December 12 2013 by
Andrew Branch, World News Service
The U.S. Supreme Court
has turned away Liberty University's attempt
a key part
The case challenged
both the employer
and individual mandates
of religious freedom
, but it also disputed Congress’ power to compel employers to provide insurance. The decision
, made Monday (Dec. 9) without comment, leaves
in place the dismissal
of Liberty’s claims
by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in Richmond, Va.
The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in June 2012 under Congress’ power to tax. The Liberty case asked the courts to consider whether Congress has the same such power over employers.
Representing Liberty University is Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who challenged the law the day President Barack Obama signed it in 2010.
On Tuesday’s "The World and Everything in It," Staver said the issue of the employer mandate isn’t over. “If certainly there is a Court of Appeals that will strike down the employer mandate, that’s going to be a mandatory review by the high court,” Staver said. The employer mandate has survived two high court challenges. Several other cases against the employer mandate are making their ways through lower courts.
of Liberty’s case
included a challenge
to the individual mandate
on religious liberty grounds
. The case alleged there are situations in which religious people may be forced to contribute to a risk pool that provides abortion.
Liberty’s commonwealth of Virginia is one of 23 states to bar insurers from covering elective abortion on the exchanges. The Virginia law exempts abortions for the life of the mother or cases of rape and incest.
In the other 27 states
, though, the Obamacare creates
a separate $1 monthly charge
directly for elective abortions
that is added to premiums of those with abortion in their health plans. As the Heritage Foundation outlines, Obamacare doesn’t provide an opt-out for individuals or families if a certain plan fits their needs in every other way.
Finally, Liberty’s case challenged
the so-called contraceptive mandate
, which forces for-profit business
to cover abortifacient birth control drugs
like Plan B regardless of owners’ religious objections.
The Supreme Court already accepted
a case brought by Hobby Lobby on the issue. Arguments on that case will likely take place in March with a ruling as soon as June. The case could set the national precedent on cases of religious freedom for the foreseeable future.
12/12/2013 1:18:22 PM
December 12 2013 by
Emily Belz, World News Service
Andrew Branch, World News Service | with 0 comments
Abortions are on the decline
in the United States, though numbers remain shockingly high in New York City, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report
released over Thanksgiving.
The study used voluntary data from 44 states
, New York City
, and the District of Columbia
. The states not included in the study didn't provide data for each of the ten years.
From 2001 to 2010
, the number of reported legal abortions in the United States fell by 9 percent
. The number of teenagers getting abortions dropped most significantly, probably due in part to the overall drop in teenage pregnancies. For that 10-year period
, the abortion rate
among teenagers fell
about 30 percent
in New York City
. That amounts to 694 abortions for every 1,000 live births. No other jurisdiction approaches that high of an abortion ratio.
Other city health reports have shown that almost 40 percent
in New York end
. Most shocking in the CDC's New York numbers
: 82 percent
in the city were performed
or Hispanic women
The authors noted that the CDC numbers
they are voluntary
, significantly underreport abortions
compared to the more fully researched Guttmacher Institute studies. For 2008
, the CDC reported 825,564 abortions
while Guttmacher reported 1.21 million abortions
. But the CDC trends are still meaningful.
The CDC released another report compiled from its own data as well as outside sources like Guttmacher that shows the abortion rate has fallen 32 percent since 1990.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Belz is a writer for WORLD Magazine. This article is used by permission from WORLD News Service.)
12/12/2013 1:04:48 PM
November 14 2013 by
Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service
Emily Belz, World News Service | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – A steady stream of abortion
cases is heading toward the Supreme Court, making it only a matter of time before the justices are likely to consider a new wave of state restrictions.
Although the justices have refused to consider two major cases from Oklahoma in the past two weeks, more states are seeking the high court’s blessing
for restrictions that have been struck down by state and federal appeals courts.
As conflicting decisions at those courts pile up, it becomes more likely that the justices will agree to consider laws such as those banning
abortions after 20 weeks, regulating the use of abortion-inducing drugs, imposing restrictions on clinics and doctors, and requiring that women receive counseling and testing before ending their pregnancies.
“It’s a pivotal
moment,” says Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor who writes a blog on reproductive rights. “The restrictions are now getting to a point where they’re actually shutting down clinics.”
RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Throngs of anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall Friday Jan. 25, 2013, for a rally marking the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. After speeches by new March for Life President Jeanne Monahan and political and religious leaders, they marched to the steps of the high court.
