1. More Women Choose Abortion Pills as States Crack Down, Access to medication abortion has grown with policy changes including expansion of telehealth services, By Jennifer Calfas, The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2024, 12:01 AM The fall of Roe v. Wade nearly two years ago fundamentally changed when, how and where women get abortions. Medication abortions have become more common despite the elimination of federal protections for the procedure, new data show.  Medication abortion rose to account for nearly two-thirds of abortions in the U.S. in 2023, according to a report released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. In 2020, medication abortion, a two-drug regimen approved to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks of gestation, accounted for 53% of U.S. procedures. Guttmacher’s report showed that the number and rate of abortions performed in the U.S. climbed in 2023 even with near-total bans on the procedure in more than a dozen states. Abortion clinics have added staff, hours and locations in states where abortion is legal. Advocacy groups have increased funding for traveling patients. Guttmacher found more than 642,000 medication abortions in 2023 were performed through formal healthcare providers. The number of medication abortions is likely higher because the estimate doesn’t include self-managed abortions, when women seek abortion pills through community groups or abroad, according to Guttmacher. Access to medication abortion has grown with policy changes including the expansion of telehealth abortion services. The Food and Drug Administration in 2021 relaxed restrictions on mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortion, allowing it to be delivered by mail-order pharmacies.  The Supreme Court this month plans to hear oral arguments in a challenge to those and other relaxed restrictions. While the court battle is playing out, bricks-and-mortar pharmacies can seek certification to dispense the pill; CVS and Walgreens said earlier this month that their pharmacies would do so. The number of abortions in the U.S. increased to about one million in 2023, according to Guttmacher. The rate was higher last year than any year since 2012 and the number was the highest since 2011, the group said.  https://www.wsj.com/health/abortion-pill-increase-roe-wade-68472ff8__________________________________________________________ 2. The first outside legal analyses of Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’ are in, and they’re critical, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 19, 2024, 1:17 AM Several prominent lawyers have published stinging academic critiques and legal opinions about the Vatican’s recently concluded “trial of the century,” highlighting violations of basic defense rights and rule of law norms that they warn could have consequences for the Holy See going forward. The opinions cite Pope Francis’ role in the trial, since he secretly changed Vatican law four times during the investigation to benefit prosecutors. And they call into question the independence and impartiality of the tribunal since its judges swear obedience to Francis, who can hire and fire them at will. The critiques underscore the growing problems on the international stage for the peculiar microstate that the Holy See calls home: an absolute monarchy where Francis wields supreme legislative, executive and judicial power.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/03/19/vatican-trial-pope-critique-becciu/eba467be-e5af-11ee-9eba-1558f848ec25_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Joe Biden’s ‘Unease’ on Abortion, He has abandoned the limits he supported as a senator—and it isn’t enough for advocates., By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2024, Pg. A15, Opinion Kamala Harris just made history. On Thursday she became the first vice president to visit an abortion clinic, stopping by a Planned Parenthood location in Minnesota to tout the Biden administration’s proud support. Probably it also marked the first time Ms. Harris was the administration’s voice of clarity. Abortion is President Biden’s top issue going into the November election. As he has made clear, there isn’t a single abortion he would restrict, and he opposes the Hyde Amendment’s limits on using tax dollars to pay for them. In political terms, there is no more absolute pro-choice stance. Yet amid all the headlines about Republican extremism, no one ever points that out. Except Megan Crowley. She did so in an article for RealClearPolicy that ran under the headline “Dear Mr. President, My Life Is Worth Living.”  In today’s abortion debate, America’s Megan Crowleys are all but invisible. Because acknowledging the complexity of another human life is at odds with abortion priorities. These priorities have shifted in the two years since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. Not content with recent victories at the polls, some Democrats now push party leaders to speak of abortion as a positive as opposed to a sad and regrettable necessity. These activists aren’t happy with Joe Biden. Notwithstanding his policies, Politico, the Washington Post and the Associated Press each ran stories noting what the Post called his “skittishness” on abortion—especially about using the word. At the State of the Union, for example, instead of reading “because Texas law banned abortion” as it appeared in his prepared text, he ad-libbed “because Texas law banned her ability to act.”  