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Ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage: Abortion ‘never necessary,’ these doctors say

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 3, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Abortion — a procedure with the sole or primary intent and purpose of ending human life in the womb — is never medically necessary, according to medical experts.

Three doctors spoke with CNA about the necessity of abortion, or lack of it, following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Following that decision, several myths circulated its impact, including the claim that women will die without access to abortion in cases of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and other dangerous situations.

In these situations, medical experts either call abortion irrelevant or emphasize that women can choose life-affirming alternatives. 

Abortion, they say, is “never necessary” while caring for both mother and baby. Understanding this begins with understanding what abortion is — and is not.

What is “abortion”?

Procedures used to perform abortion are not abortions in and of themselves. The definition of abortion includes intent and purpose.

Dr. Kathleen Raviele, an OB-GYN and the former president of the Catholic Medical Association, the largest association of Catholic individuals in health care, called abortion a “direct attack on an embryo or fetus by surgery or chemicals with the intention of ending the life of the baby.”

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiology specialist and a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, an organization dedicated to defending religious liberty, life, and the Church in the public square, also pointed to the importance of intent.

Abortion, she said, “colloquially means the purposeful ending of a human life.”

Dr. Donna Harrison, an OB-GYN and the CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), cited the definition that she said is used by a majority of state laws. 

Abortion, or elective abortion, here, “is defined as any drug, device or procedure used to terminate a pregnancy for the primary purpose of ensuring the death of the human being in utero before, during, or in the process of separation of the mother and her embryo or fetus,” she said.  

Is abortion ever necessary to save a woman’s life?

Christie said that abortion, defined as the purposeful ending of a human life, is “never medically necessary.” 

“In certain circumstances, lifesaving treatment that involves the early interruption of a pregnancy may be indicated,” she said. “In this case, the intent is not to end the life of the baby but to save the mother, and this intent is manifest in the fact that a physician would make every effort to preserve the life of a preterm baby where possible.”

Likewise, Raviele stressed that an abortion “is never necessary to save the life of the mother.” And, she added, a large majority of abortions are “for convenience” rather than life-threatening situations.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, just 7% of women cited their physical health or the problems affecting the health of their unborn baby as their “most important reason” for an abortion in 2004. 

For her part, Harrison called attention to the difference between elective abortions — or abortions induced for no medical reason — and the separation of the mother and her unborn child to save the mother’s life.

“It's not semantics. It's human rights,” she said. “It's the difference between doctors making difficult decisions to save both patients if possible or at least to save one as compared to abortion providers taking it upon themselves to end the life of their most vulnerable patient for no medical reason.”

Do women need abortion for ectopic pregnancies?

Ectopic pregnancies occur when an embryo implants outside the uterus or womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Once implanted, the embryo’s growth is likely to rupture the fallopian tube. 

Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening for the mother and the baby’s chance of survival is highly unlikely. While relatively rare, the rate of ectopic pregnancies may be as high as 2% of all U.S. pregnancies, according to data available from the CDC. 

Raviele said that, by the time an ectopic pregnancy has been identified, the unborn baby is dead in 90% of the cases. In this situation, any of the three treatments currently available — salpingectomy, linear salpingostomy, or treatment with methotrexate — are allowed, she said. 

A 2014 article published by the Catholic Health Association of the United States describes these treatments.

A salpingectomy is a surgical procedure where a doctor partially or entirely removes the fallopian tube housing the embryo. With a salpingostomy, the doctor cuts into the fallopian tube and removes invasive trophoblastic cells and damaged tubal tissue, which, in the process, also removes the embryo. 

Methotrexate, a drug commonly used to treat cancer, prevents trophoblastic cells (cells that help with embryo implantation and make up a part of the placenta) from continuing to divide and stops the growth of the embryo.

If the unborn baby is alive, Raviele pointed to the option of a salpingectomy.

“If the criteria are present that would indicate a live embryo is present … then removal of the tube with the embryo present in it is moral by the Principle of Double Effect,” Raviele said. “Your intention is to remove the damaged tube, not to kill the baby.”

A 2018 article co-written by Harrison explains this Principle of Double Effect, found in Catholic moral theology and often attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, who drew from Aristotle.

“In general, this principle asserts that an action directed toward a good end (e.g., a medical intervention designed to save the life of the mother) can be licitly conducted, even when this action has an unavoidable secondary effect that is not good (e.g., the death of the fetus),” Harrison wrote with Maureen L. Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah school of medicine.

Three criteria must be met: The act itself must not be unethical; the intention must be to achieve the good effect and not the bad effect, and the good effect must outweigh or at least equal the bad effect in ethical gravity. 

The article adds that a “central requirement” of the principle is that the bad effect, or the baby’s death, cannot be how the good effect is achieved.