The court already has on its January calendar a challenge to Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone
around abortion clinics. Early next month, justices are likely to agree to consider another case, challenging the requirement under President Barack Obama’s health care law that nearly all employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Those two cases represent conservatives’ challenges to state and federal laws aimed at providing added protections for women’s health. But the overwhelming majority of cases headed to the high court focus on efforts by states to restrict or limit abortions.
The court refused Nov. 12 to consider Oklahoma’s appeal of a state Supreme Court ruling striking down a requirement that women have ultrasound
tests performed, displayed and explained before getting abortions. But a North Carolina case working its way through lower courts eventually could reach the justices.
Last week, the court turned away another Oklahoma appeal of a state Supreme Court decision, striking down a law that restricts abortion-inducing drugs to the uses approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Because doctors prefer off-label uses in most cases, the law would have banned almost all medication abortions.
Whatever cases the justices ultimately agree to hear, they will offer the court a chance to clarify its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld abortion rights
but gave states broader authority to impose restrictions such as 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent.
“The stakes have been ratcheted up,” says Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis who had hoped to defend Oklahoma’s mandatory ultrasound law at the Supreme Court. “The stakes are higher for both sides.”
Since its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade
established a woman’s right to abortion, the Supreme Court has revisited the issue on a sporadic basis, and limits have increased.
A 1980 case restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortions to cases involving rape, incest or the woman’s health. Casey approved a range of restrictions in 1992. And in 2007, the justices upheld a federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, usually performed between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Since then, state restrictions have multiplied. In 2011, 92 provisions passed in 24 states. Last year there were 43 more, according to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health think tank that supports abortion rights.
While opponents of abortion may be winning in state legislatures, backers of abortion rights have beaten back many of those laws in court. That has led state officials to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court in hopes that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Casey opinion with two colleagues who have since retired, will side with other conservative justices and approve more restrictions.
“If the court decides to take an abortion case, it could certainly use the case to further elaborate on the standard
that should be applied to evaluate abortion restrictions,” says Jennifer Dalvin of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Among the cases headed toward the high court:
A Texas law banning most abortions from medications such as Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, and requiring doctors who perform abortions to get hospital admitting privileges. A district court judge struck down the hospital provision, but an appeals court said it could take effect pending the state’s challenge. That ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
An Arizona law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, by which point the fetus may feel pain. That is before the fetus becomes capable of surviving outside the womb, making it a direct challenge to Roe and Casey. Similar laws are being challenged in Idaho and Georgia.
11/14/2013 4:03:24 PM
September 25 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly outside abortion clinics.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the ERLC urges the justices to invalidate a Massachusetts buffer zone law and to reverse its own previous opinion upholding a similar law in Colorado.
Oral arguments in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, are expected in early 2014. They are not scheduled for this fall’s portion of the next court term, which opens in October.
The ERLC joined nine other organizations in signing onto the brief filed Sept. 16 by the Christian Legal Society (CLS).
In the case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld in January a 2007 Massachusetts law that establishes a 35-foot zone around the entrances and driveways of abortion clinics. The measure bars pro-life sidewalk counselors from entering that zone to talk to women considering an abortion or scheduled for one unless those women provide consent.
The law protects the rights of patients while also ensuring pro-lifers could exercise their First Amendment rights, the appeals court said in its opinion. Pro-lifers contend, however, the scope of the buffer zone makes it almost impossible to speak to women going to the clinic.
The ERLC-endorsed brief argues that the law violates a sidewalk’s legal status as a public forum open to peaceful assembly and speech. It also contends such a law has far-reaching implications.
“If Massachusetts can close off the sidewalks surrounding reproductive health facilities to peaceful expressive activity, then the government can prohibit expression in a wide range of circumstances,” according to the brief.
A state, the brief says, “might seek to undermine union strikes by closing off public sidewalks surrounding factories to peaceful expressive activity. Or the state might seek to stifle criticism of a controversial legislative policy by excluding peaceful expressive activity from the public sidewalks near the state capitol.”
Like Massachusetts has done with the buffer zone law, a state “could offer high-minded justifications” for such a restriction, but it would ultimately “undermine the public forum,” the brief says.
The ERLC-backed brief appeals to the Supreme Court to reverse itself on a 2000 opinion regarding a Colorado law that also placed limitations on pro-lifers. The justices voted 6-3 in the Hill v. Colorado decision to uphold that measure, which established a 100-foot zone around abortion clinic entrances. Inside that zone, a pro-lifer needs permission in order to get within eight feet of a person to counsel or distribute a handout.
