Patrick Craine

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Birth not a moment of ‘magical transformation’: MP slams anti-science views in rare abortion debate

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Canadian MP called on his fellow parliamentarians to “courageously follow the facts” Thursday and to support his motion to examine the humanity of children in the womb.

Speaking in the House of Commons’ first hour of debate on Motion 312, Tory MP Stephen Woodworth said: “Canadians expect parliamentarians to embody that courage, that strength, that principled quest for the truth. Will we be seen as bold for the sake of truth, or as fearful? We can trust Canadians to embrace the truth with us.”

The Kitchener MP has called on Parliament to establish a special committee to re-examine section 223 of the Criminal Code, a 400-year-old provision inherited from British common law that states a child only becomes a “human being” once he or she has fully proceeded from the womb.

“How many Canadians believe that birth is a moment of magical transformation that changes a child from a non-human to a human being?” he asked in the House Thursday. “Perhaps that ancient definition made sense when leeches and bloodletting were standard medical practices, but does it make medical sense in the 21st century?”

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Woodworth’s motion has been strongly opposed by all of the major political parties, but none are saying that they will whip their caucus to vote against it. Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged Thursday before the debate that he would vote against it and called it “unfortunate” that it was even deemed votable.

The Opposition New Democrats, who are officially pro-abortion, say they are unanimously opposed, so have no need to whip the vote.

In the debate Thursday, Tory whip Gordon O’Connor (Carleton-Mississippi Mills) insisted that the “ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions in Canada at some fetal development stage,” and re-iterated the government’s stance that they will not support any effort to “regulate abortion.”

“I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code,” he said. “There is no law that says that a woman must have an abortion. No one is forcing those who oppose abortion to have one.”

New Democrat Status of Women critic Niki Ashton (Churchill) accused the Conservative government of having “rolled back the clock on gender equality” during its 6 years in office, doing so most pointedly “in the area of reproductive rights.” Opposition to abortion is the Tories’ “Trojan horse agenda,” she said.

“The reality is that the issue of abortion was settled in 1988” when the Supreme Court struck down the existing abortion law, she said.

That law, passed by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals in 1969 as part of an Omnibus Bill, allowed the deadly procedure if approved by a committee of doctors. That law, with its loopholes and weak safeguards, soon led to a practical abortion-on-demand situation across the country.

“A woman’s right to reproductive choice is a human right. In Canada, in 2012, a woman’s right to choose is not up for negotiation,” said Ashton. “As ugly as it may seem, women must not be forced to return to those ugly circumstances of using coat hangers, vacuum cleaners or putting themselves in the hands of quacks.”

Liberal MP Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre) said the Liberals will oppose the motion, and accused the Tories of violating Harper’s election promise to “not reopen the debate on abortion.”

“The government” is being “disingenuous” and treating Canadians as “simpletons” by pretending that a motion to examine the personhood of the unborn does not open up the abortion issue, she continued. “The Prime Minister should not have given the member the back door and the opportunity to waste the time of the House to use Motion No. 312 as a back door to recriminalize abortion.”

She said it would be “ludicrous” to grant protections for the unborn from 20 weeks gestation, around the point of viability, as some have suggested. “After 20 weeks, are the government and the state going to put a woman in jail if she does not wish to maintain that pregnancy within her person? Are they going to put her in jail and force her to keep this child until term?”

New Democrat Françoise Boivin (Gatineau) said it’s “infinitely unfortunate” that the legislature is debating abortion in 2012, arguing that the issue was settled long ago.

She accused Woodworth of ignoring “women’s rights” and instead trying to push a “conversation on the fetus.” “Wow. When I was elected in 2011, if someone had told me that I would be here on April 26, 2012, having a ‘conversation on the fetus’, I would have asked what planet this was,” she said.

Canadian case law is clear that “when a woman is pregnant, her fetus is a part of her body” so the current definition “makes sense” in stipulating that “a fetus is not a human being,” she added.

Liberal MP Denis Coderre (Bourassa) said the legislature should leave the issue alone to “respect the social harmony” of Canada and to “respect women’s rights … and the right to be pro-choice.” [He] said Woodworth is being dishonest because “in reality, what [he] wants to do is re-criminalize abortion.”

Though Woodworth was the only pro-life member to speak on behalf of the motion, Tory MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga) rose at one point to correct Boivin when she claimed that there were no female MPs in the House at the time of the debate to support Woodworth.

In his remarks in the debate, Woodworth highlighted a paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in February by ethicists from Italy and Australia that called for “after-birth abortion,” otherwise known as infanticide. The authors argued, in their words, that “killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be.”

“If we accept their premise that it is acceptable to decree that some human beings are not human persons, their logic follows, inevitably,” Woodworth argued.

He then pointed out that this line of thinking has practical consequences even today. “In Canada every year, the deaths of 40 to 50 infants who are born alive and later die are classified as ‘termination of pregnancy’,” he explained.

“If basic rights can be denied to even one vulnerable person, they can be denied to anyone,” he said. “If we accept a law that decrees some human beings are not human, the question that must be asked is: Who is next?”

The motion has now dropped to the bottom of the House of Commons’ order paper and is expected to receive a second hour of debate in June or September, followed by a vote.

If it passes, the special committee will be appointed and will then have ten months to prepare a final report detailing the medical evidence on the unborn’s humanity, whether or not the Criminal Code is consistent with the evidence as currently written, and possible legislative options for Parliament to affirm or amend the Criminal Code.

Find the full Hansard transcript of the debate.

Get contact information for Members of Parliament.

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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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