Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Calling Out "Abortion Neutral" Rhetoric.

Catholic bishops are not uneducated, uninformed men.

Today Frederick Clarkson has an article warning us about how Hyde has become "abortion neutral." You must read the article.

And a quote from Cardinal DiNardo blatantly uses that standard to criticize the Senate for defeating Nelson, though he hypocritically gets funding wrong. If the Catholic Church can receive funds from the federal government for social services that may not be used for religious purposes and keep the money straight, how come the health care bill and the federal government isn't given the same expectation?

Clearly, it's because they are getting what they want. They are pushing back public perception of abortion. They have instilled in us that Hyde is acceptable. They will continue their push to apply Catholic doctrine to women's health care access. This isn't about protection of public money from abortion usage. This is about slowly and gradually working toward their objective: the eradication of abortion. The Catholic church is a very patient body.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the new chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, also spoke up about the Nelson amendment loss.

“Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply," he said.

"The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form," he added.

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Reinvesting in Community Health Centers.

In an email from Health and Human Services, an announcement that Obama will put $600 million toward renovation of community health centers:

Today President Obama announced nearly $600 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) awards to support major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers nationwide and help networks of health centers adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR) and otherHealth Information Technology (HIT) systems. The awards are expected to not only create new job opportunities in construction and health care, but also help provide care for more than half a million additional patients in underserved communities. The President also announced a new demonstration initiative to support the delivery of advanced primary care to Medicare beneficiaries through community health centers.

Learn more about this announcement on the White House Web site: http://www.


Personhood By Stealth.

From RHRealityCheck:

Tomorrow, December 10, 2009 the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case involving the prosecution of a pregnant, drug-using woman. It is an important opportunity to understand the broader issues at stake in cases that seem narrowly focused on the very small percentage of pregnant women who use illegal drugs. Oral argument is scheduled for 10 AM and you will be able to watch a live stream of the arguments by clicking this link.

In this case, the state arrested a new mother who, according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, “ingested cocaine” while her daughter “was in utero and thereafter gave birth.” The daughter was healthy but, according to the Commonwealth, both the mother and newborn tested positive for cocaine. The new mother wasn’t charged with a drug crime – rather she was charged with the crime of “wanton endangerment.” Kentucky alleges that she engaged “in conduct which created a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to” another person – her “unborn” child.

Notice that this law is directed to “conduct” that “creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury.” Many people in positions of power think that a pregnant woman who refuses cesarean surgery, have births outside of hospital settings, or insists on a vaginal birth after previous cesarean surgery is creating a “substantial danger of death or serious physical injury” to an unborn child.

The Commonwealth wants the Kentucky Supreme Court to interpret this law, and, in fact, every criminal law in the state, to include pregnant women in relationship to the fetuses they carry. Indeed, a close reading of the lower court’s opinion and the Commonwealth’s arguments makes clear that they hope, through this court case, to pass what would, in effect, be a “personhood measure.” As a result, even abortions necessary to protect a woman’s life or health could be charged as homicide.

Because of the broad implications of this case and the medical misinformation it relies on, sixty public health and advocacy organizations as well as numerous experts signed on to amicus (friend of the court) briefs explaining why the court should reject the Commonwealth’s invitation to radically re-write state law. Not a single organization filed an amicus brief supporting this kind of dangerous judicial activism. Kentucky treatment and recovery advocates Michael Barry and Pam Scott published an op-ed in the Courier-Journal explaining why Arresting pregnant women is bad for babies.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Uh, There is No Abortion Funding In Health Care Bill.

Just 'cause I thought it needed to be said again. The right is hyperventilating over the "greatest funding of abortion since Roe." But it ain't so.

What was defeated yesterday was an expansion of limits on funding, or further restrictions to access, as we know the right is hell bent on pursuing. They're actually expert at limiting access (see state laws).