That opinion, like the Massachusetts law, “is at odds with the overwhelming thrust of this Court’s free speech jurisprudence, which protects the ability of speakers to communicate to unwilling listeners,” the brief says.
“The peaceful and non-confrontational expression” by the pro-lifers challenging the Massachusetts law fits easily within the Supreme Court’s free speech philosophy, “which permits even hurtful speech, expression, and protest,” according to the brief.
The high court’s opinion on the Massachusetts law could affect ordinances in several major U.S. cities that have enacted similar buffer zone laws.
Joining the ERLC on the CLS brief were the National Association of Evangelicals, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, American Bible Society, Christian Medical Association, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance and International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The ERLC signed on to another friend-of-the-court brief filed Sept. 16 by CLS, this time with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. In Domino’s v. Sebelius, the brief supports the religious freedom of a business owner to refuse to abide by the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate under the 2010 health care law. That rule requires employers to pay for coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
9/25/2013 4:23:37 PM
September 19 2013 by
Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
BRYAN, Texas – Christians throughout the Brazos Valley in Texas credit the power of prayer and God’s grace for the closure of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Bryan, believing it could be a breakthrough moment in the fight against abortion.
The clinic cited “budget cuts and persistent attacks on women’s health” when it shut its doors in early August.
Some of the Christians confessed they never believed the clinic at 4112 29th St. would close. Still others were certain it would happen – in God’s time. For 15 years the coalition of Christians prayed for and counseled countless women – and saved and lost the lives of unborn babies.
Yet while they mourned the loss of 6,400 babies at the Bryan Health Center-Family Planning, they praised God for the birth of an international movement, 40 Days for Life, which they consider the final nail in the coffin for this facility and others across the nation.
“God used you, and abortion is now ended in the Brazos Valley,” Shawn Carney, campaign director for 40 Days for Life, said at a celebration Sept. 7 across the street from the former clinic.
Bobby Reynoso, director of Coalition for Life in Bryan-College Station, said local pro-life leaders are praying that it will be the “tipping point for the pro-life cause in helping end abortion across the nation.” The coalition is exploring ways to replicate the success in other cities.
TEXAN photo by Bonnie Pritchett
Abby Johnson, now a pro-life advocate, prays and places roses outside the Planned Parenthood clinic she once directed in Bryan-College Station, Texas.
Speakers at the celebration included former abortion clinic employees, pastors and priests, prayer volunteers, crisis pregnancy center volunteers, health care ministry volunteers and the mayor of Bryan.
Jason Bienski said as mayor he usually is glad to see new business startups. “Today we celebrate the closing of a business. Planned Parenthood was never welcome in Bryan-College Station,” he said.
Speakers recounted stories of spiritual interventions and the renewing of their faith in a seemingly endless fight.
Karen Hall, director of Central Texas Orphan Missions Alliance (CTOMA) and a member of Central Baptist Church in Bryan-College Station, said the driveway to her offices sometimes was mistaken for the driveway to the neighboring abortion clinic.
Once inside the CTOMA facility, some women, thinking they were at Planned Parenthood, said they had arrived for their ultrasounds.
CTOMA has a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine as part of its pro-life ministry. While the women completed forms, an ultrasound nurse was hurriedly making her way to the clinic.
“There was joy in heaven every time a woman missed that Planned Parenthood drive and came into our office,” Hall said.
David Bereit, 40 Days for Life national director, told the crowd, “I believed the end of abortion would begin in this community. For 15 years you prayed. You never gave up. Today we understand why this community is shaping the abortion debate.”
According to Planned Parenthood’s website, a lack of state funding led to the closure, leaving low-income women to suffer for loss of their services. The statement did not mention that such services included abortions.
In 2011, the Texas legislature ended state funding of Planned Parenthood, an act many believe led to the closing of clinics across the state. Women from this region of Texas seeking abortions now must drive nearly two hours to Houston, home of the largest abortion clinic in North America.
In 1998, when Planned Parenthood announced it would open an abortion clinic in Bryan, Lauren Gulde, a member St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, was appalled. She rallied likeminded pro-life advocates to stand in opposition to the clinic. To her amazement, representatives from 60 churches attended the first strategy meeting, and the Bryan-College Station Coalition for Life was born.
The coalition illustrates the unity of the local body of Christ, drawing volunteers and donors from different churches. Well-established pregnancy centers welcomed a new partner in the fight.
For Tracy Frank, director of the Hope Pregnancy Center, “the Marines had landed.”
