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In the News (November 2022)

PP to launch its first mobile abortion clinic 

Planned Parenthood plans to launch its first mobile abortion clinic in the border regions of southern Illinois by the end of the year, offering medication abortions — and eventually procedural ones.

Wait times in Illinois for abortion procedures have skyrocketed from four days to two-and-a-half weeks at Planned Parenthood’s Fairview Heights health center, which is just 20 miles from the Illinois and Missouri border, officials said.

“This 37-foot mobile abortion clinic will help reduce travel distances, wait times and other logistical barriers profoundly impacting patients in neighboring states where abortion is now banned,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The mobile unit, with two full exam rooms, will be located near the southern border of Illinois. It will not provide abortion care in Missouri, where abortion is now banned. Planned Parenthood said the goal is to try to see 30 patients a day.

Churches defend loophole in sex abuse reporting

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act contends that every state should require certain persons to report instances of child abuse — also called the mandatory reporting law. However, clergy are exempt from mandatory reporting in 33 U.S. states, including Utah. 

This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials. In many of these cases, the privilege has been invoked to shield religious groups from civil and criminal liability after the abuse became known to civil authorities.

The Associated Press found that the Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege, and that influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s Witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.

“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, speaking of several religious groups. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”

Teen denied medication under new abortion law

A 14-year-old Tucson girl was denied a refill of a life-saving prescription drug she had been taking for years just two days after Arizona’s new abortion law had taken effect in August.

Emma Thompson has debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, which has kept her in and out of the hospital for most of her life. She relies on methotrexate to help tame the effects of the disease. But methotrexate can also be used to abort ectopic pregnancies.

The girl’s physician, Dr. Deborah Jane Power, said Thompson was the first pediatric patient that had been denied her medication because of the new law.

Thompson was ultimately able to get her prescription filled, but the delay highlights the medical complications some patients are facing in states with strict abortion rules.

“I don’t think everyone understands what the ramifications of such a broad, sweeping antiabortion law are and how many other women are affected by this,” Power said. “Like how can we decide that women can’t have this medicine that men can? That’s discriminating on gender. And how can you make a law that doesn’t allow me to provide standard of care for my patients?”

Poll: 23% have prayed for result of sports event

About three in 10 U.S. adults say they believe prayer can play a role in determining who wins a sporting event, and a similar percentage say God plays a role, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Among fans of professional sports, 23 percent say they have prayed about the outcome of a contest, according to the poll. Religious background is a factor: 35 percent of evangelical fans say they have done so, compared with 21 percent of fans of other religious faiths. But professional sports fans don’t have to believe to pray. The poll shows that 15 percent of nonreligious fans say they too have prayed for the outcome of a game.

About a quarter of U.S. adults say superstitions or rituals can play a role in who wins a sporting event, according to the poll. The frequency of prayer is similar for games below the ranks of pro sports: 23 percent of fans of high school or college sports say they pray about the outcome of those games.

Minn. legislators begin Secular Government Caucus 

Two dozen Democratic state legislators announced recently the creation of the Secular Government Caucus to counter the rise in Christian nationalism and politicians imposing their personal religious beliefs on others. 

The caucus opposes religious discrimination and wants to uphold the constitutional separation of church and state. Christian nationalism asserts that the United States is a Christian nation. 

“[Christian nationalists] have been getting more and more vocal, and if they’re going to organize on that, we better be ready to be aware of what they’re doing and speak out on it,” said state Sen. John Marty, who co-chairs the new caucus.

The caucus includes both religious members and nonbelievers and plans to invite all members of the Legislature to join the caucus after the November election, Marty said.

Marty, whose father is a Lutheran theologian, said that members started discussing creating a secular caucus at the beginning of the summer following what they believe are Christian encroachments on the secular state. He pointed to the Dobbs Supreme Court decision, which allowed states to impose abortion restrictions, and proposals by the Minnesota Legislative Prayer Caucus in recent years to post “In God We Trust” signs in public schools.

According to the Minnesota Legislative Prayer Caucus’ website, caucus members are “committed to advancing policies and initiatives that promote religious freedom, America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and prayer.”