1. What 13 Women Told The Supreme Court About Their Crisis Pregnancies: A powerful amicus brief seeks to bring humanity to a complex legal question about free speech overlaid with the also-controversial issue of abortion. 

By Nicole Russell, Senior Contributor, The Federalist, March 20, 2018

While this is a free speech case cloaked in the abortion issue, to shed light on how important pregnancy clinics are to families in need, The Catholic Association interviewed 13 women about how their lives changed because of the work of the kind of clinics the Reproductive FACT Act discriminates against. TCA presented this to the Supreme Court as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief.

The brief is powerful and emotional. While these women’s stories say little about the legal question at hand, together they underline the importance to women of a warm environment in which to grapple with a difficult pregnancy.

The TCA brief tells story after story of women in all walks of life—rich, poor, clean, addicted—who share one thing: uncertainty about pregnancy.

Andrea Picciotti, a TCA lawyer and primary author of the brief, told me via e-mail, “Regardless of where a woman lived, her race, age, or education, staff at pregnancy centers treated her with compassion and care—consistent with her dignity as a woman and mother-to-be. Their care and support helped take away a ‘crisis’ facing a woman so that she could make positive life-affirming choices.”

As the TCA brief says, “Rather than supporting and promoting these ‘neighbor-helping-neighbor efforts, the state of California has enacted a law that purposefully targets pregnancy centers with burdensome requirements that go directly against their mission.” Perhaps this humanity of these stories will help others realize while there is free speech at stake, there are people at stake as well.


2. On Abortion, Hillary Won: A clash between Mrs. Clinton and Nancy Pelosi in a safely blue seat outside Chicago. 

By William McGurn, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2018, Pg. A17, Opinion

On Tuesday, in a safely blue district outside Chicago, some Democrats hope to oust one of the party’s few remaining pro-life congressmen. Officially the primary pits Rep. Dan Lipinski against progressive upstart Marie Newman. But it is also part of a larger contest between Hillary Clinton’s and Nancy Pelosi’s competing visions for the path to a Democratic resurgence.

In her book “What Happened,” Mrs. Clinton says Democrats are free to call themselves pro-life, “but when their personal views on abortion become public actions—votes on legislation or judges or funding that erodes women’s rights—that’s a different matter.” This was her formula in choosing vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a Catholic senator whose personal views on abortion were so private he kept them from himself, earning a 100% approval rating from Naral Pro-Choice America.

This was also Mr. Lamb’s formula. Though he explicitly said he would not call himself “pro-life” and would vote against a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, story after story repeated the fiction that he was moderate on abortion. As National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis tartly noted, “This isn’t moderation; it’s dishonesty.”

This clash between accommodation and absolutism now defines the Illinois primary. Ms. Newman boasts some strong support. She’s has been endorsed by Sens. Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand and several of her opponent’s Democratic colleagues in the House. She also has the backing of all the big guns of the abortion movement: Planned Parenthood, Naral Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List.

But it’s too early to count Mr. Lipinski out. In addition to Mrs. Pelosi’s backing, he has been endorsed by Chicago’s two top newspapers, the Sun Times and the Tribune. This Blue Dog Democrat also enjoys the backing of the labor unions whose support he’s cultivated in office.


3. Pro-Life Centers Have Free Speech, Too: The Supreme Court takes up a California law that compels them to advertise for abortion providers. 

By  James Gottry, Mr. Gottry is legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2018, Pg. A19, Commentary

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in a case about pro-life pregnancy centers. Abortion is a politically charged subject, but National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (Nifla) v. Becerrais a case about free speech—specifically, California’s attempt to compel Nifla and other operators of such centers to provide free advertising for abortion providers.

Does the government have the power to force Americans to violate their consciences by expressing messages that they consider objectionable? To date, the answer has been a resounding no. The Supreme Court has struck down a West Virginia law forcing students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, invalidated a New Hampshire statute requiring drivers to bear a license plate embossed with a state motto of “Live Free or Die,” and rejected a demand that parade organizers in Boston include a group whose message was divergent from that of the parade. The “compelled-speech doctrine” is shorthand for the longstanding proposition that First Amendment protection of speech extends to “the choice of what not to say.”

The California law at issue in Nifla is distinct from the “informed consent” mandate on abortion providers that the court upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Informed-consent laws involve the disclosure of risks and alternatives concerning the medical procedure of abortion. In stark contrast, California’s law applies to pro-life pregnancy centers that perform no surgery. Informed-consent principles have no place in this case.

Pro-life pregnancy centers provide women with a wholly life-affirming message. Signs promoting subsidized abortion undercut that message and contradict the centers’ very reason for existence. As Justice David Souter put it in the Boston parade case, such a law requires the centers to “affirm in one breath that which they deny in the next,” rendering free-speech protections “empty.”


