Survivors Detail Horrifying Abuses in North Korea Where Christians Are Tortured for Their Faith


A new report details how North Korean Christians are being persecuted for their faith, including being arrested for possessing a Bible, electrocuted, starved, or even shot in front of their fellow prisoners.

The gruesome details are found in a new report from the London-based Korea Future Initiative, titled Persecuting Faith: Documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea, according to The Daily Mail.

The staff of the initiative consulted with 177 North Korean exiles about religious persecution in the East Asia country, where worshipping anyone other than dictator Kim Jong-Un is strictly forbidden.

According to the report, its investigation documents 273 victims of religious freedom violations. These victims ranged in age from three-years-old to 80-years-old.

The report covers the time period of 1990 to 2019 and reveals gruesome details of torture that reads more like John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs from the mid-1500’s.  It tells of cases of people being punished for their beliefs, including public executions, sexual violence, beatings, torture, forced abortions, and imprisonment in North Korean prison camps.

***Warning the following narrative describes some of the abuse endured from the report. 

One man who was interviewed recalled that he had just converted to Christianity and his guards forced him into a metal cage that measured only 3 feet high by 4 feet wide.

“There were steel bars on all four-sides that were heated with electricity,” he said. “Usually prisoners lasted only three or four hours in the cage, but I sat there for 12 hours and prayed. I kept praying to God to save me.”

The man said he eventually passed out. When he woke up, he found the guards had removed him from his cage, but had beaten him while he was unconscious. He had severe injuries to his face and right leg.

One female prisoner said, “Men were beaten like dogs, even in the cell. They screamed like crazy because they hurt so much.”

“Even though women were beaten less, I was hit in the face and my skin ruptured and I bled a lot,” she continued. “(Officers) told me to wipe the blood, so I cleaned it. I wept a lot when they hit me again. Blood and discharge ruptured during my next pre-trial examination. They hit me again because I wept.”

The researchers also detailed 32 incidents of sexual violence against female prisoners, who made up 60 percent of victims identified in the report, including forced abortions.

One person told the investigators about forced abortions that occurred in the North Hamgyong province. The person said women would be forced into labor via injections, and would then give birth to live babies. These newborns would then be smothered by the guards using sheets of plastic and cloth sacks with their bodies stored in a cupboard.

Several executions are noted in the report, including one in which a person was executed by firing squad in front of more than 1,000 people. Prisoners were also executed after their guards found a Bible or other religious material in their cells.

Some were killed for smuggling Bibles or pages from the Bible into the communist country from China for people to make prayer books.

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Christianity was relatively common in the Korean Peninsula before the Soviet Civil Administration took control in 1945, along with other religions including Buddhism and spiritual beliefs including shamanism, according to The Daily Mail.

But now, as one prisoner recalled, “There is no religion in the world and Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s predecessor) is God.”

All religious worship and the possession of religious items, including crosses and prayer books, is outlawed.

There are still underground networks of Christians in North Korea, but they have to be very diligent as they continue to pray and gather in secret.  The state encourages its citizens to act as informants, and they respond by turning in neighbors, family members, their parents or children and even their spouse.

Il-lyong Ju, an exiled human rights advocate who helped put the report together, said in the report’s foreward: “The cruel actions of the privileged few in North Korea who take our lives and control our thoughts must be prevented. North Korean officials, whose crimes evoke thoughts of Auschwitz, must be identified and held accountable. And we must not forget the testimonies of the survivors in this report who have overpowered death in North Korea.”

“This is the least that we, the free North Koreans, and you… who has been granted freedom at birth, can do as our collective act of humanity,” he continued. “We have freedom. The North Korean people do not.”

North Korea is ranked as the number one persecutor of Christians in the world by Open Doors 2020 World Watch List. The Open Doors list says Christian persecution in the country is extreme and if Christians are discovered, they are sent to labor camps as political prisoners or killed on the spot.


School Officials Forced a Third Grader to Take Off Her “Jesus Loves Me” Mask

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
November 2, 2020

In 2020, masks have become a fashion statement. You can buy them from most clothing retailers. You can match them to your outfit. You can make political statements with them.

Masks are a new way to “express yourself.”

That is, unless you want to express a religious message.

Lydia Booth, a third grader at Simpson Central School in Mississippi learned this the hard way when she wore a mask that said “Jesus Loves Me” to school. Even though school officials allowed students across the school district to wear a wide variety of other messages on their masks, they forced this third grader to remove hers.

That’s called viewpoint discrimination. And it’s unconstitutional.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom today filed a lawsuit against the Simpson County School District on Lydia’s behalf. 

Lydia Booth's "Jesus Loves Me" Mask

If you were to walk around the campuses of Simpson County School District, you would see a wide variety of messages on student and faculty masks, including masks displaying the Jackson State University logo, the New Orleans Saints logo, and “Black Lives Matter.” So, wearing a “Jesus Loves Me” mask wouldn’t have stuck out, and it certainly didn’t cause any disruptions during the school day. In fact, Lydia had worn her “Jesus Loves Me” mask several times before without any incidents.

