Abortion

Image via REUTERS / Gary Cameron / RNS

If there is one constant in this unconventional presidential campaign it is the unpredictability — and importance — of the Catholic vote.

Once a reliably Democratic cohort, Catholics have in recent decades swung back and forth between the two parties. And because they represent more than a fifth of all voters, and are concentrated in key Midwestern swing states, the candidate with the most Catholic support has wound up winning the popular vote.

Image via REUTERS / Mike Segar / RNS

The 2016 Democratic National Convention party platform includes much that religious progressives from multiple faith backgrounds might like. Approved July 25, it calls for expanding LGBT rights, combating climate change, and narrowing the income gap. Here are some of the hot-button social proposals.

Image via REUTERS/Mike Segar/RNS

In a section titled “Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary,” Republicans say they “condemn” the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land. Religious conservatives from several denominations also have opposed this ruling as the work of “activist judges,” a charge and a term echoed in the platform.

Ryan Hammill 6-27-2016

The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ restrictive abortion laws on June 27 in one of the most important abortion-related cases in years.

The Court ruled 5-3 in the case known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which served to clarify the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That case concluded that while the states are free to regulate abortion, they cannot place an “undue burden” on women’s constitutional right to abortion.

Portland, Ore. Image via REUTERS/Richard Clement/RNS

The United Methodist Church General Conference convenes once every four years to make policy decisions and set the direction for the denomination.

Beginning May 10, 864 delegates, half of them clergy, will converge on the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for 10 days for the General Conference. More than 40 percent of those delegates will come from outside the U.S.

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The news that Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards will speak at Georgetown University reignited a perennial debate about freedom and identity in religious universities, particularly Catholic institutions.

Josh Hafner 3-31-2016

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Donald Trump sparked outrage across the ideological spectrum with a call to punish women who obtain abortions if the procedure is banned. Later, however, Trump clarified his position, saying in a campaign statement that, if abortion is banned, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

Katie Breslin, left, and Katie Stone, right. Image via Lauren Markoe / RNS

Amid the helium balloons, dance music, chants, and counterchants, Katie Stone and Katie Breslin spelled out their opposing views outside the Supreme Court as the justices inside heard one of the most contentious cases of the year. The two 20-something Christians, both motivated by faith, say the justices’ ruling in Zubik v. Burwell could affirm or weaken the most basic of rights. The case asks whether religious nonprofits must comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, or whether it violates the federal law that sets a high bar for government infringement on religious rights.

the Web Editors 3-02-2016

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In a landmark abortion case, the Supreme Court — which is down to eight justices — may be evenly split. With Antonin Scalia’s passing, the highest court in the land is now composed of four liberal justices, three conservatives, and the unpredictable Anthony Kennedy.

Richard Wolf 3-02-2016

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The Supreme Court takes up its most far-reaching case on abortion rights in nearly a quarter century March 2, with the fate of abortion restrictions in many states on the line. Depleted by the death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia, the eight-member court will consider a challenge mounted by Texas abortion clinics against a law that threatens to leave only 10 clinics operating in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age.

Image via REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/RNS.

With the abortion debate continuing to gather steam, evangelical church leader César Augusto of the Source of Life Church in Goias, central Brazil, advised women last week to avoid becoming pregnant, while Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Sao Paulo, told women in a BBC interview to “view (babies with microcephaly) as a mission.”

the Web Editors 2-18-2016

Speaking to reporters on February 18 on the way back from Mexico, Pope Francis weighed in on the outbreak of Zika virus in Latin America.

When asked whether birth control or abortion could be considered a "lesser evil" in the face of the virus, Francis condemned abortion as evil, but offered a more ambiguous response about birth control.

Travis Knoll 2-11-2016

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The discovery of a sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus is already reverberating in Latin America. In Brazil, at ground zero of the Zika virus outbreak, the Health Ministry issued new guidelines for pregnant Brazilians, including cautions to use condoms and abstain from sex or even kissing. Activists are also weighing in, calling for legalizing abortion of deformed fetuses. But an important voice with the potential to influence the debate has said relatively little on the topic thus far: the Catholic Church.

