Life Advocacy Briefing

September 19, 2011

Bishop Pulls Fr. Frank Pavone Off his Post / Reverberation in Spokane? /
Two for Two
/ Preserving Humanity /Arizona Life Protections Take Effect /
Intended or Not, Dire Consequences

Bishop Pulls Fr. Frank Pavone Off his Post

ONE OF THE MOST BELOVED LEADERS OF THE PRO-LIFE COMMUNITY has been recalled from his pro-life work by his hierarchical superior. The new Roman Catholic bishop of Amarillo, Texas, Bishop Patrick Zurek, has told Fr. Frank Pavone he must leave his full-time work directing Priests for Life and serve as a parish priest in the diocese to which he is officially attached.

Fr. Pavone became affiliated with the Amarillo diocese when facing opposition within the church’s hierarchy in New York, where he bases his work. The Amarillo bishop at the time gave Fr. Pavone his blessing to continue his Priests for Life work while technically attached to the Texas diocese.

But Bishop Zurek is questioning Priests for Life’s financial accounting and has not only recalled Fr. Pavone but has taken the hostile step of circulating a letter to all his fellow US bishops raising questions about Fr. Pavone’s stewardship, a move which Fr. Pavone firmly but respectfully rebuts.

Last Wednesday, Fr. Pavone appealed to the Vatican to restore his ministry, according to a report on www.CatholicCulture.org. “‘In 2005, I made a public promise in a church ceremony in Amarillo, presided over by a Vatican cardinal,’” said Fr. Pavone, quoted by CatholicCulture, “‘that this full-time pro-life work would be a lifetime commitment. … That’s a commitment I promise to fulfill without wavering.’”

Fr. Pavone has given several public interviews over the past week in which he insists not only that the Priests for Life fundraising and financial accountability is above reproach but also that he has submitted all requested financial records to Bishop Zurek – even copies of the ministry’s check register – without any acknowledgment by the bishop that he has received the records, including “clean” audits.

Other leaders in the pro-life movement are expressing support for Fr. Pavone, some seeking means to publicly demonstrate on his behalf. In the end, the future of Priests for Life and Fr. Pavone’s exemplary leadership of the key ministry, appears to rest in Rome.

“‘In the interest of preserving my good reputation as well as protecting the valuable work done by the Priests for Life organization,’” said Fr. Pavone in the CatholicCulture report, “‘I have begun a process of appeal to the Vatican. This process aims to correct any mistaken decisions of the bishop in my regard and to protect my commitment to full-time pro-life activity for my whole life.’” Because of confidence in the Vatican, said Fr. Pavone, “‘we are not currently making any changes in any positions at Priests for Life or in any of our projects and plans.’”  Fr. Pavone, however, has reported to Amarillo to show good faith and respect to the bishop.

 

Reverberation in Spokane?

HAS THE ATTACK ON Fr. PAVONE UNLEASHED SOMETHING DARK in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in America?

Pro-life organizers in Spokane, Washington, are “expressing bewilderment,” reports Kathleen Gilbert for LifeSiteNews.com, “after their Catholic bishop apparently urged diocesan priests and seminarians in a September meeting not to pray outside abortion clinics.”

The instruction from Bishop Blase Cupich came just two weeks before the intended launch of the 40 Days for Life fall campaign, “composed almost totally of Catholics,” notes Miss Gilbert. The 40-day-long prayer, fasting and perpetual witness at abortuaries has brought truth and prayer to the abortion industry’s Spokane neighborhoods for about four years.

Catholic parishes have been a key source for recruiting 40 Days for Life participants in Spokane, and typically, priests have promoted it.

A determined seminarian in Spokane, John Weingarten, has launched an on-line petition drive to plead with the bishop to relent and permit Catholic participation in the life-saving prayer campaign. The petition can be viewed and signed at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ask-bishop-cupich-to-let-priests-pray-at-planned-parent.html. Alternative contact information: Most Rev. Blase J. Cupich, Diocese of Spokane, 1023 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, Washington 99201; 1-509/358-7305. Or via electronic mail to his executive assistant Mary Cole: mcole@dioceseofspokane.org.

In many cities across America, this well-regarded prayer campaign has been credited – along with the Lord to Whom participants pray – not only with saving babies and their moms but also with redeeming the lives of such abortion industry workers as former Planned Parenthood shop director Abby Johnson, who has signed the Spokane petition and issued a statement, reports Miss Gilbert, urging “a return to public prayer witness by the [Catholic] Church in Spokane.

“‘As a former Planned Parenthood director,’ said Mrs. Johnson, quoted by LifeSiteNews, “‘I can attest to the power a praying priest has on the women going inside the clinic. Priests are able to reach out to women and men in crisis,’” she said, “‘in a way that no other sidewalk counselor can. It is important that they be present,’” she urged.

