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News You Might Have Missed

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Tomas Fano

John Burger - published on 07/31/14

Life at the UN, religious freedom at home and abroad, and prayer at the end of the day.

We came across some interesting items this week that we didn’t want you to miss. 

Marie Smith, wife of US Rep. Chris Smith, runs the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues. She noted that there is debate at the United Nations right now over inclusion of "reproductive rights" in the new set of priorities for the world which is set to take effect on January 1, 2016. That would be after the current eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. The process is moving forward as the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals completed its work with an outcome document that includes access to "reproductive rights."

“The OWG leads the inter-governmental process of the United Nations General Assembly to devise new sustainable development goals as mandated in the "The World We Want" outcome document from the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro,” Smith explained. “Regrettably, the co-chairs Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, allowed highly contentious and controversial language on "reproductive rights" to remain in the final outcome document which includes 17 goals and 169 targets.”

Smith points out that the promotion of "reproductive rights" fails to take into account different national policies on abortion and is not universally applicable.

“Many countries value the lives of children in the womb and seek to make abortion rare,” she writes. “Only four countries allow unrestricted access to abortion throughout pregnancy—the U. S., China, North Korea and Canada.”

But there’s a new voice at the UN that will certainly engage this battle. Human Life International (HLI), the international pro-life and pro-family nonprofit, was officially granted Special Consultative Status by the United Nations. HLI can now attend UN meetings and submit written and oral statements to UN general assemblies. 

HLI President Father Shenan J. Boquet said that gaining UN accreditation was an important part of HLI’s worldwide mission to defend the right to life from conception to natural death.

“Being in the room where the decisions are made, we have the opportunity to change the narrative on what it means to protect authentic human rights from conception until natural death, and end the crime of abortion around the world,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, at home, Live Action has released another video allegedly catching America’s biggest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, in misbehavior.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers told the National Catholic Register that he will have attorneys review the video of a Colorado Planned Parenthood employee coaching a woman pretending to be a 15-year-old girl to engage in dangerous sexual activity, to buy goods from an adult sex store and view and read pornography.

The video is the second time since June has alleged that a Planned Parenthood worker has been counseling a girl, self-identified as 15, to examine pornography and engage in sexually deviant and dangerous behavior. The first video, published June 11, was at a Planned Parenthood branch in Indianapolis. Planned Parenthood receives federal funds designated for sexual education of teenagers.

A lawsuit was filed in early July charging Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains with failing to report the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl by her stepfather.

Religious liberty continues to be much in the news, with Muslims and others speaking out against the persecution of Christians in Iraq, and Meriam Ibrahim finally arriving in the United States after facing a possible death sentence in Sudan for allegedly turning her back on Islam. As she and her husband build their lives here in the United States, they will begin to see that the Catholic Church in the US is fighting for religious liberty in their own country, though on a different scale.

Late in the week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
expressed support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, which was introduced on July 30 by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate.  

“Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of our most vulnerable—children,” three key bishops wrote in letters of support to Kelly and Enzi.

The Inclusion Act would prohibit federal and state officials in the administration of federally funded child welfare services from excluding child welfare providers “simply because of the providers’ religious beliefs or moral convictions,” said Archbishops Salvatore J. Cordileone, William E. Lori and Thomas G. Wenski, respectively the chairmen of committees dealing with the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Religious Liberty, and Domestic Justice and Human Development.

They stated that in some places, including Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, some religious child welfare providers have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers believe that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father.  

Finally, proponents of physician-assisted suicide are well-funded and tenacious. Those are just two of the many lessons Peter Gummere learned from his years of fighting assisted suicide bills in Vermont. Gummere, a deacon who teaches at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, shared a dozen or so lessons on the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s newsletter Ethics and Medics.

Lesson one is realize that even if you win, you’ve still got to fight.

“Proponents of PAS are in this fight for the long haul. They will persist," he wrote. "Even a stunning defeat emboldens them to try harder. The effort to pass physician-assisted suicide first surfaced in Vermont in the 1970s. It was not introduced again until the late 1990s. Since that time, it has been re-introduced in the legislature in most biennial sessions. During several of these sessions, the bill simply ‘sat on the wall’ (was dormant) in committee, but it was always there. A physician-assisted suicide law finally passed the legislature on May 13, 2013, after a long and arduous floor fight in both the House and the Senate that included 19 roll call votes and multiple ties in the Senate, requiring Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott to cast the decisive vote. Each time, he voted against the supporters of the bill. Among the maneuvers on the floor in the Senate were four separate strike-all amendments that introduced completely new versions of how the law would work.”

Other lessons to bear in mind include keeping an eye on the real issue—which is personal choice, not pain management; forming alliances with the many groups of people who oppose the practice (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, hospice caregivers etc.); focus on why PAS is bad public policy, not on morality; and learning that prayer is powerful.

And as we begin a new month, let’s keep in mind Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for August: That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights. And that Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

EuthanasiaPlanned ParenthoodReligious FreedomUnited Nations
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