Harrison told CNA that the treatment for ectopic pregnancy has nothing to do with abortion, calling them “completely different procedures.” 

“While abortion aims to end the life of the fetus or embryo, treating an ectopic pregnancy requires removing the embryo through surgery (salpingostomy) or medication to save the mother's life, with the death of the preborn child being a tragic but inevitable side effect,” she said.

Do women need abortion for miscarriages?

Roughly 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to CDC estimates. Raviele said that a woman generally begins bleeding, indicating that she is going to miscarry, after her baby has already died. 

“If an ultrasound is done and detects a fetal demise but the patient is not bleeding, it is considered a missed ab,” she said, referring to a “missed abortion” where the baby is dead but remains inside of the mother. “If she does not pass the products of conception in a reasonable length of time, a D&C [dilation and curettage] may be necessary or she may be given misoprostol to facilitate contractions.”

While D&C or misoprostol can be used in abortions, they are not considered abortions in this case, because the baby is already dead.

Harrison added: “In a miscarriage, the baby has already died of natural causes, and the aim of any procedure to treat the miscarriage is to help the woman's body pass the baby and any other pregnancy tissue.” 

In contrast, with an elective abortion, “the baby is alive, and the goal of the procedure is to end its life,” she said.

Do women need abortion for other life-threatening situations?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that women need abortion in certain cases to avoid death — or that certain complications or conditions “may be so severe that abortion is the only measure to preserve a woman’s health or save her life.”

In response, Raviele said that ACOG is “contributing to misinformation” and described what would happen in a life-threatening situation. 

“If the woman has a serious complication of pregnancy and has to be delivered, you would either induce labor (pre-eclampsia or a cardiac condition) or you would do an emergency cesarean section to save both the mother and the baby,” she said, emphasizing that babies can survive outside the womb as early as 22 weeks. 

“You never have to kill the baby to save the mother,” she concluded. “We try to save both.”

Here, Harrison said, “ACOG is conflating different old definitions of abortion to deliberately obscure the fact that an elective abortion is specifically designed to end the life of the human being in the womb for no medical reason.”

She repeatedly stressed that the separation of a mother and her unborn baby to save the mother’s life is not the same as an elective abortion. 

“Sometimes, women face life-threatening complications … in which the only way to save their lives is to separate them from their preborn children,” she said, providing the examples of ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and HELLP syndrome.

“In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, this involves removing the embryo from the woman's fallopian tube,” she said. “In the case of the other complications listed, it involves prematurely inducing labor or performing a C-section.

These “lifesaving procedures” are not abortions, she said, because “they do not have as their primary purpose to kill the preborn child in the process.”

“In fact, in many cases, the added goal of killing the child would prove counterproductive if the woman is facing a health emergency, as it takes up to several days to prep the mother's cervix for a late-term abortion, whereas a C-section can be completed in less than 30 minutes,” she added.

What does the Catholic Church say about abortion?

The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “never permitted,” according to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 

The U.S. bishops go on to define abortion as the “directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus,” or a baby who can survive outside the womb. 

A Catholic woman is allowed to undergo life-saving treatment — even if it means that her unborn baby will die indirectly as a result of that treatment, according to the directives. The intention and action, in that case, are to save the mother’s life. It is not to end her baby’s life through abortion.

“Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child,” the directives read.

Kansas abortion vote: Pro-life amendment fails, in first post-Roe vote

A poll worker helps a voter cast their ballot in the Kansas Primary Election at Merriam Christian Church on Aug. 2, 2022, in Merriam, Kansas. Voters in Kansas were set to decide whether or not the state constitution should include a right to an abortion. / Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 21:19 pm (CNA).

Kansas citizens rejected a pro-life amendment — known as the “Value Them Both” amendment — during their state’s primary election Tuesday. The referendum represented the first major statewide vote on abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The amendment needed a simple majority to pass in the Aug. 2 vote.

It would have reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion. Currently, state lawmakers are, in most cases, prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. 

The amendment would have enabled state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion. It did not propose a total ban on abortion. 

“Because Kansans value both women and children,” the failed amendment reads, “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

It adds: “To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

The vote has broad implications that extend past Kansas’ borders. It could indicate how other states will vote on abortion after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization — which overturned Roe and left abortion policy up to the states — and suggest where Americans stand on abortion ahead of the midterm elections in November.

It also helps predict whether Kansas serves as an abortion hub for women in neighboring states that restrict abortion. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions could increase by more than 1,000% in Kansas as neighboring states restrict the procedure, the Kansas City Star previously reported.  

Pro-life reaction

SBA Pro-Life America, a national pro-life group that sent student canvassers to hundreds of thousands of Kansas homes to inform citizens about the vote, mourned the loss.

