Browsing News Entries

Rep. Jackie Walorski, killed in car accident, leaves behind pro-life legacy 

Then-Indiana Congressional candidate Jackie Walorski speaks during the Republican National Convention on Aug, 28, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. / Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 4, 2022 / 12:02 pm (CNA).

The tragic death of Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski and her two staff members, Emma Thomson and Zachery Potts, in a car accident Wednesday afternoon has left many in the nation’s capital mourning the loss of the Indiana congresswoman, known for her kindness and service to her country. 

But to pro-life leaders, Walorski leaves behind a legacy of devotion to the unborn, evident in both her record as a lawmaker and personal efforts to help the most vulnerable. 

Pro-life groups including Live Action, Students for Life of America, and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America issued statements paying tribute to Walorski’s fight against abortion. Indiana Rep. Jim Banks remembered Walorski as “a devout Christian [and] passionate advocate for life.” 

“Jackie [was] selfless, humble, and compassionate,” he wrote on Twitter, “a dear friend and one of the greatest public servants I’ve ever known.” 

Walorski had a strong pro-life voting record, receiving an A+ rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. She consistently opposed Democrat attempts to spend federal money on abortions both at home and abroad and sought to protect the conscience rights of health care providers.

Notably, Walorski advocated on behalf of dignity for victims of abortion. She was well-known for introducing The Dignity for Aborted Children Act (HR 620) with Banks in 2019 to require the dignified and proper burial of aborted children, following the horrific discovery of over 2,200 aborted baby remains on the property of notorious Indiana abortionist Ulrich Klopfer. 

“Our society cannot tolerate such callous disregard for the sanctity of human life,” Walorski said in a statement introducing the bill, “It is critical that we pass this bill to protect the dignity of abortion victims by ensuring their remains are treated with the respect they deserve.”

Walorski visited a pro-life pregnancy center called Bella Vita in Knox, Indiana, on Aug. 2, the day before she died.

Walorski represented Indiana's 2nd congressional district from 2013 until the time of her death. In this session of Congress, Walorski co-sponsored pro-life legislation including the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2021, and the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act.

She also served on the House Committee on Ways and Means and was the ranking member for both the Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support and House Ethics Committee. 

Walorski, who was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, worked in journalism, and served as a missionary to impoverished children in Romania before beginning her political career. 

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, released a statement on Thursday. “We mourn the loss of our good friend, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who was indefatigable in standing up for the most vulnerable among us,” he wrote. “The passion, courage, and love she brought to her work on behalf of unborn babies and their mothers set an example that will not be forgotten.” 

Nashville Dominican Sisters support Hillbilly Thomists on country music’s most famous stage

The Hillbilly Thomists perform on Aug. 1, 2022, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. The bluegrass band, made up of Dominican friars, was the opening act of a concert hosted by the Knights of Columbus in conjunction with the fraternal order's annual convention. / Courtesy of Matthew Barrick/Knights of Columbus

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 4, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The famous Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, has hosted stars such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, and many more.

But it wasn’t until Aug. 1 that a band of wisecracking, bluegrass-playing, Spirit-filled Dominican friars had played the legendary venue.

The Hillbilly Thomists claimed that historic distinction with a rousing, humorous performance as the opening act of a concert hosted by the Knights of Columbus, whose annual convention was held Aug. 1-4 at the nearby Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

The friars’ show was made all the more special by the presence of dozens of their religious sisters, from the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, who clapped, sang, and laughed along with the band.

“It was a little bit unfair having a home crowd,” joked Father Joseph Martin Hagan, the band’s drummer. 

One of the sisters present, Sister Anne Catherine Burleigh, told CNA after the performance that the friars rose to the challenge of playing on such a prestigious stage.

“We know a lot of our brothers and they’re wonderful priests, and it’s fun to see them bring out their study of theology in this very fun way,” she said.

The band’s name explained

Proceeds from the band’s album sales, donations, and merchandise sales support the formation of friars at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., where the Hillbilly Thomists first came together.

“We’re Catholic priests who play Americana music. We started doing it in-house as a way that the family tries to relax. Really it’s a form of recreation, storytelling … it’s fun,” band member Father Timothy Danaher told CNA in an interview backstage before the show.

Members of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia enjoying a performance of The Hillbilly Thomists at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Aug. 1, 2022. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Members of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia enjoying a performance of The Hillbilly Thomists at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Aug. 1, 2022. Joe Bukuras/CNA

The band drew inspiration for its name from a letter written by Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor. “Everyone who’s read Wise Blood thinks I’m a hillbilly nihilist, whereas ... I’m a hillbilly Thomist,” she wrote, referring to her love of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican.

“So, we, too, are lovers of St. Thomas Aquinas," Father Peter Gautsch, one of the band’s founding members, recently told the National Catholic Register, "and given her sort of Southern sensibilities, [and] the Southern character of some of our music, being from the bluegrass country tradition … it seemed a perfect name for our group."

The band’s third album, “Holy Ghost Power,” came out in July. The title track captures the humor and evangelistic themes the friars’ fans love so much. A sample verse:

You got to tear down the wall and read Saint Paul

Burn like fire after the fall

You got to change things up if you've heard the word

You've got to die inside and serve the bird

“It was such a joy to hear them be able to share the fruits of their contemplation with everyone who's ready to receive it,” Dominican Sister Josemaria Pence told CNA after the band’s six-song set.

“They've given their life to the Lord and it's a joyful life,” she said. “So it's wonderful to see the joy that they can share with other people."

