1. Justices Take Up Abortion-Speech Case.

By Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2017, Pg. A4

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up an appeal by antiabortion pregnancy centers challenging a California law that requires them to tell patients about the availability of publicly funded pregnancy services, including for abortion.

The case, Nifla v. Becerra, was one of three First Amendment-related appeals the high court added to its docket Monday.

California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the abortion-clinic measure in 2015 and it took effect last year. The law, the Reproductive FACT Act, requires certain licensed pregnancy-related centers to post notices and include disclaimers in their literature advising patients that Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, covers abortions for eligible low-income residents. It also requires unlicensed facilities to disclose that they don’t have a license.

The Legislature said the law was necessary because the targeted facilities, in their efforts to discourage abortions, “often confuse [and] misinform women” about their rights and available benefits. Lawmakers said the dissemination of accurate information was hindered by so-called crisis pregnancy centers that offered women some services but discourage abortion.

Religiously affiliated antiabortion pregnancy centers, and an organization representing such facilities, petitioned the Supreme Court. They said the law violates free-speech and religious-exercise protections because it forces them to communicate a government message about the availability of state-funded abortion.

Nonlicensed centers, which provide services like counseling, argued that the law forces them to cast themselves in a negative light by announcing they aren’t licensed medical centers.

All three cases are expected to be heard in 2018 and decided before July.


2. The ABA Jumps the Shark. 

By William McGurn, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2017, Pg. A19, Opinion

Looks as if the American Bar Association picked the wrong judicial nominee to play politics with. If Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are smart, they will use the ABA’s appearance at a hearing Wednesday to call the group out.

The object of the ABA’s attention is Leonard Steven Grasz, a former Nebraska chief deputy attorney general who’s been nominated for the a seat on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ABA has slapped Mr. Grasz with a “not qualified” rating, saying he’s too biased and too rude to be a judge. Given that much of this rating is based on accusations that are not detailed and from accusers who remain anonymous, it reveals more about the organization that issued it than it does about Mr. Grasz.

Yet even without an official role, the ABA ratings still exert undue influence on nominations. For the real signal sent by a “not qualified” rating is: This guy is a Neanderthal. That in turn allows the press to portray a nominee as out of the mainstream, and it can siphon off confirmation votes from Republican senators nervous about the rating.

That’s plainly what the ABA hopes for Mr. Grasz. The ABA’s statement makes clear his “not qualified” rating is based on two broad worries: his “passionately held social agenda” and complaints that he’s been “gratuitously rude.”

By “passionately held social agenda,” the ABA means abortion; in his prior life Mr. Grasz defended—as a state deputy attorney general is obliged to do—a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion. What it means by “rude” no one knows, because the ABA has thrown this out there while providing almost no specifics. For good measure, the ABA has twisted a two-decade-old law review article to suggest Mr. Grasz rejects a point he explicitly states, to wit, that judges are bound by clear legal precedent—even when “it may seem unwise or even morally repugnant.”

So Wednesday’s hearings offer Republicans an excellent opening to press ABA officials on how they came to their “not qualified” rating. Here’s a few suggestions:

• Why did the ABA ask where Mr. Grasz’s children went to school? Does the ABA believe their Lutheran education affects his fitness as a judge?

• Is it ever appropriate for an ABA interviewer to refer to “you people,” as Mr. Grasz’s did? When Mr. Grasz asked for clarification, the interviewer said he meant “Republicans and conservatives.” Has the ABA ever referred to “you people” when interviewing a Democratic nominee?

• The ABA has taken positions on many of the most contentious issues before the courts these days, from abortion to guns to same-sex marriage. How can a Republican judicial nominee have confidence these ABA positions will not adversely affect the ABA’s rating?

The questions are particularly compelling given that the Mr. Grasz who testified at his confirmation hearing earlier this month bears no resemblance to the knuckle-dragger the ABA is making him out to be.


3. Ex-Eli Lilly Official Is Picked to Run HHS.

By Stephanie Armour and  Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2017, Pg. A2

President Donald Trump on Monday announced he was nominating Alex Azar as secretary of health and human services, picking a former George W. Bush administration official who has criticized the Affordable Care Act to lead the agency that is tasked with carrying out the health law.

Mr. Azar, who served as deputy secretary of HHS before becoming president of an Eli Lilly & Co. affiliate, would inherit a $1 trillion agency charged with overseeing the 2010 health law in the wake of congressional Republicans’ failed effort to repeal it.

If confirmed, Mr. Azar would succeed Tom Price.

