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'Abortion saves lives'? Catholic doctor responds to NYT op-ed

New York City, N.Y., May 22, 2019 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- Following an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that all pregnancies are life-threatening, a Catholic doctor emphasized that pregnancy is a natural and healthy condition, and that complications which may arise can be treated without abortion.

“[Pregnancy] is not a serious health risk to the vast majority of women in this country. And unless these women have some underlying medical problems to begin with, most pregnancies are perfectly normal by any means,” said Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami.

“There are pregnancies that are complicated by diabetes, hypertension, previous Caesarean sections, some of those things that he mentioned. But they are uncommon, and with good medical care there is no reason why a woman who is desirous of continuing her pregnancy cannot do so,” she told CNA.

In an op-ed published Tuesday in the New York Times, a Colorado-based late-term abortion doctor argued that because women are more likely to die in childbirth than from complications related to an abortion, “pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving.”

“Pregnancy is a life-threatening condition. Women die from being pregnant. We have known that for thousands of years,” abortion doctor Warren Hern wrote May 21.

Hern wrote the piece in response to recent developments related to abortion in Alabama, where the governor recently signed a near-total abortion ban into law. In Alabama last year, nearly six out of every 100,000 white women who gave birth died as a result of their pregnancy. Among black women, it was 27.6, he said.

Hern claimed from this data that a ban on abortion would disproportionately harm black women, citing data suggesting an abortion procedure is much less risky than giving birth. He offered a list of potential complications that can result from pregnancy, as well as risk factors that can make pregnancy, in his view, especially dangerous.

O’Sullivan argued, however, that the op-ed was “bombastic” and employed scare tactics. She reiterated that although any pregnancy carries some risk, it is not a “serious” threat to a woman’s health, especially in the United States. The United States has a higher maternal death rate than Europe, for example, but maternal deaths are still very rare, even in rural areas.

“She doesn't have a 50/50 chance of dying, unless she has some very serious cardiac problems. So I really think that this is scare tactics to prevent women from getting pregnant at all.”

O’Sullivan acknowledged that maternal death rates are higher in black women, especially those of lower socioeconomic status. She pointed out that these women also have a higher risk of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, poor nutrition, and previous Caesarean sections, all of which are risk factors for maternal death.

Better medical care to address these issues is what is needed, she said, especially for women who are at risk for conditions like hypertension, who should seek medical care earlier rather than later in their pregnancy.

For the United States overall, the maternal mortality ratio was 20.7 in 2018, meaning that about 20 mothers die for every 100,000 live births. The rate of death for mothers in Sierra Leone, with the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, is seventy times that.

In his piece, Hern argued, “Pregnancy itself poses a ‘serious health risk’ — including the risk of dying and losing all bodily functions.” He said that “A woman’s life and health are at risk from the moment that a pregnancy exists in her body, whether she wants to be pregnant or not.”

O’Sullivan expressed doubt that the statistics Hern quotes were entirely accurate.

“There are still issues with proper recording of maternal deaths,” she said. “We're getting better, but we're very poor at that in the United States. And also, what we call a 'maternal death' might be a different definition than other countries may use. So we have to be careful with that too.”

In addition, the statistics Hern used to demonstrate the “safety” of abortion procedures did not include adequate follow-ups on the women it studied, she added, meaning there may have been deaths or complications later on that the study missed.

O'Sullivan pointed out that throughout her medical career, she has aided women through many difficult pregnancies, and had never once had to perform an abortion.

“Abortion is not absolutely indicated under any circumstances,” she said.

There are occasions, she clarified, when a lifesaving procedure for a mother may indirectly result in a child’s death, but this is not the same as an abortion. An example, she said, could be the situation of a severe hemorrhage in a mother’s placenta, known as Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

“In that case, we have to deliver the placenta,” she explained.

“The secondary thing that's going to happen is that that baby is not going to survive...the intent is not to kill the baby, but the intention is to remove the placenta. So in that case, yes, if you do not deliver her, [the mother] could well die.”

Even a situation like DIC is extremely rare, she reiterated.

“The most important thing is that pregnancy is generally followed by a very good, healthy outcome for both mother and baby,” she concluded. “And with good medical care, even better.”

Users who left comments on the New York Times website argued that all successful abortion procedures, even if they may be “safer” for the mother, result in the death of the unborn child.

“Every child has a right to life. Every child,” O’Sullivan said.

These Franciscan University alumni expect 'great things' from new president

Steubenville, Ohio, May 22, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Franciscan University of Steubenville announced Wednesday the appointment of Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, as the university’s seventh president. Several prominent Catholic alumni of Franciscan said Pinvonka’s appointment is positive news for the university.

Pivonka is the first alumnus of Franciscan University to be named to its top post. The priest, who graduated from the school in 1989, will begin presidential duties immediately and be formally installed in a ceremony later this year. He has served previously as a vice president at the university, and in other administrative and teaching roles.

Curtis Martin is a 1993 master’s graduate of the university, and was given an honorary doctorate by the university at its commencement ceremony this month.

