Conscience Meets Access (and Takes a Hit)

The original version of this post first appeared on DaTechGuy Blog.

In the days leading up to the adoption of the latest spending bill in Washington, my social media feeds were full of posts from a variety of pro-life groups addressing one topic: including protection of medical conscience rights in the spending bill. To anyone unfamiliar with the federal budget process, an appropriations bill would sound like an odd place to mention conscience rights. But as we know, all kinds of oddball things work their way into budget deals.

As it happens, the conscience protection act promoted by pro-lifers was not included in the spending bill approved on March 22. I would have shrugged – a pro-life initiative rejected in Washington? so what else is new? – if not for a similar disappointment closer to home. A week before the federal spending bill was adopted, a bill to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals was rejected in my state’s legislature by a two-to-one margin.

Lest you think this is a partisan problem, note that the GOP holds majorities in the legislative bodies at issue here.

I was at the hearing for the state-level bill. The thrust of the opposition to conscience legislation boiled down to this: abortion is health care, and those who don’t want to participate in abortions have no business in the medical field.

By the way, this is where we wind up when we hear the abortion-is-health-care lie without pushing back. But back to the arena…

The argument against the state-level bill was couched in terms of denial of access: if a pharmacist doesn’t want to hand out an abortion-inducing drug, that might prevent or delay a woman’s abortion; if some doctor refuses to participate in abortion, he might let a hemorrhaging woman bleed to death. (Nonsense, but some legislators swallowed that whopper whole.)

There were also some dark mutterings about slippery slopes, although no one used that term: if we respect conscience rights for one or two or three procedures, where will it end? How much disruption can we tolerate in order to accommodate “conscience”?

The supporters of conscience legislation testified to the primacy of conscience, which our own state’s constitution explicitly recognizes as a natural right, not one that needs to be granted. They cited the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They spoke of their religious and ethical beliefs and how they shouldn’t be fired for sticking to them.

“Access” met conscience, and “access” won.

These state and federal votes were hardly the last word. They’re intriguing, though. They indicate to me that hostility to conscience rights is alive and well, even in more-or-less respectable circles. Indifference to those rights might as well be open hostility. Fortunately, there are people pushing back.

I kinda liked Cardinal Dolan’s pushback on the federal vote.

The failure of Congress to include the Conscience Protection Act in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill is deeply disappointing. The CPA is an extraordinarily modest bill that proposes almost no change to existing conscience protection laws on abortion—laws that receive wide public and bi-partisan support. The CPA simply proposes to provide victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court to help ensure that no one is forced to participate in abortion. Those inside and outside of Congress who worked to defeat the CPA have placed themselves squarely into the category of extremists who insist that all Americans must be forced to participate in the violent act of abortion. We call on Congress not to give up until this critical legislation is enacted.

 

Pure Relief: Compassion in Action

This post first appeared on Da Tech Guy Blog.

The grind-it-out side of public policy occupied me this morning, as I went to the State House to listen to a subcommittee patiently work out the language of a bill. That done, I walked outside to see what was up on the State House plaza.

And my day was made.

A collection was underway for the Red Cross, with an eye to the disaster in Puerto Rico. Pallet upon pallet of water awaited loading onto trucks. Other types of donations were being sorted, labeled, and packaged. One large “check” was on display, indicating a substantial cash donation by one of the state’s larger utilities. Kids coming off school buses for their State House tour carried armloads of things to donate to the effort.

State employees, elected officials, just plain folks, those wonderful fourth-graders: everyone on the plaza was on the same page. This was a relief effort in every sense.

The Governor was on the scene, delighting the schoolkids with a photo op, and someone said to him, “Will any of this actually get where it’s supposed to go?” He said reassuring things. I hope he’s right. Distribution: that’s the sticking point. How will this get to Puerto Rico? How will the Red Cross allocate things among the multiple disasters it’s addressing these days? I wish I knew the answers.

The people on the plaza weren’t being paralyzed by discouragement or uncertainty over what comes next. They were doing their best with what they had. They left me inspired, refreshed, challenged. That was a fine midday course correction.

#OpenBook, August 2017: On the Hail Mary

Peter Ingemi, in his blogging persona as Da Tech Guy, is a Massachusetts-based writer and political reporter whose blog is a staple for conservatives in the region. The writers Ingemi welcomes on his blog (a group that includes me) all get fair warning before coming on board that the boss is unapologetically Catholic.

In his new book, Ingemi puts aside political reporting and takes up a labor of love: Hail Mary: the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer [Imholt Press, 2017, 80 pages, $6.99 paperback, $2.99 Amazon Kindle e-book]. Ingemi is donating a portion of every sale to his local Catholic radio station in north central Massachusetts.

The book’s title is intriguing and perplexing at the same time. Ingemi is reaching for two audiences, and he’s likely to score with his fellow Catholics. Will the word “Protestant” in the title appeal to anyone? Among my own acquaintances are people who identify themselves as Baptist, Lutheran, or simply Christian – but Protestant, however accurate in a historical sense, is not a label they use. I wonder how many of Ingemi’s intended readers will get past his book’s title.

Book-cover-e1499903750923Those who do will find a brief (80 pages), straightforward examination and celebration of the Hail Mary prayer. Ingemi writes in the hope that all Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, will come to value the prayer’s meaning.

Ingemi takes the reader through the Hail Mary clause by clause. In the early part of the prayer, the words are taken from Scripture, offering common ground for all of Ingemi’s intended readers.

The second part of the prayer, following the invocation of the name of Jesus, also gets a line-by-line breakdown that flows naturally from what has come before.

This book could be one resource for any Catholic’s personal education, because it illuminates a prayer so common to Catholics that it might be taken for granted. It also could equip Catholics to explain the Hail Mary to non-Catholic friends.