Which is why you get this sort of crazy rhetoric about Senators sheltering Planned Parenthood's finances, , colluding with abortion "extremists," rationing of care because abortions cost less than births, and this:

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, commented on the Senate's vote on the Nelson Amendment to the health care bill. "Those in the Senate who rejected this Amendment have voted to let their attachment to the abortion industry interfere with health care reform in this country. These Senators could have listened to their constituents and opposed abortion funding. Instead, they are allowing this effort at reform to be hijacked by abortion extremists."

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Wesley J. Smith Predicts Bioethics News for 2010; I Summarize.

You can catch the noisy predictions here. But let me summarize it for you:

The US is going to hell in a handbasket. Abortion will be required! Human stem cells will be murdered! Aliens will be cared for! Montana (aid in dying case) will be upheld! Connecticut (similar case) will fail. The horrors of Obamacare will not yet show themselves but we will all fear for our lives! Rationing is coming! Hippocratic medicine is dying! Pharmacists and others in the medical profession will lose their conscience protections! Related court cases will sky-rocket and "activist judges" will inadvertently damn providers to hell for killing people (with the pill)! Fortunately, he says, the Freedom of Choice Act won't pass but don't think the "culture of death" won't work double time to kill every last one of "us!"

What the purpose of this exercise is, I'd be loathe to surmise. But it does rile the troops. Which is exactly what WJS is good at. Scaring the bejesus out of the lesser informed. If he can appeal to one's self-righteous desire to impose their beliefs on the whole of society, expect him to take the chance.

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The Pope and Government.

Dan Gilgoff asked this morning on twitter:

Catholics I'm talking to are split on Benedict's role in U.S. bishops' more aggressive political posture. Do his appointments help explain?

I suggested we only look at the efforts the church has made regarding molestation cases. From Ireland comes this account of the church's efforts to not only stand outside law but to thwart legal rules. Post below.

In other words, I'm not sure this is anything new. The church has been moving into health care for decades. They now manage more than 20% of health care delivery in the US and they do it according to their laws, the Ethical and Religious Directives, not to state or federal law.

According to a former AMA chair holder I spoke with yesterday, that's fine with him. The profession establishes ethics which all practitioners are expected to abide by. The government, he said, had no business dictating what hospitals do.

Medicine and the church colluding to inhibit patients' rights? Or the state and the church colluding? I think this might be an old saw. I'm starting to think a democratic administration and the health care reform debate have only given them a platform from which to show off their national influence in government. And media has changed drastically. Involvement in prior government laws was quiet, under less scrutiny. Shrouded by the Republican administrations in power in the past.

The Catholic church for decades has been busy in health care. They have gotten their way regarding prosecution of bishops for molestation. They may be more vocal at the moment, more active at the grass roots because of the legalization of assisted suicide (notice more emphasis on the "euthanasia" aspect of the "pro-life" platform) and they have gotten better at working with other religious right groups. But the strategy is not new. They've been influencing law on reproductive rights and health care for decades.

MEMBERS of the Catholic hierarchy who shielded paedophile priests should not only resign but should be prosecuted.

That is the view of Cllr Clare Daly (SP) who said that the Murphy Report on clerical child abuse in the Dublin diocese underlines the need for a 'total separation of Church and State'.

Cllr Daly said: ' Talk over whether or not culpable bishops should resign misses the point - they should be prosecuted.' Responding to the recent Commission findings exposing the scale of child abuse in the Dublin Diocese and what she called 'the criminal conspiracy to cover it up', Cllr Daly said: 'The fact that members of the hierarchy responsible for the cover-up are still in situ is shameful.

'Frankly, whether or not they remain a bishop or cardinal is missing the most important point, namely that in any other walk of life people who did what they admit they have done in terms of the protection of child rapists and abusers would face criminal charges and quite likely go to jail.'

She went on to criticise the Taoiseach's response to the report, saying: 'However from Brian Cowen's statement last week in the Dáil where he attributes no bad motives to the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican for their blatant obstruction of the commission's enquiries it is clear that key sections of the political and judicial establishment are happy to apply a different standard of the law to the Catholic Church.'

