Friday, March 30, 2012

Today on Kresta in the Afternoon - March 30, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on March 30

4:00-6:00 – Pope Benedict XVI and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus-a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection is Pope Benedict XVI’s follow-up to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordon to the Transfiguration. As we prepare to enter Holy Week we talk to Doug Bushman of the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University, Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press, Tim Gray of the Augustine Institute and Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries.

Vatican archbishop stresses God's love for the autistic

(EWTN) — Autistic people bear a “profound suffering” but are passionately loved by God, says the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

The Catholic Church must walk alongside of autism sufferers and their families “to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said in his April 2 message for the Fifth World Autism Day, published by Vatican Radio.

To God’s loving hands, he said, “we entrust the lives of so many of our autistic brothers and sisters and their families who, although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, are never alone.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported March 29 that an estimated 1 in 88 U.S. children have been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. Disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls.

The findings represent a sharp increase over previous years, showing that the rate of autism has doubled in the U.S. since 2002. The report has raised questions about whether the high rate increase reflects increased awareness, an increase in environmental causes of the disorders, or incorrect diagnoses, Reuters reported.

In Europe, an estimated 60 in 10,000 children are affected by autism, Vatican Radio said.

Archbishop Zimowski noted in his message that autistic spectrum disorders create a “grave” alteration of behavior, communication, and social integration and have a wide-ranging effect on the normal development of the personality.

Victims’ sufferings can also create frustration and resignation among both themselves and their families, he said.

However, the Church is committed to being “traveling companions” of autism sufferers, following the example of the Good Samaritan. The Church also aims to be “the house of the Father where everyone can find the fullness of human and divine love,” he added.

Archbishop Zimowski praised the devotion of families, communities, health care workers, educators and volunteers who help autism sufferers. He called for more scientific research and health care policy that addresses autism.

He said that every human person has a dignity that “even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate.” This dignity fills Christians with hope, because they are nourished by the redemption of “the glorious Cross of Christ.”

North Korea missile launches raise tensions

(The Guardian) — North Korea's test-launch of two short-range missiles this week has raised anxiety levels in the region, as the regime in Pyongyang prepares to defy international opinion with the launch next month of a long-range rocket, which many believe is connected to its ballistic missile programme

South Korean defence officials said that North Korea had launched two surface-to-ship missiles from a site on its west coast early on Wednesday, a day after world leaders attending a nuclear security summit in Seoul urged the regime to cancel the rocket launch and return to six-party nuclear talks.

North Korea insists that the forthcoming launch, which is expected around 15 April to coincide with the centenary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-sung, is designed to put an observation satellite into orbit.

The US, South Korea and Japan, however, say it would be a violation of UN security council resolutions banning North Korea from missile activity, as the same technology could be developed for use in multistage missiles, including those capable of hitting the US mainland.

If the launch goes ahead it will immediately kill off a deal, which was reached at the end of February, in which the US agreed to provide 240,000 tonnes of food aid provided that Pyongyang end its uranium enrichment programme and tests of long-range and nuclear missiles.

The prospect of a fourth North Korean long-range missile launch since 1998 is causing disquiet across the region, partly due to concerns that it will veer off course and potentially dump debris on its neighbours' territory.

On Friday Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa urged North Korea to abandon the launch, saying it would "undermine peace and stability in the region".

The Philippine president, Benigno Aquino, said he was concerned that debris may fall on his country's territory, calling the planed launch a "needless provocation".

Japan is concerned that the rocket may fly over the southern island chain of Okinawa and has ordered its self-defence forces to intercept the rocket or its fragments if they pose a threat.

In an unusual show of transparency, Pyongyang has told the international maritime organisation that the rocket will be launched between 7am and noon from 12-16 April. The first stage of the Unha-3 rocket will come down about 87 miles (140km) off the west coast of South Korea, while the second will fly over a chain near the main Okinawa island before falling into the sea east of the northern Philippines.

Japan's defence minister, Naoki Tanaka, said the odds of the rocket striking Japan were low, but added: "We want to be fully prepared for the possibility of rocket fragments falling on our territory."

Japan will deploy ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles in its south-west and Okinawa, and send three Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying missile defence systems to the Japan Sea and East China Sea.

Experts doubt Japan has the ability to shoot down the rocket in mid-flight; instead, the precautionary moves appear to be aimed at reassuring the public that Tokyo is taking North Korea's latest provocation seriously.

The planned launch is causing particular alarm in Japan, which is already within striking distance of North Korea's medium-range Rodong missiles.

In a report published on Friday, the national institute for defence studies in Tokyo warned that North Korea's progress on nuclear technology, coupled with recent regime change, had increased the risk of conflict breaking out in the region.

Satellite images taken earlier this week show North Korea is making preparations for the missile launch from its Tongchang-ri site, located about 35 miles from the northern border with China. Expert analysis showed trucks and fuel tanks outside two large buildings used to store propellant for the rocket, although the rocket itself was not visible.

Conscience concerns could prove decisive in health care ruling

Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News)—Inadequate conscience protections may lead the Supreme Court to reject the 2010 health care law, a Jesuit priest and legal scholar predicted after three days of arguments in the historic case.

“I think there are sufficient problems with the bill, as passed, that the justices could say: 'This is unconstitutional,'” Father Robert J. Araujo, S.J., told CNA on March 29.

“There are certainly those problems that have been in the news, and I think there are some other ones. For example – the question of conscience, and conscience protection.”

“This is a very complicated law, and the more we examine it, we see more problems and concerns,” noted Fr. Araujo, who holds the John Courtney Murray Professorship at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

“I tend to think that's on the minds of the lawyers and the justices: 'Are we going to see more litigation, if we don't resolve these conscience-protection and other issues?'”

“That's why I see an opportunity for the court to say: 'Look, there are some serious problems with this legislation. Congress has done a lot of work, (but) it's their responsibility to write a law that will pass constitutional muster and judicial review.”

The court's March 26-28 period of questioning focused on the law's “individual mandate,” which requires virtually all citizens to obtain health insurance.

Most observers believe the law's fate will hinge upon whether the requirement is judged to be a means of regulating interstate commerce – as the Obama administration maintains – or an unconstitutional overtaking of states' power by the federal government.

Fr. Araujo thinks the law is unlikely to be upheld either fully or in part.

“Having followed the arguments and the questions, I don't think the likelihood of a complete vindication is very strong,” the Loyola University professor predicted on March 29.

