Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, July 8, 2013

It’s been a busy summer. The past few weeks have seen both progress and setbacks on several long-term goals of the Catholic Conference on the state and federal levels. How things end up depends in part on your taking action.

Let’s start at the state level …

PROPOSED RULE WOULD ELIMINATE ‘WEBCAM’ ABORTIONS

The Iowa Board of Medicine has voted 8-2 to approve a “Notice of Intended Action” to establish a standard of practice for physicians who perform chemical/medical abortions. The proposed rule would require a physician to be physically present while abortion drugs are being provided. In other words, chemical abortions initiated over a videoconference fail to meet a minimum standard of care. The rule would not interfere with other practices of telemedicine. 

Here's how a “webcam” abortion works: during a video consultation with a physician at a different location, two pills are delivered to the pregnant woman when the remote physician activates a switch that opens a drawer in front of the mother. The drawer contains two pills, and she takes the first right away at the doctor's 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. However, if abortions are taking place, the safety and informed consent of the women involved should be among our chief concerns. This method of abortion is particularly impersonal and disturbing, not to mention potentially harmful to the woman’s life and health.

Unfortunately, many abortions in Iowa take place this way. Authorizing the procedure over a video connection saves money for abortion providers and has the potential to become a profit center.

A public hearing on the proposal is set to take place Aug. 28. Already abortion rights supporters are mobilizing for a fight.

IMMIGRATION REFORM

Late last month, the U.S. Senate passed S. 744, an immigration reform bill, by a vote of 68-32. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, Calif., and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, commended the Senate for passing the legislation. Archbishop Gomez stated that while the USCCB Committee on Migration disagrees with elements of the bill, including the unprecedented build-up of enforcement resources along the southern border, they see the legislation as an overall improvement upon the current situation.

The U.S. Catholic bishops believe that the status quo is causing much suffering among immigrants and their families. Millions of people who have come to our country for work have been caught up in a system that doesn’t recognize what it takes for families to survive. 

This has led the Catholic bishops of the United States to support reforming our country’s immigration system using the following principles:

• Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country;

• Preserves family unity as a corner-stone of our national immigration system;

• Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States;

• Restores due process protections to our immigration enforcement policies;

• Addresses the root causes (push factors) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.

Now that the Senate has passed the bill, attention turns to the U.S. House. Leadership there has said they intend to move forward with their own bill rather than the Senate version.

To keep up to date on the issue and send a message to Congress, visit www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

FINAL ‘HHS MANDATE’ RULE RELEASED

The federal Health and Human Services Department on June 28 released the final rule on the “HHS Mandate.”

The mandate requires almost all health insurance plans to cover female sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptives – including drugs and devices that can prevent implantation, and at least one drug (Ella) that can cause abortion after implantation. The Church objects to providing these services to its employees because it violates our moral and religious convictions. In my view the mandate prohibits the free exercise of religion as promised by the First Amendment.

The final rule does not appear, on first analysis, to eliminate “the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said July 3. Cardinal Dolan is president of the USCCB. He listed three areas of concern based on the March 2012 statement of the Administrative Committee, United for Religious Freedom: (1) the narrow definition of “religious employers” that are exempted, (2) the “accommodation” of religious ministries excluded from that definition, and (3) the treatment of businesses run by people who seek to operate their companies according to their religious principles.

The first concern with the definition of “religious employer,” and the third concern with faithful business owners and other individuals, still have not been addressed at all.  The second area of concern - the “accommodation” for religious charities, schools, hospitals, and other ministries of service - appears mostly the same, except for three relatively small changes that will require more time and analysis to evaluate.

I encourage you to contact your legislators in support of legislation that would address the problem: H.R. 940 and S. 1204, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. Go to www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops for an action alert.

MARRIAGE

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June on two separate cases regarding same-sex unions: 1) The federal Defense of Marriage Act; and 2) California's Prop 8, which recognized marriage only between a man and a woman in California. Lower courts had struck down both of these laws.

The Supreme Court found DOMA unconstitutional. The Court ruled "no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity."

Regarding Prop 8, the Court dismissed the case and said the private petitioners lacked standing to fight a California court's decision to strike down Prop 8. (The state of California had declined to defend it.) So the ruling striking down Prop 8 is still in force.

These decisions still leaves the door open for states such as Iowa to take action on the marriage issue. The Court did not yet find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Check out your diocese’s website for your bishop’s statement. A link to the websites can be found at www.iowacatholicconference.org by clicking on “Resources.”

“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life,” said Cardinal Dolan. “We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

FARM BILL FAILS

Unexpectedly the U.S. House failed to pass its version of the Farm Bill that proposed heavy cuts of over $20 billion to SNAP (food stamps).

The Senate had passed the Farm Bill on June 10. That bill included cuts of over $4 billion to SNAP and nearly $6 billion to conservation programs over ten years.

Neither bill made what we consider to be necessary reforms to agricultural subsidy programs. Your advocacy is still needed. We will need to keep telling Congress to protect vulnerable people in this key agriculture legislation as they consider how to move this process forward.

A sample message is available on the issue at www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops.

‘PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL LIFE IS A RIGHT AND MORAL OBLIGATION’

The U.S. Supreme Court decision June 25 striking down part of the Voting Rights Act “necessitates legislative action to assure that no one is denied their right or obligation to participate in public life by voting or speaking out,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity. The statement follows.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has long played a leadership role in securing and protecting the rights of all citizens to vote, including the Voting Rights Act. The recent Supreme Court decision necessitates that Congress act swiftly to assure that the right to vote be protected and afforded to all eligible citizens. Corresponding to this right is the moral obligation that each of us has to participate in public life. In the U.S. bishops’ statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, we wrote ‘In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.… Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will.’ We urge policymakers to quickly come together to reaffirm the bipartisan consensus that has long supported the Voting Rights Act and to move forward new legislation that assures modern and effective protections for all voters so that they may exercise their right and moral obligation to participate in political life.”

BISHOP BLAIRE: LIVING WAGE ESSENTIAL TO SOCIETY, FOUNDATIONAL PART OF CATHOLIC TEACHING 

A discussion of workers’ wages is a good starting point for fixing the U.S. economy, said Bishop Blaine in testimony on June 25 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee’s hearing was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which codified the national minimum wage for the first time.

“We can begin the process of fixing our economy by returning the worker to the center of economic life,” he said. “One of the best ways to do that is with decent jobs that pay just wages, thereby honoring human dignity and restoring hope to workers and families. Increasing the minimum wage to a level that reflects the real economic reality faced by families today would go far in building an economy worthy of the humans that operate in it.”

Bishop Blaire said the Working Poor Families Project recently reported that there were 10.4 million low-income working families in 2011, including 23.5 million children. “Work should be a ladder out of poverty for families, it should not trap them in poverty,” said Bishop Blaire.

CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY

The USCCB is part of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. The Coalition issued a press release welcoming the president’s recent statement on climate policy. You can find more information at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org. The USCCB measures climate policies based on three criteria: 

  • Does the policy add to or ease the burdens felt by the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad?
  • Will the policy offer relief for U.S. workers who may be displaced because of climate change policies?
  • Does the policy promote the development and use of alternate renewable and clean- energy resources, including the transfer of such technologies and technical assistance that may be appropriate and helpful to developing countries in meeting the challenges of global climate change?

Here in Iowa, a group is forming to address issues related to climate policy. The launch of a new chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby is set for July 20. For more details you can check out the Facebook page for Iowa Climate Advocates.

AND FINALLY,

The Church’s World Youth Day will take place July 23-28 in Brazil. Your prayers for the many attendees from Iowa and around the world would be greatly appreciated. 

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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