By Tom Chapman
During its spring meeting last month, The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) Board discussed the “Faithful Citizenship” efforts to educate Catholics before the Nov. 2 mid-term election. The plan is for the four Iowa dioceses to publish a flier and provide short informational articles for parish bulletins.
The ICC will also be available to conduct regional meetings on Faithful Citizenship and assist people in their discernment on how to approach voting as a faithful Catholic. The next board meeting is in October and typically the main agenda item is approval of the list of legislative concerns. Here is an update on ICC activities:
I was part of a meeting with staff from Sen. Charles Grassley’s office last month to discuss immigration reform. The senator believes we need a better system of immigration and is open to discussing the number and type of visas available to people who would come to our country legally. Enacting the type of comprehensive reform that the Church supports seems increasing unlikely this year but efforts are continuing to lay the groundwork.
A May 16 story in the Des Moines Register discussed Planned Parenthood’s first-in-the-nation program to provide an abortion pill by remote control following a consultation by webcam. Bills which would have required the drug to be provided in-person did not survive the legislative funnel during the past legislative session.
The Gallup Poll announced some new polling last month. For the third straight year, more Americans call themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice,” this time 47 to 45 percent. Unfortunately the poll found members of political parties have become more polarized on the issue; a greater percentage of Republicans call themselves pro-life than before, while a lesser percentage of Democrats do.
Other trends are encouraging. Both genders have become more likely to identify as pro-life. Support for making abortion generally illegal is growing fastest among young adults. Less than one in four people agree with current abortion law, which allows abortion virtually on-demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. While polls may change, our legislative agenda on the abortion issue stays pretty much the same. We continue to make the case that our society should protect those who can’t defend themselves, whether in the womb or otherwise.
Payday loan freeze
The Des Moines City Council has voted to put a six-month freeze on opening new payday loan stores. They intend to use the time to look at zoning regulations. The ICC has supported regulation of payday loans. Our concern has been based on the fees that borrowers must pay which tends to capture them in a cycle of debt. Lending practices which, intentionally or unintentionally, take advantage of one’s desperate circumstances are unjust.
Supreme Court decision
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on May 17 that juveniles who commit crimes in which no one was killed may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to the Iowa Attorney General’s office, this will affect seven prisoners in Iowa. The ICC has supported legislation in Iowa to eliminate the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for minors. We believe that offenders who commit very serious crimes when they are juveniles may gain, with maturity, an understanding of the gravity of their crime and be able to rejoin society under some conditions. This does not mean that prisoners would have to be released.
For information and action alerts from the U.S. bishops on federal legislation, go to www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops. You can find us on Facebook and on Twitter (iacatholicconf).
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)