A vote is expected this week on the Blunt amendment in the U.S. Senate to establish conscience rights and overturn the Obama mandate on birth control, morning after pill and sterilization which is an unprecedented and outrageous attack on religious liberty. What President Obama has managed to do is unite a wide swath of religions across the country in opposition. Religious leaders are keenly aware that today’s assault on Catholics is tomorrow’s assault on them.
Here is a sampling of comments by a variety of religious leaders:
Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod: “…we believe and teach that freedom of religion extends beyond mere houses of worship. We must be able to exercise our faith in the public square….We deem this recent government mandate as an infringement upon the beliefs and practices of various religious communities…..this mandate will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law or operating within the framework of their religious tenets.”
Rev. Mark G. Schroeder, President, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod: “We also encourage our members, as many others in various denominations and church bodies have done, to recognize and speak out against this clear threat to the blessing of religious liberty American citizens have enjoyed since the founding of the nation. We also confess and affirm that if the government directs us to do something in clear violation of the will of God, we must obey God rather than men.”
Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University: “In refusing to extend religious liberty beyond the parameters of what the administration chooses to deem religious conduct, the administration denies people of faith the ability to define their religious activity. Therefore, not only does the new regulation threaten religious liberty in the narrow sense…..but also the administration impedes religious liberty by unilaterally redefining what it means to be religious.”
Dr. Craig Mitchell, Associate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, Southwester Baptist Theological Seminary: “When Thomas Jefferson talked about a wall of separation between church and state, he was opposing persecution of people for their beliefs, but that is exactly what this mandate does…..If the purpose of government is to serve its people, then this rule is wrong.”
Dr. Samuel W. Oliver, President,East Texas Baptist University: “If the government is allowed to go down this road, where will it end? ….Today, the Administration is trying to force us to provide our employees with abortion causing drugs….If the government can force Catholic monks to dispense birth control, what can’t it do? If the government can decide that East Texas Baptist University is not religious enough to have the right to religious liberty, what can’t it do? If this administration can just decide that religious beliefs are less important than its chosen policy goals, what can’t it do? These questions are frightening. And that is why religious organizations and people of will from all across the spectrum are joining together out of concern that this mandate threatens to erode one of our most precious rights, our religious liberty, guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.”
The slippery slope in The Netherlands has become a free-fall where “guidelines,” sold as safeguards for patients (wink, wink), are nothing more than a green light to make more people eligible for euthanasia or doctor-prescribed suicide. The stories are endless — just in the past few weeks, news reports reveal that at the beginning of March, mobile euthanasia units will roam the country looking for patients seeking euthanasia. The British Medical Journal (9/17/11) reports that in 2010, there were 3,136 euthanasia deaths, a 19% increase over the 2009 total of 2,636.
According to Wesley J. Smith (as reported in the most recent newsletter of the Patients Rights Council), “Dutch doctors have gone from euthanizing the terminally ill to the chronically ill, to people with serious disabilities, to those who are emotionally and mentally ill, as well as infants born with serious disabilities.” Just last week, this blog featured Smith’s writings on a report that a woman with macular degeneration was euthanized.
Also according to the Patients Rights Council: “In 2010, 21 early-stage dementia patients were euthanized by lethal injection, calling into question their ability to make an informed choice and voluntarily request death. Also in 2010, the life of a 64-year-old woman with severe, late-stage Alzheimer’s was terminated even though she was unquestionably incapable of asking for death. The Dutch Medical Association argued that patients ‘in early (or late) stages of dementia…. have equal recourse’ under the euthanasia law. [British Medical Journal, 11/21/11)”
But, even this isn’t enough. Groups in The Netherlands are fighting to legalize euthanasia (what they call “dying assistance”) for those 70 and older for reasons of “humanity.”
Yet, proponents of euthanasia somehow claim there is no slippery slope. Perhaps they are right, since the slope is clearly in free-fall, with no person or condition “safe” from those who advocate death.
Cases justifying euthanasia are spreading like wildfire in the Netherlands, to the point that visual impairment can become the primary reason to kill. The latest report from the Netherlands describes an elderly woman who was euthanized over macular degeneration and other often experienced symptoms of being elderly. From the Regional Committee’s Annual Report 2010:
“The patient, a woman in her eighties, could no longer do the things that made life worthwhile to her. She lived on her own. She had always enjoyed intellectual challenges in her life, she used the computer and email and she liked reading, philosophising, debating, politics, art and so on. She had always been very independent and had considered this her greatest asset.
