patients.

State courts have ruled against such restrictions specifically for Medicaid reimbursements, citing the legal right of low-income beneficiaries to seek care where they choose. And the Obama administration warned in April that all states withholding Medicaid payments from Planned Parenthood affiliates would be “out of compliance with federal law.”

But Title X family-planning money is a separate matter. Grants go directly to states and nongovernmental organizations, which then distribute money among health care providers seeking funds for such services. The new rule says that states cannot withhold money from potential recipients for any reason except those that go to their ability to provide the family-planning services.

According to the department, repealing the rule would require a new rule-making process, or a joint resolution of disapproval by the House and Senate, with concurrence by the new president.


2. Rolling Back Abortion Rights After Donald Trump’s Election, By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, December 14, 2016, Pg. A26.

On Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich vetoed this year’s version of the unconstitutional “heartbeat bill.” But he signed into law a bill that would ban the procedure at 20 weeks after fertilization. The new law makes no exception for rape or incest and, like the heartbeat bill, is part of a dangerous nationwide effort to roll back abortion rights that has gained momentum with Donald Trump’s election.

Under Mr. Kasich’s leadership, Ohio has been especially aggressive in restricting reproductive rights. He has signed 17 new restrictions since taking office, and the number of abortion providers in the state has dwindled to nine from 16. The 20-week ban will make abortion illegal in all cases, except when necessary “to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot ban abortion before viability, which most experts put around 24 weeks. The court has also ruled that legislatures cannot establish a specific gestational age after which abortions are prohibited, because fetal viability varies from pregnancy to pregnancy. Nonetheless, Ohio and 17 other states have passed 20-week bans, with a vast majority of them based on the unproved claim that fetuses feel pain around 20 weeks.

Two 20-week bans have been struck down in federal courts as unconstitutional. But abortion opponents in Ohio believe the new law will withstand legal challenges, perhaps even at the Supreme Court. Robert Cupp, a Republican state representative, says he thinks the court will be swayed by medical advances allowing more very premature babies to survive. A victory at the Supreme Court could open the door for a federal 20-week ban, which was introduced last year but blocked by Senate Democrats.


3. Ohio governor vetoes ‘heartbeat bill’ but signs another abortion restriction into law, By Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post, December 14, 2016, Pg. A8.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a controversial bill that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy but signed a measure prohibiting the procedure later in pregnancy.

The measure the Republican governor rejected would have barred a woman from obtaining an abortion if a fetal heartbeat could be detected. The legislature passed the measure last week even though it conflicts with Supreme Court decisions upholding the right to abortion at least until the point at which the fetus is viable. The bill he signed, banning the procedure at 20 weeks of pregnancy, may run afoul of these rulings, because viability is generally interpreted to be around 24 weeks.

In a statement, Kasich said he vetoed what has been called the “heartbeat bill” because it was “clearly contrary” to Supreme Court rulings. The state would have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying unsuccessfully to defend the law and would have provoked lawsuits that would end up rolling back other restrictions enacted by the state, he said.

In a separate statement, he said he agreed with major antiabortion groups that have preferred to challenge precedent with the 20-week ban, which he said “is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life.”

Ohio becomes the 16th state to ban abortion at around 20 weeks, based on the contention that fetuses may be able to feel pain at that stage.


4. Yet Another Criminal Referral for Planned Parenthood and Its Affiliates, By Alexandra Desanctis, National Review Online: The Corner, December 13, 2016, 4:42 PM.

Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced this afternoon that he has referred Planned Parenthood for America and several of its local affiliates to the FBI and the Justice Department for investigation and possible prosecution. These referrals are the result of Grassley’s ongoing investigation into the group’s involvement in fetal-tissue transfers and violations of federal law related to the fetal-tissue trafficking industry.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral,” Grassley said in a release Tuesday afternoon. “But, the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it.”

In the wake of last summer’s Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos depicting Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally profiting from fetal tissue, the Senate Judiciary Committee majority staff began to analyze over 20,000 pages of documents provided voluntarily by the organizations and companies involved. Their report concludes that, since 2010, three tissue-procurement organizations (TPOs) — Advanced Bioscience Resources, StemExpress, and Novogenix Laboratories (which has since gone out of business) — have paid Planned Parenthood affiliates to acquire aborted fetuses and sold that fetal tissue to customers at substantially higher prices than their documented costs.


5. Planned Parenthood fears it may be first casualty of rekindled abortion war, By Sandhya Somashekhar and Katie Zezima, The Washington Post, December 13, 2016, Pg. A1.

Planned Parenthood officials are scrambling to prepare for the likelihood that Congress next year will cut off more than a half-billion dollars in federal funding to the group, fulfilling the wishes of abortion foes who are planning an aggressive push to roll back abortion rights under President-elect Donald Trump.

Officials with the 100-year-old women’s health nonprofit organization are leaning on donors, new and old, and preparing to lobby friendly lawmakers at the state and local level to stem some of the loss. They have started gaming out which communities might be able to withstand a loss of services. They are asking supporters to get their medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics to increase the proportion of privately insured patients.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said in an interview that she plans to introduce a bill that would eliminate the provider’s funding as “one of the first orders on the agenda” when the new Congress convenes next month.
The federal dollars to Planned Parenthood — most of which flow to the organization in the form of Medicaid reimbursements — make up more than 40 percent of its budget. Such a loss, Planned Parenthood officials say, would force them to close many programs and turn away many of the 2.5 million patients their clinics see annually.

“It is time that taxpayers are taken off the hook for supporting an organization that supports the killing of innocent children,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a longtime Planned Parenthood foe.
Antiabortion groups have urged congressional leaders to try to defund the group immediately in the new Congress as part of the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority to pass. They sent a similar bill to President Obama in 2015; he vetoed it. Trump has pledged to sign such a measure.


6. The Persecution of Professor Esolen, By George Weigel, First Things, December 14, 2016.

Professor Anthony Esolen is a bright jewel in the crown of Catholic higher education in the United States, a scholar whose brilliant translation of, and commentary on, Dante’s Divine Comedy is appreciated far beyond the boundaries of Catholic literary and intellectual life.

So why is Professor Esolen being persecuted at the school where he’s taught for twenty-five years, Providence College?

The offenses? Two articles that Professor Esolen wrote, which proposed that “diversity” (which the professor welcomed) be located within a biblical vision of the ultimate unity of all humanity in God: a vision that would, he suggested, deepen Providence College’s Catholic identity and distinguish it from competitors. Absent that purifying vision, he warned, making a fetish of diversity risks creating a coercive campus ethos inimical to true learning.

This is sad beyond words. I’ve long been happy to point parents, students, and donors to Providence College as a school that takes the classic liberal arts tradition seriously, and does so with a distinctively Catholic flavor. It will be much harder to do that in the future unless the college administration reverses its present course, calls the faculty and students who have been brutalizing Professor Esolen to order, and reaffirms Providence College’s commitment to genuine academic freedom and to a Catholic vision of the human person that challenges the tribalism and identity politics eroding our culture and our politics.

As for that erosion, recent data from the World Values Survey tells us that only 30 percent of U.S. millennials (i.e., those born after 1980) think it “essential” to live in a democracy; 24 percent of those same millennials think democracy a “bad” or “very bad” way to run a country; and only 19 percent judge it “illegitimate” for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job.

Catholic higher education is uniquely positioned to do something about these twinned problems of historical amnesia and political-cultural corruption. The Church invented the university and its ethos of open inquiry, which was rooted in the conviction that human beings can, with effort, get at the truth of things.