Thursday, July 3, 2014

Spirit and Life: One Victory, but Many Battles Remain

This week, as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, the American people received a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in defense of religious freedom against the Obama administration's Health and Human Services contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate.

As Human Life International said in our statement on the decision, what was deeply disturbing about this case was the manipulation of scientific facts about when human life begins in order to support a radical political agenda promoting abortion. HLI Fellow Dr. Denise Hunnell goes into more detail about this and other factors to consider concerning the Hobby Lobby decision in her article this week on HLI's Truth and Charity Forum

Please continue to pray for the conversion of hearts and minds as we work to build a Culture of Life. May God bless you!  

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International

One Victory, but Many Battles Remain
by Denise Hunnell, M.D.
Since 2011, I have been continuously writing and speaking about the affront to religious liberty caused by the Affordable Care Act's mandated coverage of contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization. Therefore, it is with both satisfaction and relief that I read the Supreme Court decision declaring the imposition of the HHS Mandate on closely-held corporations such as Hobby Lobby is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). However, while we rejoice in this victory, it is important to look at the tactics used by those who support the HHS mandate, because we will see them again and again in the ongoing fight to defend the sanctity of human life and defend our right to live by our Catholic morals.

The HHS mandate was originally made possible because a biased panel put together by the Institute of Medicine declared that contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization met the criteria for essential preventive medical services. This was ludicrous from the start. Preventive medicine maintains the physiological functioning of biological systems and prevents disease. Pregnancy is not a disease and fertility is not a disorder. Hormonal contraceptives, abortifacients like Plan B and Ella, and surgical sterilization are purely elective medical interventions. They take healthy reproductive systems and make them non-functional.

Abortion advocates tried to argue that life begins at implantation instead of at conception, so drugs that disrupt pregnancy before implantation should cause no moral dilemma. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), a stalwart supporter of abortion on demand at any time for any reason, tried to bolster this position by defining pregnancy as beginning at implantation. However, science has clearly established that life begins at conception. Once fertilization occurs, the sperm and the ova cease to exist. They merge to form a completely new entity, the zygote. The zygote meets all scientific criteria for life and has the complete DNA of a new, unique human person at the earliest stage of development. Whether or not ACOG includes the first week of life occurring prior to implantation as part of the clinical definition of pregnancy cannot change the fact that human life exists during this week.

As the arguments against the HHS mandate focused more on religious liberty, the Obama administration made a conscious effort to avoid speaking of freedom of religion and instead used the term "freedom of worship." The First Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that the government cannot infringe upon the free exercise of religion, but through semantic manipulations the Administration tried to narrowly define this freedom as only applying to private liturgical and prayer practices and not to living one's faith in every aspect of life.

Finally, the supporters of the HHS mandate tried to paint those who opposed the legislation as waging a "war on women." The truth is, hormonal contraceptives cause a dramatic increase in the most aggressive forms of breast cancer in young women, double the transmission rates of HIV, as well as increase the risk of potentially fatal blood clots and strokes in young women. There is also clear evidence that abortion markedly increases the risk of breast cancer. Failure to speak plainly of these risks and depicting hormonal contraception and abortion as good for women constitutes the real war on women. 

At every turn, the Obama administration and its allies tried to use the HHS mandate to support their radical anti-life agenda. Their tactics did not involve reasoned arguments, because there really is no logical defense for promoting contraception and abortion as an essential benefit for women. Instead, they tried to redefine terms like "preventive medicine," "pregnancy," and even "human life" to distort the truth and justify their position.

We already see similar Orwellian word games with the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples or The State Department declaring gender a matter of self-determination, thus allowing passports to be marked "female" for individuals who are anatomically male but think of themselves as female. President Obama has promised to sign an executive order that would bar federal grants to or contracts to those who discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There has been no assurance of a religious exemption, so Catholic institutions that are faithful to the Catholic teachings on homosexuality could be considered discriminatory and thus ineligible for federal money. To our cultural adversaries, language is fungible and there is no objective reality.

So, yes, we can celebrate the Supreme Court decision and take comfort that in this case justice prevailed. However, we must not be complacent. Pope Francis, building on the words of Pope Benedict XVI, denounced the tyranny of relativism. In his first papal address to Vatican diplomats, he said:
But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
Therefore, we must continue to shine a bright light on the distortions and outright lies of those who seek to marginalize people of faith and ignore traditional religious principles. On issues of the sanctity of life, the defense of marriage and the family, and religious liberty we must always speak the truth boldly, in charity, but without compromise. Our goal cannot be mere political victories but instead must be the protection of all human life and ultimately the salvation of souls.

From Ocean to Ocean

On Friday July 4, the historic pro-life pilgrimage with the Black Madonna will reach the Pacific Ocean, traveling "from ocean to ocean" across the US. Read More...
by Father Peter West and Chris Morales

Our Lady's visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse anticipates her future visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Read More...