1. Abortion Over ObamaCare: Democrats dig in over a prohibition that dates back to the 1970s. 

By The Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2018, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Congress this week is debating a deal that would prop up ObamaCare for three years with tens of billions of dollars. Yet Democrats have revolted because the deal includes the 1970s Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from subsidizing abortion.

The left claims this is some new GOP initiative. But Hyde protections have long applied to: Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Indian Health Service, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the military health-care program Tricare, among others, as Republicans have pointed out. Such guarantees are standard for appropriations bills.

The left has abandoned the idea that abortion is a personal choice and now regards it a self-evident right that everyone must subsidize. This article of faith apparently trumps the lifetime Democratic achievement of ObamaCare.


2. Obamacare’s fate hinges on a bipartisan vote that may never come. 

By The Washington Post, March 21, 2018, Pg. A20, Editorial

CONGRESS MUST vote by the end of the week to fund the government, passing a massive “omnibus” spending bill that may (believe it or not) represent the last time this year lawmakers make significant policy changes. In other words, once the omnibus bill clears Congress, there is little chance lawmakers will approve fixes to Obamacare before the 2019 enrollment season begins.

But negotiations hit a snag over abortion funding. Republicans pressed to include Hyde Amendment language restricting new money in the plan from being used for abortion in almost all cases, a stipulation Congress places on practically all health spending. Democrats objected that Obamacare’s abortion language is more permissive and should apply in an Obamacare fix. Neither Republican nor Democratic congressional leaders have budged on the issue.

There is still a small chance that, over the next day or two, the senators who have labored to strike a compromise manage to agree on a deal, add it to the Senate’s omnibus bill and begin the process of repairing the Obamacare system on which millions depend. But the forces of partisanship, always amplified during an election year, have so far overwhelmed their good-faith efforts.


3. Justices Weigh Law On Women’s Care: State says FACT Act meant to inform pregnant women of rights to reproductive health care including abortion. 

By Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2018, Pg. A3

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday questioned the intent of a California law that the state says aims to inform pregnant women of their rights to reproductive health care, but antiabortion groups say forces them to promote abortion.

The 2015 law requires facilities offering pregnancy-related services—including crisis pregnancy centers that seek to persuade women to carry to term—to post a notice about the state’s free and low-cost family planning programs, which include abortion.

It was little surprise that conservatives like Justice Alito would challenge California on the law, called the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency, or FACT Act. But from the court’s left, Justice Elena Kagan also pressed the state.

“When you read this statute, Mr. Klein, there’s at least a question” that it may have been “gerrymandered” to target antiabortion facilities, she said, and that would be a “serious problem.”

Justice Kagan’s questions followed remarks from Justice Anthony Kennedy, typically the deciding vote in abortion-related cases, that indicated deep reservations about the California statute.


4. Vatican media chief resigns over doctored letter scandal. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 21, 2018, 7:57 AM

The head of the Vatican’s communications department resigned Wednesdayover a scandal about a letter from the retired pope that he mischaracterized in public and then had digitally manipulated in a photograph sent to the media.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Monsignor Dario Vigano on Wednesday and named his deputy, Monsignor Lucio Adrian Ruiz, to run the Secretariat for Communications.

The so-called “Lettergate” scandal erupted last week after Vigano read aloud part of a private letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI at a book launch for a Vatican-published, 11-volume set of books about Francis’ theology.


5. Pope Confirms Plans to Visit Dublin for August Family Rally. 

By Associated Press, March 21, 2018, 6:27 AM

Pope Francis confirmed Wednesday he plans to attend a big Catholic family rally in Ireland in August, visiting a once staunchly Roman Catholic country that has been devastated by the church’s sex abuse crisis.

Francis made the long-awaited announcement at the end of his weekly general audience, saying he intends to go to Dublin Aug. 25-26 for the World Meeting of Families.

The World Meeting of Families is a triennial rally aimed at encouraging the church’s vision of a family based on marriage between man and woman. The Dublin organizers have come under fire from gay rights groups for removing references to homosexual relationships in conference promotional materials.


6. Thwarting pro-life pregnancy centers. 

By Kristen Waggoner, By Kristen Waggoner, The Washington Times, March 21, 2018, Pg. B4, Opinion

Once again, the topics of abortion and free speech made an appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court at oral arguments Tuesday. This time, in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the court is considering a California law designed to thwart the efforts of pro-life pregnancy centers.

We often think about the ongoing debate over abortion in grandiose terms — envisioning heated exchanges in legislative and town halls. But while those public conversations are important, what we sometimes forget is the many private conversations on this topic. In particular, it’s the countless individual discussions between women facing unplanned pregnancies and the people whose counsel they seek where the theoretical becomes painstakingly real — where, quite literally, life-and-death decisions are made.

Those women are forced to consider difficult questions. “How will I afford this child?” “This will change so much about my life. Am I ready for that?”

While the centers respect these women’s right to make their own decisions, they approach all discussions about abortion from the viewpoint that abortion is morally wrong and harmful to women. Not surprisingly, then, they encourage women to choose life for their children. That’s one of their core purposes.

But the state of California disagrees with their pro-life message and doesn’t want these centers spreading it. Although the state is free to have its own view, it cannot pass a law designed to undermine and suppress the pro-life pregnancy centers’ constitutionally protected efforts to reach and counsel these women.

