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Posted on 07/17/2019 18:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Survivors of deadly Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka have forgiven their perpetrators, but distrust between religious groups threatens a tenuous peace in the country, one survivor said on Tuesday.
Survivors “are on the path to recovery,” Yamini Ravidran told a global religious freedom gathering July 16 in Washington, D.C. “They have no hate in their hearts,” she said.
Tuesday marked the first day of meetings and discussions at the U.S. State Department of the Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The Ministerial is a gathering of religious and civic leaders from all over the world, as well as leaders of non-governmental organizations and over 100 foreign delegations.
On Tuesday, attendees heard testimonies of survivors of religious persecution and terror attacks targeting churches, mosques, and synagogues.
Ravidran was joined on a panel by Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 were killed in a shooting in October, and Dr. Farid Ahmed, a survivor of a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Sri Lanka bombings on Easter Sunday targeted three Christian churches—two Catholic churches and a Protestant church—and three resort hotels in Sri Lanka, as well as a residence and a zoo, killing over 250 people and injuring around 500.
“Easter Sunday is supposed to be a day of celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Ravidran said, but in 2019 that day “was going to permanently change the lives of many.”
Outside one church targeted in the attacks, children were asked by their Sunday school teacher how many were willing to die for Christ, she said. Most raised their hands, and “only a few minutes later, this became a reality for many of them.” Out of the 32 victims of the bombing of that church, 14 were children, she said.
Before the bombings, these children “could be called the first generation” in the country that “did not experience war, division, or brutality,” Ravidran said. A decades-long civil war ravaged the country and religious communities are still healing from the division of the conflict—division that could once again be fanned into flames. As a result, emergency restrictions, recently lifted after the decades-long conflict, have returned, Ravidran said.
The attack “has empowered some of the extremist elements” in the country, she said, and has “left us with a fear psychosis like never before.”
Catholic and Christian churches were closed for weeks after the attack, with the first public masses at Catholic churches held three weeks after Easter on May 12; attendees had to pass through strict security checks, the Guardian reported.
“There has been an increase in the distrust between communities,” Ravidran said, with instances of hate speech targeting Muslim communities.
However, “the people of Sri Lanka are deeply resilient and compassionate,” she said, having survived previous disasters including the deadly 2004 tsunami and the civil war. Survivors of the bombings are forgiving the perpetrators, and “that is what we see in Sri Lanka,” she said.
Posted on 07/17/2019 15:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
New York City, N.Y., Jul 17, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The United States has said it will not support the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the third year in a row, the UN agency announced on Tuesday morning.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will not contribute the expected $32.5 million to the agency. The funding instead will be transferred to the US Agency for International Development, where it will be used for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City policy, as well as maternal and reproductive health activities.
Pompeo said the United States would not support the UNFPA because of its partnership with the Chinese government through its office in that country.
"China's family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices," a state department spokeswoman said.
The State Department said that, according to the fund’s own materials, the agency “partners on family planning with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies."
The UNFPA denies that its work in the country is related to sterilization or abortion. Sarah Craven, the chief of the UNFPA’s office in Washington, DC, told CNN that the agency is “trying to end (China’s) sex-selective abortion and coercive birth limits,” and that they are in no way assisting the Chinese government with these goals.
“It’s literally the opposite,” said Craven to CNN.
The UNFPA also denies that their work is contributing to abortion or sterilization, and was critical of the United States’ decision to once again forego funding the agency.
“UNFPA has not yet seen the evidence to justify the serious claims made against its work,” said the organization in a statement published to its website. “UNFPA does not perform, promote or fund abortion, and we accord the highest priority to universal access to voluntary family planning, which helps prevent abortions from occurring.”
Additionally, the UNFPA said it “opposes coercive practices, such as forced sterilization and coerced abortions,” and considers them to be human rights abuses.
While the agency maintains its separation from coercive use of abortion and sterilization, the use of both practices as tools of population control have been closely contested.
