As US Catholic bishops convene today for a biannual meeting in St Louis to discuss the status of the priest sex abuse scandal, the news appears less than promising. After a difficult year laden with legal battles, pricey settlements, disputes with lay Catholic groups, and diminishing financial contributions, the bishops opened their meeting faced with yesterday's resignation of Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien under felony charges for leaving a fatal hit-and-run scene and Monday's ouster of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating as leader of the National Review Board, created to monitor and advise the Church's handling of the scandal. Keating was forced to resign after he made statements to the Los Angeles Times likening the bishops' behavior and stronghold of power to that of the Mafia, reported the New York Times. In his resignation letter, Keating insisted that despite the fact that "most bishops" support the review board, "[t]o resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church," according to the Associated Press.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .