1. Appeals court upholds Trump ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics.

By Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, February 25, 2020, Pg. A20

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday in favor of a polarizing Trump administration policy that bans federally funded family planning centers from referring women for abortions.

Under federal law, health-care groups were already barred from using federal funds for abortion services. The rule issued by HHS a year ago went further, forbidding health centers that provide abortions or refer patients for abortions elsewhere from receiving any money through the half-century-old family planning program — a change critics lambasted as a “gag rule.” The rule also requires health centers to erect “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the program and other activities.


2. McConnell Brings Abortion-Related Bills to Senate Floor.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, February 25, 2020, Pg. A12

Senator Mitch McConnell is about to plunge the Senate into the nation’s culture wars with votes on bills to sharply restrict access to late-term abortions and threaten some doctors who perform them with criminal penalties, signaling that Republicans plan to make curbing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy a central theme of their re-election campaigns this year.

After months of shunning legislative activity in favor of confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees — and a brief detour for the president’s impeachment trial — Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, is expected to bring the bills up for votes on Tuesday. Both lack the necessary 60-vote supermajority to advance, and the Senate has voted previously to reject them.


3. What Is the Power of Celibacy?: For both traditionalists and modernizers in the Roman Catholic Church, everything seems tied up with this priestly requirement.

By Christopher Caldwell, The New York Times, February 25, 2020, Pg. A27, Opinion

Pope Francis issued one of the most eagerly awaited documents of his papacy this month: a letter that could have laid the groundwork for eliminating the Roman Catholic Church’s requirement of priestly celibacy. But it didn’t. To the relief of conservative Catholics, and to the dismay of his progressive well-wishers, Francis let the matter drop.

On both sides of this debate, everything seems to be tied up with celibacy. For Cardinal Sarah, as long as the traditional conception of celibacy holds up — the conception that a priest celebrating Mass “offers his body, as a man” — there is an ironclad logic against ordaining female priests. Should celibacy be rethought, he admits, the logic of female exclusion would grow weaker, as would the traditional conception of the priesthood and, with it, the traditional conception of the church.

That is why the battle between traditionalists and modernizers has come to a head over this seemingly marginal issue — and perhaps why Benedict, at 92, has chosen it as an occasion to come out of “retirement.” Although the present pope has not taken an unequivocal stand, his defenders seem to be lining up on the side of liberalization. The church historian Hubert Wolf warned in The Washington Post last summer that without reform of the celibacy rules, the church “will be at its end.”

It is one of those conflicts in which the tiniest procedural adjustment threatens a cascade of consequences and each party fears extinction should the other prevail. Of course, we live in a time when a good number of conflicts are like that.

Mr. Caldwell, a contributing Opinion writer, is the author of “The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.”


4. Protecting the Unborn From the Ultimate Pain.

By Maureen Ferguson, Real Clear Politics, February 25, 2020, Opinion

This week the U.S. Senate will face some hard truths – and confront several persistent myths – as it considers the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.3275). The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the basis that the fetus is capable of feeling pain.

The hard truths surrounding this bill are easily accessible to anyone with a scintilla of curiosity about the competing claims. A few simple Google searches reveal shocking evidence that distinguish fact from fiction.

Late abortions are very rare, and done only in cases of severe maternal or fetal health problems – true or false?

In the nation’s capital, just a stone’s throw from the Senate chambers, four clinics routinely perform late-term abortions.  They operate in plain sight and openly advertise purely elective second- and third-trimester abortions. The abortion lobby’s own research shows late-term abortions are primarily performed on healthy women carrying healthy babies: “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

Late-term abortion is not so very rare, it seems, that four clinics in one metropolitan area cannot stay in business. Hard truth? The actual number of abortions performed after 20 weeks in the U.S. is at least 12,000 annually. Compare that to the numbers of annual childhood deaths due to gun violence (about 3,000), or childhood cancers (about 2,000). 

Many of these late-term babies could survive in a good neonatal intensive care unit, alongside the other premature infants in the NICU. The supposedly “unwanted” could be delivered alive instead of aborted, and adopted by the estimated millions who are waiting to adopt a baby. Babies can live outside the womb starting at about 21 weeks, and survival rates increase dramatically week-by-week.

As to the hard – and tragic – truth of why women seek late abortions, the research arm of the abortion lobby tells us: “Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous” — the latter term meaning someone who has never given birth. 

Certainly there are cases of fetal anomaly, but severely disabled children deserve love and care, not the violence and abrupt end of abortion. Additionally, mothers who choose to carry such pregnancies to term have far better outcomes than those who suffer the complicated grief that comes with aborting. 

