Ben Johnson

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Catholic Health Association collaboration with Obama admin on mandate a ‘scandal’: Catholic leader

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Almost immediately after President Obama announced the details of his “accommodation” on Friday morning, Catholic Health Association (CHA) President Sr. Carol Keehan registered her support, long before any other Catholic organizations had the opportunity to analyze the White House’s statement, let alone to issue a statement for or against. Some in the Catholic Church are calling Keehan’s close working relationship with the administration in drafting a measure that still violates their common religious beliefs a “scandal.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the president called three people before delivering his speech on the birth control mandate Friday morning: Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Sr. Keehan; and Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Richards and Sr. Keehan issued statements supporting the accommodation almost immediately after the speech. The White House had seen Keehan’s endorsement before delivering the speech, which would require health insurance companies to provide contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization to employees or religious institutions “free of charge.”

John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, told LifeSiteNews.com, “I think it’s a scandal that [CHA’s] statement mirrored that of Planned Parenthood so closely in tone and timing. Christian prudence demands a much higher threshold of scrutiny before jumping on the bandwagon, especially given the clear attack on religious freedom and the clear attack on the Catholic Church inherent in this decision.”

Sr. Keehan said the CHA was “pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.” Several news outlets balanced CHA’s statement against Planned Parenthood’s, leaving the impression the accommodation has satisfied leaders on both sides. 

However, conspicuously missing from initial coverage was any statement from the Roman Catholic bishops, who were apparently still scrambling to make sense of the “accommodation.” Cardinal-designate Dolan wrote a pastoral letter on February 10 shortly after the accommodation had been announced, stating any sign of openness from the administration is “a welcome first step. We must study it carefully. However, we cannot let up in our concern for the protection of religious freedom and the reverence for conscience which are at the heart of American values.” Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Illinois, went further, saying while he deferred to the USCCB to make a final determination, “it first it appears that this is still material co-operation with evil.”

A statement later in the day from the USCCB blasted the accommodation as insufficient to address their concerns. According to the bishops, the mandate “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”

New e-mails show the White House had already lined up Sr. Keehan’s support, and that she had provided White House insiders a copy of her statement before releasing it to the press. Darron Paul Monteiro, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE), e-mailed a copy to “friends”  Friday morning, writing: “I wanted to be sure you saw Sister Carol Keehan’s statement on the new regulation being proposed and finalized later this morning.”

This has led some to question whether she had a deeper role in the announcement.

“I am a team player,” Bill Donohue of the Catholic Defense League said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com, and Sr. Keehan “would never be on my team.”

“At a minimum she had a call before hand, and maybe more,” Brehany said. “I do think it’s a scandal.”

The Office of Public Engagement (OPE) is headed by Valerie Jarrett, named by political observers as the president’s most influential adviser. Attendees have exposed the fact that OPE regularly holds “Common Purpose” meetings with friendly activists to coordinate support for its policies. 

Apparently, Sr. Keehan enjoyed greater access than the USCCB, which wrote on Friday, “We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance.”

It would not represent the nun’s first collaboration with the Obama administration on a policy her bishops opposed. Last June, Francis Cardinal George said, “Sr. Carol and her colleagues are to blame” for the passage of the president’s health care bill. “The Catholic Health Association and other so-called Catholic groups provided cover for those on the fence to support Obama and the administration,” he wrote. Such groups, Cardinal George said, had “weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the U.S.” and caused “confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

As a token of his appreciation for her support, President Obama rewarded Sr. Keehan with one of the ceremonial pens used to sign the bill. 

At least one other Catholic organization has publicly supported the accommodation. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) issued a statement that it “acknowledges and appreciates the compromise that President Obama has made to accommodate religious institutions in regard to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act. We commend the Obama Administration for its willingness to work with us on moving toward a solution, and we look forward to working out the details of these new regulations with the White House. ”

The Catholic Medical Association, which is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America, insisted,  “[T]he flawed attempts at ‘compromises,’ announced by the Obama administration to date, should be completely reversed.” This echoes the USCCB’s call to entirely rescind the HHS mandate.

“We think the decision is a trainwreck in terms of religious freedom, women’s health, and economics,” Brehany told LifeSiteNews. “Barring any further details that we’re missing, we still see it as very wrong.”

“I hope that a spirit of discernment will prevail,” he said.

The offices of Francis Cardinal George, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, and Bishop Robert Vasa did not return messages before deadline.

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A Planned Parenthood facility in Denver, Colorado
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Colorado judge tosses suit alleging Planned Parenthood used state funds to pay for abortions

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

Alliance Defending Freedom "will likely appeal" a Monday court decision dismissing their suit alleging Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains illegally used state funds to pay for abortions, an ADF lawyer told LifeSiteNews.

The ADF lawsuit claims that $1.4 million went from state government agencies to a Planned Parenthood abortion affiliate through Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver County District Court Judge Andrew McCallin dismissed the case on the basis that ADF could not prove the funds paid for abortions. But ADF maintains that funding an abortion facility is indirectly paying for abortions, which violates state law.

ADF senior counsel Michael Norton -- whose wife, former Colorado Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, filed the lawsuit – told LifeSiteNews that "no one is above the law, including Colorado politicians who are violating our state’s constitution by continuing to fund Planned Parenthood’s abortion business with state taxpayer dollars."

"The State of Colorado even acknowledges that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate. The Denver court seems to have agreed with that fact and yet granted motions to dismiss based on a technicality," said Norton.

According to Colorado law, "no public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion." There is a stipulation that allows for "the General Assembly, by specific bill, [to] authorize and appropriate funds to be used for those medical services necessary to prevent the death of either a pregnant woman or her unborn child under circumstances where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each."

