Roundup: Don’t Mess With the Pope

Robin Marty

If you feel like telling some Pope jokes, you might want to think again, plus yet another abortion restriction is unveiled as path to the Supreme Court.

If a priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar, you’d better hope that priest isn’t the Pope before you tell the rest of the joke.  Turns out, Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t have much of a sense of humor these days.

In preparation for a visit from the Pope in September, a group of junior civil servants in an Internal Foreign Office got together to come up with possible events and activities.  The author, who was trying to think outside the box and create ideas no one else would think of, apparently went a little overboard.

Britain’s foreign office has apologised for a memorandum by a civil servant suggesting Pope Benedict should open a hospital abortion ward when he visits Britain this year.

The document, which was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, also included proposals that the Pope should bless a gay marriage and launch papal-branded condoms when he comes to Britain in September.

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The paper said the ideas, ridiculing the teachings of the Catholic Church against abortion and contraception, resulted from a “brainstorm” session.

The paper said the proposals, drawn up by a junior civil servant in a memo headlined “The ideal visit would see …”, were circulated among officials in prime minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street office and at the foreign office.

The document, which had a cover note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”, also alluded to sex scandals involving paedophile priests in a number of countries by suggesting Pope Benedict should launch a helpline for abused children.

Other ideas included getting the pontiff to perform forward rolls with children to promote healthy living and even performing a duet with Queen Elizabeth, the Telegraph said.

But was the writer really trying to be funny?

Foreign Office sources said that the memo’s author was a university graduate in his mid- to late twenties. “He is completely contrite. I don’t think the intention was to amuse. It was supposed to be blue sky stuff, thinking out of the box. He had absolutely no intention to offend,” an official said. “They were genuinely trying to think the unthinkable so that they could identify everything that was thinkable.”

Joke or not, the real question is whether the Vatican has the ability to roll with the punches.  Their representative in the U.K. managed to just blow the whole thing off.

It is not often that one hears the phrases “Opus Dei” and “breath of fresh air” in the same sentence. But I would like to salute Mr Jack Valero, Opus Dei’s representative in Britain, for maintaining a sense of proportion. Asked for a comment last night, Mr Valero simply said that it was obviously a joke, and he was sure the Pope would see it in the same light.

However, the Vatican appears less forgiving, wanting heads to roll and threatening to cancel its trip to the country all together.

One highly-placed source in the Vatican said: “This could have very severe repercussions and is embarrassing for the British government – one has to question whether the action taken is enough.

“It is disgusting. Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See has been in to see the Secretary of State and explain what happened and this will all be relayed to the Pope.

“It’s even possible the trip could be cancelled as this matter is hugely offensive.”

Cardinal Renato Martino, the former head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “The British government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect.

“To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics not just in Britain but across the world is very offensive indeed.”

Of course, some have pointed out, the demand from the Vatican apologies and instant punishment is ironic in comparison to the Pope’s reaction to recent issues within its own church. As the Guardian puts it, “The ludicrous nature of some of the memo’s suggestions did not prevent some within the Catholic church demanding apologies for a disrespectful slur rather more urgently than senior Vatican officials have offered apologies over children abused in church care.”

Mini Roundup: USA Today condenses the latest abortion restrictions into one short, handy article, and it turns out the “gender/race based abortion” laws being passed have a hidden agenda — a path to the Supreme Court.

April 23, 2010

Supreme Court Watch: Nine Questions the President Should Ask Nominees – Politics Daily

A Bulletproof Abortion Ban? – National Catholic Register

Abortion doubletalk by Obama? – Los Angeles Times

US man who killed abortion protester gets life – eTaiwan News

Revoked ‘Hate Plates’ Restart Free Speech Debate – AOL News

The maternal death rate myth – World Magazine

Pitts: Abortion, tax money bad mix – Lancaster Newspapers

Catholics: Adopt to prevent abortion – York Daily Record

Henry vetoes 2 anti-abortion measures –

11-Year-Old Mexican ‘Rape’ Victim Wants to Keep Baby – FOXNews

VA Lawmakers restrict public funding for abortions – Watchdog

Okla. governor vetoes 2 abortion bills – The Associated Press

“Peek into” Wash. Times’ health clinic hit piece – Media Matters for America

Proposed Kansas GOP platform strong on abortion, hard on health care – Kansas City Star