Yet, school officials forced this third grader to remove her mask—pointing to a school policy that prohibits messages on masks that are “political, religious, sexual, or inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment.”

But school officials can’t pick and choose which messages students are allowed to express and which they aren’t. And they certainly can’t single out religious speech for worse treatment than other types of speech. On top of that, what qualifies as “offensive” or “disruptive” or “distractive” is left completely up to school officials.

If masks expressing other beliefs and views are allowed, then “Jesus Loves Me” should be allowed as well.

Our Constitution requires as much. And the school district has a duty to uphold its students’ constitutional rights.

Oddly enough, the school district also has a “free speech” policy that “recognizes a student’s right to free speech provided it is exercised in a manner which is not prohibited by law nor disrupts the educational process.” The district also recognizes that religious views of students are entitled to the same treatment as nonreligious views under Mississippi law.

We’re simply asking Simpson County School District to live up to these policies, and more importantly, to live up to the requirements of the Constitution.


Health Minister reports 339 abortions for Down’s Syndrome in 6 months

Health Minister reports 339 abortions for Down’s Syndrome in 6 months

Life is calling for the abortion laws to be revised with a view to stopping the abortion of babies with disabilities, following the revelation that 339 babies were aborted for Downs Syndrome in the first six months of this year. 

Health Minister Helen Whately revealed the statistics in answering a parliamentary question from Fiona Bruce MP.  

Life’s Director of Advocacy Liz Parsons said “Today marks 53 years since the Abortion Act was passed. In that time we have grown up as a society which embraces and advocates for equality and freedom from discrimination for all human beings. Yet the Abortion Act after 5 decades continues to empower abortion providers with the ability to terminate thousands of human beings up until birth if they have a disability. The Act is inherently discriminatory, outdated and incongruent with the principles of equality and justice for all human beings.  

The fact that every single day two babies are aborted because they have Down’s Syndrome is shocking and unacceptable in any just and equal society. It is despicable that in this age, a woman with Down’s Syndrome feels she must seek protection for babies with Down’s Syndrome, through the courts of law. Are we moving towards a Down’s-syndrome-free Britain? Are the lawmakers sitting in the House of Commons happy with this sad state of affairs? 

Just yesterday we read the story carried by the BBC where a woman pregnant with a baby with Down’s Syndrome was offered an abortion on 15 occasions, despite saying it wasn’t an option for her. She was even offered a late-term surgical abortion at 38 weeks. 

 As we mark Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month, we should reflect on whether we want a society that ends the lives of thousands of human beings because they have a disability. It is time that those responsible for creating laws be reminded of their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in society and act now to correct the unjust and discriminatory 1967 Abortion Act. 


Christian orgs in China drop ‘Jesus’ from book titles to circumvent internet censorship

A row of Chinese Bibles is displayed at the traveling Chinese Bible exhibition in Washington, D.C. | The Christian Post /Amanda Winkler

Internet censorship targeting Christians in China has become so severe that even official government-sanctioned Christian groups are now using the Chinese pinyin initials “JD” to replace Chinese characters for “Christ,” according to U.S.-based China Aid.

Two official government-sanctioned religious organizations — the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China — have updated titles and descriptions of all their books on “Tianfengshuyuan,” their official WeChat book store, reported China Aid, which exposes abuses and promotes religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in China.

“In their official WeChat store, not only ‘Christ’ becomes ‘JD,’ ‘Jesus’ also becomes ‘YS,’ and ‘Bible’ becomes ‘SJ,’” wrote Fuzeng Xing, dean of Chung Chi Seminary of Chinese University of Hong Kong, on his Facebook page, the group noted.

On March 30, 2018, the “Holy Bible” was removed from all online booksellers across China, including Taobao, Jingdong, WeChat store, Dangdang, Amazon China, and other online platforms.

As a result, many online religious bookstores have shut down.

Bitter Winter, a publication that monitors religious liberty violations in China, reported earlier this month that Chinese Communist Party officials in Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in Henan’s central province, searched a local printing house for banned religious materials.

“Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious. Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party,” a store manager told Bitter Winter.

Because inspections are “too rigorous,” the manager said he refuses to print religious materials. “They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor to see if they have prohibited content. If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed.”

Last month, a Chinese Christian online bookstore owner was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined nearly $30,000 for engaging in what the regime deems as “illegal business operations.”

Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported at the time that in September 2019, Chen Yu, who operated his online bookstore in Zhejiang province’s Taizhou city, was detained for selling unapproved religious publications imported from Taiwan, the U.S., and other countries.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 RMB ($29,450), according to a document from the People’s Court of Linhai City, shared by Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness.

In 2018, the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles at online bookstores across the country to comply with a “white paper” that dictated compliance with the “core values of socialism.”

