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Michigan: Democratic governor wins latest round in legal fight over 1931 abortion ban

Michigan State Capitol Building in Lansing, MI. / John McLenaghan_Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Aug 3, 2022 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

When the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, states with laws restricting abortion didn’t go away, they just were no longer enforced.

In Michigan, a Depression-era state law banning most abortions is the focus of a contentious legal battle that came to a head this week. For the moment, at least, Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seems to have prevailed in her efforts to prevent the law from being enforced.

The law, whose current form dates back to 1931, criminalizes abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother. The law generally has not been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

On Monday, a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling, overturning a controversial preliminary injunction issued by a state claims court judge in May, said that county prosecutors have the authority to defend and enforce the state’s abortion law. 

But later that same day, Michigan Circuit Judge James Cunningham granted a new injunction against the law saying there was a “threat of immediate and irreparable injury to the people of the state of Michigan.”

Whitmer, the Democratic governor, had sought the injunction. She said there was a “lack of legal clarity” about the abortion law and argued that the Michigan Supreme Court should take up her lawsuit challenging the law. She said the injunction “will help ensure that Michigan’s doctors, nurses, and health care systems can continue caring for their patients.”

The move drew criticism from pro-life groups including Michigan Right to Life.

“Michigan’s abortion law has been on the books since 1846, supported by Michigan voters in 1972, upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court and subsequent courts, (and) used as recently as 2019 in a successful prosecution,” Michigan Right to Life said in an Aug. 1 tweet. “Until changed by voters or the legislature, there should be no legal question here.”

Back-and-forth court fight

Whitmer is a staunch backer of abortion. In September 2021, she used a line-item veto to remove from the state budget about $16 million worth of funding for alternatives to abortion. In July, she vetoed a $2 million tax credit for adoptive parents and a $10 million marketing program to promote adoption as an abortion alternative, the Detroit Free Press reports. 

The governor has filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan constitution.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs a FY 2022 state budget in Lansing, Mich., Sept. 29, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs a FY 2022 state budget in Lansing, Mich., Sept. 29, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Her lawsuit named as defendants the prosecutors in 13 Michigan counties with abortion clinics. The seven Democratic prosecutors have agreed not to enforce the law, while the six remaining prosecuting attorneys are Republicans.

Critics of the lawsuit include Michigan Catholic Conference policy advocate Rebecca Mastee, who said in April, “The right to life for unborn children and its inherent value given by our Creator cannot be reduced to a legal opinion or legislative vote.”

Abortion advocacy groups in the state have launched a ballot initiative to override the 1931 law by way of a constitutional amendment.

Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued the preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the law on May 17. “After 50 years of legal abortion in Michigan,” she said, “there can be no doubt that the right of personal autonomy and bodily integrity enjoyed by our citizens includes the right of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate a pregnancy.”

Gleicher said the right to an abortion is almost certainly guaranteed under the state constitution’s due process provisions that protect bodily integrity.

Critics, including the Michigan Republican Party, had said the judge should have recused herself from the case. They noted that Gleicher is a donor to Planned Parenthood, was honored by Planned Parenthood, and previously represented Planned Parenthood as a volunteer lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in a failed challenge to precedent upholding the state abortion law.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group and the Great Lakes Justice Center filed a legal challenge against the claims court injunction on behalf of two county prosecutors and two organizations: Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference. The complaint asked the appellate court to take control of the case and order the lower court to dismiss the case, arguing that the lower court had drastically exceeded its jurisdiction.

“Michigan’s elected officials have a duty to uphold and defend the law, and protect the lives of the unborn,” Denise Harle, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom and director of the ADF Center for Life, said Monday.

The appellate court said the preliminary injunction never applied to county prosecutors, as the claims court had asserted.

Harle called the appellate court “a major step forward in allowing the county prosecutors to do their job and enforce the state law that protects children and mothers, even if the attorney general refuses to do so.”

Biden signs executive order that ‘paves the way’ for using Medicaid to cover abortions

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on reproductive rights as Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra listens during an event at the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 8, 2022 in Washington, D.C. / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2022 / 15:04 pm (CNA).

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that would allow states to use Medicaid to pay for abortion services for women traveling from other states.

The executive order directed Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra to “consider action to advance access to reproductive healthcare services” for women, particularly those who travel out of state to have abortions. It was not clear from the language of the executive order exactly which abortion services would be covered.