He also has doubts about the law being upheld with some portions removed – because legislators did not include a “severability” provision that would allow some parts to stand if others, such as the individual mandate, were struck down.

Although the main issue before the court is the individual insurance mandate, the Jesuit professor thinks other aspects of the law will factor into the court's decision as well – including the widely-criticized contraception and sterilization mandate, a federal rule made as part of the health care law's implementation.

The Supreme Court justices, he said, realize that there are constitutional concerns surrounding “who exactly is going to be paying for what” under the law, and “how that might affect their own moral concerns, which are constitutionally protected.”

If the law is upheld, the justices could reasonably expect challenges to continue on different constitutional grounds – including the free exercise of religion, a factor in eight states' current lawsuits  against the law's contraception mandate.

The result could be “a repetition of what we've seen so far,” with various lawsuits advancing in federal court seeking “review of the legality of certain provisions” in the health care law.

“There are lots of concerns with this legislation,” Fr. Araujo said. “Do we want to have another 'go-around' in the not-too-distant future, on other elements?”

Health care, the priest and professor noted, is a pressing issue that seriously affects millions of people.

But the Obama administration, he suggested, should not have attempted to solve it in a manner that was both constitutionally questionable and morally provocative.

Although the Church regards health care as a right that should be secured for all members of society, opinions differ as to how this should be achieved in practice. The Catholic notion of “subsidiarity” requires that problems be solved by the lowest level of competent authority.

Some Catholic critics of the health care law have invoked this concept as a criticism of the federal health care reform, which they say could have been better handled by the individual states.

“I think in its own way, the U.S. Constitution – under the Tenth Amendment – in part addresses this important concept of subsidiarity,” Fr. Araujo said, citing the provision by which the powers not given to the federal government by the constitution “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

“What might be proper for Florida may not work in California,” the Loyola University professor noted. “The states do have a proper, lawful role in determining what is good and what is not for their citizenry. That's how I see the subsidiarity rule playing out in the U.S. Constitution.”

“The program Massachusetts legislated a few years ago is not without its problems or faults,” Fr. Araujo observed, recalling legislation signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. “But the state was addressing the issue of health care for its citizens.”

CNA also spoke on March 29 with Professor Michael Scaperlanda, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma and contributes to the Catholic law blog “Mirror of Justice.”

Scaperlanda has criticized the federal government's individual insurance mandate as unconstitutional. On Thursday, however, he held off from making any predictions as to whether the health care law would be upheld in part or in full by the Supreme Court.

But he noted that there were good reasons for Catholics to prefer state-level solutions to the problem of securing health care for all.

At the state level, he noted, a requirement for individuals to purchase insurance could be squared with both the Constitution and Catholic social teaching.

If the federal health care law is overturned, Scaperlanda is hopeful that solutions for the uninsured, and those with preexisting conditions, can be found at a lower level of authority.

“One reason would be, that our state legislators are much more accessible to us than our federal legislators,” he explained.

“I'm Facebook friends with several of my state legislators; I can have conversations with them. They're much more in tune to the values of people in the community than people in Washington.”

Similarly, individual states would have greater freedom to experiment to see which policies best solve the complex problems of health care reform. Other states could adopt policies that are shown to work, and more local control would make it easier to change those that do not achieve results.

“Multiple heads are better than one,” Scaperlanda said.

“Having different proposals and solutions, and watching to see what works, leads to a better solution than having a small group of policy experts tell us what's going to work and then hoping for the best.”

Pope is now back in Rome

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today on Kresta in the Afternoon - March 29, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on March 29

The Best of Kresta in the Afternoon

4:00 - The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know -- and Men Can't Say
What if everything you've been told about women in America is wrong? What if what your college professors taught you - along with television, movies, books, magazine articles, and even news reports - have all been lies or distortions? Since the 1960s, American feminists have set themselves up as the arbiters of all things female. Their policies have dominated the social and political landscape. The "spin sisters" in the media (aptly named by Myrna Blyth in her book of the same name) and their cohorts in academia are committed feminists. Consequently, everything Americans know -- or think they know -- about marriage, kids, sex, education, politics, gender roles, and work/family balance, has been filtered through a left-wing lens. But what if conservative women are in the best position to empower American women? Suzanne Venker is here to discuss it.

5:00 – History in His Hands: A Christian Narrative of the West
By writing as if God did not exist, professional historians have stripped history of its meaning. But in a courageous challenge to his fellow scholars, Harvard-trained historian Brennan Pursell shows why denying the central truth about man cripples our understanding of history. Dr. Pursell argues that history is much more than man's encounter with economic, social, or psychological forces. It is, as St. Augustine saw, the story of man's love--the love of wealth and power or the love of God. He joins us

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today on Kresta in the Afternoon - March 28, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on March 28

4:00 – Beyond The Birds And The Bees: Raising Sexually Whole And Holy Kids
"The Talk." It's one of the most daunting prospects parents face. Communicating the richness of Catholic teaching on sexuality in a faithful and effective way can be an overwhelming responsibility. But does it have to be so? In this thoroughly revised re-release of Beyond the Birds and the Bees, popular marriage and family counselor Gregory Popcak empowers parents with the tools needed to move well beyond "The Talk" by offering a comprehensive guide to raising sexually whole and holy children. Dr. Popcak joins us.

5:00 – The Liberty Intrigue
Ross Egan has quietly labored for years in the West African nation of Dutannuru—a tiny republican democracy that emerged from the wreckage of the brutal civil war that claimed the brilliant engineer’s wife and child. When a neighboring despot threatens Dutannuru with renewed violence, Egan is abruptly thrust onto the world stage at the center of the deadly international crisis. Egan’s actions and resulting notoriety land him on the short list of individuals capable of challenging the progressive incumbent for the presidency of the United States—if only he can be convinced to run. A political neophyte, Egan is intrigued by the challenge of unseating a ruthless political operator seen by some as the most dangerously leftist president in the nation’s history. To win the White House, Egan must mount the most unorthodox presidential campaign ever attempted — and navigate through a daunting new world marked by character assassination, high-level corruption, armed raids, and political murder. It’s the latest novel by Tom Grace, perfectly timed for this election cycle.

Michigan militia members cleared of conspiracy

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday gutted the government's case against seven members of a Michigan militia, dismissing the most serious charges in an extraordinary defeat for federal authorities who insisted they had captured homegrown rural extremists poised for war.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members' expressed hatred of law enforcement didn't amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the government. The FBI had secretly planted an informant and an FBI agent inside the Hutaree militia starting in 2008 to collect hours of anti-government audio and video that became the cornerstone of the case.