How far we are from Mario Cuomo, creator of the “personally opposed” dodge that pro-choice Catholic Democrats used for years. Or even Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal and rare,” which his wife, Hillary, walked away from in her 2016 run for president. Now an 81-year-old Catholic president has repudiated every limit on abortion he once voted for as a senator to do the abortion lobby’s bidding—and it still isn’t enough. Perhaps Mr. Biden’s critics are right. Maybe the American people have overcome the qualms they once had about abortion. Certainly that’s one read of the post-Dobbs electoral results. It explains why Donald Trump is talking about moderating the GOP position. Plainly the politics are shifting, and Mr. Biden is less cause than symptom. He is where he is on abortion for the same reason he is on any issue—because he’s drifted with his party. But where Democratic leaders once thought they needed Cuomo- and Clinton-like nuance and euphemism, the generation exemplified by Ms. Harris are more honest about what it is they really want: abortion on demand. https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-unease-on-abortion-he-supports-no-limits-but-still-angers-advocates-b29d8cf0__________________________________________________________ 4. Ireland Tries And Fails To Erase Mothers, By John Duggan, First Things, March 18, 2024, Opinion The people of Ireland have voted resoundingly not to remove the word “mother” from the Irish Constitution. This week, the results of a double referendum were announced. The first item on the ballot was a proposal to change the constitution’s declaration that the family is founded on marriage to instead read that the family could also be founded on “other durable relationships.” Sixty-eight percent of voters said “No” to this suggested change. The second item was a proposal to remove portions of the constitution regarding mothers, including a line declaring that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved,” and that the State should “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.” Seventy-four percent—the highest “No” vote in the history of Irish constitutional referendums—rejected this proposal. Only one constituency in the whole country, located in affluent south Dublin, supported it.  As people paid careful attention to the actual wording, and not just to the government’s vibing about a more caring, modern Ireland, ministers began to contradict themselves, one another, their own agencies, and the constitution itself. This spectacle may have shaken further the confidence of a public wondering why the political class had chosen to embark on this €23 million exercise when there are plenty of other pressing issues to deal with: a severe housing crisis; an immigration policy that even its advocates accept has descended into disrepute; and disturbing revelations about children being abused within the state care system.   What does all of this turmoil mean? In some respects, it seems that after its successes in the referendums on abortion and same-sex marriage, New Ireland has finally reached some connective tissue with Old Ireland that it cannot saw through. It may be that a settlement is emerging between the two: Perhaps now Ireland will be a society in which great latitude is given to individual choice, but also one where (with a citizenry now on higher alert) barriers will occasionally fly up when liberalization encroaches. The referendum results will also surely create a firewall, for a time at least, around the remaining articles in the constitution that are redolent of Old Ireland—not least the Preamble, which opens, “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred”—and which progressive campaigners would next have had in their sights. But it will be interesting to see whether the government, having drawn attention so spectacularly to the articles that it then failed to remove, now comes under pressure to live up to the obligations these articles place on the state. A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Irish mothers with children under the age of eighteen would prefer to stay at home with their children rather than go out to work, if they could afford it. Three-quarters said that women who work in the home are less valued by society than women who work outside the home.  https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2024/03/ireland-tries-and-fails-to-erase-mothers__________________________________________________________ 5. U.S. religious freedom effort gets an unwelcome message in Saudi Arabia, By Colbert I. King, The Washington Post, March 18, 2024, 9:59 AM, Opinion A stunning incident experienced by a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom delegation during an official visit to Saudi Arabia this month should go neither unnoticed nor spared from serious reflection. Ironically, it confirmed in a pointed way the kingdom’s practice of infringing on religious beliefs. During a visit that began March 3, the delegation was scheduled to tour Diriyah, the original home of the royal family and location of a UNESCO World Heritage site, on the outskirts of Riyadh. Before entering the site, Saudi authorities requested commission Chair Abraham Cooper, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, to remove his kippah, or yarmulke, while there or any time he was in public. Cooper refused, and the delegation consequently cut short its visit and left Saudi Arabia. In a telephone interview last week, Cooper told me that, as an observant Jew, he had respectfully refused to remove his kippah. Saudi officials, he said, told him they could not allow public displays of any faith other than Islam and proceeded to consult other Saudi authorities by phone. Ten minutes later, Cooper said, he and the delegation were escorted off the premises.  