Ben Johnson

Judge strikes down part of Texas pro-life law; 20 week abortion ban untouched

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

AUSTIN, TX, October 28, 2013 ( – A federal judge has blocked a provision in Texas' new abortion law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and amended a section putting in place new safety regulations for the use of RU-486. However, provisions in the bill that ban abortion at 20 weeks and that require abortion facilities to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical facilities remain in place.

In striking down the admitting privileges section, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said that abortionists' inability to admit an injured woman to a local hospital has “no rational relationship to improved patient care.”

The state had hoped the law, which said abortionists must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, would reduce patient abandonment, in which abortionists turn a woman over to a hospital without giving the emergency room sufficient information about the patient's condition. Planned Parenthood has been accused of such a failure of care in the case of Tonya Reaves, who bled to death after an abortion in Chicago last year. But Judge Yeakel ruled even the Texas law would gave no assurance such behavior would be “assuaged.”

Yeakel added that the fact that the provision could force abortionists in remote areas out of business “places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.”

Another key section of the act – requiring that the abortion-inducing drugs RU-486 and misoprostol be administered according to FDA-accepted norms – was restricted in the 26-page opinion, which was issued the day before the law was to take effect.

Yeakel ruled the law could not be applied to women between 50 and 63 days gestation who are medically unable to have a surgical abortion and whose "life or health" is at risk.

Most medical abortions are not carried out according to the FDA-approved procedure, which Yeakel acknowledges “requires more of a physician's time” and is “marginally more expensive.”

Supporters of the new law had said that failing to follow FDA guidelines could put women's lives at risk.

“Women have died when given life-ending drugs against the advice of the FDA,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. “Protecting women’s lives and health – inside or outside of an abortion clinic – should be an area of bipartisan agreement.”

"Blocking this law only puts vulnerable women in greater danger,” said Anna Higgins, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.

The lawsuit, which was brought by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and a dozen abortionists, did not challenge the heart of the law - the prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds that unborn children can feel pain. A section forcing abortion facilities to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical facilities beginning in 2014, which critics say could close dozens of abortion facilities, was also ignored. Only five of the state's 42 abortion facilities meet the new standards.

Texas' elected leaders promised a swift legal response. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2014, said he will appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but said he could see it going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Governor Rick Perry, who signed the law, said the ruling “will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren't exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently.” He added that pro-life laws “reflect the will and values of Texans."

H.B. 2 became a flashpoint in the nation's culture wars this summer, as pro-life and pro-abortion activists from across the country streamed into Austin to sway lawmakers. Wendy Davis, who recently announced that she will be running for state governor, catapulted to national fame after a long filibuster against the bill, which only postponed its passage.

In his ruling, Yeakel called abortion “the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery.” But that has not kept the judge – who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2003 – from weighing in on it before.

Last April, he struck down a law that would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds. The Fifth Circuit Appeals Court overturned his ruling a month later.

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Lila Rose of Live Action called Yeakel an “activist judge” following today's ruling.

“Planned Parenthood prefers an abortion Wild West, where they can act with impunity and rake in extra cash by treating women like cattle in a meat market,” Rose said. “It's time for judges like Lee Yeakel to stop protecting the abortion industry's bottom line and remember what really counts: the safety of mothers and their babies.”

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Cardinal George Pell Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews
Andrew Guernsey

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Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

Andrew Guernsey
By Andrew Guernsey


ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in public adultery without sacramental confession and amendment of life.

In a homily on Monday, Pell stressed the importance of fidelity to the pope, especially today as “we continue to look also to the successor of St. Peter as that guarantee of unity in doctrine and practice.”

Pell was offering Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome on the feast of Pope St. Clement I, notable in history for being one of the first popes to exert Roman papal primacy to correct the errors in the doctrine and abuses in discipline which other bishops were allowing.

Turning to address the issues at the Synod on the Family, Pell rebuked those who “wanted to say of the recent Synod, that the Church is confused and confusing in her teaching on the question of marriage,” and he insisted that the Church will always remain faithful to “Jesus’ own teaching about adultery and divorce” and “St. Paul’s teaching on the proper dispositions to receive communion.” Pell argues that the possibility of Communion for those in adultery is “not even mentioned in the Synod document.”

Pell asserted that Pope Francis is preparing “to clarify for the faithful what it means to follow the Lord…in His Church in our World.” He said, “We now await the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, which will express again the Church’s essential tradition and emphasize that the appeal to discernment and the internal forum can only be used to understand better God’s will as taught in the scriptures and by the magisterium and can never be used to disregard, distort or refute established Church teaching.”

STORY: Vatican Chief of Sacraments: No pope can change divine law on Communion

The final document of the synod talks about the “internal forum” in paragraphs 84-86, refers to private discussions between a parish priest and a member of the faithful, to educate and form their consciences and to determine the “possibility of fuller participation in the life of the Church,” based on their individual circumstances and Church teaching. The selective quoting of John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio that omitted his statement ruling out the possibility of Communion for those in public adultery has given liberals hope that this “fuller participation” could include reception of Communion.