“Tonight’s loss is a huge disappointment for pro-life Kansans and Americans nationwide,” Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement

She pointed to misinformation leading up to the vote, saying that the “abortion lobby’s message to voters was rife with lies that ultimately drowned out the truth.” 

“Because of tonight’s results, Kansas could shortly become home to unrestricted abortion on demand – even late-term abortion without limits, paid for by taxpayers,” she cautioned. “The people and their elected legislators now have no recourse to use the tools of democracy to enact laws that reflect consensus.”

Looking ahead, Carroll stressed the importance of the midterm elections in November.

“The stakes for the pro-life movement in the upcoming midterm elections could not be higher, and there will be many more factors in play,” she said. “It is critical that pro-life candidates go on offense to expose the extremism of Democrats’ policy goals for nationalized abortion on demand paid for by taxpayers.”

She thanked the Value Them Both coalition, which supported the amendment, and SBA Pro-Life America’s Kansas allies.

“The pro-life movement’s call to politics and policy did not end with the Dobbs decision, rather, because of that victory we must work exponentially harder to achieve and maintain protections for unborn children and their mothers,” she said.

Detroit auxiliary bishop denies allegation of sexually abusing minor

Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell. / Courtesy of aod.org.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 21:10 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Russell, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit and a former Vatican diplomat, has been named in a civil lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago while a priest in Massachusetts.

Russell, 63, denies the charges, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Archdiocese of Detroit. The statement said Russell would refrain from public ministry until further notice from the Vatican.

Russell was appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit in May, and he was installed July 7. Though an auxiliary, he retains the personal title of archbishop.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 1 in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. It was first reported Tuesday by the Detroit News.

The unidentified plaintiff was 12 years old when he met Russell — then a priest assigned to St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, Massachusetts — at the parish’s food bank, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff was sexually assaulted 25 times in 1989 and 1990, the lawsuit states.

“The sexual assaults began with hugging and kissing, then genital fondling, and proceeded to mutual masturbation, forced oral copulation, and then anal penetration,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also names the "Archbishop of Boston" and Ronald J. Gariboldi, identified as the pastor of St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish at the time of the alleged assaults.

The Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit.

“Archbishop Russell is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made, and states that they are without merit. He holds in prayer all those who have ever been victimized by a member of the clergy,” the statement said.

“Effective immediately, Archbishop Russell is refraining from all public ministry, and will continue until further directed by the Holy See,” the statement continued, adding that the guidelines of canon law “are being followed.”

The Detroit Archdiocese noted that it “was not aware of any allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Russell until it was contacted by media Monday, August 1.”

Russell was born in 1959 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987. After serving as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart for five years, Russell became priest-secretary to the Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, according to the Detroit Catholic newspaper.

Russell entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.

In 2016 he was apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, and was consecrated a bishop.

He was appointed, in addition, apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan in 2018.

Russell resigned from the nunciatures in 2021.

Editor's note: This story was corrected on Aug. 4, 2022, to note that it was the Detroit News that first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

U.S. Department of Justice challenges Idaho abortion ban in court

Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Denver Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Idaho, seeking to block the state’s trigger law which will ban abortions — with a few exceptions — beginning Aug. 25. 

Announcing the lawsuit in an Aug. 2 press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DOJ is suing the state because of a supposed conflict with a federal law that requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to a person experiencing a medical emergency, regardless of their ability to pay. 

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge brought by the federal government against a state abortion restriction since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning the question of abortion policy to the states. The DOJ is seeking to block Idaho’s law from taking effect. 

Garland asserted that Idaho's law will prevent doctors from performing abortions when the mother's life is at risk, despite the law having an explicit carveout for such a situation. Idaho’s law provides an exception to the ban if the abortion was, in the physician’s judgement, “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

Under the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), every hospital that receives Medicaid funds must provide "stabilizing treatment'" to patients with an "emergency medical condition." According to the DOJ, the law defines necessary stabilizing treatment to include “all treatment needed to ensure that a patient will not have her health placed in serious jeopardy, have her bodily functions seriously impaired, or suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

"In some circumstances, the medical treatment necessary to stabilize the patient's condition is an abortion," Garland said. 

"When a hospital determines that an abortion is the medical treatment necessary to stabilize a patient's emergency medical condition, it is required by federal law to provide that treatment.” 

Other than the life of the mother, the Idaho law’s only exception is for instances of rape or incest that has been reported to police, and a copy of the report has been provided to the physician. 

Garland argued that the Idaho law lacks an exception for a situation where an abortion is necessary to prevent "serious jeopardy to the mother's health." He said the DOJ chose Idaho’s law to target because it seemed “on its face" to contradict EMTALA.

