Lately every week seems to bring news of a violent tragedy that has taken place in our country. These events have brought new attention to related public policy issues as well.

The president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, said earlier this month, “The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection. In the days ahead, we will look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence. Let us pray for the comfort of everyone affected and that our national conversation will bear the good fruit of healing and peace.”

Following the Orlando massacre last month, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque said “… Respect for the common good challenges us to find a way to uphold the Constitution while at the same time allowing for appropriate controls regarding who can buy what gun, in the hope of preventing acts of violence against innocent people.”

Here in Iowa, the Legislative Council approved a one-day study committee to examine the causes and impacts of, and possible remedies for, increased levels of violence. The committee will meet this fall after Election Day and may make recommendations to the legislature. We think the study will contribute to an honest conversation about the prevention of violence and public policy changes that could be helpful.

U.S. HOUSE PASSES CONSCIENCE PROTECTION ACT

The U.S. House passed one of the priority items of the bishops last Wednesday by a vote of 245-182. The Conscience Protection Act would protect healthcare workers from being required to participate in abortion procedures. The bill would also help individuals and institutions from being penalized by the government for declining to offer abortion services.

Thanks so much to those of you who sent in a message to Congress about the bill. We really appreciate it! Representatives Blum, King and Young from Iowa voted yes, Rep. Loebsack voted no.

The passage of the legislation stems in part from a recent California policy that required health plans to cover elective abortions. The state of New York is now following California’s lead.

Observers believe it is unlikely that the U.S. Senate will take up the bill. The U.S. bishops’ conference is urging Congress to move the legislation forward as part of this year’s “must-pass” appropriations package.

A new survey by the Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll shows that a strong majority of Americans support conscience protection for medical professionals. By nearly 20 points (56 percent to 37 percent), Americans say that medical professionals and organizations should be able to opt out of abortion procedures and coverage.

Iowa has a state law protecting medical professionals from having to participate in an abortion.

NEWS AND NOTES

We were disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Texas law that required abortion facilities to meet the safety standards of ambulatory surgery centers. Click here for our recent blog post on the decision.

As you may recall, the Iowa Catholic Conference co-sponsored the “Vote to End Hunger Rally” last fall. Here’s a link to a video by our board chair, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, encouraging people to pledge to end hunger by 2030.

Check out our blog post on the new ombudsman requirement in the new federal law on education, the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”