News Roundup

Abortion penalty Bill struck down in Dáil

A Bill which sought to reduce the penalty for procuring an abortion in Ireland from 14 years in prison to €1 has been defeated in the Dáil. The vote to strike down the legislation, tabled by Bríd Smith of the Alliance Against Austerity-People Before Profit, was carried by 81 votes to 26. Opposed by the Fine Gael Party, members of Fianna Fáil were allowed a vote of conscience, but in the end just three members voted in favour of the Bill: Stephen Donnelly, Lisa Chambers and Billy Kelleher. On the issue of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, soon to be the subject of recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly to the Dáil,Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has suggested that should a referendum be recommended,  it would be next year before any such poll would take place.


Exposé prompts calls for closure of Marie Stopes

Pro-life groups in Britain have called on the government to shut down Marie Stopes International (MSI) clinics after a Daily Mail exposé of questionable practices. Both the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and Life issued a joint petition urging immediate action after an undercover reporter found that clinics were willing to alter patient application  forms so as to be seen to conform with the Abortion At of 1967, with doctors ‘assessing’ women by phone before recommending terminations. “In view of their appalling treatment of women, and recognising that every abortion takes the life of an unborn baby, Life and SPUC call on the Secretary of State for Health to withdraw from MSI their licence to carry out abortions.” SPUC executive director John Smeaton added: “It is a matter of fact that 98 percent of abortions are certified on mental health grounds when the government’s own evidence shows that there’s no real risk to the woman’s mental or physical health if she has the baby. In these circumstances, these abortions are illegal.”


1.5 million Peruvians protest schools gender ideology curriculum

Over 1.5 million people in Peru have demonstrated their opposition to teaching gender ideology in the nation’s schools. The gatherings, under the banner ‘Don’t Mess With My Children’, took place in numerous cities across the country. The mass movements came after the country’s Catholic Bishops in January urged the Preruvian government to ditch “from the new National Curriculum those notions coming from gender ideology”. Fr Luis Gaspar, episcopal vicar of the Family and Life Commission for the Archdiocese of Lima, stressed that “education as the first right of parents concerning their children is not negotiable…We are in a war over morals, a spiritual war, and the battlefield is the minds of their children, and we are going to defend it till the day we die.”


UN ‘loses credibility’ in calling for Ireland to introduce abortion – PLC

The Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has said the latest call from a United Nations committee on Ireland to legislate for abortion is damaging the international body’s reputation. In a new report from the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), it expresses concern that “access to abortion in the State [Ireland] is restricted to cases where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 …” The PLC has responded that CEDAW “in effect calls for the overturning of all meaningful protections for the unborn child under the Eighth Amendment…The purpose of the CEDAW committee is to highlight and seek to eliminate discrimination. Abortion, however, is the ultimate discrimination as it targets the most vulnerable in society, namely unborn babies.” The pro-life group went on to accuse UN committees like CEDAW of losing “all credibility as defenders of authentic human rights” and in recent years becoming “cheerleaders” for the abortion movement.


US states declare pornography a ‘public health crisis’

Two more US states have officially recognised pornography as a “public health crisis”. Virginia and South Dakota have become the latest jurisdictions to acknowledge that the use and proliferation of porn as reaching “crisis” levels. This comes after the state of Utah made similar declarations in 2016. The Virginia State House voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution expressing concerns over the damaging effects it has on its users. In South Dakota, there were unanimous votes in both the House and Senate. Groups working against pornography have welcomed the state moves, with the National Centre for Sexual Exploitation noting that they will “pave the way for greater awareness and national dialogue on the issue”.


Abortion medic approving terminations ‘by phone’ – investigation

Doctors at Marie Stopes clinics in Britain are approving thousands of women they have never met for abortions every year. According to an investigation undertaken by The Daily Mail newspaper, “less than a year after an inspection by the healthcare watchdog found that many abortion approvals are based on only a one-line summary of what a woman tells a call centre worker who has no medical training, [the] investigation revealed that the telephone discussions can be as short as 22 seconds”. An undercover reporter who attended a clinic stated that staff there altered the reason she gave for her abortion – “I just don’t want the baby” – to fit requirements for termination demanded by the Abortion Act. “Although doctors are not legally required to meet a woman before signing off their abortion, Department of Health guidance says it is ‘good practice’,” the Mail explained. “And doctors must be able to show they have signed off the abortion after forming an opinion ‘in good faith’ that the legal grounds for termination have been met.”


Supreme Court refuses to hear transgender access case

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear a major transgender rights case and referred the matter back to a lower court. Centred on the demand of school student Gavin Grimm, who self-identifies as male, to access male toilet and changing facilities at school, the case was brought to the Supreme Court for it to rule on the Obama administration’s  2016 guidelines that insisted transgender students had the right of access. However, since the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the guidelines have been withdrawn. Thus the court ruled that the original Appeals court should again examine the case locally. Kerri Kupec, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian advocacy group, welcomed the ruling. “The first duty of school districts is to protect the bodily privacy rights of all of the students who attend their schools and to respect the rights of parents who understandably don’t want their children exposed in intimate changing areas like locker rooms and showers,” she said.


Assembly members face ballot on abortion issue

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly will be balloted next month on the recommendations they will ultimately pass to Government on the issue of Ireland’s abortion laws. Towards that ballot, the wording of which will be agreed upon by members, a paper compiled by legal expert Brian Murray SC was highlighted by the Assembly chair as important in members’  deliberations. In that paper Mr Murray identifies three possible outcomes for the assembly: Retention of the Eighth Amendment’s protection for the unborn; repeal of the amendment, or retention with further amendments inserted into the Constitution. The result of the ballot will be passed to the Houses of the Oireachtas, which, if repeal is recommended, must decide on what is to replace the Eighth Amendment. Assembly members begin their deliberations just days after an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll revealed that a minority of just 28% of people  in Ireland favour repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
The Iona Institute was among the groups to address the Assembly at the weekend.

Britain should ‘celebrate Christianity’ – Prime Minister May

Britain should celebrate the role Christianity plays in the country and Christians must feel free to talk about their faith, Prime Minister Theresa May has stressed. Mrs May made her comments during a reception at Downing Street, telling guests “We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of. We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.” The Prime Minister went on to praise the work of Churches for “millions in our country at some of the most difficult moments in their lives”. She added that, on the issue of persecution of Christians in other parts of the world, she viewed this as an area of cooperation between her government and Churches and hopes “to take further measures as a government to support this…It is hard to comprehend that today people are still being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity.”

Mass campaign forces withdrawal of Australian abortion Bills

An Australian MP has withdrawn two abortion Bills he tabled before the Queensland parliament following a mass campaign against them. Independent MP Rob Pyne had hoped to prompt legislation removing abortion from the criminal code, the creation of a 50-metre exclusion zone for protestors around abortion clinics, and forcing medical staff to provide abortions regardless of conscientious objections. However, for the past 10 months, legislators and members of the public have fought the passage of the Bills through a flurry of submissions to committee hearings and petitions which gained 56,604 signatures. It is reported that 83% of submissions during the committee stage were against the Bills. Their withdrawal has been hailed as “a great victory for life and decency” by the Cherish Life group, which added that “Mr Pyne was used by the pro-abortion lobby, who gave him disastrous advice”.

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