53 years of abortion: 9,675,153 lives lost since 1967 – one unborn baby every 3 minutes

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the Abortion Act coming into effect in 1968 – 6 months after it received Royal Assent.

Since then, a staggering 9,675,153* unborn babies have lost their lives to abortion across England, Wales and Scotland — more than one death every three minutes; 25 lives ended every hour.

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 third-highest on record at 13,583.

Record abortion figures will likely increase

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

New and radical abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, imposed upon the region 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.

In March it was revealed that 1,345 terminations have already taken place under the new regime, despite the fact that the Northern Ireland Department of Health has not officially commissioned abortion ‘services’.

The number of abortions taking place in Northern Ireland is now set to increase, with the Conservative Government announcing that it has introduced regulations to Parliament that will give the Northern Ireland Secretary new powers to enable him to force Stormont to to expand abortion access across Northern Ireland, through the commissioning of abortion services. These regulations will be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

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.

Early last year, it was revealed that over 60% of England’s abortion clinics are rated inadequate or requiring improvement when it comes to safety.

Over the past two years, 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 2019, the CQC handed BPAS Merseyside the worst rating of any private abortion provider so far.

The situation may be significantly worse too. Despite the damning reports, the CQC announced in March 2020 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 investigation also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner.

In May 2020, 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.

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.

Abortion provider Marie Stopes International’s chief executive earned £347,176 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.

In 2020, 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 year it was announced that 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, 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 Crowter, a 25-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose twenty-two-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 2020.

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 2019 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.

‘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 9,675,153 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 27/04/21 and has been calculated based on the following assumptions:

  • The number of abortions per day in England & Wales will remain the same in 2020 and 2021 as in 2019.
  • The number of abortions per day in Scotland will remain the same in 2020 and 2021 as in 2019.
  • The rate of abortions throughout the year is evenly distributed.
  • Please note, figures have been released for the number of abortions for England and Wales 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 and 2021 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 data.

Source: righttolife.org.uk

Arizona disability abortion ban will protect mothers and unborn babies, Catholic bishops say

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed a law barring abortions based on non-fatal genetic disorders, speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed a law barring abortions based on non-fatal genetic disorders, speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Catholic bishops of Arizona on Tuesday applauded the passage of an expansive state law that they say will help mothers and unborn children while saving lives.

SB 1457, signed into law April 27 by Gov. Doug Ducey, most notably prohibits abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state already prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

The law also confers to unborn children all civil rights afforded to born persons.

“SB 1457 continues Arizona’s legacy as the most pro-life state in the country and establishes that Arizona’s laws will be interpreted in the context of valuing all human life,” the bishops of Arizona said in an April 27 statement.

“This legislation looks forward to the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned and shows concern for both unborn children and their mothers.”

Arizona’s bishops include Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Thomas Olmsted and Eduardo  Nevares of Phoenix, James Wall of Gallup, and John Pazak of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Phoenix.

Any doctor performing an abortion will be required to complete and affadavit stating that they are not aborting the baby because of a nonlethal abnormality, and the doctor must inform the woman it is illegal to do so.

A doctor who performs an abortion because of a genetic abnormality will be charged with a felony unless it was done “in a medical emergency.” The woman on whom the abortion is performed will not be criminally liable.

The new law also contains several other pro-life provisions, including a ban on public educational institutions, such as universities, performing abortions. It also will allow the father or maternal grandparent to sue if a child is aborted; and mandates the cremation or burial of fetal remains after an abortion, with the method chosen by the mother.

The law also prohibits the delivery of abortion-inducing drugs— i.e. “the abortion pill”— through the mail, clarifying that a medical abortion may only be prescribed by a doctor after a 24-hour waiting period.

“Arizona already has a statute on the books protecting human life from the moment of conception, and SB 1457 leaves this excellent statute in place while also not making the mother a criminal,” the bishops continued.

“For all of the reasons above, we believe that SB 1457 will help mothers and their unborn babies, while saving lives. Accordingly, we are also appreciative of Senator Nancy Barto [R-Phoenix] for sponsoring this bill and all of the legislators who voted in support,” the bishops concluded.