The state has tried to justify the targeting of unlicensed centers by suggesting that these centers have somehow misled women. Yet there is no evidence in the case of that, no evidence that a center has hindered even one woman in California from obtaining desired services, and no evidence that the state has ever sought to enforce its existing laws to prosecute such conduct. Either this interest isn’t all that important to the state, or the claims that the abortion industry make about the pro-life centers just aren’t true.

The Supreme Court has been quite adept at fishing out these kinds of government shenanigans. It has recognized time and again that if we are to remain free to engage in open discourse on the most pressing social issues, the government cannot devise laws to harm speakers on one side.

Because that is precisely what California has done here, the Supreme Court should strike down this law. By the end of spring, we’re hopeful that that’s what the court will do.


7. Getting Ready for Synod-2018. 

By George Weigel, First Things, March 21, 2018

[Let’s] concentrate now on Synod-2018, which will discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment. Those are very important topics. The Church in the United States has had some success addressing them, despite challenging cultural circumstances; so perhaps some American leaders in youth ministry and vocational discernment could be invited to Synod-2018 to enrich its discussion, on the Synod floor and off it (which is where most of the interesting conversations at these affairs take place).

Curtis Martin is the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which is arguably the most creative campus ministry initiative in the post–Vatican II Church.

Then there’s Anna Halpine, president of the World Youth Alliance, a network of pro-life young people all over the world, who witness to the joy of the Gospel and the Gospel of life in an extraordinary variety of social and cultural settings.

Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa was the director of campus ministry at Texas A&M for eleven years, where St. Mary’s Catholic Center has set the gold standard in traditional campus ministry and created a model for others to emulate.

Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, has taken up the mantle of the late Dr. Don Briel in creating a robust, integrated Catholic Studies program on his growing campus.

Then there is Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP, a banjo-playing, bourbon-appreciating theologian of distinction who (with his Dominican brother, Fr. Dominic Legge) has created the Thomistic Institute, to bring serious Catholic ideas to prestigious universities across the U.S.

So by all means, let’s have “no maneuvering” at Synod-2018. But let’s also have some American expertise there, for the good of the whole Church.


8. Idaho joins other red states with ‘abortion reversal’ law. 

By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press, March 20, 2018, 9:43 PM

Idaho will become the latest conservative state to require women seeking abortions to be informed that the drug-induced procedures can be halted halfway, despite opposition from medical groups that say there is little evidence to support that claim.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter quietly signed the proposal into law Tuesday along with nearly 50 other measures. The law, which will go into effect July 1, is the latest move by Republican-dominant states that are testing the government’s legal ability to restrict a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

It comes just a day after Mississippi enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, though a federal judge temporarily blocked it Tuesday.


9. Judge temporarily blocks most restrictive abortion law in US.

By Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, March 20, 2018, 4:56 PM

The most restrictive abortion law in the United States was in effect less than 24 hours before a federal judge temporarily blocked it Tuesday during what could become a long legal fight between Mississippi’s Republican governor and the state’s only abortion clinic.

Gov. Phil Bryant on Monday signed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation, and it became law immediately. The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, quickly sued, arguing the law is unconstitutional because it bans abortion weeks before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard arguments Tuesday before granting the clinic’s immediate request for a temporary restraining order.


10. Cardinal Dolan hopes Supreme Court will uphold free speech. 

By Catholic News Service, March 20, 2018

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities said March 20 that he prayed the Supreme Court would “do the right thing and uphold our fundamental right to free speech” when it decides a case examining freedom of speech at crisis pregnancy centers.

“Pro-life pregnancy care centers embody everything that is right and good in our nation: generosity, compassion and love that is offered to support both mother and child,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in a statement issued the same day the high court heard oral arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra.

The cardinal said that some government officials, instead of “applauding and encouraging the selfless and life-affirming work of these centers,” want to “force them to provide free advertising for the violent act of abortion in direct violation of their pro-life convictions and the First Amendment.”

The case before the Supreme Court will consider if a California law that went into effect in 2016 violates the U.S. Constitution by requiring the state’s 200 crisis pregnancy centers to inform their clients, in specific detail, about the availability of free or low-cost abortion and contraceptive services and provide a referral number for them.


11. What Mary Eberstadt told Notre Dame about ‘Humanae Vitae’. 

By Perry West, Catholic News Agency, March 20, 2018, 4:23 PM

Author Mary Eberstadt told students at the University of Notre Dame Tuesdaythat a 50-year-old document on contraception is critical to understanding the state of contemporary culture.

Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the Faith and Reason Institute, spoke at Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, explaining that the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae has become a reality.

“Contraceptive technology, as Paul VI foresaw, opens a Pandora’s box of mischief in which the stronger have the advantage,” Eberstadt told Notre Dame students March 20.

“For some while now, it’s been apparent that the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s bids fair to become one of the most formative disruptions in human history,” Eberstadt argued. “It’s having massive repercussions across the world – microcosmic, macrocosmic, moral, religious, political, and otherwise.”

In conclusion, Eberstadt said that while people in the world will continue to oppose to the Church’s stance on contraception, the truth of Humanae Vitae will not stop pointing towards the destruction of the sexual revolution.


12. Pope to perform Holy Thursday foot-wash rite at Rome prison. 

By Associated Press, March 20, 2018, 9:39 AM

Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 inmates at Rome’s central prison during a Holy Week ritual meant to show his willingness to serve others.

The Vatican said Tuesday that Francis will meet March 29 with inmates at the Regina Coeli prison, including those in the special “protected” wing where sexual predators are housed.