Thursday, September 25, 2014

Govt. report links tax dollars and abortions

Excerpted from "GAO: Taxpayer funds likely paying for abortion under Obamacare," World magazine, September 18, 2014, - The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to separately itemize and charge for abortion coverage, a compromise designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortions. The compromise drew support from pro-life Democrats in 2010, and was crucial to overcoming Republican opposition.
Federal law under the Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the life of the mother. President Barack Obama promised in March 2010 that the Affordable Care Act policies would adhere to the Hyde Amendment.

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed taxpayer funding is likely subsidizing elective abortions. The report evaluated the 27 states and Washington, D.C., that do not restrict elective abortion coverage in their insurance markets. It found that 1,036 of the 2,098 subsidized plans in those states cover elective abortions. The 18 evaluated insurers offered a quarter of those policies. Although the GAO report didn’t specify that taxpayer money funded abortions under Obamacare, it raised serious concerns.

“Americans throughout the country have raised serious concerns that they find it nearly impossible to determine whether the plan they purchase finances the killing of unborn children—there is little or no transparency—hence the request by several members of Congress including [House Speaker John] Boehner that GAO investigate,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, who also co-chairs the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

“Now we know that at least 1,036 plans cover abortion, and the so-called ‘surcharge’ for abortion coverage is simply an accounting gimmick,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America.

The Health and Human Services Department acknowledged in a written response that “additional clarification may be needed” regarding the healthcare law’s abortion coverage.

In response, pro-lifers have called for the passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” authored by Smith. The House of Representatives passed the bill in January, but it met opposition in the Senate.


Mary HarnedMary Harned, Staff Counsel, Americans United for Life (AUL): (from her NRO commentary): “Given the Affordable Care Act's extensive list of shortcomings and controversies, the GAO report may elicit little more than a yawn from the media. Yet, the report is stunning in that it documents how the Obama administration has abandoned and even undermined the very promises that enabled the healthcare legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When objections to taxpayer funding for abortion or abortion coverage nearly brought down the bill, it took an eleventh hour ‘compromise’ — statutory language provided by Senator Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and a promised executive order — to save the ACA. Now, over four years later, the GAO report confirms that the abortion deal was effectively meaningless.

“The language in the law is unambiguous — ‘separate payments’ are required. Yet, insurance issuers are not collecting separate payments. In fact, the Obama administration is telling issuers that they do not need to collect two checks.

“States that do not require these ‘segregation plans’ cannot know if and how much taxpayer funding is being used to pay for abortions. Insurance issuers who are not collecting separate payments or even itemizing abortion premiums are not likely to be keeping abortions premiums separate from federal funds.

“So, abortions are being paid for out of federally subsidized premiums. That is taxpayer funding for abortion.”

GAO report. (To see which plans cover abortion, click on "Abortion Services Interactive Map.")

Data links religious freedom to peace and stability

Excerpted from "If Policy Makers Cared about Data, They’d Care about Freedom of Religion or Belief," the Weekly Number blog, September 15, 2014 - The past decade has seen the largest social science effort to collect and analyze data on international religious demography. This body of research points to one thing – religion is growing and will continue to grow globally, with about 9-in-10 people projected to be affiliated with religion in 2030 compared with 8-in-10 in 1970. This growth is projected to occur despite trends toward disaffiliation in the global north, where population growth is stagnating.

Studies show that there has been a dramatic rise in the level of religious restrictions and hostilities. The data point to a global religious freedom crisis that will become even more acute as the world becomes more religious and as global mobility mixes people and their beliefs at an unprecedented rate.

The data on religious freedom provide more than just information – they provide knowledge. Specifically, analysis of the data reveal two very important empirical relationships:
  • The combined effects of government and social restrictions on religious freedom lead to violent religious persecution and conflict.
  • The respect of freedom of religion or belief leads to peace and prosperity.
As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, freedom of religion or belief may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, according to this new study.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “Our Judeo-Christian heritage has provided for religious freedom, since we know that God has bestowed on all people freedom of choice and that true belief cannot be coerced. The rise of radical Muslim terrorist groups such as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) shows what happens in the absence of those fundamental understandings. A prayer request I recently received illustrates the tragedies that ensue:
A friend just got a text message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer. He is part of a mission and ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents.

