Ben Johnson

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Birth control becomes a major issue at GOP debate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE January 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – George Stephanopoulos, the moderator of Saturday evening’s Republican presidential debate in Manchester, introduced a new issue into this year’s ever-changing presidential race: banning contraception.

Stephanopoulos began a contentious exchange with Mitt Romney by asking, “Do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception, or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?”

The former Massachusetts governor replied that since no state is considering such a ban, the question was “an unusual topic” and “kind of a silly thing” to ask. After saying he “would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception,” he stated the Supreme Court had wrongly promulgated its “right to privacy” doctrine, and he supported the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Stephanopoulos was openly booed when he introduced a follow-up by saying, “You’ve given two answers to the question.” He later asked if the Constitution should be amended to ban birth control. “No, states don’t want to ban contraception, so why would we try to put it in the Constitution?” Romney retorted.

“Contraception? It’s working just fine,” Romney said. “Just leave it alone.”

Three of his Republican rivals weighed in on the issue. Ron Paul, whom Romney invoked as an expert on the Constitution, said the Fourth Amendment guarantees a right to privacy, and the Interstate Commerce Clause protected the sale of contraception.

Santorum said two Supreme Court cases had “created, through a penumbra of rights, a new ‘right to privacy’ that was not in the Constitution.”

“I have seven kids,” Jon Huntsman joked, after saying he supported civil unions for same-sex couples. “Glad we’re off the contraception discussion.”

The topic was raised in part by Santorum’s surge, after narrowly losing the Iowa caucuses last week. In October, he told a blogger he would use the bully pulpit to talk about “the dangers of contraception” and “the whole sexual libertine idea.” The two items represented, in his opinion, “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

He later said that, under the Tenth Amendment, states had the theoretical right to pass a law banning contraception.

Last Friday, he told ABC News’ Jake Tapper, “States have the right to pass even dumb laws,” including “a law against buying shoestrings.”

He added while he opposes funding Planned Parenthood, he does not favor outlawing contraceptives that prevent fertilization. “The idea I’m coming after your birth control is absurd,” he said. “I don’t think the government should be involved in that.”

However, many in the pro-life movement draw a clear connection between the two issues. “First let’s be clear: nobody is actually proposing that contraceptives be banned,” said Eric Scheidler, 45, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.  “But,” he told LifeSiteNews.com, “the close connection between contraception and abortion that Rick Santorum points to is one that we need to face squarely. In fact, an honest assessment of how contraception has impacted our society is long overdue.”

The 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a Connecticut statute banning the sale of birth control, after a Planned Parenthood activist opened a clinic in the state. Justice William O. Douglas ruled that, while the Constitution does not specifically contain a right to privacy, “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” 

In a scathing dissent, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that the Griswold case caused legal discourse to “descend to the level of a play on words.” Although he called the law “uncommonly silly,” he concluded, “With all deference, I can find no such general right of privacy in the Bill of Rights, in any other part of the Constitution, or in any case ever before decided by this Court.”

The case was raised to new importance eight years later, when Roe v. Wade cited Griswold’s new-found right to privacy as “broad enough to encompass” abortion.

Critics accuse Santorum of being obsessed with the issue of the unborn. The Sunlight Foundation critiqued “the degree to which Santorum favored topics such as abortion, fetuses and wombs when he was serving in Congress’ upper chamber.”

Media observers blasted Stephanopoulos, a former communications director in the Clinton administration, for asking biased and irrelevant questions. Committee For Justice executive director and constitutional lawyer Curt Levey said in a statement, “Knowing that Romney and most Americans would not support a government ban on contraceptives, Stephanopoulos’s apparent goal was to trip up Romney, who believes that Roe v. Wade — in which the Supreme Court relied on a supposed constitutional right to privacy — was wrongly decided.”

Others squirmed at frank talk of sexual issues in a partisan forum. Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post referred to the exchange as “the seven most awkward minutes of our collective lives.”

While some accuse Santorum and other Republican candidates of imposing their morality on the electorate, Newt Gingrich drew attention to the lack of media coverage against “anti-Christian bigotry.”

Gingrich, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, objected, “You don’t hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples – which is exactly what the state has done? ... Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration in key delivery of services because of the bias and bigotry of the administration? The bigotry question goes both ways, and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry than there is concern on the other side, and none of it gets covered by the news media.”

Deal Hudson of the Catholic Advocate said Santorum’s success proves “the political viability of a Catholic candidate who does not compromise on social issues and offers real world solutions to the challenges of the budget, the economy, and foreign policy.”

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary takes place on Tuesday. Some villages begin voting at midnight.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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