1. Lawsuits fight bills forcing doctors, clinics to promote abortion.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, September 13, 2017, Pg. A5

Attorneys filed a complaint on Monday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking the agency to protect the free speech rights of pro-life doctors and women’s health clinics from states governments trying to force them to promote abortion.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed state and federal lawsuits challenging such laws, but said the Trump administration can also take action to ensure the First Amendment rights of pro-life medical practitioners are upheld.

“Government officials shouldn’t be allowed to force anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry,” ADF legal counsel Elissa Graves said in a statement. “Furthermore, federal law simply doesn’t allow it. States that compel pro-life doctors and staff to act contrary to their conscience do not qualify for federal funds. We have filed these complaints to inform HHS of what is happening so that it can take action.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, signed SB 1564 into law in July of last year.

The legislation compels pro-life doctors and pregnancy centers to tell their patients about the availability of state-sponsored abortions. Pregnant women must be informed of the “benefits” of abortion, the law says, and given the names of doctors willing to perform the procedure.

Hawaii’s SB 501, signed into law by Democratic Gov. David Y. Ige in June, requires pro-life doctors and clinics to post large signs or provide fliers in their offices directing patients to a state agency that provides abortion referrals.

Courts have issued injunctions blocking the Illinois law from taking effect. Similar statutes have been invalidated in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.

Earlier this year, ADF asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case involving a California law that compels the speech of pro-life doctors and clinics.

Monday’s petition argues that the laws violate federal law and the U.S. Constitution. If the Trump administration agrees, it could put the federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, of the offending states at jeopardy.

Progressives argue the laws are necessary to inform women about all of their reproductive health options.


2. Pope’s trip to Colombia felt like a victory lap for an entire nation. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 13, 2017

Heading in, one PR fear about Pope Francis’s Sept. 6-11 trip to Colombia was that it might come off as nothing more than a victory lap for the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and his controversial peace deal with the country’s Marxist rebels, leaving behind deeper division rather than reconciliation.

In the end, however, if the outing felt like a victory lap for anyone, it wasn’t just Santos, although he did well too, but the Colombian people.

Not once during the trip did Francis voice direct support for the peace accord signed by Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was later joined by the National Liberation Army (ELN),  though he did reference it on Thursday during a meeting with Colombia’s political leadership.

The visit proved to Colombians that they could go out in the streets- 6.8 million of them did- and be at peace. Including victims and perpetrators, 16,000 of whom sat together for hours in Villavicencio waiting for the pope to lead the Big National Prayer of Reconciliation.


3. Speaker Ryan Invites a Social Doctrine Conversation. 

By George Weigel, First Things, September 13, 2017

CNN is not the customary locale-of-choice for a catechesis on Catholic social doctrine. But that’s what Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, offered viewers of a CNN national town hall meeting on the evening of August 21. Challenged with a semi-“Gotcha!” question by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Erica Jordan, who not-so-subtly suggested that Ryan’s approach to healthcare reform, tax reform, and welfare reform was in conflict with the Church’s social teaching, the very Catholic Speaker replied that he completely agreed with Sister Erica that God is “always on the side of the poor and dispossessed”; the real question was, how do public officials, who are not God, create public policies that empower the poor and dispossessed to be not-poor and not-dispossessed?

Congressman Ryan then laid out an approach to alleviating poverty and empowering the poor that seemed to me entirely congruent with the core Catholic social ethical principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Solidarity with the poor is a moral imperative, Ryan agreed, but solidarity should not be measured by inputs—How many federal dollars go into anti-poverty programs?—but by outcomes: Are poor people who can live independent and fruitful lives being helped by our welfare dollars to develop the skills and habits that will enable them to be self-reliant, constructive citizens? The moral obligation of solidarity is not met by programs that perpetuate welfare dependency.

America needs many serious conversations in this age of the demagogic tweet and the rabid talk-radio sound-bite. One of them is about the scandal of poverty amidst vast wealth and the empowerment of the poor. That conversation is not advanced when, as happened after the CNN broadcast, smug partisans attack a serious Catholic public official by suggesting that he’s deficient in both his moral commitment to the poor and his understanding of Catholic social doctrine. Paul Ryan is no more the reincarnation of Simon Legree than Sister Erica Morgan and her fellow Sinsinawa Dominicans are the reincarnation of Ingrid Bergman/Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s. Keeping that in mind would help foster the thoughtful debate that the Speaker, and the country, would welcome.


4. Advocates highlight effort to block D.C. law banning discrimination based on birth control, abortion decisions.

By Jenna Portnoy, The Washington Post, September 12, 2017, 5:58 PM

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate warned House members that they will closely monitor votes on a measure to block a District law that says employers cannot discriminate against workers based on their reproductive health decisions.

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) last month filed an amendment to the House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018, to prevent the District from using funds to carry out the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act.

The House is expected to pass the measure late Wednesday, but it must still clear the Senate and be signed by President Trump before it can take effect.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America — as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State — urged lawmakers to oppose Palmer’s amendment.

Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, and Concerned Women for America, which are opposed to abortion rights, urged members to support it.

Groups on the left and right warned lawmakers that they will closely track how members vote and grade them.

Heritage, which favors the Palmer amendment, said the law is still problematic because it could force employers opposed to abortion to hire employees who openly support abortion rights, infringing on the employers’ right of free association.