"The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level," the judge said on the second anniversary of raids and arrests that broke up the group.

Roberts granted requests for acquittal on the most serious charges: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the U.S. and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Other weapons crimes tied to the alleged conspiracies also were dismissed.

"The judge had a lot of guts," defense attorney William Swor said. "It would have been very easy to say, 'The heck with it,' and hand it off to the jury. But the fact is she looked at the evidence, and she looked at it very carefully."

The trial, which began Feb. 13, will resume Thursday with only a few gun charges remaining against militia leader David Stone and son Joshua Stone, both from Lenawee County, Mich. They have been in custody without bond for two years.

Prosecutors said Hutaree members were anti-government rebels who combined training and strategy sessions to prepare for a violent strike against federal law enforcement, triggered first by the slaying of a police officer.
But there never was an attack. Defense lawyers said highly offensive remarks about police and the government were wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case that drew public praise from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who in 2010 called Hutaree a "dangerous organization."

David Stone's "statements and exercises do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government," Roberts said Tuesday. "His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for — perhaps even desire to fight or kill — law enforcement; this is not the same as seditious conspiracy."
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined to comment. Two years ago, when militia members were arrested, she said it was time to "take them down."

The FBI had put a local informant, Dan Murray, inside the militia in 2008 and paid him $31,000. An FBI agent from New Jersey also was embedded. Steve Haug, known as "Jersey Steve," posed as a trucker and spent months secretly recording talks with Stone. He even served as Stone's best man at his wedding, a celebration with militia members wearing military fatigues.

Haug repeatedly talked to Stone about building pipe bombs and getting other sophisticated explosives. The FBI rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor where the agent would invite him and others to store and discuss weapons.

Haug told jurors he was "shocked" by Stone's knowledge of explosives, noting it matched some of his own instruction as a federal agent.

Stone was recorded saying he was willing to kill police and even their families. He considered them part of a "brotherhood" — a sinister global authority that included federal law enforcers and United Nations troops.
He had bizarre beliefs: Stone suspected Germany and Singapore had aircraft stationed in Texas, and thousands of Canadian troops were poised to take over Michigan. He said the government put computer chips in a flu vaccine.

He had a speech prepared for a regional militia gathering in Kentucky in 2010, but bad weather forced him and others to return to Michigan. Instead, he read it in the van while a secret camera installed by the FBI captured the remarks.

"It is time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny," Stone said. "Time is up, God bless all of you and welcome to the new revolution."

Swor said Stone is a Christian who was bracing for war against the Antichrist.
"This is not the United States government. This is Satan's army," Swor told the judge Monday, referring to the enemy.

Militia members cleared of all charges were Stone's wife, Tina Stone, and his son, David Stone Jr.; Thomas Piatek, of Whiting, Ind.; Michael Meeks, of Manchester, Mich.; and Kris Sickles, of Sandusky, Ohio.
"It's hard to believe it's over," said Tina Stone, crying as she spoke by phone. "Thank God we live in a country where we do have freedom of speech."

Joshua Clough, of Blissfield, Mich., pleaded guilty to a weapons charge in December and awaits his sentence. Jacob Ward, of Huron, Ohio, will have a separate trial.

Arab ministers want Syria to halt crackdown

BAGHDAD (AP) — Arab countries, divided over how to stop Syria's bloodshed, plan to call for the Syrian regime to halt its crackdown on civilians, let in humanitarian groups and free detainees, according to recommendations Wednesday by foreign ministers preparing for a summit this week.

Even before Arab heads of state began their Thursday summit in the Iraqi capital, Syria sharply rejected any measures they take. A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdessi, said Damascus would "not deal with any initiative" that might come out of the 22-member Arab League.

The rejection reflected Damascus' refusal to work with the League after the pan-Arab body suspended Syria's membership as punishment for the bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad. The U.N. says that over the past year more than 9,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Arab countries are divided over how aggressively to intervene in Syria's turmoil. Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are believed to want to start providing weapons to Syria's rebels and even carve out a "safe area" inside the country that the opposition can use as a staging ground.

Iraq, the host of this week's summit, is more cautious. Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government is close to Iran, Assad's closest ally, and is wary of hurting those ties. On Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Arab foreign ministers gathered in Baghdad that his country rejects foreign intervention in Syria but supports what he called the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and democracy.

"We stress our full support to the aspirations and legitimate demands of the Syrian people to freedom and democracy and their right to determine their future, choose their leaders and the peaceful transition for power," said Zebari, a Kurd.

Assad's regime on Tuesday announced its acceptance of an initiative by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan calling for a cease-fire. However, violence continued with clashes between government forces and armed rebels. Syria's opposition is deeply skeptical that Assad will carry out the terms of the peace plan.

Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday were working out recommendations for the heads of state to approve when they meet here Thursday. According to draft recommendations obtained by The Associated Press, the summit would call on Assad to implement a cease-fire, let in humanitarian aid and release all those detained the past year. It also demands he allow peaceful protests, withdraw army troops from urban centers and implement previous Arab League proposals to end the conflict.

Speaking before Zebari, Libya's foreign minister, Ashour Ben Khayil, was much more forceful about the conflict in Syria.

"We witness the tragedy of our brothers in beloved Syria who have, for more than a year, face a tyrannical and harsh regime. Regrettably, the world stands by, unable to take decisive action," he said. "What we witness every day across Syria is genocide ... against a people whose only sin is that they demanded freedom and dignity."

Libya, where longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed last year, hosted the last Arab summit, in 2010. Last year's Arab Spring upheavals led to the canceling of the summit, meant to be held in Iraq.

Opposition members accuse Assad of agreeing to Annan's plan to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to kill off bastions of dissent.

"We are not sure if it's political maneuvering or a sincere act," said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. "We have no trust in the current regime. ... We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians."

Annan's plan calls on Damascus to immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas and to commit to a daily two-hour halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations.

Gulf Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been pushing behind the scenes for more assertive action to end the Syria conflict. Privately, they see little benefit in the Arab League's efforts to reach a peaceful settlement and prefer instead to see a small core of nations pooling together to act on their own.
Among the options they are considering are arming the Syrian rebels and creating a safe haven for the opposition alongside the Turkish-Syrian border to serve as a humanitarian sphere or staging ground for anti-regime forces.

