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Monday, June 27, 2016

CMA doctors lament Supreme Court decision upending women's health protections in abortion clinics as ensuring "back-alley abortions"

Washington, DC, June 27, 2016—The 17,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today lamented the Supreme Court's 5-3 decision to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld a Texas law protecting the health of women in abortion clinics.
CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens declared in a statement, "Given the shocking revelations of abysmal health and safety deficiencies in abortion clinics around the country, the Court's disallowance of health and safety requirements just protects what amount to back-alley abortions.
Kermit Gosnell's house of horrors
"Texas had the courage to require medically appropriate measures to protect women in abortion clinics, where state investigations had uncovered gross negligence and health hazards. The Supreme Court today upended those reasonable, medically necessary safety and health protections in favor of abortion ideology.
"We hear over and over the abortion mantra, 'safe, legal and rare.' But with over a million abortions a year and courts preventing even modest health and safety regulations, abortion is only legal—not at all safe or rare."
An amicus brief filed in  Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt for CMA by Alliance Defending Freedom highlighted the state's interest in protecting women's health by passing reasonable protections that rationally relate to health risks: "Texas' law appropriately expresses Texas's constitutional interest in safeguarding women's health and maintaining medical standards. The Ambulatory surgical center requirements rationally relate to Texas's legitimate interest in upholding consistent standards for outpatient abortion providers. The admitting privileges requirement rationally relates to Texas's legitimate interest in regulating outpatient abortion."
CMA Executive Vice President Dr. Gene Rudd, an obstetrician-gynecologist, added, "Surgical and drug-induced abortion carry significant risks to the mother that require timely care and continuity of care. The way to ensure adequate care when abortion complications occur is to require that the physician who performed the procedure that resulted in the complication be able to assure rapid treatment of the patient. That needs to be done in a medical facility properly equipped to care for these types of surgical emergencies."

As CMA's brief noted, "That is exactly why ambulatory surgical facilities require admitting privileges for physicians performing surgery comparable to elective abortion, and exactly why Texas needs this law to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing both medical and surgical abortion."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Obama administration rule will fuel prosecution of health professionals who follow biology over ideology

If you as a health professional or your healthcare institution stick to the scientific view of male and female as biologically determined, the Obama administration and lawyers around the country now have a new weapon with which to stick it to you.
Any health professional or institution that receives federal (HHS) funding and treats or counsels transsexual patients, prescribes hormone therapy, performs procedures related to sexuality or has a gender-specific bathroom, changing facility or shower area will suddenly encounter sweeping new dictates designed to enforce a non-biological, ideological view of human sexuality.
Action Opportunity: If you as a health professional and/or your healthcare institution have been or may be affected by these new regulations, please use the Christian Medical Association's Freedom2Care form to let us know.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) soon will begin enforcing new Obama administration rules on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, designed to control your professional practice and constrain the exercise of your conscience.
Effective July 18, 2016, new federal transgender regulations will apply to the healthcare services provided by virtually every physician, hospital, and healthcare professional in the country. And they apply to the health insurance provided by many employers, including not only healthcare professionals but also many educational institutions.
The new regulation is breathtakingly broad, applying to "any entity that has a health program or activity, any part of which receives Federal financial assistance from the Department, any health program or activity administered by the Department, or any health program or activity administered by an entity created under Title I of the ACA [Affordable Care Act]."
After consulting with legal experts in this area, here's the lowdown on this new weapon in the aggressive assault on science and sanity regarding sexuality:

