Ben Johnson

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Did Mitt Romney force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B? Mass. Catholic leader says ‘yes’

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, February 13, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – As politicians in both political parties debate Mitt Romney’s role in implementing a 2005 statute requiring Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts to dispense Plan B - an “emergency contraceptive” that studies and the pill’s manufacturer have suggested can cause early abortions - a leader in the state’s pro-life movement puts the blame squarely on the former governor.

“The injury to the conscience rights of Catholic hospitals was not done so much so much by the church’s ideological enemies on the Left but by the Romney administration,” C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, told LifeSiteNews.com. The real harm, he says, came from Romney’s private counsel’s interpretation of a 1975 law that would have respected their religious views.

“It wasn’t the liberals. It wasn’t some liberal court. It was not liberal legislators that caused this interpretation of law,” Doyle said. “It was the Romney administration” that “injured the conscience rights and religious freedom rights of Catholic hospitals here.”

In 2005, the then-governor ordered Catholic hospitals to offer the “morning-after” pill in the final act of a showdown between church and state that began 30 years earlier.

In 1975, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law exempting private hospitals from providing abortions or “contraceptive devices or information” if those practices run contrary to their “religious or moral principles.”

In 2005, a new state law required all hospitals to provide Plan B to rape victims.

At first Romney, who said throughout the legislative process that he had no opinion on the bill, vetoed it and wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining that he had pledged that he “would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it.”

“I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother,” he wrote. 

The heavily Democratic body voted to override his veto in September 2005.

A new religious exemption, supported by Romney, never passed. However, most Massachusetts politicians agreed with Public Health Commissioner Paul Cote Jr. that the 1975 and 2005 laws “don’t cancel each other out and basically work in harmony with each other,” meaning that the religious exemption still stood intact.

That consensus included the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and, according to family watchdog group MassResistance, and former governor Michael Dukakis.

The notable exception was Romney’s personal legal counsel, Mark D. Nielsen, who felt the new law invalidated its predecessor and provided no protection for Catholics.

“Romney, through his legal counsel, came up with this entirely novel, unprecedented, unheard of interpretation of the 1975 statute to indicate that it didn’t apply,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews. “This surprised, and astonished, and perplexed everyone.”

One week before the law was to take effect, Romney held a press conference saying, “I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel,” calling it a “sounder view.” The Boston Herald described Romney’s turnabout as “an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half.”

Romney told the Herald the new legal analysis represented his private view on the issue, as well. “My personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraceptives or emergency contraceptive information.”

The new position allowed the Romney administration to “have its cake and eat it, too,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews.com. His support for a new religious exemption, which could never pass the Democratic legislature, meant “Governor Romney could then run for president as a friend of religious freedom rights and traditional morality, while his lieutenant governor, to whom he was very close, Lt. Gov. Kerry Murphy Healey, could run for election as governor in 2006 in liberal Massachusetts without any downside from liberals and feminists on the emergency contraception issue.” Healey opposed Romney’s veto and supported the reversal.

The issue, which lay dormant for seven years, has found new life on both sides of the aisle during the contentious 2012 presidential race.

On the eve of sweeping three contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, Rick Santorum wrote an op-ed stating President Obama’s HHS mandate was “not the first time that elected officials have trounced on the fundamental right to religious freedom. In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.”

“Now, a few years later and running for president, his heart is strategically aligned with religious voters opposing this federal mandate,” he wrote. “It’s important to me that we don’t just talk a good game, but that we actually live it.”

The same day Newt Gingrich told voters in Cincinnati, “There’s been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church. Well, the fact is, Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills, against their religious beliefs, when he was governor.” 

The Obama administration weighed in last Wednesday, when White House spokesman Jay Carney dubbed Romney “an odd messenger” and branded his criticism “ironic,” because Obama’s policy “is virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts.”

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded, “We expect these attacks from President Obama and his liberal friends. But from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, it’s a clear indication of desperation from their campaigns.” Romney told reporters in Atlanta Carney “needs to check his history.” He said “that provision was put in Massachusetts before I was governor, and then when I was governor I tried to have it removed in our health care plan.”