Martin is the founder of national campus ministry apostolate FOCUS. He told CNA that Pivonka’s appointment is “great news for Franciscan University!”

“In each of my encounters with Fr. Dave, I have been impressed by his commitment to Christ and the new evangelization. He is the perfect choice to keep Franciscan University as the leading force for equipping young leaders for a lifetime of dynamic, Christ-centered renewal.”

Lay evangelist Chris Stefanick, founder of Real Life Catholic, is also a graduate of the university.

Stefanick said he expects “great things” from Pivonka’s leadership.

“Franciscan University has remained the hub for dynamically orthodox Catholicism under the two presidents since Fr. Mike [Scanlan]. That said, get ready for a renewal like the university hasn’t seen since Fr. Mike took the helm in 1974.”

Stefanick referred to the renewal of Catholic identity the university experienced under the leadership of Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR. Scanlan led the university from 1974 to 2000. When he took the helm, the school was a failing regional college on the verge of financial collapse. By the time Scanlan retired, the university had gained a global reputation for “dynamically orthodox” Catholicism, and for graduates reaching leadership roles across the Catholic Church.

Dr. Timothy Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, a Colorado-based graduate school offering degrees in theology, is one such graduate.

Gray told CNA that “Fr Pivonka brings tremendous faith and passion to the leadership of Franciscan University and he will continue its amazing service to the Church in the new evangelization. I can think of no one better to continue Franciscan’s spiritual leadership than Fr David Pivonka. This is good news indeed!”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry earned a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in 1996. Fortenberry told CNA that Pivonka is “faithful, sacrificial, and approachable.”

“America has been devastated by corruption and loss of once-great Catholic institutions— Franciscan must remain strong in a world screaming for meaning,” Fortenberry added.

National Catholic Register editor-in-chief Jeanette DeMelo is a 1998 graduate of the university, and received an honorary doctorate from the school in 2018.

DeMelo told CNA that “I have no doubt that Fr. Dave understands what makes Franciscan unique. He experienced it himself as a student and, in a way ever since then, has carried that experience to others through his pastoral ministry.”

“I remember Fr. Dave from my days as a student, when he had recently returned from his graduate studies and became a faculty member. Students loved him. He is energetic, vibrant and a convincing preacher much like Fr. Mike [Scanlan] was.”

Pivonka “will build well on the foundation built by his predecessors, especially the recent work of [outgoing president] Fr. Sean [Sheridan], who has led at a time of intense growth as well as pivotal moment in the wider culture,” DeMelo added.

Alumni of the university are not the only ones to praise Pivonka’s appointment.

The Diocese of Steubenville told CNA that Bishop Jeffrey Montforton sent a letter to Pivonka, congratulating the priest on his new role.

“I look forward to our collaboration along the lines of Franciscan University these coming years. I also look forward to our ministerial relationship and sharing our Lord Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters throughout the region,” Montforton wrote.

“I have every confidence you will be a great blessing to everyone at Franciscan, a university I hold in high regard.”

 

'Lust is a monster': Gay porn star quits industry, joins fight against porn

Salt Lake City, Utah, May 22, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- An actor who has been featured in dozens of homosexual pornographic films has announced his exit from the industry and his entrance into the anti-porn movement.

Markie More, a porn star of six years, disclosed on Monday that he is now working with Fight the New Drug - an organization that educates about the dangers of pornography addiction.

“I’ve decided that I’m officially done with the adult industry,” said More on Twitter.

“If you’re wondering, I’ve quit because I can no longer promote lustful and deviant behavior. Lust is a monster, and the more you feed it, the hungrier it becomes,” he added.

The 26-year-old’s former employer, Next Door Studios, still has some already-created pornographic content that may be released in the future, but More says he is not looking back as he exits the industry.

He said he is not out to spread hate but to show an accurate depiction of how pornography harms people.

“I’ve witnessed porn destroy numerous people, friendships, relationships, families, etc. It does far more harm than good for people,” he tweeted on May 18.

QueerTY reported that More’s resignation comes five months after he accused the vice president of production at Next Door Studios, Rocco Fallon, of making violent threats. Porn Star Paul Canon said he left for similar reasons.

According to Towle Road, More had previously decided to exit the industry in 2017, but later changed his mind, stating that the porn industry had helped him in self-discovery.

However, recently on Twitter, he said his actions in the porn industry were not always a true representation of himself.

“Unfortunately, telling people you fantasize real love isn’t something a studio wants you to say. So, instead I told lies, not even good ones either. I sincerely apologize for misleading you. I will only speak truths from this point forward,” he said.

More said he is now recovering from spending the last six years in the porn industry. In his Twitter bio, he directed those suffering from porn addiction to a link for Fight the New Drug.

Founded by Clay Olsen and Jason Carroll, Fight the New Drug has released numerous reports on the correlation between pornography addiction and various negative effects, including increases in violence toward women, distorted sexual tastes, and damaged relationships.

The group describes itself as “a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.”

