Work on the 2016 legislative session is all wrapped up now that the governor has signed the appropriations bills. Click here for a complete review of the session on our website. There was the usual mix of successes and disappointments.

It’s time to encourage members of Congress to enact common-sense protections for pro-life health care workers. The Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4828/S. 2927) would protect health care providers from being forced to pay for or participate in abortions, and allow victims of discrimination a “right of action” to defend their rights in court. Go to www.humanlifeactioncenter.org for more information and a sample message.

The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated some lower court rulings on the HHS mandate. Federal regulations require some religiously-affiliated groups to cover contraceptives as part of their health plans, unless they submit a form either to their insurer or to the federal government stating they object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage. The U.S. Supreme Court was considering a case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor against this “HHS mandate.” The Sisters argued that this notice substantially burdened the exercise of their religion by arranging for the coverage.

Without ruling on the merits, on May 16 the Supreme Court vacated the circuit court rulings on the Little Sisters of the Poor case. Apparently the Court is encouraging mediation and hopes the government and the sisters can work out the issue in a way that does not infringe upon the sisters’ religious liberty. If not, back to court!

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that all life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. The Iowa Catholic Conference has been working in favor of this position at the legislature.

This position is related to the bishops’ principles of restorative justice, which include assistance for victims, crime prevention and the promotion of genuine rehabilitation. Offenders need to be held accountable for their crimes and we can’t ignore the pain that victims and their families feel. However, the law should carefully take into account the moral and cognitive development differences between a juvenile and an adult. Some young people – even those who commit terrible crimes – may be able to rejoin society outside of prison given an opportunity to reform.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration expressed deep concern over reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon begin a month-long series of immigrant deportation raids. Incoming committee chairman, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, also voiced such concern.

Like the ICE enforcement actions conducted in early January, the upcoming operation is expected to focus on undocumented Central American mothers and children.

While recognizing the federal government’s role in upholding immigration laws, Bishop Elizondo warns against the underlying rationale behind the ICE enforcement actions. “Sending women and children back to Central America will not serve as an effective deterrent to migration because this is a humanitarian crisis and individuals from the region are being forced to flee for their lives,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The mission of the Committee on Migration – and USCCB Migration & Refugee Services – is to protect these vulnerable populations.”