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Posted on 06/22/2018 00:59 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2018 farm bill, H.R. 2, which included controversial changes to food assistance programs that Catholic leaders had voiced concern over.
The Farm Bill is the main agricultural and food policy guide for the country. It provides funding for a number of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries.
The party-line vote was 213-211. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted against it. The same bill failed in May, when 30 Republicans voted against the legislation.
The most controversial element of the bill was a provision to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously called food stamps.
The farm bill would tighten restrictions on eligibility for SNAP. It would require people between the ages of 18 and 59 who receive SNAP to either have a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours per week. Adults with disabilities or young dependents are exempted from this requirement.
Penalties for not complying with work requirements increase under the bill, from one month ineligibility to one year for a first violation, and from three months to three years for a second violation.
When the farm bill was being discussed in April, representatives from the U.S. bishops conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul wrote a letter to leaders of the Congressional Agriculture Committee.
“Efforts to improve state workforce training programs by providing case-management, streamlining workforce programs, providing increased training slots and setting minimum standards are welcomed,” they said.
"However, the new workforce training program appears to lack sufficient investment to meet the additional demand for meaningful job training and skill building that will be generated by the new requirements,” they said in the April letter. The letter noted that the majority of SNAP recipients currently work.
“Moreover, rural communities may find compliance especially challenging given that job training programs are often located far away, and there is insufficient access to transportation,” the letter said.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the passage of the farm bill was a step “moving toward a poverty-fighting system,” where Americans will be able to move out of a cycle of poverty.
“This is a big deal,” said Ryan in a statement published on his website.
Ryan referred to the SNAP reforms as “critical,” saying they will “close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and encourage people to move from welfare to work.”
“These reforms will return agency to people, rather than keeping it in government, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and make the most of their lives.”
President Donald Trump, posting on Twitter, said that he was “so happy to see work requirements included” in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives.
“Big win for the farmers,” said Trump.
The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan compromise bill is expected to be debated next week.
Posted on 06/22/2018 00:26 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church has resettled nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980 through a public-private partnership with a high rate of successful integration of refugees into society, according to a report released in June 2018.
The Center for Migration Studies report examines data on 1.1 million of the refugees resettled in the U.S. from 1987 to 2016. These refugees came from more than 30 countries, including Ukraine, Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia and Burma.
“What we've found is that they are integrating, contributing, and accomplishing a lot in the United States after starting from basically nothing. Not surprisingly, we found that refugees with the longest residence have integrated the most fully in the country, and we provide statistics on how that progresses over time,” said Donald Kerwin, the primary author of the report, at a World Refugee Day event at the U.S. Capitol building.
Frances McBrayer has seen this successful integration firsthand in her experience as senior director of refugee services of Catholic Charities Atlanta.
“More than 90 percent of the refugees that we have resettled through Catholic Charities Atlanta were self-sufficient in 2017 within 6 months of arrival,” said McBrayer at the June 20 event.
“That means they are working, paying their own bills, and they are not receiving government cash assistance,” she continued.
This rapid success can be partially attributed to the committed volunteer efforts of local communities, according to McBrayer, who said that Catholic Charities Atlanta had 874 volunteers working with refugees last year.
Parish volunteers are matched with incoming refugee families, whom they accompany in everything from English practice and job applications to American grocery shopping.
In partnership with its affiliates, the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services resettles approximately 30 percent of refugees arriving in the U.S. each year through a network of more than 100 diocesan offices.
“In the United States, we offer a model public-private partnership,” said Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy for the U.S. bishops, at a congressional briefing co-hosted by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the U.S. bishops conference.
The U.S. also has one of the safest refugee programs in the world, Feasley said, as each refugee is required to go through extensive vetting, including a series of very rigorous interviews by the Department of Homeland Security.
“They will have their information checked by the FBI. They will have their information checked by the NSA. They will have much of their biographical information verified as well as going through a security check and a health check. All of this will occur before a refugee is ever finally selected to be admitted to the United States.”
Feasley explained how the U.S. refugee resettlement program as we know it today emerged out of the ad hoc charitable actions of faith-based groups in response to the Vietnam War. As a result, Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, which laid out a definition of who counts as a refugee and how resettlement would work.
The American Catholic involvement with refugee resettlement dates back even earlier, as documented in an archive exhibit at The Catholic University of America on the American Catholic Church’s refugee aid from the late 1930s to early 1950s.