Biden backs federal abortion protections 'if necessary'

Washington D.C., May 22, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Joe Biden would support federal laws protecting abortion rights, “should it become necessary.” The former vice president is the current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination often references his Catholic faith in political speeches, publicly making the sign of the cross as a punch-line to jokes and displaying a rosary worn on his wrist.

Biden’s position was announced by campaign staff on May 21 in response to questions from the Associated Press. His staff further clarified that he would support immediate efforts to enshrine the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in Federal law.

The announcement marks the latest evolution in Biden’s views on abortion policy over a 50-year career in politics. Earlier on Tuesday he released a video criticizing recent state-level pro-life laws as “pernicious” and “wrong.”

Shortly after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision found a legal right to an abortion throughout a pregnancy, Biden said in a profile interview with the magazine “Washingtonian” that he did not agree with the court’s conclusion.

“But when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother,” said Biden. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

By 2007, his last year in the Senate prior to becoming vice president, Biden had been given a zero rating by the National Right to Life Committee. The last time Biden received a score above zero from the National Right to Life Committee was in 2003-2004.

Biden received a 75% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America during his last year in the Senate, having received perfect 100% ratings from the organization in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

Previously, Biden had been in favor of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in the United States. In 1994, he reassured one of his constituents in a letter that he was guided by the principle that “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” and that he had voted more than 50 times against the federal funding of abortions.

Twelve years ago, in his 2007 book “Promises to Keep,” he described his position on abortion as “middle-of-the-road,” and he reiterated his opposition to both federal funding of abortions and partial-birth abortions.

On May 4, he was asked by a volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union if he supported “abolishing” Hyde, and he quickly answered “Yes.”

In the 2012 vice presidential debate against Rep. Paul Ryan, Biden described himself as agreeing with the Church’s view on abortion but that he “refuse(s) to impose that on others, unlike my friend here,” referring to Ryan.

“I do not believe we have a right to tell women that they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor,” Biden said.

Italy's fledgling pro-life movement finds inspiration in US abortion fight

Rome, Italy, May 22, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- The Italian March for Life was held Saturday as thousands of people from Italy and around the world rallied and marched one mile through the center of Rome to protest legal abortion and to support the pro-life cause.

But forty-one years after the legalization of abortion in Italy, some members of the pro-life movement in the country look to the United States as an example of the fight that lies before them – and the progress that can be made in more than forty years of marching for life.

The Italian “Marcia per la Vita” was itself modelled after the U.S. March for Life in Washington, D.C., which is now in its 45th year; but March organizer Virginia Coda Nunziante said Italy seems to be much further from the possibility of overturning its abortion law.

Italy’s “law 194,” established in 1978, made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician. Since abortion’s legalization in Italy, it is estimated more than 6 million children have been aborted.

Nunziante referenced the Alabama’s law outlawing abortion in her final remarks at the March for Life May 18.

She called it a “first step” reached only after more than 40 years of dedication to the cause, and encouraged March participants to take energy from this fact to keep fighting the “great moral and civil battle” and to grow in determination “not to retreat” from the defense of innocent human life.

In comments to EWTN News, Nunziante said that “unfortunately, we’re not so close” to overturning legalized abortion in Italy, and that she sees part of the challenge to be the influence legal abortion has had on the culture.

“The law really enters in the minds of people, and especially young people,” she said, “so this is the reason why we want to have the March and we want to keep the debate on the social and political level.”

Nunziante, who has participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. several times, said she started the Italian version because she saw the impact of the U.S. March on encouraging a culture of life, especially among young people.

The March for Life in D.C. was also the inspiration behind the start of the Italian University Students for Life.

Chiara Chiessi, a student in Rome and the president of “Universitari Per La Vita,” said she was moved by the size of the pro-life demonstration in D.C. when she attended in 2016 and was struck particularly by the large participation of young people.

She told EWTN News that despite Italy’s strong cultural Catholicism, she finds the environment to be largely unsupportive of their group’s pro-life efforts.

“It is very, very difficult, because I think there is a crisis of faith,” Chiessi said, “so people don’t have the courage to show the reality of facts...” She also noted a lack of support from university chaplains in some cases.

Chiessi explained that praying or protesting outside abortion clinics, a common practice of some American pro-lifers, is only just beginning to take place in Italy, and culturally, she thinks many Italians are embarrassed to make such public demonstrations for the pro-life cause.

“It is not very, very easy, but we know that we have to go forward and not have fear about that,” she said.

Nunziante also noted a resistance among many Catholics in Italy to “go into the public square.”

She recalled the fear this generated when they first started the March for Life. But hearing Benedict XVI tell the U.S. bishops in November 2011 that Catholics should bring their voice to the public square encouraged them.

“So, we understood that it was the right moment to do this, so even if it is an effort, we have to do it,” she said.

Meanwhile, the March for Life in Italy continues to grow each year, with views towards leveraging international participation so “that Rome and the Roman March can become a hub for the whole world,” Nunziante said.

Home to the Vatican, “Rome is the capital of the Catholic world,” she argued. “So, I think that people from all the other countries, who are engaged in the pro-life movement, are very interested in being in Rome, because from Rome you can give a voice to the whole world.”