Ingemi’s enthusiasm is irreproachable. He is nevertheless frank about the fact that he has no credentials as a theologian. This is a personal labor of love, not a work of scholarship.

If there is ever a second edition, the book would benefit from tighter copyediting and a sharper focus on readers who profess faith in Christ yet don’t understand Catholicism or Marian prayer. The author assumes knowledge of some things which have yet to be proven or explained to non-Catholic readers.

As for his Catholic readers, they’d probably be pleased to see a future edition carry an imprimatur. I know from conversation with the author that he’d be pleased for his work to receive one.

At its best, Ingemi’s book reflects faith that is informed by hope and charity, not by fear. Peter Ingemi sees the Hail Mary as a unifier for Christians. He will make a reasonable case for that to anyone, whether Catholic or not, who approaches his book with curiosity and good will.

Note: I received and reviewed a courtesy copy of the book’s text in proof form. Some typos and grammar detracted from the book’s quality, but they may have been corrected in the final published version. This review contains an affiliate link.

This post is part of the #OpenBook linkup hosted at My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com.

A small step in the right direction: less of your tax money to UNFPA

Cross posted from DaTechGuy Blog.

President Trump’s State Department has told the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to get along without U.S. financial support. There are people who think this is a bad idea. I’m not one of them. Neither is Reggie Littlejohn.

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                                   Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (Ellen Kolb photo)

I met Reggie very briefly a couple of years ago, when we were speakers at a pro-life convention in New Hampshire. My job was to talk about effective use of social media. Reggie’s job was to talk about China’s coercive abortion policy. She got better billing – and deserved it. Her stories were compelling and persuasive.

She became interested in Chinese policy when as an attorney she represented a Chinese woman seeking political asylum in the United States. It was Reggie’s first exposure to the wretched effects of the One-Child Policy: forced abortion, forced sterilization, and gender imbalance as boys are more valued culturally than girls. The revelations changed her life. She later established Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition dedicated to fighting forced abortion in China.

Wherever she speaks, she points out the support China’s policies have received from UNFPA. She has called repeatedly for U.S. de-funding of the organization. She released a statement the other day when de-funding was finally announced.

“We are thrilled that the U.S. is no longer funding forced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.  The blood of Chinese women and babies will no longer be on our hands. My very first press release, in 2009, was entitled ‘You Are Funding Forced Abortions in China.‘ I have consistently advocated for the defunding of UNFPA over the years…

“The UNFPA clearly supports China’s population control program, which they know is coercive. Under China’s One (now Two) Child Policy, women have been forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Some of these forced abortions have been so violent that the women themselves have died, along with their full term babies. There have been brutal forced sterilizations as well, butchering women and leaving them disabled. Where was the outcry from the UNFPA? In my opinion, silence in the face of such atrocities is complicity.   Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ The UNFPA’s silence in the face of decades of forced abortion has been a sword in the wombs of millions of women and babies of China. I rejoice with them that the foot of the UNFPA is finally off of their necks.”

Well done, Mr. President.

I remember listening to Reggie speak around the time China shifted to a Two-Child Policy. She was unimpressed by the change. “What matters is they’re telling people how many kids to have and they’re enforcing it with forced abortions.” She elaborated on that in a 2015 press statement about the policy shift.

“Characterizing this latest modification as ‘abandoning’ the One-Child Policy is misleading. A two-child policy will not end any of the human rights abuses caused by the One Child Policy, including forced abortion, involuntary sterilization or the sex-selective abortion of baby girls….Noticeably absent from the Chinese Communist party’s announcement is any mention of human rights. The Chinese Communist Party has not suddenly developed a conscience or grown a heart. Even though it will now allow all couples to have a second child, China has not promised to end forced abortion, forced sterilization, or forced contraception.

“…In a world laden with compassion fatigue, people are relieved to cross China’s one-child policy off of their list of things to worry about. But we cannot do that. Let us not abandon the women of China, who continue to face forced abortion, and the baby girls of China, who continue to face sex-selective abortion and abandonment. The one-child policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”

Let’s hear UNFPA speak up for Chinese women that way. Until then, the agency can get along without U.S. taxpayer support.

Sunday Best

This post originally appeared on Da Tech Guy blog.

Above the altar, St. Stanislaus church

Photo: St. Stanislaus FSSP Catholic Church Facebook page.

The Latin Mass can pack a room, and it ain’t all about nostalgia. (Or, as friend used to spell it, “naustalgia,” which I always took to mean the past making you sick.) One of the old ethnic churches in my New England city has just been re-opened after being shuttered for 15 years. Our bishop asked an order of priests dedicated to the Tridentine Mass to set up shop, and the order obliged. The first Sunday Mass was held recently, and it was an eye-opener.

First of all, the number of young families was staggering. They’re looking to the future. Talking with them after Mass was like a tonic.

The church was packed, people standing in the back, even 40 or so standing on the steps outside when the church filled up. It’s possible some were there for the novelty, or to see what a Latin Mass was like. There were a few folks who had been parishioners back in the days when it was “the Polish parish.” There were certainly some pre-Vatican II Catholics who wanted the liturgy of their youth. Most of the attendees, though, looked like they’d been born well after the mid-1960s.

Second, the bumper stickers out in the parking lot indicated a lot of politically-engaged people in attendance. There were humorous (not to say barbed) slogans and serious ones, many explicitly pro-life, few explicitly partisan, yet all designed to give a Democratic nominee the vapors.

So what?

I’ll tell you what this looks like to me: these people praying together are not cultural refugees. They’re not wringing their hands. They’re looking past the next election. They’re steeped less in tradition per se than in faith in God. And they’re bringing that faith with them as they raise their kids, go about their daily business, and prepare to vote.

Read the rest of the post at Da Tech Guy blog.