Under the Hyde Amendment, the use of federal funding for abortions is prohibited except in the cases of rape, incest, or a “life-endangering physical condition” that places the mother “in danger of death.” 

At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the order “paves the way for Medicaid to pay for abortions for women having to travel out of state” by allowing states to apply for Medicaid waivers.

When asked by a reporter how the administration would accomplish this in light of the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on federal abortion funding, Jean-Pierre said, “we’re going to leave it to HHS to come up with the details on the specifics on how they’re going to work with states — if a state asks for a waiver — and what that’s going to look like.” 

Pro-life groups have already criticized the move, with Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America calling the executive order an illegal effort to “force taxpayers to fund abortion on demand until birth in Democrat-led states.”

This is the second executive order the administration has released since the overturning of Roe v. Wade

The order, which calls traveling across state lines for abortions a “bedrock right,” also reaffirms a rule the Biden administration proposed last week that would force doctors to provide abortions. 

In addition, the order calls for data collection and research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “accurately measure the impact that diminishing access to reproductive health care services has on women’s health.”

DC Catholic schools must comply with district's COVID-19 vaccination rules for students 12 and older

null / Ira Lichi/Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2022 / 14:39 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools in Washington, D.C., are subject to a new COVID-19 vaccination requirement for children 12 and older issued by the district’s health department.

Under the rules, to attend classes in the coming school year students 12 and older attending all public, charter, private, and parochial schools in D.C. are required to either be fully vaccinated, have a medical exemption on file, or obtain approval for a religious exemption.

The district also has revised its religious exemption form to include a section specific to the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to requiring parents to provide a written personal statement supporting their religious objection to the vaccine, the new form asks for the following information:

  • The reason “you do not get vaccinations based on your sincerely held religious beliefs”;

  • “The religious principles that guide your decision to not get vaccinated”;

  • A statement on “whether you are opposed to all vaccinations” and if not, an explanation of the “religious beliefs you follow that will not allow you to get the COVID-19 vaccination.”

Unvaccinated students would have 20 days to present proof of vaccination or the necessary medical or religious exemption before being removed from school.

The Archdiocese of Washington did not respond to CNA’s requests for comment. The archdiocese’s online school directory lists 17 schools in Washington, D.C. An official at one Catholic K-8 school located in the district told CNA that the school “had not yet received guidance” on how the mandate would be implemented.

Vin Scully, legendary baseball announcer and committed Catholic, dies at 94

Longtime baseball broadcaster Vin Scully applauds Los Angeles Dodger hall of famers during opening day pre-game ceremonies on April 4, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. / Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 3, 2022 / 14:38 pm (CNA).

Vin Scully, who called Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games for more than two-thirds of a century, died Tuesday at his home at the age of 94. 

A gifted orator and storyteller who was dubbed a “poet-philosopher of baseball,” Scully deftly narrated numerous momentous events in baseball during his 67 seasons as a broadcaster. But more importantly — at least to him — Scully was a devout Catholic who found in his faith a source of joy and comfort and sought to share it with others through personal kindness and philanthropy. 

A longtime parishioner at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Westlake Village, California, Scully was instrumental, along with Catholic Athletes for Christ, in arranging for Masses to be celebrated in the media interview room of Dodgers Stadium. For at least one of his games, he placed a framed portrait of Pope Francis in a chair next to him. Scully was famous for calling games alone — that is, without a color commentator — so the pictorial pope’s silence was apt. 

Scully was active in his parish and numerous philanthropic endeavors. Despite being a private person outside of the recording booth, preferring to spend time with his family, he often would allow charities to auction off the privilege of having lunch with him to raise money for good causes, such as supporting people with Down syndrome. In 2020, he donated much of his collection of baseball memorabilia, collected over the decades, to raise money for charity. 

In 2016, Scully — a devotee of the Virgin Mary — created a two-CD audio recording of the rosary. The sales benefitted the outreach organization Catholic Athletes for Christ, which ministers to high school students. Ray McKenna, Catholic Athletes for Christ’s president and founder, mourned Scully in a statement Wednesday.

“As he did often with any charitable organization, Vin never said ‘no.’ His response was always, ‘Whatever you need.’ He supported our efforts to increase a Catholic presence in professional sports, including his willingness to record a Rosary CD in 2016 that has helped bring so many people to the Rosary and advance CAC’s mission. We will miss him greatly and always treasure our friendship with him,” McKenna said. 

