1. Why hospitals in many states with legal abortion may refuse to perform them, By Rachana Pradhan, The Washington Post, March 5, 2024, 8:09 AM Many states that tout themselves as protectors of reproductive health care, including California, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have little-noticed laws on the books protecting hospitals that refuse to provide it. The laws shield at least some hospitals from liability for not providing care they object to on religious grounds, leaving little recourse for patients. The providers — many of them Catholic hospitals — generally refuse to perform abortions and sterilizations because the services run contrary to their religious beliefs, but their objections can extend to other kinds of care. In our recent reporting on Catholic hospitals, we found that 35 states grant such legal protections to at least some hospitals that won’t provide abortions. About half of those laws don’t include exceptions for emergencies, ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages. Abortion remains broadly legal in 25 of those states. Sixteen states prohibit lawsuits against hospitals for refusing to perform sterilization procedures.  State liability shield laws go further than conscience protections enforced by the federal government. They can limit what’s possible under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, the 1986 federal law protecting patient access to emergency care, said Katherine Kraschel, assistant professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University. Hospitals that violate EMTALA can be sued by patients, but the federal law also relies on states’ civil liability standards, she said. That means if state law shields a provider from lawsuits over refusing to provide an abortion, EMTALA “won’t always provide relief” to harmed patients, Kraschel said.  Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Ohio and South Carolina have expanded conscience laws to apply to just about any kind of health care. Trimble said Oklahoma, Kentucky, Iowa and Idaho are among the states the group is focused on in 2024. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/03/05/why-hospitals-many-states-with-legal-abortion-may-refuse-perform-them/__________________________________________________________ 2. The Needs Of The Vatican Tomorrow, By Francis X. Maier, First Things, March 5, 2024, Opinion In March 2022, a memorandum entitled “The Vatican Today” appeared and was widely circulated. Sharply critical of the Francis pontificate, it was signed by an anonymous source described as “Demos.” The author was subsequently identified as the late Cardinal George Pell. Last week a similar document, “The Vatican Tomorrow,” appeared simultaneously in six different languages. It was signed, again anonymously, by a source identifying as “Demos II.” It’s unclear who the actual authors are. But at least one cardinal and various senior bishops seem to have been involved. The text is worth reading. All of it. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, Hong Kong’s retired archbishop and a man who’s had frictions on matters of principle with both the current pontificate and the Chinese government, posted the document on his social media. It drew more than 125,000 views in the first forty-eight hours. Unlike the original Demos text, “The Vatican Tomorrow” acknowledges the strengths of the Francis papacy noted elsewhere by others: “the added emphasis [Francis] has given to compassion toward the weak, outreach to the poor and marginalized, concern for the dignity of creation and the environmental issues that flow from it, and efforts to accompany the suffering and alienated in their burdens.” The new text also argues, as do others, that the flaws of the current pontificate “are equally obvious” and serious, with damaging effect. As a result, “the task of the next pontificate must therefore be one of recovery and reestablishment of truths that have been slowly obscured or lost among many Christians.”   The anonymity of the text, however reasonable its motives, inevitably weakens its effect and opens it to criticism. But given the nature and scope of today’s problems in the Catholic Church, the substance of “The Vatican Tomorrow” can’t easily be dismissed. One can hope that at least some of its concerns will inform the thinking of the next conclave. Francis X. Maier, a senior fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the author of True Confessions: Voices of Faith from a Life in the Church https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2024/03/the-needs-of-the-vatican-tomorrow__________________________________________________________ 3. TCA Asks The Supreme Court To Protect Women From Unsafe Abortions, By The Catholic Association, March 4, 2024 The Catholic Association has released the following statement: “The FDA put women’s lives in grave danger when it eliminated basic safety standards for abortion drugs. An ultrasound is the only sure way to rule out ectopic pregnancy and other life-threatening complications associated with these high-risk drugs. But the abortion drug mifepristone is now being recklessly distributed without any in person medical consultation and even through the mail, posing severe health threats to women. As a practicing radiologist, I see every day just how critical ultrasound is in protecting women and I am proud to file a friend of the court brief before the United States Supreme Court arguing that the FDA should immediately reinstate protections for women surrounding abortion drugs. Instead, the FDA has turned the world of chemical abortions into a wild, wild west where women can order them online or at their local CVS, with no medical consultation, and no follow up for hazardous complications. The FDA has also trampled the conscience