The faith-based Hope Pregnancy Center has operated behind the scenes in Bryan-College Station for 28 years, never drawing attention to itself through protests but effectively and quietly working behind the scenes leading women to Christ and away from Planned Parenthood. So Frank, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bryan, was elated when the Coalition for Life stepped into the fray.
The Coalition for Life, as a fledgling organization, sought counsel from similar organizations. A trip to Los Angeles taught the volunteers the increasingly popular and peaceful tactic of sidewalk praying and counseling.
With training and faith, volunteers showed up regularly to pray and counsel with women entering the clinic. Local police told Carney the sidewalk in front of the Bryan Planned Parenthood clinic was the most protested piece of Planned Parenthood property in the country.
And Planned Parenthood noticed. Jim Sedlak, an early volunteer, recalled a fundraising visit from Gloria Feldt, then-president of Planned Parenthood. When Sedlak told the coalition volunteers that Feldt declared Bryan-College Station “the most anti-choice place in the nation,” they cheered.
Clinic directors did not like the quiet protests, so fences were erected. But the metal bars did not block views or voices, and volunteers passed pro-life tracts through the gaps.
So another director put up a screen across the fence.
That director was Abby Johnson, who in 2009 after viewing an ultrasound during an abortion, walked out of the clinic and around the corner to the Coalition for Life offices. When she returned to the Planned Parenthood clinic weeks later, it was as a prayer volunteer on the sidewalk.
Choking back tears, Johnson addressed the crowd on Sept. 7. “I never thought I would call some of you friends,” she said.
The 40 Days for Life volunteers persistently prayed outside Johnson’s office, and Carney developed a cordial relationship with her. But she remained committed to what she believed was a woman’s right to choose – until that important day.
Bereit said Johnson is one of 83 confirmed abortion clinic workers across the nation who have left their jobs since the beginning of the 40 Days for Life initiative. The movement calls on volunteers to pray around the clock for 40 days. Each volunteer takes a shift praying at the clinic so someone is always there, praying, 24 hours a day.
The 40 Days for Life movement grew from a desperate time in the coalition. In 2004, Bereit said, the Coalition for Life leadership believed they were at an impasse. They were tired and the way forward was unclear. In search of answers, the leadership team committed to pray together for one hour.
“That prayer gave life to 40 Days for Life,” Bereit said.
When Bereit recounted the prayer meeting to his friend Jim Olson, he responded, “Planned Parenthood doesn’t know what a bad day they just had.”
That was 2004. By 2007, the movement spread throughout the United States and 19 other countries. By 2009, Johnson walked out her clinic door. And by 2013, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan closed.
“Never again will a single baby be lost at 4112 29th St,.,” Gulde said. “Never again will a young college woman walk briskly to her car with tears in her eyes.”
Bereit said, “You’ve shown the world that with God all things are possible.”
But Johnson, who has put her faith in Christ, said, “I want to leave you with this: It’s not done. It’s far from over.”
She believes abortion will end with the help of former abortion workers like Drs. Haywood Robinson and Noreen Johnson. The husband and wife were abortion doctors in Los Angeles before leaving the industry and promoting the pro-life cause. They now practice medicine in College Station and attend Aldersgate Church.
Pointing to the barred and locked clinic gates, Robinson told the crowd, “Those gates across the street represent the gates of hell, and it shall not stand! That building stands as an Ebenezer as to how God and His people triumph over evil.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
9/19/2013 5:08:27 PM
September 19 2013 by
Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press
Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
YUBA CITY, Calif. – The urgent need to rescue preborn babies is at the heart of another Life Chain observance Oct. 6.
For 26 years, people have been peacefully holding signs along streets in cities and towns while praying for the end of abortion. Upwards of a million participants in the United States and Canada were mobilized until organizers stopped counting in the early 1990s to make prayer the sole focus. The event occurs on the first Sunday in October, along with similar Life Chains at different times in other countries.
“Abortions remain numerous” while too many churches remain apathetic, said Royce Dunn, founder and director of Life Chain
and a Baptist layman from Yuba City, Calif. “That’s why we do this. We aim to rescue a nation, too. The church must discover and discern the holocaust.”
Life Chain launched in California with thousands of participants from Sacramento to San Diego and went national in 1991 with 373 locations and 771,000 participants across the country. In 1992 the total swelled to more than 800 U.S. venues and 975,000 participants along with 97 chains and 80,000 people in Canada, although current numbers are considerably lower.
Church members in Sylva, N.C., gather at the county courthouse as part of their participation in Life Chain, a national pro-life prayer initiative.