The Holy See’s Permanent Observer mission to the United Nations has long warned of the use of coercive policies in matters of population. In a major address to the International Conference on Population and Development in September 1994, the then Vatican diplomat to the UN Archbishop Renato Martino told the conference that women are often the “primary victims” of population policies which “often tended towards coercion and pressure, especially through the setting of targets for providers.”
Martino specifically cited the practice of promoting sterilization to women as a “family planning” option, often without the women understanding the permanence of the procedure. He also noted the increasing campaign to recognize abortion as a “human right.”
In April of this year, the Holy See’s current Permanent Observer to the UN, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, spoke at a conference held to evaluate the progress made since the 1994 summit.
In his speech, Auza underscored the Church’s opposition to ongoing attempts at the UN to legitimize and promote abortion as a human right and to see it as a legitimate tool in population control.
“Suggesting that reproductive health includes a right to abortion explicitly violates the language of the  International Conference on Population and Development, defies moral and legal standards within domestic legislations, and divides efforts to address the real needs of mothers and children, especially those yet unborn,” he said.
Posted on 07/16/2019 23:53 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2019 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- A pro-life group in Colorado is leading a signature drive in the hopes of asking voters in 2020 whether to ban abortion after 22 weeks.
Last month, the Coalition for Women and Children filed an initiative to end late-term abortions with the Colorado Secretary of State. The organization must now collect nearly 125,000 signatures within a six-month time limit in order to have the question appear on the ballot in November 2020.
The ballot initiative filing cites “substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 22 weeks gestation,” noting that a child of this age will react to painful stimuli by recoiling or swimming away.
It also notes that with the help of modern science, babies born at 22 weeks gestation have been able to survive. “The state of Colorado and the people of Colorado have a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of children who feel pain and who can survive outside the womb,” it says.
Colorado currently has no laws regulating late-term abortion, either restricting the procedure or explicating protecting it. As a result, abortions can take place up until birth.
This is more extreme than the New York Reproductive Health Act that drew widespread attention earlier this year, Erin Behrens of the Coalition for Women and Children told CNA.
That law, passed in January 2019, declares abortion to be a “fundamental right,“ but only allows for the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy is the baby is not deemed viable or a doctor believes the mother’s life or health are at risk.
Organizers of the Colorado initiative, which they’ve dubbed “Due Date Too Late,” say they believe 22 weeks to be a reasonable limit on abortion, and that after this point, the procedure should be reserved to “to the rare case where a woman’s life is at risk.”
Keri Ebel, a volunteer of the Coalition for Women and Children, told CNA that she would actually like to see abortion restricted far before 22 weeks of pregnancy.
“I feel it should be illegal from conception,” she told CNA.
But Colorado does not have a good history of passing pro-life legislation, she said, and the 22-week ban seemed like a more realistic starting point than a broader restriction.
Earlier this year, the “Colorado Protect Human Life at Conception Act” was postponed indefinitely, just a month after being introduced to the Colorado House and assigned to the Health and Insurance committee.
Personhood amendments, which would define human personhood as beginning at conception and ban all abortions, have gone before voters in the state three times, failing by significant margins each time.
Posted on 07/16/2019 22:52 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- Citing disagreements with board leaders over whether Planned Parenthood should focus on health care or abortion advocacy, the organization’s president is stepping down.
Dr. Leana Wen took the reins at Planned Parenthood eight months ago. On Tuesday, she announced that she was resigning.
Wen’s statements about her departure suggested internal turbulence within the organization.
She initially posted on Twitter, “I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”
A few minutes later, she posted an official statement.
“As a physician and public health leader, I came to Planned Parenthood to lead a national health care organization that provides essential primary and preventative care to millions of underserved women and families, and to advocate for a broad range of policies that affect our patients’ health,” she said.
“I believe that the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one, and that we can expand support for reproductive rights by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans who understand reproductive health care as the fundamental health care that it is.”
Wen said that she is stepping down due to philosophical differences with the new board chairs over the direction that the organization should be moving.
In a memo to Planned Parenthood employees, Wen elaborated on her dispute with board leaders.
She noted that when she was interviewed for the role of president, she asked the search committee whether they viewed the organization primarily as an advocacy organization “with medical services that are necessary to strengthen its impact” or as a health care organization “with advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access.”