Scully was a 2009 recipient of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Cardinal’s Award, which recognizes “the selfless, self-effacing and talented people” of the archdiocese. He also earned a Personal Achievement Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals in 2016. In accepting the award, Scully spoke about meeting then-Pope Pius XII at the Vatican in 1956, which he said, despite his nervousness, solidified his commitment to his faith. 

Born in the Bronx in 1927, Sully’s long life was marked at various points by tragedy. His father, a traveling salesman, died when he was five. In 1972, his wife died of an accidental medical overdose, and in 1994 his adult son, Michael died in a helicopter crash. His second wife, Sandra, died in 2021 after a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

Despite these hardships, Scully said his faith “has not wavered.” “Faith is the one thing that makes it work, makes me keep going,” he told Angelus News in 2016. 

Scully’s skills as a broadcaster, and as an orator more generally, were shaped by his Catholic education. After receiving his elementary school education from the Sisters of Charity, he graduated from Fordham University in 1949, having majored in communications. While at Fordham, Scully took a seminar class on eloquentia perfecta, a hallmark of Jesuit education, which relates to the art of writing and speaking well. 

Scully joined the announcers’ team for the Dodgers in 1950, when he was just twenty-two. At the time, the team was still located in Brooklyn. In 1953, at age 25, Scully became the youngest person to broadcast a World Series game — an achievement that still stands, ESPN reported. 

Baseball legend Jackie Robinson had been signed to the Dodgers in 1947. Scully called Robinson "perhaps the most exciting, most driven player I've ever seen." Scully would preside over the broadcasts for innumerable notable baseball moments, including the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 1955, and fellow Catholic Hank Aaron’s shattering of Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. 

When he retired in 2016, Scully had earned the distinction of being the longest-serving broadcaster for a single team in baseball history. That same year, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Ultimately, Scully credits God’s providence for his longevity and popularity as a broadcaster. 

"First of all, I attribute it to one thing and one thing only, God's grace, to allow me to do what I've been doing for 67 years,” Scully said on a conference call ahead of his final game, as reported by MLB Network. 

“To me, that's really the story. Not really me, I'm just a vessel that was passed hand-to-hand, down through all those years. So I don't take it to heart as some great compliment. I just realize that because I've been doing this for 67 years, that's why everybody wants to talk about it. So I think I've kept it in proper perspective.”

Ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage: Abortion ‘never necessary,’ these doctors say

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 3, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Abortion — a procedure with the sole or primary intent and purpose of ending human life in the womb — is never medically necessary, according to medical experts.

Three doctors spoke with CNA about the necessity of abortion, or lack of it, following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Following that decision, several myths circulated its impact, including the claim that women will die without access to abortion in cases of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and other dangerous situations.

In these situations, medical experts either call abortion irrelevant or emphasize that women can choose life-affirming alternatives. 

Abortion, they say, is “never necessary” while caring for both mother and baby. Understanding this begins with understanding what abortion is — and is not.

What is “abortion”?

Procedures used to perform abortion are not abortions in and of themselves. The definition of abortion includes intent and purpose.

Dr. Kathleen Raviele, an OB-GYN and the former president of the Catholic Medical Association, the largest association of Catholic individuals in health care, called abortion a “direct attack on an embryo or fetus by surgery or chemicals with the intention of ending the life of the baby.”

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiology specialist and a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, an organization dedicated to defending religious liberty, life, and the Church in the public square, also pointed to the importance of intent.

Abortion, she said, “colloquially means the purposeful ending of a human life.”

Dr. Donna Harrison, an OB-GYN and the CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), cited the definition that she said is used by a majority of state laws. 

Abortion, or elective abortion, here, “is defined as any drug, device or procedure used to terminate a pregnancy for the primary purpose of ensuring the death of the human being in utero before, during, or in the process of separation of the mother and her embryo or fetus,” she said.  

Is abortion ever necessary to save a woman’s life?

Christie said that abortion, defined as the purposeful ending of a human life, is “never medically necessary.” 

“In certain circumstances, lifesaving treatment that involves the early interruption of a pregnancy may be indicated,” she said. “In this case, the intent is not to end the life of the baby but to save the mother, and this intent is manifest in the fact that a physician would make every effort to preserve the life of a preterm baby where possible.”

Likewise, Raviele stressed that an abortion “is never necessary to save the life of the mother.” And, she added, a large majority of abortions are “for convenience” rather than life-threatening situations.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, just 7% of women cited their physical health or the problems affecting the health of their unborn baby as their “most important reason” for an abortion in 2004. 

