1. Newfound optimism reigns for this year’s March for Life: Trump’s moves on abortion in his first days have bolstered hopes, By Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, January 26, 2017, Pg. A1.

After 43 years of doggedly demonstrating against abortion at the annual March for Life each January, thousands of abortion opponents will gather Friday on the Mall with great reason for optimism. Just days into his presidency, Donald Trump has made abortion one of his first priorities in office.

The past eight years’ marches have been grimmer affairs, with tens of thousands of antiabortion activists gathering to show their solidarity with one another and restate their opposition, but with little chance of having their hopes fulfilled on the federal level.

This year, change seems not only possible but imminent.

“It’s hard to describe the mood,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

Mancini brightly rattled off her four demands for Trump and the new Republican Congress: Appoint an antiabortion justice to the Supreme Court. Make the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for many abortions in the United States, into a permanent law rather than the one-year provision that has been extended each year from 1976 to the present. Pass a law banning abortion nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And stop all federal funding for Planned Parenthood unless the organization were to somehow stop performing abortions.


2. Abortion Foes Compete With Women’s March, By Laurie Goodstein and Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times, January 26, 2017, Pg. A11.

This year’s anti-abortion march in Washington – the 44th annual March for Life — was expected to be a celebratory event at which abortion opponents could finally savor a few victories. The new president, Donald J. Trump, is already delivering on his promises to sign a slate of anti-abortion measures. He has promised to nominate a Supreme Court justice who could overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion 44 years ago. And a Congress dominated by Republicans is poised to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

National organizers of the March for Life said that while they were hopeful of a large turnout Friday, they did not have any way to gauge how many would attend. The marquee speaker so far is Kellyanne Conway, who managed Mr. Trump’s campaign and is now a White House counselor, and has long been active in the anti-abortion cause. Organizers say that there will be another “surprise V.I.P. guest” whom they would not identify Wednesday, but that both Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been invited.

The march has become an increasingly youthful event, attracting busloads of college, high school and middle school students from across the country, many from Catholic and evangelical Christian schools. This year, the University of Notre Dame, the famed Catholic college in Indiana, is sending 700 students on 13 charter buses, one of the largest campus contingents, said Emily Burns, vice president of communications with Notre Dame Right to Life.


3. Empowering a woman’s right to choose life: Pregnancy resource centers provide an antidote to Planned Parenthood, By Diane Black and Thomas Glessner, The Washington Times, January 26, 2017, Pg. B3.

Four days before Christmas, three Illinois pro-life pregnancy resource centers won a major victory against a coercive law that requires them to refer for abortions. An Illinois state judge ruled that these pro-life agencies do not have to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or their First Amendment rights, and that medical licenses for doctors are not at risk when standing on pro-life principles.

The judge’s decision is in line with rulings in New York, Texas, Maryland and elsewhere. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of another overreaching law in California that mandates pregnancy resource centers post information advising patients on how to obtain a state-funded abortion. This decision is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a national network of more than 1,350 pro-life pregnancy centers.

Three-thousand pregnancy resource centers and medical centers exist in America. They empower a woman’s right to choose life by providing material provisions, housing and adoption information, education on abortion alternatives, ongoing counseling, and medical services such as ultrasounds, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatments, and more.

These charitable, faith-based, agencies operate with small budgets and are mostly staffed by unpaid volunteers who want to help women who are contemplating abortion. Unlike Planned Parenthood, they provide services free of charge on budgets almost entirely funded through private donors.

Taxpayers benefit from these services. According to a 2010 report issued by the nation’s three largest pregnancy resource center umbrella groups — NIFLA, Heartbeat International and Care Net — services provided saved taxpayers more than $100 million in that year alone.

Pregnancy resource center employees and volunteers provide all of their services for free, meaning that they are not motivated by financial profit.… This is why Congress and President Trump have vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, and why we seek to protect life-affirming centers by making the Weldon Amendment permanent law and putting a pro-life Supreme Court justice on the bench.

The work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics are the best example of the generous American spirit that helps the vulnerable at home and internationally. Now is a time for all who believe in the inherent dignity and God-given value of every human life to join arms and support the lifesaving work of these centers as they care for women and their unborn babies.

Diane Black, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee, is a registered nurse and a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Thomas Glessner is the founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.


