National Briefs - April 11, 2013

  • Written by The Progress
  • Published in National

Lawmakers approve 'right to life' ballot measure
The North Dakota Legislature voted March 22 to put a referendum on the 2014 ballot that would amend the state constitution to say that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."

Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, compared the referendum to a Missouri statute ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in its 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision. The court upheld portions of the law that limits abortions in Missouri and says in part that "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health and well-being."


Catholic school enrollment declined
Catholic educators opened 28 new schools and closed or consolidated 148 others in the U.S. during the 2012–13 school year, according to a report issued by the National Catholic Educational Association.

While a number of Catholic schools have closed, more than 32 percent of U.S Catholic schools have waiting lists. The NCEA report released prior to the organization's annual convention in Houston April 2–4 also shows that Catholic school enrollment decreased by 1.5 percent during the past school year.


Bishop criticizes Catholic health plan
Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls criticized a South Dakota Catholic health care plan's decision to comply with the federal contraceptive mandate for some of its clients, saying the situation "creates public scandal."

Bishop Swain instructed two diocesan employees who had served on the advisory board of Avera Health Plans to resign, "to ensure that their continued presence could not be interpreted as diocesan acquiescence and therefore cause an intensification of the scandal."

Avera Health Plans offers health insurance to individuals and groups and is a separate civil corporation from the Avera Catholic health care system.

Daryl Thuringer, an Avera spokesman, said that "less than 10 percent" of Avera's 60,000 customers are covered by health plans that comply with the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers, including most religious employers, provide employees with free coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.


Indiana court upholds vouchers
Indianapolis archdiocesan officials praised the Indiana Supreme Court's unanimous decision March 26 that said the state's school voucher program is constitutional.

Indiana, where more than 9,300 students receive vouchers, has the nation's broadest school voucher program.

Catholic News Service - April 11, 2013