4. The Abortion Case That’s Really About the First Amendment. 

By Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman, Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman are senior attorneys at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm that represents First Amendment plaintiffs nationwide, The New York Times, March 20, 2018, Opinion

We filed our brief because focusing on the abortion debate means missing out on the fact that a decision siding with the State of California could upend decades of First Amendment doctrine and threaten everything from the right to have conversations in a doctor’s office to the right to use math to criticize government officials. (Really.) That’s because the Becerra case raises one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Do speakers check their First Amendment rights at the office door?

The question of how the First Amendment interacts with the government’s power to regulate the practice of an occupation has bedeviled courts for decades. But a growing number of courts — including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which upheld California’s law — have held that many restrictions on occupational speech are governed by what they call the professional speech doctrine, a rule that says professionals like doctors are entitled to less First Amendment protection than ordinary citizens because of the reliance clients place on their expertise. Applying that rule to the California case could give government officials broad authority to compel or prohibit speech by crisis-pregnancy centers.

That idea may seem appealing to readers whose sympathies lie with California in this case, but it is nonetheless a recipe for widespread, ideologically motivated censorship. And that is not speculation; it is how this rule has played out. When government officials are given the power to regulate speech they deem professional, they abuse it — immediately and with unseemly zeal.

And these threats to free speech extend far beyond traditional professions like doctors or engineers. Regulators have invoked the idea of professional speech to crack down on everything from everyday advice about healthy eating to private citizens’ testimony at public city-council hearings. One court even held the professional-speech doctrine applies to fortune tellers; in another case, city attorneys said it should apply to tour guides telling ghost stories. It turns out that there really is no such thing as just a little bit of censorship.

As this case moves from oral arguments to a published opinion, the court will undoubtedly be deciding between groups supporting and opposing abortion rights. But it will also have to decide whether or not to grant government officials sweeping powers to regulate speech they find obnoxious on the grounds that the speaker is a professional. Americans have strongly held and widely divergent opinions on the first issue. But if we are to preserve our ability to openly and honestly debate abortion rights — or any issue — we should all stand united on the second one.


5. Mississippi Bans Abortions After 15 Weeks; Opponents Swiftly Sue. 

By Richard Fausset, The New York Times, March 20, 2018, Pg. A16

Saying that he was “saving the unborn,” Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi signed into law on Monday a measure that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion rights supporters called it the earliest abortion ban in the country, and said it was an unconstitutional restriction that defied years of federal court precedent over the limits states may impose on abortion providers.

The only abortion clinic in the state quickly filed a complaint in federal court to block the law.

The bill, labeled the Gestational Age Act, was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled State Legislature this month.


6. Could O’Malley be the center-right candidate for the next pope? 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, March 20, 2018

If there were a St. Gallen group of center-right cardinals today trying to prepare for the next papal conclave, who would their candidate be?

(The reference is to a group of progressive cardinals who met occasionally between 1995 and 2006 to talk about future popes, and who played a role in the election of Pope Francis. The existence of the group was confirmed in a biography of Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Belgium.)

[Crux’s Christopher] White and I kicked the question around, and here’s what we came up with: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. I know, I know, the idea of an American pope seems a stretch, but hear us out.

First, O’Malley gets a discount on the general bias against American candidates for a couple of reasons. To begin with, because he’s a member of a major religious order, the Capuchin Franciscans, he strikes many people in the Church more as a citizen of the world than of any one specific nation, and he also has strong support in many places outside American airspace.

In addition, O’Malley’s life experience and command of languages don’t peg him as the typical American in the eyes of most people in other places. He spent most of his priestly career in Hispanic ministry, and speaks fluent Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

As another consideration, probably the defining characteristic of today’s center-right cardinal would be a desire for someone who has the same ability as Francis to make the outside world feel good about the Catholic Church, but with a slightly greater degree of doctrinal caution.

That’s O’Malley to a tee. Doctrinally, he’s fairly by the book, staunchly pro-life and upholding traditional positions on marriage, birth control, and virtually every other hot-button issue. 

Yet at the same time, O’Malley would be in a position to capture a good share of likely “continuity” voters in a future papal election, given his close association and obvious affection for Francis.

Above all, of course, there’s O’Malley’s reputation as the Church’s leading reformer on the abuse scandals, including his leadership of the pope’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, launched by Francis to advise him on the policy dimension of the Church’s efforts to keep children safe.

Without ever intending to, O’Malley has managed to position himself as both a critic of Francis when necessary – highlighted by his distancing statement when Francis accused Chilean abuse victims suggesting a local bishop was guilty of a cover-up of “calumny” and demanded they deliver proof – while simultaneously making it clear he believes the pope is trying to do the right thing.