4. Leader’s resignation unrelated to lawsuit, SNAP says, By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, January 26, 2017, 12:04 AM.

A longtime leader of a controversial advocacy group for clergy sex abuse victims resigned weeks before a former employee filed a lawsuit charging the group was receiving kickbacks from attorneys who filed sex abuse cases, the group has said.

David Clohessy resigned as executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests effective Dec. 31, SNAP told CNA on Wednesday.

Clohessy told the St. Louis Dispatch that the lawsuit had nothing to do with his departure.

The news of his resignation followed the Jan. 17 filing of a lawsuit from former SNAP development director Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who claimed wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior. She had worked at the organization from July 2011 through February 2013.

Accusations against the group included alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims. Donations from sex abuse attorneys made up more than 40 percent of its annual contributions, Hammond said.

SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy. The group traveled to The Hague to make its case.

Previous legal cases have also involved Clohessy and SNAP.

In a January 2012 deposition, Clohessy declined to answer whether SNAP has a list of attorneys to whom it refers people. He also denied to answer how much money the group receives from attorneys.

He additionally refused to respond to questions about how he has been able to publicly post lawsuit information on the group’s website before it was filed with the court, although he did admit that part of what SNAP does “is to publicize lawsuits against priests.”

That deposition took place after Clohessy lost an effort to avoid being forced to testify in court concerning whether a court-imposed gag order had been violated in the case of a Missouri priest accused of abuse.

In August 2016, a federal judge in Missouri ruled that SNAP made false statements “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth” against a St. Louis priest to try to convict him on abuse charges. The court established that SNAP sought to convict the priest due to “discriminatory animus against plaintiff based on his religion, religious vocation, race, and national origin.”


5. God Is Back – in France, By Sylvie Kauffmann, The New York Times, January 26, 2017.

Much to our surprise in Europe, religion wasn’t a big theme in the 2016 presidential election in the United States, a country that proclaims its trust in God even on its bank notes. It may therefore be puzzling to some Americans to learn that God is back in the political debate on this side of the Atlantic. And that he chose, of all places, France, the sacred land of “laïcité,” the local version of secularism.

The man who brought God — or, more specifically, Christianity — back is François Fillon, a former prime minister who is running in the presidential election in the spring as the nominee of the main center-right Republican Party. Mr. Fillon’s initial platform included a drastic proposal to cut back on public health insurance that caused widespread indignation and forced him to backpedal; to persuade voters that he did not intend to hurt the poorest, Mr. Fillon explained this month that “I am a Gaullist, and furthermore I am a Christian,” and said that as such he would never act against “the respect of human dignity.”

The debate will not go away. Catholics, who took part in mass demonstrations against legalization of gay marriage three years ago, are emerging as a political force in this campaign. In the Republicans’ primary in November, candidates discussed which one of them was closer to Pope Francis’ views on social issues.

As Europe grows more secular and as Islam takes root on the Continent, the face of French Catholicism is evolving. Clearly, the political dividing line for today’s Catholic voters is immigration, along with national identity.


6. Opponents Say Trump’s ‘Mexico City’ Abortion Policy Could Have Broader Reach, By Felicia Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2017, 11:55 AM.

Opponents of the so-called Mexico City policy that prevents foreign aid organizations from receiving U.S. funds if they provide or offer information about abortions say the directive President Donald Trump issued this week could affect 15 times more funding than the policy did under previous Republican presidents.

Previous versions of the rule applied to family planning programs funded by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which comprise roughly $600 million in spending.

But the wording in Mr. Trump’s directive Monday suggests that the Mexico City policy would apply to all global health assistance programs, including those run by the Department of Health and Human Services, lawmakers and advocacy and health organizations said. This amounts to about $9.5 billion, according to calculations by PAI, an advocacy group.

Foreign nongovernmental organizations aren’t allowed to use U.S. funds to perform abortions. But under the rule reinstituted on Monday, they also won’t be able to receive any U.S. funds if they perform abortions or provide abortion-related services using other funds, not provided by Washington.

The following is the language that have raised alarm bells among lawmakers, health and advocacy organizations opposed to Mr. Trump’s decision to reinstate the policy:

“I direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to the extent allowable by law, to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”