Category Archives: Civil rights

Fortnight for Freedom 2017

Fortnight for Freedom is back for 2017, running from today until Independence Day. This project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is for everyone.

Religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life. –Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Watch for Fortnight for Freedom (F4F) posts on Leaven’s Facebook and Twitter feeds during the next two weeks.

From the Leaven for the Loaf archives:

The Supreme Court’s marriage decision came down during F4F 2015, leaving more religious liberty questions than before

F4F 2016: SCOTUS refuses to hear conscientious objection claims from pharmacists

F4F 2014: In wake of Hobby Lobby decision, religious leaders call for protection of Religious Freedom Restoration Act 

On (not) keeping religion out of politics 

F4F 2013: Bishop Joseph Libasci open F4F in New Hampshire

“Considering” religious liberty

President Trump has issued an executive order on religious liberty, addressing in part the litigation between the government and the Little Sisters of the Poor over the government’s contraceptive mandate.  The Sisters are apparently off the hook, if I properly understood the remarks the President made before he signed the order.

(Some of my earlier posts about the mandate are collected here.)

Pope Francis visiting Little Sisters of the Poor. Photo from littlesistersofthepoor.org.

The Sisters are among the many plaintiffs who object to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare on religious grounds. They don’t want to help procure contraception or abortion-inducing drugs and devices for their employees via employer-provided insurance. They have to go to court over this, lest they face fines that would destroy their ability to carry out their vocation to minister to impoverished elders.

The operative line in President Trump’s order is this: “The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate…” (Recall that contraception was declared to be “preventive” care under Obamacare.)

Consider issuing amended regulations?

I’m happy for the Sisters. This is good news, as far as it goes. But there’s a long way to go before the mandate is history.


Health care conscience rights: as Sweden goes…?

In November 2015, I posted the words of Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife under fire for declining to participate in abortions.

”As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost. Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life. A midwife described to me how she had held an aborted baby in her arms, still alive, and cried desperately for an hour while the baby struggled to breathe. These children do not even have a right to pain relief. I cannot take part in this.”

Ms. Grimmark went to court to get her job back. Now, a year and a half later, a Swedish court has determined that Ms. Grimmark did not suffer discrimination, nor had authorities violated her freedom of expression (BBC report here). It’s OK in Sweden to require health care professionals to participate in abortions as a condition of employment.

And that works, as far as a spokeswoman for “Sweden’s Health Professionals” is concerned: “[P]eople seeking care should not have to think about your own opinions”.

Think it couldn’t happen here? Think again. New Hampshire has no law protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals. Bills to change that have elicited testimony from abortion supporters that sounds a lot like the statement from the Swedish Health Professionals.

Watch Sweden, and take note.


 

Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care”

Short memories make for bad public policy. I can’t help but reflect on that.

As I write this, Congress is about to take a vote on doing something-or-another with Obamacare: repeal, replace, whatever. I’m not sure they know what they’re doing, despite good intentions all around. In all the tinkering, I am not hearing much from Members of Congress about what made the “Affordable Care Act” utterly unacceptable to so many Catholics, including me: the contraceptive mandate. Continue reading Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care”

House refuses to repeal buffer zone law

The New Hampshire House has given thumbs-down to repealing the state’s unenforced buffer zone law, rejecting HB 589 with a 191-165 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) vote.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt to repeal 2014’s buffer zone law, which gives abortion providers the ability to prohibit exercise of First Amendment rights on public property near their facilities. Last year’s repeal attempt was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s law is similar to the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Before the vote on HB 589, Reps. Jeanine Notter, Kurt Wuelper, and Dan Hynes spoke in favor of the repeal bill. I’m proud that two of them represent my town.


Here is the link to the roll call on HB 589. Keep in mind that the motion was ITL, so a “yea” vote favored killing the repeal effort. The “nays” came from reps who presumably don’t want to deny First Amendment rights to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Among the 165 representatives who opposed killing the repeal bill were four non-Republicans. I tip my cap to Democrats Amanda Bouldin, Raymond Gagnon, and Jean Jeudy for being willing to take a position at variance with that of their party’s leaders. Libertarian Caleb Dyer cast a pro-First-Amendment vote, too.

Most of the 191 votes to kill the repeal effort came from Democrats, but 34 Republicans lined up behind them.

Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017

[Update, 2/22/17: the original version of this post listed Rep. Jordan Ulery as absent from the hearing. Rep. Dan Hynes has advised me that Rep. Ulery is no longer on the Judiciary Committee. I regret the error.]

Update, 2/23/17: Well, well, well. Here’s a photo of the official roll call.

The upshot of all those scratched-out checkmarks is 10-7 in favor of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on buffer zone repeal, HB 589. The formal, “official” tally is as follows.

Voting in favor of ITL on HB 589: Reps. Rouillard, Graham (that’s a change from what I heard when the vote was cast), Leavitt, Wall. Horrigan, Berch, Kenison, Keans, DiLorenzo, and Mulligan.

Voting against ITL on HB 589 and therefore supporting peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights: Reps. Hagan, Hopper, Sylvia, Hull, Wuelper, Hynes, and Janvrin.  Continue reading Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017