According to court documents, the Colorado law was affirmed by state voters in 1984, with an appeal attempt rejected two years later. In 2001, an outside legal firm hired by Jane Norton -- who was lieutenant governor at the time -- found that Planned Parenthood was "subsidizing rent" and otherwise providing financial assistance to Planned Parenthood Services Corporation, an abortion affiliate. After the report came out, and Planned Parenthood refused to disassociate itself from the abortion affiliate, the state government stopped funding Planned Parenthood.

Since 2009, however, that has changed, which is why the lawsuit is filed against Planned Parenthood, and multiple government officials, including Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

According to ADF legal counsel Natalie Decker, the fact that Planned Parenthood sent funds to the abortion affiliate should have convinced McCallin of the merits of the case. "The State of Colorado and the Denver court acknowledged that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars, in addition to millions of 'federal' tax dollars, flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate," said Decker.

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"Without even having the facts of the case developed, the Denver court seems to have granted motions to dismiss filed by the State of Colorado and Planned Parenthood on grounds the term 'indirectly' could not mean what Ms. Norton and Governor Owens said it meant in 2002 when they defunded Planned Parenthood."

"That, of course, is the plain meaning of Colo. Const., Art. V, § 50 which was implemented by the citizens of Colorado, and the reason for Ms. Norton’s lawsuit."

Decker told LifeSiteNews that "Colorado law is very clear," and that the state law "prohibits Colorado tax dollars from being used to directly or indirectly pay for induced abortions."

She says her client "has been denied the opportunity to fully develop the facts of the case and demonstrate exactly what the Colorado tax dollars have been used for." Similarly, says Decker, it is not known "exactly what those funds were used for. At this time, there is simply no way to conclude that tax dollars have not been used to directly pay for abortions or abortion inducing drugs and devices."

"What we do know is that millions of Colorado tax dollars have flowed through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that those tax dollars are being used to indirectly pay for abortions."

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains did not return multiple requests for comment about the lawsuit.

The dismissal comes as Planned Parenthood fights an investigation by the state's Republican attorney general over a video by Live Action, as well as a lawsuit by a mother whose 13-year old daughter had an abortion in 2012 that she alleges was covered up by Planned Parenthood. The girl, who was being abused by her stepfather, was abused for months after the abortion.

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Steve Weatherbe

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Fledgling high-tech pro-life group marks 2,000 babies saved: 2-3 saved per day

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Online for Life, the Dallas-based pro-life marketing agency, saved its two-thousandth unborn baby earlier this year and is well on its way to saving its three thousandth by 2015.

“We are getting better all the time at what we do,” says founder Brian Fisher. “It used to be one baby saved every four to six weeks and now its two or three a day.”

But the most significant save? “It was the very first one,” he says, recalling the phone call from a crisis centre a month after OFL’s 2012 startup.  “And for me personally it was just a massive turning point … because [of] all the work and the money and testing and the volunteers and everything that led up to that moment. All the frustration of that was washed away in an instant because a child had been rescued that was about to be killed.”

Though increasing market savvy has led Online for Life to expand offline, the core of the non-profit, donor-financed operation remains SEO -- search engine optimization -- targeting young women who have just discovered they are pregnant and gone onto the Web to find the nearest abortion clinic.

Instead, they find the nearest crisis pregnancy center at the top of their results page. Since OFL went online it has linked with a network of 41 such centers, including two of its own it started this year, in a positive feedback loop that reinforces effective messaging first at the level of the Web, then at the first telephone call between the clinic and the pregnant woman, and finally at the first face-to-face meeting.

“Testing is crucial,” says Fisher. “We test everything we do.” Early on, Online for Life insisted the clinics it served have an ultrasound machine, because the prevailing wisdom in the prolife movement was that “once they saw their baby on ultrasound, they would drop the idea of having an abortion.” While the organization still insists on the ultrasound, its own testing and feedback from the CPCs indicates that three quarters of the women they see already have children. “They’ve already seen their own children on ultrasound and are still planning to abort.” So ultrasound images have lost their punch.

OFL has had to move offline to reach a significant minority who have neither computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Traditional electronic media spots as well as bus ads and billboards carry the message to them.

As well, says Fisher, “unwanted pregnancy used to be a high-school age problem; now that’s gone down in numbers and the average age of women seeking abortion has gone up to 24.” By that age, he says, they are “thoroughly conditioned by the abortion culture. Even before they got pregnant, they have already decided they would have an abortion if they did get pregnant.”

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What they need—and fast, in the first two minutes of the first phone call—is sympathy, support, and a complete absence of judgement. Online for Life is always gathering information from its network on what responses are most effective—and this can vary city to city. The organization offers training to clinic volunteers and staff that stresses a thorough knowledge of the services on tap. “Any major city has all sorts of services—housing, education, health—available,” says Fisher.

The problem that OFL was designed to address was the crisis pregnancy centers’ market penetration. Three percent of women with unwanted pregnancies were reaching out to the CPCs, and seven per cent of those who did reach out were having their babies. “So about 2.1 children were being saved for every 1,000 unwanted pregnancies,” says Fisher. “That’s not nearly enough.”

So Fisher and two fellow volunteers dreamed of applying online marketing techniques to the problem in 2009. Three years later Fisher was ready to leave his executive position at an online marketing agency to go full-time with the life-saving agency. Now they have 63 employees, most of them devoted to optimizing the penetration in each of the markets served by their participating crisis centers.

The results speak for themselves. Where OFL has applied its techniques, especially with its own clinics, as many as 15-18 percent of the targeted population of women seeking abortions get directed to nearby crisis pregnancy centers. “It depends on the centres’ budgets and on how many volunteers they have to be on the phones through the day and night,” he says. “But we are going to push it higher. We hope to save our 2,500th child by the end of the year.”

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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