The Sunni-led Gulf countries are hoping that by forcing Assad's fall they can pull Sunni-majority Syria out of its alliance with Iran and break the belt of Tehran's influence that stretches through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

A Sunni-ruled Syria would give the U.S.-allied Gulf Arabs a significant victory in their long-running power struggle with non-Arab, mainly Shiite Iran.

In a sign of their cool ties with Baghdad's Shiite leadership, most — perhaps all — rulers of the Gulf nations were likely to stay away from the summit and send lower-level officials. Jordan's King Abdullah, also a Sunni, is not attending, sending his prime minister in his place, the government announced.
Shiite-ruled Iraq is hosting the summit to show that it has emerged from years of turmoil and American occupation. But a massive security operation in Baghdad mirrors fears that Sunni militants could try and disrupt the meetings.

Central Baghdad was virtually deserted on Wednesday, with hundreds of heavily armed troops and policemen deployed in full combat gear. The summit venue is a palace once used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and is located inside the "Green Zone," a highly secure area on the west bank of the Tigris River where the Iraqi prime minister's office and the U.S. and the British embassies are also located.

Justices study whether U.S. can require people to buy insurance

(Detroit Free Press) WASHINGTON -- The fate of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul was in peril Tuesday as the Supreme Court's conservative justices sharply questioned its core requirement that virtually every American carry insurance.

The court will now take up whether any remnant of the reform can survive if that linchpin fails.

The justices' questions in Tuesday's hearing carried serious implications but were sometimes flavored with fanciful suggestions. If the government can force people to buy health insurance, justices wanted to know, can it require people to buy cell phones? Broccoli?

The law would affect nearly all Americans and extend insurance coverage to 30 million people who now lack it. The court focused on whether the mandate for Americans to have insurance "is a step beyond what our cases allow," in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

But Kennedy, who is often the swing vote on cases that divide the justices along ideological lines, also said he recognized the magnitude of the nation's health care problems and seemed to suggest they would require a comprehensive solution.

He and Chief Justice John Roberts emerged as the apparent pivotal votes in the court's decision. The ruling is due in June in the midst of a presidential election campaign that has focused in part on the new law.

Today's final arguments -- the third day of hearings -- are to focus on whether the rest of the law can remain even if the insurance mandate is struck down and, separately, on the constitutionality of another provision expanding the federal-state Medicaid program.

The insurance requirement is intended to complement two unchallenged provisions of the law that require insurers to cover people regardless of existing medical conditions and limit how much they can charge in premiums based on a person's age or health.

The law envisions that insurers will be able to accommodate older and sicker people without facing financial ruin because the insurance requirement will provide insurance companies with more premiums from healthy people to cover the increased costs of care.

'A heavy burden'

The biggest issue, to which the justices returned repeatedly during two hours of arguments, was whether the government can force people to buy insurance.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appear likely to join with Justice Clarence Thomas -- the only justice who didn't ask any questions -- to vote to strike down the key provision of the overhaul. The four Democratic appointees seemed ready to vote to uphold it.

Roberts also spoke about the uniqueness of health care, which almost everyone will use.

"Everybody is in this market, so that makes it very different than the market for cars or the other hypotheticals that you came up with, and all they're regulating is how you pay for it," Roberts said, paraphrasing the government's argument.

Everyone is affected

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. sought to assure the court that the insurance mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Obama signed into law in 2010 is a key part of the law's goal of reaching many of the more than 40 million people who don't have health insurance through their employers, don't qualify for government aid and cannot afford to buy coverage on their own.

Paul Clement, who is representing Florida and 25 other states -- including Michigan -- in challenging the law, called the mandate "an unprecedented effort by Congress."

Clement said the requirement would force people, especially those who are young and healthy, to buy a product they don't want.

Michael Carvin, representing the National Federation of Independent Business in opposing the law, also pushed hard on the notion of individual freedom. When Justice Stephen Breyer asked whether the federal government could order vaccinations "if there was some terrible epidemic sweeping the United States," Carvin said Congress lacks the power to do so.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she found the debate over health care similar to an earlier era's argument about the Social Security retirement system. How could Congress be able to compel younger workers to contribute to Social Security but be limited in its ability to address health care? she wondered.

"There's something very odd about that, that the government can take over the whole thing and we all say, 'Oh, yes, that's fine,' but if the government wants to preserve private insurers, it can't do that," she said.

Scalia and Roberts noted that the health care overhaul law would make people get insurance for things they may not need, such as heart transplants or pregnancy services. "You can't say that everybody is going to participate in substance abuse services," Roberts said.

On the other hand, Ginsburg said, "The people who don't participate in this market are making it more expensive for those who do."

Pro-life provisions in US bishops' grant ruled unconstitutional

(EWTN) A federal judge sparked criticism after he ruled unconstitutional the government's accommodation of pro-life beliefs in an anti-human trafficking contract with the U.S. bishops.
“The bishops are disappointed and probably will appeal. This is another assault on the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' conference, told EWTN News March 27.

The bishops' contract proposal for a major five-year grant was approved in 2006 under the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act. The proposal contained language ensuring that its victim services are not used to “refer or fund activities that would be contrary to our moral convictions and religious beliefs.”
It stated that subcontractors could not provide or refer for abortion services or contraceptive materials for its clients.

On March 23 U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns said that the government violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “insofar as they delegated authority to a religious organization to impose religiously based restrictions on the expenditure of taxpayer funds, and thereby impliedly endorsed the religious beliefs of the USCCB and the Catholic Church.”

The District of Massachusetts judge said the case is not about government forcing a religious institution to act contrary to its fundamental beliefs, but about “the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts had challenged the funding, which totaled $19 million and served over 2,700 trafficking victims.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, praised the decision.
“The court is right to insist that organizations receiving government funding cannot use their religion as an excuse to discriminate and withhold crucial services from victims of human trafficking,” she said March 24.
The bishops' grant ended on Oct. 10, 2011 amid controversy over the Obama administration’s decision not to renew the contract. In November of 2011, The Washington Post reported that political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services decided against the grant despite staffers’ recommendation that it continue based on an independent review board’s high scores for the USCCB.

George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, said in December of 2011 that the administration decided that the grants would go to the groups that would offer referrals for “family planning services” and “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

But Steven Wagner, former director of the HHS department that administered funds for human trafficking programs, told EWTN News in a Dec. 1 interview that the funding initiative was created with the understanding that abortion and contraception were “totally inappropriate” to provide to those seeking aid.
Wagner, who from 2003 to 2006 helped design the assistance program for trafficking victims, said that none of the original grant applicants sought to provide referrals for contraception or abortion.
He warned that the administration was placing trafficking victims at “tremendous risk” by placing them in the hands of less-qualified organizations.

