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The Point Washington Update - April 25, 2013

In this edition of The Point:


Article #1

Excerpted from "Pro-Life Group Screens Graphic Kermit Gosnell Documentary to Staffers on Capitol Hill," U.S. News & World Report, April 19, 2013--The staffers of a number of prominent Republican members of Congress attended a briefing and screening Friday morning on the case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor who practiced abortions for nearly four decades and is now on trial for murder. Gosnell is accused in the deaths of a female patient and seven babies at his Philadelphia clinic.

Staffers from the offices of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., watched the graphic documentary, "3801 Lancaster," which detailed the squalid conditions of Gosnell's clinic and showed graphic images of the babies who are believed to have died there.

[WARNING: Graphic Content. See the Documentary HERE.]

Several of the staffers winced or turned away from the screen when images were shown of babies Gosnell allegedly aborted by "snipping," a practice by which a baby's spinal cord is severed with scissors.

The documentary was made by independent filmmakers and screened on the Hill by the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Washington-based pro-life group the Susan B. Anthony List.

SBA List head Marjorie Dannenfelser encouraged staffers to specifically look into potentially lax regulation of abortion clinics in their home states, as well as fetal pain legislation at the federal level.


Commentary #1

Donald Thompson, MD, MPH&TM - Director, CMDA's Global Health Outreach: "Advocates for life should certainly be alarmed by the malicious disregard of young women and their babies in the Gosnell 'House of Horrors' case, as described in the Grand Jury report that is available at the 3801Lancaster.com website. The lack of media coverage during the first four weeks of the trial is very troubling as well and has led to foundational questions about ethics in reporting by the media and many allegations of media bias.

"As healthcare professionals, we have a unique level of credibility in the discussion of patient safety, clinical oversight and standards of care. Gosnell’s abuse will be the exception rather than the rule only if state medical boards take on proper oversight of abortion clinics and are transparent with their findings. We should all become patient advocates by exhorting our state elected officials to mandate the same level of oversight of abortion clinics and abortionists as we experience in our medical practices and in similar facilities.

"We encounter women and girls who have been traumatized by abortion or who may be considering abortion. This documentary describes the open wounds that continue to affect the women who suffered in Gosnell’s clinic. These women are suffering from a post-traumatic stress syndrome, just like women we may see in our clinics every day who have also experienced an abortion.

"Will we notice them? Will we ask the right questions? Will we look up from our computer screen and sit down long enough so that they feel we really want to hear about their silent suffering? Let's be ready to help women with these deep scars and also to refer patients to a Crisis Pregnancy Center or other local resource for help."


Article #2

Excerpted from "Working Together to Support Victims of Human Trafficking," April 9, 2013, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security blog by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano - This morning, I joined Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking where we announced the Administration’s latest effort to combat the hidden crime of human trafficking and help victims of human trafficking. During the Forum, we released a draft Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking, which will be open for public comment for 45 days.

Developed collaboratively with Federal partners including the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor, and with leadership and guidance from the White House, this plan will better coordinate efforts across the Federal government to identify, rescue and support victims. You can view the Plan and provide your comments here. When final, the Plan will complement and advance anti-trafficking efforts already underway at DHS.

Nearly three years ago, we launched the DHS Blue Campaign to unite the Department’s effort to combat human trafficking and leverage our relationships with other federal agencies, state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and international partners.

Last year alone, we received more tips through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tip line than ever before, investigated a historic amount of cases and rescued more victims of human trafficking, and provided support to over 1,200 human trafficking victims. We have also expanded our victim assistance program, and will continue to make combating human trafficking a priority.

Working together, we can take comprehensive action to stop this terrible crime, rescue victims and put perpetrators behind bars. We look forward to receiving your feedback. To learn more about human trafficking and what you can do, please visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign and the Blue Campaign Facebook page.