Pell’s prediction that the pope will side with the orthodox side of this controversy lends two explanations. On one reading, Pell is uncertain what the pope will do in his post-synodal exhortation, but he is using such firm language as a way of warning the pope that he must clearly uphold Church teaching and practice, or else he would risk falling into heresy at worst or grave negligence at best in upholding the unity of the Church.

On another reading, Pell may have inside information, even perhaps from the pope himself, that he will uphold Church teaching and practice on Communion for those in public adultery, that the pope’s regular confidants apparently do not have.

This hypothesis, however, is problematic in that just last week, Pope Francis suggested that Lutherans may “go forward” to receive Holy Communion, contrary to canon law, if they come to a decision on their own, which suggests agreement with the reformers’ line of argument about “conscience.” And earlier last month, the pope granted an interview to his friend Eugenio Scalfari, who quoted the pope as promising to allow those in adultery back to Communion without amendment of life, even though the Vatican refused to confirm the authenticity of the quote since Scalfari does not use notes.

If Pell actually knew for certain what the pope would do, it would also seem to put Pell’s knowledge above that of Cardinal Robert Sarah, who in what could be a warning to Pope Francis, declared last week in no uncertain terms that “Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law” as the prohibition of public adulterers from Holy Communion.

STORY: Papal confidant signals Pope Francis will allow Communion for the ‘remarried’

Several members of the pope’s inner circle have said publicly that the controversial paragraphs 84-86 of the Synod final document have opened the door for the Holy Father to allow Communion in these cases if he so decides. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a close friend of Pope Francis and the editor of La Civita Catholica, a prominent Jesuit journal in Rome reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, wrote this week that the internal forum solution for the divorced in adultery is a viable one:

The Ordinary Synod has thus laid the bases for access to the sacraments [for the divorced and civilly remarried], opening a door that had remained closed in the preceding Synod. It was not even possible, one year ago, to find a clear majority with reference to the debate on this topic, but that is what happened in 2015. We are therefore entitled to speak of a new step.

Spadaro’s predictions and interpretation of the Synod are consistent with the public statements of liberal prelates, some of whom are close confidantes to Pope Francis, including Cardinal Schönborn, Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Nichols, and the head of the Jesuit order, Fr. Nicolás. Fr. Nicolás, in particular, first confirmed that there would be an apostolic exhortation of the pope, and said of Communion for those in public adultery:

The Pope’s recommendation is not to make theories, such as not lumping the divorced and remarried together, because priests have to make a judgment on a case by case and see the situation, the circumstances, what happens, and depending on this decision one thing or the other. There are no general theories which translate into an iron discipline required at all. The fruit of discernment means that you study each case and try to find merciful ways out.

Although in the best analysis, Pell’s prediction about what Pope Francis may do in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation remains just that-- a prediction—he is drawing a line in the sand that if the pope chooses to cross, would bring the barque of Peter into uncharted waters, where the danger of shipwreck is a very real threat.


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Paul Stark

A pro-life conversation guide for the holidays

Paul Stark
By Paul Stark

November 25, 2015 (NationalRighttoLifeNews) -- The holiday dinner table offers a natural forum for congenial (hopefully!) conversation about current events and issues. Defenders of unborn human life should be prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Here are some suggestions to help you effectively discuss abortion with family members and friends who may not share the pro-life view.

(1) Know how to clarify the issue

When faced with an argument or reason for abortion, ask yourself whether it works to justify killing obvious examples of rights-bearing human beings, such as newborn babies, toddlers, teenagers and adults. If not, it assumes that the being killed by abortion, the unborn (i.e., the human embryo or “fetus”), is not an intrinsically valuable human being, like toddlers and teenagers—that is, it simply assumes the very conclusion it must defend.

For example, a woman should not have a “right to choose” to drown her toddler in the bathtub. The question at hand is whether the unborn, like a toddler, deserves full moral respect and ought not be killed for the convenience or benefit of others. If so, killing the unborn by abortion, like killing a toddler for the same reasons, is a serious moral wrong.

(2) Know how to articulate the pro-life argument

The pro-life position is that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. This position is supported by modern science (showing that what abortion kills is a human being, a member of our species) together with a foundational moral principle (the equal fundamental dignity and right to life of every member of the human family).

The science of embryology tells us that the unborn from conception is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens, the same kind of being as each of us, only at a much earlier stage of development. This fact is uniformly affirmed by embryology textbooks and leading experts.

Morally, no relevant difference exists between human beings before and after birth. Unborn humans differ from older humans, such as newborns, in their size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency—remember the helpful acronym SLED—but none of those differences are significant in a way that would justify killing the former. For example, a five-year-old child lacks the physical and mental abilities of a 10-year-old, but she is no less valuable and deserving of respect and protection.

Each of us has a right to life by virtue of what (i.e., the kind of being) we are, rather than because of acquired characteristics or abilities that only some human beings have and others do not. So all human beings, including the unborn, are equal in having basic dignity and a right not to be killed without just cause.