The Socialist Party councillor criticised the Vatican's role in the affair, saying: ' The obstructing role of the Vatican and in particular the secret correspondence, in Latin, from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, to the hierarchy ordering them to report instances of abuse to him in the first instance and not the authorities in Ireland must go down as one of the most hostile acts ever by a foreign political establishment in Irish affairs for totally criminal ends and we don't even get the token of an official protest from the Department of Foreign Affairs or the expulsion of diplomats.'

She added: ' Similar enquiries need to be conducted in all the other diocese. The Church hierarchy in Ireland has demonstrated itself yet again as a totally inappropriate institution for running public services funded by the tax payer. 'Church-run and Church influenced schools and hospitals are an anachronism that needs to end once and for all along with every other vestige of the Church State connection.'


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Hatch Talks to Heritage Foundation about the Constitutionality of HCR Personal Mandate.

You can find details here, should you be so brave:


Red State Wrestles with How to Now Stop HCR.

It's a great series of comments if you're patient enough to read them. Lieberman is their last hope; no, defunding HCR after it's voted in and Republicans take the house; no, Republicans standing up for once and dropping their amendment stall tactics.

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Justifying the "Bright Line" between the Double Effect and Assisted Suicide.

The University of Toronto Students for Life have been hosting a blog series on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the wake of a visit from Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Here's the lastest, a look at the difference between refusal of treatment and the "double effect."

The USCCB recently changed its directive on refusal of treatment to not include artificial nutrition and hydration, now considered "obligatory" care and not subject to removal, thus rendering advance directives at all 600 Catholic hospitals moot.

“Living is not an obligation. I don’t want to die hooked up to a bunch of machines or forced to stay alive when I know it’s time to pass on.”

There is no legal obligation to receive treatment in Canada. A competent patient or the proxy of an incompetent patient has the legal power to accept or refuse any treatment, or ask that it be discontinued.

Many people don’t understand what euthanasia is. The refusal of treatment is not euthanasia or assisted suicide. It’s the refusal of treatment. That’s a right we affirm; this argument misunderstands the pro-life position.

The withdrawal or withholding of extraordinary or disproportionate treatment, when its burdens outweigh its benefit, is not euthanasia because the intention is not to cause death but to allow the person to die naturally; in euthanasia the intention is to cause death – the patient does not die naturally but rather is killed by another human being before his or her time.

A means/ends/consequence breakdown is useful here. In euthanasia and assisted suicide, the goalmay be to end a patient’s suffering, but a patient’s death is directly sought as the means of ending that suffering. Death is a desired consequence of the act. But when refusing treatment, death is anunintended foreseen consequence. The intent is to refuse treatment, to alleviate pain or undue burden, and the result is that the disease or natural ailment then takes its toll. The ailment causes death, not the act of any person.

It’s the difference between killing someone, and letting nature take its course.

When disproportionate treatment is withdrawn or withheld, the cause of death is the underlying disease or condition; in euthanasia the cause of death is the lethal injection, pill or other means used. There is a great difference between allowing to die and making die.

It’s good practice responding to these points before reading ahead…

Artificial nutrition and hydration are considered ordinary care – not treatment – and must, in principle, be given to the patient. Food and water are basic necessities of life which do not treat any specific condition. A person should never die because they have been deprived of nutrition and hydration. However in certain circumstances, such as near the end of life, the body may not be able to assimilate food and water or the procedures used can be too burdensome to continue. In these situations, artificial nutrition and hydration can be discontinued.

An important qualifier: starving someone to death is not the same thing as refusing treatment (but for exceptional circumstances near the end of life).

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Looking for Signs of What the USCCB will do.

In the past 20 hours, since the Hatch-Nelson bill was tabled in a 54-45 vote, I guess we've all been watching to see what the USCCB will do. They have repeatedly said that they will not support health care without a Stupak-like amendment.

Nevermind their repeated and untrue accusation that the health care bill will extract "blood money" from citizens to pay for abortion. Never mind their successful efforts to frame the Hyde amendment as a "neutral" position. Never mind false claims that the health care bill is now "biggest abortion funding since Roe." Perhaps Senators grasped the truth of the funding structure proposed by the bill.

What the bishops do now will be very interesting.

