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Brown vetoes California bill that targeted religious employers’ policies

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Religious freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees.

Pro-life groups are praising California California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill that would prohibited religious employers from living out “their beliefs within their own organizations.” (CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPA)

Assembly Bill 569 would have made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for “their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service.”

Alliance Defending Freedom said the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers “from having faith-based codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior.”

The government “should not and cannot tell” employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a nonprofit legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage and family issues.

“Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California,” she added in a statement about the governor’s late-night action Oct. 15.

“The First Amendment doesn’t allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions,” Graves said. “They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same.”

The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, called the measure “a massive overreach by NARAL” and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it.

After A.B. 569 was passed by the California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto it.

It said the bill “deliberately” targeted religious employers “in a false effort to stop widespread ‘reproductive discrimination’ but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where such discrimination has actually occurred.”

“There are no substantiated claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are pregnant or exercise ‘reproductive choices’ because such actions have been illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act,” the conference said.

It noted the bill’s supporters could only point to one case in the state in the last decade “implicating a religious employer” and “that matter was settled out of court.”

“In a reach unknown in any other legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee’s family and holds supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of employers,” the conference said.

“With no restraint in sight,” the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, “even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts.”

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After furor over ‘litmus test’ remarks, DNC chair to meet with Democrats for Life leader

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a furor erupted over his statement that the Democratic Party should support only those candidates who support legal abortion, Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez will meet with the head of Democrats for Life of America, Kristen Day.

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Day, in a May 16 interview with Catholic News Service, said she had sought the meeting with Perez before he issued his statement prior to Democrat Heath Mello’s loss May 9 in the mayor’s race in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We’re still working on the date,” said Day, who added she had been able to meet with previous DNC chairs Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean, but not Perez’s predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Perez was criticized in pro-life circles when he said, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable,” adding, “We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who had given the invocation at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2012, called Perez’s remarks “disturbing.” The cardinal, who is chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic Party to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”

Many point to the flap as having contributed to the loss for Mello, a pro-life Democrat. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood had lashed out against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison, for saying they would stump for Mello in Omaha, calling it “politically stupid.”

Day disputes that assertion. Demanding adherence to a right to abortion “got us to where we are today,” she said, with 38 of the 50 states having Republican electoral majorities, 27 of them under full GOP control, compared to just five states where Democrats have full control. “The numbers kind of speak for themselves,” she said. “And when we push pro-life Democrats out of the party, this is what happens.”

At the federal level, “this abortion litmus test has hurt us dramatically. If you look at 30 years ago in the United States House, we had 135 pro-life Democrats and a 292-seat majority. Today, we have 30. We can’t get the majority we want without electing pro-life Democrats. The number of pro-choice Democrats has stayed at about 185, 180. If we want to follow NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s strategy, we’re going to stay there” in the minority, Day said.

She added Mello didn’t help his own cause when he said he was “personally pro-life” after “NARAL came into the district and badgered him.” “It’s not a winning position. You can’t do that with any issue,” Day said. “It just sounds ridiculous. If you say, ‘I believe climate change is real but I’m not going to vote that way,’ or ‘I believe guns are harming society but I’m not going to vote for any gun control legislation,’ nobody would vote for you.”

The definition of “pro-life” is “different in different parts of the country,” Day told CNS. “In some districts, like in Michigan where I’m from, if you run in Detroit, running as pro-life won’t get you very far but if you run as a pro-life Democrat in the Upper Peninsula, you have a pretty good chance of winning, or in Bay City. The party needs people who match the district rather than finding people with California values and running them instead.”

Despite the recent controversy, or maybe because of it, “I expect it be a really good meeting,” Day said. “Actually with Dean, there were 18 of us. It was a pretty good dialogue.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Colorado bishops oppose ‘radical’ abortion bill

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Catholic News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The three Catholic bishops of Colorado sent letters April 14 to state legislators urging opposition to a bill aimed at defining abortion as a fundamental right in the state of Colorado.

