Testimony on life issues heard on Beacon Hill

Massachusetts Citizens for Life executive director Patricia Stewart offers testimony Joint Committee on Public Health June 2. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo

BOSTON -- Supporters and opponents of three bills related to pro-life causes filled a room at the Statehouse, June 2, as the Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony on Beacon Hill.

The committee heard testimony on three bills with relevance to the defense of human life and pro-life causes. The committee heard testimony on H2039, a bill aimed at licensing abortion facilities in the state; H2070, a bill to lower the age that a woman seeking an abortion needs parental consent; and H2037, a bill to legally adjust biotechnology laws to allow the use of skin cells rather than embryonic stem cells in related research.

The Women's Safety Act, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-Attleboro, and Rep. John Rogers, D-Norwood, would create licensing and inspection standards for facilities in Massachusetts that perform more than 10 abortions per year. Similar laws currently apply to hair-salons, restaurants, and veterinary clinics.

The committee heard from Jonathan Alexandre, Legal Counsel at Massachusetts Family Institute.

"For far too long, Massachusetts has allowed the lowest standard of care for women seeking an abortion," he said.

He said the bill would prevent such medical inconsistencies as 16 abortion facilities in the state which are not licensed or inspected, while many non-hospital abortion facilities require such licensure in other states.

Opponents of the bill, including representatives of NARAL Pro-Choice America and a panel of doctors, said the resulting law would target the abortion clinics arbitrarily. They said it would decrease the availability of abortions, drive up their cost, and would be unconstitutional under the Massachusetts Constitution.

Dr. Julie A. Johnston, a family medicine physician in Lawrence, spoke about abortion as a safe procedure.

"Abortion is a common and very safe medical procedure with an extremely low risk of complication," she said.

In a question, Representative James J. Lyons, Jr., R-Andover, pointed out that the legislation is not politically motivated as a restriction on abortion.

"Just for the record, so that others in the room know, this legislation was promulgated by a family whose 22-year-old daughter died undergoing an abortion at an unlicensed abortion facility," Lyons said.

Laura Hope Smith died at a Hyannis abortion clinic in 2007, when her heart stopped during an abortion procedure. An investigation by the state Board of Registration in Medicine found that the clinic had no heart monitoring equipment, the blood pressure cuff used for her was broken, and staff members were not trained in CPR. The doctor at the clinic was convicted of manslaughter. The Smith family subsequently won a multi-million dollar malpractice suit.

Opponents had called the legislation a targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, bill.

"The fact that either you want to call it a TRAP bill or you want to call it politically motivated, these are how laws change in our country, all right. Something happens. Someone is harmed, and they come forward with a piece of legislation. That's where this bill came from, so the fact that you want to make the comment that we don't care about women, I think what we're trying to do is make sure that the playing field is level and to put regulations in place so that this doesn't happen again," Lyons said.

The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would lower the age of required parental consent when a minor seeks an abortion. Current laws set the age of consent at 18. Below that age, consent is required from a parent or authorization from a judge. The bill discussed at the hearing would drop the age to 16 and broaden the sources from which the minor could seek consent, such as family members other than parents or another "authorized individual" including medical personnel and mental health professionals.

Vice President of Education at MCFL Linda Thayer said the increased options could allow a healthcare professional at a public school to give consent to a girl under the age of 16 instead of a parent.

"It would allow for staff of a school-based health center -- a physician, physician assistant or nurse, or possibly a school psychologist, a social worker or school nurse -- to authorize a minor girl's abortion. This would make public schools a partner with abortion providers," Thayer said.

Rep. Elizabeth Poirier gave testimony on a bill she proposed in January that moves to promote the use of skin cells in relevant research rather than embryonic stem cells. The bill would adjust the language of current laws by replacing the words "embryonic stem" with "skin" in reference to biotechnology laws and other laws pertaining to such research, thereby making the use of cells from fetuses and embryos illegal in favor of reprogrammed human skin cells.

According to Poirier reprogrammed human skin cells can be used for the same medical and research purposes.

"This is a very important issue for many, and I am respectfully requesting that you consider supporting this legislation, particularly since the scientific research has shown that the skin cells can be used for exactly the same thing," she said.

Afterward, MCFL President Anne Fox praised Poirier for filing the bill in defense of human life.

"I think she deserves a lot of credit for filing that bill. It's important," Fox said.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...