White and I did consider alternatives for the center-right candidate’s slot, including Cardinals Robert Sarah of Guinea, Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Spain (known as the “little Ratzinger,” a reference to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI), and Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, but for different reasons, none struck us as quite as plausible.


7. Does the pope own the Vatican brand? Spain, so far, says yes. 

By Aritz Parra, Associated Press, March 20, 2018, 6:39 AM

A Vatican crackdown on the commercial use of its name and official emblems has encountered resistance from a Spanish website that refuses to give up referencing the seat of the Catholic Church in its masthead.

The case against InfoVaticana.com, one of hundreds of copyright actions taken by the church, is part of a broader legal debate over whether the Holy See can claim full ownership of the “Vatican” brand and its derivatives.

So far, Spain’s trademark office has taken the Vatican’s side. It ruled in September that the privately run website, which publishes articles about religion in Spanish and Italian, can’t register as a brand because that would mislead readers into thinking it was tied to the Holy See.

According to the Vatican, a system has been set up to monitor the way in which the pope’s image and emblem, the Vatican’s city and estate coat of arms, and the Holy See’s emblems, flags, seals and names are being used around the world.

The campaign was launched in 2009, under Pope Benedict XVI, “to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope … for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church.” It continued after Pope Francis’ arrival five years ago.


8. Pope Francis condemns prostitution as torture. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 19, 2018, 10:11 AM

Pope Francis asked forgiveness Monday for all Christians who buy sex from women, saying men who frequent prostitutes are criminals with a “sick mentality” who think that women exist to be exploited.

The pope made the comments during an intimate, four-hour-long listening session with 300 young people who were invited by the Vatican to Rome this week to help church leaders learn what kids these days think about the Catholic Church.

It’s a preparatory meeting for a big synod of bishops in October on helping young people find their vocations in life.


9. Pope tells 3 new bishops: no politicking, no high society.

By Associated Press, March 19, 2018, 1:19 AM PM

Pope Francis is cautioning bishops to avoid politicking, business and high society.

Francis elevated to bishops’ rank three priests during a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday evening.

He said bishops should “abandon the temptation to become princes,” and that they are tasked “more with serving than dominating.” He told them to be available to priests in their jurisdiction “the same day, or at most, the next day” after being sought.

The new bishops are: Monsignors Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag from Pelplin diocese, Poland; Alfred Xuereb, Gozo diocese, Malta; and Jose Avelino Bettencourt, Ottawa archdiocese in Canada.


10. Pope by numbers: Vatican releases statistics of Francis’s pontificate. 

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, March 19, 2018

In just five years as leader of the universal Church, Pope Francis has made 22 international trips, traveling 154,906 miles – the equivalent of six times around the world.

He also has declared 880 new saints, which includes the martyrdom of an estimated 800 Italian laymen killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th century.

Those numbers and more were released by the Vatican, detailing the many papal events, documents, travels and accomplishments of the past five years. The numbers, released March 17, cover the period from March 19, 2013 – the solemnity of St. Joseph, the day officially inaugurating the start of his pontificate – to March 19, 2018.

According to the Vatican statistics, the 81-year-old pope has:

– Created 61 new cardinals.

– Led 219 general audiences, with catechetical series that include reflections on the sacraments, the Church, the family, mercy and the Mass.

– Issued 41 major documents, including the encyclicals Lumen fidei and Laudato Si’ and the apostolic exhortations, Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia.

– Prayed the Angelus and Regina Coeli with visitors 286 times.

– Completed 22 trips abroad, 18 pastoral visits within Italy and 16 visits to parishes in Rome – the diocese of the pope as bishop of Rome.

– Made nine other visits to churches for special events and places of worship in Rome, including the city’s synagogue and Rome’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Anglican church and the Ukrainian Catholic Basilica of Santa Sophia.

– Called four synods of bishops: Two on the family, this year’s synod on young people and a synod on the Amazon in 2019.

– Declared two special years: On consecrated life and the extraordinary Year of Mercy.

– Established or proclaimed seven special days, including World Day of the Poor, 24 Hours for the Lord and a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, South Sudan and Congo.

Attended or announced three World Youth Days (Brazil, Poland and Panama for 2019).


11. ‘Examples of Light’: The Women of The Catholic Association. 

By Nancy Flory, The Stream, March 16, 2018

What do a lawyer, an author, a senior policy advisor and a doctor have in common? They’re the women at the helm of The Catholic Association (TCA). It’s a non-profit group dedicated to being “a faithful Catholic voice in the public square.” These women aren’t just highly accomplished in the workplace. They’re moms too — a vocation they say is the most important one.

The Women of TCA
The women of TCA testify, write and speak on issues like abortion, the HHS mandate and religious freedom. They are Attorney Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Senior Fellow Ashley McGuire, Senior Policy Advisor Maureen Ferguson and Policy Advisor Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie.