The bill went through several revisions in the legislature, including an amendment that clarified that the “personhood” clause giving civil rights to unborn children does not amount to a ban on in-vitro fertilization in the state.

After SB 1457 failed to pass initially several weeks ago, sponsors tweaked the language such that it narrowly passed, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

“Arizonans can be proud of a state that leads the way in protecting the preborn and caring for women facing unplanned pregnancies,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which helped write SB 1457.

“Arizona children diagnosed with disabilities prior to birth will no longer be discriminated against. Arizona women will be ensured commonsense safeguards if they choose the abortion pill. Arizona taxpayers will not be forced to support abortions at public colleges and universities, and the laws of Arizona will be interpreted to value all human life.”

Source: catholicnewsagency.com

‘No government has the right to close churches’: Pastor holds outdoor service in Ireland despite worship ban

An Evangelical pastor has told Premier he will hold a second socially-distanced service in Phoenix Park, Dublin this weekend, despite religious services being outlawed in Ireland.

On Sunday, Pastor John Ahern of the All Nations Church, preached in front of around 100 worshippers at the foot of the park’s papal cross and said he will hold another service on Sunday 2nd May.

Health Minister Stephan Donnelly signed a regulation earlier this month making in-person services temporarily a criminal offence and only allowing religious services to take place virtually. Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops, Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all-Ireland, Dermot Farrell of Dublin, Michael Neary of Tuam and Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly said they would be taking legal advice following the move which they described as “a breach of trust” and “a potential infringement of religious freedom and constitutional rights.”

On Sunday, Pastor John urged those gathered to socially distance: “We are not here today to be dangerous and reckless. But how is it dangerous to stand here, but not to walk into a Tesco or an Aldi. I believe it is a human right to worship Jesus, our Lord and Saviour,” Aherne told the gathered worshippers.

“If the Gardai turn up I don’t want anybody to say anything to them. We are children of God let’s act like it,” he said.

A Gardai car passed by but no officers approached the event.

“Ireland it’s time to rise from the ashes of this season of despair,” he added. “People have lost their jobs, they’ve seen their businesses closed and some may never open again. And yet you hear these glib little phrases, like, we’re all in this together, by people who are on huge money and haven’t had their money cut. And I think that is the height of hypocrisy.”

“There is something sacred about public worship, and that is why no government has the right to close churches. No government has the right to say you can’t gather for public worship.” When they criminalised worship, the government stepped over a line. Governments do not have the right to close churches.” he continued.

Following the signing of the regulation by Health Minister Stephan Donnelly, making in-person services temporarily a criminal offence, Pastor John told Premier that he’d made a decision to go back “to pastoring my people.”

“If gathering to worship is a criminal act all I can say is, I hope the government have plenty of prison space, because there’s going to be a lot of ministers who will be willing to go to prison over this,” he said.

The penalty for breaches of the new law are a fine or up to six months behind bars. The Irish government is set to review worship restrictions on May 4.

Source: premierchristian.news

Canadian Supreme Court cements closure of private hospices for refusal to participate in assisted suicide

A British Columbia hospice society recently lost an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, one of several legal avenues it unsuccessfully pursued in an attempt to avoid participating in assisted suicide.

Delta Hospice Society, located in the town of Delta in the Canadian province of British Columbia, was founded 30 years ago by a Christian woman who vocally opposed assisted suicide. Up until this year, the private society operated a 10-bed hospice facility, a charity shoppe, and a supportive care center.

In 2016, Canada legalized assisted suicide, which is euphemistically referred to as “medical aid in dying (MAiD).” Following its legalization, Delta Hospice Society faced mounting public pressure over the years to ‘get with the program’ and offer assisted suicide. The society steadfastly refused, however, noting that assisted suicide is not part of hospice care because rather than providing care, it ends a life.

The legal battle officially began in 2019, and at the same time, thousands of advocates of assisted suicide — some local and some from out of town and even from other countries — attempted to become members of the society in an effort to change its policy from the inside. From a pre-controversy membership of around 150, membership increased ten-fold to 1,500 in 2019, and by early this year numbered nearly 9,000.