Pro-choice senators also hide behind the myth that the fetus cannot feel pain until later in pregnancy. This flies in the face of stunning new research by a pro-choice expert in pain published in the influential Journal of Medical Ethics. This study concluded the fetus is capable of feeling pain early in its existence, possibly as early as 13 weeks gestation. The author says society flirts “with moral recklessness” if we don’t change permissive abortion laws.

The U.S. Senate should deny these hard truths no more. The world’s greatest deliberative body should face them squarely and, at long last, pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. 

Maureen Ferguson is a senior fellow at The Catholic Association and the wife of former Republican congressman Mike Ferguson


5. Justices to hear Philly dispute over same-sex foster parents.

By Mark Sherman, Associated Press, February 24, 2020, 9:59 AM

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a dispute over a Philadelphia Catholic agency that won’t place foster children with same-sex couples, a big test of religious rights on a more conservative court.

The justices will review an appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s decision to stop placing children with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s agency because it would not permit same-sex couples to serve as foster parents.


6. Supreme Court to weigh ban on foster agencies that don’t work with LGBT couples.

By Samuel Smith, Christian Post, February 24, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case that could have huge implications on the rights of Christian and other faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to turn away LGBT couples on grounds of religious beliefs.

The country’s high court will hear the case brought on behalf of a Catholic foster care parents who sued the city of Philadelphia for no longer placing children with Catholic Social Services because the organization does not place children in the homes of lesbian or gay couples.

The case of Fulton v. Philadelphia dates back to 2018 when city officials moved to stop the placement of children in homes of foster parents affiliated with CSS of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley.

Grazie Pozo Christie, a policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said in a statement that she expects that the Supreme Court will “will protect the rights of Americans who are motivated by their faith to help children.”

“[G]overnment should let good people do good things, and not make violating their beliefs the price of doing indispensable work,” Christie stressed.


7. High court to examine religious liberty, foster care by same-sex couples.

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service, February 24, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Feb. 24 that in its next term it will examine if the city of Philadelphia can exclude a Catholic social services agency from the city’s foster care program because the agency will not accept same-sex couples as foster parents.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal adviser for the Catholic Association, a group that defends the church and religious liberty, conversely said: “Faith-based groups shouldn’t be forced to abandon their deeply held religious and moral convictions in order to serve children in desperate need.”

She said the court’s decision to review Philadelphia’s “intolerant and discriminatory action against the Catholic Social Services foster care program is a welcome first step toward reopening doors to loving and stable foster homes.”


8. Justices throw out seizure of church assets in Puerto Rico.

By Associated Press, February 24, 2020, 10:48 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a court order to seize assets belonging to the Roman Catholic archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to pay pension benefits for Catholic school teachers.

The justices said in an unsigned opinion that a Puerto Rico court lacked the authority to issue an order to seize $4.7 million of the archdiocese’s assets to cover the pension benefits.


9. California doubles down on rule forcing Catholic nuns to pay for abortion.

By Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency, February 24, 2020, 5:20 PM

Facing the threat of major cuts to federal HHS funds, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has said the state will not back down from its ban on health insurance plans that exclude abortion, even after federal authorities have sided with Catholic nuns who object to the ban.

The attorney general has accused the federal government of interfering in his state’s sovereign duty to protect women’s “reproductive rights.”


10. New poll asks Catholics what they believe about abortion.

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, February 24, 2020, 4:30 PM

While the Catholic Church teaches that procuring an abortion is always immoral, a majority of U.S. Catholics do not believe abortion is intrinsically evil and say it should be legal in all or most cases.

According to a RealClear Opinion Research poll sponsored by EWTN and published on Monday, 47% of Catholics in the U.S. believe abortion is “intrinsically evil,” while a 53% hold otherwise.

A majority — 51%– say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 31% saying it should be legal except for late-term cases and 20% saying it should always be legal.


11. Pope Francis on Middle East: War Should Never Be Considered Normal: War is madness, Pope Francis told bishops gathered in the Italian city of Bari Sunday. He also prayed for those who suffered amid conflict.

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2020

War is madness, Pope Francis told bishops gathered in the Italian city of Bari Sunday in a speech that warned against populist sentiments and condemned countries that sell weapons that fund wars in the Middle East.

“War can never be mistaken for normality or accepted as an inescapable way to regulate divergences and opposing interests. Never,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23 in Bari, Italy.

“The international community has been content with military interventions, whereas it should have built institutions that can guarantee equal opportunities and enable citizens to assume their responsibility for the common good,” he said.


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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