Commentary #2

Jeff Barrows, DO, MA - CMDA anti-trafficking education contributor and Director, Abolition International Shelter Association: “This blog post by Secretary Napolitano announces the recent release of a draft Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking by the federal government as well as an opportunity for the public to submit comments regarding the 'Plan'. CMA is in the process of finalizing its comments for submission pointing out two critical items. First of all, as one of the few professions to regularly encounter victims of trafficking, healthcare professionals play a critical role in identifying and freeing these modern day slaves from their captivity. Second, for several years CMA has been playing a lead role in educating healthcare professionals on the issue of human trafficking. A small group of CMA members have put together a series of 11 online educational modules geared specifically to the healthcare professional that teach in depth about the issue of human trafficking and how to identify a victim within the healthcare setting. These are available for CME and can be found at cmda.org/tip. As healthcare professionals and members of CMA, you have a role to play in helping to end modern day slavery. Consider submitting your comments on the 'Plan' here."


Article #3

Excerpted from "Commenting period ends for HHS mandate," National Catholic Reporter, April 22, 2013 - On April 8, the last day that the public could file comments with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the contraceptive coverage in its health insurance mandate, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was addressing students at the Harvard School of Public Health. She told them she had not anticipated how complicated it would be to implement the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature healthcare law.

The mandate requires employee health insurance policies to provide contraceptive coverage without co-pays or deductibles. Some of the fiercest battles have been with religious organizations that have objected to the mandate as a violation of their teachings against the use of contraceptives.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed its comment in March. The bishops still object to the narrow definition of "exempt" institutions, insisting, "The current proposal continues to define 'religious institution' in a way that, by the government's own admission, excludes (and therefore subjects to the mandate) a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious. Generally, the nonprofit religious organizations that fall on the 'non-exempt' side of this religious gerrymander include those organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services."

Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund, a group that focuses on religious liberty issues, told NCR that her organization remains skeptical of the current proposals.

"HHS has mandated that American employers include all FDA-approved contraceptives in their group health plans without cost-sharing," Arriaga stated in an email. "HHS' mandate covers contraceptives like ella and IUDs that work after conception to end newly-created human life, and HHS knew when it issued the mandate that many Americans -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- have serious moral objections to these drugs."

"The government is still trying to force many believers to pay for or facilitate access to abortion-causing drugs in ways their religion prohibits. What each organization's religion permits is not the government's call to make," Arriaga said.


Commentary #3

CMA Vice President for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody: "As suggested by my colleague Kristina Arriaga of the Becket Fund, which along with Alliance Defending Freedom has been racking up key court victories regarding the HHS mandate, this battle reflects two distinct views of the role of American government and the primacy of religious freedom.

"Despite the President's own testimony that 99 percent of women already access contraceptives, he and his administration appear determined to leverage the full power of the federal government against the expressed interests of the faith community in a drive to ensure that every single woman of child bearing age in the country--from Beverly Hills to The Hamptons--receives contraceptives for free. Under the HHS mandate, every U.S. insurance company must pony up for costly pills, implants and sterilization procedures, regardless of the threat to the company's solvency.

"The government blithely asserts without proof that it will cost less in the long run to prevent babies than to deliver them. Such a policy not only clashes with the traditional American life-affirming ethos; it also may portend an economic crisis resulting from an imbalance of older versus younger citizens. Consider, for example, that preventing babies from being born would only exacerbate the looming Social Security crisis. Funding Obamacare itself hinges in large part on forcing younger, healthy individuals to pay for health insurance and in effect subsidize the cost of healthcare for the older population.

"As to religious freedom, the administration continues to contend--as it did in its failed attempt to win over a single member of the Supreme Court to its radical viewpoint in the Hosanna Tabor case--that governmental interests handily trump First Amendment religious liberty. It is true that on rare occasions courts have allowed a compelling government interest to override individual religious liberty, provided the government uses the least restrictive means to achieve its goals. Yet forcing millions of citizens to violate their consciences and participate in a practice proscribed by their faith--when the administration easily could pursue the far less restrictive alternative of the government itself providing contraceptives without infringing on anyone's religious liberty--hardly meets this criteria.”

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