The USCCB site says nothing about how the bishops will proceed. Will they increase efforts to oppose health care reform? Or will they back down? Will they try to re-introduce a restrictive bill? I don't know if Senate rules will allow them. Regardless, this bill still has a long way to go.

According to Deacon Keith Fournier at, Catholics must now work to stop the health care bill. He writes this morning:

It is time for Catholic Action. Every US Senator must hear from us. We must insist that there is no room for “negotiation” when it comes to the use of Federal Tax dollars for the taking of innocent human life. Failure to amend this Bill will require that any proposed “Health Care Reform” be opposed by every American who knows that the child in the womb is our first neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to kill our neighbor. We cannot cooperate in material evil by allowing our tax dollars to be used to kill children.

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What About That Advance Directive?

Ann Woolner writes for Bloomberg today that while you may fill out that advance directive (living will), don't expect your hospital to honor it.

It's a warning that Compassion & Choices, The MergerWatch Project and others (including myself) have been giving for some time. I'm glad to see it gaining voice.

An excerpt from the article:

The conflict between patient and medical personnel speaks to a larger health-care issue that reaches beyond Catholic institutions.

The notion is growing that the institutional or individual conscience of a health professional trumps a patient’s wishes when they conflict, or at least makes them more difficult to carry out.

Health professionals have been winning ever-stronger language in state and federal laws that forbid discrimination against them if their moral or religious beliefs prevent them from assisting or performing abortion or prescribing birth control. You will find some version of it in health-care bills Congress is considering.

And while in most cases of conflict arrangements are made to transfer patients to health-care providers and professionals who will comply with their wishes, that isn’t always possible.

Critical Decisions

This tugs at a sacred tenet of American health care: that an informed and competent patient should be allowed to make critical decisions over his own body, even in advance.

Increasingly, the patient’s moral and religious convictions are taking a back seat to the beliefs of people charged with caring for their health.

So it was with the Bishops Conference, which ditched its more ambiguous stance to adopt principles taught by Pope John Paul II.

Catholic hospitals can still follow patient directives that refuse other sorts of medical treatments. The more difficult question was whether food and water are medical treatments and therefore morally optional. And what if the patient could exist for years in a vegetative state?

Or was it something so essential to a person’s humanity that it must be given to affirm the value of human life, indefinitely? Would it be euthanasia to refrain from tubing?

It would, the bishops announced.

“We believe we are upholding the dignity and value of every human life,” Weinandy said in a telephone interview.

And yet, there are others who believe their dignity requires health-care providers to abide by their wishes to keep feeding tubes out of their bodies if they have no hope of ever resuming consciousness.

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Mobilization for Health Care for All Hasn't Given Up on Single Payer.

From a press release at commondreams, a take back of language that we've heard used by the right in the past weeks: civil disobedience, death panels; and activism for single payer health care reform.

Medicare for All: Sit-Ins & Protests at Senators' Offices in 19 Cities

Angry Citizens Vow to Sit-In at Senators’ Offices for Medicare for All

Demand Passage of Sen. Sanders’ Single-Payer Amendment

WASHINGTON - December 8 - Declaring health care to be a human right, hundreds of advocates for a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health program will protest at senators' offices around the country on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. Many will risk arrest by committing acts of civil disobedience.

What: Sit-ins and protests at senators' offices to demand single-payer health reform
Thursday, December 10, 2009, International Human Rights Day
18 cities across the country (see list at end)
Who: Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national civil disobedience campaign

Organizers say the coordinated sit-ins and other actions will spotlight the "complete inadequacy" of the present House and Senate bills, which, they say, will leave at least 17 million people uninsured and millions more with shoddy coverage, unprotected from skyrocketing medical costs.

"Elected officials are the ones with the power to end this abusive, immoral health care system we have," says George Randt, M.D., a physician specialist in primary care medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and a member of the national single-payer advocacy group Healthcare-NOW!. "They have the power to take out the middleman-the private insurance industry-which provides no care but merely inflates the cost of care for everyone. The bills emerging in Congress are completely inadequate. Patients deserve better."