1.    What do the new rules require?

The new rules purport to implement a ban on sex discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. But they dramatically expand the definition of “sex” to include sexual orientation, gender identity, sex stereotypes, and abortion decisions. Thus, the rules say that it is “discrimination” to provide healthcare services or coverage to the general population while declining to provide the same services or coverage to a transgender individual who wishes to transition to a different sex. So, for example, services and situations impacted by the reg include, but are  not limited to:
·         treating or counseling a gender-questioning individual
·         prescribing hormone therapy
·         performing hysterectomies, mastectomies, plastic surgery or genital reconstruction surgery
·         offering a gender-specific bathroom, changing area or shower
·         providing health benefits such as insurance or working with an insurance company that does
In the case of the above-mentioned services, all health professionals and institutions under the new reg may be required to provide the same service to a transgender individual who wishes to transition to the opposite sex.
Covered employers (including virtually any employer that receives HHS funding and provides health benefits to employees) or healthcare issuers (like Aetna) that provide insurance coverage for gender-applicable healthcare services may be required to cover the same services when requested for gender transition (e.g., a hysterectomy for a woman seeking to transition to living as a man);
Covered entities (like hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians’ offices) must treat individuals consistent with their gender identity. That means, for example, that various facilities such as:
·         hospital rooms
·         nursing home apartments
·         shower and changing facilities
must be opened to individuals based on their declared gender identity.

2.    Who is subject to the rules?

The new rules apply to any entity that receives any funding provided by or administered by HHS. This includes any healthcare professional who accepts Medicare or Medicaid. It also includes a wide variety of HHS funding, such as:
·         Federal financial assistance, including wages, loans, grants, and scholarships on behalf of students
·         Grants
·         Loans
·         Credits
·         Subsidies
·         Contracts (other than procurement contracts, but including an insurance contract)
·         Services of federal personnel
·         Real property
·         Proceeds from a transfer of property
·         Tax credits under Title I of the Affordable Care Act
·         Subsidies for health-related insurance
Qualified healthcare professionals impacted by the reg include, but are not limited to:
  • Physician offices
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Insurance providers
  • Counseling centers
  • Plastic surgeons

3.    What penalties could I suffer?

The new rules expose covered entities to significant liability, including :
·         loss of federal funding
·         enforcement proceedings brought by the Department of Justice
·         private lawsuits brought by individuals for damages and attorneys’ fees.
One hospital system has already been sued by the ACLU under the new rules, even though they do not officially take effect until July 18, 2016.

4.    Is any exemption provided for my religious convictions?

No. HHS was asked to include a religious exemption due to the obvious implications for religious healthcare professionals but declined to do so. While HHS very aggressively expanded and reinterpreted existing law regarding discrimination based on sex, the department took a decidedly passive approach regarding discrimination based on religious convictions. The rule simply states that existing religious freedom laws should suffice.

What can I do to protect my professional and moral decision-making?

This new regulation remains to be tested in the courts.
Courts may view sympathetically assertions of religious freedom and speech protections. Courts also may view antagonistically the fact that unelected federal bureaucrats have taken for themselves a legislative role, blatantly twisting the clear meaning of existing federal law on sex discrimination.
Protect Yourself: If you as a health professional and/or your healthcare institution have been or may be affected by these new regulations, please use the Christian Medical Association's Freedom2Care form (http://www.freedom2care.org/action/page/share) to let us know. Please specify how you are impacted and if you or your institution receive any federal funding, including Medicare and Medicaid and the other funding sources listed in #2 above.
You will have the option of either keeping your comments confidential or adding them to others' comments viewable on the Freedom2Care website.

Note: While the Christian Medical Association (CMA) often advances its public policy objectives by working with like-minded legal organizations, CMA is not qualified to provide legal counsel and advises members to obtain legal counsel before pursuing any claim.