While critics claimed that the society’s board was “going rogue” and “imposing their religious beliefs on others” by refusing to offer assisted suicide, the society’s president noted that the board was simply maintaining the organization’s founding mission and vision. She emphasized that Delta locals had access to assisted suicide from other sources, saying, “I understand their frustration because a lot of them want access. But of course they do have access to it in our community. They have access to it in the Delta Hospital and they certainly have access to it in their own homes.”

In June of 2020, the society’s lawyer reiterated that “the society wants to do the same thing it’s been doing for three decades.”

Though the society attempted to become a faith-based organization, which would have exempted them from coerced provision of assisted suicide under the law, and additionally attempted to curb its membership, it was repeatedly overruled by the Supreme Court of Canada and the British Columbia Court of Appeals.

Furthermore, it was forbidden by the Supreme Court of Canada and the British Columbia Court of Appeals from rejecting new members, even though DHS is a private organization.

This ruling drew concern from faith-based organizations in Canada, who see the forced acceptance of new members as the writing on the wall. Peter Stockland, a columnist for the Toronto-based Catholic Register newspaper, commented, “The effects of the decisions in the lower courts seem to me very worrisome. From the documents I’ve read, it appears to mean any private society is vulnerable not only to having its membership taken over by those willing to pay a few bucks to join, but those who join can seek ends that are antithetical to the original mission.”

In February, Delta Hospice Society was stripped of $1.5 million in public funding for its refusal to provide assisted suicide, causing the facilities to close on February 25th. On March 31st, a provincial health authority, Fraser Health, formally ended its contract with Delta Hospice Society, and assumed control of the 10-bed hospice facility and the supportive care center. The facilities reopened under the new leadership on April 15th, and assisted suicide is now offered there. The Delta Hospice Society officially ran out of legal options in early April when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal.

Last week, local news channels announced that in the wake of the controversy over Delta Hospice Society, a new hospice society was founded that fully supports offering assisted suicide. The president of the newly formed Heron Hospice Society was the previous spokesman for Take Back Delta Hospice, which forcefully objected to the Hospice Society “picking and choosing” members, including rejecting membership applications from overseas.

Interestingly, membership in the Heron Hospice Society is limited to residents of Delta who are over 19 years of age.

Source: liveaction.org

Religious hatred driven by weaponisation of technology

Persecution of faith groups has drastically increased in more than 95 percent of the world’s worst-offending countries, according to the latest Religious Freedom in the World report.

The report, by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, shows how the latest technologies are being used to crush religious freedom.

Over the past two years, oppression against vulnerable faith communities has increased in all but one of the 26 countries listed in the survey’s worst or “red” category.

The report, which covers all 196 countries worldwide, traces the rise of transnational Islamist networks, including an online “cyber-caliphate” which is expanding globally is now a tool of online recruitment and radicalisation.

It goes on to describe how Islamist terrorists employ sophisticated digital technologies to recruit, radicalise and attack.

Cross-border networks are spreading across the Equator leading to jihadist attacks from Mali to the Philippines, taking in Comoros in the Indian Ocean, with the aim of creating what the report calls “transcontinental caliphates”.

The report also describes how digital technology, cyber networks, surveillance including artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology has increased persecution.

The Chinese Communist Party is keeping religious groups in line with the help of 626 million AI-enhanced surveillance cameras and smartphone scanners.

In addition to Islamist extremism, the report identifies two principal protagonists of persecution, highlighting increased crackdowns by authoritarian regimes, such as North Korea, and majoritarian religious nationalists’ persecution of minorities in India and Myanmar.

Covid-19 is also to blame for increased persecution, according to the report, which describes how societal prejudice against minorities, including in Turkey and Pakistan, means that some faith groups are denied food and other vital aid.

The report concludes that violations of religious freedom occur in almost one third of the world’s countries, 62 out of 196, with many of them being the most populous nations such as China, India and Pakistan.

ACN international president Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern said: “Regrettably, despite the – albeit important – UN initiatives and the staffing of religious freedom ambassadorships, to date the international community’s response to violence based on religion and religious persecution in general can be categorised as too little, too late.”

The report also details increasing cases of sexual violence used as a weapon against religious minorities – crimes against women and girls who are abducted, raped and forced to convert.

