abortion

Employees of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles are taking their fight against state-mandated abortion coverage in their insurance plans to the federal government.

The Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a formal complaint Thursday with the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of seven employees of the Catholic university, telling the department that federal law bars states from discriminating against insurance providers who offer plans without abortion coverage.

The alliance on Thursday also told Pennsylvania State University it should reverse a decision to remove Bibles from hotel rooms that was prompted by an atheist group’s earlier complaint that allowing Bibles violated the First Amendment.

The California Department of Managed Health Care did an about-face last month and rejected insurance plans it had already approved for Loyola and Santa Clara University, saying they must cover all abortion, not just elective abortion. Its rationale was that all abortions are “medically necessary.”

The so-called Weldon Amendment blocks states from receiving certain federal funds if they discriminate against insurance providers for not covering abortion.

The California department “purports to be interpreting and applying the law of California, a state that receives an enormous amount of ‘funds made available in this Act’ in this and recent appropriations” of Congress, the letter told the Department of Health and Human Services. “The need to remedy this discrimination is urgent because it is immediately depriving [the employees] of a health plan that omits elective abortions.”

In a Sept. 8 response to a letter from the alliance and foundation that California was not only violating federal law but also misinterpreting its own state constitution, Shelley Rouillard, director of the California department, didn’t specifically counter those groups’ analysis.

Rouillard said California law dating to 1975 “requires health plans to cover abortion as a basic health care service” and the state constitution requires them to “treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.” Her response was included in the groups’ complaint to the federal government.

“No state can ignore federal law and continue to unlawfully receive taxpayer money,” said the alliance’s Casey Mattox in a press release. “So California has a choice: Stop forcing these employers to cover abortion or forfeit the tens of billions of dollars it receives under the condition that it follow the law.”

Liable for ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’ Against Bibles

In its letter to Penn State protesting the school’s removal of Bibles provided by Gideons International from two campus hotels, the alliance reminded the school that it had previously and successfully sued the school for its speech code and “zone” policies and for denying alumni the right to include “religious inscriptions” on alumni-purchased bricks on campus.

But the alliance told President Eric Barron it was writing in a “spirit of cooperation” to counter the legal analysis provided the school by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Supreme Court precedent “affirmatively mandates accommodation” of religions under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, and Penn State had been “merely accommodating the religious needs and desires of many of its guests” by allowing the Bibles in rooms.

Both federal appeals court that have considered how public universities may accommodate religion – in the context of “clergy-led prayers” at graduation – have ruled that the First Amendment does not mandate universities become a “religion-free” zone, the letter said. The atheist group’s view that Bibles in guest room drawers are “offensive” has no bearing on Penn State’s legal obligations, it said.

The school may have even “exposed itself to potential liability” by caving to the atheist group’s demands, the letter said. “Presumably, the guest rooms include a variety of printed materials” that are not religious in nature, meaning Penn State has illegally shown “hostility towards religion” and “engaged in viewpoint discrimination” in violation of the First Amendment.

The alliance noted that the U.S. Navy recently reversed a decision to remove Gideons-provided Bibles from base lodges following a warning from the same atheist group and an opposing letter from the alliance making the same points that it told Penn State.

Penn State shouldn’t let itself “be browbeaten” by the atheist group “into taking unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional actions,” the alliance’s David Hacker said in a press release.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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Leave it to a group of godless college students to say they have unfettered freedom to mock God in public on campus, but a group dedicated to defending human dignity doesn’t have the same right – even if it preemptively warns passers-by.

Boise State University and Abolitionists4Life will “meet to set a date for trial” later this month in the pro-life student group’s First Amendment lawsuit against the school, The Arbiter reports.

The school required Abolitionists4Life to install “warning signs” in front of “graphic” images it used in two events last spring, and prevented it from distributing fliers outside a small free-speech zone, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group representing the pro-life students, said in June.

Warning signs are required for events that involve “controversial issues, specifically graphic pictures,” a university official allegedly told the group.

It’s not clear what was “graphic” about the images - the Arbiter said they depicted “unborn fetuses in various stages of development” and the lawsuit said the student group uses “images about abortion” in its advocacy, but neither mentions aborted fetuses specifically.

The Secular Student Alliance, which has “distributed fliers denying the existence of God” unimpeded on campus according to the Arbiter, has a problem with Abolitionists4Life’s freedom to use “graphic” images at all:

Jake Wolford, president of Secular Student Alliance, protested the events last spring and questioned whether the images displayed were suitable, even with the warning signs.

“Just having these huge pictures of aborted fetuses is gross,” Wolford said. “Is this even OK?”

There are all sorts of “gross” things on campus, many of them celebrated by Wolford’s putative allies – look at practically any campus “Sex Week.” But subjectively finding something “gross” says nothing about a speaker’s right to convey a message using it.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether images of aborted fetuses, if that’s indeed what’s at stake, have their intended effect of making people recoil against abortion. But the effectiveness of a student’s message is not a university’s concern.