Despite this history, the U.S. is on pace this year to resettle the lowest number of refugees in the history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, according to the 2018 CMS report.
There are currently some 25.4 million refugees worldwide who have fled their countries to escape conflict or persecution, according to statistics released by the UN refugee agency on June 19. This constitutes the largest increase in refugees in a single year that the UN has ever documented.
Posted on 06/21/2018 08:33 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 12:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted a video series for Religious Freedom Week 2018, inviting Catholics to pray and act in support of religious liberty.
“We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice, we have a duty to seek common ground in public life whenever possible,” says Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in one video.
“But we also need to work vigorously in law and politics to protect our faith and to form our culture in a Christian understanding of human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. To do that, we need to defend our religious liberty.”
An eight-video YouTube series offers reflections on the importance of religious liberty.
The videos feature members of and consultants for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing committee for religious liberty.
Each day, a different bishop challenges Catholics to reflect on how religious freedom is connected to elements of the public square, such as medicine, immigration, and education. Other topics discussed in the video series include Christian persecution in the Middle East, and the importance of publicly proclaiming one’s faith.
Religious Freedom Week, held by the U.S. bishops’ conference, is observed this year from June 22-29. The theme for this year is “Serving Others in God’s Love.”
The conference website includes a list of suggested reflections, prayers, and actions that may be followed by parishes, families, and individuals during the week.
In the second video of the series, Archbishop Chaput highlights the importance of truth in politics, saying “dishonest language leads to dishonest politics, and dishonest politics leads to bad public policy and bad law.” He urges Catholics defend truth in the public sphere.
“As Catholic citizens, we owe it to our country to speak and to act in a spirit of truth and to insist on the same behavior from other people, including our elected and appointed leaders.”
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska says that Catholic education is a key part of the Church’s mission.
“But there are forces in our society and culture which would like to inhibit our freedoms…to be able to teach what we believe is the truth about the human person, about the dignity of life as well as God's plan for marriage between a man and a woman,” he says, emphasizing the need for religious freedom in education.
Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, notes the role that the Church plays in immigration and refugee resettlement.
“The Church has long sought to serve the unique needs of people on the move: from providing for basic needs, to assisting with resettlement, to offering legal services to help newcomers navigate the system of their host country.”
However, he warns, in recent years, Catholic entities have faced legal challenges because they will not facilitate abortions as part of their work with migrants.
“Those that try to force the Church to choose between unborn children and migrant children are undermining religious liberty,” Bishop Vasquez cautions.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who chairs the religious freedom committee, concludes the video series by appealing to viewers “to pray that we might continue to take steps to make room within our culture for the exercise of religious freedom” and “to use that religious freedom in the public square well.”
Posted on 06/21/2018 01:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Tucson, Ariz., Jun 20, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A bishop who suggested last week that the Church consider canonical penalties for Catholics involved in the separation of families at the United States’ southern border said Wednesday that penalties are not central to a discussion of immigration reform.
On immigration reform, “the critical issue at hand isn’t canonical penalties, even if the concept has intrigued many. The real issue is children being used as pawns in a contorted effort at punishing their parents or deterring future asylum seekers,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson wrote in a June 20 op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star.
At a meeting of the US bishops’ conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., June 13, Weisenburger asked if the bishops’ canonical affairs committee could offer “recommendations, at least to those of us who are border bishops, on the possibility of canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this.”
“For the salvation of these people’s souls,” he added, “maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.”
His remark drew national attention, though some canon lawyers questioned what exactly Weisenburger had in mind.
Weisenburger, himself a canon lawyer, did not mention specific canonical penalties; note what delicts, or canonical crimes, might be pertinent; or indicate whether he intended for penalties to apply to law enforcement officials, lawmakers, or others.
The bishop’s op-ed elaborated on his earlier remarks. Though it attempted to offer clarity, it did not specifically denote what penalties or processes the bishop had in mind.
In his op-ed, Weisenburger said he was not suggesting that Catholics involved in family separation be excommunicated. That penalty, he said, “can be imposed only at the end of a process seeking the conversion of the sinner and reconciliation for the community.”
Weisenburger suggested that canon law offers “lesser options preceding excommunication, such as prayer and penitential practices,” though he did not specify whether those options should also be understood as penalties, which, according to canon law, also must ordinarily be preceded by a legal process.
The bishop’s op-ed seemed to suggest that he intended that canonical penalties would apply to mostly to lawmakers, and not to law enforcement officers.