For her part, Harrison called attention to the difference between elective abortions — or abortions induced for no medical reason — and the separation of the mother and her unborn child to save the mother’s life.

“It's not semantics. It's human rights,” she said. “It's the difference between doctors making difficult decisions to save both patients if possible or at least to save one as compared to abortion providers taking it upon themselves to end the life of their most vulnerable patient for no medical reason.”

Do women need abortion for ectopic pregnancies?

Ectopic pregnancies occur when an embryo implants outside the uterus or womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Once implanted, the embryo’s growth is likely to rupture the fallopian tube. 

Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening for the mother and the baby’s chance of survival is highly unlikely. While relatively rare, the rate of ectopic pregnancies may be as high as 2% of all U.S. pregnancies, according to data available from the CDC. 

Raviele said that, by the time an ectopic pregnancy has been identified, the unborn baby is dead in 90% of the cases. In this situation, any of the three treatments currently available — salpingectomy, linear salpingostomy, or treatment with methotrexate — are allowed, she said. 

A 2014 article published by the Catholic Health Association of the United States describes these treatments.

A salpingectomy is a surgical procedure where a doctor partially or entirely removes the fallopian tube housing the embryo. With a salpingostomy, the doctor cuts into the fallopian tube and removes invasive trophoblastic cells and damaged tubal tissue, which, in the process, also removes the embryo. 

Methotrexate, a drug commonly used to treat cancer, prevents trophoblastic cells (cells that help with embryo implantation and make up a part of the placenta) from continuing to divide and stops the growth of the embryo.

If the unborn baby is alive, Raviele pointed to the option of a salpingectomy.

“If the criteria are present that would indicate a live embryo is present … then removal of the tube with the embryo present in it is moral by the Principle of Double Effect,” Raviele said. “Your intention is to remove the damaged tube, not to kill the baby.”

A 2018 article co-written by Harrison explains this Principle of Double Effect, found in Catholic moral theology and often attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, who drew from Aristotle.

“In general, this principle asserts that an action directed toward a good end (e.g., a medical intervention designed to save the life of the mother) can be licitly conducted, even when this action has an unavoidable secondary effect that is not good (e.g., the death of the fetus),” Harrison wrote with Maureen L. Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah school of medicine.

Three criteria must be met: The act itself must not be unethical; the intention must be to achieve the good effect and not the bad effect, and the good effect must outweigh or at least equal the bad effect in ethical gravity. 

The article adds that a “central requirement” of the principle is that the bad effect, or the baby’s death, cannot be how the good effect is achieved.

Harrison told CNA that the treatment for ectopic pregnancy has nothing to do with abortion, calling them “completely different procedures.” 

“While abortion aims to end the life of the fetus or embryo, treating an ectopic pregnancy requires removing the embryo through surgery (salpingostomy) or medication to save the mother's life, with the death of the preborn child being a tragic but inevitable side effect,” she said.

Do women need abortion for miscarriages?

Roughly 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to CDC estimates. Raviele said that a woman generally begins bleeding, indicating that she is going to miscarry, after her baby has already died. 

“If an ultrasound is done and detects a fetal demise but the patient is not bleeding, it is considered a missed ab,” she said, referring to a “missed abortion” where the baby is dead but remains inside of the mother. “If she does not pass the products of conception in a reasonable length of time, a D&C [dilation and curettage] may be necessary or she may be given misoprostol to facilitate contractions.”

While D&C or misoprostol can be used in abortions, they are not considered abortions in this case, because the baby is already dead.

Harrison added: “In a miscarriage, the baby has already died of natural causes, and the aim of any procedure to treat the miscarriage is to help the woman's body pass the baby and any other pregnancy tissue.” 

In contrast, with an elective abortion, “the baby is alive, and the goal of the procedure is to end its life,” she said.

Do women need abortion for other life-threatening situations?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that women need abortion in certain cases to avoid death — or that certain complications or conditions “may be so severe that abortion is the only measure to preserve a woman’s health or save her life.”

In response, Raviele said that ACOG is “contributing to misinformation” and described what would happen in a life-threatening situation. 

“If the woman has a serious complication of pregnancy and has to be delivered, you would either induce labor (pre-eclampsia or a cardiac condition) or you would do an emergency cesarean section to save both the mother and the baby,” she said, emphasizing that babies can survive outside the womb as early as 22 weeks. 