Abortion and contraception are not among the needs of trafficking victims that the federal program should seek to address, he added.

Sex traffickers often benefit from abortion because it allows their victims to be “back on the market” sooner. There are also problems with abortion clinics facilitating trafficking by providing abortions but failing to report suspected trafficking to authorities, Wagner said.

Pope Benedict's First Day in Cuba: Face-Off of Worldviews

(NCR) On his first day in Cuba, images of joy and beauty inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the island were offset by sinister, controlling gestures from the Cuban regime. 
And just below the surface roils a culture clash, a weltanschauung face-off, pitting two comprehensive philosophies of the universe against each other: Christianity vs. communism.

From the Pope’s first hour in Cuba, the afternoon of March 26, observers could sense the deep contrast.
The Holy Father, dazzling in white from head to ankle, projecting his typically humble demeanor, was met by the intense visage of President Raul Castro in a business suit and rose-tinted sunglasses.
Twenty-one old cannons punctuated the blazing day with a salute that was too close for comfort; an honor guard goose-stepped across the worn tarmac in a vaguely anachronistic military greeting.

Referencing the historical visit of Blessed John Paul II to Cuba 14 years ago, the Pope credited his predecessor with initiating a new phase of cooperation between Church and state on the island, while calling for “greater progress” in the future, especially regarding “the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society.”

The Pope described progress as requiring “an ethics which focuses on the human person” as opposed to the self-described needs of the state and its rulers.

He aligned himself, several times, with the aspirations of “all Cubans, wherever they may be,” for justice, peace, liberty and reconciliation. With more than 2 million Cubans comprising an active diaspora, most living in the United States, the Church has long emphasized reconciliation to defy physical separation and reduce animosity.

For his part, President Castro railed against the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, a Cold War policy the Cuban leadership has blamed for most of its own economic failure.
He also testily assured the Pope that Cuba is already “changing all that needs to be changed” — thank you very much.

A few hours later, the Pope arrived in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square to offer Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation before at least 200,000 people. The plaza was a welcoming sea of radiant people. Ecstatic crowds of jubilant Cubans surged to embrace the popemobile.

Pope Benedict made his way to a delicate marine-blue-and-white altar structure under arches that created a giant “M” for Mary. Behind the altar, a 50-foot sculpture of a 19th-century independence leader on a rearing horse (facing 23 massive machetes) created a dramatic backdrop. 
A local choir of enthusiastic singers and musicians animated the assembly.

But just before doves were released from the altar to start Mass, a young man in a baseball cap who began shouting “Down with Communism!” and “Freedom!” in Spanish was tackled by plainclothes security.
As authorities hustled the protester away, a burly man in a Red Cross T-shirt was caught on film slapping the man, then beating him over the head with a pole.

There were other disturbing signs: Erratic Twitter posts reported that some regime opponents were forcibly blocked from attending the Mass.

The state entity that controls electronic communication on the island decided to restrict Internet access and SMS capability until March 29 — after the Pope departs Cuba.

And unlike most open-air Masses in cities around the world, there were no jumbo screens, meaning that few participants could even see the Pope, let alone participate in the liturgy.
So the somber Mass in Santiago de Cuba unfolded, led by a clearly exhausted Holy Father. His homily was a serious catechism on the significance of the Annunciation, honoring family, commitment and, of course, the Blessed Mother. 

He acknowledged the many daily challenges facing Cuban families struggling to survive under stress and in dismal living conditions, which affect almost everyone, outside the ruling elite.
Pope Benedict ended with a forward-looking vision aimed at the island’s souls: “I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity and which better reflects the goodness of God.”

Then scores of neatly dressed believers received Communion from the Pope’s delicate hands.
Above, everyone gazed the diminutive 400-year-old figurine of Our Lady of Charity, whose jubilee anniversary provided reason for the papal visit.

And in her honor, the Pope ended the liturgy by bestowing on her a golden rose, an ancient Catholic tradition and the 12th golden rose Benedict has given. In this case, it seemed to reward the Marian image for receiving countless prayers and tears throughout the years.

The golden rose also honors the Cuban people, since the miraculous icon is their patroness.
As the Holy Father turned from Our Lady, he was seized by Raul Castro, who had hurtled up steep steps to meet the Pope on the altar.

It was as though the president had awkwardly, and against any protocol, injected himself into the Mass.
Like a theatrical producer eager to garner kudos for a successful performance, Raul demonstrated that he intends to take credit — and try to control — every aspect of the Pope’s time on the island.
Pope Benedict overnighted in a priestly residence in the foothills of the Sierra Maestro Mountains, where the basilica of El Cobre holds Our Lady of Charity. He will pray in the shrine this morning before flying to Havana, where he meets in the afternoon with, once again, Raul Castro.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Today on Kresta in the Afternoon - March 27, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on March 27

4:00 – The Sacred Heart for Lent: Daily Meditations
As we continue through the season of Lent, Fr. Thomas Williams is here to help us have the most productive lent possible. The Sacred Heart for Lent: Daily Meditations offers an entry for each day of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday. The simple meditations, based on Sacred Scripture, are meant to accompany a Christian's journey through Lent by helping us to know Christ's heart more intimately, love him more deeply, and imitate him more perfectly. Just because we are closing in on the end of Lent, it’s not to late to make the most of it.

4:40 – Kresta Comments

5:00 – HHS Mandate Confusion: It’s Not About Access To Contraception
Just as the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s confirmed, discrimination against any person or entity on the basis of who they are, directly contradicts our founding principles; our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Discrimination on the basis of who we are and what we believe is absolutely unacceptable. We talk to David Wilson about what the HHS Mandate is and is not.

5:20 – In 3 Decades, 1,000 Missionaries Slain
According to a report published Wednesday by the Rome-based Fides news agency, at least 1,000 missionaries were killed in the period from 1980 to 2011. In the years 1980-89 there are 115 deaths among missionaries recorded. This number is below the true total, Fides said, as it only refers to confirmed cases. In the following decade there was a sharp increase in deaths, for a total of 604. In the period 2001-11 there were 255 recorded deaths among missionaries. In the most recent year, 2011 there were 26 missionaries killed: 18 priests, 4 women religious, and 4 laypeople. We talk about the circumstances and most dangerous locations for missionaries with religious freedom expert Paul Marshall.