The U.S. State Department leaves no ambiguity with respect to religious freedoms in Saudi Arabia. The department’s travel advisory states: “Islam is the official religion of the country and is present in all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. … Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of Islam or Muslim religious figures, including on social media. The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Public display of non-Islamic religious articles, such as crosses and Bibles, is not permitted.”  That, however, should not discourage current efforts to work with the Saudi government on the kind of issue that forced the Commission on International Religious Freedom to leave the country. In fact, the episode only reinforces the need to press the Saudis to review and refine their stated 2030 vision of a new and vibrant society. A country that denies its people and visitors the right to believe according to their conscience, that encourages harassment and intimidation, and that makes people subject to discrimination, arrests or prosecution because of their beliefs is not visionary but a foe of religious freedom. The Diriyah demarcation was a Saudi misstep in the wrong direction. A do-over might help undo the damage. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/18/saudi-religious-freedom/__________________________________________________________ 6. Outlawing abortion is just the start for some conservative judges, By Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post, March 18, 2024, 3:40 PM. Opinion More proof that the assault on reproductive freedom doesn’t stop with abortion: Now teens in Texas can’t obtain contraceptives without their parents being informed and granting approval. The inevitable result will be more unintended pregnancies and more desperate girls in a state where almost all abortions are banned. You can thank the state of Texas and the ultraconservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for this situation. The sensible thing to do to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to make contraceptive access as easy and risk-free as possible. Forcing children to have children is not in anyone’s interest.  The all-Republican panel — two George W. Bush nominees and Trump nominee Stuart Kyle Duncan — brushed aside the Biden administration’s argument that Deanda lacked standing because he hadn’t shown any real risk of being harmed by the confidentiality policy. There was no assertion that his daughters had obtained contraceptives from a Title X clinic or were inclined to do so. That didn’t concern the 5th Circuit, in an opinion written by Duncan. (You may recall him from being shouted down by Stanford Law School students unhappy with his position on LGBTQ+ rights.) “The Secretary’s policy is to spend millions to get contraceptives to minors without telling their parents,” Duncan wrote. “It should not come as a shock that there could be a correspondingly large number of parents who can challenge it in court.” Duncan said the federal law didn’t interfere with — and therefore didn’t preempt — the Texas rule. Really? One — the federal law, the one that’s supposed to take precedence — says that family participation should be “encourage[d],” so far as “practical.” The other — the Texas law, which is supposed to give way under the supremacy clause — mandates parental consent.  One additional wrinkle: In 2021, after Deanda’s lawsuit was filed, the Biden administration issued a regulation providing that recipients of Title X funds can’t require parental consent or notify parents that minors have requested contraceptive services. Kacsmaryk declared the new rule unlawful. But the appeals court said that went too far because Deanda hadn’t properly challenged it. In other words, watch this space. But don’t sleep easy. As we’ve seen with interference with in vitro fertilization in Alabama, and as we see with contraceptives in Texas, outlawing abortion is just the start. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/18/teenager-birth-control-parental-consent-texas/__________________________________________________________ 7. 