The actions are part of a national civil disobedience campaign for single-payer health reform led by the Mobilization for Health Care for All. The campaign has gained notoriety for having organized more than 35 sit-ins across the country in recent weeks, targeting private health insurance companies and exposing their role as the real "death panels" that decide who lives and who dies based on ability to pay.

"My life should not be in the hands of insurance CEOs who profit from denying me care," adds Kate Barnhart of New York, one of the over 200 citizens arrested at the recent round of sit-ins.

Barnhart's doctor ordered a brain scan for a tumor in early September, but the procedure's approval has been repeatedly delayed by her insurance company. "I had been paying $900 a month for my premium," she said. "Last week, the company terminated my policy, and I still haven't had my brain scan. Do my senators think this is OK?"

Medicare-for-All supporters advocate a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system similar to Medicare. The single-payer system would be financed entirely through taxes, cover everyone, ensure freedom to choose doctors, and save about $400 billion annually by eliminating wasteful paperwork, bureaucracy and insurance company profits. The vast majority of people would pay less in taxes than what they presently pay for premiums and out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, introduced a single-payer amendment to the Senate leadership's health bill on December 2nd that would essentially replace the existing bill's language with an improved Medicare-for-All plan. Sanders has also announced plans to introduce another measure that would permit individual states to experiment with their own single-payer programs.

"While Obama was courting my vote, he said during the debates that health care is a right," said Andy Richards of the Coalition of the Uninsured and Underinsured for Single-Payer, based in Washington, D.C. "My mom fought cancer for 21 years, and even though she had health insurance, the out-of-pocket costs were astronomical. She passed away in 2005. Today my dad is still paying off medical debt and was nearly on the brink of bankruptcy."

Richards is another recent sit-in arrestee who, at age 25, was denied coverage due to a so-called pre-existing condition. "Does it sound like a right to you when people go without health care or pay so much for it that they go bankrupt? My senators need to do the right thing: stop accepting bribes from insurance companies and pass single-payer amendments in the Senate."

December 10th is the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the United States is a signatory. Single-payer actions commemorating Human Rights Day are taking place in the following cities:

Atlanta, GA: Denise Woodal,

Des Moines, IA: Mona Shaw, 515-282-4781,

Louisville, KY: Harriette Seiler, (502) 644-7124,

Baltimore, MD: Charles Loubert,

Kalamazoo, MI: Don Cooney, 269-387-3190,

New York, NY: Laurie Wen, 917-446-1610,

St. Louis, MO: Mark Reed, 314-773-7876,

Newark, NJ: 917-446-1610,

Syracuse, NY: Karen Nezelek, 315-876-9669,

Cleveland, OH: Drew Smith, 330-703-0556,

Philadelphia, PA: Joan Martini,

Virginia Beach, VA: Trudy Serrano, 757-671-9345,

Seattle, WA: Sally Soriano,

Washington, D.C.: Andy Richards, (571)-438-3393,

Davie, Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Tallahassee, FL: Rick Ford, 561-601-9150,

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Senator Bob Casey Gives a Warning.

Yesterday, Senator Bob Casey said, "After this vote, no matter what it is, this discussion will continue."

Those of us enjoying the defeat of Hatch-Nelson yesterday - it was tabled in a vote of 54 to 45 - know that those who wish to end the legalization of abortion (and assisted suicide) are not going to stop their push.

Today, I'm most anxious to hear what the USCCB plans to do about health care reform. Will they now fight to stop the bill or will they back down?

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ADF Says It's Time to Revisit Roe v Wade.

The Aliance Defense Fund, those purveyors of Truth (with a capital T), today put out an abstract on Alliance Alert that asks the Supreme Court to finish what they started with Roe v. Wade: to decide on the 'personhood' of a fetus. A number of other "pro-life" sites have picked up the post.

Imagining what would happen if the Supreme Court did revisit the case gives me the shivers. Many of us write all the time that, for instance, the USCCB's muscling on health care reform is imposition of religious ideology on the rest of us, a violation of the separation of church and state. And we know that "pro-life" groups have one main objective, to make abortion (under the broadest definition) illegal. We witness their determination and power daily.