“You never have to kill the baby to save the mother,” she concluded. “We try to save both.”

Here, Harrison said, “ACOG is conflating different old definitions of abortion to deliberately obscure the fact that an elective abortion is specifically designed to end the life of the human being in the womb for no medical reason.”

She repeatedly stressed that the separation of a mother and her unborn baby to save the mother’s life is not the same as an elective abortion. 

“Sometimes, women face life-threatening complications … in which the only way to save their lives is to separate them from their preborn children,” she said, providing the examples of ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and HELLP syndrome.

“In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, this involves removing the embryo from the woman's fallopian tube,” she said. “In the case of the other complications listed, it involves prematurely inducing labor or performing a C-section.

These “lifesaving procedures” are not abortions, she said, because “they do not have as their primary purpose to kill the preborn child in the process.”

“In fact, in many cases, the added goal of killing the child would prove counterproductive if the woman is facing a health emergency, as it takes up to several days to prep the mother's cervix for a late-term abortion, whereas a C-section can be completed in less than 30 minutes,” she added.

What does the Catholic Church say about abortion?

The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “never permitted,” according to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 

The U.S. bishops go on to define abortion as the “directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus,” or a baby who can survive outside the womb. 

A Catholic woman is allowed to undergo life-saving treatment — even if it means that her unborn baby will die indirectly as a result of that treatment, according to the directives. The intention and action, in that case, are to save the mother’s life. It is not to end her baby’s life through abortion.

“Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child,” the directives read.

Kansas abortion vote: Pro-life amendment fails, in first post-Roe vote

A poll worker helps a voter cast their ballot in the Kansas Primary Election at Merriam Christian Church on Aug. 2, 2022, in Merriam, Kansas. Voters in Kansas were set to decide whether or not the state constitution should include a right to an abortion. / Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 21:19 pm (CNA).

Kansas citizens rejected a pro-life amendment — known as the “Value Them Both” amendment — during their state’s primary election Tuesday. The referendum represented the first major statewide vote on abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The amendment needed a simple majority to pass in the Aug. 2 vote.

It would have reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion. Currently, state lawmakers are, in most cases, prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. 

The amendment would have enabled state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion. It did not propose a total ban on abortion. 

“Because Kansans value both women and children,” the failed amendment reads, “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

It adds: “To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

The vote has broad implications that extend past Kansas’ borders. It could indicate how other states will vote on abortion after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — which overturned Roe and left abortion policy up to the states — and suggest where Americans stand on abortion ahead of the midterm elections in November.

It also helps predict whether Kansas serves as an abortion hub for women in neighboring states that restrict abortion. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions could increase by more than 1,000% in Kansas as neighboring states restrict the procedure, the Kansas City Star previously reported.  

Pro-life reaction

SBA Pro-Life America, a national pro-life group that sent student canvassers to hundreds of thousands of Kansas homes to inform citizens about the vote, mourned the loss.

“Tonight’s loss is a huge disappointment for pro-life Kansans and Americans nationwide,” Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement

She pointed to misinformation leading up to the vote, saying that the “abortion lobby’s message to voters was rife with lies that ultimately drowned out the truth.” 

“Because of tonight’s results, Kansas could shortly become home to unrestricted abortion on demand – even late-term abortion without limits, paid for by taxpayers,” she cautioned. “The people and their elected legislators now have no recourse to use the tools of democracy to enact laws that reflect consensus.”

Looking ahead, Carroll stressed the importance of the midterm elections in November.

“The stakes for the pro-life movement in the upcoming midterm elections could not be higher, and there will be many more factors in play,” she said. “It is critical that pro-life candidates go on offense to expose the extremism of Democrats’ policy goals for nationalized abortion on demand paid for by taxpayers.”

She thanked the Value Them Both coalition, which supported the amendment, and SBA Pro-Life America’s Kansas allies.

“The pro-life movement’s call to politics and policy did not end with the Dobbs decision, rather, because of that victory we must work exponentially harder to achieve and maintain protections for unborn children and their mothers,” she said.

Detroit auxiliary bishop denies allegation of sexually abusing minor

Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell. / Courtesy of aod.org.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 21:10 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Russell, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit and a former Vatican diplomat, has been named in a civil lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago while a priest in Massachusetts.

Russell, 63, denies the charges, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Archdiocese of Detroit. The statement said Russell would refrain from public ministry until further notice from the Vatican.