8 in 10 Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in Public Life, By Michael Rotolo, Gregory A. Smith And Jonathan Evans, Pew Research Center, March 15, 2024 A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 80% of U.S. adults say religion’s role in American life is shrinking – a percentage that’s as high as it’s ever been in our surveys. Most Americans who say religion’s influence is shrinking are not happy about it. Overall, 49% of U.S. adults say both that religion is losing influence and that this is a bad thing. An additional 8% of U.S. adults think religion’s influence is growing and that this is a good thing. Together, a combined 57% of U.S adults – a clear majority – express a positive view of religion’s influence on American life. The survey also finds that about half of U.S. adults say it’s “very” or “somewhat” important to them to have a president who has strong religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are different from their own. But relatively few Americans view either of the leading presidential candidates as very religious: 13% of Americans say they think President Joe Biden is very religious, and just 4% say this about former President Donald Trump.  Americans are almost equally split on whether conservative Christians have gone too far in trying to push their religious values in the government and public schools, as well as on whether secular liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religious values out of these institutions. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans (72%) and Democrats (72%) say conservative Christians have gone too far. And most Christians (63%) and Republicans (76%) say secular liberals have gone too far.   https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2024/03/15/8-in-10-americans-say-religion-is-losing-influence-in-public-life/__________________________________________________________ 8. Are Human Embryos Human Beings?, By Robert P. George, National Review, March 18, 2024, 6:30 AM, Opinion Among the constants in human history is this: When people want to justify killing, enslaving, or otherwise abusing a class of their fellow human beings, they first dehumanize them. I suspect that the dehumanization of the victims is typically meant not only to persuade others to go along or look the other way; it is also to convince the dehumanizers themselves. As a matter of scientifically demonstrable fact, human embryos, no less than human fetuses, infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, and adults, are human beings — living members of the species Homo sapiens. Those words — “embryo,” “infant,” “adolescent,” and so forth — do not name different kinds of entities. They name the same kind of entity (a living member of the human species, a human being, like you or me) at different stages of development. But some today, for various reasons, want to justify the deliberate killing of human beings at early stages of their development — the embryonic, fetal, even infant stages. And some want to justify the deliberate killing of people in certain conditions — those suffering, for example, from cognitive disabilities or severe dementias. So, as usual, they are at pains to deny that the victims are human. They insist that those of whom they want to license the killing are “nonhuman,” or “subhuman,” or “prehuman,” or “not fully human,” or whatever. And so, Washington Post columnist and editor Ruth Marcus, someone I like and respect despite our deep differences on moral and political issues, set out in a recent column to show that I’m wrong to say that human beings in the embryonic stage of development are in fact human beings. She invites her readers to reason backward: If human embryos were human beings, then things we (liberal readers of the Washington Post) believe, things we want to be true, things that are really important to us, would be false. But we — somehow — just know that they’re not false. Elective abortion is a woman’s right, and a regime of legal and widely available abortion is an enlightened and humane policy, so . . . embryos must not be human beings.  My friend Ruth’s denial that human embryos and fetuses are human beings is a flat denial of science. It’s true that gametes — sperm and egg — are not human beings. They are both genetically and functionally parts of other organisms — a man and a woman. But when they join, the resulting embryo has a new and complete genome of its own. More important, the embryo does not function as a mere part of anyone. He or she — for in humans, sex is established from the start — functions as a whole organism. Like infants, toddlers, or teens, embryos and fetuses will — unless prevented by disease, violence, lack of nutrition or warmth, etc. — develop by an internally directed and gapless process into later stages of the life cycle of a human being. They will do so with their unity, determinateness, and identity intact.  Thus, Ruth Marcus, for example, is the same whole, distinct, self-integrating human organism who was, at earlier stages, the adolescent Ruth, the child Ruth, the infant Ruth, the fetal Ruth, and, at the very beginning, the embryonic Ruth Marcus. Things happened — some of lasting significance — to the individual who is now the adult Ruth Marcus when she was an embryo and a fetus, just as some life-shaping things happened to her in adolescence, childhood, and infancy. The adult Ruth Marcus is biologically continuous with the embryonic Ruth Marcus. She is numerically identical to the embryonic Ruth Marcus. That is why IVF pioneer Dr. Robert Edwards, producer of the first “test-tube baby,” recalling Louise Brown as an embryo in a petri dish, was not talking gibberish when he said at her birth: “She was beautiful then and she is beautiful now.”  