The choice of a detail-oriented lawyer familiar with the workings of the federal government drew praise from Republicans, who said that Mr. Azar would bring significant institutional knowledge to the job.

Mr. Azar, 50 years old, has already been confirmed twice by the Senate for appointments at HHS. He has extensive knowledge of regulatory process, cutting his teeth at HHS by implementing the Bush administration’s flagship health-care effort, the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program.

Since then, he has called for limited federal involvement in health policy and voiced support for key conservative ideas.

If confirmed, Mr. Azar would be tasked with carrying out Mr. Trump’s agenda of undoing the ACA. He has signaled in interviews that he backs such GOP goals as letting people contribute more to health-savings accounts that accompany high-deductible health plans.

Mr. Azar supported the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, according to a 2006 transcript of his remarks before the Islamic Medical Association of North America. The law, enacted in 2002 at the urging of Mr. Bush, requires a fetus that survives a botched abortion to be considered a person. Mr. Azar said he was committed to “protecting the health and well-being of the unborn, the sick, and the dying.”


4. Pro-life groups sue due to abortion option rule.

By Alex Swoyer and Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, November 14, 2017, Pg. A2

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a challenge to California’s law requiring pro-life pregnancy counseling centers to also tell women about options for abortion, in a move opponents said amounts to a violation of free speech rights.

The March for Life and other pro-life groups welcomed the Supreme Court’s review.

“We hope the Supreme Court can put an end to these unwarranted free speech assaults,” said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, calling the laws “harassment from the abortion industry.”


5. Counterculture alternatives to soulless hook-ups.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for the Catholic Association, The Washington Times, November 14, 2017, Pg. B4, Opinion

These days, young men and women seem to relate to each other chiefly in superficial, anatomic ways, too often fueled by heavy drinking. Disturbingly high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, rampant pornography addiction and casual sex that leaves girls feeling used and depressed are the most obvious results. But students have also lost ineffable things like the rites of romance and courtship that used to make the years of dating a sweet interlude on the way to stable marriages and happy families.

Not all undergraduates are willing to settle for the sleazy new normal. … They are creating associations like Love Saxa, a campus group at Georgetown University that promotes healthy romance and sexual integrity. Although their aim is simply to support young people who wish to engage in wholesome dating and safe relationships that lead to marriage, they have come under attack from a radical and intolerant fringe for their countercultural views.

Love Saxa just won its battle to exist as a fully accredited student association, but if the students who were demanding its members be ousted had succeeded, it would not only have been a triumph of intolerance, but also a sad loss for the whole student community. That’s because the counterculture love warriors are right, and their message needs to be promoted and amplified, not chilled. What they are proposing is a grander, nobler understanding of love and identity than what the sexual revolution of the ‘60s preached, and one that promises rich benefits like healthier and safer relationships based on sexual integrity and a better chance at successful, lasting and fruitful unions.

Love Saxa and similar groups at other universities argue that today’s rampant sexual libertinism is the result of a mistaken understanding of the human person and his or her fundamental needs. Today’s college students have been taught that self-expression and self-determination are direct roads to happiness, and that a fulfilling life is one of comfort, pleasure, bodily health and endless choices. They’re been taught they have the right and, in fact, the positive duty to reinvent themselves continually, untrammeled by vows, by moral or ethical rules, by their natural human obligations to family and society, or even by biology. They have been taught to live in a sickening cyclone of libertinism, and told that they are nauseous because they aren’t spinning fast enough.

The cure for the nausea, Love Saxa would teach them, is understanding that men and women can only find true happiness in authentic, loving relationship with others.

In this reading of human nature, sex is the most intimate and vulnerable expression of love, and in its noble fullness, gives us children who enrich our lives and binds us mightily to our spouses.

These are heady concepts and robust challenges to what passes for love and sex in college dorms across the country. To repurpose a perfect phrase from G.K. Chesterton, sexual liberation is “the grinning tyranny of decadence which is called freedom.” Love Saxa wants to deliver Georgetown students from the sexual decadence that wounds them physically and emotionally. The intolerant fringe who sought to shut them down are tyrants who can’t bear to think that happiness and fulfillment might be found in the old familiar places, and in the old familiar ways.


6. The inconvenience of a conscience.

By The Washington Times, November 14, 2017, Pg. B2, Editorial

Abortion is the issue that will divide America forever because it’s fundamentally an issue of conscience vs. convenience, with no victory for either side in prospect. A conscience is difficult to silence and everybody likes convenience. There’s no better snapshot of the chasm between red America and blue America.