Russell was appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit in May, and he was installed July 7. Though an auxiliary, he retains the personal title of archbishop.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 1 in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. It was first reported Tuesday by the Detroit News.

The unidentified plaintiff was 12 years old when he met Russell — then a priest assigned to St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, Massachusetts — at the parish’s food bank, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff was sexually assaulted 25 times in 1989 and 1990, the lawsuit states.

“The sexual assaults began with hugging and kissing, then genital fondling, and proceeded to mutual masturbation, forced oral copulation, and then anal penetration,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also names the "Archbishop of Boston" and Ronald J. Gariboldi, identified as the pastor of St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish at the time of the alleged assaults.

The Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit.

“Archbishop Russell is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made, and states that they are without merit. He holds in prayer all those who have ever been victimized by a member of the clergy,” the statement said.

“Effective immediately, Archbishop Russell is refraining from all public ministry, and will continue until further directed by the Holy See,” the statement continued, adding that the guidelines of canon law “are being followed.”

The Detroit Archdiocese noted that it “was not aware of any allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Russell until it was contacted by media Monday, August 1.”

Russell was born in 1959 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987. After serving as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart for five years, Russell became priest-secretary to the Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, according to the Detroit Catholic newspaper.

Russell entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.

In 2016 he was apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, and was consecrated a bishop.

He was appointed, in addition, apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan in 2018.

Russell resigned from the nunciatures in 2021.

Editor's note: This story was corrected on Aug. 4, 2022, to note that it was the Detroit News that first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

U.S. Department of Justice challenges Idaho abortion ban in court

Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Denver Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Idaho, seeking to block the state’s trigger law which will ban abortions — with a few exceptions — beginning Aug. 25. 

Announcing the lawsuit in an Aug. 2 press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DOJ is suing the state because of a supposed conflict with a federal law that requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to a person experiencing a medical emergency, regardless of their ability to pay. 

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge brought by the federal government against a state abortion restriction since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning the question of abortion policy to the states. The DOJ is seeking to block Idaho’s law from taking effect. 

Garland asserted that Idaho's law will prevent doctors from performing abortions when the mother's life is at risk, despite the law having an explicit carveout for such a situation. Idaho’s law provides an exception to the ban if the abortion was, in the physician’s judgement, “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

Under the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), every hospital that receives Medicaid funds must provide "stabilizing treatment'" to patients with an "emergency medical condition." According to the DOJ, the law defines necessary stabilizing treatment to include “all treatment needed to ensure that a patient will not have her health placed in serious jeopardy, have her bodily functions seriously impaired, or suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

"In some circumstances, the medical treatment necessary to stabilize the patient's condition is an abortion," Garland said. 

"When a hospital determines that an abortion is the medical treatment necessary to stabilize a patient's emergency medical condition, it is required by federal law to provide that treatment.” 

Other than the life of the mother, the Idaho law’s only exception is for instances of rape or incest that has been reported to police, and a copy of the report has been provided to the physician. 

Garland argued that the Idaho law lacks an exception for a situation where an abortion is necessary to prevent "serious jeopardy to the mother's health." He said the DOJ chose Idaho’s law to target because it seemed “on its face" to contradict EMTALA.

All of the U.S. states which have “trigger laws” banning abortion have exceptions for instances where abortion may be necessary to save the mother’s life. State abortion bans in other states, such as Texas, provide exceptions for when abortion may be necessary to prevent “serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

In addition, some states also provide explicit exceptions for treatments for the removal of a miscarried child, or treatment for ectopic pregnancy, though these are not generally considered abortions. 

A recent analysis of state pro-life laws by the Charlotte Lozier Institute noted that EMTALA requires evaluation and stabilization of a pregnant woman presenting with a suspected emergency, but also that the directive treats both the woman and the unborn child as patients in need of care, and that “none of the state laws prohibit this evaluation or provision of life-saving care.”

Despite this, the Biden administration has made EMTALA a centerpiece of its response to pro-life state laws. In a July 11 letter to healthcare providers, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra instructed the providers to perform abortions in emergencies — regardless of state law — under EMTALA. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the HHS, also issued a memorandum July 11 with the same instruction found in Becerra’s letter.

In response, the co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee noted to CNA that Catholic health care treats two patients with every pregnancy.

“Treating a pathology of the mother does not require a direct attack on the unborn child,” Dr. Marie Hilliard told CNA in July. 