Wen said that she firmly believes Planned Parenthood to be fundamentally about health care, and has spent her eight months as president focusing on patient care and the promotion of reproductive rights as health care.
“I came to Planned Parenthood to run a national health care organization and to advocate for the broad range of public health policies that affect our patients’ health,” she said.
But the new board chairs of Planned Parenthood Federation of American and Planned Parenthood Action Fund disagree with that emphasis.
“The new Board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” Wen said.
Planned Parenthood announced on Tuesday that former board member Alexis McGill Johnson has been named acting president, adding that the organization hopes to appoint a new president by the end of 2019.
Wen was appointed head of Planned Parenthood in September 2018, following the 12-year presidency of Cecile Richards.
Wen moved to the United States from China at age eight. Before taking on her role with Planned Parenthood, she worked as an emergency room doctor and as the health commissioner of Baltimore. She was the first physician to lead Planned Parenthood in five decades.
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. In 2016, the organization performed about one out of every three abortions.
In the past decade, Planned Parenthood has seen its number of patients decline. The number of cancer screenings, contraceptives distributed, and prenatal services provided by the organization decreased as well.
Abortions, however, have increased by about 10 percent since 2006, despite Planned Parenthood seeing fewer patients.
The debate about Planned Parenthood’s public image as a health care provider or abortion advocacy group comes as cuts in funding and abortion restrictions in dozens of states across the country have put the organization on the defensive.
The appointments of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have brought the issue of abortion into the spotlight, amid speculation that the court could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.
In addition, a new rule under the Trump administration prevents Title X fund recipients from performing or referring for abortions, and bars abortion clinics from sharing facilities with entities that receive Title X money. Planned Parenthood stands to lose about $60 million in federal funding as a result of the rule, which was upheld by a federal court of appeals last month.
Planned Parenthood has also faced increased scrutiny following the release of a series of undercover videos in 2015 in which executives at the organization appear to be discussing the transfer of body parts from aborted babies for money, a practice that would violate federal law.
Posted on 07/16/2019 20:23 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:23 pm (CNA).- Shortly before launching the third season of 13 Reasons Why, Netflix has announced that it is removing a scene depicting a graphic teen suicide from the show’s first season.
“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help - often for the first time,” Netflix said in a July 16 statement.
“As we prepare to launch Season 3 later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers of 13 Reasons Why to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1.”
The move comes more than two years after the release of the show’s first season, which concludes with a controversial explicit scene showing the suicide of the main character. While the suicide still takes places in the show’s final episode, it is no longer shown.
Mental health experts had warned when the show initially launched that the graphic suicide depiction could result in suicide contagion, or “copycat” suicides.
According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there was a 28.9% increase in suicide rates in U.S. males ages 10-17 in the month (April 2017) following the debut of the show, although it was not possible to determine to what extent, if any, the increase was due to the show.
“The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers,” the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported. Increases in suicide rates among youth were also found in the month leading up to the shows release, and through December 2017, nine months after its release.
“The findings highlight the necessity of using best practices when portraying suicide in popular entertainment and in the media,” NIMH stated in a press release on the study.
John Ackerman, PhD, a member of the American Association of Suicidology’s communications committee, praised Netflix for its decision to edit the controversial scene.
“Partnering with the media to help them portray suicide accurately and in a way that provides hope and resources for those impacted by experiences related to suicide can make a positive difference,” he said in a July 16 statement.
“There is more work to be done throughout the entertainment industry, but it is an encouraging step to see a high profile show making changes for the safety of viewers. We hope even more research and more media collaboration results from this decision.”
Released on Netflix in 2017, 13 Reasons Why became an instant hit. Based on the 2007 young adult novel by the same name, the show follows the story of Hannah Baker, a troubled 17-year-old who takes her own life.
Instead of leaving the typical note, Hannah leaves 13 cassette tapes, explaining the 13 reasons why she took her life - and each of these “reasons” is a person, who either did something to Hannah, or didn’t do enough, according to her.