All of the U.S. states which have “trigger laws” banning abortion have exceptions for instances where abortion may be necessary to save the mother’s life. State abortion bans in other states, such as Texas, provide exceptions for when abortion may be necessary to prevent “serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

In addition, some states also provide explicit exceptions for treatments for the removal of a miscarried child, or treatment for ectopic pregnancy, though these are not generally considered abortions. 

A recent analysis of state pro-life laws by the Charlotte Lozier Institute noted that EMTALA requires evaluation and stabilization of a pregnant woman presenting with a suspected emergency, but also that the directive treats both the woman and the unborn child as patients in need of care, and that “none of the state laws prohibit this evaluation or provision of life-saving care.”

Despite this, the Biden administration has made EMTALA a centerpiece of its response to pro-life state laws. In a July 11 letter to healthcare providers, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra instructed the providers to perform abortions in emergencies — regardless of state law — under EMTALA. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the HHS, also issued a memorandum July 11 with the same instruction found in Becerra’s letter.

In response, the co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee noted to CNA that Catholic health care treats two patients with every pregnancy.

“Treating a pathology of the mother does not require a direct attack on the unborn child,” Dr. Marie Hilliard told CNA in July. 

On July 14, Texas filed a complaint against the HHS, CMS, and their leadership for their instruction regarding EMTALA. The state condemned the “Abortion Mandate” as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” that “must be held unlawful and set aside.”

Texas accused the Biden administration of attempting to “use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

“No federal statute confers a right to abortion,” the complaint says. “EMTALA is no different. It does not guarantee access to abortion. On the contrary, EMTALA contemplates that an emergency medical condition is one that threatens the life of the unborn child. It is obvious that abortion does not preserve the life or health of an unborn child.”

Clarence Thomas canceled plans to teach class because of post-Roe violence, not student petition

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has canceled plans to teach his popular class at George Washington University’s Law School this fall amid threats of violence following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

A source close to Thomas told CNA the justice’s decision had nothing to do with a student-led petition calling for the Washington, D.C. school to sever its ties with Thomas.

Mark Paoletta, a Washington lawyer who served as assistant counsel to President George H.W. Bush and worked on Thomas’ confirmation process, said in the last year Thomas and other justices have received death threats.

“After such a tumultuous year at the court with an unprecedented assault by the Left on the court, including death threats on him and several other conservative Justices, I am glad he decided to take a break from teaching. He deserves it," Paoletta said.

The Hatchet, the university’s student-run newspaper, broke the story of Thomas’ decision not to teach the class. According to the report, Gregory Maggs, who has co-taught the class with Thomas since 2011, informed students in an email.

“Unfortunately, I am writing with some sad news: Justice Thomas has informed me that he is unavailable to co-teach the seminar this fall. I know that this is disappointing. I am very sorry,” he wrote. 

Maggs will continue teaching the class as the sole instructor for the fall semester.

Attacks on Thomas mount 

Shortly after the Supreme Court's June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was released, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion rights groups shared the addresses of conservative justices, encouraging people to protest in front of their homes. One California man was later charged with attempted murder outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland.

Thomas has drawn particular scorn because of his concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.  

Following his opinion, racial slurs like “Uncle Clarence” began trending on Twitter and obscene rants monopolized social media over the week, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s profanity-laced statements at a “Chicago Pride” event.

Concerns for Thomas’ safety mounted with a viral video following the decision which revealed abortion activists handing out Thomas’ home address to protestors outside the court. This event coincided with several assassination threats on the justice’s life circulating on social media —  some of which were removed, some that were not. 

Petition not the reason

The student-led petition demanding Thomas be removed from the faculty cited “his explicit intention to further strip the rights of queer people and remove the ability for people to practice safe sex without fear of pregnancy.” 

The petition claimed Thomas was “actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus” and was circulated outside campus, inflating the number of signatories. 

The university defended Thomas in a letter stating that it would “neither terminate Justice Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class,” citing its commitment to free ideas and debate. 

“Like all faculty members at our university, Justice Thomas has academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry,” school officials wrote.

The petition was updated earlier this week, with organizers taking credit for removing the justice from faculty, despite the school’s refusal to do so.

But Paoletta told CNA that the justice’s decision to take a break had nothing to do with the petition. 

A popular course 

Paoletta, who is also the co-author of "Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words" (Regency Publishing, 2022), said the course Thomas taught at GW is one of the law school’s most popular classes.

It focuses on seminal Supreme Court cases, which Thomas teaches in his trademark style — by cutting through the narratives developed around a specific case and going back to the facts, he said. Paoletta said the class has a long waiting list every year it is offered and that papers written by students in the class have gone on to be published in prominent law journals.