In the West, the report concludes, there has been a rise in “polite persecution”, a phrase coined by Pope Francis to describe how new cultural norms and values have consigned religions to what the report calls “the quiet obscurity of the individual conscience”, making it more difficult for people of faith to access the public square.

However, the report also highlights progress in inter-religious dialogue, noting the Vatican’s role, in particular the declaration signed by the Pope and Sunni leader Grand Imam Ahamad Al-Tayyib of Al-Azar.

In his foreword, Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, national director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan, writes: “Over more than 45 years as a priest in Pakistan, I have struggled on behalf of our community against persecution and discrimination. When Christians working in the fields and brick kilns have not received their due portion of wheat or rice, I have approached the landlords and kiln owners asking them to give just wages and put an end to this injustice.

“When I discovered that boys and girls in my parish were not receiving the education they deserve, I set up schools and hostels. I have worked in rural communities in which Christians were not respected due to their faith, and were banned from shops, restaurants and cafes; in such places, our faithful were not allowed to touch glasses or other eating implements used by the majority community. And we have supported girls from minority faith backgrounds who are particularly at risk.

“These are children who, despite the fact that they are only minors, are kidnapped, forced to convert and marry – and they also suffer rape and other abuse. The plight of these girls shows that living as a religious minority in Pakistan is becoming increasingly problematic.

“And, although there have been some improvements, amendments to the blasphemy laws in the 1980s are exploited by extremists who misuse the legislation to terrorise minority faith communities. These poor and marginalised families live in fear of being accused of blasphemy, a crime which is punishable by execution or life imprisonment. I have been involved in many cases, not least that of Asia Bibi, who was on death row for nearly a decade before justice finally won through.”

He says the case of Salamat Masih and his two uncles will stay with him forever. “Salamat was accused of writing blasphemous comments about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The two uncles were also accused. Never mind that Salamat was only 12 and illiterate, never mind that the offending script was calligraphy and used religious language normally only used by Muslim clergy.

“In spite of this, the three were charged, but before anything could happen Salamat and his uncles were shot by three men brandishing automatic rifles. One uncle, Manzoor Masih, died of his injuries; the other uncle, Rehmat Masih, and Salamat himself were severely injured, but survived by the grace of God. Worse was to come when Salamat and his surviving uncle were sentenced to death.

“I worked ceaselessly with the family lawyer to overturn the sentence. Eventually, we succeeded. Sadly, the judge who acquitted them also was murdered in cold blood by the extremists. In the decades since then, we have worked hard to help rebuild the lives of Salamat, his surviving uncle, their relatives and 40 families from their village who fled on the night that the accusations were first made. I am grateful to Aid to the Church in Need for its help to families in dire straits and its support for our advocacy for those falsely accused.”

Source: thetablet.co.uk

Govt moves to cancel ‘cancel culture’ at universities

Cancel culture’ and ‘no-platforming’ are to be challenged on university campuses with sanctions against institutions that fail to uphold freedom of speech.

The newly created Office for Students (OfS) will take a robust approach to free speech in response to growing censoriousness at campuses across the country.

In recent years, mainstream speakers such as Tory MP Amber Rudd have been barred from debates at Oxford University. Feminist Germaine Greer has also been blocked from debating trans issues and pro-life societies have faced outright discrimination from student bodies.

Lord Wharton of Yarm, chair of the OfS, told The Telegraph that moves to restrict speakers were “ridiculous” and stressed that “a free, open dialogue and free flow of opinion in higher education” needed to be upheld.

Describing free speech as “crucially important”, he added that new powers given to the OfS would be used to ensure that a diversity of opinion was available to undergraduate students.

Head of Communications at CARE James Mildred welcomed the announcement:

“A robust defence of free speech is necessary in our culture where opinions that are not in the mainstream are increasingly marginalised and silenced. Christians are often at the business end of moves to ‘cancel’ and ‘no-platform’ students. We hope that the OfS will use its powers and that universities will return to their historic tradition of fostering broad, open debate.”

James Mildred Head of Communications

Source: care.org.uk

European bishops: Some nations reduced religious freedom during pandemic

A commission of Catholic bishops has warned religious freedom is threatened in the European Union, as restrictive laws are imposed in the wake of Covid-19.

Some governments in Europe have “unquestionably reduced and diminished” religious freedom during the pandemic in disproportionate ways, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, or COMECE, said this week.