“Physically, however, she was deteriorating. In recent years her vision had got worse owing to macular degeneration, she suffered from dizziness, her hearing was poor and she sometimes had faecal incontinence. At first she had tried to find all kinds of ways to cope with her limitations, but these had not proved sufficient for her to perceive her life as worthwhile. She felt trapped in her deteriorating body. Her present situation was due to her advancing age, and little or nothing could be done about it. She felt her life had lost all meaning. However, her mind was still active, and she thirsted for information. The possibility of withholding food and fluids had been discussed, but this would involve a period of dependence. The patient considered this the most dreadful thing that could happen to her, and she rejected this alternative. She considered it a blessing that she could end her life with the help of euthanasia and would not have to become dependent. The unbearable nature of her suffering was due to her loss of the ability to live a meaningful life.”
These are certainly not remarkable symptoms in old age. Indeed, once can certainly understand why they would cause distress. But often these depressions in the elderly are treatable with proper geriatric psychiatric interventions. But there was no indication whatsoever that treatment by a geriatric psychiatrist–who might also have killed her, now that I think of it-–was even attempted:
“The psychiatrist, the first independent physician to be consulted, noted that despite the patient’s poor hearing he was able to interview her successfully. She was lucid and was well oriented to time, place and person. The interview did not reveal any memory problems. The patient was coherent and responded appropriately to questions. She was able to explain why her disabilities (deafness, impaired vision and dizziness) prevented her from living her life as she had always done….According to the second independent physician’s report, the patient wanted to end her life (or have it ended) because she was suffering from being alive.
Isn’t that true of every suicidal person? And this is a real indictment of Dutch medical “ethics:”
“The committee must therefore decide whether the patient’s suffering was caused by a medically recognised condition. In this connection it notes that, under the existing due care criteria, suffering that is unbearable with no prospect of improvement must be largely due to a medically recognised condition. However, there is no requirement that this should be a serious condition…The committee noted that macular degeneration is a medically recognised condition. There is no effective treatment for it, or any prospect of improvement. What this means is that this case is not a ‘finished with life’ situation as defined above, and that the physician’s actions lay within the medical field…The committee found that the physician acted in accordance with the statutory due care criteria.”
Good grief. Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?
Wisconsin Right to Life is the lead organization and played an instrumental role in the passage of SB 306, the Coercive and Web Cam Prevention Act, by the Wisconsin State Senate. Dramatic debate over a two-day period revealed the commitment of the bill’s author, Sen. Mary Lazich, to ensure passage of this important bill, and the determination of pro-abortion Senators to defeat it.
Thanks to Senator Mary Lazich and the State Senate, Wisconsin took a giant step forward towards protecting women seeking abortions through passage of SB 306, the Coercive and Web Cam Abortion Prevention Act. For far too long, numbers of women have reported that they were coerced into having abortions. SB 306, passed by a 17-15 vote, ensures that an assessment will be made to determine if a woman’s consent to an abortion is voluntary. The bill requires that the abortionist speak to the woman in private to determine if she is being coerced. If she is a potential or actual victim of domestic abuse, the abortionist must give her information on where she can receive help. During debate, opponents of SB 306 skirted the reality of coerced abortion and instead focused on the trumped-up argument that the woman would be subjected to a lengthy “interrogation” without her loved ones there to help her.
In addition, women will be further protected by requiring a physical exam and in person administration of chemical abortion-inducing drugs like RU 486. This requirement would prohibit web cam abortions which are occurring in Iowa and Minnesota from being introduced into local communities in Wisconsin. This portion of the bill sent pro-abortion Senators over the top. Why did the woman need a physical exam? Why must she, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends, return to the abortion facility two weeks after taking abortion-inducing drugs instead of going to her own physician? Interestingly, opponents did not advocate for web cam abortions, just for practices which do not follow FDA and National Abortion Federation guidelines. The bill was described as big government with its boot on the neck of the abortionist, and interfering with the patient/physician relationship. The felony penalty for physicians who do not conduct the in person exam and administer the drugs in person was particularly onerous to opponents, and revealed an interesting sentiment for protecting the abortionist instead of the woman. Ignored were the over 2,200 adverse incidents reported by the FDA since 2000 from use of abortion-inducing drugs, including the deaths of 14 women. RU 486 abortions, administered after a woman has been diagnosed as being pregnant, are different from the morning after pill.
Finally, SB 306 repeals penalties to women who obtain abortions. This repeal removes a conflict in the statues and ensures that once abortions become illegal again in Wisconsin, a woman who obtains an abortion cannot be fined or imprisoned. No objection was made to this provision.
Two amendments introduced by opponents were defeated by a 17-16 vote. The first amendment removed penalties to the physician in the bill. The second excluded rape and incest victims from the determination of coercion.
The debate reached into almost every phase of government, as opponents railed that SB 306 did nothing to create jobs, showed the hypocrisy of Republicans, and didn’t address black unemployment, among other things. SB 306 was debated on the scheduled date of Tuesday, February 21. Opponents of the bill used a procedural move, objection to third reading, to prevent final passage of the bill on that day. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald trumped the delaying tactic by ordering the bill to a third reading on Wednesday, February 22, as the rules allow. Following another hour of intense debate, the measure passed by a 17-15 vote.