5:40 – Obamacare Faces the Supreme Court: Is the Individual Mandate Constitutional?
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday began three days of potentially landmark oral arguments over the constitutionality of the sweeping health care law championed by President Barack Obama, with a majority of justices appearing to reject suggestions they wait another few years before deciding the issues. In one of the most politically charged cases in years, the health care reform case drew people who waited in line starting Friday for the chance to attend, and sparked competing news conferences by supporters and opponents of the 2010 law. Attorney Rob Muise joins us to analyze.

Why gay marriage is a very bad idea - An Interesting Take

The gay-marriage juggernaut has nothing to do with liberty, and everything to do with providing the elite with a new moral mission.

By Brendan O’Neill

Gay marriage: what the hell is that all about? Anyone who asks himself the simple question of how gay marriage came to be a massive talking point in both America and Europe will surely conclude that it is the most surreal political issue of our age. There is no mass campaign for it; historically, gays haven’t been interested in getting married; and according to a recent opinion poll, while 45 per cent of Britons support gay marriage, 78 per cent think that making it legal should not be a parliamentary priority. And yet somehow, seemingly without logic or reason, gay marriage has become the issue of 2012 and is now more hotly debated in commentary circles than just about any other thing on Earth.

Nothing in the gay-marriage debate adds up. Nothing. For example, gay-marriage rights are presented as a radical rallying cry on a par with the struggles for women’s suffrage or black civil rights, and yet they’re enthusiastically backed by such superbly un-radical institutions as The Times, Goldman Sachs and David Cameron. Politicians say they must do ‘the right thing’ on gay marriage, just as earlier politicians eventually did the right thing on giving women the vote, neglecting to mention that there has been absolutely no sustained public agitation, no leaping in front of the Queen’s horse, for the right of gays to get hitched. Self-selected gay spokespeople present this effort as the logical conclusion to their 60-odd years of campaigning for equality, overlooking the fact that a great many gay activists once saw marriage and the family as problems, and demanded recognition of their right to live outside of those institutions.

As I say, nothing in this debate makes sense. This is such a relatively overnight concern, and is so unrooted in political campaigning or historical substance, that it would make as much sense if, tomorrow, every politician and commentator in the land suddenly started talking about how important it is to give women the right to live in treehouses. After all, there are probably some women who want to live in treehouses, and the public might well support their right to do so while also arguing that making it happen should not be a parliamentary priority, so why don’t Cameron and the commentariat make a big deal of that?

Given its surreality, it is remarkable that so many intelligent people are taking the gay-marriage issue at face value, seriously saying ‘Yes, I fully support the enactment of this long-traduced historic right’. What they should be doing is asking why gay marriage is an issue at all and untangling how it came to be a defining battleground in the modern Culture Wars. Because it strikes me that what is happening here is that, under the cover of ‘expanding equality’, we are really witnessing the instinctive consolidation of a new class, of a new political set, which, lacking the familiar moral signposts of the past, has magicked up a non-issue through which it might define itself and its values.

The reason the gay-marriage issue can feel like it came from nowhere, and is now everywhere, is because it is an entirely top-down, elite-driven thing. The true driving force behind it is not any real or publicly manifested hunger amongst homosexual couples to get wed, far less a broader public appetite for the reform of the institution of marriage; rather it is the need of the political and media class for an issue through which to signify its values and advertise its superiority. Gay marriage is not a real issue - it is a cultural signifier, like wearing a pink ribbon to show you care about breast cancer.

For all the attempts to situate the gay-marriage campaign in the history of progressive leaps forward, where it is discussed in the same breath as votes for women or rights for ethnic minorities, it is the differences between gay marriage and those historic events that are most striking. The proposed overhaul of marriage, as set out in the Lib-Con government’s consultation on the issue, is not a response to any properly independent challenge to the status quo. It is not a democratic reform, begrudgingly enacted in response to a democratic demand; it is better understood as voluntary elite tinkering with a traditional institution in the hope of presenting the elite as both daring and caring. It is really not on to doll up such a cynical political exercise in the old language of radical progressive politics.

One of the most striking things about gay marriage is the disparity between mass feeling for the issue (which is best described as weak to non-existent) and elite passion for it (which is intense). All sorts of elite institutions, from political parties to massive corporations, are lining up to back the gay-marriage ‘cause’, clearly having sensed that it is the issue through which their kind can now make a display of their sanctity. So not only are old-world, conservative media institutions such as The Times and right-wing parties like the Conservatives declaring their support for gay marriage, so is the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein. He has become a spokesman for one of America’s largest gay-rights group, appearing in its adverts to say ‘I support marriage equality’.

The intervention of Goldman Sachs makes no sense, other than as part of a process of strange and instinctive elite reformulation around this issue. Gay marriage has become the great cleanser of discredited or at-sea institutions, so that even a hated investment bank sees value in signing up for it. What we have here is effectively the formation of a new clique through a handpicked issue. At a time when traditional political dividing lines count for little, and when the old taken-for-granted morality has withered, there is an instinctive feel-around for something, anything, through which moral seriousness and cultural superiority can once again be asserted. And in recent years, gay marriage has become the prime platform for such elite preening.

So it is striking that one Tory-supporting writer argued that it doesn’t matter that the public isn’t massively excited about gay marriage, because ‘true statesmanship does not wait upon referendal permission - a government enacts civilising measures because they are the right thing to do’. Here, an explicit contrast is made between elite sensitivity and mass indifference to apparently important cultural matters. Gay marriage is clearly looked upon as an opportunity to demonstrate ‘true statesmanship’ at a time when other opportunities to do so are few and far between for our aloof rulers.

The transformation of gay marriage into a barometer of moral decency explains why the debate about it is so shot through with censoriousness and condemnation. That is another striking difference between the old genuinely democratic reformers and today’s gay-marriage supporters - where the proper reformers were in favour of openness and debate, the gay-marriage lobby seems far more keen to stifle dissent. As a writer for the Guardian put it, ‘There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgement of subtleties and cultural differences. Same-sex marriage is not one of those. There is a right answer.’ This is clearly not a political issue as we would once have understood it, where different views clash and compete for support; rather it is more akin to a new religious stricture, where the aim is to distinguish between those who are Good (the elite enthusiasts for gay marriage) and those who Bad (the people who oppose or can’t get excited about it).