“‘And really this shouldn’t even be an issue,’” said Mrs. Johnson in the LifeSite story, “‘since the sanctity of human life is something that is [not] an option in the Catholic Church. It is something we are commanded to revere.’”

 

Two for Two

VOTERS IN DISGRACED EX-REP. ANTHONY WEINER’s NEW YORK DISTRICT sent a loud, clear message when they went to the polls Tuesday in the special election to choose the Democrat’s successor. And its import was unmistakable.

Newly elected Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY) pledged to vote for repeal of ObamaCare; his opponent, a Democratic assemblyman, embraced the President’s healthcare scheme.  Rep.-elect Turner openly favored traditional marriage; his opponent had cast a key vote in Albany earlier this year to legally equate sodomic “relationships” to marriage. The President’s cold-shoulder attitude and policies toward the State of Israel were rejected by the voters’ selection of Mr. Turner.

And we in the pro-life community welcome a new pro-life vote to the US House. Welcome, Mr. Turner, and congratulations. We’re counting on you.

Congratulations and welcome, too, to Nevada’s new Congressman, elected last Tuesday and already sworn in. By a margin of 58% to 36%, pro-life former State Sen. Mark Amodei trounced pro-abortion State Treasurer Kate Marshall, a candidate in whom the Democratic Party in Sen. Harry Reid’s state had placed much hope. By backing the two-term state treasurer, the EMILY’s List pro-abortion political action committee also took a bath in the Nevada special election, held to replace Rep. Dean Heller, who was appointed to his state’s US Senate seat when GOP Sen. John Ensign resigned some months ago.

 

Preserving Humanity

WHEN PRES. OBAMA SIGNED THE PATENT REFORM BILL into law Friday, he joined Congress in enacting a pro-life protection.

Included in the comprehensive patent system overhaul was a provision making permanent the Weldon Patent Ban, a provision barring the Patent & Trademark Office from issuing patents on human organisms. The protection was originally sponsored by then-Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida in 2004 and until now has had to be renewed each year on the Commerce, Justice & State Appropriation bill. The Judiciary Committee folded the restriction into the massive rewrite of the Patent Office law this spring.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, noting he took no position on the overall bill, issued the following statement on the Weldon provision: “Passage of the ban on patenting human organisms as part of patent reform is a huge victory for the idea that all human lives – even those of the youngest among us – are valuable and should not be viewed as property. The Patent Office had a policy of rejecting patents on human embryos,” noted Mr. Perkins, “and in previous years, the Weldon language helped give legal weight to that policy while some scientists wanted to gain a property right on genetically altered humans.”

Mr. Perkins praised Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and the House GOP leadership “for making sure that the Weldon language was part of the patent reform legislation approved by the US Senate.

“While biotechnology offers great hope for treatments,” said Mr. Perkins, “and science should be explored, it must always be in the service of humanity, not the other way around. We must never lose sight of the fact that all human life, including human embryos, deserves legal protection. … This,” declared Mr. Perkins, “is a great day for Life and a great day for humanity.”

 

Arizona Life Protections Take Effect

PLANNED PARENTHOOD ANNOUNCED last Monday announced it would not further appeal an appellate ruling last month upholding a package of pro-life reforms enacted by the State of Arizona in 2009. Consequently, the previously enjoined statutes took effect last Tuesday.

The abortion behemoth, under the newly released law, is consequently having to limit its baby-killing practices to three of its Arizona shops – in Glendale, Tempe and Tucson – down from 10.

Customers are now entitled by law to an in-person consultation with a doctor at least 24 hours before undergoing abortion. No more telemed abortions by remote computer consultation; no more letting nurse practitioners play abortion mill doctor in the early term of a target’s gestation. And no more intimidation of medical personnel, including pharmacists, who cannot, in conscience, participate in killing the unborn via the abortifacient “morning-after” pill. Arizona has safeguarded conscience rights for many years for personnel eschewing participation in acknowledged abortion.

 

Intended or Not, Dire Consequences

Sept. 6, 2011, commentary by Mark W. Leach in The Witherspoon Institute’s The Public Discourse, www.thepublicdiscourse.com

Last month, my daughter Juliet began second grade, where her mother and I expect her to maintain her B+ average on spelling tests and straight A’s in Chinese. In addition to being a loving daughter and big sister, Juliet also is endowed with Down syndrome. At the start of the month, the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that future births of children like Juliet should be prevented. Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and, as such, will be targeted in the new HHS regulation’s free nationwide prenatal testing program.