“The Life Chain is a call to the church through pastoral leadership,” Dunn noted. “It’s church-oriented and pastor-focused. Pastors are urged to prepare their people and lead them to the chain. Participants are to just isolate themselves with God for 90 minutes. If they do that with their pastor, it will be a very, very meaningful experience.”
Joe Goodson, a Southern Baptist minister in Texas, has seen the Life Chain work well in the state, having participated as a seminarian, youth pastor and pastor over the years. This year he will be with the Temple/Belton Life Chain.
The battle at the Texas statehouse in Austin in recent months over a bill to restrict abortions is a special motivation to Goodson for this year’s Life Chain.
“It was an intense conflict between light and darkness, and the spiritual blindness and darkness upon our nation and culture was almost palpable at times,” Goodson said. “The attempt to protect unborn children was slandered as evil with all sorts of obscene signs, chants and bitterness.” The legislature passed a bill with various abortion restrictions and Gov. Rick Perry subsequently signed it.
“After witnessing this, I am exponentially more eager to spread the word about the Life Chain all across Texas and beyond ... to provide that essential voice for the voiceless unborn,” Goodson said.
Dunn said today’s worship often shuns the cries of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jonah. Instead, the American church largely is ineffectual against “a calamity much larger than the German Holocaust. While 56 million chiefly surgical abortions have been reported in America and 3 million in Canada, the actual numbers are much higher, and hidden deaths from the abortive chemicals in birth controls may exceed the surgical deaths.”
Commenting on the silence of many pastors on the issue, Dunn said, “As long as they refuse to discern and communicate what the children are enduring they will continue to die. ... The same thing happened in Germany. The same thing happened in America with institutional slavery before the Civil War. America has been warned before.”
For each Life Chain that gathers for prayer, their plea to end abortion is conveyed through a set of seven signs, with one taking the lead – “Abortion Kills Children,” the only one also printed in Spanish.
Other signs include: “Pray to End Abortion”; “Adoption the Loving Option”; “Jesus Forgives & Heals”; “Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation”; and “Abortion Hurts Women.”
The signs feature colored lettering on a white background. Their cost has gone up over the years from 15 cents to 50 cents. Fundraising is discouraged. A local coordinator at the event typically will ask for a free-will offering to pay for them.
“It’s really peanuts to try to save human life,” Dunn said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Allen Palmeri is a writer in Jefferson City, Mo.)
9/19/2013 4:57:22 PM
September 11 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – For Abby Johnson, the closing of a single Planned Parenthood center demonstrated her dramatic reversal from abortion clinic director to leading pro-life advocate.
But for pro-lifers throughout the United States, it marked another exhibit in a hopeful trend – abortion centers are shutting down at an unprecedented rate. The total so far this year is 44, according to a pro-life organization that tracks clinic operations.
None was more telling for Johnson than the mid-July closing of the Planned Parenthood center in Bryan, Texas. It came less than four years after Johnson, burdened by her involvement with abortion, walked out of that clinic as its director and into the offices of the Coalition for Life.
“Knowing that the former abortion clinic I once ran is now closing is the biggest personal victory of my life,” Johnson said in a written statement after the announcement of the shutdown. “From running that facility, to then advocating for its closure, and now celebrating that dream ... it shows that my life has indeed come full circle.”
Since her celebrated conversion from Planned Parenthood director, Johnson has started a ministry to help workers leave the abortion industry. She has pledged, as she said in July, to “fight until every abortion clinic in this country has shut its doors.”
Photo courtesy of 40 Days for Life and Coalition for Life
The sign outside Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, comes down in late August, marking another of 44 abortion clinic closings so far this year.
This year, 42 clinics that provided surgical abortions have shut their doors, and two that offered chemical abortions by drugs also have closed, according to Operation Rescue, which monitors closings and health and safety violations by clinics nationwide. That number far surpasses the 25 surgical clinics shutdown last year and the 30 in 2011, by Operation Rescue’s count. While others estimate a smaller number of closings, the pattern is clear.
Some of the shutdowns have been of major clinics. For instance, Virginia’s No. 1 abortion provider closed, The Washington Post
reported in July. NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax, Va., shut down after state and local governments enacted regulations the abortion provider appeared unable to meet. The northern Virginia clinic performed 3,066 abortions in 2012 and 3,567 in 2011.
The reasons given for the upswing in closings are varied even among pro-lifers. They include:
the increasing state regulation and oversight of clinics;
a growth in pro-life opinion and activity, and
a decline in the abortion rate.
