1. Trump moves to expand exemption from ACA birth-control coverage

By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, June 1, 2017, Pg. A3

The Trump administration has drafted a regulation that would dramatically scale back the federal mandate that employers provide free birth control coverage, by providing an exemption to anyone who raises religious or moral objections.

The proposal, which drew praise Wednesday from many religious and conservative activists and criticism by several women’s and reproductive rights groups, could affect hundreds of thousands of women who now receive free contraceptive coverage under the ­2010­ ­Affordable Care Act.

The draft rule, which is dated May 23 and is pending at the Office of Management and ­Budget, goes much further than current ACA provisions that exempt houses of worship and provide a form of accommodation for religiously affiliated ­nonprofits and closely held for-profit companies. Under the accommodation, these employers can opt out of providing the coverage and instead have their insurance company pay for it by notifying the insurer, a ­third-party administrator or the federal government.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser with the ­Catholic Association, predicted Wednesday that “very few employers will take advantage of these conscience protections,” but they make sense for those with strongly held religious views.

“If you go to work for nuns, you’re not going to expect contraception coverage in your health care.”


2. Doctor says insurers push suicide over medical care: Life-ending drugs cost less than treatment

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, June 1, 2017, Pg. A1

A Nevada physician says insurance companies in states where assisted suicide is legal have refused to cover expensive, life-saving treatments for his patients but have offered to help them end their lives instead.

Brian Callister, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Nevada, said he tried to transfer two patients to California and Oregon for procedures not performed at his hospital. Representatives from two different insurance companies denied those transfer requests by phone, he said.

“And in both cases, the insurance medical director said to me, ‘Brian, we’re not going to cover that procedure or the transfer, but would you consider assisted suicide?’ ” Dr. Callister told The Washington Times.

There have been several cases of insurance companies offering assisted suicide to patients in writing.

In 2008, Barbara Wagner received a letter from her state’s Medicaid program declining to cover a lung cancer drug that would have cost $4,000 per month. The Oregon Health Plan, however, did offer to pay for the 64-year-old to procure assisted suicide drugs, priced at $50.

Anne Sommers, board chair of disability rights group Not Dead Yet, said insurance providers are motivated by profit, and helping patients end their lives is cheap. She said insurance companies encouraging assisted suicide is an inevitable consequence of the practice’s legalization.


3. Farmer Who Opposes Same-Sex Marriage Sues East Lansing for Religious Discrimination: Claims his company was excluded from farmers market over his beliefs; city contends his stance violates ordinance that protects sexual orientation

By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2017, 6:54 PM

A Catholic farmer in Michigan is suing the city of East Lansing, claiming that his company has been excluded from a city-run farmers market because he expressed views opposing gay marriage.

This year, however, Mr. Tennes’s application to be a vendor at the market was denied, following Facebook posts he made explaining that, because of his Catholic faith, he wouldn’t host a gay wedding at his farm in a nearby town.

At the farmers market in East Lansing, Mr. Tennes sold to all comers, including LGBT people.

Instead, the lawsuit poses the question of whether the city can exclude Mr. Tennes because of his company’s policies elsewhere.


4. Trump to Protect Little Sisters of the Poor in Religious Liberty Move

By Paul Strand, CBN News, May 31, 2017

A leaked document suggests the Trump administration is about to protect the rights of religious people who didn’t want to be forced to provide coverage of abortion-causing contraceptives and devices.

“In a free country such as ours, nuns should be able to serve the poor without oppressive government mandates forcing them to violate their faith,” stated Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with the Catholic Association. 

“After six years of lawsuits provoked by unnecessary government coercion and threats of crippling fines, respect for the conscience rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious objectors is finally in sight,” Ferguson added.  “This leaked final rule would be the beginning of a common-sense solution, that balances government interests with respect for the rights of people of faith.”


5. Planned Parenthood’s services are declining…except for abortion

By Catholic News Agency, May 31, 2017

The controversial abortion provider Planned Parenthood has lost over half a million unique patients in five years, but its abortion figures remain the same – a consistency its critics have blasted.

“While non-abortion services are declining, Planned Parenthood continues to perform a record number of abortions – over 300,000 per year,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List president.

“They’ve performed more than 1.6 million abortions in the last five years alone.”

The pro-life group, citing the abortion provider’s own annual reports, said that in the period from 2011-2016 Planned Parenthood’s number of unique patients have dropped by 600,000, a 20 percent decline. Cancer screenings have halved, while contraceptive services are down 18 percent. STD screenings have dropped five percent.

At the same time, its abortion numbers are stable. In the last five years, Planned Parenthood performed about 11,290 adoption referrals total. That makes a ratio of 145 abortions for each adoption referral.