On July 14, Texas filed a complaint against the HHS, CMS, and their leadership for their instruction regarding EMTALA. The state condemned the “Abortion Mandate” as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” that “must be held unlawful and set aside.”

Texas accused the Biden administration of attempting to “use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

“No federal statute confers a right to abortion,” the complaint says. “EMTALA is no different. It does not guarantee access to abortion. On the contrary, EMTALA contemplates that an emergency medical condition is one that threatens the life of the unborn child. It is obvious that abortion does not preserve the life or health of an unborn child.”

Clarence Thomas canceled plans to teach class because of post-Roe violence, not student petition

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has canceled plans to teach his popular class at George Washington University’s Law School this fall amid threats of violence following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

A source close to Thomas told CNA the justice’s decision had nothing to do with a student-led petition calling for the Washington, D.C. school to sever its ties with Thomas.

Mark Paoletta, a Washington lawyer who served as assistant counsel to President George H.W. Bush and worked on Thomas’ confirmation process, said in the last year Thomas and other justices have received death threats.

“After such a tumultuous year at the court with an unprecedented assault by the Left on the court, including death threats on him and several other conservative Justices, I am glad he decided to take a break from teaching. He deserves it," Paoletta said.

The Hatchet, the university’s student-run newspaper, broke the story of Thomas’ decision not to teach the class. According to the report, Gregory Maggs, who has co-taught the class with Thomas since 2011, informed students in an email.

“Unfortunately, I am writing with some sad news: Justice Thomas has informed me that he is unavailable to co-teach the seminar this fall. I know that this is disappointing. I am very sorry,” he wrote. 

Maggs will continue teaching the class as the sole instructor for the fall semester.

Attacks on Thomas mount 

Shortly after the Supreme Court's June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was released, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion rights groups shared the addresses of conservative justices, encouraging people to protest in front of their homes. One California man was later charged with attempted murder outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland.

Thomas has drawn particular scorn because of his concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.  

Following his opinion, racial slurs like “Uncle Clarence” began trending on Twitter and obscene rants monopolized social media over the week, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s profanity-laced statements at a “Chicago Pride” event.

Concerns for Thomas’ safety mounted with a viral video following the decision which revealed abortion activists handing out Thomas’ home address to protestors outside the court. This event coincided with several assassination threats on the justice’s life circulating on social media —  some of which were removed, some that were not. 

Petition not the reason

The student-led petition demanding Thomas be removed from the faculty cited “his explicit intention to further strip the rights of queer people and remove the ability for people to practice safe sex without fear of pregnancy.” 

The petition claimed Thomas was “actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus” and was circulated outside campus, inflating the number of signatories. 

The university defended Thomas in a letter stating that it would “neither terminate Justice Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class,” citing its commitment to free ideas and debate. 

“Like all faculty members at our university, Justice Thomas has academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry,” school officials wrote.

The petition was updated earlier this week, with organizers taking credit for removing the justice from faculty, despite the school’s refusal to do so.

But Paoletta told CNA that the justice’s decision to take a break had nothing to do with the petition. 

A popular course 

Paoletta, who is also the co-author of "Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words" (Regency Publishing, 2022), said the course Thomas taught at GW is one of the law school’s most popular classes.

It focuses on seminal Supreme Court cases, which Thomas teaches in his trademark style — by cutting through the narratives developed around a specific case and going back to the facts, he said. Paoletta said the class has a long waiting list every year it is offered and that papers written by students in the class have gone on to be published in prominent law journals.

Thomas himself is beloved by his students, Paoletta said, proving that “people who sign these petitions know nothing about him and are fueled by their hatred.” He added that the criticism “has never affected him and never will affect him.”  

“The Left hates him because he is a principled black Supreme Court justice who dares to have his own thoughts and never bows to the Left mob mentality. Justice Thomas has been triggering the Left for 40 years and exposes their racism,” he said.

A spokesperson for GW Law declined to comment Tuesday when asked if Thomas provided a specific reason for not teaching. The U.S. Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly calls Knights of Columbus to uphold dignity of life

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly delivers his first in-person annual report since assuming office in 2021 on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Knights of Columbus' annual convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. / Photo courtesy of Tamino Petelinšek/Knights of Columbus

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 2, 2022 / 18:38 pm (CNA).

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his annual report on Tuesday that the organization is doubling down on its efforts to protect life from conception to natural death as part of its dedication to serving those on the most outer margins of society. 

Noting that there are many calls for the Knights’ support, Kelly said that “one opportunity looms especially large,” identifying it as ending abortion.