Discussions of HHS’s new regulation have focused on the required availability of free contraceptive services under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA [ObamaCare]). The regulation is the result of HHS’s adopting, in its entirety, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on Clinical Preventive Services for Women. Buried in the IOM report is the recommendation for no-cost well-woman visits; these visits include prenatal care – and thus prenatal testing for “genetic or developmental conditions.” The regulation was issued as part of the PPACA’s coverage of preventive services. This prompts the question, how does prenatal testing prevent Down syndrome?

The IOM report defines preventive services “to be measures … shown to improve wellbeing and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of targeted disease or condition.” Down syndrome occurs at conception. Prenatal testing simply identifies whether a pregnancy is positive for Down syndrome – a prenatal diagnosis after which most women choose to terminate their pregnancy. A prenatal test does not decrease the likelihood of Down syndrome in a person; it does allow for a decreased likelihood of a person with Down syndrome surviving beyond the womb. If this is how HHS is justifying prenatal testing for Down syndrome as preventive care, then HHS has ushered in a program meant to target future children like Juliet.

The targeted elimination of people with Down syndrome is, in fact, the goal of other countries that have adopted nationwide prenatal testing programs – a goal some other countries are now realizing. Indeed, according to the Copenhagen Post, Denmark “could be a country without a single citizen with Down syndrome in the not too distant future,” due to its nationwide prenatal screening program, in place since 2004.

Perhaps the HHS is not purposefully trying to sneak in a modern-day eugenics program to eliminate Down syndrome by regulation. It is likely that the IOM report relied on professional guidelines that recommend the offering of prenatal testing for Down syndrome. Actual experience, however, has shown that such tests do not “improve wellbeing” – certainly not for the aborted child but also not for the expecting parents.

Robert Resta, a genetic counselor, notes in August’s American Journal of Medical Genetics that “there is very little empirical evidence that prenatal knowledge improves medical, developmental, emotional or adaptational outcomes.” Further, studies have found that prenatal testing increases the mother’s anxiety, regardless of the test results; that women often do not make informed decisions about accepting prenatal testing or decisions made after a diagnosis and that, when abortion is the chosen response, a significant number of women experience post-traumatic stress.

The lone dissent to the IOM report by a committee member makes the point that clinical guidelines “were never intended to provide a basis for insurance coverage determinations; they are intended as guides to physician practices.” Yet, if the IOM’s incorporation of such guidelines is the HHS’s justification for covering prenatal testing, then why does HHS not provide for the other information required to accompany prenatal testing?

The IOM report states that informed decision making “is structured to give an individual all the information needed to choose from among different clinical options, such as whether to undergo genetic testing.” Professional guidelines require that physicians be well-informed about Down syndrome, offer accurate information and recognize that parent support organizations can be very helpful. This summer, the Natl. Society for Genetic Counselors and the American Academy of Pediatrics required that this balancing information be part of prenatal care. Both further note that families “benefit from hearing a fair and balanced perspective, including the many positive outcomes of children with Down syndrome and their effect on the family.”

The need for this information is so apparent that in 2005 two senators from opposite sides of the abortion issue, Senators Ted Kennedy and Sam Brownback, co-sponsored legislation that recognized the need to provide accurate, balanced information and support by parent organizations. In 2008, the Prenatally & Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act was signed into law, but it has yet to receive any appropriations. Similarly, the HHS regulation only requires coverage of the testing itself but says nothing about covering the provision of proper training, accurate written materials or support to or through parent organizations – things that could, in fact, improve the parents’ and child’s wellbeing after receiving a prenatal diagnosis.

It seems hard to believe that Congress and the President meant for the PPACA to institute a national prenatal screening program that targets Down syndrome and also fails to provide all of the required information to expectant mothers.  Sen. Mikulski introduced the provision for preventive services for women, yet she was also the lead sponsor of Rosa’s Law, a law that replaces “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in federal publications. Rosa’s Law was named after one of her constituents who, like Juliet, happens to have Down syndrome. Further, given that HHS’s regulation not only encourages prenatal testing’s discrimination against Down syndrome but also disrespects a woman’s exercise of informed choice, it is unlikely that members of the bipartisan Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus would allow the regulation to remain in effect.

Prenatal testing for Down syndrome should not be labeled as preventive medicine – an inaccurate and misleading description of a procedure that may prevent Down syndrome births but certainly does not prevent Down syndrome. A regulation should not be allowed to target a portion of our society for elimination without public debate by accountable elected officials. If the regulation is to remain in place, then additional funding should be provided for all the information required to respect a woman’s choice following a prenatal diagnosis. The President and the Congress should see that the new HHS requirements for preventive care expressly exclude coverage of prenatal testing for Down syndrome unless and until there is public debate and balanced funding for the needed resources. You can help them do that by leaving a comment on this new regulation at www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002.