“As far as the question of canonical penalties for Catholics goes, again, the matter is quite complex. Canonical penalties are not ‘one size fits all.’ In a Christian ethic, legislators and political leaders who facilitate sinful actions have the greater share in responsibility for the resulting violence to human dignity,” he wrote.
The bishop lamented that family separation policies have caused “harm and anguish” for “good and faithful immigration workers.”
“Indeed, the average immigration officer — even if he or she recognizes the inherent evil in the action — might accurately conclude that he or she is able to be a force for good within his or her employment, aiding the situation more than contributing toward the harm of children. In such cases the immigration officer might be justified in his or her endeavors. And of course, immigration officers — like nurses ordered to participate in abortion — clearly deserve the option of conscientious objection,” he wrote.
Some canon lawyers have suggested to CNA that Weisenburger’s comments might have been intended to evoke canon 915, which prohibits Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” from receiving the Eucharist. That prohibition is not technically a “penalty” in canon law, though it is sometimes referred to as one. However, Weisenburger’s op-ed said that he did not intend to suggest that the Church should “deny people the sacraments.”
Bishop Weisenburger declined to be interviewed for this story.
Weisenburger’s op-ed encouraged Catholics to think more carefully about the moral issues involved in immigration policy, rather than the canonical.
Encouraging Catholics to address the “ethical and moral quagmire” at the border, the bishop said that he prays daily “that we will awaken from our slumber and resume walking in the ways of justice, truth, and human rights, leaving the discussion of canonical penalties altogether unnecessary.”
Posted on 06/21/2018 00:01 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States bishops have asked Congress to compromise on immigration reform to give legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and ensure respect for human dignity and families at U.S. borders.
A June 19 letter to the House of Representatives stated that the bishops cannot endorse changes to the immigration system that “detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable” as contained in new legislation brought before the House this week.
“We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with lawmakers and to discuss possible opportunities for further compromise,” wrote Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the bishops’ committee on migration.
The letter stated immigration legislation should be “bipartisan, provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, be pro-family, protect the vulnerable and be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement.”
Vasquez also reminded House members that family separation at the border can be ended without legislation at the discretion of the administration.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 ending the policy of family separation, except when there is a risk to the child's welfare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated that the lower chamber will vote Thursday on an immigration bill.
H.R. 6136 on border security and immigration reform was introduced June 19 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and includes a proposal of a framework for Dreamers potentially to receive permanent residence and later citizenship in the U.S.
The framework would include the same criteria outlined in the DACA program, initiated by President Obama in 2012, which postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.
The new bill would require applicants also to have no more than one non-traffic-related misdemeanor, including for immigration-related offences; and if not a student or primary caregiver, to demonstrate the ability to maintain an income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line.
The new bill is on the schedule to be considered by the House in the coming week, along with H.R. 4760, which was introduced Jan. 10.
Vasquez responded to immigration bill H.R. 4760 in a statement Jan. 10, calling for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the U.S. border, emphasizing that Dreamers and their families “deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”
He also acknowledged the nation’s right to control its borders, but cautioned against the introduction of “unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy – especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children – into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”
Posted on 06/20/2018 23:35 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2018 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Los Angeles said he “welcomes” an executive order signed Wednesday by President Trump, and called on Congress to act on immigration reform.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” intended to end the practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border, while maintaining the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy illegal entry into the United States.
The executive order said that detained families will be held together, “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Vice-President of the bishops’ conference, said “I welcome the President’s executive order ending the cruel family separation policy. Now Congress needs to act on immigration. With my brother (bishops) @USCCB, I am disappointed about the bills the House will vote on tomorrow.”
“We need a bipartisan bill like the #USAAct that provides a clear path to citizenship for #Dreamers and secures our borders. And we need it now,” Gomez added in a subsequent tweet.
The executive order laid the blame for family separation on Congress for its “failure to act” as well as court orders that “have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”
“The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members,” the order reads.
Minor children are not currently permitted in detention facilities where adults are held. This new executive order calls for the Secretary of Defense to provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with existing facilities that can be used to house a family unit. If these facilities do not exist, they will be constructed.
The 1997 Flores consent decree limits the amount of time that undocumented immigrant children can be held by the federal government, whether they crossed the border with relatives or by themselves. In Wednesday’s executive order, the attorney general was instructed to “promptly file a request” with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify this agreement. With the requested modifications, undocumented immigrant families would be able to be detained together during criminal proceedings.
The Attorney General was also ordered to prioritize any cases involving a detained family.