Monday, June 20, 2016

USAID to Dads: Help advance women's agenda, and btw, get circumcised

Apparently USAID bureaucrats feel so antagonistic or ambivalent toward men that the only way they can stomach Father's Day is to allow that at least some men help advance their women's agenda. And then they encourage readers to learn more about male circumcision. Now there's a Father's Day present for which every Dad hopes.
Here's what a recent USAID email had to say--and not say--about Father's Day:
"This Father's Day, we salute men and recognize their essential role in families--in finance, health, education, and much more.
"At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we believe that gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the core of development. Today, as we celebrate fathers everywhere, we want to underscore that men’s informed and active participation in development is crucial to creating a more equitable world for all. \
"In this spirit, we wish to send special thanks to the many men around the world who continue to support women and girls’ right to equal footing with men and boys, even at the risk of going against dominant socio-cultural norms. Your dedicated service is vital to better health and improved lives for everyone. Only together can we unlock full human potential on a transformational scale.
Learn more:
• "Find out about USAID’s commitment to meeting the reproductive health and family planning needs of couples and individuals around the world.
• "Learn about the REAL Fathers initiative and how we’re working with husbands and fathers to reduce domestic violence.
• "Learn more about how men protect themselves and their partners from HIV through USAID-supported voluntary medical male circumcision programs.
• "View the USAID Father's Day photo gallery."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pew Poll: People of faith are happy, family-oriented, giving

Americans who pray daily and attend church weekly "are more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives," a Pew Research Foundation poll has found. The study also "shows a clear link between what people see as essential to their faith and their self-reported day-to-day behavior."
For example, Pew found,
"Among Christians, believing in God tops the list, with fully 86% saying belief in God is 'essential' to their Christian identity. In addition, roughly seven-in-ten Christians say being grateful for what they have (71%), forgiving those who have wronged them (69%) and always being honest (67%) are essential to being Christian." 
The poll provides solid evidence that the vast majority of Christians diligently seek to live out their faith consistently, walking the talk. And that a consistent faith and lifestyle correlates positively with a richer, more satisfying and loving life.
The results of Christian faith extend beyond personal thriving and satisfaction, the survey found:
"For example, nearly half of highly religious Americans – defined as those who say they pray every day and attend religious services each week – gather with extended family at least once or twice a month.
"By comparison, just three-in-ten Americans who are less religious gather as frequently with their extended families.
"Roughly two-thirds of highly religious adults (65%) say they have donated money, time or goods to help the poor in the past week, compared with 41% who are less religious."
And that's just volunteering to help the poor. Add to that number those who volunteer to tutor or coach youth, counsel pregnant couples, teach classes, assist the elderly, provide childcare and give of their time, money and talents in healthcare, educational, cultural and social services programs.
One of America's early analysts, Alexis de Toqueville, observed that "I am certain that they hold
Alexis de Toqueville
[faith] to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."1
Toqueville also noted how Americans band together in voluntary associations to address social concerns:
"In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used, or more unsparingly applied to a multitude of different objects, than in America. [A] vast number of other [associations] are formed and maintained by the agency of private individuals."2
Many of those American associations to help the poor, educate, heal, inspire and protect have Christian roots. Like de Tocqueville, any honest student of history recognizes that the moral fabric and the practical progress of our nation have been woven with thousands of threads of people of faith who have volunteered their time, talents and resources to help others.
So in a day when much news related to faith is discouraging and disturbing, we can rejoice in this reminder that many of God's people are remaining faithful not only in belief, but also in action.
_________
Footnotes
1. de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America - Volume 1 (p. 253). Kindle Edition.
2. Ibid., p. 151.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Where is the evidence for Obama's "evidence-based" sex ed approach?

Valerie Huber
I recently met at the US Capitol with Members of Congress and my friend and colleague Valerie Huber, President of the sexual risk avoidance education group ASCEND.
Ascend (formerly the National Abstinence Education Association) champions youth to make healthy decisions in relationships and life by promoting well being through a primary prevention strategy, and as a national membership and advocacy organization that serves, leads, represents and equips the Sexual Risk Avoidance field.
At our meeting at the Capitol, Valerie explained how the Obama administration disfavors the sexual risk avoidance education that parents favor, opting instead for the so-called "comprehensive" sex ed approach. "Comprehensive" sex ed programs expect teens to engage in sex and focus on the mechanics of sex and prophylactic measures.