The show quickly drew a mixed response - praise for opening up discussions on subjects like bullying, sexual assault, and suicide, as well as criticism for its failure to explicitly address mental illness and its role in suicide.
Creators of the show insisted that it was intended to be helpful in starting important discussions and helping teen viewers realize the silent suffering that their friends and acquaintances may be undergoing, as well as portraying the devastating impact of suicide on those around them.
But mental health experts warned when the show launched that the graphic depiction of Hannah’s suicide violated several of the “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide,” a list of guidelines for media outlets developed by suicide prevention experts and journalists.
Dr. Jim Langley, a Catholic psychologist with St. Raphael Counseling in Denver, warned that Hannah’s suicide in the show is romanticized in a way that could leave the wrong impression on vulnerable teens.
At the same time, he cautioned, the story fails to adequately address the impact mental health played in Hannah’s decision to end her life.
“To some degree we all have responsibility to other people, but in some ways the show goes too far, and makes it sound like we have responsibility for the other person. We’re responsible to the people in our lives, to treat them well. But the people who hurt (Hannah) were not responsible for her choosing to commit suicide,” Langley told CNA shortly after the first season of 13 Reasons Why aired.
“Most people who commit suicide - almost everyone has a severe mental health problem. And the show does not portray this girl as having severe mental health problems in the way that somebody who is contemplating suicide almost always has,” he said.
Critics also noted that the adults in the show are mostly portrayed as responding to Hannah’s struggles in an inadequate and unhelpful manner. Hannah’s parents, while loving, are largely absent and unaware of their daughter’s suffering and negative experiences at school. The school counselor does not effectively respond to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.
These depictions could prevent young people from approaching adults with their concerns, believing that they will only be ignored, experts warned.
The second season of 13 Reasons Why, released last year, met with a less enthusiastic response by viewers. It follows the students at Hannah’s school in the aftermath of her suicide, exploring issues including sexual assault, teen violence, and drug use. The third season of 13 Reasons Why is due out this summer.
Catholic psychologists and youth ministers have urged caution in watching the show, particularly for vulnerable teens or those who may not be well-formed.
If you think you or a friend are struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours everyday). For Catholic counseling, contact your local priest, diocese or your local branch of Catholic Charities.
Posted on 07/16/2019 20:05 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The president of U.S. bishops’ conference issued a statement on Tuesday condemning a newly-announced rule on asylum eligibility at the southern border, suggesting that countries like Mexico are not a safe final destination for asylum seekers, and encouraging the Trump administration to change the policy.
“The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, in a statement released July 16.
Cardinal DiNardo also said that “initial analysis raises serious questions” about the new rule’s legal soundness.
The new policy establishes that claimants are ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States if they failed to first apply for asylum in any third country they passed through after departing their country of origin.
Practically, the new rule requires that asylum seekers traveling through Mexico from Central or South American countries must first apply for asylum in Mexico before being eligible to claim asylum in the U.S. The rule contains a number of exceptions.
Those who arrive at an American port of entry having passed through a country that has not signed up to certain refugee agreements are exempt, as are survivors of human trafficking. Those who apply for asylum in a pass-through country and are denied there my still claim asylum in the United States.
Similar asylum policies are already in force along the northern border of the United States, as well as in the European Union.
The Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, requires a person to claim asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, depending on which country they arrived in first. The Dublin Regulation in the European Union requires asylum seekers to register their claim in the first European country in which they arrive.
Speaking to CNA about the new rule, Bill Canny, the executive director for the USCCB’s Migration Relief Services, told CNA that he does not believe that Mexico, or other Central American countries, can safely care for migrants or asylees.
“We do not have an agreement with Mexico in the same capacity in which we do with Canada, and while some of the countries that Central American migrants are traveling through may have some protections, we do not believe they are adequate enough to provide the type of protection that is necessary to assure their safety,” Canny told CNA. “It would be immoral for us to keep those who seek asylum in harm’s way.”
The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted.