Australia’s ABC News reported at the time that copies of the Gospels had been removed from online retailers following the release of a regime document, titled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.”

The white paper declared that Chinese faith communities “should adhere to the direction of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought which accords with China’s national circumstances.”

China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In a recent interview with The Christian Post, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said it is “certainly the case that the Chinese Communist Party [engages in] efforts to stamp out religious freedom every place that they find.”

53 years of abortion: 9,563,907 lives lost since 1967 — one unborn baby every 3 minutes

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the Abortion Act receiving Royal Assent.

Since then, a staggering 9,563,907* unborn babies have lost their lives to abortion across England, Wales and Scotland — more than one death every three minutes; 20 lives ended every hour.

Almost 1 in 4 (24%) pregnancies in England and Wales now ends in abortion, according to the most recent Government statistics.

Despite conception rates falling for the eleventh year in a row, this is the highest figure since records began and represents a significant increase from 2012 when approximately 1 in 5 (20.7%) pregnancies ended in abortion.

The number of abortions in England & Wales reached an all-time high in 2019 at 209,519, while the number of terminations performed in Scotland was the second-highest on record at 13,583.

Record abortion figures will likely increase

Unfortunately, those record figures are likely to increase following the introduction of an extreme abortion regime in Northern Ireland and policy changes allowing for ‘DIY’ home abortions across England, Scotland and Wales.

New and radical abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, imposed upon them by the Government in Westminster, allows abortion-on-demand up to 24 weeks and disability-selective abortion right up to birth – including for Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Earlier this month, it was revealed 664 terminations have already taken place under the new regime despite the fact the Northern Ireland Department of Health has not officially commissioned abortion ‘services’.

Meanwhile, the introduction of ‘DIY’ home abortion schemes across Great Britain has coincided with record-high abortion numbers in England and Wales.

Abortion statistics released by the Department of Health and Social Care show that 109,836 abortions were performed for English and Welsh residents in the 6 months between 1 January and 30 June 2020.

This is 4,296 higher than a six-month average of 105,540 in 2019. While a month-by-month breakdown is unavailable, 2019 saw the highest number of abortions ever recorded for English and Welsh residents over a full year, at 207,384.

An unsafe industry

The increase in abortion numbers has coincided with a rise in the number of safety abuses and other significant scandals, placing women at risk, with UK abortion providers.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that over 60% of England’s abortion clinics are ratedinadequate or requiring improvement when it comes to safety.

Over the past year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has released alarming reports detailing health and safety abuses at two of the largest abortion clinics in the UK. Inspectors found an abortion clinic in London which specialises in late-term terminations was putting the lives of women at risk and, in November, the CQC handedBPAS Merseyside the worst rating of any private abortion provider so far.

The situation may be significantly worse too. Despite the damning reports, the CQCannounced in March that it would be suspending safety inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their absence, an undercover investigation found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.

The study also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner.

In May, it was revealed UK police were investigating the death of an unborn baby after its mother took ‘DIY’ home abortion pills while 28 weeks’ pregnant.

In addition, abortion provider BPAS said they were investigating a further eight cases of women taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills beyond the 10-week limit, raising questions over what checks are being conducted to ensure the law isn’t being broken and dangerous late-term abortions aren’t happening.

More recently, a nurse in the UK has shared how she was left fearing for her life and needing emergency surgery after Marie Stopes International denied her counselling and pressured her to take abortion pills at home, rather than under the supervision of a doctor in a clinic.

Just two weeks ago, a pregnant woman similarly disclosed that she’d had an abortion after being denied face-to-face counselling services from the UK’s largest abortion provider, BPAS, which boasts that it can offer same-day abortions in its ‘considering abortion’ booklet.

A lucrative industry

Despite the significant rise in safety abuses and other scandals, abortion providers and their bosses continue to be well compensated by the UK taxpayer through Government contributions.

Since the passing of the Act, what was once a crime has become a lucrative industry.

Abortion provider Marie Stopes International’s chief executive earned between £340,000 and £350,000 in 2019 and £434,500 in 2018, according to accounts submitted to Companies House.

The accounts also show the abortion provider had a record income of £308 million from operations here in the UK and overseas, receiving over £46 million in 2019 from the Department for International Development (DfID), who remain the single largest donor.

42 of MSI’s employees were paid more than £100,000 in 2019, an increase of four in the previous year. BPAS, the UK’s largest abortion provider, paid 10 of its staff over £100,000 in 2019, an increase of three on the previous year.

A discriminatory industry

The abortion industry continues to unjustly and disproportionately target unborn babies diagnosed with a disability.

Earlier this year, it was revealed the number of abortions performed on unborn babies with cleft lip and palate in England & Wales has increased 150% since 2011.

Meanwhile, the latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted. There were 3,183 disability selective abortions across England & Wales in 2019, with 656 of those occurring following a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ has made a key recommendation that the UK change its abortion law on disability so that it does not single out babies with disabilities for abortion, right up to the point of birth.

