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
December 3, 2021

  In This Update:  
  • U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade
  • MCC Backs Bill Banning Research On Tissue Taken From Abortions
  • Water Filters in School Requirement, Funding Both Advance in Senate
  • U.S. Bishops: Faith-Based Providers Excluded From Expansion To Childcare, Pre-K Programs
  • Bill Allowing Organ Donations Between HIV-Positive Individuals Heads To Governor
  U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade  

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case considered to be the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that controversially established a constitutional right to abortion.

If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the power to restrict abortion would likely return to the states. Michigan already has an existing abortion ban on the books that would likely go back into effect.

A ruling on the case heard Wednesday -- Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization - won't come until June at the earliest. The case involves a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks' gestation, with exceptions for a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. 

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement in reaction to the Dobbs case arguments this week:

"In the United States, abortion takes the lives of over 600,000 babies every year. Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health could change that. We pray that the Court will do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion, and in doing so protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act. We invite all people of good will to uphold the dignity of human life by joining us in prayer and fasting for this important case."

For ideas and resources for how to continue praying for a just decision in the Dobbs case, visit this website. 

And for a more in-depth look at the Dobbs case and what it means for Michigan, check out MCC's latest Word From Lansing column, which was published by Detroit Catholic this week.

  MCC Backs Bill Banning Research On Tissue Taken From Abortions  

The Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) this week testified in support of bills outlawing the use of tissue taken from aborted babies for scientific research.

In testimony submitted in a legislative committee hearing on the matter, MCC said fetal organs obtained from elective abortions must never be seen as a standard tool of medical research. This inevitably creates a demand for abortion and suggests abortion is a necessity to procure human material for research. 

Research that uses aborted fetal tissue and organs is neither ethical nor necessary, MCC told the House Health Policy Committee. Ethical alternatives existed before researchers started using human fetal tissue from abortions and ethical alternatives continue to be discovered.

House Bills 5558 and 5559 come as more information is emerging about the industry that has been built around procuring, purchasing, and using aborted fetal remains for research, along with serious questions as to the legality of the methods used in procuring those remains. 

The Health Policy Committee took testimony on the bills this week and then reported them to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. MCC said the bills would ensure ethical research alternatives will be prioritized, while making an important statement for medical ethics and the boundaries necessary to respect all human life.

House Bill 5558, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), makes it a five-year felony to conduct research knowingly on an organ, tissue, or cell taken from a dead embryo, fetus, or neonate obtained from an abortion. House Bill 5559, sponsored by Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), would change sentencing guidelines to reflect the five-year felony described in the other bill.

  Water Filters in School Requirement, Funding Both Advance in Senate  

A Senate committee gave approval to bills requiring schools to install filtered bottle-fillers and water faucets by the end of the 2024-25 school year, among other water safety measures.

MCC supports Senate Bills 184 and 185, which also require schools and childcare centers to create drinking water safety plans and conduct annual sampling and testing. The Senate Environmental Quality Committee moved the bills to the Senate floor for action, which were sponsored by Senators Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) and Jim Ananich (D-Flint).

The requirements in the bills would only be in effect if the state provides funding for these items for all schools, and for childcare centers located in low-income communities.

On a related note, the full Senate this week approved billions in funding to upgrade the state's water pipes, which will also include money for schools to install the filtered water drinking stations.

There's $3.3 billion in water infrastructure-related funding for use across the state in Senate Bill 565, which cleared the full Senate this week and will go to the House next.

  U.S. Bishops: Faith-Based Providers Excluded from Expansion to Childcare, Pre-K Programs  

The $1.75 trillion spending package recently passed by the U.S. House would expand access to affordable childcare and pre-kindergarten programs for working families, but would exclude faith-based providers from participating, according to two key U.S. bishops this week.

The bishops heading USCCB committees on religious liberty and Catholic education joined a letter cosigned by several faith-based groups sent to two U.S. Senate committee leaders. The bill - known as the Build Back Better Act -- is now in the U.S. Senate's hands for consideration.

"The current child care and universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) provisions in the Build Back Better Act will suppress, if not exclude, the participation of many faith-based providers," wrote Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, who chair the committees for religious liberty and Catholic education, respectively.

The bill's current provisions make it virtually impossible for many faith-based providers to participate in the program, because it departs from current federal policy and attaches new compliance obligations that would interfere with providers' protected rights regarding curricula or teaching, sex-specific programs (such as separate boys or girls schools or classes), and preferences for employing individuals who share the providers' religious beliefs. 

Before the U.S. House voted to send the bill to the U.S. Senate last month, MCC promoted an action alert on social media urging people to contact their Congress members to not exclude Catholic schools from federal childcare and pre-K funding.

The letter was sent to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, as well as to the ranking member of that committee, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).

Other groups that signed onto the letter included Catholic Charities USA, National Catholic Educational Association, American Association of Christian Schools, Council of Christian Colleges & Universities, Council of Islamic Schools in North America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and several others. A full version of the letter can be read here.

  Bill Allowing Organ Donations Between HIV-Positive Individuals Heads to Governor  

A bill allowing HIV-positive individuals to receive organ donations from other HIV-positive individuals is heading to the Governor after the state Senate approved the measure this week.

MCC supports House Bill 4521, sponsored by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.), to provide more opportunities for organ donations and to recognize the dignity of those who are HIV-positive. It also will allow HIV-positive donated organs to remain in Michigan rather than requiring the organs be transported for use elsewhere, as is the current practice.

The bill received unanimous votes in both chambers, and now goes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her consideration. 


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