rights of medical professionals who are being regularly conscripted into completing abortions for women who predictably suffer the many avoidable complications after taking these drugs. Catholic hospitals and countless Catholic healthcare workers provide healthcare to millions of Americans, especially low-income Americans. They and other medical professionals who object to abortion because of their faith deserve to know that they will not be forced to violate their conscience as they work to serve America’s sick.” Read the full Amicus Brief by Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie and The Catholic Association. https://thecatholicassociation.org/tca-asks-the-supreme-court-to-protect-women-from-unsafe-abortions/__________________________________________________________ 4. As France guarantees the right to abortion, other European countries look to expand access, By Associated Press, March 4, 2024, 7:46 PM As France becomes the only country to explicitly guarantee the right to abortion in its constitution, other Europeans look at the U.S. rollback of abortion access and wonder: Could that happen here? Abortion is broadly legal across Europe, and governments have been gradually expanding abortion rights, with some exceptions. Women can access abortion in more than 40 European nations from Portugal to Russia, with varying rules on how late in a pregnancy it is allowed. Abortion is banned or tightly restricted in Poland and a handful of tiny countries. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning long-held abortion rights was the catalyst for the French parliament’s overwhelming vote Monday to add a constitutional amendment proclaiming “the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.” Here is a look at recent developments on abortion rights in some European countries: Poland — predominantly Catholic — bans abortion in almost all cases, with exceptions only when a woman’s life or health is endangered or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest. For years, abortion was allowed in the case of fetuses with congenital defects. That was struck down in 2020. In Britain, abortion was partly legalized by the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors approve. Later abortions are allowed in some circumstances, including danger to the mother’s life. But women who have abortions after 24 weeks in England and Wales can be prosecuted under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Last year a 45-year-old woman in England was sentenced to 28 months in prison for ordering abortion pills online to induce a miscarriage when she was 32 to 34 weeks pregnant. After an outcry, her sentence was reduced. Lawmakers in Parliament are due to vote this month on whether to remove the relevant section of the 1861 law — though doctors who assist women ending pregnancies with late abortions could still be charged. Abortion is not as divisive an issue in the U.K. as in the U.S., and the change will likely garner enough cross-party support to pass. The former Communist-run Yugoslavia started expanding abortion rights in the 1950s and inscribed them in the 1974 Constitution, which said: “A person is free to decide on having children. This right can be limited only for the reasons of health protection.” After the federation split in bloody wars in the 1990s, its former republics kept old abortion laws, but they are seen as stopping short of what France did Thursday in spelling out the guarantee. In Serbia, for example, the 2006 Constitution states that “everyone has the right to decide on childbirth.” There have been calls for this to be revoked, but only from marginal groups.  In staunchly Catholic Croatia, influential conservative and religious groups have tried to get abortion banned but with no success. However, many doctors refuse to terminate pregnancies, forcing Croatian women to travel to neighboring countries for the procedure. In 2022, Croatia saw protests after a woman was denied an abortion although her baby had health issues. Malta eased up on the strictest abortion law in the European Union last year, acting after an American tourist who miscarried had to be airlifted off the Mediterranean island nation to be treated.  Italy resisted Vatican pressure and guaranteed access to abortion starting in 1978, allowing women to terminate pregnancies upon request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or later if her health or life is endangered.  San Marino, a tiny country surrounded by Italy and one of the world’s oldest republics, had been one of the last European states that still criminalized abortion in all circumstances until 2022, when it legalized the procedure in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Although abortion in Russia is legal and widely available, authorities have been actively seeking to restrict access to it as President Vladimir Putin champions “traditional values” in an effort to rally people around the flag and boost population growth.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/03/04/europe-abortion-rights-constitution-france/c4d07b8c-da60-11ee-b5e9-ad4573c62315_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Md. lawmakers drop aid-in-dying, frustrating terminally ill patients, A state Senate committee chose not to vote on the End-of-Life Options Act because it did not have the support needed to pass, By Katie Shepherd, The Washington Post, March 4, 2024, 6:25 PM For nearly a decade, dying patients have asked Maryland lawmakers to consider allowing people with terminal illnesses to end their own lives through self-administered medication to avoid the immense suffering that can come in their final weeks. Despite initial optimism that the End-of-Life Options Act might pass this year, Democratic leadership on Friday decided the bill would not get a vote because it did not have the support needed to move out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, dashing hopes that the bill would finally become law. The decision came down to one or two votes, said state Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery). It was likely the last test of the bill until the composition of the state senate changes, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said last week. That potentially delays the bill until 2027 when the next legislative term begins.