Lansing Update
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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
January 15, 2021

  In This Update:  
  • 101st Michigan Legislature Begins Two-Year Session
  • This January, Take Action to Support Human Life
  • Congress Approves COVID-19 Relief for Nonpublic Schools
  • The Word from Lansing: COVID-19 Vaccines and Moral Considerations
  • SCOTUS Issues Preliminary Injunction in Abortion Pill Case
  101st Michigan Legislature Begins Two-Year Session  
This week, members of the Michigan House of Representatives took their oath of office at the State Capitol in Lansing. During their session this week, lawmakers formally elected Representative Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) as the Speaker of the House for the 2021-2022 Legislature. The Michigan Senate also met this week to kick-off legislative work for the next two years. As the Senate was not up for reelection in November 2020, Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) remains the Majority Leader. 
  This January, Take Action to Support Human Life  
Catholics are called to be a strong voice for the dignity of the human person, especially for the most vulnerable. Throughout this month, people of faith have a number of clear opportunities to speak out on behalf of the value of every human life, such as:
  • Participating in 9 Days for Life, a novena for the protection of human life that starts on January 21, 2021. Each day's intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life.
  • Marking your calendars- from January 28 to January 29, pro-life individuals across the country can virtually join the Nationwide Prayer Vigil for Life. The vigil recognizes the 48th anniversary of the decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, and calls for greater protection of the unborn.
  • Joining in other virtual events across the country that promote a respect for human life and stand against abortion during this 48th anniversary. Note: It is also worth checking your diocesan webpage for local events near you.
  • Reading and sharing the toolkit from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on human trafficking, as January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
  • Joining the U.S. bishops in speaking out against use of the death penalty, especially as executions continue to take place on death row.
Find other great ideas for answering the Catholic call to promote human dignity in a recent article from The Detroit Catholic:
  Congress Approves COVID-19 Relief for Nonpublic Schools  
After months of negotiations, federal lawmakers passed a new round of COVID-19 relief on December 21, 2020 that was later signed into law. Among other aspects, the new law provides funding to help public and nonpublic schools across the country and specifically includes:
  • $1.6 billion to assist public schools in Michigan with safety protocols. 
  • $39 million for a discretionary fund for Governor Whitmer to use for educational purposes in Michigan related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund). These funds are also for local public schools, as well as colleges and universities.
  • An additional $87 million to help students in nonpublic schools, if Governor Whitmer requests the funds. The money has been approved but needs to be formally requested.
The funding for public and nonpublic schools can be used to help with expenses such as supplies for sanitizing school facilities, personal protective equipment, relevant safety training and professional development for staff, physical barriers for social distancing, and educational technology for remote or hybrid learning, among other uses. 

Michigan Catholic Conference and the Michigan Association of Non-public Schools (MANS) have been in contact with the governor's office, urging application for Michigan's share of the nonpublic school funds. Each state has until February 8 to do so, and its allotment is determined by the number of children at or below 185 percent of poverty attending nonpublic schools in the state. All of the funding mentioned above is critical in order to safely re-open all elementary and secondary schools as soon as possible, to restore and maintain high-quality learning environments, and to take comprehensive action to mitigate the unprecedented learning loss that many of Michigan's most vulnerable students have endured.

Note: under this new relief, nonpublic schools will have to choose between accepting aid under the new Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools program or aid from the new round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that the bill authorizes and which is also available to nonprofits and businesses. 
  The Word from Lansing: COVID-19 Vaccines and Moral Considerations  
Over the past ten months, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed life for people across the globe, impacting physical health, emotional well-being, and economic outcomes for families and businesses. In 2021, many are feeling optimistic with vaccines for COVID-19 becoming available, including two from Pfizer and Moderna. The Catholic bishops of Michigan recently commented on the importance of vaccinations for public health and addressed moral questions facing Catholics about the available vaccines. MCC's latest The Word from Lansing column shares highlights from the statement and encourages Catholics to reflect upon the ethical considerations from the bishops in their entirety.
  SCOTUS Issues Preliminary Injunction in Abortion Pill Case  
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy requires women seeking the abortion pill (mifepristone) to visit a doctor in-person and does not allow the pill to be sent through the mail or prescribed remotely through telemedicine. This FDA requirement provides important protections for women health and safety. In 2020, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups challenged the policy in court, asking for the mail restriction to be lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, on July 13, a Federal District Court judge had issued a preliminary injunction, which temporarily blocked the in-person requirement for an abortion pill and allowed mifepristone to be dispensed by clinics, medical offices, and hospitals through the use of mail or delivery service.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that injunction, which means the in-person requirement is back in effect. While this is a positive action, the case - Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - is not over yet. The preliminary injunction will be in place until the case proceeds through the process on its merits. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following comment this week: 

"We welcome the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the FDA's ability to enforce important and long-standing health and safety requirements related to chemical abortion drugs. Mail order mifepristone compounds the risks and trauma of abortion by encouraging women to end the lives of their children in their own bathrooms, often without any medical attention or follow-up care. This dangerous, painful, and emotionally bleak process results in the death of innocent unborn lives and often has lasting negative impacts on women. The inalienable dignity of women and their unborn children deserves so much more."
Note: Michigan Catholic Conference has joined with the U.S. bishops in calling for passage of legislation (the Support and Value Expectant Moms & Babies Act), which could help improve regulation of chemical abortion pills. It would codify current FDA safety regulations requiring physicians to dispense the pills, to prevent providers from dispensing these drugs remotely, by mail, or via telemedicine; and to prevent the FDA from approving new chemical abortion drugs or from making labeling changes to existing abortion drugs.

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