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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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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