Some people will say: so what if the campaign for gay marriage is a bit off and snobbish? At least there will be the byproduct of greater equality, actual ‘marriage rights’, for gay people. But even in its own terms, gay marriage is a bad idea, for many reasons. Primarily because, while it is presented to us as a wonderfully generous act of cultural elevation (of gay couples), it is more importantly a thoughtless act of cultural devaluation (of traditional marriage). An institution entered into by millions of people for quite specific reasons - often, though not always, for the purpose of procreation - is being casually demoted, with the Lib-Con government even proposing that the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ no longer be used in official documents. The overnight Orwellian airbrushing of two such longstanding titles from public records demonstrates the extent to which the elite is willing to ride roughshod over traditional identities in pursuit of its own new identity as gay-friendly and moral.

Now, perhaps you think the institution of marriage should be devalued, that it is stuffy and conservative and in need of an overhaul. Fine. Then argue for that, openly and honestly. But no one benefits from the charade of gay marriage. The fact is that marriage is not simply about co-habitation or partnership; it is not even simply about having an intense relationship. It has historically been about much more - about creating a unit, with its own rules, that is recognised by the state and society as a distinctive union often entered into for the purpose of raising a new generation. Yes, some couples enter into it for other reasons - for companionship, larks, a party or whatever - but we are not talking about individuals’ motives here; we are talking about the meaning of an institution. Collapsing together every human relationship, so that everything from gay love to a Christian couple who want to have five kids is homogenised under the term ‘marriage’, benefits no one. It doesn’t benefit gay couples, whose ‘marriage’ will have little historic depth or meaning, and it doesn’t benefit currently married couples, some of whom may feel a corrosion of their identity.

spiked absolutely supports the right of people to live their lives as they see fit, within or without ‘respectable’ institutions such as marriage and the family, and free from any state interference. But the gay-marriage campaign has nothing to do with liberty and equality. Rather this is a cynical campaign of opportunistic moral grandstanding on the part of the cultural elite, which will end with gays being fobbed off with a pretty meaningless form of ‘marriage’ and married couples simultaneously finding the ancient institution they have signed up to being further drained of meaning. Just say ‘I don’t’ to gay marriage.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked

L.A. Archdiocese Religious Education Congress speakers support gay priests, Obama, masturbation

by Ben Johnson

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, March 22, 2012, ( – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Religious Education Congress bills itself as an “opportunity to hear God’s voice in their own lives.” However, some of the featured speakers at the March 22-25 event, said to be the largest of its kind in the world, have described Barack Obama as “pro-life,” longed for “public models of gay priests,” opposed marriage protection legislation, and encouraged children to engage in “genital self-touch.”

Neither Tod M. Tamberg nor Carolina Guevara, media representatives for the Archdiocese, responded to an e-mail from concerning allegations speakers at the REC deviate from the Church’s teachings by supporting homosexual priests or masturbation.

When LifeSiteNews called to follow-up, Tamberg insisted he did not receive the e-mail, then hung up on us.

When asked about the e-mail, which was sent Thursday morning, Tamberg said rapidly: “Didn’t get any e-mails. Um, didn’t get any e-mails at all. Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. And I’m running down to the Congress right now. So, sorry. Thanks for your call, though. Bye-bye!”

His side of the call lasted 13 seconds. He immediately hung up. Neither Tamberg nor Guevara returned calls for follow-up.

However, has confirmed a number of the speakers at the archdiocesan event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, have a history of dissent or controversy.

Congress event in arena facility holding thousandsDr. Richard Gaillardetz wrote in 2008 that Barack Obama was “the pro-life candidate.”

“I have come to believe that the true ‘pro-life’ candidate is not the one who champions opposition to Roe v. Wade,” he wrote in the Toledo Blade, but one who supports “policies that would extend substantial financial and health-care assistance to poor families facing unplanned pregnancies.” The bishop of Toledo, Leonard Blair, wrote the paper to say Gaillardetz’ views “do not reflect the clear and consistent moral position of the United States Catholic bishops.”

Dr. Gaillardetz will host REC sessions entitled “Behind the Scenes at Vatican II: The Council that Almost Failed” and “Four Paths to Wisdom in the Christian Tradition.” Both will be recorded for posterity.

Fr. Bryan Massingale, a priest with the archdiocese of Milwaukee and an associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University, spoke last March before the group “Equally Blessed,” which describes itself as “a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society.” The professor, who has said he wants the Church to be “more sensuous and feminine,” publicly opposed Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Act last year. His recorded talk, “Whatever Happened to the Common Good,” laments “the challenges of living this conviction in a fragmented and divided society.”

Fr. James Martin of America magazine participated in a workshop at the 2005 Religious Education Congress, where he told the faithful: “[I]f only there were more public models of gay priests. In the absence of any healthy gay priests for Catholics to reflect on publicly, and with the only examples being notorious pedophiles, the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser only deepens.”

Fr. Martin will present an “Arena Session” at the 2012 Religious Education Conference on “Heaven and Mirth: Joy, Humor and Laughter in the Spiritual Life,” which will be recorded.

Sister Fran Ferder, a Franciscan nun, has said the Church needs a “theology of body touch, body exploration,” especially for children. “Ordinary genital self-touch can be very important and can help children come to reverence their bodies, to know them,” she said.

Sr. Ferder has stated Catholic bishops shame sexual sins in order to control their flock. Such “negative messages” about “sexual mistakes,” she said,“have to do with control and maintaining power. The patriarchal dominance in the hierarchy is incredibly strong, and sexual mandates are a good way to scare and control people.”

She and Fr. John Heagle from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, direct the Therapy and Renewal Associates, based in Seattle. Fr. Heagle has stated the Church needs to listen to the “love stories of the gay and lesbian community.”

They are teaching a recorded workshop, on “Beyond Belief: Reclaiming Biblical Faith.” Its description states, “This shift has contributed to a growing chasm between spirituality and religion, and a “crisis of faith” for many people. This presentation explores practical ways in which we can reclaim a more personal, biblical way of believing.”

Dr. Michael Downey will give a recorded workshop on “The Suffering That Speaks Justice.” Downey edited the book My Song is of Mercy by the late Fr. Matthew Kelty. In it, Kelty wrote, “There are none more called to [the Catholic priesthood], more capable of it, more created for it, than the people we call gay.” Since they have both male and female personality traits, Fr. Kelty wrote, “They begin from day one a process of integration others do not even have a hint of before they are 40. Bless them!” The “gay,” he wrote, is “larger than life…society’s blessing, the Church’s hope.” His only concern was that even homosexuals are “so western, so capitalist, so male-oriented.” In his introduction, Downey enthused, “My hope is that this volume will offer the opportunity for lectio divina,” holy and meditative reading often reserved for the Scriptures and the writings of the saints.