Thomas himself is beloved by his students, Paoletta said, proving that “people who sign these petitions know nothing about him and are fueled by their hatred.” He added that the criticism “has never affected him and never will affect him.”  

“The Left hates him because he is a principled black Supreme Court justice who dares to have his own thoughts and never bows to the Left mob mentality. Justice Thomas has been triggering the Left for 40 years and exposes their racism,” he said.

A spokesperson for GW Law declined to comment Tuesday when asked if Thomas provided a specific reason for not teaching. The U.S. Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly calls Knights of Columbus to uphold dignity of life

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly delivers his first in-person annual report since assuming office in 2021 on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Knights of Columbus' annual convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. / Photo courtesy of Tamino Petelinšek/Knights of Columbus

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 2, 2022 / 18:38 pm (CNA).

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his annual report on Tuesday that the organization is doubling down on its efforts to protect life from conception to natural death as part of its dedication to serving those on the most outer margins of society. 

Noting that there are many calls for the Knights’ support, Kelly said that “one opportunity looms especially large,” identifying it as ending abortion.

Knights for life

Kelly, who gave his speech at the organization’s national convention in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Aug. 2, spent a significant portion of his speech calling the Knights to fight for the unborn, especially following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Kelly praised the March for Life that takes place in Washington D.C. each year and in cities across the nation, calling for respect for the unborn. “Roe is overturned but we have more work to do,” he said. “We will continue to march for life until abortion is unthinkable.”

Another way the Knights are standing up for the unborn is through its ultrasound initiative, through which they have donated 1,566 ultrasounds to pro-life pregnancy centers, Kelly said. 

Kelly noted that the end of Roe doesn’t equate the end of abortion. Many states will expand protections of the life-ending procedure, he said. “They will double down on a culture of death,” he said. “So we must push forward with a message of life.”

“Let’s take up the cause in Springfield and Sacramento. Let’s oppose abortion in places like Albany, while supporting pro-life laws in Austin and Atlanta. And while we push for change in places like Washington state, let’s keep up the pressure on Washington D.C.,” he said.

One of the ways to engage in the fight for legislative protections for life is to support pro-life marches, he said. Kelly emphasized that the March for Life in Washington D.C. is a “major priority” for the Knights. 

In addition to changing the law, he said, hearts and minds must also be changed. The Knights can play a role in pointing pregnant mothers in fear toward life, he said. 

“The best thing we can do is redouble our support for pregnancy resource centers,” he added.

Those centers help mothers choose life each day and support new parents in giving their children a better life, he said.

“We must ensure that pregnancy resource centers have everything they need,” he said. “To start, we’ll place even more ultrasound machines, so more mothers can see their unborn children.”

Kelly then took aim at “one of the latest lies” which claims that pro-lifers don’t care about the well-being of children after their birth. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, adding that the Knights have partnered with pro-life pregnancy centers to provide many resources, but that “now is the time to do even more.”

Doing more includes the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy, he said, in which the Supreme Council encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers. ASAP entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.

Protecting families and religious freedom through faith

Kelly said that there are other challenges that need to be addressed in society. “We see it in the denial of human dignity. We see it in the blatant attempts to redefine the human person — and to push this radical agenda on our children,” he said. Kelly also said that religious freedom is at risk.

The Knights are called to trust in God and step into the breach to face these challenges head on, he said. Being a Knight “means drawing closer to the person of Jesus Christ, our King.”

Kelly said that the Knights have pledged $1 million to the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival. Kelly added that evangelization is “one of my top priorities,” and there is a “special urgency” for it today.

Noting a crisis of faith in the Church, Kelly announced a discipleship and evangelization initiative that was piloted in Tennessee. Kelly told CNA Sunday that the initiative includes training for councils on how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in. 

Outreach to a new demographic

Kelly said the Knights are taking strides to engage more Hispanics in the organization. 

There are already many Hispanic Knights, he said, but he believes the Knights should have many more. The Knights are “intentionally cultivating” Latino leaders within the organization in order to achieve this goal, he said. 

Ukraine

Concluding his speech with the Knights’ efforts in Ukraine, Kelly said that the Knights have over 19,000 members within the Eastern European country.

He noted that “many of our brother knights are on the frontlines even now.” 

At least two members of the Knights have died in battle: Petro Popovych of Council 15804 in Kolomiya, and Oleh Vorobiov of Council 17651 in Lviv.

“We pray for their families. We commend their souls to the Lord, “ Kelly said. 

Kelly said that through the order’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund, it has raised almost $19 million in relief efforts. The Knights have also set up K of C Charity Convoys which ship humanitarian aid from Poland to Ukraine, he said. 