The US bishops’ conference did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. The conference, as well as individual bishops, have been vocal in opposition to family separation at the border.
Speaking at the signing, President Trump said he “didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” and that “it's a problem that's gone on for many years, as you know, through many administrations.”
“So we're keeping families together, and this will solve that problem,” said Trump.
“At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”
Posted on 06/20/2018 23:07 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Fort Worth, Texas, Jun 20, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As thousands of children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border in recent weeks, Catholic Charities Fort Worth has opened its doors to shelter the unaccompanied migrant children.
“…Catholic Charities Fort Worth has received and is assisting children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth in a June 19 statement.
“The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and Catholic Charities Fort Worth, as in the past, will live out the mission to help those in need,” Olson continued, noting that “Catholic Charities staff stands ready to expand the program as needed.”
The Trump administration’s immigration policy has garnered international attention for its zero-tolerance stance at the border, which has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have be detained by border officials as a way to deter illegal immigration.
The United Nations condemned the separation policy June 5, saying it was “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
Olson additionally condemned the practice, saying supporting it “lacks compassion, promotes hardness of heart, and further desensitizes us to our mission and responsibilities as Christians to give comfort to the afflicted and to promote respect for human life…”
“The unwarranted separation of parents from their children not only harms those relationships but undermines the right to life, the respect for legitimate authority, and all other basic human rights in society,” Olson remarked.
“The use of separation of children, including babies, from their mothers and fathers at the U.S./Mexican border as a tool for implementing the Administration’s zero-tolerance policy is sinful because it undermines the right to life of the vulnerable, directly traumatizes those who have already been injured, and undermines the role of legitimate authority,” he continued.
According to the administration, the policy has separated around 2,342 children from their parents between May 9 and June 5. The federal government is in charge of providing shelter for the migrant children who have been taken from their parents.
Catholic Charities Fort Worth has been hosting a number of migrant children in an effort to serve the families torn apart by the immigration policy. The Star-Telegram reported Catholic Charities was contracted with the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to Pat Svacina, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
To protect the privacy of the children, Catholic Charities did not release any information on the children they were sheltering at their 26-bed facility.
An online statement from Catholic Charities Fort Worth offered ways to help, encouraging individuals to donate to their Unaccompanied Children program or help create welcome boxes. They are also looking for foster parents through the International Foster Care Program who can provide a safe haven for the children who have been separated from their parents.
“I call on each of us to examine our own consciences and interior lives if we in any way take cruel delight in these actions done in the name of our government and in the name of the security of our borders,” said Olson.
“Separating children from their mothers and fathers in an already traumatic time in their lives as immigrants seeking asylum is inhumane and morally wrong without due regard for the safety and protection of the children and informed consent of their parents.”
Posted on 06/20/2018 21:26 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Austin, Texas, Jun 20, 2018 / 01:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 23 bishops of Texas will not have to turn over emails and other communications to an abortion provider, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.
The ruling came in response to a Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) appeal from an order from a trial court on Sunday requiring the bishops to hand over private documents to Whole Woman’s Health, a chain of abortion facilities in the state.
Whole Woman’s Health filed suit against the State of Texas two years ago over a law that requires aborted fetal remains to be either buried or cremated. Previously, the remains were treated as medical waste and thrown into a landfill.
Although the bishops are not party to the lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health attempted to acquire various communications from the TCCB concerning abortion. These included private email and internal communications between bishops.
The bishops had previously offered to bury aborted fetal remains for free in Catholic cemeteries in Texas.
The bishops had requested emergency protection of their emails and other documents from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which put a halt to Sunday’s order. The court ordered additional briefs to be submitted by Monday, June 25.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the TCCB, said that the bishops deserve privacy from the government in their communications.
“Government should not have unbounded power to insert itself into the private conversations of any group, much less the leadership of the Catholic Church,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket.
“Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”
Rassbach’s sentiment was echoed by Texas bishops, who reiterated the importance of being able to have private deliberations amongst themselves.
Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, from the Diocese of Austin, said that he and his brother bishops have “not just a right, but a duty to speak out on issues that concern justice, mercy, and a consistent ethic on life.”
To do this, Vasquez said, it is critical that they be able to deliberate with each other privately prior to issuing a statement on a topic. He said the court’s ruling was “vital” for the Church.
“Children are not disposable,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns from the Diocese of Dallas, comparing the lawsuit to the policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S. border.