In some cases, clinics have shut down when abortion doctors retired or were no longer licensed.
State legislatures enacted 69 pro-life laws this year, according to a report released Sept. 5 by Americans United for Life (AUL). In all, 48 states considered about 360 such proposals in 2013, AUL reported.
The legislative action this year continued a recent trend in states: 70 “life-affirming measures” became law in 2011 and 38 in 2012, according to AUL.
Some measures have targeted making the procedure and clinics safer for women, and have helped escalate the number of clinic shutdowns. This year, states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Texas passed varied laws either requiring abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as outpatient surgical centers, or authorizing the state to enforce such requirements. Also, in 2013, North Dakota and Wisconsin joined Alabama and Texas in mandating abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
While pro-lifers assert the laws are for the protection of women, abortion rights advocates argue their purpose is to stop abortion. Regardless, the result appears to be abortion clinics are being held accountable in ways they have not been previously.
“Considering the growing body of medical evidence confirming the health risks of abortion for women, abortion cannot be left in the hands of an unmonitored, unregulated and uncaring industry feeding off fear and federal subsidies,” AUL President Charmaine Yoest said in a written statement.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization affiliated with the abortion rights movement, charged in June such laws “are a solution in search of a problem, a cynical ploy to advance an agenda that seeks to make it more and more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, with the ultimate goal of eliminating U.S. women’s access to safe and legal abortion.”
The increased state government oversight of clinics is a response to pro-lifers spotlighting abuses by abortion providers, and to the scandals uncovered in recent years, said Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor. Her research has produced disciplinary action against various abortion doctors.
Foremost among the scandals was that of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and his Philadelphia clinic. The regulatory failures in Pennsylvania appear to have made an impression on officials in other states.
Gosnell received three consecutive life sentences in May for the first-degree murder of three born-alive babies. Those children were only three of hundreds at least six months into gestation who were killed outside the womb after induced delivery at a clinic criticized for its unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
A 2011 grand jury report criticized the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of State for failing to oversee the clinic properly. Gosnell’s clinic had not been inspected since 1993 despite many complaints, according to the report.
While the actions of state legislatures and agencies appear to have contributed to clinic shutdowns, the growing activism of pro-lifers also has been an important ingredient, said the national director of 40 Days for Life.
“I believe the increase in closures is due to record numbers of Christians praying for an end to abortion, and getting actively involved in pro-life efforts where they live – recognizing that change is not going to come from politicians in Washington, D.C., anytime soon,” David Bereit wrote in a statement for Baptist Press.
Since 2007, 40 Days has conducted its semi-annual campaigns of peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics in more than 500 cities nationally and internationally. More than 575,000 people have participated, and 40 Days reports 39 clinics have closed permanently after their campaigns.
Both Bereit and Sullenger believe even more clinic closures are in the offing.
“The momentum is shifting dramatically in the pro-life direction, and as even more people answer the call to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’ and ‘rescue those being led to the slaughter,’” Bereit said, citing verses in Proverbs 31 and 24, respectively, “I believe we will see many more abortion centers closing in the near future.”
Sullenger said in a written statement, “We do anticipate an increase in the number of abortion clinics as new laws are enacted and inspections increase. Enforcement of laws on the books has always been the key. We simply have never found an abortion clinic that complies with the law on all points.
“Couple that with a downward trend in abortion numbers and increased pro-life sentiment, [and] the abortion industry is in financial trouble,” she said before adding a caveat. “However, an influx of money from the government via [the 2010 health-care reform law] and private sources could artificially keep some clinics open.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
9/11/2013 3:44:09 PM
August 16 2013 by
Kimberly Railey, USA Today/Religion News Service
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The war over abortion is going digital.
Missouri last month joined six other states that have enacted bans on abortion by telemedicine this year. That’s a process in which women take pregnancy-ending medication that a doctor remotely administers during a video conference.
The practice, available to women in their first nine weeks of pregnancy, is now prohibited in 11 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
In Iowa – where telemedicine abortions were pioneered – the Board of Medicine voted in June to effectively shut the practice down, and state legislators have declined to intervene in the dispute. A public hearing before the board is set for Aug. 28.
“Telemedicine is spreading across the country in chronic disease and mental health care, but abortion’s the only way we’re seeing it restricted,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. “Whenever there’s an advancement in health care, an abortion restriction is never far behind.”
The Guttmacher Institute and other supporters of abortion rights say it is safe and legal, and it expands abortion access in rural areas where no doctors offer them. Critics such as the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue counter that the system is plagued by a lack of oversight and can be dangerous for women if they suffer any side effects such as excessive bleeding, nausea or vomiting.