(3) Know how to respond to common objections

Claims by abortion advocates about the number of women who died from illegal abortions are wildly overstated, as NARAL co-founder Dr. Bernard Nathanson frankly admitted. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 39 women died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade, while 24 died from legal abortion (abortion had been legalized in some circumstances in some states). Maternal mortality improved in the decades preceding Roe as a result of advances in modern medicine having nothing to do with legal abortion.

If you cannot answer a challenge, don’t let it fluster you. Be honest and say you will get back to the challenger after thinking and reading more about the issue.

(4) Know facts about fetal development

In addition to knowing that the life of a human organism, a human being, begins at conception (see above), it is useful to know some details about the development of human beings in the womb. These facts bring home for many people the humanity of the unborn child. For example, the heart begins to beat about three weeks after conception, before many women even know they are pregnant. At about six weeks, brain waves can be detected. By 20 weeks, a wealth of evidence indicates that unborn children can experience excruciating pain.

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The stunning complexity of prenatal human development is “beyond any comprehension of any existing mathematics today,” says renowned medical imaging expert and mathematician Alexander Tsiaras.

(5) Know how abortion can hurt women

The health risks of abortion, both physical and psychological, are very well documented. Familiarize yourself with a few facts.

For example, many studies suggest that abortion can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Moreover, while no one ultimately regrets not having an abortion, many, many (though of course not all) women now deeply regret their decision in favor of abortion. A 2011 meta-analysis published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry—"the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature”—found an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems among women who have had abortions.

(6) Know about alternatives to abortion and compassionate support for women

Both motherhood and adoption are ethical, life-affirming options. Some 3,000 pro-life pregnancy care centers across the United States stand ready to help pregnant women in need. Many programs are available to help women and others deal with the aftermath of abortion.

(7) Be winsome

Pro-lifers must be kind, respectful, fair-minded and willing to listen and respond thoughtfully to those who disagree. Don’t call someone “pro-abortion” in conversation, since it is usually inconsistent with how he sees his position and can turn him off to productive dialogue. Show compassion toward pregnant women facing difficult circumstances and women who have undergone abortions.

(8) Ask questions

Instead of relying just on blunt assertions—and putting the burden of proof on yourself—ask strategic questions to poke holes in someone’s position and get him thinking. Make him defend his claims. For example, if he says a baby becomes a person after birth, ask how a mere trip through the birth canal, a shift in location, can change who/what someone is or whether or not she has a right to life. If a pro-choice advocate says he is personally opposed to abortion but thinks it should remain legal, ask why he is opposed; note that the reason for personal opposition (abortion kills a human being) is precisely the reason abortion should not be permitted under law. (I recommend the “tactical approach” developed by Greg Koukl and used in Ch. 9 of Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life.)

You probably won’t change someone’s mind on the spot. But you can have a friendly conversation and give him or her something to think about. That should be your goal.

Reprinted with permission from National Right to Life News

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Phil Lawler

Father Rosica on Islam: 180º from reality

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler

November 25, 2015 (CatholicCulture) -- "'Allahu akbar' was never a call to violence & destruction."

That astonishing quote comes from the Father Thomas Rosica, the English-language attaché of the Vatican press office, in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris.

What is “astonishing” about the statement? Simply that it is so clearly wrong, so blatantly at odds with the facts. Does Father Rosica expect his readers to forget the many times in recent years when we have heard those words, ”Allahu akbar,” invoked precisely as a celebration of violence and destruction?

Father Rosica’s statement is obviously false. And he knows it’s false, because in the blog post from which it is taken, he goes on to talk about the proper response to Islamic extremism. “Muslim leaders and moderate Muslims need to condemn acts of violence and terror,” he says, and on that we can all agree.

The danger confronting our world is Islamic terrorism. It obfuscates the issue to speak of terrorism in generic terms, as the Obama White House does. It muddies the waters to remark, in the context of the deaths in Paris, that all religious faiths have been tainted by violence. (Are you worried about Presbyterian terrorists?) Nor is it helpful to observe that most Muslims are peaceful. Of course the terrorists are a minority, but they are a very dangerous minority, and we cannot ignore their appeal. Why are so many Muslims tempted toward violence?

Even before asking that question, let alone resolving the answer, some people—like Father Rosica, like President Obama—seem determined to believe (or to pretend) that there is no link between Islam and terror. Is it a coincidence, then, that so many terrorists have recruited their troops from the ranks of Islamic zealots (perhaps the same sort of coincidence as the 80 consecutive years of bad weather that resulted in disappointing harvests in Russia under Communism)?

Apparently many people in the West are loath to link Islam with terrorists for fear of offending moderate Muslims. But any peace-loving Muslims should be as worried as we are by the prospect of Islamic terrorism—more worried, indeed, because their faith is being abused and disgraced. Responsible Muslim leaders should be anxious to join in any effort to root out the problem.

The reality is 180º removed from Father Rosica’s statement. “Allahu akbar” has become a call to violence and destruction. That’s a very large problem for the West, but it’s also a problem for moderate Islam. If some Muslims deny the problem—if they take offense when the problem is mentioned—then they’re part of the problem.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture

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