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2024/03/04/maryland-aid-in-dying/__________________________________________________________ 6. Virginia lawmakers defeat medically assisted suicide bill, By Sarah Rankin, Associated Press, March 4, 2024, 4:34 PM Virginia lawmakers on Monday defeated for another year legislation that would allow certain adults facing terminal illness to end their own lives with a self-administered controlled substance prescribed by a health care provider. A House committee voted to carry the medically assisted suicide bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ghazala Hashmi over to the 2025 session, ending its chances this year. Similar legislation failed in previous years. But Hashmi’s bill passed the Senate in February on a party-line vote after receiving an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat and former state senator who has been diagnosed with a terminal neurological disease.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/03/04/virginia-medically-assisted-suicide/f96844f2-da6e-11ee-b5e9-ad4573c62315_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. France becomes the only country to explicitly guarantee abortion as a constitutional right, By Barbara Surk and Nicolas Garriga, Associated Press, March 4, 2024, 6:50 PM  French lawmakers on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to enshrine abortion rights in France’s constitution, making it the only country to explicitly guarantee a woman’s right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. The historic move was proposed by President Emmanuel Macron as a way to prevent the kind of rollback of abortion rights seen in the United States in recent years, and the vote during a special joint session of France’s parliament drew a long standing ovation among lawmakers. The measure was approved in a 780-72 vote in the Palace of Versailles. Abortion enjoys wide support in France across most of the political spectrum, and has been legal since 1975.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/03/04/france-abortion-right-constitution-parliament-vote-versailles/065d74d6-da18-11ee-b5e9-ad4573c62315_story.html__________________________________________________________ 8. First over-the-counter birth control pill in US begins shipping to stores, By Matthew Perrone, Associated Press, March 4, 2024, 1:46 PM The first over-the-counter birth control pill will be available in U.S. stores later this month, allowing American women and teens to purchase contraceptive medication as easily as they buy aspirin. Manufacturer Perrigo said Monday it has begun shipping the medication, Opill, to major retailers and pharmacies. A one-month supply will cost about $20 and a three-month supply will cost around $50, according to the company’s suggested retail price. It will also be sold online. The launch has been closely watched since last July, when the Food and Drug Administration said the once-a-day Opill could be sold without a prescription. Ireland-based Perrigo noted there will be no age restrictions on sales, similar to other over-the-counter medications.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2024/03/04/birth-control-pill-pharmacy-contraceptive/aaf68714-da43-11ee-b5e9-ad4573c62315_story.html__________________________________________________________ 9. Military makes policy providing abortions for service members permanent, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, March 4, 2024, 6:00 PM The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making permanent a policy to provide abortions in certain circumstances to service members even in states where abortion is illegal. The policy, which has been in place since 2022, was made final in a rule posted in the federal register on Monday. Under the rule, the VA is authorized to perform abortions on service members and their family members in its health care facilities in cases of rape, incest, and to preserve the life or health of the mother. The rule also allows VA facilities to provide service members with abortion counseling. Though the policy has already been in effect on a temporary basis, the new rule will take permanent effect on April 3. The department reported providing 88 abortions under this policy in the first year of it being in effect.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256989/military-makes-policy-providing-abortions-for-service-members-permanent__________________________________________________________ 10. Indiana Catholic couple ‘living every parent’s nightmare’ after transgender custody case, By Kate Quiñones, Catholic News Agency, March 4, 2024, 5:15 PM An Indiana Catholic couple is in the grips of a “nightmare” after their son was seized from them when they refused to adhere to his chosen transgender identity, an attorney told EWTN News on Friday. After Mary and Jeremy Cox didn’t use the pronouns requested by their teenage son when he began to identify as a girl, Indiana Child Services removed their son from his home. The parents sought legal action and their case, M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana, is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite no evidence of abuse or neglect, the Coxes’ son has not been returned to them. The attorney for the Cox family, Lori Windham, told “EWTN News in Depth” anchor Montse Alvarado the couple is “living every parent’s nightmare.” Windham, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explained that the Coxes’ son “was removed from their care by state officials even after they investigated for months and found out that these were fit parents.”  