Post-Roe ‘confusion’ helped defeat Kansas pro-life amendment

Supporters of the Vote Yes to a Constitutional Amendment on Abortion remove signs along 135th Street on Aug. 1, 2022, in Olathe, Kansas. / Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Denver, Colo., Aug 3, 2022 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

The defeat of a proposed pro-life amendment in Kansas is in large part due to confusion and fear-mongering in the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, one leading supporter on the ground has said.

Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said the Dobbs decision just six weeks before the amendment vote “really changed the trajectory of the abortion legal landscape.”

“That energized the abortion industry beyond I think anyone’s anticipation,” he told CNA Aug. 3.

“Not to overstate the significance of the Dobbs decision,” he said. “I think it’s a watershed moment in American history and right now, the first chapter does not look good. But we're not giving up.”

With over 95% of ballots counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Kansas voters defeated the Value Them Both amendment by about 59% to 41% in the Aug. 2 referendum.

The proposed amendment would have allowed restrictions on abortion to the extent allowed by the U.S. Constitution. It was a response to a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion under the state constitution. The ruling bars legislators from passing abortion restrictions. It also threatens existing Kansas laws, including a ban on abortion 22 weeks or later into pregnancy.

“While the outcome is not what we hoped, our movement and campaign have proven our resolve and commitment,” the Value Them Both campaign said in a statement. “We will not abandon women and babies.”

“This outcome is a temporary setback, and our dedicated fight to value women and babies is far from over,” it added, thanking supporters across the state.

The campaign statement faulted “an onslaught of misinformation from radical left organizations that spent millions of out-of-state dollars to spread lies about the Value Them Both Amendment.”

Catholic dioceses, parishes, and Knights of Columbus councils had collectively given millions of dollars to fund the campaign. State financial records and other reports indicated the Value Them Both Association, which supports the amendment, received close to $6 million by mid-July, while Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, foes of the amendment, took in more than $6.5 million.

Weber, citing observations of opponents’ advertising spending, suggested the final totals would show pro-abortion rights spending with a 2 to 1 advantage.

However, he still saw cause for hope.

“We energized lots of people. We knocked on a half million doors in Kansas. Political consultants across the board would say that that is the single largest grassroots campaign in Kansas history,” Weber told CNA.

“People on their doorsteps were amazed when we were able to have a conversation and say ‘Did you know that there are in Kansas right now an average of at least nine live dismemberment abortions happening every week?’ They were in disbelief, and so I think we've raised the awareness of what is happening,” he said.

Weber, citing his conversations with Catholic bishops and others, said many people still seemed to be processing the end of Roe v. Wade.

“That created an environment of confusion, we believe, that led the country, but also particularly in Kansas, into a narrative that the abortion industry pounced upon: that women were not going to get the authentic reproductive health care that they deserved if the Value Them Both amendment was passed,” he said.

Calling it a “blatant despicable lie,” Weber said he expected it to be corrected by the secular news media.

“But what we found was quite the opposite,” he said. “Not only was the secular news media quiet about that despicable lie. But they actually served as an echo chamber. That turned into a disastrous recipe for us on election night last night.”

The campaign’s efforts to reach out to news media and to brief journalists were often unsuccessful, Weber said, but not for a lack of trying.

“Maybe they simply weren’t willing to listen,” he said. Weber said that several news outlets were present at a Wichita news conference with a dozen doctors who backed the measure, representing over 200 mental and medical professionals who endorsed it. Yet the event never made the news.

The campaign will now try to build on its successes and scrutinize its efforts during the campaign.

“I don't think anybody is going to be harder on the campaign than us ourselves,” Weber said. “We'll try and figure out what we did right and what we did wrong.”

“All of our polling — not just our polling — but other polling showed us definitely within striking distance, if not ahead within the last couple of weeks of the campaign,” he added.

Weber said that Kansas will have an increasingly large role as a destination for abortions, which means parishes and pregnancy crisis centers need to be prepared to provide alternatives to “meet the needs of these women that are going to be bussed in and flown into Kansas for abortions.”

Some, like President Joe Biden, welcomed the defeat of the Kansas measure.

“Kansans used their voices to protect women’s right to choose and access reproductive health care,” he said on Twitter Aug. 2. “It’s an important victory for Kansas, but also for every American who believes that women should be able to make their own health decisions without government interference.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, responded that the amendment “would have protected women's health and safety by allowing the legislature to pass reasonable health and safety regulations as they do for other procedures.”

“This is no victory. It will make abortion more dangerous for women,” Day said.

Michael New, a sociology professor at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America, reflected on the outcome in an Aug. 3 essay for the website.

New said the outcome was “certainly disappointing,” and he too cited the media coverage after the Dobbs decision as an influence. However, he said that successful pro-life policy changes generally must be “popular, incremental, and difficult to caricature.” The implications of the proposed Kansas amendment were “somewhat unclear” and easy for foes to distort.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a conservative commentator who grew up in Kansas, said on the National Review website blog The Corner that Kansas is “by no means a pro-life state” but also would likely not have adopted “a sweeping abortion-protective constitutional amendment by popular vote.”

Once the state Supreme Court ruled that the constitution had broad abortion protections, it likely made changing this “impossible,” Ponnuru wrote. He suggested pro-life advocates “ought to come back in a few years with another ballot initiative, this one establishing a gestational limit on abortion: at fifteen weeks, for example. There is no reason pro-lifers should take this deeply disappointing vote as the last word anywhere.”

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

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.