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From a religion news perspective, the SCOTUS departure is important because with Stevens departing this summer, the court may no longer have any Protestants unless President Obama decides to appoint one, on principle. (Otherwise, the frontrunners are Jews or Catholics, like the rest of the court.) It’s interesting to note that six of the current justices are Catholics, with all that implies for abortion cases and other “life” arguments that come before the court. Slate and GetReligion have more on this angle.
Religious beliefs concerning abortion also factor into the news about Bart Stupak retiring from Congress at the end of his term. The Michigan Democrat and Roman Catholic played a central role in the passage of health care reform, by agreeing to vote yes in exchange for an executive order from the president stating the bill would not override an existing ban on federal funding for abortions. By doing do, Stupak went from hero to zero with anti-abortion Americans (while remaining unpopular with abortion-rights advocates), and became a focal point for the so-called Tea Party’s wrath. The 57-year-old nine-term congressman has contemplated retiring before, however, so perhaps his decision is not entirely based on avoiding a tough re-election bid.