Knights for life

Kelly, who gave his speech at the organization’s national convention in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Aug. 2, spent a significant portion of his speech calling the Knights to fight for the unborn, especially following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Kelly praised the March for Life that takes place in Washington D.C. each year and in cities across the nation, calling for respect for the unborn. “Roe is overturned but we have more work to do,” he said. “We will continue to march for life until abortion is unthinkable.”

Another way the Knights are standing up for the unborn is through its ultrasound initiative, through which they have donated 1,566 ultrasounds to pro-life pregnancy centers, Kelly said. 

Kelly noted that the end of Roe doesn’t equate the end of abortion. Many states will expand protections of the life-ending procedure, he said. “They will double down on a culture of death,” he said. “So we must push forward with a message of life.”

“Let’s take up the cause in Springfield and Sacramento. Let’s oppose abortion in places like Albany, while supporting pro-life laws in Austin and Atlanta. And while we push for change in places like Washington state, let’s keep up the pressure on Washington D.C.,” he said.

One of the ways to engage in the fight for legislative protections for life is to support pro-life marches, he said. Kelly emphasized that the March for Life in Washington D.C. is a “major priority” for the Knights. 

In addition to changing the law, he said, hearts and minds must also be changed. The Knights can play a role in pointing pregnant mothers in fear toward life, he said. 

“The best thing we can do is redouble our support for pregnancy resource centers,” he added.

Those centers help mothers choose life each day and support new parents in giving their children a better life, he said.

“We must ensure that pregnancy resource centers have everything they need,” he said. “To start, we’ll place even more ultrasound machines, so more mothers can see their unborn children.”

Kelly then took aim at “one of the latest lies” which claims that pro-lifers don’t care about the well-being of children after their birth. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, adding that the Knights have partnered with pro-life pregnancy centers to provide many resources, but that “now is the time to do even more.”

Doing more includes the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy, he said, in which the Supreme Council encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers. ASAP entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.

Protecting families and religious freedom through faith

Kelly said that there are other challenges that need to be addressed in society. “We see it in the denial of human dignity. We see it in the blatant attempts to redefine the human person — and to push this radical agenda on our children,” he said. Kelly also said that religious freedom is at risk.

The Knights are called to trust in God and step into the breach to face these challenges head on, he said. Being a Knight “means drawing closer to the person of Jesus Christ, our King.”

Kelly said that the Knights have pledged $1 million to the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival. Kelly added that evangelization is “one of my top priorities,” and there is a “special urgency” for it today.

Noting a crisis of faith in the Church, Kelly announced a discipleship and evangelization initiative that was piloted in Tennessee. Kelly told CNA Sunday that the initiative includes training for councils on how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in. 

Outreach to a new demographic

Kelly said the Knights are taking strides to engage more Hispanics in the organization. 

There are already many Hispanic Knights, he said, but he believes the Knights should have many more. The Knights are “intentionally cultivating” Latino leaders within the organization in order to achieve this goal, he said. 

Ukraine

Concluding his speech with the Knights’ efforts in Ukraine, Kelly said that the Knights have over 19,000 members within the Eastern European country.

He noted that “many of our brother knights are on the frontlines even now.” 

At least two members of the Knights have died in battle: Petro Popovych of Council 15804 in Kolomiya, and Oleh Vorobiov of Council 17651 in Lviv.

“We pray for their families. We commend their souls to the Lord, “ Kelly said. 

Kelly said that through the order’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund, it has raised almost $19 million in relief efforts. The Knights have also set up K of C Charity Convoys which ship humanitarian aid from Poland to Ukraine, he said. 

Crediting the efforts of the Knights in Poland, the order has also set up K of C Mercy Centers which provide both material and spiritual support, Kelly said. Kelly visited Ukraine and said that “I will always remember what I saw. And I will never forget the courage I saw in Ukrainian Knights.”

In closing, Kelly noted that “the days ahead will be difficult.” However, he encouraged all to praise God and ask him for help as Blessed Michael McGivney did. 

“And the Lord who has brought us this far will carry us further still,” he said. “As together we step into the breach. Vivat Iesus!”

Shortly before Kelly’s speech, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, read a July 23 letter sent from Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis.

The letter addressed to Kelly praised the Knights’ efforts to foster Eucharistic adoration, their defense of marriage and family, their upholding of the dignity of human life, and their efforts in support of Ukraine and of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East.