Abortion feud hauls Miss. House back to Capitol on Saturday – WXVT

Mississippi, Louisiana, Moving to Ban State-Backed Insurance Abortion Coverage – Ms. Magazine

Paul, Grayson spar on abortion, earmarks –

Okla. governor vetoes 2 abortion bills – The Associated Press

Oregon Right to Life turns sharply against Chris Dudley –

Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 Introduced in Congress – YubaNet

STD-Free but Pregnant – Atlantic Online

50th Anniversary of the Pill: Love, Sex, Freedom and Paradox – TIME

Archbishop of Westminster Praised Labour’s Sex Education Bill – Lifesite

April 24, 2010

Roeder files petition claiming that his rights have been violated – Kansas City Star

God would vote against abortion – In-Forum

Anti-abortion bill holds up action in Miss. Legislature – Jackson Clarion Ledger

Henry vetoes 2 abortion bills – Tulsa World

Pregnant 10 Year old Sparks Abortion Debate – E Canada Now

Nebraska gov’t puts new limits on abortion – The Militant

2nd funding ban on abortions passes Miss. House –

Anti-abortion bill to block foetal test results – Sydney Morning Herald

Dr. Tiller’s Assassin Complains That Life Is Unfair – Daily Kos

How about a defense attorney on the Supreme Court? – Washington Post

Britain sorry for papal condoms proposal – ABC Online

Lakas-Kampi solon lauds Noynoy’s RH stance – Manila Bulletin

Long-hated one-child rule may be eased in China – FOXNews

Promises the Pill Could Never Keep – New York Times

April 25, 2010

House passes abortion measure – Jackson Clarion Ledger

‘Abortions’ Pope gaffe – Sunday People

Nebraska legislation aimed at undoing Roe vs. Wade – Los Angeles Times

Apology over Pope ‘condom’ memo – BBC News

Wood, Kagan Are on High Court Short List, Again – Women’s eNews

Pope receives apology from UK Foreign Office for ‘condom’ memo – The Guardian

Budget cuts to health clinics catastrophic for families – The Times of Trenton –

The Pope and the Foreign Office: a colossal sense of humour failure –

British government memo jokes about Pope’s visit: He could open abortion … – New York Daily News

Boy faces adult trial in death of Pa. woman, fetus – The Associated Press

Tiahrt Pushes for Pro-life Protections in ObamaCare Law –

G8 ministers to act on maternal health despite budgets –

Abortion showdown looms in Legislature – KSWO

Feminists Protest Anti-choice Coalition – The Media Co-op

HPV vaccine should be a priority – Houston Chronicle

The Pill’s Impact, Past and Present –

Local effort helps women to take control – Tulsa World

Pope ‘could cancel UK visit’ over ‘offensive’ Foreign Office memo –

April 26, 2010

G8 development ministers in Halifax to lay groundwork for upcoming summit – Toronto Star

States seek new ways to restrict abortions – USA Today

Abortion bill takes aim at Roe v. Wade – Macon Telegraph

Sex numbers – Chicago Tribune

Seeing through Obama – Altoona Mirror

Blogs Comment On Mexican Abortion Laws, Health Reform Costs, Other Topics – Medical News Today

‘Foolish’ UK memo on Pope spurs apology  – National Post

Bring on the babies – University at Buffalo The Spectrum

What You Thought You Knew About the Pill – Daily Beast

Laurie Mazur: Time to put population control back on the environmental agenda – Capital Times

FDA nod for birth control pill – Pharmacy Europe

“The science is settled” – California Catholic Daily

Where AIDS’ grip is fierce – Albany Times Union

South Africa Redoubles Efforts Against AIDS – New York Times

Cutting AIDS funds risks “death sentence” – Reuters

India: The orphans of HIV – GlobalPost

Annual Conference on Vaccine Research to Highlight 40-Year Progress – PR Newswire

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.