Now SB 306 moves to the State Assembly where a public hearing has already occurred. The bill must be passed by March 17 when the legislative session ends in order to reach Governor Walker’s desk and be signed into law.
Wisconsin Right to Life is working with the National Right to Life Committee on passage of H.R. 3803/S. 2103, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. Two facts underscore the importance and need for this legislation:
• Substantial scientific evidence exists that the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain during an abortion procedure conducted at 20 weeks after fertilization and beyond.
• Two late-term abortionists operating in the District of Columbia openly advertise late-term abortions – in one case up to 24 weeks after fertilization, and in the other during the third trimester, with no limitations stated.
Wisconsin congressmen Duffy, Petri, Ribble, Ryan and Sensenbrenner are co-sponsors of this important, ground-breaking legislation.
Another bill moving forward is H.R. 3451, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (known as PRENDA). This bill would apply federal criminal penalties to anyone who performs an abortion based on the sex, gender, color or race of the unborn child. Incredibly, all pro-abortion organizations are opposing this bill.
The third bill is the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179). This legislation will restore conscience rights for medical professionals and facilities and overturn the Obama mandate which forces religious institutions and employers to provide drugs and treatments that violate conscience.
Wisconsin Right to Life strongly favors all of this legislation. Watch for future developments.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nationwide federation of state right-to-life organizations, strongly supports Senator Blunt’s amendment (No. 1520) to the pending transportation bill, and intends to include any roll call on the Blunt amendment in the NRLC scorecard of key pro-life issues for the 112th Congress.
The text of the amendment is taken directly from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467). It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.
When the health care legislation was pending in the Senate in 2009, NRLC warned that the “preventive health services” provision would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to a fluid list. Predictably, the Administration has begun with a decree covering all FDA-approved birth control methods – a mandate that, unless overturned, will produce an irreconcilable conflict between conscience and the coercive force of government for many employers. But this is not a debate only about the specific parameters of the birth-control mandate. Exactly the same statutory authority could be used by the Secretary, next year or the year after that, to mandate that all health plans pay for elective abortion on demand.
This concern is underscored by the rationale that the Administration offered last week as part of its so-called “accommodation,” under which certain insurers will be directly required to offer coverage of birth control methods without copayments, while forbidden to charge anything extra for this option. The White House argued that the expanded use of birth control will save any health plan money, and therefore, nobody is really paying for it. The same twisted logic could be employed to justify the future abortion mandate: By ordering health plans to cover elective abortion, health plans would save the much higher costs of prenatal care, childbirth, and care for the baby.
(It is sometimes asserted that the ObamaCare law contains language prohibiting the federal government from mandating that health plans cover abortions. In reality, the law prevents the Secretary of HHS from including abortion in a list of federally mandated “essential health benefits,” but those provisions are entirely separate and distinct from the “preventive services” authority that the Administration has employed as the basis for the birth control mandate, and would employ for a future abortion mandate.)
The Blunt amendment goes to the heart of the problem by amending the ObamaCare law itself, to prevent provisions of the law from being used as a basis for regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance. A vote against this amendment is, in effect, a vote to allow just such mandates. NRLC strongly urges your support for this vital pro-life amendment
WASHINGTON– In response to criticism of its recent regulation requiring coverage of FDA-approved birth control drugs and devices, the White House today announced a purported “compromise” under which insurance plans will be required to provide the coverage in all plans, without charging anything additional for it.
The Administration position is that insurers can be required to provide the coverage for “free” because birth control is less expensive than childbirth. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the national federation of right-to-life organizations, issued the following comment, any part of which may be attributed to NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson:
“President Obama today promulgated a scam that, if he is re-elected, will allow him to mandate that every health plan in America cover abortion on demand,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “The same twisted logic will be applied: By ordering health plans to cover elective abortion, health plans would save the much higher costs of prenatal care, childbirth, and care for the baby — and under the Obama scam, if a procedure saves money, then that means that you’re not really paying for it when the government mandates it.”
By this form of doublespeak, one could say that the federal Medicaid program was not really “funding abortion” when it paid for 300,000 abortions a year (prior to adoption of the Hyde Amendment in 1976), because after all, every abortion that the government paid for also saved the government money.
The Obama “you must pay, but nobody pays” scam might also be applied to other “cost-cutting” mandates. Perhaps every health plan will be mandated to cover physician-assisted suicide, in states in which assisted suicide is legal. After all, each suicide would result in a net savings to the plan, and under the Obama scam, that means it is really free and nobody really pays for it.