“We believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception. We also believe that we have a right to discuss in private how to address this issue and uphold the dignity of every human life, and that while upholding the sacredness of life may seem at odds with some people, our religious liberties and religious rights should not be eroded.”
Posted on 06/20/2018 19:08 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Bridgeport, Conn., Jun 20, 2018 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Courage International, an apostolate of the Catholic Church which serves people with same-sex attraction who seek to live a chaste life, will host its 30th annual conference this July, focusing on the faith of its founder, Fr. John Harvey, OSFS.
This year would have been Harvey’s 100th birthday. The conference will be held July 12-15 at Villanova University in Philadelphia.
Featuring speakers such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and EWTN’s Johnette Benkovic, the theme of this year’s conference is “Faithful to a mission.” Several bishops have also confirmed their attendance.
"The program will focus on themes that were important to Father Harvey’s spirituality and pastoral approach, and we plan to include a number of speakers who worked closely with Father Harvey during the 28 years that he led the Courage apostolate," said Father Philip Bochanski, Courage International's executive director, in a June 19 statement.
Harvey was the director of Courage International from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in 2008. He died in 2010, at the age of 92.
The five goals of Courage International are chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and “to live lives that may serve as good examples to others.”
Courage discourages the use of the terms “gay” and “lesbian” to refer to members, saying the organization “sees persons with same-sex attractions first and foremost as men and women created in the image of God.”
Since its founding, the organization has grown to have over 100 chapters in 14 countries. There is also a companion support group, EnCourage, for families and friends of those with same-sex attraction. Members of both Courage and EnCourage will share their personal testimonies at the conference.
In 2016, Courage and EnCourage received canonical status as a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful.
Immediately preceding the 2018 conference, there will be a “clergy day” for priests, deacons, and seminarians, featuring seminars aiming to teach clergy how to minister properly to people with same-sex attraction.
Posted on 06/20/2018 09:04 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Austin, Texas, Jun 20, 2018 / 01:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dozens of pro-life laws in Texas are being challenged in a lawsuit claiming that they pose an undue burden on women, but a national pro-life group says abortion regulations are important for women’s health and safety.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United For Life, said she believes that the courts will agree that the existing laws are constitutional, protect the interests of women, and do not constitute an “undue burden” on women.
“Americans United for Life expects the federal courts involved in these lawsuits to recognize these critical interests and protect the lives of women seeking abortion through reasonable, constitutional health and safety regulations,” she told CNA.
Some of the laws being challenged by the suit include those requiring an abortion to be performed by a doctor, mandating that a women view an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion, and requiring the parents of a minor consent prior to her abortion.
The suit also seeks to legalize telemedicine abortions, in which a doctor communicates with a patient through a video conference for a medical abortion. Presently, this practice is banned in Texas.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 2013 Texas law that required abortions to take place in a surgical center and required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. These requirements were interpreted by the Supreme Court to be an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.
The 2013 law saw over half of the state’s abortion facilities shut down, and since then, only three have resumed operations.
Plaintiffs in the current case are hoping to use the 2016 ruling as precedent to challenge other pro-life laws in the state.
The plaintiffs in the current case are Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Afiya Center, Fund Texas Choice, the Lilith Fund, the Texas Equal Access Fund, the West Fund, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who is the medical director at Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. Whole Woman’s Health, a chain of abortion clinics throughout Texas, was the plaintiff in the 2016 Supreme Court case.
The suit also claims the University of Texas System, which includes 14 public universities in Texas, is discriminatory as it does not permit students to receive credit for internships at locations that provide abortions, nor does it place students in field rotations at places that offer abortions.
The laws being challenged by the lawsuit are hardly unusual in the United States, nor are they unique to Texas. The majority of states have a mandatory waiting period of typically 18-72 hours before an abortion and require either parental notification or consent for a minor’s abortion. Twenty-three states have laws requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound before an abortion or inform women about the availability of an ultrasound.
Foster noted that courts have acknowledged and upheld abortion regulations as an important part of protecting women’s health and safety.
“[The abortion industry] would prefer that women not know what the Supreme Court has...acknowledged that abortion can be risky to a pregnant woman’s health, and thus states have an ‘important interest’ in protecting women’s health and a ‘legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient’,” she said.
Americans United for Life has released a report documenting hundreds of safety violations in various abortion facilities throughout the United States, including in Texas. The report claims that clinics have had instances of unlicensed staff, poor protocol and unsanitary medical conditions, at times resulting in severe health complications or death for patients.