Maybe it's a naive question regarding an event unlikely to happen, but what would happen if the Supreme Court were asked to determine when life begins? What decision would guarantee women's rights without all this continual chipping away of access?

However, the Court’s analysis is problematic, because Establishment Clause principles are consistent with governmental protection of fetal life. The humanity of the fetus can be plausibly supported, not only on religious grounds, but also on the secular grounds of philosophical, historical, and experiential reasoning. To be clear, I do not argue that these secular grounds prove beyond dispute that fetuses are human beings. Instead, I defend the more modest proposition that a debatable secular case can be made for viewing fetuses as human beings. This conclusion is not strong enough to justify criminalization or restriction of abortion (which is beyond the scope of this Article), but it does prove that such criminalization or restriction would not violate the Establishment Clause. Thus, the Court should revisit the fundamental question that it evaded in Roe and later cases: is the fetus a human being, such that legislatures have a compelling interest in protecting fetal life against abortion?

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The Family, Joe Pitts, and Abortion.

This fall, anti-abortion activists cheered for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment -- or, the Pitts-Stupak Amendment, as Rep. Joe Pitts' office called it. The amendment nearly derailed health reform and threatened to roll back abortion rights. In Salon, on NPR's "Fresh Air," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," and in other venues I reported on the Family's relationship to the amendment. Representative Bart Stupak has been enjoying subsidized rent at the Family's C Street House since at least 2002. Rep. Pitts' relationship goes back much further, to the late 1970s. Pitts didn't respond, but Stupak has been vocal in denying any connection between the Family, which he characterizes as apolitical, and anti-abortion activism.

The following letter, from Family organizer Fred Heyn to Pitts -- then a state legislator and national anti-abortion activist -- and an associate, Glenn Cunningham, is just one of the many documents contained within the Family's archives that prove Rep. Stupak wrong. It can be found in folder 8, box 386, collection 459 of the Billy Graham Center Archive. It represents the early days of Pitts' anti-abortion activism through the Family.

September 2, 1980

Dear Joe and Glen,

The dinner at the Cedars [The Family's $4 million Arlington mansion] recently with you and your invited guests was a great pleasure. We appreciate the way in which you are working together and, although as a fellowship we do not officially become involved in issues, we're grateful when men like yourselves take the leadership on a national issue as important as the one on which you're working. We pray for you and God's leadership in the days ahead as you work on it.

Also, Doug Coe, Stu and I have visited and we are agreed to help with this work as much as we're able.

Thanks again for being here and for including us...

Yours Sincerely,
Fred Heyn

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The Country's Newest Union.

I'm really excited about this. A number of nurses unions combined on Monday to form the largest union in the country, National Nurses Union. Here's the skinny on how they've jumped right into work:

PHOENIX, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Hours after formalizing the birth of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history, National Nurses United hit the ground running Tuesday with the selection of an executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro, and its first public action, a protest at the headquarters of the Arizona hospital association.

DeMoro, who has served since 1993 as executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, a role she will continue, is also a national vice president of the AFL-CIO. She was named at the inaugural meeting late Tuesday afternoon of the new NNU board of the new 150,000-member organization.

One of the most prominent voices in labor and healthcare in the U.S., DeMoro for eight straight years has been named among the 100 most powerful people in healthcare by the industry trade publication Modern Healthcare, was cited among the Most Influential Women in America by MSN, and among "America's Best and Brightest" by Esquire magazine. Under her stewardship, CNA/NNOC passed the nation's first RN staffing ratio law and led an internationally renown campaign against California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he tried to roll back the law.

The NNU board, which also took office Tuesday, comprises leaders of the three founding organizations, United American Nurses, Massachusetts Nurses Association, and CNA/NNOC. New board members include the NNU national officers - the Council of Presidents Deborah Burger (California), Karen Higgins (Massachusetts), and Jean Ross (UAN), and NNU Secretary Treasurer Martha Kuhl (California).

