Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, Feb. 10, 2013

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

You’re invited to attend next week’s Rally for Life at the capitol on Monday, Feb. 18. We’ll have a short legislative workshop at 1 p.m. in Room 102 at the Capitol (the old Supreme Court consultation room), followed by time for lobbying until the rally in the rotunda begins at 3 p.m.

The keynote speaker will be Dan McConchie, vice-president of governmental affairs from Americans United for Life. AUL is one of the nation’s premier pro-life legal teams. AUL’s legal team has been involved in every abortion-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade, including AUL’s successful defense of the Hyde Amendment before the Supreme Court.

Among the groups co-sponsoring the Rally for Life are the Dubuque Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Family Leader, Iowa Catholic Conference, Iowa Right to Life, Iowans for LIFE, and TeenPACT.

Several Republicans in the Iowa House introduced a bill last week to eliminate “webcam” abortions. House File 173 is one of our priorities for the session. The bill would require a physician to be physically present for the administration of drugs that cause abortions. We encourage you to go to our Action Center and send a message to your member of the House in support of the bill.

Here’s how this type of abortion works: During an office visit and video consultation with a physician at a different location, two pills are delivered to the pregnant woman by activating a remote control switch that opens a drawer in front of her. The drawer contains two pills, and she takes the first at his direction. The second pill is taken later, at home, on a prescribed schedule. If the abortion is “successful,” the woman delivers a dead baby at home.

We oppose all abortions, no matter the method. We also support the development of new technologies such as telemedicine, but take seriously our obligation to ensure it is moral and not used to degrade humanity. This method of abortion is particularly impersonal and potentially harmful to the woman’s life and health.

There is a subcommittee meeting tomorrow (Monday) regarding legislation to expand the Medicaid program to cover those families with incomes less than 133 percent of the poverty rate. Thanks to the many of you who have sent messages to legislators in support of expanding Medicaid. You still have a chance to do so in our Action Center.

As we mentioned last week, the Catholic Conference has filed in support of HSB 95, which would prohibit with some exceptions the use of restraints on a pregnant inmate. The bill will likely be amended and another subcommittee meeting held soon. A similar bill has been filed in the Senate – Senate File 134 - by Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque).

We also recommend your support of Senate File 132. The bill would restrict “payday” lending by offering businesses the choice of either offering all loans with an effective 36 percent interest rate, or offering all loans at their current interest rate and fee structure, but limiting the number of loans to about six to a customer in a year (thereby limiting the cycle of debt).

Payday loans are short-term cash advances, usually for $100 up to $500, based on the borrower’s personal check held for future deposit (the next pay day), or on electronic access to the borrower’s bank account. Because many loans are not repaid at the due date, they are renewed by paying the lender’s fee again. A borrower who is unable to repay their loan within four months will often pay more in fees than the original amount. Effectively interest rates can reach up to 400 percent and we believe that is unjust.

We believe SF 132 would still allow loans to be made to the occasional users the industry says the loans are designed for.

We had a productive meeting last Tuesday with Catholic and Christian school leaders from around the state at the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. One of our goals is to support parents in sending students to the school of their choice.

House Study Bill 4, the governor’s education reform bill, advanced out of subcommittee on Tuesday night. We don’t see any deal-breakers for Catholic schools. We pay close attention to any bills that could pertain to the ability of Catholic schools to fulfill their mission. The goal of the legislation is to draw high-caliber people into teaching and bring more teachers into leadership roles helping other teachers. The bill also includes a pay increase for public school teachers.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent out an action alert last week asking us to contact Congress in support of measures that will strengthen regulation of firearms and offer treatment for those in need who may become violent. These measures may include:

Require universal background checks for all gun purchases;
Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;
Make gun trafficking a federal crime;
Improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence.

The alert is at www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops. The website also explains Church teaching on the subject.

Along these lines here in Iowa, the ICC recommends your opposition to House Joint Resolution 4, a proposed amendment to Iowa’s constitution. It would not allow a person’s gun rights to be infringed upon or denied. It further says that mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation of guns would be prohibited.

HHS MANDATE UPDATE

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says a new proposed regulation announced by the administration regarding the HHS mandate “falls short” of accommodating its concerns about religious liberty. The mandate would require many religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortions.

While it is clear that the rule has an exemption from the mandate for dioceses and parishes, unfortunately, Catholic charities, hospitals and universities would generally be excluded from the exemption. These latter groups would be eligible for an “accommodation.” The contraceptive coverage would be provided to those employees, but it is still unclear under the proposed rule how it would be funded or facilitated.

The new rules do not acknowledge any conscience rights for private business owners that provide health insurance for their employees.

The bishops’ conference will be providing regulatory comments to HHS on the proposed regulations. Ideally the government would simply exempt organizations based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions as is common in other parts of federal law relating to conscience. We will keep you updated during the coming weeks on your opportunities to respond to this issue.

One way to help right now is to participate in the local “Project Life and Liberty” postcard campaign taking place in the coming weeks. Look for it at your parish or at www.nchla.org.

IMMIGRATION ISSUES

From what I hear, the USCCB is pleased with the response to electronic postcard campaign for just immigration reform at www.justiceforimmigrants.org. Keep up the good work.

Here are some of the principles we are looking for in federal legislation:

An earned path to citizenship for the 11 million people in the United States without authorization;
The priority of family reunification in any immigration reform;
Protecting the integrity of our borders and protecting due process for immigrants and their families;
Improving refugee protection laws and asylum laws;
Reviewing international economic policies to address the root causes of unauthorized immigration.

You also still have an opportunity to send a message in favor of the state DREAM Act at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd.

AND FINALLY,

You can always take a look at what bills we are tracking by visiting our Action Center at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd and clicking on “Issues” and “Current Legislation.”

Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

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