Teens' tendencies thwart condom strategy

The comprehensive sex ed approach depends heavily on condom instruction. Yet as the FDA notes, the effective use of condoms depends on consistency, carefulness and rationality. Teenagers, by contrast, are often inconsistent, reckless and irrational. Studies of the brain offer evidence that the ability to rationally anticipate consequences and adapt behavior accordingly often does not fully develop until after the teen years.

Exposing the flaws in the "evidence"

ASCEND has released a statement entitled, "The HHS List of "Evidence-Based" Sex Ed Programs Presents Dubious Claims of Effectiveness." It explains how the administration continues to promote "comprehensive" sex ed despite a dearth of reliable scientific evidence:
------------------------------
Since 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services has provided revisions and additions to a list of Teen Pregnancy Programs they claim are “evidence-based.” The touted list is treated as a seminal guide for those who implement programs across the country to reduce teen pregnancy.
Spring 2016 saw yet another expansion of the so-called “approved” list increasing the total number of programs to 44. To earn a place on the list, a rigorous criteria for research design and implementation is set forth.
However, for many programs, a closer look shows serious breaches of many established research protocols.
And yet, these programs are presented as “national models,” meaning that when implemented the same positive results can be expected. So what has a closer look revealed?

"Model" programs are actually making matters worse 

For a program to be deemed a “national model,” at least one replication, with the same results, must be achieved. But only 16% of the programs on the list have even been replicated.
Of those that have, dubious and even dangerous results were reached.
Of the seven programs that have been replicated, six showed either “no change” or worse. Three programs demonstrated students faring worse than students who did not receive the program at all by being more likely to have sex, have more sexual partners, or less likely to use contraception.
And, disturbingly, these are offered as  “models” of programs designed to reduce teen pregnancy. 
Another concern includes the implication that positive findings from a program conducted in a clinical setting, for instance, can also be expected for those in a classroom setting.  However, such a generalization of findings from one setting to an entirely different setting is a violation of the most elementary research protocols.

Whatever happened to truth? 

The fact of the matter is the much celebrated “evidence-based” list of programs are not national models and should not be promoted as such.
They simply do not meet the expected standard of replication to be so deemed. Communities and schools across the country need to know the truth. 
Those who care about teen pregnancy and the growing epidemic of STDs among youth deserve research that produces honest information. We have some. But it is important that we do not say what we cannot say.
It is time for honest research to inform our efforts in working with teens on this most important issue. It is time to stop promoting approaches to sex education that have more to do with political and ideological agendas than with the health and well-being of youth.
------------------------------

Congress steps in

Thankfully, the current Congress is cognizant of the benefits of sexual risk avoidance education and has allocated funding for it. Accordingly, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week released a Funding Announcement for a new Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Education Program. As ASCEND explains:
The new SRA program is the result of Ascend’s work with Congress to bring more sex education choice to communities. The FY 2016 federal budget contains $10 million for a sex education approach that is focused solely on giving youth the skills to avoid all of the risks associated with teen sex.
The goal of the new programs is to “implement sexual risk avoidance education that teaches participants how to voluntarily refrain from non-marital sexual activity ... and teach the benefits associated with self-regulation, success sequencing for poverty prevention, healthy relationships, goal setting, and resisting sexual coercion, dating violence, and other youth risk behaviors such as underage drinking or illicit drug use without normalizing teen sexual activity.”
The award process for the  FY2016 SRA Education program allows for annual awards over a 3-year project period as funds are available. 
As pending legislation, the Healthy Relationships Act, notes, 
The unambiguous message that postponing sexual activity is the optimal sexual health behavior for youth must be the primary emphasis and context for each topic covered by the education. The education must be age appropriate, medically accurate, and evidence based.
If Congress continues to fund sex education, the requirements of this legislation seem quite reasonable, especially given the serious health and emotional consequences of teen sexual activity.