An industry on limited time?

Last week it was announced that the High Court in London will hear a landmark caseagainst the UK Government over the country’s discriminatory abortion legislation.

Currently in England, Scotland and Wales, the law singles out babies with disabilities such as cleft lip,club foot and Down’s syndrome, and allows terminations right up to the point of birth. However, there is a 24-week time limit for most abortions that are carried out when a baby does not have a disability.

Heidi Carter, a 25-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose sixteen-month-old son Aidan also has the condition, both believe this is “deeply offensive” and have joined forces to challenge the law.

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, disability advocates and more, with over 5,000,000 people watching Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive”.

Analysis of the 2019 General Election, conducted by pro-life charity Right To Life UK, revealed the number of pro-life MPs has increased while the pro-abortion lobby has lost a large number of MPs.

This played a part in the failure of an attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill with two extreme abortion proposals, in July.

Majority want safeguards for unborn babies

Opinion polls repeatedly show that the public wants increased protections for unborn babies and the number of abortions reduced – rather than the wholesale removal of legal safeguards around abortion.

Only 1% of the UK population want abortion to be available up to birth and over 70% of women want the abortion limit to be reduced to 20 weeks or lower.

Polling from last year revealed that over 41% of Londoners believe abortion should be illegal in almost all circumstances.

Polling also revealed that two-thirds of women and 70% of 18-34-year-olds in Northern Ireland did not want Europe’s most extreme abortion law imposed on the province by Westminster.

Commemorative event outside parliament

At 12:00pm today, members from pro-life organisations across the country will take part in a live display in Parliament Square to commemorate the Abortion Act receiving Royal Assent.

The event, organised by March for Life UK, will involve people ranging in age from 1 to 53, all dressed in black, standing around the edge of the square holding placards. Each placard will state the exact number of abortions which occurred during the year in which the holder was born.

‘National Tragedy’ 

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“The UK’s abortion law is failing both women and unborn babies. It is a national tragedy that 9,563,907 lives have been lost since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, each one a valuable human being who was denied the right to life.

“Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies.

“We are always looking at how we can save more lives by ensuring that protections for unborn babies are introduced and safeguards are strengthened to protect both mothers and babies.”

*This figure is a projection for England, Wales and Scotland through to midnight on 27/10/20 and has been calculated based on the following assumptions:

  • The number of abortions per day in England & Wales will remain the same in 2020 as in 2019.
  • The number of abortions per day in Scotland will remain the same in 2020 as in 2019.
  • The rate of abortions throughout the year is evenly distributed.
  • Please note, figures have been released for the number of abortions through to June 2020. We have not used this published data in our modelling as it only provides data for the first half of the year, which is unreliable for making a prediction due to possible seasonal variation. We have not included data for abortions that have occurred in Northern Ireland in 2020 because it has not been made clear on which day abortions began being performed in Northern Ireland and it is therefore unreliable to model a projection for the remainder of the year using this


Poland’s top court votes to protect babies with disabilities from ‘eugenic’ abortion

Poland’s top court has ruled that disability-selective abortions, which make up a majority of all terminations in Poland, are unconstitutional.

The decision by the country’s Constitutional Court today will mean the majority of unborn babies in Poland will be protected from abortion.

Once the court’s ruling comes into effect, terminations will only be permissible in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Protection of life

The ruling came in response to a motion filed, last year, by a large cross-party group of lawmakers from Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Confederation Liberty and Independence Party and Polish Coalition Party.

In their application, the 119 parliamentarians argued that allowing terminations on the basis of disability, such as cleft lip, club foot or Down’s syndrome, would be in violation of the Polish Constitution which protects the dignity and right to life of every human person.

11 of Poland’s 13 Constitutional Court judges agreed. In its decision, the court said there can be no protection of the dignity of an individual without the protection of life.

‘Poland is on the side of life’

According to Polsat News, when the decision was announced, pro-life campaigners celebrated outside the court shouting “Thank you” and “Poland is on the side of life”.

Polling has revealed there is strong support for pro-life measures in the country.

A CBOS survey found that 75% of Polish people think abortion is “always wrong and can never be justified”. Meanwhile, only 7% thought there was “nothing wrong with it and could always be justified”.

Additionally, earlier this year a ‘Citizens’ initiative against eugenic abortion’ supporting a ban on disability-selective abortion gathered 830,000 signatures from Polish residents, indicating further strong support for the change in law.

Will the UK be the next to offer protection to disabled babies

Pro-life campaigners are hoping the ruling will have a positive influence on the UK, where the High Court in London will hear a landmark case against the UK Government over the country’s discriminatory abortion legislation.

Currently in England, Scotland and Wales, the law singles out babies with disabilities such as cleft lip and club foot and Down’s syndrome and allows terminations right up to the point of birth. However, there is a 24-week time limit for most abortions that are carried out when a baby does not have a disability.