Crediting the efforts of the Knights in Poland, the order has also set up K of C Mercy Centers which provide both material and spiritual support, Kelly said. Kelly visited Ukraine and said that “I will always remember what I saw. And I will never forget the courage I saw in Ukrainian Knights.”

In closing, Kelly noted that “the days ahead will be difficult.” However, he encouraged all to praise God and ask him for help as Blessed Michael McGivney did. 

“And the Lord who has brought us this far will carry us further still,” he said. “As together we step into the breach. Vivat Iesus!”

Shortly before Kelly’s speech, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, read a July 23 letter sent from Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis.

The letter addressed to Kelly praised the Knights’ efforts to foster Eucharistic adoration, their defense of marriage and family, their upholding of the dignity of human life, and their efforts in support of Ukraine and of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East.

Religious freedom conflicts ahead after Michigan Supreme Court redefines sex

Same-sex wedding cake. / Sara Valenti/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A Michigan Supreme Court decision that state civil rights law bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may conflict with religious liberty, the Catholic Church in the state has said.

The decision would “usurp the legislature’s role in the democratic process, present constitutional problems for people of faith, and place in jeopardy religious persons and entities who wish to serve others in the public square,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said July 29.

The Catholic conference warned that the decision “expressly does not address” whether enforcing the redefined Michigan civil rights law would violate federal and state constitutional religious freedom protections. It sided with a dissenting justice who said there are “strong arguments” that the majority interpretation “poses constitutional problems relating to religious liberty.”

The 5-2 decision in the case Rouch World v. Department of Civil Rights redefines sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ruling concerned two legal cases. In the first, the owners of an event center had denied a request from a female same-sex couple to host their wedding on the grounds that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. In the second, the owner of a body hair removal service had declined on the grounds of religious belief to perform hair removal services on a man who identifies as a transgender woman as part of his purported gender transition. 

The plaintiffs had sought a declaration that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under state civil rights law and that the Michigan Department of Civil Rights was wrong to define them as such in a 2018 interpretative statement. 

The 1977 Michigan legislation in question, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, height, weight, and familial or marital status.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex,” the supreme court’s summary said, explaining that denying equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or services constitutes illegal sex discrimination.

“Because one’s sex is necessary to the identification of sexual orientation, discrimination on that basis is discrimination on the basis of sex,” the supreme court said, according to the summary.

The Michigan court’s decision drew upon the rationale of the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which included sexual orientation and gender identity under the definition of “sex” in federal employment law. 

That decision already requires employers with 15 or more employees to treat sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class under Title VII of federal civil rights law. The decision prompted deep concern from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who had argued that such interpretations “redefine a fundamental element of humanity” and “promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact.”

Drawing on the Bostock decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Rouch World Event Center in Sturgis had illegally rejected the request of Natalie Johnson to host her same-sex wedding. Had Johnson been a man, the supreme court said, the event center would not have denied services. 

The Michigan Catholic Conference had filed a December 2021 amicus brief in support of the event center owners and their “right to act in the public square according to their religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

The brief argued that the state legislature is the body constitutionally charged with creating and amending state laws. This lawmaking process “permits people of diverse beliefs to cooperate in crafting laws that simultaneously protect both vulnerable persons and the conscience rights of Michigan residents.”

In cases of alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the conference said, the majority opinion “expressly does not address” whether enforcement under the state civil rights law would violate religious liberty constitutional protections at the federal and state level.

“Michigan Catholic Conference promotes public policies that protect conscience rights and the freedom for religious entities and individual persons to serve others, particularly those in need and those living on the economic margins,” the conference said Friday. “We profess that marriage is the union of one man and one woman united through life and open to the birth of children, even as society and culture has recently moved in a historically different direction. Christians are not called to conform to the culture, but to speak to it with truth and love.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that all people deserve to be treated with respect and compassion,” the conference added. “We urge citizens throughout their daily lives to approach and speak to one another in ways that acknowledge their inherent dignity, as every human person has been created in God’s image and likeness.”

“We will continue to advocate for religious liberty rights and seek to uphold constitutional principles that provide legal protections for those who serve others in the public square — particularly the poor and vulnerable — according to their religious mission,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said.

The Catholic conference’s amicus brief argued that civil rights department officials had requested “a sweeping ruling that would necessarily affect religious beliefs and entities” but these officials refused to address questions of religious liberty, saying they may be weighed in a future case.

The brief invoked a hypothetical lay Catholic institution’s job interviews with two women with same-sex attractions, one of whom states she is in a romantic same-sex relationship but the other says she does not act on her feelings, following Catholic teaching. 

