Weekly Update from the Missouri Catholic Conference                                       June 11, 2021  
Inside this issue
  Eighth Circuit Blocks Missouri Abortion Law  

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld an injunction blocking portions of Missouri's 2019 pro-life law. HB 126 would, among other things, ban abortions at eight weeks gestation, with further bans at 14, 18, and 20 weeks if prior bans were found unconstitutional. The bill would also ban abortions conducted solely because the unborn child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The majority found that both the gestational age and Down syndrome provisions banned abortions prior to viability and were "categorically unconstitutional" under current Supreme Court precedent. However, one judge, David Stras, dissented on affirming the injunction on the Down syndrome provision, calling it a regulation instead of an outright ban.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has vowed to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. "My son Stephen has shown me the inherent beauty and dignity in all life, especially those with special needs," Schmitt said in a statement. "While we're disappointed in the Eighth Circuit's decision, their decision does provide an avenue for this case to be heard by the Supreme Court, and we plan to seek review in the Supreme Court. I have never and will never stop fighting to ensure that all life is protected."

The ruling by the Eighth Circuit is in line with its previous ruling on a similar case in Arkansas. However, two of the three judges in that case issued concurring opinions restating their view that the Supreme Court should reconsider the viability standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, the Sixth Circuit in April upheld Ohio's Down syndrome abortion ban. With this split between the circuit courts and the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban in its October term, there is hope that the high court ultimately reverses or limits its previous rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.



  Governor Parson Signs PDMP Bill  

This week Governor Parson signed SB 63, which creates a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Governor Parson said, "SB 63 will help provide necessary information to health care professionals and empower them to make decisions that better serve their patients and assist in fighting the opioid epidemic."

SB 63, sponsored by Senator Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), limits access to private prescription information to medical professionals, specifically prohibits the information from being used to deny firearm purchases and includes a rolling purge of the data every three years. The program will be administered by a task force of health care professionals.

Before the passage of this bill, Missouri was the only state that did not have a PDMP. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health had been operating a PDMP that included 75 participating jurisdictions and covered 85 percent of the state. It will be required to cease operation after the statewide PDMP program is available for use.



  Protecting Our Religious Liberties  

USCCB's Religious Freedom Week is celebrated at the end of June. Simultaneously, the U.S. Senate is considering the Equality Act, a piece of legislation that would discriminate against people of faith. 

As Catholics, we believe everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. The Equality Act, however, in many ways does the opposite and needs to be opposed. The Equality Act would: punish faith-based organizations, such as charities and schools who serve everyone in their communities, simply because of their beliefs; force girls and women to compete against boys and men for limited opportunities in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower spaces with biological males who identify as women; risk mandating taxpayers to fund abortions; force people in everyday life, and especially health care workers, to support gender transition; and expand what the government considers a "public" place, forcing even some parish halls to host functions that conflict with Catholic beliefs. In our latest edition of Messenger, and during a recent episode of MCC from the Capitol, we discuss the Equality Act and its problems in depth. 

Yesterday we sent you a message linking to a USCCB Action Alert asking your Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley to oppose the Equality Act. If you haven't yet done so, please send the alert today!



  New Episode of MCC from the Capitol: MCC Legislative Roundtable  

Looking for more inside news about the 2021 legislative session? In the latest episode of MCC from the Capitol, our lobbyists discuss the surprises, setbacks, and successes of this year's Missouri legislative session. Click here to listen to the episode on our website. As always, it's also available to download on Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify.



  China Institutes Three-Child Policy to Address Declining Birth Rate  

Earlier this month, the Chinese Communist Party announced that it would end its two-child policy and allow married couples to have three children. This move comes as the country continues to face declining birth rates. According to a recent New York Times article, births in China have fallen for four consecutive years, with the country's total fertility rate -- an estimate of the number of children born over a woman's lifetime -- now at 1.3, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. 

The Communist Party first imposed a one-child policy in 1980 to slow population growth. This policy resulted in some women being forced by the government to get abortions or be sterilized. However, to address the country's aging population, the policy was extended to two children for all parents in 2015. However, that change has not resulted in an increase in births. Many feel that the expansion to a three-child policy will still not increase birth rates, as it does little to encourage births or address impediments such as the immense cost of raising children. Speaking to the Times, Huang Wezheng, a demography expert with the Center for China and Globalization, stated that the three-child policy was still not enough to arvert a demographic crisis. Arguing that there should be no limit on children and that giving birth should be encouraged, Mr. Wezheng stated, "This should be regarded as a crisis for the survival of the Chinese nation, even beyond the pandemic and other environmental issues."

These trends should come as no surprise to those following the MCC's continued coverage of declining birth rates in the U.S. and the world. Last year, the MCC conducted an interview with journalist Jonathan V. Last as part of the MCC 2020 Virtual Annual Assembly. In the podcast, Mr. Last discussed his book, What to Expect When No One's Expecting, and gave his insight on the falling birth rate and its consequences on society. We would encourage all of our members who have not listened to this podcast (or those who have and want a refresher) and are interested in this topic to check out the episode here.



  Yellowstone - America's First National Park  

Continuing our series on the U.S. National Parks, this week we feature Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was declared a national park on March 1, 1872, the first to receive the designation by Congress. Named after the Yellowstone River that runs through the park in the northwest corner of Montana, Yellowstone is probably best known as the home of "Old Faithful," a geyser that erupts on average every 90 minutes, sending boiling hot water and steam 184 feet into the air.   

According to the park website, "Yellowstone was set aside as the world's first national park because of its hydrothermal wonders. The park contains more than 10,000 thermal features, including the world's greatest concentration of geysers as well as hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents."  Yellowstone is also home to a variety of wildlife, including large herds of bison which roam the Park freely, unfettered by fences. Bison are plentiful enough that visitors to the park are virtually guaranteed to see them during their visit. To learn more about this great park, click here.