Heidi Carter, a 25-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose sixteen-month-old son Aidan also has the condition, both believe this is “deeply offensive” and have joined forces to challenge the law.


The case against medical aid in dying: Insurance firms, doctors and Hollywood among those accused of pushing ‘assisted suicide’

Opponents to the end-of-life option express concern about the unintentional abuse the laws can create for the terminally ill and disabled, writes Danielle Zoellner

Nine states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that allow medical aid in dying for their residents
Nine states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that allow medical aid in dying for their residents
The expansion of medical aid in dying across the United States has not only created a professional and moral dilemma for practicing physicians, but it has also raised concerns within the disability community, among others, about the negative consequences these laws could have on the country.

John B Kelly, the New England regional director for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group focused on opposing medical aid in dying and euthanasia legislation, has become a vocal opponent to the passing of these laws.

“I myself am paralysed below my shoulders,” Mr Kelly told The Independent. “So I get to see a barrage of better-dead-than-disabled messages, as carried in such by films like Me Before You, Million Dollar Baby, etc.”

Laws relating to medical aid in dying add to this “better off” messaging, Mr Kelly said, because they create the perception that personal autonomy should be regarded above anything else. Once that autonomy is taken by a terminal illness, people sometimes think that their life is no longer worth living.

“When we look at the reported reasons for assisted suicide out in Oregonin 2019, it’s all about autonomy,” Mr Kelly said.

Oregon’s annual data showed that 87 per cent of patients who used the end-of-life option in 2019 reported a loss of autonomy as one of their main reasons. About 90 per cent said decreased ability in participating in activities that made life enjoyable was another key reason, and 72 per cent said a loss of dignity impacted their decision.

“These bills depend on a view that people with severe disabilities, and that includes people who are ‘terminally ill’, have such a low quality of life that they’re better off dead,” Mr Kelly said. “What these bills say is that this is a personal benefit, a social benefit. And so when people are given a pass to commit assisted suicide because of their disabilities, well, then those same views will be applied to people who are outside of an assisted-suicide situation.”

Another concerning statistic, Mr Kelly said, is the 59 per cent of people in Oregon who listed an end-of-life concern as being a burden to family members, friends, and caregivers.

“People are very susceptible to others,” he said, “and when everyone around you thinks things would be better if you were dead, well that’s going to encourage people.”

“I sympathize with people who suddenly become disabled … but that’s where we help people. We make sure that people know that they’re valued and they’re just as much of a full human being as they have ever been. It’s tragic to see people wanting to die because of shame and humiliation.

Medical aid in dying has a variety of different terms people use to describe it – including assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, and physicians aid in dying. Proponents of the legislation use terms like medical aid in dying and physicians aid in dying because the law puts the person’s terminal diagnosis as the cause of death, not the prescription drug they took.

But Mr Kelly, and other opponents, have their own reasoning for calling it assisted suicide.

“Suicide, even for sympathetic reasons, is still suicide,” he said. “The way these bills are written is that one must self-administer [the drug] … people are supposedly put in control of how they live their lives. So not to call it assisted suicide is just an exercise in euphemism.”

Denial of coverage

Oregon became the first state to pass its Death with Dignity Act, which allows a person 18 years or older with a terminal prognosis of six months or less to receive a prescription drug that would end their life. The requirements to utilise this law include the person being mentally fit, physically able to self-administer the drug, and for two doctors to sign off on the terminal prognosis.

Since Oregon passed the law in 1997, other states have followed suit. Now the end-of-life option is available in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.

Dr T Brian Callister, a board certified internal medicine and hospitalist specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, told The Independent that the passing of end-of-life laws could limit other people’s access to care.

“What happens is that your choice for lifesaving treatment is going to be limited by the fact that the insurance companies now have a cheaper option,” Dr Callister said. He cited two cases where he sent one patient to Oregon and another to California for treatments.

“They both had serious illnesses but would not be terminal with treatment,” he said. “In fact, each patient would be curable 50 to 70 per cent of the time with treatment.”

The patients were denied care from their insurance companies and instead offered the end-of-life option, Dr Callister said.

Another case involving health insurance problems often brought up between proponents and opponents of medical aid in dying is what happened to 64-year-old grandmother Barbara Wagner.

The Oregon woman was reportedly denied coverage for her lung cancer treatment drug by the Oregon Health Plan, a Medicaid program. Instead, the Oregon Health Plan said in a letter it would cover end-of-life options, including palliative care and medication under the state’s Death with Dignity Act. Ms Wagner appealed the denial twice before the drug company producing the lung cancer treatment offered her the drug free of charge. She died three weeks later.

Opponents have said this situation proves the dangers of health insurance companies choosing the “cost-effective” route when caring for patients.

Proponents have said Ms Wagner was denied because of the drug’s “limited benefit and very high cost”, according to Death with Dignity, a nonprofit advocating for end-of-life options like medical aid in dying. The nonprofit claims “cost of end-of-life treatment” is never considered under these laws – a claim difficult to prove or disprove given the bureaucratic nature of health insurance companies.

