Catholic Bishops Do the Right Thing by Not Denying Communion to Politicians

At Rewire, we’re willing to give credit where credit is due, and I think credit is due to the US Catholic bishops for their recent decision, reported yesterday, to not invoke a communion ban for politicians who do not support the Catholic Church’s perspective on abortion in their public life.

The possibility of bishops denying communion to such public officials made major news in the 2004 election cycle, when Sen. John Kerry, a Roman Catholic who supports reproductive rights, was targeted by critics for his views. The American Life League has led the efforts to pressure Catholic bishops to deny communion to Sen. Kerry and other politicians, and some in this camp have even called for the excommunication of such politicians. ALL started a campaign, the “Crusade for the Defense of our Catholic Church,” that produced ads demonizing a group they call the “Deadly Dozen” – the “most influential” pro-choice Catholic politicians, which has included Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). There was even a blog – Catholic Kerry Watch – dedicated to defaming John Kerry on account of this issue during the 2004 campaign.

Louisiana, Mississippi and South Dakota Should Follow South Africa

The South African Health Department released some encouraging, but not necessarily surprising, statistics on Thursday: since 1997, when abortion was legalized under broad circumstances in South Africa, deaths from unsafe abortion have gone down an encouraging 91.1 percent. It’s a fitting reminder that making abortion illegal doesn’t make it stop, it just makes it unsafe. The South African Health Department should send the study to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who have all signed or pledged to sign bills that would all but outlaw safe and legal abortion in their states.

Encouraging Progressive Faith Leaders on Issues of Sexuality and Reproductive Health

Common Sense suggests that most people want their government to do the sorts of scientific research and make sound public health policies to inform the public's behavior. It is maddening when ideology trumps science, and narrow belief wins out over common sense solutions as has been the case at the FDA on Plan B emergency contracpetion, abstinence-only policies, the war on contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and efforts to deny women's rights by turning the clock back on abortion by outlawing choice and making it unsafe.

It is easy to dismiss ideological and faith-based efforts from social conservatives because they are so completely lacking in sound science, public health data, and compassion.

But what about progresive faith-based efforts? The Rev. Debra Haffner leads the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. Her goal is to help progressive faith leaders challenge social conservatives on issues of sexuality and reproductive health.

Centrists Point New Directions on Social Issues

A new survey from the Center for American Progress indicates that consensus levels of American voters strongly agree that our politics should be informed by both sound science and our faith, and that chief among American values is respect for the individual. When asked what was the most significant moral crisis facing the country, ranking dead last, at a paltry four percent, was "abortion and homosexuality" the social conservative mantra upon which extreme ideologues hold the GOP, and real progress on other issues of the day, hostage.

Yet there are lonely Republican voices warning the GOP against the base politics that attempt to satisfy social conservatives and their anti-choice, anti-contraception, intolerant agenda.

Just Saying No (Again) to Emergency Contraception

After years of bureaucratic ping-pong, the answer is still no. Hell no.

No, you can’t protect yourself from an unintended pregnancy. Nothing to do if the condom breaks, the diaphragm slips, or you have been raped. It’s a no-go, even if you are trying to prevent having an abortion. No, no, no.

The FDA rejected yet another request from more than 60 reproductive health organizations seeking over-the-counter status of Plan B. Meaning you still need permission (oops – I mean a prescription), from a doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional in order to access emergency contraception.

First, Save Yourselves

Just in time for hurricane season, another kind of storm will be descending on the state of Mississippi this July. Emboldened by recent draconian trends in limiting women's access to safe and legal abortion in a country where 87 percent of counties already lack an abortion provider, the folks at Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue) are currently organizing a one-week assault on the Jackson Women's Health Organization -- otherwise known as the last abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi -- from July 15-22. Yup, that's right, the last one.

Video: Global Health Council Panel Discussion

[img_assist|nid=292|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=61|height=69]This post includes links to video footage of the entire presentation, as well as to Rewire interviews with panel members.

On May 30th, the Global Health Council's annual conference featured a panel discussion on a new report from the UN Millennium Project entitled, "Public Choices, Private Decisions: Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals."

The report's author, Stan Bernstein of the UN Millennium Project and UNFPA, was joined on the panel by renowned author and development expert Jeffrey D. Sachs of the UN Millennium Project, and by Ana Langer, president and CEO of EngenderHealth and a leading expert in women's and family health services. The panel was moderated by Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council.

It was a fantastic conversation, featuring some of the most expert voices in this field. These leaders and others like them do the work that makes Rewire possible -- they provide the solid research and thinking on reproductive health to counter the fuzzy logic of opponents.

Make HPV Vaccine Mandatory

Last week's news that the FDA approved the HPV Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in women was great news. As anyone following the FDA lately knows, this one was a toss-up. The disproprtionate influence of ideology over science at the FDA threatened to undo this truly impressive medical break-through for fear it would encourage young women to have sex. But the real fight still looms. At the end of this month the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices will meet in Atlanta to make reccomendations about the optimal age to administer the vaccine and if children should be included. States will deterimine if the vaccine is mandatory.

Not So Fast!

It seems like just moments ago that Pope Benedict XVI announced his consideration of the radical notion that HIV-discordant Catholic couples might-just might-be allowed to use condoms within the confines of marriage. But don't buy your Ratzinger-as-Che t-shirt yet. On Tuesday, June 6, the Pontifical Council for the Family, headed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, issued a 57-page document condemning contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilization, same sex marriage, pasta, kittens...wait, sorry, scratch those last two. Just avoid anything that might allow you to decide how many children you have or whether or not you're allowed to marry the person you love. Pasta and kittens are fine.

As for using condoms under the circumstances described above, we're still waiting to hear-the document doesn't contain the C word. However, Cardinal Trujillo certainly made his personal views on condoms known three years ago when he helpfully suggested that they in fact spread AIDS.

Obsessed with Prostitution, Right-Wing Groups Miss a Chance to Fight Trafficking

When the World Cup starts this week in Germany, over 3 million people are expected to be attending from around the world, and over 40,000 sex workers have been brought in for the event. Several NGOs are raising legitimate concerns that despite Germany’s best efforts, many of the women coming to Germany will be coming against their will or under deceitful circumstances, as victims of human trafficking.

Among the right-wing NGOs, C-FAM is leading the way in making noise about the event, with their Stop World Cup Prostitution campaign. While they and others (see Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America’s statement, and Rep. Chris Smith’s statement) might be bringing the horrible crime of human trafficking into a broader light, their main obsession appears to be prostitution, not trafficking. This focus may actually be hampering efforts to effect real and lasting change that would serve to end human trafficking.