And students who advocate censorship for their opponents can’t be surprised when a school turns around and hinders speech that they like.

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Just when you thought race-based excuses couldn’t get more ridiculous, here’s yet another tidbit about University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Mireille Miller-Young.

As The College Fix has reported, back in March Miller-Young and some pals approached a couple of anti-abortion protesters. Eventually, the prof snatched away one of their displays and then got into an altercation with the younger of the protesters, which left scratches on the latter’s arm.

Last month, the feminist studies professor pleaded no contest to “misdemeanor counts of battery, theft and vandalism.” But now, several of her colleagues have offered up a … “unique” defense of sorts: the “cultural legacy of slavery.”  The Daily Caller reports:

UCSB history professor Paul Spikard charged in his letter to Judge Hill that Miller-Young has been the victim of “an energetic smear campaign that seems to have little to do with her person or her actions, and a great deal to do with fomenting racial hatred and rallying right-wing political sentiment.”

“It would be tragic if Dr. Miller-Young were sentenced to jail time or mandatory anger management classes based on the press’ portrayal of her as an Angry Black Woman,” Spikard wrote.

“She was at the stage of a pregnancy when one is not fully one’s self fully, so the image of a severed fetus appeared threatening,” (fellow UCSB feminist studies professor Eileen) Boris wrote, according to Fox News.

“If she appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.”

Read the full story here.

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For anyone surprised that Jesuit universities had once covered all abortions in their insurance plans: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that an insurance policy approved by the state two years ago is getting a second look from the administration of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University told faculty and staff they would stop covering “elective” abortions – those that aren’t medically necessary – because it violates their commitments as Catholic universities. The schools are affiliated with but not controlled by the Catholic Church.

Though the Department of Managed Health Care approved the Kaiser Permanente policy excluding “voluntary termination of pregnancy” from coverage in 2012, activists including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are now calling on the state to deem all abortions “medically necessary” so they must be covered by insurance.

The schools appear to employ many faculty who don’t care a whit for their religious identity:

“It’s something we had not heard of before,” said Stephen Diamond, a law professor who resigned from his scholar’s position at Santa Clara’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethicsin protest of the center’s support of the policy change. “I was one of hundreds of faculty members objecting,” he said. …

“That it was even up for debate was a complete shock to most of the people I know on campus,” said Anna Muraco, an associate professor of sociology and member of the faculty Senate at Loyola Marymount. “What it’s doing is to institutionalize discrimination.” …

“Other faculty members have told me they’re no longer comfortable in this environment,” said Diamond, the Santa Clara law professor. Universities, he said, are supposed to be places of “shared governance,” where teachers are consulted and take part in decision-making.

Read the full article, which gives short shrift to supportive voices at the schools, here.

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OPINION: Republicans can capture this demographic if they hold back on social issues

The Democratic Party no longer has an undeniable hold on millennial voters, with an increasing number shifting toward the right side of the political spectrum, according to a report issued by Pew Research Center.

A newly identified subset of young voters are now “skeptical of activist government,” and a “substantial majority” of this subset “view government as wasteful and inefficient,” according to the study, Beyond Red v. Blue: The Political Typology, released on June 26.

This group of fiscally conservative, small-government advocates is classified as “young outsiders” by the study, among eight political typology groups that include “steadfast conservatives,” “solid liberals” and “politically disengaged bystanders.”

While young outsiders aren’t entirely comprised of millennial voters, Pew says the category is collectively the youngest of all typology groups, with 30 percent under 30 and most under 50.

The findings of the study complicate the view of millennials from a mere two years ago, when many voters now classified as young outsiders supported the reelection of President Barack Obama.

Sixty-seven percent of voters ages 18 to 29 cast their ballots for Obama, to 30 percent for former Gov. Mitt Romney. Voters 30-44 years old supported Obama 52 percent to 45 percent in support of Romney.

The cause of the rightward shift? Take your pick from a long list of grievances: out-of-control government spending, the soaring costs of higher education, government corruption, staggering unemployment and the uncertain job market, among many other issues.

One of the topic issues in the typology study is entitlement and welfare spending.

As compared to 48 percent of the general public, 86 percent of young outsiders believe that “government aid to the poor does more harm than good,” said the report. Further, 76 percent of young outsiders believe the government cannot afford to further assist those in need.

Government over-involvement is another issue of top concern, with 66 percent of young outsiders indicating that they feel the government is doing too much to resolve the country’s issues and problems.

While millennials’ viewpoints on government spending and the scope of federal power are shifting toward the right, the demographic holds mostly liberal opinions on social issues, including environmental protection regulations and controversial social policies.

Young outsiders feel that society should accept homosexuality (78 percent) compared to 62 percent of the general population. The group favors the legalization of marijuana (67 percent), and 58 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Yet despite their general resistance to government spending, 68 percent of young outsiders believe that the costs of stricter environmental laws and regulations are worthwhile.