A pregnant woman rests as health officials collect mosquitoes to check for Zika virus at a village in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb. 4, 2016. Image via REUTERS/Samrang Pring/RNS.

“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in his homily, according to Honduran media reports.

“Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist,” he said. “Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives.”

Nicola A. Menzie 1-14-2016

Michelle Higgins. Image via Urbana/RNS

Michelle Higgins has been making waves lately. A leader in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, she recently addressed a gathering of 16,000 evangelical students at an InterVarsity conference in St. Louis, during which she urged them to back the movement.

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In the Catholic Church, a jubilee — or a holy year — is a religious event that involves the forgiveness of sins, as well as reconciliation. But the idea of a jubilee dates back to the Bible: “And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live on it,” Leviticus 25:10. For the ancient Israelites, the jubilee was a time properties were returned to their original owners or legal heirs, slaves were set free, and creditors were barred from collecting debts.

Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 declared the first Christian jubilee, beginning with the opening of the Holy Door, an entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, usually blocked, through which pilgrims can enter. Other holy doors are also opened for this jubilee in Rome and around the world for the first time; the year ends when they are closed.

On Nov. 29 Pope Francis opened a door at the cathedral in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, as a symbolic start to the Holy Year.

Rachel MacNair 12-03-2015
STILLFX / Shutterstock

STILLFX / Shutterstock

IN OCTOBER, China’s Communist Party leadership announced the end of its nearly 40-year-old “one child” policy, announcing that all married couples could now have two children.

The one-child policy in China was established by Deng Xiaoping in the mid-1970s, first as a voluntary program, then as federal policy. He said it was necessary to make sure that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.” His tool for ensuring economic growth was the large-scale control of women’s bodies. The results have been well-documented: massive numbers of coerced abortions and sterilizations and women with “unapproved” pregnancies avoiding prenatal medical care for fear of such coercion. Women have been and continue to be intensely traumatized by a government policy that is indifferent to their pain.

This policy has also disrupted the gender balance in China. The introduction of ultrasound technology that easily identifies the baby’s gender in utero has led to female feticide—sex-selective abortions. Millions of little girls are dead because they were girls and not boys. Women are aborting their daughters because of their shared gender. What does this do to women’s own self-esteem and self-image?

This is not a glitch in China’s system of population control, but a central feature of it. If you have 50 women and one polygamous man, you can have many babies at once. But if you have 50 men and one woman, you get no more babies than if you have only one fertile man and one woman. If reducing the overall number of people is your goal, then targeting females gets you more bang for the buck, so to speak.

Image via REUTERS / Pool / RNS

For the past five years, Catholic priest Bill Carmody led a weekly Mass in the parking lot of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility where a gunman killed three people Nov. 27.

In fact, Carmody had been in the parking lot with a handful of protesters that very morning, and he learned about the shooting after he’d left, when people texted him to make sure he was not hurt.

“I am absolutely heartbroken about this,” he said on Nov. 30.

“I’m against all violence, and whether you’re in the womb or outside the womb, killing’s wrong.”

the Web Editors 11-23-2015

Image via LifeWay Research

More than half of churchgoers who have had an abortion (52 percent) say no one at church knows it. Nearly half of women who have had an abortion (49 percent) say pastors’ teachings on forgiveness don’t seem to apply to terminated pregnancies.

“That tells you the environment of the church,” [Scott] McConnell [of LifeWay Reseach] said. “You can’t say you’ve had an abortion, you can’t say you’re considering one — it’s completely taboo to discuss.

“But when a woman is willing to publicly acknowledge she’s had an abortion in the past, she will sometimes be approached by several other women in the church who’ve never been willing to share with anybody that they too have had an abortion. It’s incredibly freeing for them.”

Richard Wolf 11-13-2015

Image via Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock / RNS

Nearly a quarter-century after its last major ruling on abortion created a fragile balance between women’s rights and government restrictions, the Supreme Court appears ready for a rematch.

And like the last time, the debate would unfold in the midst of a presidential election.

The first act could play out as early as Nov. 13, when the justices may decide whether to hear a challenge to tough new limits placed on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas. The restrictions — forcing doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring clinics to measure up to outpatient surgery centers — threaten to leave the state with just 10 clinics clustered in four population centers and along the Mexican border.

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