DiNardo also used his statement, issued through the USCCB, to denounce the “climate of fear” created by ICE enforcement raids which began over the weekend. The raids were announced by the administration as targeting more than 2,000 people who had exhausted all legal options to remain in the country.
“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” said DiNardo.
“I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.”
Posted on 07/16/2019 16:15 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 09:15 am (CNA).- U.S. leaders called for a worldwide “grassroots” movement to fight religious persecution at a global religious freedom gathering on Tuesday.
The “iron curtain” of religious persecution must “come down now,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback stated on Tuesday at the opening of the State Department’s Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. “Let this be the beginning of a global grassroots movement for religious freedom,” he said.
The Ministerial, held in Washington, D.C. from July 15-19. features over 1,000 religious and civil society leaders from around the world, along with over 100 foreign delegations and leaders of non-governmental organizations.
Over 20 survivors of religious persecution are also in attendance at the Ministerial, which will feature discussions of global religious persecution and on forming policies and partnerships to advance and promote religious freedom around the world.
Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in an area with religious restrictions, the State Department estimates. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday emphasized that freedom of religion is a fundamental, and public, right.
“All people must be permitted to practice their faith openly” whether at home, in public, or at a house of worship, Pompeo stated in his remarks opening the Ministerial.
The right to practice and live out one’s own religion is fundamental and is already found in a “common foundation,” Brownback said, in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and “also in the constitutions of most countries.”
He called on those in attendance to begin forming “religious freedom roundtables” in their own communities and hosting discussions between religious leaders on ways to protect freedom of religion for everyone.
“We need your activism. We need your passion. We need you to boldly fight for religious freedom,” Brownback urged those in attendance. “As united we do stand, divided we fall - and often we fall in catastrophic, and sometimes even genocidal, ways.”
Tuesday morning’s panel began a multi-day session at the State Department. Additionally, several organizations in Washington, D.C. are hosting dozens of side events, highlighting religious persecution or promoting freedom of religion, including events at the U.S. Capitol with members of Congress.
The very fact that the U.S. is hosting such a comprehensive religious freedom event speaks volumes about how the issue has grown in importance at the State Department in U.S. foreign policy, Dr. Tom Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA on Monday.
“If this is just the effort of one office in the huge bureaucracy of the Department of State—which, by and large, it has been up until now—then its ripples are very narrow,” Farr said.
There is still a long way to go to build a broad “consensus” in the U.S. around the importance of religious freedom, Farr acknowledged. While some have prioritized the promotion of other human rights or have introduced new ones based on “personal liberation,” others—including the current administration—have overlooked religious freedom when dealing with bad actors.
“It doesn’t mean that we have to act as if there’s nothing else going on in North Korea that we’re interested in. Or China. Or Saudi Arabia,” Farr said.
“It doesn’t mean that we cannot cooperate with these governments, because we have other fundamental interests,” he said, “but simply to pretend that these terrible abuses are not taking place is a huge mistake from our strategic point of view.
Promoting religious freedom can help victims of religious persecution, but “we can’t make that case if we don’t believe in it ourselves,” he said. “And right now, we don’t.”
Posted on 07/16/2019 10:34 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Brownsville, Texas, Jul 16, 2019 / 03:34 am (CNA).- The heat index in McAllen, Texas was 125 degrees on Saturday, but that did not stop members of the pro-life movement from delivering a semi-truck full of supplies and thousands of dollars in aid to respite centers at the border of the United States and Mexico.
The #BottlestotheBorder campaign, launched by New Wave Feminists in partnership with And Then There Were None (ATTWN), collected more than $120,000 worth of supplies and donated more than $70,000 in aid funding to multiple respite centers, where migrants who are legally in the U.S. are temporarily housed and cared for while they connect with family members and figure out their next steps.
Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic worker who is now a pro-life advocate and the head of a ministry that helps employees leave the abortion industry, spoke to CNA about the experience.
“We were unloading what feels like a million cases of water, and it’s heavy and it’s hot and it’s exhausting, but you look at these families, and especially the children in this center, and you just realize that it’s worth it,” Johnson told CNA, “and you can’t even complain about how hot it is or how tired you are or how sore your arms are going to be, because these children, they need this food, they need these diapers, they need these wipes.”