“Consistent with Catholic teaching, the organization might hire the first, but not the second, on the grounds that, by her actions, the second woman has demonstrated an opposition to Church teaching,” the brief said.

However, state officials would rule that this is an impermissible distinction because “the test is whether a man and a woman would be treated differently for being in a romantic relationship with a woman.”

There is no guarantee that state officials will care about a Catholic institution’s distinctions. Though statuary compromises can avoid these “dilemmas,” the department skipped this process by offering its own interpretation. This precludes the “type of careful compromise” that religious liberty precedents have reached.

Some religious challenges to the strict application of anti-discrimination policy have been successful. In March the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services paid at least $800,000 in legal fees to settle two Catholic child placement agencies. The agencies had made successful First Amendment legal challenges to an agreement that barred state funds for adoption agencies that declined to place children with same-sex couples.

Value Them Both: 8 things to know about Kansas’ abortion vote 

null / Emituu / Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

Voters in Kansas are voting on a pro-life amendment Tuesday. The state is the first to place abortion on the ballot after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. That decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, leaves abortion legislation up to the states.

Here is what to know.

Why does this matter?

How Kansans vote on the amendment, also known as the Value Them Both Amendment, could indicate how other states will vote on abortion post-Roe. 

“Kansas is the first ballot test in America after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, raising the stakes for the pro-life movement here and nationally,” Danielle Underwood, the director of communications for Kansans for Life, told CNA. 

The vote could also determine whether Kansas serves as an abortion hub for women in neighboring states that restrict abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions could increase by more than 1,000% in Kansas, the Kansas City Star reported.

What’s the amendment about?

The amendment would reverse the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s “right” to abortion. Currently, state lawmakers are generally prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. The amendment, if approved by voters, would enable state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion.

The pro-life amendment does not mean a total ban on abortion.

“The Value Them Both Amendment is not a ban on abortion but protects women and babies from an unregulated and predatory abortion industry by returning the right to the people to keep laws that limit abortion,” Underwood explained. “Without commonsense laws in place, Kansas will become home to a growing number of abortion factories with no specific licensure, sanitation standards, or inspections.” 

The amendment would also ensure a ban on state taxpayer-funded abortion, according to the Value Them Both Coalition (VTB), which is led by Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference, and Kansas Family Voice.

What does the amendment say?

The amendment’s text reads: “To the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

“Because Kansans value both women and children,” the amendment says, “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

When is the vote?

Kansas voters can either say “yes” or “no” to the amendment during the primary election on Aug. 2. Early voting began July 13.

The amendment appears on the ballot after the Kansas Senate passed a measure in January to amend the state’s constitution.

What do Catholic leaders in Kansas say about it?

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told CNA that “I and the Catholic Church strongly support the Value Them Both Amendment.”  

“I encourage all Catholics and all people of good will to vote yes,” he said. “The amendment simply returns to the people of Kansas the right and ability, through their elected representatives, to determine public policy regarding abortion. Opponents of the Amendment are afraid to allow the people of Kansas to decide what protections our state desires to provide to women and their unborn children.”  

In the same breath, the former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee stressed the importance of caring for both woman and child. 

“At the same time, the Catholic Church wants to join with other Kansans to surround women facing a difficult pregnancy with a community of support to assist them with whatever they and their children need, not just until the birth of the child, but for as long as they need,” he said. 

“The parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City are participating in the Walking with Moms in Need Initiative,” he said, referencing a pro-life parish ministry led by the U.S. bishops. “Our goal is not just to protect women and children from the tragedy of abortion, but to provide them the support they need so that mother and child do not just survive, but so that both thrive.”

What does the opposition say?

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a coalition working to oppose the amendment, argues that the state “already regulates abortion, just as it would any medical procedure.”

The amendment would “pave the way for a total ban on abortion” with no exceptions, it says, and “hand our personal healthcare decisions over to politicians.”

Does Kansas already restrict abortion?

Yes, Kansas generally prohibits abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, among other things. However, VTB says that, following the 2019 ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court, “limits are being struck down one by one.”

Does the overturning Roe v. Wade affect the vote?

The overturning of Roe in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not directly impact the vote because it concerns the state’s constitution — and the overturning of Roe leaves abortion up to the states. But the Supreme Court’s decision raises the stakes.

According to Underwood, “In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the opposition is furiously working to sow a campaign of confusion about what the amendment is and does.”

Indirectly, the ruling could affect Kansas in that the state could see an increase in women traveling there for abortion from nearby states that are restricting abortion. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, nearly half of the women seeking abortions in Kansas came a different state already in 2021.

Following the Dobbs decision, VTB said that Kansas was unaffected.

 “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas,” the group said in a statement. “As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits.”