Monday, May 16, 2016

SCOTUS uncharacteristically equivocal on bullying by Government (with a capital G, as in God)

With uncharacteristic restraint, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today decided that, well, it just can't decide on a landmark religious freedom case.
You've heard all about this case (Zubik v. Burwell), which consolidated cases against the Obama administration by the following plaintiffs:

  • Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged (pictured)
  • Priests for Life
  • Southern Nazarene University
  • Geneva College
  • Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington
  • East Texas Baptist University

  •  The cases arose because President Obama insisted on using Obamacare as a vehicle to make even elderly nuns participate in his divisive mandate that every woman in America have free contraceptives. The mandate includes drugs like Ella that the FDA says may "affect implantation," i.e., terminate the life of a human embryo.
    The nuns, Christian colleges and other faith-based ministries said they could not morally participate in the program. The administration refused to exempt them or reasonably accommodate their conscience concern, insisting that objectors sign what amounted to a permission slip directing their insurers to provide the objectionable contraceptives and potential abortifacients.
    After oral arguments in the case, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the opposing parties to see if a mutually satisfactory compromise might be possible. The administration, which for years had held the hammer over the head of the ministries with no indication of willingness to compromise, apparently recognized the weakness of its legal position and conceded that maybe it could find a different way to reach its goal of universal contraceptive coverage.
    In its ruling handed down Monday, the Court directed the lower courts to give the parties "an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'”
    Suddenly shy and deferential, the Court expressed "no view on the merits of the cases. In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest." A ruling protecting religious freedom would have been extremely helpful, and the fact that the administration suddenly conceded that in fact it could change its tactics indicates that it had not pursued the least restrictive means of accomplishing its goal.
    SCOTUS never displayed such indecisive deference when mandating for the entire nation same-sex marriage or abortion on demand. This indecision comes despite the fact that the First Amendment clearly protects citizens of faith from government restriction ("no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."). Congress, through the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, also clearly prevents the government from abridging religious rights without a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means to achieve its aims.
    So now it's up to the lower courts (where a bunch of these cases were decided with differing conclusions) to guide the Obama administration and religious objectors to a compromise in which everyone's happy. Nuns don't have to participate in what they are convinced are morally reprehensible actions and President Obama gets to find a way to get free contraceptives to every woman in America, coast-to-coast coverage from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills.
    Such a solution may let the nuns and other objectors avoid the millions in dollars of annual fines threatened by the Obama administration, and that's worth celebrating. But it's highly unlikely to satisfy ideologues whose goal appears to be making everyone dependent upon and subservient to the Government. To them, Government (spelled with a capital G, as in God) is not a protector of individual freedom and conscience but a hammer to pound every citizen into submission to state dogma.
    Thankfully, a group of nuns and other courageous "Daniels" of our day, as in biblical times, refused to bow down and submit to the king's decree and escaped the lions' paw and maw. God give us more like them...and make us likewise courageous.

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    It's a girl! Please let her live.

    The latest pro-life news from Capitol Hill features a hearing on legislation that would ban abortions for the purpose of sex selection--a bill that especially would protect girls from gendercide.
    Chairman Franks (R-AZ) (@RepTrentFranks) recently chaired a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 4924, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 (PRENDA). His opening statement can be viewed here. Complete video from the hearing is available on the Judiciary Committee’s website at this link

    Majority witnesses

    Catherine Davis, Founding Core Member of National Black Pro-Life Coalition and President of The Restoration Project
    video and text of testimony
    Exchanges with Chairman Franks on the purpose of and need for PRENDA, part 1 and part 2
    Anna Higgins, Associate Scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute
    video and text of testimony
    Exchanges with Chairman Franks concerning the constitutionality of PRENDA, part 1 and part  2
    Rev. Derek McCoy, National Clergy Relations Director for Center for Urban Renewal and Education
    video and text of testimony
    Exchange with Chairman Franks on the need to protect the vulnerable

    Minority witness

    Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

    text of testimony