They are joined on the board by vice presidents, Zenei Cortez (California), Bernadine Engeldorf (Minnesota), Sandra Falwell (Washington, DC), Diane Goddeeris (Michigan), Linda Hamilton (Minnesota), Geri Jenkins (California), Margie Keenan (California), Brenda Langford (Illinois), Malinda Markowitz (California), Trande Phillips (California), and Beth Piknick (Massachusetts). The four officers and Goddeeris were named to the NNU Executive Committee.

At its initial meeting, the NNU board promised to move quickly on an ambitious agenda of organizing non-union RNs across the nation, defending and advancing the interests of direct-care RNs and patients, establishing a more influential voice for RNs in Washington, and passing key patient care reforms, such as national nurse to patient ratios, and building stronger international ties with nurses around the world.

To help announce the arrival of NNU, delegates to the founding convention rallied and picketed outside the Phoenix offices of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association Tuesday. They emphasized that nurses would step up efforts to challenge hospital industry attacks on nurses rights, economic and workplace standards, patient care conditions, opposition to ratios and other critical legislation, and work to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to enhance the ability of nurses and other working people to form unions.

"We're here to send a signal to the Arizona hospital association and the American hospital industry. We will not be silenced, we will not be stopped," said Ross in keynoting the rally. "Hospital associations around the country oppose safe staffing legislation that guarantees patients the care the care they need, and with their allies intimidate RNs when we try to organize a union. That intimidation must stop."

"We know that union RNs provide quality care, better care because we have real power on our units, to speak out and advocate for our patients," said Ross. "We also know that America is hurting. As nurses we see the consequences every day. We know that at the heart of the current crisis is the stagnation of wages, the erosion of living standards, and the loss of buying power for American workers that has coincided with three decades of attacks on the rights of American workers to form unions and bargain collectively."

"When workers have a greater voice to lift up their standards, all of America prospers. That's why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, to restore balance to our system of labor law. The greatest economic stimulus, economic recovery plan would be to restore the right for more American workers to form unions and raise standards for themselves and their families and their communities," Ross said.

Bringing an Arizona focus to the rally were Rebekah Friend, Secretary-Treasurer, Arizona AFL-CIO, Arizona RN Debbie Rice, and Dan O'Neil, of Progressive Democrats of America. "It is an honor to speak at the very first public action of National Nurses United," said Rice. "On behalf of Arizona nurses, we want to thank you for building a national organization for RNs and giving us the leadership and encouragement to keep on fighting for nurses and patients."

"We know the consequences of bottom line medicine, that puts our patients at the mercy of protocols designed to meet budgets rather than patient needs," said Higgins. "We know what happens when hospital and insurance companies collude to barter human lives for money - people suffer and the executives and the corporations prosper. We know what works, and we will not go away until we win the protections our patient need."

DeMoro, who opened the rally and later closed the convention, praised the delegates for their work and their commitment to building a monumental movement of direct-care RNs. "RNs can be the most powerful voice in this country. It is our responsibility, as NNU, to be agents of change, to be the warriors we've admired in history, to inspire the nurses of this country that this is their home."

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Hatch-Nelson Tabled.

From American United for Separation of Church and State:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended the U.S. Senate for rejecting a religion-based amendment to the health-care reform bill that would have limited women’s access to abortion.

By a 54-45
vote, the Senate tabled the Nelson-Hatch amendment, which would have eliminated abortion coverage from insurance plans that receive federal funds, even if the coverage is paid for with private funds. The proposal, promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is similar to a controversial amendment added to the health-care bill in the House at the behest of the church hierarchy.

The Catholic bishops and allied Religious Right forces are lobbying aggressively to enshrine their doctrines about abortion in the health-care reform package.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “I am glad the Senate defeated this proposal. Health-care legislation should be based on the needs of the American people, not the doctrines of powerful religious interest groups.

“Women should be free to make decisions about reproductive health based on their own consciences, not the political decrees of church hierarchies,” Lynn continued. “Religious dogma must never be imposed through force of

In a Dec. 7 legislative alert, Americans United urged religious liberty activists to contact their
senators and oppose the “unacceptable” amendment introduced by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Said AU, “We simply cannot allow the interests of a politically powerful religious denomination to undermine the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to Americans of all faiths and none.”

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