In the telemedicine abortion method, a patient is examined by a nurse at a clinic and then participates in a video conference for several minutes with a physician working in a different office. The doctor gives the drug using a computer that remotely opens a drawer in front of the woman, who takes the first dose while the doctor observes.
Two additional pills are taken at home, where her pregnancy is aborted. A follow-up visit is scheduled within two weeks.
“Pills are being distributed like Tic Tacs,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “Nobody would accept medical treatment like that for any other procedure.”
Between 2000 and 2011, 1.52 million U.S. women have used medication abortion, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000, according to the FDA. In rare cases, these abortions have been linked to sometimes-fatal infections, but the FDA has not determined that the drug definitively caused those deaths.
In Iowa, the practice did not increase the state’s abortion rate and improved abortion access for women living in rural areas, according to a study released in November by the American Journal of Public Health. The findings also included a slight decline in the number of abortions being performed during the second trimester of pregnancy.
The decrease reflects a decline in abortions nationwide, Newman said. The rate of abortions nationwide dropped between 2000 and 2008, the most recent Census data show.
Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said outlawing telemedicine abortions would burden women by forcing them to seek doctors in unfamiliar areas.
“If she is not able to obtain the care she needs in her own community, then she has to leave her community, her support system and her hometown,” June said.
Since the Iowa program launched in 2008, more than 3,000 women there have opted for a telemedicine abortion, according to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which provides family planning services and offers telemedicine abortions.
Women may have to undergo a surgical abortion if they cannot travel to a provider within the first nine weeks of their pregnancy, June said.
So far, no ban has targeted the wider use of telemedicine, which allows medical providers to remotely share images and videos using wireless or video technology.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board proposed a rule last year that would require an exam by a physician, either in person or electronically, before a patient could receive any telemedicine care. But the effort stalled amid concerns that it would limit access to medical treatment.
Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, said remote consultations are currently not threatened because state lawmakers have targeted only abortion procedures.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kimberly Railey writes for USA Today.)
8/16/2013 11:42:21 AM
August 7 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Kimberly Railey, USA Today/Religion News Service | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – A congressional watchdog agency has agreed to investigate how Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations spend federal funds, drawing praise from pro-life advocates inside and outside the legislative branch.
Members of Congress announced Aug. 5 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had accepted their request for such an investigation. A GAO spokesman confirmed with Baptist Press Aug. 6 the nonpartisan agency had agreed to conduct the review.
Disclosure of the investigation comes at a time when Planned Parenthood’s use of government funds is drawing closer scrutiny. Only a week before, one of the affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $4.3 million for alleged Medicaid fraud. Other Medicaid fraud suits are pending against Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider.
Upon learning of the GAO’s decision to investigate, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore commended government officials “for asking how public funds are spent by the abortion lobby.”
“For years, the abortion-rights movement has told us they are about ‘choice’ and ‘getting the government out of their lives,’” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “And yet, taxpayers have no choice in their hard-earned dollars subsidizing industries many of us consider to be horrific violators of human rights.
“A thorough investigation would be a good first step to examining our national conscience about what we’re paying for, and why,” he said in a written statement for Baptist Press. “The abortion industry is big business of the most sordid sort. They certainly don’t need a taxpayer bailout.”
The GAO’s agreement came in response to a February request for such a study by Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., and more than 70 other congressional members. They asked for an update on a 2010 report regarding the federal agencies and programs that were the sources of the government funds, how the money was distributed and what services were provided by the abortion organizations.
The congressional members requested that information not only on PPFA but also on the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council, the Guttmacher Institute, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, and Advocates for Youth.
A January report by PPFA showed it established records for both the most abortions performed and most government funds received in the latest year for which statistics are available. PPFA said its affiliates performed 333,964 of the lethal procedures during 2010-11. It received $542.4 million in federal, state and local government grants and reimbursements during the latest fiscal year.
Black described federal funding of abortion providers as “a serious problem in our nation.” The GAO study is needed for Congress “to ensure accountability and oversight” of organizations that perform abortions, she said.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion organizations “clearly benefit from Uncle Sam, but there’s no accounting to prove how they actually use that money,” Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., said. “This GAO report would shine a light on how our tax dollars are being spent.”
Black and Vitter have introduced legislation that would bar federal family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act is H.R. 217 in the House and S. 135 in the Senate. Black’s bill has 176 cosponsors, but Vitter’s has only nine.