Three additional cases related to transgender rights have been appealed to the Supreme Court. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appealed to the nation’s highest court to block a ban on transgender surgeries for minors in Kentucky. The group also appealed to reverse a similar law in Tennessee. Another appeal asks justices to allow Idaho’s ban on gender transitions for minors to take effect after a lower court judge blocked it earlier this year.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256987/indiana-catholic-couple-living-every-parent-s-nightmare-after-transgender-custody-case__________________________________________________________ 11. ‘Fiducia Supplicans’: Unequivocal Leadership Needed to Manage Fallout, The continuing confusion over the Vatican’s Dec. 18 document is recent evidence of this phenomenon., By National Catholic Register, March 4, 2024, Editorial The Catholic Church on March 7 marks the 750th anniversary of the death of one of its greatest thinkers and teachers, St. Thomas Aquinas. One of Aquinas’ titles is the “Common Doctor,” so chosen because of his extraordinary gift for articulating and defending the common truths of our Catholic faith. This unity of faith is what binds together Catholics all over the world. In other words, the faith proclaimed in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is, or should be, the same as it is in the United States. But that crucial unity is threatened by the confusion caused in many quarters since the Dec. 18 release of  Fiducia Supplicans. The controversial declaration, written by Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s prefect Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández and approved by Pope Francis, sets parameters for “non-liturgical” blessings of couples in “irregular” relationships. These include same-sex couples, civilly-divorced-and-remarried heterosexual couples, and couples who are unmarried and co-habitating. The reception to Fiducia Supplicans has been anything but uniform. While some cardinals and bishops in the West have welcomed it, Church leaders in much of Africa and other parts of the world have flatly rejected it. What that means is that these blessings are happening in some places but not in others. Why is that a problem? Because we’re a universal Church, to begin with. We’re also living in the internet age, so while the blessing of a same-sex couple in Belgium may not confuse or distress many Belgian Catholics, it can scandalize the faithful in Ghana or Mexico once they learn of it. That’s already happening. Just in the past week, we’ve seen scandals erupt in Spain, where two Catholic men held what appeared to be a well-attended wedding in a private Catholic chapel, and in Uruguay, where the local bishop and even the country’s apostolic nuncio approved the blessing of a high-profile same-sex couple that received extensive media coverage, even though the Vatican’s document says these blessings are supposed to be simple and “spontaneous.” Now, a Vatican editorial is further muddying the Fiducia waters. Written by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, the editorial tries to make the case that a document on prayers for the sick that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued in 2000 during John Paul II’s pontificate established a precedent for distinguishing between liturgical and non-liturgical blessings. That distinction lies at the core of Fiducia Supplicans. However, it’s difficult to see how the two documents are related. Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Instruction on Prayers for Healing” does refer to “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” prayer, but its focus is on regulating prayer meetings for those seeking physical or spiritual healing. It came in response to the growing frequency with which these meetings were taking place outside of churches and beyond the supervision of ecclesiastical authorities. And if it’s true that it does somehow lend support to Fiducia, as Tornielli argues, why isn’t it cited anywhere in that document? A charitable reading of the Vatican editorial would see it as a sincere attempt at finding a way to harmonize Pope Francis’ initiative in Fiducia Supplicans with the works of his predecessors, not a thinly veiled attempt to deflect criticism of Fiducia by throwing Benedict XVI and John Paul II under the bus. Whatever the case may be, the Archdiocese of Madrid demonstrated a far better way to respond to the confusion surrounding Fiducia. Following news reports about a wedding-like ceremony involving two men (but reportedly not a priest) in a private chapel in the town of El Escorial outside Madrid, the archdiocese issued a strongly worded statement, saying the family-owned chapel will be subject to “canonical effects” and de-consecration. The archdiocese, incidentally, is led by Cardinal José Cobo Cano, who received his red hat from Pope Francis last September and who has been outspoken in his support of Fiducia since its release. Our Church needs that kind of clear, unequivocal approach to the predicament we now face. Nothing less can maintain the unity of faith that St. Thomas Aquinas dedicated his life and massive intellect to safeguarding. https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/fallout-from-fiducia-supplicans-editorial__________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.

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