No Picture
News Briefs

Pennsylvania Supreme Court opens the door to public funding for abortion

January 30, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
Justice Christine Donohue of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that the case, which was previously dismissed, be reargued before the state’s Commonwealth Court. / Credit: Public Domain|Wikimedia

CNA Staff, Jan 30, 2024 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Monday revived a 2019 lawsuit brought by a number of abortion providers in the state that challenges, on discrimination grounds, a longtime state law barring public funding for most abortions. 

In a 219-page ruling Jan. 29, the state high court reversed an earlier dismissal of the lawsuit, sending it back to the Commonwealth Court, one of the state’s two appellate courts. 

At issue is Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, in place since the 1980s, which restricts the use of state and federal funds for abortion except “when necessary to avert the death of the mother” or in cases of rape or incest. 

The abortion providers bringing the lawsuit had argued, among other things, that Pennsylvania’s policies regarding the use of federal funds unfairly singled out women, since “there is no medical condition specific to men for which medical assistance denies coverage.”

The Commonwealth Court had previously dismissed the lawsuit in 2021 on the grounds that it was bound by Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent; the state Supreme Court had previously upheld the abortion restrictions in 1985.

The majority ruling this week found that Pennsylvania’s law barring public funds for most abortions “discriminates against those women who choose to exercise their fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy” and that abortion providers have standing to sue the state over the policy. 

The ruling does not immediately change abortion policy in Pennsylvania. Rather, the state Supreme Court ruling sends the case back to the Commonwealth Court for further review. Abortion is presently legal in Pennsylvania up to 24 weeks in pregnancy, or later in pregnancy if the life of the mother is at risk.

Seventeen states use public state funds to pay for abortions, despite a federal policy known as the Hyde Amendment that since 1976 has prohibited the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortion. States that want to pay for abortions through their Medicaid program could do so using their own funds and are not reimbursed by the federal government.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which advocates for policy in the state on behalf of the Catholic bishops, said it is working on a formal response to the state Supreme Court’s ruling. 

In a brief statement to CNA on Tuesday, Eric Failing, the conferences’s executive director, noted that it is “a complex case with a lot of decisions so we are going through it very carefully.”


No Picture
News Briefs

House Speaker Mike Johnson: ‘My parents were teenagers when I was born’ a year before Roe

January 22, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks with EWTN News’ Erik Rosales at the U.S. Capitol. / Credit: EWTN News

CNA Staff, Jan 22, 2024 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Mike Johnson spoke with EWTN News on the eve of the March for Life about his belief “in the sanctity of every human life at all stages” and shared a bit about his personal history.

“I’m the product of an unplanned pregnancy. My parents were teenagers when I was born, exactly one year before Roe v. Wade in 1972, in January,” Johnson told Capitol Hill correspondent Erik Rosales in an interview that aired Monday on “EWTN News Nightly.”

“Often we talk about the unborn, which is certainly important because we believe life has value from the moment of conception because it’s our Creator that gives us that and gives us our value,” Johnson said. “But it’s all the way through every stage of life.”

“This is an important thing to support young mothers who are in times of crisis in unplanned situations, to support families, to support them all the way through the pregnancy,” he said. 

“And then after, we need to be promoting adoption, cutting red tape that hinders the foster children system. So there’s a lot of work to do to build a culture of life.”

Johnson said Congress also has a role to play in protecting the pro-life community from attacks. In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many pregnancy resource centers were victimized by arson attacks and acts of vandalism

“We have to, again, bring accountability,” he said. “We have a very important responsibility here in Congress to ensure that the rule of law is maintained, to ensure that the inherent and fundamental freedoms of all people are respected.”

The speaker pointed out that religious freedom is “literally the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights,” which he said was “not by accident.”

“The founders understood that was essential not only to who we are as Americans but to who we are as human beings,” he told Rosales. 

“And so Congress has a role to advance that, to maintain those founding principles and to defend them at all costs.”

The weaponization of the U.S. government

Johnson also told EWTN that Congress needs to hold government institutions accountable for incidents like last year’s controversial federal investigation into traditionalist U.S. Catholics.

Rosales asked Johnson about last year’s revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had circulated a memorandum that described an investigation into traditionalist Catholics for possible ties to domestic terrorist activities. 

The memorandum was the subject of hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. FBI Director Christopher Wray said in December that the bureau “[does] not and will not conduct investigations based on anybody’s exercise of their constitutionally protected religious [expression].” 

Johnson told Rosales that lawmakers describe the FBI as “weaponized” because “that’s exactly what it is.” Congress “[has] to bring accountability for agencies that have been spun out of control,” he said.

“It’s alarming,” Johnson said. “So we’ve called it out, we’ve drawn attention to it, and we’re demanding accountability for those who are in charge to ensure that those abuses of our agencies don’t happen again.”

“Ultimately, what’s at stake here is the people’s belief in our institutions, their faith in our institutions of government,” Johnson continued. “And that faith is at an all-time low right now. That’s what the polling shows. And that’s a very dangerous thing.” 

“To keep a constitutional republic — a government of, by, and for the people — the people have to believe that their justice system is fair and that they’re not picking on or discriminating against people of faith. And we’ve got to make sure that that happens,” Johnson concluded.

“EWTN News Nightly” airs weekday evenings at 6 p.m. ET.