The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families - even if it means their own deaths. He is very afraid, has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred.

Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be his voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, he is begging prayers for his courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if he is called to do so.

She asked me to ask everyone we know to please pray for them. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.”
Freedom2Care - CMDA's religious freedom headquarters

Pray for our brethren—and especially the children—under siege by the terrorists, that they may both remain faithful to Christ and also escape their persecutors. Pray for the political and military defeat of the persecutors and for religious freedom in these countries. Pray against the spiritual forces of darkness and the propaganda that is winning converts to the cause of terror and for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Use our easy, pre-written forms at our Freedom2Care legislative action website to contact your legislators on any of the following domestic religious freedom bills:
  1. Protect conscience freedom in healthcare: HR 940
    Preserve patient choice and protect pro-life professionals from discrimination for moral and ethical views.
  2. Uphold religious freedom, 1st Amendment - S.1808
    Marriage and Religious Freedom Act - S.1808 - prohibits discrimination because of moral beliefs regarding marriage and sex.
  3. Protect faith-based adoption agencies from discrimination - S 2706
    Keep states from cutting off faith-based adoption agencies that assist couples with adoptions according to faith standards.

Congress eyes charitable giving

Excerpted from "Protect giving: A chance for real bipartisanship," commentary by Vikki Spruill in The Hill, September 15, 2014 - Foundations and charities face a pivotal moment. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) with a bipartisan vote of 277 to 130. Now it needs to pass the Senate. It will give individuals and private foundations the certainty that allows for more charitable giving.

The America Gives More Act makes permanent three important provisions that have been part of the “extenders package” for a number of years. Though they are proven to increase giving and have broad bipartisan support, it’s become the norm for Congress to allow these provisions to expire, then retroactively reinstate them. This inconsistency from Congress leaves donors uncertain of how much they can contribute.

The bill addresses this uncertainty in three key areas:
  • Gifts from IRA distributions (referred to as the “IRA charitable rollover”) where generous donors are directing their mandatory distributions directly to charity.
  • Gifts of property, specifically conservation easements, which are complicated transactions that can take more than a year to plan and execute.
  • Gifts of food inventory, which are often perishable and so demand quick action.
The strong bipartisan alignment around this bill is rare these days in Washington. The vote in the House showed that both Democrats and Republicans understand the importance of supporting charitable giving. Still, this uncommon consensus is at risk of being undermined by Washington gridlock.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “In dozens of visits focused on this topic with Congressional leaders and their staff, I have been impressed with a bipartisan, general commitment to charitable giving. Still, the temptation for our deficit-spending Government to tap into new revenue sources is great, and the potential remains for Congress to unwittingly trim giving by fiddling with charity incentives and protections in the tax code.

“Why would Congress take steps that would make fewer Americans able to deduct charitable gifts, or subject givers to stingier limits on how much they give? Don't lawmakers realize that charities provide billions in social services—such as through faith-based medical and dental clinics that care for needy patients—that Government would otherwise have to fund?

“Government always seeks more money, due to the sheer pull of the power derived from money. Many politicians also redistribute our tax dollars to their constituents and pet projects as a means of retaining political power. Years of undisciplined spending now threaten Government's power and politicians' futures, so they are turning to previously sacred sources such as charity for more tax revenue.

“When I visit Members of Congress to persuade them to preserve our charitable gift deductions, I make the following simple points:
  1. Government should not tax individuals for giving their money away to help others.
  2. Charities can provide services much more efficiently and effectively than Government bureaucracies and save billions that the Government would otherwise have to fund.
  3. Any cuts to charitable giving will ultimately penalize the needy individuals served by charities.”
Use our Freedom2Care easy form to let your legislators know that Government should not tax us for money we give away to help others, and that you want your charitable gifts to remain tax-deductible.