The bottom line is a fact that my friend Ruth is desperate to resist: Embryos and fetuses do not “gradually” become human beings. That is unscientific gibberish. Our development to adulthood is gradual, to be sure, but we come into existence as human beings — whole living members of the species Homo sapiens — and develop as (not into) human beings. Embryonic and fetal human beings differ from infant human beings in many ways. But then infants differ dramatically from adults. None differ in kind, as humans do from nonhumans. Now, one might ask: Since Ruth is so desperate for abortion to be right — and a right — why does she not just say that embryos and fetuses are human beings, but not yet “persons” — that is, not yet beings with dignity or rights equal to yours and mine? That is exactly what sophisticated pro-choice philosophers and bioethicists say, including my famously candid and consistent Princeton colleague, Peter Singer. I suspect that there are two reasons. First, the logic of this view leaves too many human beings out. As Singer makes clear, if embryos and fetuses are not persons, it must be because they cannot, here and now, exercise certain mental powers such as self-awareness. But then neither can infants. So, infants wouldn’t be persons either, and infanticide, no less than abortion, would be morally acceptable — a conclusion Singer embraces. So, a couple could legitimately conceive a child and give birth to it for the purpose of, say, harvesting vital organs to save the life of an older child. Second, to adopt Singer’s position is to give up the ideas of human equality and human rights (rights that people have in virtue of their humanity). After all, if the thing that gives us moral status comes in degrees — the degree of development of some mental capacity — our moral worth must come in degrees, too. Even among persons, some would have to count for more than others, having more of the trait that confers moral worth. Yet Ruth, I’m sure, wants to hang on to the idea that all humans have equal moral worth and basic human rights (and for that, I salute her). So, to justify abortion she needs to posit a difference in kind, not degree, between unborn human beings and newborns. She needs the unborn to be nonhuman. Professor Singer’s advantage is that he doesn’t need to resort to science denial.  I began by mentioning a constant in human history. I will conclude by noting a constant in the rhetorical stratagems of abortion advocates: the ubiquitous suggestion that the pro-life view is really just a religious one, and that pro-life advocates would impose their religious ideas on those who don’t share their faith. Thus says Ruth, “however much antiabortion advocates insist that their view is rooted in science, they also tend to be guided by a religious philosophy with which other Americans simply disagree.” Of course, many of the world’s religious traditions rightly affirm the inherent dignity of every human person. And many decry the violence of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia — just as they affirm the dignity of young women, and so decry sex trafficking. Some, it is true, do not condemn elective abortion (although the suggestion, occasionally made, that Judaism is one such religion would be fiercely contested by such eminent scholars of Jewish law and ethics as the late Chief Rabbi of Britain Immanuel Jakobovits, Rabbi David Novak, Rabbi J. David Bleich, and many more). And certainly, there is nothing wrong with people bringing religious arguments to the public square. It was not wrong when Martin Luther King Jr. unabashedly did it in the struggle to end segregation and Jim Crow. And it is not wrong when faithful Catholics, Protestants, Jews, or Muslims do the same in their fight against the lethal violence of abortion. But all this business about “imposing religion” is a sideshow. Whether human embryos are human beings — living members of the species Homo sapiens — is a question resolved by human embryology and developmental biology. It isn’t any more distinctly theological than the age of the earth is. And matters of justice and human rights — what is morally owed to human beings and whether all human beings are bearers of dignity and rights — are not the exclusive province of theology either. Otherwise, we couldn’t protect any human beings and their rights without “imposing religion.” True, the principle that all human beings have moral worth is a contested philosophical claim. But so is the idea that some human beings — those in the embryonic, fetal, and infant stages, and those who are physically severely disabled or cognitively impaired — lack moral worth. There is no morally neutral position. The real difference is this. The pro-life view depends on an undisputed scientific fact plus a moral principle that explains and vindicates the worth of infants and the cognitively impaired, and affirms the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family. The defense of elective abortion depends on a moral view that must deny these points, a biological view that contradicts science, or both. https://www.nationalreview.com/2024/03/are-human-embryos-human-beings/__________________________________________________________

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