Catholics respond with prayer and song when protesters disrupt conference

Attendees at a gathering sponsored by the Napa Institute sing the "Salve Regina" to drone out protesters who demonstrated at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California, on July 30, 2022. / Screenshot from Chris Stefanick video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

When protesters tried to disrupt a conference of Catholics leaders held over the weekend in Napa, Calif., they soon gave up when their chants were drowned out by 800 people singing “Salve Regina,” a hymn to the Virgin Mary.

The July 30 incident, which later became a viral sensation on social media, took place at the 12th annual summer conference of the Napa Institute, a group dedicated to training the Church’s leaders how to evangelize in an increasingly secularized society.

Austin Quick, who was attending the conference at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, told CNA that former Attorney General William Barr had begun his keynote address on Saturday night when he was interrupted by chanting.

Quick, a military veteran, said he rushed outside to see if he could engage with the protesters to get them to stop. He said there were six or seven women shouting and playing what appeared to be prerecorded chants through a loudspeaker system that were “mostly about abortion.” Among the chants: “You can’t take us back to the 1800s,” “Motherhood should be a choice,” and “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.”

That’s the moment that the crowd joined together in prayer, followed by the singing of “Salve Regina.”

“Right when the singing started that’s when they left,” he said, adding that the demonstrators returned to their cars and honked their horns.

Quick, who runs a popular Instagram account called The Basic Catholic, said he later learned that a priest from The Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky started the prayer and the singing of the hymn.

Chris Stefanick, an EWTN host and creator of the popular “Real Life Catholic” video series, was a witness to the scene and shared a viral video of the incident.

He posted on Twitter: “The response of the Napa conference to Marxist protestors screaming like maniacs outside. After this … they were quiet. I love being Catholic.”

After the event, several groups posted on social media that they were among protesters at the conference.

A group called NDN Collective, which claimed to represent the concerns of indigenous people, shared photos of their protest that included a sign saying “Bans off Our Bodies.” In a tweet, the group wrote: “We’ve seen what the evils of fascism and the Catholic Church have brought to Indigenous people and our lands. Tonight we disrupt the Right’s political agenda that’s tied to the Napa Institute.”

Two other groups, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Church Militant, also claimed on social media to have demonstrated at the event.

The Napa Institute was founded in 2011 by businessman Tim Busch and Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., in order to train Catholic leaders in faith formation and apologetics. The Busch Family Foundation is also a major donor to The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and helped establish the university’s business school.

Busch is a member of EWTN’s Board of Governors, and EWTN chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw is a member of the Napa Institute's Board of Directors. CNA is a service of EWTN News.

The conference, which took place from July 27–31, included daily Mass, opportunities for prayer and Confession, as well as lectures and panels on St. Thomas Aquinas, the New Evangelization, reading the Bible, Catholic education, the evils of human trafficking, a Catholic vision of women’s rights, and life after Roe v. Wade, among other topics.

Barr’s speech, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land: How Do Catholics Live as ‘Resident Aliens’ and Faithful Citizens at the Same Time,” echoed the title of Catholic novelist Walker Percy’s posthumously published book of essays “Signposts in a Strange Land.” 

FBI releases photo of suspect in Molotov cocktail attack on Nashville pregnancy center

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Aug 1, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released photos of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a pro-life pregnancy center June 30 in Nashville, Tennessee. The are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.

The photos, released by the FBI’s Memphis field office, show an individual dressed in dark clothing with a hood. A photo of the individual’s car was also released to the public. It’s unclear from the photo what model and make the car is.

On June 30, at around 1:30 a.m., an individual threw a Molotov cocktail through a window at Hope Clinic for Women. It did not explode and the window has been replaced.

The words “Jane's Revenge” were written on the clinic in graffiti, and have since been cleaned off. 

“Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI Memphis Field Office at 901-747-4300 or submit online at tips.fbi.gov,” the July 26 press release said. 

The FBI released this photo of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a Nashville pro-life pregnancy center. Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI released this photo of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a Nashville pro-life pregnancy center. Federal Bureau of Investigation

Kailey Cornett, executive director and CEO of Hope Clinic for Women, told CNA shortly after the act of vandalism that her team is resilient and had received an influx of prayers and support. 

“We are here to do what we’re called to do and that's to serve women,” she said at the time. “We were able to rally around each other and support each other yesterday, but I think that we're ready to get back to providing care today."

Since news broke in May that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, a rise in reports of vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers has made headlines. Roe, which federally legalized abortion, was overturned June 24. The vandalism of both pregnancy centers and Catholic churches has continued since then. 

The FBI announced in June that it was investigating attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches. Since its announcement, there have been few reports of arrests. There have been no known reports of any arrests in connection with vandalism at pro-life pregnancy centers, only churches.