Curiously, young outsiders veer back to the right on the gun-control debate, with 63 percent stating that protecting the right to own firearms is important.

Despite mostly socially liberal viewpoints, Pew predicts young outsiders will still lean Republican when comes to casting a ballot, although the category does not favorably view either political party. This bodes well for the GOP in the approaching midterm elections, but only if they understand the opportunity the party is afforded by this realignment of youth political philosophies.

studentsforliberty.sflThe GOP needs the young outsider demographic almost as much as the group wants stringent, fiscally conservative leaders and representatives, presenting an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship that has the potential for a very large return.

Republicans have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are not just the party of stodgy old white men, but also appeal to a vast array of demographics in age and gender.

Young outsiders are largely comprised of two demographic groups that could vastly contribute to improving the GOP’s image problem – youth and women. Women comprise 52 percent of young outsiders, according to the report.

However, there is a large difference between ideological agreement and actual ballots being cast for conservative candidates on Election Day.

The best plan of attack for the GOP is to leave social issues for another day and focus on appealing to young voters with decisive, realistic plans for resolving the financial problems facing our country.

Jobs, the economy, deregulation, entitlement reform and legislation that lowers the cost of college tuition – not combating the social culture war of our elders – are the issues that this demographic wants to hear about.

College Fix contributor Julianne Stanford is a student at the University of Arizona.

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IMAGES: European Parliament/Flick, Students for Liberty

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OPINION

Boise State University was sued recently for requiring prolife students to use warning signs when they protest abortion on campus with graphic images of aborted babies.

You know the ones – they are not easy to look at. They are real photos of murdered children, and they look like just that: blood, dismembered parts, lifeless faces.

Why would we use such images? We do so because those horrific photos so many prolifers use, including myself, are effective.

Women going into clinics have stopped in their tracks upon seeing the images and changed their minds. Many have later told pro-life workers that the disturbing pictures portraying the truth about abortion were the sole thing that convinced them to turn around and have their babies.

I have heard the argument (from people on both sides) that the graphic pictures are counterproductive because they make people angry at us and harden them even more.

Certainly, they make many people furious. One time a young college student even came up to my group and started crying and yelling at us, claiming that she had been raped and had had an abortion.

Many have heard of the feminist studies professor at UC Santa Barbara who stormed off with a teenage prolifer’s sign last semester. I was among that group of prolife protesters on campus that day, and we dared to hold graphic signs showing what abortion is, causing the professor to throw herself into, literally, a rage.

It is not the photos that upset them, though (after all, it is not a baby, remember?).

The hard truth of abortion thrust in front of them is what sets people off. The photos do not harden people against the pro-life cause; they only give them a run for their money…and deeply unsettle them.

That said, I do think that whenever possible children and post-abortive women should be spared seeing the images.

I am part of an independent group that operates similarly to Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, and often we just reach out and talk to women, give them a pamphlet, and tell them about nearby pregnancy centers.

This is a gentler way to approach these women and dispenses with a lot of the stress that inevitably accompanies seeing the pictures. If it works, great. If not, maybe they need to see a bit more.

As far as trigger warnings, if all they accomplish is helping to steel people before they see the photos, the warnings are acceptable. However, they may do more harm than good if they truly ward people off. The ones I have seen have not been particularly effective at deterring people. Do people really have that kind of self-control over their curiosity?

It really comes down to the bottom line that you usually just cannot predict who will happen to see the photos. The bad consequences of NOT shaking people awake in this way are so much scarier than any bad effects that showing the reality of abortion will have on those who are not ready to see it.

That is why the lawsuit against Boise State is important: it is about free speech. It is about our right to tell the truth, hard as that may be.

The suit was filed by the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which stated in announcing its litigation that “university policies that suppress free speech are completely at odds with what a university is: a marketplace of ideas.”

“Free speech should not be limited to a tiny area on campus, nor should students be told their speech needs a warning sign simply because university officials think their views are ‘controversial.’”

Meanwhile, the law firm points out that “Boise State University has allowed other groups to host events without warning signs, including Planned Parenthood, which distributed condoms on campus, and the Secular Student Alliance, which distributed ‘Does God Exist?’ fliers in open spaces on campus.”

If ruled in favor of Boise State, the suit sets a looming precedent that could lead to more and more restrictions on free speech, especially that which aims to speak an extremely hard truth, as prolifers do.

It’s a dangerous and slippery slope when we allow campus administrators to decide what’s “controversial ” and what’s not, or what is protected free speech and what deserves qualifications.

My peers and I are fighting for the freedom to speak the truth, whether people like it or not. Freedom to be lied to and remain ignorant is not freedom. We are fighting for the heart and soul of this nation.

Mairead McArdle is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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IMAGE:  Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust screenshot/Facebook

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