“What happens to the prescription drugs that aren’t used?”

End-of-life laws also rely on a physician’s ability to give a patient a terminal prognosis of six months or less, an estimate Dr Callister said is often inaccurate.

“I can tell you firsthand, a physician’s ability to predict life expectancy in terminal illness is often not accurate at all,” Dr Callister said.

In a 2016 systematic review of various studies looking into prognostic accuracy, it found accuracy by doctors spans from 23 to 78 per cent. In addition, survival estimates tend to range in three months shorter from the doctor’s prognosis to three months longer.

Oregon’s 2019 annual data summary found that 188 people took the prescription medication to end their life after requesting it through their doctor. Of those 188 people, 18 of them had received the medication in previous years, proving how patients can sometimes live past their terminal prognosis of six months or less.

“What really concerns me, though, is what happens to the prescriptions that aren’t used? These are obviously deadly drugs and roughly one-third of these prescriptions go unused,” Dr Callister said.

Once a patient receives the prescription from their local pharmacy, there is no requirement for a healthcare professional to be present when the medication is taken by the patient. In 2019, 290 people received prescriptions under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, but only 188 actually took the drug. Of the 290 people, 62 recipients of the prescription decided not to ingest it and subsequently died from other causes.

“There’s no mechanism for tracking that these are in medicine cabinets somewhere,” Dr Callister claimed.

Since these medications fall under the category of a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act, they are under federal statutes. This means the medication must be taken by whomever it was prescribed to and people could face criminal prosecution if it’s taken by someone else.

States like California, for example, require people who have custody of “unused aid-in-dying drugs” to “personally deliver the unused aid-in-dying drugs for disposal by delivering it to the nearest qualified facility that properly disposes of controlled substances” or dispose of it by “lawful means in the accordance with guidelines promulgated by the California State Board of Pharmacy.”

Physicians and pharmacists are also required to report prescribing and selling the medications to patients, but the law does not require additional follow-up once the patient has possession of the drugs.

Another requirement under the end-of-life laws is for two physicians to sign off that a patient has a terminal prognosis. Physicians are allowed to opt out of assessing a patient for an end-of-life option, as they might believe it goes against the oath they took to save lives.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) has  reiterated that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” Dr Callister said, referencing a 2016 opinion piece published by the AMA on the subject matter.

The AMA’s House of Delegates voted in June 2019 to maintain the organisation’s long-held opposition to the end-of-life option.

“It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress — such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness — may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good,” the AMA wrote in its opinion piece.

Despite its staunch opposition to the laws, the state AMA chapters of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all have moved into a neutral position.

A 2018 Medscape survey of 5,200 physicians across the US found that 58 per cent agreed medical aid in dying should be available to terminally ill patients, which was up 12 per cent from 2010. Additionally, 74 per cent of Americans think the end-of-life option should be available, according to a 2020 Gallup poll.

Impact on suicide across America

Although patients are required to be mentally fit when applying to take the prescription, concern has mounted on if the safeguards in place actually prevent those who suffer from depression or mental health problems from utilising the law.

In Oregon, for example, only one patient was referred psychological or psychiatric evaluation in 2019. This number is consistent with all of Oregon’s data since the law was enacted, with a vast majority of patients never receiving a mental health evaluation.

“If you’re terminally ill, it is quite reasonable to understand that you’re going to go through all kinds of feelings, including grief feelings, and the chance of you becoming clinically depressed is certainly going to be higher than if you weren’t terminally ill,” Dr Callister said, emphasising the importance for these patients to be clinically assessed before accessing end-of-life options.

“Being depressed is a natural part of what we will call a reactive grief,” he added. “We have to look at from a public policy perspective and ask if there is a suicide contagion that comes with legalised assisted suicide.”

Oregon’s suicide rate per 100,000 residents was 16.03 per cent in 1998 and has since risen to 19.6 per cent in 2019. People dying under the Death with Dignity Act are not included in these figures.

The national suicide rate has also risen in that time period, from standing at 11.12 per cent per 100,000 people in 1998 to rising to 14.2 per cent in 2018.

It would be difficult to determine how much Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act has played into the rise of the state’s suicide rate, but the rate is 35 per cent higher than the national average, according to a study by the Oregon Public Health.

Coercion and abuse

Ultimately the largest concern brought up against the passing of these laws is coercion on the part of the physician, insurance companies, or patient’s family members and friends that could convince someone to take the medication.

Proponents have argued there are limited reports of abuse in all states with the end-of-life-option. But with healthcare professionals present during less than one-third of these deaths plus few patients being referred for psychiatric evaluations, the proponents claim is shrouded in uncertainty.

Kathryn Judson, an Oregon resident, wrote a letter to the editor in the Hawaii Free Press in 2011 to explain her opposition to the passing of medical aid in dying.

“When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought),” she wrote.

“To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. ‘Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her’ he said, as a clincher.”