David French, who organized “Evangelicals for Mitt” in the last election cycle, wrote in National Review Online that Romney “did all he reasonably could.” The overwhelmingly Democratic legislature overrode his veto. He added, “Massachusetts regulations, the Church Amendment, and Directive 36 combine to create a number of potential loopholes and workarounds.” Had Romney been more confrontational, these may have been stripped away.

Doyle – who served as a Democratic ward secretary and worked with pro-life Democratic state representative Jim Craven – said the idea that “Romney was really trying to help us” by heeding his personal lawyer’s view is “something the evidence doesn’t really point to.”

“I think if there’s a choice between an obscure and arcane explanation and a simple and obvious one, I’m more inclined to take the simple and obvious one,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews.

He noted a similar situation took place when the Massachusetts legislature mandated that Catholic adoption agencies place children with homosexual couples. Romney again asked for a conscience measure, which did not pass. However, he cited a state regulation that compelled Catholic agencies to comply with the law, contrary to their beliefs. At the time, Michael Dukakis – who removed a child from the home of homosexual foster parents as governor – said, “there’s nothing in there to the best of my knowledge that mandates anything” of the sort. He said, “If it’s a regulation, governors can change regulations if they want to. That’s up to him.” Observers said legal action may have ensued if Romney changed the regulation. Enforcing that rule ended 100 years of adoption services by Catholic Charities in Boston. Dukakis observed at the time, “I just don’t know who we’re serving here.”

In his speech at CPAC Friday afternoon, Mitt Romney said, “I defended the Catholic Church’s right to serve their community in ways that were consistent with their conscience through adoption programs that placed children in a home with a mom and a dad.” The previous night he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, ”I fought on every basis I possibly could for life…and religious liberty,” against “exactly the same thing this president is trying to do.”

“People say that Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper,” Doyle said. “ I think that’s very unjust. I think he’s been a very consistent politician. He consistently works both sides of the street on the same issue. He is consistently cynical and expedient and self-serving.”

Doyle said, “While what Obama is doing certainly is an assault on our consciences, I’m not sure Governor Romney is the person to assert that, given his record.”

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South African mom files ‘wrongful life’ lawsuit on behalf of Downs son

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A South African woman has launched a "wrongful life" lawsuit against the Cape Town-based Foetal Assessment Centre, claiming a failure to inform her that the child she was carrying was at risk of having Down Syndrome prevented her from aborting her baby.

A twist in this lawsuit is that, unlike other "wrongful birth" lawsuits, the mother in this case missed the time limit to file the claim on her own behalf, so she is asking the South African Constitutional Court to allow her to sue the center for “wrongful life” on behalf of her now-born son.

“You have a duty to tell my mother carrying me that I'm malformed so that she can make an informed decision as to whether or not to carry me to term,” the statement of claim against the Foetal Assessment Centre reads, according to SABC News.

“It is not as if the foetus is sort of putting up its hand and saying why you didn’t destroy me," the mother's lawyer, Paul Hoffman, explained to Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. "The foetus is complaining that its malformation, its development is the result of the bad advice that was given.”

The SABC report did not say what compensation the woman is seeking.

The scope of the case is similar to that of a New Zealand couple who won a lawsuit claiming monetary compensation after a routine 20 week ultrasound scan failed to discover that their daughter had spina bifida.

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The mother, whose name has not been released, claimed that the continuance of the pregnancy was a “personal injury,” and, had she been given the correct diagnosis after that scan, she would have aborted her daughter.

"We consider that the continued pregnancy of the appellant following a misdiagnosis in the 20 week scan is capable of being an injury suffered by the appellant,” the court ruled, and directed the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) to make the woman eligible for compensation for the ongoing surgical and physiotherapy expenses incurred by their child.

New Zealand disability advocate Mike Sullivan said the underpinning attitude behind the decision is that those with disability, both born and unborn, are seen as a burden on society.

“This is what happens,” Sullivan said, when “the children become reduced to nothing – wrong even to exist.”

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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