“It is important not to send out a message that Christians, or more generally believers, are being persecuted inside the EU. However, not overdramatising does not mean ignoring these disturbing trends.

“There is a lack of understanding and, in some cases, a lack of interest as to what religion is, and what it means for millions of people in the EU,” COMECE said in a statement to Catholic News Service.

The COMECE media office’s statement came following a recent online bishops’ plenary, which included talks with Margaritis Schinas, Greek vice president of the EU’s governing commission.

“The EU rightly considers itself a beacon of fundamental rights – this also entails a responsibility to uphold high standards in protecting freedom of religion,” COMECE said.

“Freedom of religion can be limited under certain conditions, and this is allowed by international human rights standards. As a Church, however, we have to be firm on how, when and up to which point we are ready to accept limitations on church life.”

The commission said Pope Francis had warned against viewing “the spiritual and moral dimension of the human person” as “less important than physical health,” and seeing religious freedom as just “a corollary of freedom of assembly.”

In a statement earlier this year, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, COMECE president, said he feared “a broader, increasing trend” toward neglecting fundamental rights protected under the 1950 European Convention and the EU’s 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In its recent statement, COMECE said the talks with Schinas – which took place under treaty provisions requiring the EU to maintain an “open, transparent and regular dialogue” with churches – had been “frank, constructive and forward-looking,” but said it feared religion was being turned into a “subculture,” and “lost in a large area devoted to culture and sports.”

“Quite often initiatives aimed at curbing radical strains of Islam end up having a harsh and invasive impact on all churches and religious communities which do not pose any threat to democracy or fundamental rights,” COMECE said.

“We need to overcome tendencies undermining the interdependence of human rights and selectively placing rights in a hierarchy, with freedom of religion neglected rather than promoted. This vision endangers the entire architecture of human rights.”

COMECE said talks with Schinas had also covered a “fair and just approach” to migrants and asylum-seekers in the 27-country EU, as well as post-pandemic recovery, vaccine distribution and surveillance.

Picture: A woman wearing protective gloves and a mask is pictured in a file photo praying in a nearly empty church in Bilbao, Spain, during the Covid-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Vincent West, Reuters).

Source: thecatholicuniverse.com

‘I’m overjoyed’: Catholic priest wins legal challenge to blanket ban on public worship

Canon Tom White, who is challenging Scotland's ban on public worship. / Credit: Photo courtesy of ADF International.
Canon Tom White, who is challenging Scotland’s ban on public worship. / Credit: Photo courtesy of ADF International.

.- Scotland’s supreme civil court ruled on Wednesday that the Scottish government’s blanket ban on public worship is unlawful.

Judge Lord Braidoverturnedthe ban on March 24 in response to a challenge by 27 faith leaders, alongside Glasgow Catholic priest Canon Tom White.

He had heard their challenge on March 11-12 at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

His ruling came a day after the Scottish governmentannouncedthat public worship could resume from March 26 with a cap of 50 people.

Canon White is dean of the City East St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow. His parish includes three of the most deprived areas of the U.K.

Hesaid: “I’m overjoyed to hear that the court has understood the essential need to protect not only the physical and material health of our society but also its spiritual needs and therefore overturned the disproportionate, unnecessary and unlawful blanket ban on public worship.”

“This decision highlights the significance of the Church’s role in society. Now, we can trust that our fragile and damaged communities will never again be left without the church as a source of hope, comfort, and vital spiritual nourishment in times of crisis.”

“I’m grateful to all across Scotland and beyond who have offered their financial support for my case, and who have faithfully prayed with me for church doors to be reopened. Thanks be to God for this wonderful news!”

Public worship was first suspended in Scotland on March 19, 202. Masses with congregations werepermitted againfrom July 15, but subject to a 50-person limit.

The Scottish governmentsuspendedpublic worship again on Jan. 4 this year.

White’s legal challenge was presented by Aidan O’Neill, QC. The human rights advocate called the ban “an extraordinary abuse of the state’s power”.

“[The blanket ban] has a fundamental chilling impact on worship and belief. It requires people in good conscience to choose between God and Caesar,” O’Neill said.