She saw the conversation as coercion on the part of the physician, and she and her husband, David, sought out a different doctor about their options for his illness. David lived an additional five years after that interaction.

“I think despite the best intentions to alleviate suffering, these laws are creating horrible, negative consequences,” Dr Callister said.

He advocated for focusing on improvements to palliative care, hospice care, and social services for patients over passing end-of-life laws.

“We don’t need these laws … because we can control your symptoms at the end of life,” he said.


How Xinjiang’s gulag tears families apart

Oct 17th 2020

So many parents have been locked up that officials struggle to cope with the left-behind children.

For zumrat dawut’s three children, Fridays were terrifying. That was the day when officials would question students at their schools in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang in China’s far west. The interrogators were looking for clues about their lives at home. They wanted to know whether parents prayed or used Islamic greetings at home, or talked to the children about the prophet Muhammad. The information they gleaned could result in a family member being sent to a “vocational training centre”, the government’s euphemism for a camp in Xinjiang’s new gulag.

As Ms Dawut describes it, ethnic Uyghurs like her were under constant watch. Her children suffered the effects as much as their parents. Every Monday they were not in school she had to take them to the courtyard of her block of flats to watch the raising of China’s flag, whether in freezing winter temperatures or in blazing summer heat. Participants were careful to look cheerful. Not only were the officials watching for signs of dissatisfaction; every family had to keep an eye on ten neighbouring families, and report anything suspicious by putting notes in a box at each ceremony.


Mother of toddler with Down’s syndrome says abortion laws are ‘offensive’ to her family

Máire Lea-Wilson gave birth to her son Aidan at 36 weeks – when the law still permitted her to have an abortion.

Máire Lea-Wilson and her son Aidan
Image:Máire Lea-Wilson and her son Aidan

In the UK, abortions are legal after the normal 24-week limit if Down’s syndrome is detected in a foetus.


I am the mother of two headstrong, determined, independent and loving boys.

As their mother, they need me to care for them, to teach them about the world, to protect them, to love them and to value them. I value them equally; but the law does not.

The reason for this is that Aidan has Down’s syndrome.

Little Aidan was born at 36 weeks and three days
Image:Aidan was born at 36 weeks and three days

Currently, in the UK, there is a 24-week limit for abortion, but if the baby has a disability such as Down’s syndrome, abortion is legal right up until birth.

I was 34 weeks pregnant when I discovered that Aidan would have Down’s syndrome.

There had been no indications of this throughout the pregnancy, and so it came as a huge shock to us.

My immediate reaction to the news was one of overwhelming grief, for what I believed I had lost, and a fear of the reality I was now confronted with.

Aidan is 16 months old
Image:Aidan is 16 months old

During this time of great vulnerability, I was told that my child would not be able to live independently, might not be able to walk or talk, would suffer through surgeries to correct his intestinal issues and possible congenital heart defects, that there was a high chance of stillbirth, and that he would make our lives so much more challenging.

Within the context of this fear, vulnerability, and biased information, I was offered an abortion three times.

The fact that I could have an abortion at such a late stage of pregnancy, made me feel like Down’s syndrome must be very, very bad indeed.

With the strength and support of my family and friends, I continued my pregnancy and gave birth to my beautiful baby boy at 36 weeks and three days, a time at which he still could have been aborted.

Aidan is now 16 months old. He has exceeded all my expectations; he is an absolute delight and is loved by everyone who meets him.

Máire claims she was offered an abortion three times
Image:Máire claims she was offered an abortion three times

He has faced challenges, but he has met them all with strength, fortitude, grace and dignity.

He has taught our little family so much about compassion, empathy and acceptance.

He is a joy and I am so incredibly proud of him. I would not change a single thing about him.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I do not worry about Aidan’s future.

Aidan may never be able to do the things they said he wouldn’t; he may be able to do them all.

No medical professional can predict the future of any child, extra chromosome or not.

Máire has another son as well
Image:Máire has a second son who doesn’t have Down’s syndrome

As time has passed, I have learned to try not to predict Aidan’s future and realised that most of my worries really are not about Aidan at all; they stem from societal attitudes towards disability.

Will he be supported? Will he be treated fairly? Will he be valued equally? No mother should have to face these concerns, but this is something I must deal with every day, because of the law and the clear message it sends to me about my son.

We live in a society that proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life.

This law, which allows abortion up until birth, is outdated, and we can do so much better than this.

I want my children to grow up knowing that we truly are all equally valued, regardless of ability status.

My reason for bringing this joint legal action to try and change the law is simple; as a mother, I will do everything in my power to make sure my child is treated fairly and equally. My reason is Aidan.

In response to Ms Lea-Wilson’s piece, the Department of Health and Social Care, and The British Pregnancy Advisory Service provided these statements:

The Department of Health and Social Care
The decision to end what is usually a wanted pregnancy can be extremely difficult and painful. Counselling is available at all stages of the screening pathway to support people as they come to terms with this extremely important decision.

