1. Trump Dramatically Boosts U.S. Anti-Abortion Policy Abroad: Move expands restriction of funds to foreign organizations that perform or advise on abortions

By Felicia Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2017, Pg. A3

The Trump administration announced details of a major expansion of a policy to prevent federal funds from going to foreign organizations that perform or advise on abortions, spurring praise from antiabortion groups but criticism that the move would restrict women’s access to health care.

Senior administration officials said Monday that the ban now would apply to $8.8 billion in global health-assistance funds, expanding by almost 15 times the financial reach of an antiabortion policy first implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Foreign nongovernmental organizations aren’t allowed to use U.S. funds to perform abortions. Under the expansion of the rule, they also won’t be able to receive any U.S. funds if they perform abortions or provide abortion-related services using other funds, even those not provided by Washington.

Previous versions of the rule applied to family planning programs funded by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which total roughly $600 million in spending. The new parameters announced Monday also include about $6 billion in funds for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, known as PEPFAR, plus global health-assistance funding from other agencies.

The added impact means the ban now will apply to almost 15 times as much U.S. global health assistance money.


2. Trump cuts all funds to groups tied to abortion: Money will go elsewhere under expanded Mexico City Policy

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, May 16, 2017, Pg. A1

The Trump administration announced a massive expansion Monday of the pro-life Mexico City Policy, issuing guidelines that will strip billions of dollars in aid from international groups that perform or promote abortion.

Originally a ban covering roughly $600 million in family planning money, the Trump policy now applies to all international health care aid doled out by the U.S. government — nearly $9 billion.
The administration said the same amount of money will be paid out but will go only to groups that pledge not to perform or promote abortion as part of their family planning activities.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on Monday approved the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance plan, which broadens the scope of the Mexico City Policy.

The policy is another pro-life victory for Mr. Trump during his first months in office, along with his appointment of pro-life Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.


3. The role of religious freedom today

By Ambassador Francis Rooney, Crux, May 16, 2017

Throughout history religion has played a stabilizing role in society. When practiced freely, religion establishes a moral compass for people to follow, which in turn leads to tolerance of differing views and comity in civil society.

Free expression of religion allows pluralistic religious organizations to exist within modern secular states, and can ease ideological conflicts by transforming volatile societies into models of peaceful coexistence.

[R]eligion plays a stabilizing role in society and that freedom to practice religion, of all beliefs, is critical to ensuring that society is tolerant and civil. Building on past examples, hopefully religious freedom can provide an effective “soft power” weapon in the war against radical Islam, which will be discussed in part two of this series.

Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.


4. Texas tests Trump administration over abortion providers

By Paul J. Weber, Associated Press, May 15, 2017, 6:31 PM

Texas is asking the federal government to reverse course and provide funding for a state-run women’s health program that excludes abortion providers, an apparent test of the Trump administration that could provide a model for other conservative states.

Since 2011, Texas has chosen to forgo millions in federal Medicare dollars rather than let abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood participate in a statewide program that provides birth control, pregnancy testing and health screenings for low-income women.

Although the move showed the resolve of Republican lawmakers determined to get Texas out of business with abortion providers, a state report found that 30,000 fewer women were served in the program following the changes. More than 80 family planning centers also closed in Texas, a third of which were Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Texas health officials say the program has since improved and now want the Trump administration to provide dollars blocked under President Barack Obama.

The stakes potentially extend far beyond Texas. Abortion-rights groups worry that if Texas succeeds, other conservative states will also cut off Planned Parenthood and put clinics in jeopardy.


5. Vatican’s financial watchdog cites progress, but still no prosecutions

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 16, 2017

From the beginning, cleaning up Vatican finances has been a major priority of Pope Francis. That campaign took a step forward Tuesday with the release of the 2016 report from the Financial Information Authority (AIF), in effect the Vatican’s financial watchdog unit, suggesting a significant drop in reports of suspicious activity.

However, AIF leadership also acknowledged that to date, there have been no publicly known instances in which someone accused of financial wrongdoing has been prosecuted and punished by the Vatican’s legal system.

AIF is an anti-money laundering watchdog unit created under Benedict XVI and strengthened by Francis. It’s headed by Swiss lawyer René Brülhart, with Italian Tommaso Di Ruzza serving as director.

More than 190 suspicious financial transactions in the Vatican were flagged in 2016, leading to the suspension of four of those transactions totaling over $2 million, and the freezing of one account at the Vatican bank worth another $1.5 million.

The numbers represent a notable decrease from 2015, when there were 540 suspicious transactions, eight suspended, totaling over $10 million, and freezing four accounts in the Vatican bank worth another $8.


6. Inside Gosnell’s House of Horrors

By K.V. Turley, Crisis Magazine, May 16, 2017

The name Kermit Gosnell is now relatively well known.
It should, of course, be better known.

He is after all one of the worst serial killers in the history of the United States. He was an abortionist and it is alleged that this fact alone has contributed to the media committing an astonishing act of indifference in the reporting of his trial and the subsequent crimes it revealed.

A new book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer documents not just the wrongdoing committed by Gosnell but also the media blackout that descended once the reality of what had taken place at his abortuary became apparent.

The first thing to say is that this book is not for those who are easily upset by the realities of abortion. What you read in these pages is something so dark, so evil and so sad as to be at times nauseating.

The Gosnell trial would have passed unnoticed, dismissed as a “local crime story” and, therefore, ignored by the national media had not a Philadelphia reporter contravened court rules and taken and then tweeted a photograph of the rows and rows of empty seats in the court reserved for the press. In the end, the picture went viral. A number of Catholic websites and some conservative media commentators expressed dismay at the seeming media blackout. This outcry soon snowballed, with the mainstream media unable to explain its lack of reporting of the Gosnell trial. Their eventual response was slow and half-hearted but some coverage did appear—if only to disappear soon after. It was as if, by then, the news outlets felt they had done enough—just enough—to say they had “covered the story,” and, thereafter, decided quietly to walk away. One suspects that another, more subtle media blackout quickly followed as the full horrors of what had transpired in Philadelphia came into view, and all linked to the word abortion.