The bill, S.B. 175, was introduced by state Democratic Sens. Andy Kerr and Jeanne Nicholson and state Democratic Reps. Dianne Primavera and Mike McLachlan.

On April 10, the measure passed on a 4-3 party line vote by the Democratic-majority Senate Health and Human Services Committee and now moves to the Senate floor.

A Senate hearing was scheduled for the afternoon of April 15, and Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was to lead a prayer vigil at the Capitol while the hearing took place.

The letter to legislators, signed by Archbishop Aquila and Bishops Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Stephen J. Berg of Pueblo, followed an April 11 open letter from the Denver archbishop calling on “all Coloradans of Good will” to devote 10 minutes to prayer for the defeat of the proposed bill.

Supporters of S.B. 175 say it aims to protect freedom of conscience from government interference in an individual’s reproductive health decisions.

The bill proposes “to prohibit a state or local policy that denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions or a state or local policy regarding reproductive health care that is inconsistent with, or that denies or interferes with access to information based on, current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus.”

However, the Colorado Catholic Conference, the legislative arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, released an analysis April 8 that shows the bill is not quite what it appears to be.

“This is a radical bill that would create a fundamental right to abortion among other things defined as reproductive health care in this bill,” said the conference’s executive director, Jennifer Kraska.

“No Colorado state governmental body at any level would be able to enact any common-sense policy that ‘denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decision,’” she said. “This bill is an attempt to convince the people of Colorado that their ability to make choices concerning their reproductive healthcare will somehow be hindered — which couldn’t be further from the truth.”

She called S.B. 175 “an extreme piece of legislation that would have a destructive impact on Colorado’s ability to limit or regulate abortion and other items defined as ‘reproductive healthcare’ in this bill.”

“It has the potential,” she continued, “to eliminate a broad range of laws including: parental notification laws, parental involvement laws, laws promoting maternal health, government programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth and other health care without subsidizing abortion, conscience protections laws, laws requiring that abortion only be performed by a licensed physician, laws regulating school health clinics, laws concerning abstinence education, laws affecting pregnancy centers and so on.”

Among the bill’s supporters are NARAL Pro-Choice America and its Colorado affiliate; the organization claims that this will be the first bill of its kind passed in the country.

In a recent statement, NARAL said that S.B. 175 will prevent “attacks on women’s health” that have come in the form of pro-life bills that restrict abortion access being passed in other states the past year. NARAL has mobilized advocates of legal abortion to support the bill.

According to Kraska, S.B. 175 is essentially a state Freedom of Choice Act, or FOCA, that goes further than simply upholding a so-called right to abortion.

“It affects rights to anything defined as ‘reproductive health care,’” Kraska said.

In S.B. 175, “reproductive health care” is defined as: “treatment, services, procedures, supplies, products, devices or information related to human sexuality, contraception, pregnancy, abortion or assisted reproduction.”

A federal FOCA measure was last introduced in the 110th Congress (2007-2009) and went nowhere. But as introduced, it declared that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the “fundamental right” to terminate a pregnancy. The act would prohibit government at every level — federal, state and local — from “interfering” with a woman’s decision to have an abortion and from “discriminating” against the exercise of such a right.

FOCA was first introduced in 1989. Abortion groups feared that the Supreme Court was retreating from its 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision and began a drive to establish an even more expansive right to abortion on statutory grounds.

Karna Swanson, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Denver, told the Denver Catholic Register that the Colorado bill could “be a devastating blow that would firmly establish a culture of death in Colorado.

“The pro-life movement has been working for decades to promote legislation that protects life and promotes a culture that is life-giving and life-affirming. This legislation directly attacks those efforts, and threatens to sever that most beautiful bond between mother and child.”

Swanson said the bill could threaten pro-life initiatives in Colorado that help mothers with unplanned pregnancies.

 By Bill Howard

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