Regardless of how an abnormality is detected or suspected, a woman has to be given time to understand the nature and severity of the condition so they are able to reach an informed decision about how to proceed – and whether to continue with the pregnancy or seek a termination. Arrangements should be made for the woman to see an expert who has knowledge about the abnormality and the options available.

At no stage should there be a bias towards abortion. All staff involved in the care of a woman or couple facing a possible termination of pregnancy must adopt a nondirective, non-judgemental and supportive approach. It is important that if anyone receives information they feel to be biased or in any way inappropriate that they raise this within the service or hospital concerned.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service
The nature and implications of some conditions in pregnancy may not be properly understood until after 24 weeks, and this is why the law gives women and their doctors time to reach informed decisions in what are often the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

Introducing a time limit for non-fatal conditions – but ones which may have profound and life limiting consequences for a child – will mean some women will be forced to make a choice about ending a pregnancy before they hit a sharp cut-off and eliminates the opportunity for ongoing monitoring, assessment and understanding before a decision is made.

These are intensely personal, difficult decisions which a small number of women and their families will sadly have to make each year: no woman should ever feel pressured to end a pregnancy after a diagnosis has been made but neither should she ever be forced to continue one when she knows it is not right to do so.



The Dutch government is preparing to legalize euthanasia for children between the ages of one and twelve.

Last year, the Dutch Ministry of Health commissioned a report from the NVK (Dutch Society of Pediatrics), which recommended the government permit euthanasia for terminally ill children of one to twelve years of age. The report included a survey of 72 doctors employed at prominent hospitals specializing in medical training. The majority stated that it is morally acceptable to euthanize preteen children who are suffering without prospect of improvement if their parents request it. Many surveyed parents also supported the proposal. This week, Hugo de Jonge, Dutch health minister and deputy prime minister, informed the Dutch Parliament that the government will be moving forward to draft and implement legislation for the new regulations proposed in the report.

When parliament reviewed this report in 2019, a majority of MPs supported the recommendation. But at the time, de Jonge stated that the cabinet needed time to respond.

Children under the age of one with a terminal prognosis can already be euthanized in the Netherlands under the 2004 Groningen Protocol, which one journal described as an attempt “to regulate the practice of actively ending the life of newborns and to prevent uncontrolled and unjustified killing.” Children between the ages of twelve and fifteen can request euthanasia but must have the permission of their parents. Teenagers of sixteen or seventeen are required to inform their parents if they request euthanasia.

The Dutch government is now moving to make it legal for children between the ages of one and twelve. Dutch law currently does not permit this, although the horrifying (and often lengthy) process of ending a life by withholding nutrition is sometimes allowed. Euthanizing infants is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but the Groningen Protocol has served as a devil’s bargain between medical professionals and prosecutors. If doctors follow the Groningen Protocol when they kill an infant, prosecutors do not file charges.

De Jonge’s briefing cited medical experts asking for legal protections for the killing of preteen children in specific circumstances: “The NVK believes an extension of existing [Committee Regulations] regarding late termination of pregnancy and termination of life in newborns . . . to be the appropriate step to meet the identified need from practice and provide physicians with the desired legal protection.”

De Jonge claims that this proposal does not technically constitute an expansion of the law. He instead seeks to carve out a legal exception (like the Groningen Protocol) to ensure that doctors performing child euthanasia will not face criminal prosecution. He also informed MPs that he will work with both medical professionals and the public prosecution service on this.

The proposal has created a minor political firestorm. The current government coalition has served as the cabinet of the Netherlands since October 2017 and includes several political parties. The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Democrats 66 (D66) favor the proposal. The VVD has been pushing for the expansion of child euthanasia for several years already. The Christian Union Party (CU), a pro-life party, is thus far opposed.

Dutch media outlets are reporting that a formal cabinet proposal will easily command majority support in the House of Representatives, with MPs from at least six political parties in favor. Vocal Christian parliamentarians such as Kees van der Staaij, leader of the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP), the oldest political party in the Netherlands, will be sure to oppose this move. Despite this opposition, it appears that Dutch doctors will soon be able to kill children that they and parents believe are eligible for euthanasia.

Note that the Dutch euthanasia regime, with the Groningen Protocol as well as the new proposal, has completely dispensed with the standard hitherto used by assisted suicide activists in most Western countries. Activists argue that consent and the right to bodily autonomy justify so-called “end-of-life care”—but by expanding these deadly services to infants and children, euthanasia advocates have abandoned that pretense. A one-year-old infant cannot choose to die, and children legally barred from voting, consuming alcohol, or driving cannot understand what the offer of a quick and painless death really means.

When a doctor gives a lethal injection to a suffering infant, regardless of his motivation, he is killing that child; he and other adults have decided that child is better off dead. We used to understand how wrong that is. The Dutch government—and medical professionals tasked with the preservation of life—appear to have forgotten.

Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist.