News Roundup

Massachusetts law gives transgender access to church toilet facilities

Churches in the US state of Massachusetts may be forced to accommodate transgender access to toilet facilities under a new anti-discrimination law. Coming into effect on October 1, the new legislation has been supplemented with a ‘Gender Identity Guidance’ booklet to better explain the responsibilities of businesses and “agents of places of public accommodation”. The guidance goes on to make clear that even places of worship may at times fall into the latter category. “Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public,” the guidance notes. The religious freedom law group Alliance Defending Freedom has reacted by arguing that the law and its interpretation clearly violates the First Amendment on freedom of religion.

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Academic lauds successes of adult stem cell treatments

A US academic has challenged a New York Times article which downplayed the value of adult stem cell therapies to point out that “over 1.5 million patients have had their lives saved and health improved by adult stem cell transplants”. David Prentice PhD, Research Director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, was prompted to speak out after an article penned by Times journalist Gina Kolata that trials with adult stem cells are “still in the earliest phase”. Dr Prentice referenced published research in which stem cell transplants are hailed as both life-saving and cost-effective, and he said articles downplaying stem adult stem cells only serve to “confuse, not illuminate, the facts about stem cell therapies”.

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US Bishop decry proposed human-animal hybrid research

Catholic Bishops in America have criticised moves by the government to allow for human/animal hybrid research. Reacting to news that the National Institute of Health is willing to fund such research, the Bishops issued a statement in which they described the proposal as unethical and one which threatens to destroy human embryos. “The bottom line is that the Federal government will begin expending taxpayer dollars on the creation and manipulation of new beings whose very existence blurs the line between humanity and animals such as mice and rats,” the Bishops stated. “In doing so, the government is ignoring the fact that federally funded research of this kind is prohibited by Federal statute and is also grossly unethical.”

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Ireland experiences surge in sexually transmitted diseases

Health officials have sounded a warning after a new report revealed Ireland’s rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has surged. Latest figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show that Ireland has recorded 6,975 cases of STI so far in 2016, a figure 847 higher than for the same period in 2015, a 13.8% jump. More troubling, when confined to cases of HIV, that infection category showed a 30% hike from 2014 to 2015. In 2016, there were 326 new cases of HIV, 71 over the previous year. The main STI cases in Ireland involve chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea. Sexual health centres across Ireland are now increasing their screening hours and urged people concerned about possible infections to get checked as soon as possible.

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University hotel remove Bibles after atheist challenge

A hotel run by Arizona State University (ASU) has been forced to remove the Bible from hotel rooms following an action by an atheist group. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) targeted the hotel arguing that the presence of Bibles in hotel rooms caused offence. The state’s Attorney General, Madeline Ziegler agreed and wrote to the university to warn that making Bibles available “sends the message that ASU endorses the religious texts”. She added that state-run universities have an obligation to remain neutral on religion. This is not the first time the FFRF has sought the removal of Bibles. In 2014, it caused their removal from rooms at hotels linked to Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin.

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Chile stages massive pro-life rally

Citizens in Chile have staged a massive pro-life rally against government plans to legislate for abortion. Taking to the streets of the capital Santiago, tens of thousands of people demonstrated for a reversal of plans by President Michele Bachelet to legalise abortion in cases where the unborn baby has a terminal illness. Pro-life leaders have promised that the issue will become a hot topic for voters in forthcoming elections and warned that those backing the abortion push can expect to suffer at the polls.

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State-funded assisted human reproduction ‘within months’

State-funded fertility treatments, possibly including surrogacy, will be available to childless couples within months. According to The Sunday Independent, guidelines governing controversial fertility treatments are being finalised. It is believed these include issues such as stem cell research and embryo donation for assisted human reproduction. The guidelines will also include surrogacy and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of embryos. Last February, the then Health Minister Leo Varadkar announced new funding proposals for couples unable to conceive naturally. Ireland remains one of three countries in the EU where IVF is not yet funded by the State.
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Children’s health harmed by ‘too busy’ parents

Children’s health may be harmed by parents too busy to be with them, according to a new study. The soon-to-be published study by a team from University College Cork in conjunction with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is expected to report that the struggle for parents to juggle work and home life is detrimental to the wellbeing of children, impacting on both mental and physical health. The authors also call on schools to do more to tackle ill-health among youngsters. The study involved consultations with young people aged 13 to 17 and between eight and 12.
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Pro-life student group reinstated after legal challenge

A student pro-life group has been reinstated on a Canadian campus after its status was removed for communicating “uncomfortable” views. Students for Life was banned from Brandon University in Manitoba by the Students’ Union and only reinstated after it commenced a legal action for the right to be heard on campus.  “As students of Brandon University, we must have the same right as every other fee-paying member of BUSU to participate fully in campus life”, said Students for Life President Catherine Dubois.  “Our club has been repeatedly censored and denied these opportunities offered to every other student. We are tired and frustrated with being treated in such a discriminatory manner.”
The Brandon University case is just one in a number of similar incidents in recent months which have seen pro-life bodies forced to seek legal backing for a right to be present on Canadian campuses.

 

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Pro-Life groups condemn launch of abortion ‘helpline’

Pro-life groups in Ireland have strongly criticised plans by a leading abortion provider in Britain to offer a helpline to women here seeking to use abortion pills. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) says it will offer advice to women who have obtained pills online. In response, the pro-Life Campaign stated: “If BPAS were serious about helping women, they would work on providing alternatives to abortion, which ends the life of an unborn child and very often leaves a woman suffering serious trauma. This helpline is a further attempt by BPAS to ignore the unborn baby entirely and normalise a procedure which is life-ending, not life-saving.” Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Precious Life group said that abortion drugs were not healthcare. “Research has shown, time and time again, that these abortion drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, also endanger women’s lives.”

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