According to numbers from New Wave Feminists, led by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the groups were able to deliver 121,072 diapers, 30,700 pairs of shoelaces, 13,230 bottles of water, 6,660 pull-ups, 3,100 backpacks, 16,172 ounces of formula, 9,720 maxi pads, 750 rosaries, and $72,000 of funds to respite centers in Texas over the weekend.
Johnson said that the material items were donated to Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, which has a warehouse large enough to store the donated items. The monetary donations went to other respite centers in the area that are in need but do not have the storage space to handle large amounts of items at one time.
A fellow church-goer of one of ATTWN staff members had heard about the initiative and, as the owner of a trucking company, offered to drive an 18-wheeler to the border for the group, Johnson said. The catch: the truck had to be full.
“We did the first registry and filled that up in a couple of days, like in 48 hours it was full,” Johnson said. The first registry filled about half of the truck, so New Wave Feminists and ATTWN launched another registry.
“By the end it was completely packed full of supplies,” Johnson said.
While Johnson could not complain about the hard work that it took to unload thousands of boxes of supplies in the searing Texas heat, there was one frustrating part of the day, before the unloading even got started, she added. A press conference of about a dozen members of Congress had closed down the streets around the center, delaying the unloading of supplies.
“And it was really infuriating for me because here we are with no cameras, we weren’t like, ‘Hey media, come watch us unload this truck,’ because it wasn’t about us. It was about getting these supplies to these people,” Johnson said.
Johnson “busted up” the press conference and invited the members of Congress to help unload the truck instead of just doing a photo-op at the center.
“I said, ‘You know we’ve got an 18-wheeler full of supplies that will be here in 20 minutes, and if you really want to help these migrants and their families, you’ll stick around and help us unload this truck.’”
“And they smirked at me and rolled their eyes and said, ‘Well we only have 10 minutes, we can only give you 10 minutes, because we have another press opportunity that we need to get to.”
“So you just see how these people (migrants) are being used by our government, by these Congress people,” Johnson said.
The politics behind the border crisis are frustrating to Johnson, she said, because they often dehumanize migrants and distract people from doing something concrete to help the situation.
She said people have asked her if her efforts to bring supplies to migrants means that she supports an open-border policy. She doesn’t.
“No I don’t support lawlessness, I don’t support an open border, I support legal immigration, doing it the right way, but the bottom line is I don’t have the answer, I don’t know the answer,” she said, “but I can deliver these wipes so that babies’ butts are clean and they’re not getting infections. And I know how to make sure that a baby can get fed, and that’s really what this is about. And that’s what it is to be the Church, to meet the needs that are right in front of us.”
Johnson converted to Catholicism several years after leaving the abortion industry in 2009.
Another frustrating aspect of the weekend was that on the same day that Johnson, Herndon-De La Rosa and their team were unloading their supplies, TruthOut.org published an opinion piece entitled: “The ‘Pro-Life’ Movement Is Silent About Children Dying at the Border.”
“It came out the same day that we were in McAllen, and I was like really? Pro-life people don’t care about people at the border? Tell me more about that, you know, as I’m sweating and disgusting and hot and gross,” Johnson said.
The author has since reached out to Johnson and Herndon-De La Rosa for follow-up interviews, and admitted on Twitter that she had not heard of the #Bottles2TheBorder campaign when she wrote the piece.
But Johnson said that the pro-life movement, at least in some circles, still has a problem with the way they speak about the issue of immigration. She said that sometimes on social media, she will get comments from people in ultra-conservative groups who use “dehumanizing language” when discussing migrants.
“I don’t know if they identify strongly as pro-life, but they are conservative, and they’re coming on my page saying, ‘Well we need to help Americans first, and Americans need to take priority,’” she recalled.
“And I’m thinking, well why can’t we just work to help everybody? Why do we have to pick and choose? Because when God creates all of us, he doesn’t create Americans with more dignity and worth than he does Mexicans,” she said. “We’re all created in the likeness of Christ, we’re all created with that same inherent dignity and worth at the moment of conception.”