Fact sheet on charitable giving
Itemized Deductions State-by-State - Pew Charitable Trusts

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Christian campus groups face persecution

Excerpted from The Wrong Kind of Christian,” Christianity Today. August 27, 2014 — Two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians. In May 2011, Vanderbilt's director of religious life told me that the group I'd helped lead for two years, Graduate Christian Fellowship—a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship—was on probation. We had to drop the requirement that student leaders affirm our doctrinal and purpose statement, or we would lose our status as a registered student organization.

In writing, the new policy refers only to constitutionally protected classes (race, religion, sexual identity, and so on), but Vanderbilt publicly adopted an "all comers policy," which meant that no student could be excluded from a leadership post on ideological grounds.

Like most campus groups, InterVarsity welcomes anyone as a member. But it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect. It didn't matter to them if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn't matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.

Those of us opposed to the new policy met with everyone we could to plead our case and seek compromise. But as spring semester ended, 14 campus religious communities—comprising about 1,400 Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon students—lost their organizational status. After we lost our registered status, our organization was excluded from new student activity fairs. So our student leaders decided to make T-shirts to let others know about our group. Because we were no longer allowed to use Vanderbilt's name, we struggled to convey that we were a community of Vanderbilt students who met near campus. So the students decided to write a simple phrase on the shirts: WE ARE HERE.

And they are. They're still there in labs and classrooms, researching languages and robotics, reflecting God's creativity through the arts and seeking cures for cancer. They are still loving their neighbors, praying, struggling, and rejoicing. You can find them proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, in daily ordinariness. And though it is more difficult than it was a few years ago, ministry continues on campus, often on the margins and just outside the gates. God is still beautifully at work. And his mercy is relentless.


Dr. J. Scott RiesCMDA’s National Director of Campus & Community Ministries J. Scott Ries, MD: “It is a remarkable story, but unfortunately not an isolated one. Just this week, InterVarsity announced that it has been booted off of all California State University campuses for the same reason, because they insist on a rational basis of faith as criteria for holding a leadership position.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the last 18 months, two CMDA chapters have also been de-recognized for, yes, the exact same reason. At the University of Illinois, Chicago, we were told that because we require our student leaders to agree with CMDA’s statement of belief, we therefore violate their anti-discrimination policies. At the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, our CMDA group was denied official recognition “because of the emphasis on God and especially because of the Bible sessions.”

"Thankfully, in both cases the Lord gave us favor after I sent a letter with assistance from Kim Colby, Sr. Legal Counsel for Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom to the respective deans, explaining that this misapplication of their policy actually was, in fact, discrimination at its core. Both universities promptly reversed their positions, and CMDA is thriving on both campuses. But it will get worse. Our 280 campus chapters will be a lightning rod as this storm builds.

“So why is official recognition important after all? Why not just exist under the radar, meet off campus and avoid the toil, expense and pain of fighting what has become a cultural landslide smothering both orthodox beliefs and religious pluralism? Because lack of recognition impedes ministry and increases the cost of doing ministry. Greg Jao, attorney and National Field Staff Director for InterVarsity, explains it well.

“When one group loses religious freedoms, we all lose religious freedoms. Historically, what starts at the university campus trickles into all of society. That remains true, but what has changed is the rapidity with which it now happens. It seems as though someone has poured accelerant onto the fire of intolerance that is consuming those who share the very faith that brought tolerance to this world.”


Standing Against Persecution: My Journey to Start a CMDA Campus Chapter
The Erosion of Tolerance by John Patrick, MD

Ice bucket challenge raises ethical concerns

Excerpted from "Send Your Ice Bucket Challenge Donation to Ethical, Successful Adult Stem Cell Research," LifeNews. August 21, 2014 — You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research. Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath. It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research. But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease. It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”. As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure. The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.

So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing. But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go? So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association. However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future.

But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources! Here are a few of my favorites: The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center is only a year old, but is starting an increasing number of clinical trials and educational efforts. The MSCTC does not do any embryonic or aborted fetal stem cell research. The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City is doing research in several areas including ALS, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.