White said that he was inspired to launch the legal challenge by his “grieving” parish. He launched acrowdfunding siteto cover the costs of the legal challenge but has so far has raised only around 35% of his goal.

Ryan Christopher, director of the Christian legal group ADF UK, which backed the case, said: “We celebrate this decision with Canon Tom White, because the court has recognized that which the government did not — that freedom of religion and belief is a human right to be afforded the highest protection.”

“In declaring the ban to be ‘unlawful,’ the court helps ensure that people of faith will not again have their rights erased in this way. We congratulate the Canon and the other faith leaders involved for having the courage to take this necessary challenge forward, and securing protection for churches across Scotland for the future.”

Source: catholicnewsagency.com

People With Down Syndrome Still Face Deadly Discrimination | Opinion

ON 3/22/21 AT 7:00 AM EDT

Persons with disabilities face enormous and tragic discrimination that infringes upon their most basic right to life. The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light these many added threats. Evidence that persons with Down Syndrome are significantly more at risk for death from COVID-19 has generated intense controversy regarding societal obligations to protect the most vulnerable. This year, World Down Syndrome Day, commemorated on March 21st, affords the opportunity to call attention to one of the greatest, and largely unseen, human rights abuses of our time: abortion on the basis of disability.

In many parts of the world, a Down Syndrome diagnosis is an effective death sentence. Mothers carrying babies with this and other chromosomal conditions face immense pressure to abort, resulting in dramatically reduced numbers of persons with Down Syndrome being born each year. The United Kingdom, for example, which allows for abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down Syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, has reported a 42 percent increase in abortions due to Down Syndrome over the last decade.

As improved prenatal screening technologies contribute to what has been euphemistically termed Down Syndrome “eradication,” there has been an accompanying surge in protections for persons with disabilities in the womb. Just this week, a bill in Northern Ireland passed the second stage on its way to banning late-term abortions of babies with disabilities—potentially the start of an international trend to protect the lives of persons with disabilities. The United States is at the forefront of this movement with Arizona, Florida and South Dakota in the process of enacting legislative bans, joining the ranks of eight other states that already prohibit abortion due to disability.

While some argue that abortion on the grounds of disability is a woman’s right, the discriminatory emphasis on the abortion of babies with Down Syndrome and other genetic conditions has an impossibly tragic implication. It is not hard to imagine how one could conclude from this practice that it is preferable to never live, rather than to live with these conditions. It must be made clear that, in accordance with international law, abortion on the basis of Down Syndrome and similar diagnoses is an overt violation of the human rights of persons with disabilities.
Although often motivated by a natural, and completely relatable, apprehension about caring for a child with a disability, abortion on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of disability fundamentally undercuts the equal and inalienable rights that every human being possesses. And discrimination in the womb inevitably perpetuates further discrimination out in the world.

Real equality can never be achieved until the right to life of persons with disabilities is safeguarded.

As the United States grapples with state-level legislation to protect babies with Down Syndrome and other detectable disabilities, opponents of such laws claim they are just another undue restriction on “sexual and reproductive health care,” interfering with “people’s personal health care decisions.” However, the merits of arguments for unfettered “reproductive freedom” must be weighed against the hugely discriminatory outcomes for persons with disabilities.
Prenatal discrimination in no way corresponds with authentic freedom for women; quite the opposite. Evidence shows that women are often coerced by societal and familial pressures to abort babies with genetic disorders—an alarming reality that reveals a deep-seated cultural rejection of persons with disabilities. What these women and families really need is access to support and resources. After all, what does it say about the value that our society attributes to persons with disabilities if we are unable, at minimum, to legally mandate the equal treatment of the most vulnerable in the womb and provide for them once they are born?

Since 2006, the United Nations has celebrated World Down Syndrome Day—this year with a focus on increasing the connectivity of persons living with the condition. In addition to laudable attempts to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities, it is time that the international community turn its attention to stopping the mass-scale human rights tragedy of prenatal discrimination on the basis of disability, which results in the death of more prenatally tested Down Syndrome babies than are born.