Picciotti-Bayer does what she calls traditional lawyering — like filing briefs. She also advises on legislation. Lately, she’s been looking at legislation on human trafficking and sex trafficking from legal, social and political perspectives. In addition, she writes book reviews on Catholic and social policy issues.

McGuire does a little bit of everything. She writes and speaks about religious freedom, Catholicism and women. She’s testified at hearings on D.C.’s assisted suicide bill and in Geneva at the U.N. Her book, Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female, was released last year.

Ferguson tracks legislative issues, particularly right-to-life, family-related and sex trafficking issues. She is a prolific speaker and writer. She’s been invited to provide briefings to congressional staff and has participated in Capitol Hill news conferences. Ferguson covered the installation of the Pope in 2013 from Rome.

Pozo Christie writes and speaks about Catholicism, religious freedom, and issues at the intersection of faith and science. She covered the Synod on the Family from Rome in 2014 and 2015. She also won an award from the Catholic Press Association for “best regular column on family life.” As a practicing radiologist, Pozo Christie also speaks about government health care policies. She was a featured speaker at the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January 2015.

Each of the women brings something different to TCA, explained Ferguson. “Grazie brings her medical background, Ashley’s got her millennial perspective, Andrea’s an attorney who used to work at the Justice Department [and] I have a legislative background in public policy. And we’re all mothers so we bring that perspective as well. I think it’s a great model for women who want to sort of contribute in the public square to promote beauty, goodness and truth.”

‘A Special Voice’
As women, they bring a lot to the table. Women see things in a unique perspective, said Picciotti-Bayer. “We pay a lot more attention to detail and we’re a lot more tuned in to the emotional and the sensitive.” Not to say that their perspective isn’t academic or intellectual as well, she added.

“Women have a special voice when it comes to the family,” said Pozo Christie. “We’re able to communicate that in a way that’s very authentic.”

‘Family is Everything’
And that voice comes in handy when they work on family issues. “As you know, a lot of issues touching on life and family are being brought into the legislation and into the judicial system,” said Picciotti-Bayer. She most recently filed court documents on cases involving legislation targeting crisis pregnancy centers. “They’re trying to constrain what [crisis pregnancy centers are] doing and compel them to say pro-abortion messages,” she explained.

“Women don’t hear the truth about what makes us unique, how we should demand to be treated, how the abortion industry harms women,” said McGuire.

“The family is under terrible attack,” said Pozo Christie. “It’s being destroyed from all sorts of directions. It’s terrifying. As a basic unit of society, the family is where we are happiest, where we flourish, where we find peace and companionship and support for our old age. The family is everything.”

Putting Their Family First
And it’s clear that family comes first for these women. Altogether the women have 23 children. “I’m the underachiever in the group,” jokes McGuire, who has three children. But each of the women want other women to know they can be successful at motherhood and their career. “I try in my work to be a testament to the fact that marriage and motherhood is very much an empowering thing and is good for women and is compatible with an interesting career and still very much being a part of the things you care about,” said McGuire.

“As a professional woman, my family’s not something that comes at the end of things,” said Pozo Christie. “It’s not number 8 on the list of priorities. It’s number 1 through 8 and then others are after that. I think we can do that as professional women. …I can still be a professional woman and still be out in the world, but I want to put my focus on the family, because the family is not just important to us, it’s important to the entire society.”

“There’s something really wonderful about motherhood and family life and I think oftentimes, especially in the beltway, the DC area, it’s forgotten,” said Picciotti-Bayer. “Being able to be a mom and at the same time being able to work and contribute and try to balance all of that and speak to that is something that a lot of women need to hear and are yearning for.”

“We recognize we treasure our primary vocation as mothers,” said Ferguson. She hopes that TCA can be a model for other women who want to contribute professionally and be a mom.

And they seem to be doing a great job at that. “Part of our authentic feminism is to be able to power through and continue to be positive,” said Picciotti-Bayer. “Even when things look dark and difficult, there’s always light. These women are incredible examples of light.”

TCA Moving Forward
McGuire said that the group isn’t just defending the Church, but also “in a positive and proactive way trying to bring the Church’s beautiful messages to the culture that so desperately needs to hear them.” She hopes TCA will continue to do so.

The fact that four women are the face of the organization is especially unique, McGuire added, particularly because of how the media portrays the Church. “[The] media would have you think that it’s sort of women versus the Church,” McGuire said. “When in fact, here we are, four women who love the Church and [have] committed our lives to promoting her values in the public square.”

Pozo Christie said she hopes TCA will grow and influence others. “I hope that we can become more influential and really be there when the conversation needs a faithful Catholic voice and needs beauty and truth and goodness to be present. I hope that we keep growing. We have a wonderful team of people with a lovely vision. A truly lovely vision. That’s my dream — that we keep growing and keep making our influence felt.”