Some journalists have wrongly reported that the ObamaCare law contains language prohibiting the federal government from mandating that health plans cover abortions. This is erroneous. The law prevents the Secretary of Health and Human Services from including abortion in a list of federally mandated “essential health benefits.” But the birth control mandate is based on an entirely different provision of the law, which allows the Secretary to mandate that all health plans cover any service that the Secretary places on a list of “preventive” services. There is nothing in the law to prevent the Secretary from placing abortion, assisted suicide, or any other additional services on the preventive services list, nor does the Secretary require the agreement of any other authority in the government to do so — except, perhaps, the president.
At his press conference today, President Obama suggested that the birth-control mandate was recommended by “the nation’s leading medical experts.” The actual make up of the handpicked panel that made the birth control recommendations was reported by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online here (http://nrlc.co/wlEyK4).
NRLC supports enactment of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179) (http://nrlc.co/zKiSSV), which would allow health providers to decline to provide abortions or other specific medical services on the basis of religious belief or moral convictions.
Just when you think you have heard it all, the march towards widespread and wide-open doctor-prescribed suicide and euthanasia gets more bizarre. The Dutch, who have perfected the “art” of killing at the end of life, are now making mobile euthanasia clinics available.
According to a Dutch Press Review story, “De Volkskrant and Trouw report on a new development in euthanasia practice. De Volkskrant reports that, beginning in March, people who have been refused euthanasia by their own doctor will be able to call in one of six travelling teams. The groups, consisting of a doctor and a nurse, will be based in The Hague but will deal with cases throughout the country. The legal criteria that the patient must be in a situation of unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement will still apply.”
So, the patient’s doctor, who should be the individual with the most knowledge of the patient and his/her condition says no, and the patient can then shop around to find someone who will acquiesce to the request for death. No problem — except for the continued decay of the ethical premise that doctors and nurses are trained to cure and heal, not cause or assist the death of patients.
Michelle Malkin: First They Came for the Catholics
Penny Young Nance: We Are All Catholics Now
These two headlines perfectly caption the firestorm unleashed by the Obama Administration mandate which destroys religious freedom. While various Obama mouthpieces, Nancy Pelosi, and Planned Parenthood attempt to spin the mandate as access to contraceptives, they underestimated the wisdom and tenacity of Catholic Church leaders, religious leaders of all faiths, Catholic Obama apologists, and the people in recognizing this is a battle over the ability of churches to practice the tenets of their own faith without the government using a billy club to force them to violate their consciences. Kirsten Powers, a leading progressive spokesperson writes: “The administration claims its decision to force Catholic institutions to pay for insurance covering contraceptives is ‘balanced’ — so why, when religious liberty was weighted against access to birth control, did freedom lose?”
Let’s make this very clear. If the Obama Administration, under the auspices and provisions of the hated ObamaCare law can dictate what is and is not covered as health care, we should all tremble. Can an abortion mandate be far behind? Rationing of health care?
President Obama now finds himself in a very, very tight box. If what Planned Parenthood did to the Susan G. Komen Foundation is an indication, Obama will be thoroughly trashed by his strongest supporters if he caves. What the President loses if he sticks to his mandate is the backlash of millions of Catholic voters (54% of whom voted for him in 2008), and all who believe in the fundamental right of religious freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, without government interference. Either way, the person who is the biggest loser is President Obama, the most pro-abortion President ever.
Using the First Amendment to the Constitution as its rationale, the Georgia State Supreme Court yesterday struck down the state’s law which prohibits assisted suicide. This court decision leaves older residents of Georgia and those with disabilities without protection from predators who will now be able to freely advertise how they can help assist the deaths of these vulnerable people.
The Georgia law, enacted in 1994, classifies as a felon anyone who “publicly advertises, offers or holds himself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose.” According to Burke Balch of the National Right to Life Committee, “This ruling essentially says if you want to advertise helping people jump off a cliff, you can hang out your shingle in Georgia.”
A challenge to the Georgia law was initiated by a case involving four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged with assisting the death of a 58-year-old cancer patient. The four will not face a criminal trial as a result of the high court ruling. Currently doctor-prescribed death is only legal in Oregon and Washington. A court decision in Montana has resulted in a lack of clarity as to what is legal in that state. The Patients Rights Council reports that since 1994, there were 122 legislative proposals introduced in 25 states, including Wisconsin, to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide which were defeated, tabled, withdrawn by sponsors, or languished in committee without action. Ballot measures to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide were defeated in California, Maine and Michigan.
In Georgia, countless patients are now at risk of elder abuse. Along with our parent organization, the National Right to Life Committee, Wisconsin Right to Life calls on the Georgia legislature to remedy this danger by swiftly enacting a new law to prohibit doctor-prescribed suicide.