The GAO has just started to decide on the “scope and methodology” of the investigation and will set an expected date to complete it after those determinations have been made, the agency spokesman said. The GAO is a nonpartisan agency that investigates how the federal government spends money.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), which has clinics in southeast Texas and southern Louisiana, agreed to the out-of-court settlement of $4.3 million, the Houston Chronicle reported July 30. An investigation by the Texas attorney general’s office alleged the affiliate fraudulently overbilled the Medicaid program.
The settlement brought to at least $12.5 million the amount of “waste, abuse and ‘fraudulent overbilling’ of taxpayers” by Planned Parenthood affiliates in publicly revealed audits, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF has charged Planned Parenthood with misusing millions of dollars in government funds in a report to Congress.
Other ADF lawsuits contend Planned Parenthood affiliates have filed fraudulent claims for far more in government money. Its suit against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland – based in Des Moines, Iowa – alleges the organization filed nearly 500,000 false Medicaid claims and received nearly $28 million. Its legal action against Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., says damages could be more than $370 million from fraudulent claims.
ADF Senior Counsel Michael Norton called the settlement in the PPGC case “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
Planned Parenthood “uses taxpayer dollars to pad its bottom line with little regard for the health of women,” he said. “[It] has been improperly reimbursed by millions of taxpayer dollars over the years.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
8/7/2013 3:02:24 PM
July 26 2013 by
By L.A. Williams and BR staff
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
(UPDATE: Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill July 29.)
Pro-life supporters celebrated a “huge victory” as the North Carolina Senate passed legislation they contend will make abortion safer for women, protect healthcare workers, prevent taxpayers from funding elective abortions and prohibit abortion for the purpose of sex selection.
Senate Bill 353, called the “Health and Safety Law Changes” or also known as the “Abortion Bill,” passed the Senate July 25 with a 32-13 vote. The bill heads to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said he will sign the bill.
“This is a truly wonderful measure that will hold abortion doctors and clinics to standards similar to those of other surgical facilities,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
“Planned Parenthood is calling for the governor to veto this bill, but we believe anyone concerned with women’s health should want the best conditions for patients undergoing this procedure.”
An hour-long debate preceded the Senate’s vote to concur with the House version, which included provisions similar to those OK’d earlier by the Senate in its “Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act.” The governor had said he would veto the earlier bill unless it was modified to address concerns from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and worries that the measure would limit women’s access to abortion.
The final version of the bill, approved earlier by the House and sitting in a Senate committee until July 25, asks DHHS to increase health and safety regulations on abortion clinics without unduly limiting access. A provision in the bill requires that an abortion doctor be present during the entire surgical abortion process and that, in the case of a medicinal abortion, the doctor be on site when the first dose of an abortifacient is administered.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said the law will implement “common-sense and reasonable safety standards for abortion facilities.”
Supporters of the bill had pointed out in numerous debates that North Carolina has had problems with abortion clinics, citing recent violations in Charlotte and Fayetteville facilities, but abortion supporters insist the new law will lead to too many clinic closings and force women to undergo back alley abortions.
“It is important to us that you know we are not buying this disguise,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Rocky Mount, according to a report in the Charlotte Observer. “Your agenda is clear – there is nothing in this bill that helps protect the rights of women’s health care.”
“This bill is coming back to us in a form that’s not fundamentally changed,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, in a report on Raleigh’s WRAL.com. “It’s still a deprivation of the rights of women.”
Responding to criticism of the bill, Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said, “If you can show me something in there that is unreasonable, that is wrong, that hurts women, I will not vote for this ... I'm just not finding it offensive."
Creech called the bill a victory for women’s health and life. He commended lawmakers for approving the measure despite protests from the abortion industry. He also expressed thanks for all of those who prayed and contacted their legislators on behalf of the legislation.
“This bill was not so much about prohibiting abortion, but about prohibiting an industry from operating under substandard conditions,” he said.
“Abortion clinics have far too long been given a privileged status. Those of us in the cause of life have known this for a long time. But more recently, clinics like the one where [Kermit] Gosnell in Philadelphia practiced and even some in our own state clearly show higher standards are definitely necessary. We look forward to the governor signing this new law.”
Gosnell was a physician in Philadelphia who was found guilty in May of three murder charges, along with other charges, in relation to an abortion clinic he ran.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – L.A. Williams is a writer for the Christian Action League of North Carolina. BR staff contributed to this story.)
7/26/2013 12:17:00 PM
By L.A. Williams and BR staff | with 0 comments