May 10, 2019


State, national action and film helping to build a culture of life

Need evidence that our continuous prayers are bearing fruit in the pro-life arena? Recent news not only in Indiana but on the national level demonstrate that various political leaders are listening to our message, and taking steps to strengthen the culture of life that so many of us believe should be a staple of our society. And a film is helping, too.

As reported in last week’s issue of The Criterion, the Indiana General Assembly recently passed a pair of pro‑life bills, which have since been signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcombe.

House Bill 1211 bans dismemberment abortion, an abortion method in the second trimester of pregnancy that involves tearing a live fetus apart in the uterus and extracting the unborn child piece by piece. Senate Bill 201 expands conscience protection rights beyond physicians and hospital employees to nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants, ensuring that they are not compelled to participate in abortion procedures if they object on moral grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana immediately challenged the dismemberment abortion law, but Mike Fichter, president and chief executive officer of Indiana Right to Life, said that the legislation is “on very solid constitutional ground.”

Providentially, a few days later the announcement nationally of a new conscience protection rule on May 2 protecting health care workers who object to abortion procedures on religious grounds was welcome news.

President Donald J. Trump announced the rule at the White House Rose Garden during a speech on the National Day of Prayer.

“Just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Trump said.

The rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and enforced by that department’s Office of Civil Rights, offers specific guidelines requiring hospitals, clinics and universities that receive federal funding through Medicare or Medicaid to certify that they comply with laws protecting conscience rights regarding abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.

Under the rule, medical workers or institutions would not have to provide, participate in or pay for procedures they object to on moral or religious grounds.

“Laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights in a May 2 statement.

“This rule ensures that health care entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life. Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in health care, it’s the law,” he added.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, issued a joint statement on May 2 commending the adoption of these new regulations to ensure existing laws protecting conscience rights in health care are enforced and followed.

The statement said these laws have been policy for years, but “the previous administration did not fully enforce them and now they are increasingly being violated.”

The bishops also pointed out that “conscience protection should not fluctuate as administrations change,” and stressed that Congress should provide “permanent legislative relief through passage of the Conscience Protection Act.”

Unplanned, a film released in late March based on the true story of Abby Johnson, a former pro-choice Planned Parenthood facility director turned national pro-life advocate, also drew national attention.

As expected, movie critics in the secular media had mixed reviews about the unwavering faith-based film. Nevertheless, the film ranked number four in box office ratings on its opening weekend, and eight the following weekend.

The film premiered during the annual spring “40 Days for Life” campaign, whose mission is “to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40-day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion.”

Shawn Carney, president and CEO of the “40 Days for Life” campaign, shared that the film’s inspirational message led some people to immediately go to a “40 Days” prayer vigil after they saw the film to pray for an end to abortion.

Let us thank God that the seeds of evangelization we are planting are bearing fruit in Indiana and around the country.

And let us pray that in our vocation as missionary disciples we continue to share our message of protecting all human life from conception to natural death.

—Mike Krokos

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