Dr. Downey served as theologian for Cardinal Mahony in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and is a professor of systematic theology at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.

Not all are who speak at this year’s REC are dissenters. Fr. Leo Patalinghug, who created a video opposing the HHS mandate, is speaking on “Food Is Love: A Eucharistic Theology for the Family.” His talk will not be recorded.

As well, the new and known to be orthodox Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez, will be participating in a number of events during the Congress. Archbishop Gomez, who replaced now retired Cardinal Mahony, has been at the helm of the very liberal diocese for only one year.

Contact information:
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Office of the Archbishop of Los Angeles
3424 Wilshire Boulevard, 5th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2241
Phone: (213) 637-7534
FAX: (213) 637-6510

Office of Media Relations
(213) 637-7215
(213) 216-8395

Obama Refuted by CDC Report: Not True 99% of Women Have Used Contraceptives--13.9% Have Never Had Sex

By Terence P. Jeffrey

( - The definitive study of contraception use in the United States--which was produced by the U.S. government's National Center for Health Statistics and published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--refutes the claim President Barack Obama made in a White House briefing on Feb. 10 that “nearly 99 percent of all women” have used contraception.

In fact, according to the study--which looked at the contraception use of American women between the ages of 15 and 44--13.9 percent had never had heterosexual intercourse, period.

Also, according to the study, 38.2 percent of American women age 15-44 said they did not currently use contraception.

“Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives--99 percent,” Obama claimed in explaining why he was moving forward with a regulation that requires all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives free of charge to all women who, in the terms of the regulation, have "reproductive capacity."

Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius twice made the same claim—without refutation--on national television programs. So, too, did Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter.

On Feb. 10, the same day Obama made the claim at the White House, Sebelius said on PBS’s “Newshour” that contraception was “a benefit used by 99 percent of women across this country at some point in their lives.”

Also on Feb. 10, Obama Deputy Campaign Manage Cutter, made the claim in two separate appearances that bracketed the day on CNN.

In the 8:00 a.m. hour, appearing with Soledad O’Brien, Cutter said: “This is birth control. This is the pill which women have been taking for generations. It is not controversial, 99 percent of all women have taken it, 98 percent of Catholic women have taken it. The debate on this is over.”

In the 9:00 p.m. hour, appearing with Piers Morgan, Cutter said: “This … is birth control, something that women have been taking, you know, for decades, and something that is accepted in this country--99 percent of the women take birth control. It's a little unbelievable that we are debating it."

On March 1, HHS Secretary Sebelius appeared on John King's CNN program and once again claimed that “99 percent of women take contraception at some point during their health lives.”

So what is the truth?

President Obama's claim that nearly 99 percent of women have used contraception at some point in their lives appears to stem from a careless or misleading restatement of a sentence that appears in a July 2011 HHS-funded Institute of Medicine report that recommended to HHS that a regulation be issued under President Obama's health-care law that cost-free coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives for women be included in all health care plans sold in the United States.

On page 103, this report said: “More than 99 percent of U.S. women aged 15 to 44 years who have ever had sexual intercourse with a male have used at least one contraceptive method.”

The report did not say 99 percent of all U.S. women. It said 99 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 44 who had ever had sexual intercourse with a male. Furthermore, the report itself did not derive this statistic independently, it footnoted the fact to a 2010 National Center for Health Statistics report authored by William D. Mosher and Jo Jones entitled, “Use of Contraception in the United States: 1982-2008.”

This report is the latest and most definitive government study of the subject. It was based on interviews with 7,356 women between the ages of 15 and 44 and follows up on similar reports based on similar surveys in 1982, 1995 and 2002. From the 7,356 women this government study actually surveyed, the authors extrapolated to make conclusions about what they estimated to be the total of 61.864 million women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44.

What does the report say?

First, it says that of the 61.864 million women in the United States between the 15 and 44, only 53.240 million have ever had heterosexual intercourse.

The other 8.624 million have never had heterosexual intercourse. That means that, according to this government study, 13.94 percent of American women age 15 to 44 have never had heterosexual intercourse.

The authors then excluded this 13.94 percent of American women in the 15 to 44 age bracket and focused on contraceptive use only among the 86.06 percent who said they had engaged in heterosexual intercourse.

“The scope of this report is limited to contraceptive use (as reported by women) during heterosexual vaginal intercourse,” the authors wrote.

The survey then asked women who said they had engaged in heterosexual intercourse, “Whether she has ever used each of 22 methods of contraception at any time in her life.”(Underlining is in the original.)

From this, the authors determined that 99.1 percent of the 86.06 percent who had engaged in intercourse had used some method of contraception at least once in their life.

Thus, if is fair to say from this definitive government report on the issue that about 86 percent of American women between 15 and 44 have used a form of contraception at least once in their life.

But how many American women in this age bracket are using contraception now?

According to the report, 61.8 percent of American women were currently using contraception at the time the survey was conducted.

38.2 percent said they were not using contraception.

The report provided a more detailed breakdown of the ages of the American women who were not using any contraception at all. It said that 71.8 percent of women age 15-19 were not using contraception, 45.3 percent of women age 20-24 were not using contraception, 35.8 percent of women 25-29 were not using contraception, 29.7 percent of women age 30-34 were not using contraception, 25.0 percent of women 35-39 were not using contraception, and 22.2 percent of women 40-44 were not using contraception.

What percentage of American women were both celebate and not using contraception?

The report did not publish an age-bracket-by-age-bracket accounting of the 13.9 percent of American women ages 15-44 who said they had never had heterosexual intercourse. But it did publish an age-bracket -by-age-bracket accounting of women who were not using contraception and who said they either had never had intercourse or had not had intercourse in the previous 3 months.

According to this National Center for Health Statistics, it turns out that 19.2 percent of American women age 15-44 are not using contraception and either have never had sexual intercourse are have not in the last 3 months. This included 60 percent of the women 15-19 years old, 20.4 percent of the women 20-24 years old, 10.6 percent of the women 25-29 year old, 8.7 percent of the women 30-34 years old, 7.4 percent of the women 35-39 years old, and 8.0 percent of the women 40-44 years old.

President Obama’s claim, repeated by his HHS secretary and his deputy campaign manager, that “nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives” is false.