Last week, two pieces of legislation were introduced in Washington, the Conscience Protection Act in Congress, and the Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act in the District of Columbia Council.

Eight members of Congress, including one Democrat, joined in the introduction of legislation to shield doctors and nurses from being compelled to assist in abortions, at the risk of losing their jobs, if they refuse to participate.

A day earlier, D.C. Councilman David Grosso had introduced the municipal legislation that would prevent hospitals in Washington denying staff privileges to doctors and nurses who perform or assist in abortions, and would enable them to speak publicly without fear of consequences about their support for abortion.

The Conscience Protection Act was incorporated into a consolidated end-of-the-year spending bill approved by the House in September. If the Senate approves, President Trump says he will sign it into law.

Mr. Grosso’s legislation makes no exemption for doctors and nurses at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital/Georgetown University Medical Center, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, which instructs the conscience of a Christian that taking a life is wrong, inconvenient or not, to those seeking or assisting in an abortion.


7. Catholic cardinal condemns “forces of division” and fear.

By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, The Washington Times, November 14, 2017, Pg. A12

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decried what he said were “the forces of division” in the country, as he called Monday for immigration policies that keep families together and a “humane” approach to policing the border.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, affirmed the government’s authority to protect national security. But he said recent policies and attitudes have often been rooted in unfounded anxiety about people who “look, talk and even think differently.” That fear is present both within and outside the church, he said.

“The forces of division prey on our fear of the unfamiliar, the different. But fear is not of God,” said DiNardo, in an address to the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore. “They tempt us to see a threat in the stranger.”

DiNardo said the country had a “moral responsibility” to protect the border “in a humane way.” He said a “pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart.” And he expressed support for young immigrants known by their advocates as Dreamers. For “those who have only known the United States as their home, we make Pope Francis’ words our own: keep on dreaming,” DiNardo said.

DiNardo linked the church’s advocacy for immigrants with the Roman Catholic teaching against abortion, saying respect for others begins in the womb. He also called for stronger religious liberty protections for health care workers and others who oppose abortion.


8. U.S. bishops to issue forthcoming ‘presidential statement’ on immigration; release date undetermined.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 14, 2017

After a long debate, the U.S. bishops decided against issuing a special message on immigration – although they did urge for the release of a presidential statement on the matter from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who serves as president of the conference.

In comparison, four years ago to the day, the U.S. bishops unanimously passed a “special message” denouncing the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraception mandate for its threats to religious liberty.

A “special message” is a formal statement that under parliamentary rules for the conference, must be issued while the assembly is in session with a two-thirds vote from the conference approving the formation of the drafting committee. In 2013, when the U.S. bishops issued a formal “special message” on the Health and Human Services mandate, they did so at the conclusion of the assembly.

DiNardo indicated that it could take several days for a statement to be drafted and that he would like to work on it in conjunction with Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, who serves as head of the special working group on immigration, and Bishop Joe Vasqeuz of Austin, Texas, who is head of the Committee on Migration.


9. Pope’s Chile-Peru trip to include focus on indigenous people.

By Nicole Winfield and Eva Vergara, Associated Press, November 13, 2017, 5:36 PM

Pope Francis’ trip to Chile and Peru in January is likely to focus on the plight of indigenous peoples, with a day dedicated to the Amazon and a visit to a region wracked by tensions with Chile’s Mapuche group.

The Vatican on Monday released the itinerary for the Jan. 15-22 trip, which will be the pope’s 22nd foreign visit and his fifth to his home continent.

The trip also is expected to cover issues important to Francis — poverty, migration and the environment. And it will feature the protocol visits, speeches to bishops and meetings with local Jesuits that are part of any Francis foreign trip.

It also could create tension. Vandals recently burned a bus and scattered pamphlets to protest Francis’ Jan. 17 visit to the southern Chilean region claimed by the Mapuche as ancestral territory.

The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group and they resisted conquest for 300 years, until military defeats in the late 19th century forced them into Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of the capital. The government then encouraged European immigrants to colonize the area.


10. Appeals court won’t reconsider Planned Parenthood defunding.

By Andrew Demillo, Associated Press, November 13, 2017, 4:44 PM

A federal appeals court said Monday it won’t reconsider a ruling that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, setting up a potential showdown over defunding efforts by conservative states over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by three Planned Parenthood Great Plains patients to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision upholding the state’s defunding decision. The panel in August vacated a federal judge’s preliminary injunction that prevented Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients in the state.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state’s Medicaid contract with the group in 2015.