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Planned Parenthood appeals after judge upholds Iowa ban on webcam abortions

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is moving ahead in court to protect its telemed abortion plan in Iowa.

The nation’s largest abortion provider asked the Iowa Supreme Court to put a hold on Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell’s August 19 ruling upholding the Iowa Board of Medicine’s rule requiring a physician be present when an abortion is performed.

Judge Farrell’s ruling lifted the November 2013 stay on the Board of Medicine rule and means the ban will go into effect September 17. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland asked the Iowa Supreme Court August 28 to issue a stay on Judge Farrell’s ruling while its justices consider the appeal.

“If this Court does not grant a stay,” the Planned Parenthood appeal said, “the Rule will make it impossible for Petitioners to provide abortion services at seven out of nine clinics where they provided them until today – over 70 percent of previously available sites.”

“To receive care,” it said, “women will have to travel up to more than 500 miles round trip, multiple times, to Des Moines or Iowa City, the only two cities where a physician is present.”

With a telemed abortion the doctor dispenses abortion-inducing drugs to an expectant mother from a different location. Critics have opposed the practice because it leaves the pregnant mother alone to face possible complications.

Planned Parenthood quietly introduced telemed abortion in Iowa in 2008 to test the system, planning to take it nationwide.

The abortion giant has argued throughout that the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision to uphold Iowa law was political, saying the board’s 10-member make-up is slanted because it was appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is pro-life.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had also said deliberation prior to the board’s 2013 decision was not thorough enough. In its first petition, they stated, “The board did not undertake a thorough study of the matter, nor did it consider the impact the rule might have on telemedicine in general.”

However Judge Farrell rejected this, stating in his August 18 ruling: “The board considered a significant amount of data and public comments on the issue and adopted a narrowly focused rule which would allow it to consider telemedicine in a broader sense at a future date.”

Planned Parenthood asserted in the August 28 appeal that webcam abortion is extremely safe and effective.

In the last six years, “PPH’s [medication abortion] program has served over 6000 Iowa women,” it said. “With no evidence of any safety risk whatsoever and not a single patient complaint.”

Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, echoed the Iowa Board of Medicine’s concern for Iowa’s expectant women.

“Without a hands-on personal exam by a physician, physical conditions that may contraindicate medication abortion could well go undetected,” she said. “Ectopic pregnancies, which, untreated, can pose a life-threatening emergency for the mother, are more likely to go undetected.”

Sullenger told LifeSiteNews that medication abortions have a 7-20 percent failure rate, depending on the gestational age when the abortion is attempted.

The most common complication is incomplete abortion, which must be completed surgically, she said. 

“However, women who get the abortion pill remotely have no access to follow up or emergency care by the dispensing abortionist,” said Sullenger. “This creates a lack of patient care continuity and increases the risk factors for such abortions.”

Sullenger told LifeSiteNews there are no hard stats on complications suffered during the webcam abortion process because Iowa has absolutely no abortion reporting laws. 

“Women who have complications are instructed to report to local emergency rooms,” Sullenger said. “So Planned Parenthood isn't involved in the after-care when complications arise.”

The fact that the physician has no personal contact with the patient and cannot physically examiner her is below accepted medical standards, said Sullenger. 

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“Most legitimate telemedicine takes place between patient and physicians that have a long-term relationship, she said. “The physician has at some point seen these patients in his office and physically examined the patient.” 

Abortionists and their patients have no such long-term relationship, she continued. 

“In fact, the abortionist and patient have never met before and will likely never see each other again,” said Sullenger. “That limits the amount of information about the patient that the abortionist has access to and can negatively impact his ability to make appropriate decisions about what is safe for the patient and completely negates any ability for the woman to receive follow-up care that is within the standard of patient care, especially when complications arise.”

Sullenger said it is not unusual to have to travel to another city for legitimate medical services, with many people of challenging financial means regularly doing just that, and no one expressing concern over the hardship they may experience.

“Why do abortionists expect special treatment for abortion patients when women in other, direr situations also have to travel?” Sullenger asked. “If concern for women was their intent, Planned Parenthood would not be subjecting women to experimental, substandard conditions with no capacity for physician follow up.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland declined to comment on the appeal.

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President Obama speaks at Planned Parenthood's national conference in 2013.
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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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