Leading advocates for persons with Down Syndrome at the Jerome LeJeune Foundation brought this conversation to the UN Human Rights Council last week. In an event entitled “Down syndrome: let’s talk more… and better,” the advocacy group united a broad coalition of ambassadors and other government and civil society representatives from every region of the globe to address the issue of discrimination on the basis of disability, before and after birth. This event inspires great hope that governments can recommit to their international legal obligations to guarantee the human rights of all persons—shifting the focus toward the eradication of discriminatory practices, and away from vile efforts to eradicate persons with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.

Elyssa Koren is the director of United Nations advocacy in New York City for ADF International. Elyssa can be found on Twitter:@Elyssa_ADFIntl.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

Source: newsweek.com

EU bishops back Polish abortion ban

The Brussels-based commission representing the European Union’s Catholic bishops, Comece, has defended a ban on abortions in Poland, citing human rights principles, and rejected a resolution condemning the move from the European Parliament.

“Neither EU legislation nor the European Convention on Human Rights provides for a right to abortion – this matter is left up to the legal systems of member-states”, Comece said in a letter to David Maria Sassoli, Italian president of the Parliament since July 2019.

“Respect for the rule of law is essential for the functioning of the Union. It also requires respect for the competences of member-states and the choices made by them in exercising their exclusive competences.”

The letter was published amid continuing protests against the ban on “eugenic abortions” by Poland’s Constitutional Court, which came into force at the end of January.

It said the Catholic Church called for care and protection of unborn life and pregnant women, adding that special safeguards for children before and after birth were set out the United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and other documents of international law.

“All necessary support must be provided to women in difficult life situations of unwanted or difficult pregnancies”, said the letter, signed by Comece’s president, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg and the commission’s vice-presidents from Italy, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

“A fundamental principle of the EU is that of conferral, under which the Union shall act only within the limits of competences conferred upon it by member-states… Strict observance of this principle is, in turn, a requirement of the rule of law, one of the fundamental values of the Union, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union.”

Polish feminist and pro-choice campaigners staged anti-government and anti-Church demonstrations after last October’s Constitutional Court judgment, which ruled unconstitutional a clause in Poland’s 1993 abortion law, allowing terminations in cases of “severe and irreparable foetal damage”. Protests resumed when the ruling came into force on 27 January, allowing abortions only in rare cases of rape, incest and threats to a mother’s life.

In a November resolution, the European Parliament also condemned the court judgment as “a new attack on the rule of law and fundamental rights”, and threatened Poland with sanctions, warning the new restrictions would “lead to the expansion of clandestine, unsafe abortion and abortion tourism”.

However, EU intervention was rejected by the Polish Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who said the EU’s 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined the right to life and barred “eugenic practices”, adding that the “fundamental human right” to life should always “take precedence over the right to choose”.

In its letter, Comece said it was alarmed the European Parliament resolution appeared to question the right to conscientious objection, also enshrined in the EU Charter, at a time when many healthcare professionals already faced discrimination and “unjust stigmatisation” for their personal convictions. It added that the resolution had failed to condemn attacks on places of worship by Polish protesters, many of whom accused the Catholic Church of inspiring the abortion ban.

“It is necessary to consider fundamental rights such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion in light of their universality, inviolability, inalienability, indivisibility and interdependence”, Comece said. “In regard to the right to conscientious objection, the EU Charter entails the need to respect national constitutional traditions and the development of national legislation on the issue.”

Poland’s Catholic Information Agency said foetal handicap had accounted for 1074 or the 1116 legal abortions in Poland in 2019, according to Health Minstry data, a quarter involving Down’s Syndrome, adding that the Polish Church ran 146 homes and residence facilities, and over 1200 help centres and other projects, for children and single mothers.

Europe’s Brussels-based Federation of Catholic Family Associations backed the Polish court ruling in an appeal with over a hundred other pro-life organisations from Europe, North America and Latin America, noting that the UN’s disability committee had confirmed in 2017 that handicap abortions violated a 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by the EU in 2010.

In an accompanying statement, Comece said the Polish Constitutional Court had been asked to rule on “eugenic abortions” by Polish MPs in 2019, backed by a mass petition, and had confirmed that any “limitation on the legal protection of human life” must be “an absolute last resort”. It added that MEPs had adopted their resolution before the Polish Court’s 154-page ruling was published “without therefore having real knowledge of the topic”.