Dr. David StevensCMDA Member and Senior Fellow for Family Research Council David Prentice, PhD: “As healthcare professionals, it’s heartening to see excitement for support of research into treatments for disease, and to raise empathy and awareness for people who suffer with life-threatening conditions. Let’s make sure that excitement is channeled in ways that maintain bedrock principles of medicine—to preserve and protect life.

“Research in particular runs the risk of venturing into paths of ‘progress by any means,’ so it’s important to keep principle first. The ALS ice bucket challenge fired the imagination and support of many and provided a fun way to get more people involved, but questions about where the donations were going and for what uses showed that some organizations were not committed to life-preserving principles in their supported research, but rather to that ‘progress by an means’ ethic.

“Research using embryonic stem cells or aborted fetal tissue relies on the willful destruction of young human lives. Let’s keep our eyes on the real prize and promote only life-affirming research, such as adult stem cells. We don’t have to sacrifice lives or ethics for medical progress.”


CMDA Ethics Statement – Human Stem Cell Research and Use
Scientific Demagoguery in the Stem Cell Wars by Dr. David Stevens

CVS stops selling cigarettes

Excerpted from CVS Stores Stop Selling All Tobacco Products,” The New York Times. September 3, 2014 — As of midnight on Tuesday, all 7,700 CVS locations nationwide will no longer sell tobacco products, fulfilling a pledge the company made in February, as it seeks to reposition itself as a health care destination. The rebranding even comes with a new name: CVS Health.

The decision to stop selling cigarettes is a strategic move as pharmacies across the country jockey for a piece of the growing health care industry. Rebranding itself as a company focused on health could prove lucrative for the drugstore as it seeks to appeal to medical partners that can help it bridge the gap between customers and their doctors.

CVS already operates 900 walk-in medical clinics, or “minute clinics,” where customers can get relatively simple services like blood pressure tests and flu vaccines. By dedicating space for these services, CVS and other major retailers like Walmart are diving into the pool of competitive health care dollars available for helping manage customers’ illnesses.

As the medical industry braces for the flood of new patients with insurance through the Affordable Care Act, drugstores see an opportunity to provide basic care to consumers who may not want to wait to see a doctor, if one is available in their area at all. And major chains like Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, can offer such services for prices that may appeal to patients on the fringes of the health care system.


Dr. Delores KotschwarCMDA Member and Internal Medicine and Geriatrics Specialist Delores Kotschwar, MD: “CVS’ decision to implement a cigarette-free enterprise at first seems to be a healthful and welcomed venture which I can applaud. But at a second glance, it raises some serious questions about the company’s intentions and our society as a whole.

“If this is a marketing ploy, is CVS trying to capture a health-minded customer base? And if so, are they also going to stop their sales of alcohol, carbonated beverages and nutrient-deficient and calorie-dense snacks? Will they also censor their magazine racks for those who struggle with alcoholism or pornography addictions?

“If this is a moral move, will CVS be willing to risk less vilified behaviors? It is easy to jump on the band wagon to denounce smoking as its health risks have been in the news for years. Yet nicotine, for all that it harms, is also a wonderful antidepressant, increases dopamine, decreases hunger and makes one feel empowered. However, because smoking is associated with heart, lung, cancer, hearing and memory issues, it is appropriately to be avoided. It is simplistic to criticize cigarettes alone. Our culture has the odd schizophrenia to vilify nicotine cigarettes which stimulate and enhance performance, while at the same time legalizing marijuana which causes time and space alteration, appetite stimulation, boundary violation, grandiosity and sleepiness.

“Other retailers have refused to sell alcohol or use certain products. But we have not yet addressed these other addictions. This probably wouldn’t be a financial boon and taking on these issues would likely result in business ruin. To be present at a stockholder’s meeting for CVS might be enlightening.

“We are a highly addicted society, palliating our pain and our altered limbic systems with many substances, including nicotine, alcohol, food, exercise, work, sex and pornography—all the while ignoring our desperate need for a God who heals.”

CMDA General Healthcare Resources