Patrick Craine

EXCLUSIVE: Poland to vote on historic bill banning all abortions after massive grassroots campaign

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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WARSAW, Poland, June 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) -  After months of shielding the initiative from English media, organizers of a massive pro-life grassroots campaign in Poland have now told LifeSiteNews.com that Parliamentarians in the country are preparing to vote this week on an historic bill that would enshrine total protection for children in the womb from the moment of conception.

The organizers told LSN that they were worried that if the news broke in the English-speaking world, pro-abortion foreign powers would have poured money into the country to oppose their popular efforts.

To bring the abortion ban before Parliament under Poland’s political system, the sponsors needed to collect 100,000 signatures within three months.  They got 600,000 in two weeks.

The bill, which comes up for first reading in the ‘Sejm’ (lower house) on Thursday, is the result of a huge nation-wide grassroots initiative launched by Warsaw’s PRO Foundation and supported by the country’s bishops and a newly-formed pro-life parliamentary committee.

Abortion was first foisted on the deeply Catholic people of Poland after Hitler’s tanks stormed the country 70 years ago; but the demise of the Nazis was followed by decades of state-promoted abortion-on-demand under their Soviet successors.

“This project is a chance to finally reject the heritage of Nazism and Communism which brought ‘legal abortion’ to Poland in the first place,” Jacek Sapa of the PRO Foundation told LifeSiteNews.  “It was Hitler and Stalin who imposed it on Poles and it’s high time we clearly disassociate ourselves from those deadly ideologies.”

“The Church clearly teaches that it is the obligation of Catholics not to protect the current ‘compromise’ but to aim at complete protection of life,” said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former personal assistant to Blessed John Paul II, in an interview for Gosc Niedzielny, Poland’s largest opinion weekly.  “This is a solution, which the Church calls for. I support all efforts aiming at improving the protection of human life.”

The status quo on abortion: Illegal, but “not punishable” if…

Ever since the Communists were overthrown in 1989, Poland has labored to restore its cultural and religious heritage. As part of that project, in 1993 the country passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the West.  Since then, abortions have fallen dramatically, with Ministry of Health data showing a drop from 82,000 abortions in 1989 to about 500 in 2008.

Under the current law, abortions can only be obtained where the child is diagnosed with a serious defect or disease, where the mother is diagnosed with a health problem, or where the pregnancy resulted from “illegal activity.”

However, the law and its exceptions are often abused by pro-abortion doctors.  ‘Defect’ can be deemed to include something as minimal as cleft palate, and though abortions are only supposed to take place up to the point of viability, or about 24 weeks, in practice doctors can fudge the dates.  Further, though pregnancies resulting from “illegal activity” would seem to refer to pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, it can also be applied to teen pregnancies on the basis that the law forbids sex with a person under 15 years of age.

Although abortions under the exceptions occur without penalty, a point often missed is that even under the current law, abortion is always “illegal” in Poland.  The law merely states that under the exceptions abortions are “not punishable.”

Striking down the exceptions

The PRO Foundation’s citizens’ bill is the first attempt to institute a total ban on abortion since the current law passed in 1993.  The bill would strike down all three exceptions in the abortion law, applying the current penalties in all cases.

Under the law, doctors caught performing illegal abortions face up to 3 years imprisonment, or up to 8 years where the child was viable.  The same penalties are applied to anyone who pressures a woman into abortion, or helps her obtain one.  The mother faces no penalties.

The bill will be debated in the ‘Sejm’ at first reading on Thursday, with a vote to decide its fate on Thursday or Friday.  If it gets 50% plus one vote, then it will move to committee for consideration, and then back to the ‘Sejm’ for a second and then third vote.  It would then go to the Senate for a vote, and, if passed, the country’s president must decide whether to sign it into law.  If he does not, then the Parliament would need to give it two-thirds support in order to overturn his veto.

Sapa said the bill has a “realistic” chance of passing, noting that 90% of parliamentarians are Catholics who have an interest in appearing on side with the Church.  “Politicians opposing this pro-life law risk openly defying the Church and this simply does not pay,” he explained.  “Poles are still a Catholic nation, and politicians often seek to present themselves as faithful Catholics during electoral campaigns to gain popularity.

“A vote for abortion would belie their ‘Catholic’ public image,” he added.

In 2007, an effort to enshrine the “right to life from conception to natural death” in the Polish constitution won support from 60% of parliamentarians, but failed because it needed two-thirds.  That amendment, however, would not have had the immediate effect of removing the exceptions for abortion.

Supported by the bishops

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has campaigned for the bill’s passage through letters to politicians, public statements, and efforts to mobilize the faithful into prayer and lobbying.

In a letter signed by Bishop Kazimierz Gorny, head of the bishops’ Council for the Family, they told politicians that “the fate of this Nation is in your hands.”  “[Act] so that every conceived child - whether healthy or unwell - has the right to life, without exception, and would not be threatened by the law allowing for their killing,” they wrote.

“We must stop the wave of killing in Polish hospitals. We must formulate the law in such a way, that it will obviously imply the right to life for every child, including sick children,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, archbishop metropolitan of Poznan, last week.

Mobilizing the pro-life politicians

Bogumil Lozinski of Gosc Niedzielny, the nation’s largest Catholic weekly, said that the grassroots effort has mobilized not only the populace, but pro-life politicians as well.  “One of the greatest effects of the whole debate is that a group for the protection of life has been formed within the parliament,” he wrote.  “The parliamentarians who formed it say openly that their main goal is to pass this bill and encourage their colleagues to vote for it.”

This pro-life parliamentary committee boasts members from nearly all the political parties, except for the pro-abortion and communist Democratic Left Alliance.  One of the founding members is Jacek Zalek from the ruling Civic Platform party.

“The defense of life and dignity of people is an obligation of every society and it is not a question of religion,” Zalek wrote in the major daily paper Rzeczpospolita.  “You don’t have to be a believer to be able to tell good from evil. Affirmation of the value of life results from natural law and goes beyond political competition between parties.”

Creating the conditions for success

Mariusz Dzierżawski of the PRO Foundation told LifeSiteNews that the campaign has been bolstered by a major cultural shift towards life in recent years, with Poles now strongly in favor of full protections for the unborn.  The shift, he says, is thanks to the “unrelenting efforts” of pro-lifers who have organized exhibitions, rallies, and other campaigns to educate the public.

A June 3rd survey showed 65% of Poles agreeing that the law “should unconditionally protect the life of all children since conception.”  Only 23% supported abortions in cases where unborn children of 24 weeks or less were diagnosed with a “serious disease.”

Significantly, 76% of those aged 15 to 24-years-old wanted total protection for the unborn – the most of any age group.  The lowest level of support came from the oldest age bracket, 55 to 70 years old, but still with 57% supporting total protection.

Jaroslaw Kniolek of the PRO Foundation noted that this older generation grew up under the Communists, when abortion was widespread and forced on the culture.  “Young people, on the other hand, not only have the knowledge of the facts of abortion, they also have wonderful role models, especially young Catholics of the ‘JP2 generation’,” he said.

Only six years ago, in 2005, the CBOS polling firm found that 57% of Poles would allow for early abortions, while only 36% were against it.  By 2009, they found that only 31% allowed for the abortions, while 64% were against it.  Then, earlier this year, their poll showed that 85% of Polish citizens identified themselves as pro-life, while only 9% supported access to abortion.

“We now have a great social basis for a change in the law, and we will change the law to make it pro-life,” Dzierżawski said.  “Even if it shouldn’t happen this year, it will in the coming years.”

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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