Johnson said the border crisis presents an opportunity to the pro-life movement to step up and prove that they are supportive of life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.
“This is an opportunity to make that known and to show it, and to actually be that pro-life. There are respite centers all along the border that are providing respite to immigrants who have come through a port of entry legally, and they need support, they need rest, they need a shower, they need clean diapers, they need food, and this is an opportunity for us to provide that,” she said.
While the current #Bottles2TheBorder campaign has ended, the campaign’s website includes a link to a list of respite centers along the border to which people can donate directly.
Posted on 07/16/2019 07:23 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 16, 2019 / 12:23 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously blocked Department of Health and Human Services rules that would have exempted employers who want to opt out of coverage for artificial contraception for moral or religious reasons.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a district court’s January decision to block the planned rules, which the Trump administration first announced in October 2017.
“The State’s financial injury outweighs any purported injury to religious exercise...A nationwide injunction is necessary to provide the States complete relief,” Circuit Judge Patty Schwartz wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California had issued a preliminary injunction January 13 that affects 13 states plus the District of Columbia in the case State of California v. HHS.
However, Gillam declined to issue the nationwide injunction requested by the plaintiffs, the attorneys general of several states led by California.
U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone then issued a nationwide injunction blocking the same rule in her decision for the case Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump.
HHS is expected to appeal Friday’s decision to the Supreme Court.
The original contraception mandate, introduced during the Obama administration, had drawn lawsuits from hundreds of plaintiffs who argued that it failed to allow for their free exercise of religion. In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government must allow exceptions to the mandate in some cases. Last year, hundreds of employers won an injunction against the mandate.
In a separate effort by HHS, the “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule”, announced May 2 and published May 21 in the Federal Register, is intended to strengthen a series of laws intended to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses.
The Department of Health and Human Services had announced earlier this month that the rule’s implementation would be delayed until November, due to the amount of litigation surrounding the rule.
The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified for compliance with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights.
The court estimated that between 70,500 and 124,400 women nationwide would lose access to contraception under the new rules, and that it could lead to higher expenditures at the state level.
Under existing law, medical providers may opt out of direct participation, as well as having to refer patients to other providers who will perform procedures to which they object, such as abortion and sterilization.
New York had led a suit against the rule unveiled in May, with co-plaintiffs Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York City, and Cook County, Ill.
California filed a separate lawsuit May 21 against the rule, saying it “impedes access to basic care” and “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients.” Planned Parenthood has also filed a lawsuit.
The plaintiffs had argued that the rule would force some healthcare facilities to hire more staff in case there are too many conscientious objectors to provide requested procedures.
HHS had responded to concerned comments that the new rule would prevent some patients from being treated in an emergency, replying in the Federal Register that federal law mandating that “certain hospitals treat and stabilize patients who present in an emergency does not conflict with Federal conscience and anti-discrimination laws.”
In addition, HHS contended that religiously affiliated hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, “play a major role in the delivery of health care to residents of the United States, including to underserved or underprivileged communities in particular, and are motivated by their beliefs to serve such communities.”
“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life. Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law,” Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said May 2.
Posted on 07/16/2019 00:56 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Monday evening that parts of the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits recipients of Title X family planning funds to refer or provide abortion services, will go into effect immediately.
As of July 15, the Department of Health and Human Services informed Title X fund recipients that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions.
As of March next year, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds.
Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.
The Protect Life Rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X.
Previously, abortion providers were ineligable to receive Title X funds, and the Supreme Court upheld this restriction in 1991. When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, his administration changed the program to include abortion providers.
No money has been cut from Title X as a result of this change, and funds will still be available for eligible clinics.
The Protect Life Rule was formally announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2018. Immediately after it was announced, the administration was sued by several states opposed to the changes. On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay that would have blocked the rule from going into effect.
Planned Parenthood described the court’s decision as “devastating” and “crushing news,” though the organization remains eligible to receive $500 million in federal funding.
Last week, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, described the Protect Life Rule coming into force as “greatly encouraging.”
“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.”