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Insights: Abortion Mandate Continues, Conscience Rights

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July 6, 2016

Feds Refuse to Rule on California’s Abortion Mandate

After almost two years of little or no activity, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) has ruled that the Bishops of California and others filing complaints do not have standing to object to a California agency mandating that religious organizations and individuals pay for all abortions in their managed health care plans.

“When California – without public hearings or sufficient notification – defined abortion as a basic health care service two years ago it became absolutely necessary to file this complaint,” explained Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.  “Forcing organizations and individuals to violate their religious convictions is a threat to fundamental human liberties.  To do so without due process disdains honest public discourse.  Taking two years to decide a simple question of standing is an appalling delay of basic justice that has placed those who do not wish to pay for all abortions in their privately purchased health care plan in an untenable position.”             

The Bishops of California said in their complaint that when the California Department of Managed Health Care required insurance companies under their jurisdiction to cover abortion it was a violation of the civil rights for those who could no longer purchase abortion-free health insurance plans as described by the Federal Weldon Amendment. 

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Full Coverage includes the USCCB Statement on the ruling, Bishop Jaime Soto’s statement (President of the California Catholic Conference) and the reasons for the complaint from The Hill.

Death Penalty Initiatives Certified for November Ballot

The initiative to eliminate the use of California’s death penalty law has officially qualified for this November’s ballot.

The measure to revoke capital punishment in the state collected almost 405,000 signatures – well above the 365,000 verifiable signatures required for certification.

California, the most populous state in the country, has the largest population of death row inmates. Repealing the law would change the death sentences of almost 750 convicted inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In a study published in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Judge Arthur L. Alarcon concluded that since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1978,  “taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions."

Catholic Bishops have been very vocal in the past of their support for measures abolishing the use of capital punishment, declaring that state-sanctioned killing diminishes us all and the application of capital punishment is flawed and inconsistent. The Bishops have actively campaigned to support similar measures, establishing The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of The Death Penalty. The Catholic Mobilizing Network’s Mercy In Action Project seeks to promote clemency for those facing imminent execution.

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Social Inertia and Ideology Threaten Conscience Rights

Each year dioceses around the country arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom.  The Fortnight for Freedom is from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.  In this analysis, we take a look at how trends in society are impacting Catholic health care ministries in the United States:

In recent years, a movement has been growing to subvert the right to conscience and religious liberty of Catholic, religious and other health care providers to the desires of patients seeking abortions, sterilizations and other procedures. Despite the evidence that Catholic hospitals cause no significant impact on the availability of these procedures, advocates of these “rights” are rigorously advocating for statutes and judicial opinions that would legally compel Catholic providers to violate their consciences.

In California, for instance, the Department of Managed Health Care overstepped its authority by issuing a regulation ordering all health insurance plans in California to cover all abortions for any reason, calling it basic health care coverage.  This attempted rulemaking, however, is unwarranted and legal cases continue to question the DMHC’s action. (See above for the latest.)

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Relics of English Martyrs Make Way to LA

Archbishop José H. Gomez will welcome the relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two 16th-century martyrs who exemplified courage and conviction in the face of religious persecution, to Los Angeles on July 1st at 12:10 p.m. with a special Mass followed by a presentation from the curator at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is one of the last stops, and the only stop in California, of the national “Witnesses to Freedom” relic tour ( organized by the USCCB ) during Fortnight for Freedom.  Dioceses nationwide are highlighting the importance of defending religious freedom in the U.S. and raising the awareness of religious persecution all over the world.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were well known for opposing King Henry’s divorce and the establishment of his own church and assertion of power over English Christians. They are witness to the truth that no government can make a claim on a person’s soul

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Take Action!

Still no word on the Governor signing the California Budget so there is still time to ask him to veto funding for physician-assisted suicide.

Do Not Fund Physician-Assisted Suicide in CA's Budget - Governor Brown’s proposed 2016 Budget recommends $1.2 million to purchase lethal drugs for more than 200 Medi-Cal patients (400+ next year) who want their physician to help them commit suicide.

Restorative Justice Solutions - Despite our overcrowded prisons, recidivism remains at an unacceptably high rate. Last year, a broad array of faith-based and community organizations convened and agreed that the current criminal justice system, founded upon the sole purpose of punishment, has failed.  Along with Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D- San Diego) they created AB 2590.

Learn More

Catholic Charities of California publishes a monthly Newsletter which includes inspiring stories from the Local Catholic Charities Agencies around the Golden State.  View their premier issue which highlights a Los Angeles program to provide a safe have to 4th and 5th graders during their summer break and help prepare them for the upcoming school year.

Publication Schedule:  Public Policy Insights will not be published next week due to the Independence Day holiday.  In July, while the legislature is in Summer Recess, we will publish every other week.  Enjoy your summer break!

June 24, 2016    
Vol. 9, No. 22

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