Fr. Peter West

Fighting the culture of contraception in Uganda

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West
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January 2, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - In Uganda, as in most parts of Africa, the culture is one in which life is respected and family is at the center. But like most of Africa, the culture is under constant attack from outside forces pressuring the government to embrace the “reproductive health” agenda of abortion and contraception. Billboards, television commercials and radio ads pushing contraceptives are very common. I experienced firsthand the propaganda effort underway in Uganda during a missionary trip this past November.

Uganda used to be a model in the fight against HIV/AIDS because President Yoweri Museveni implemented a policy throughout the country which focused on the only real way to stem the spread of the deadly virus: asking people to change their risky sexual behavior by abstaining from sex before marriage and by being faithful to their partner.

When President Museveni’s ABC policy (Abstain before marriage, Be faithful after, and use Condoms only when absolutely necessary) was implemented in 1992, the adult HIV/AIDS infection rate was 30 percent in the capital of Kampala and other large urban areas, and the national life expectancy for the entire country was only 44 years. But in the next decade, the adult HIV/AIDS infection rate dropped 80 percent, to six percent in 2002, and the life expectancy rose by eight years. Unfortunately, Western governments and NGOs have been successful in their attempts to destroy the ABC program by forcing an acceptance of greater condom use, leading to more risky sexual behavior, and the HIV/AIDS rate is again on the rise.

Shortly after I arrived in Uganda, Human Life International (HLI) country director Father Jonathan Opio took me to Namugongo, also known as the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs, in Kampala where St. Charles Lwanga was martyred for the faith and the virtue of chastity.  At Namugongo, we prayed for the people of Africa to resist the contraceptive mentality that is destroying their country and to embrace the culture of life.

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Fr. Opio and I met with a group of women in the city of Tororo who were victims of the push for greater access to contraceptives in Uganda. The women told story after story about the health problems they were experiencing because of IUDs, Norplant and Depo Provera. Each one of these long-term hormonal contraceptives carries great risks to women’s health that is not often discussed in public. Depo Provera for instance has been shown to double the risk of HIV but is still heavily promoted across Africa.

A local government health official was in attendance and heard the women’s stories, but his response to the women was that they were suffering side effects from the contraception because they had been unfaithful to their husbands! The women began shouting at him as a group and blamed him for the pain they were now experiencing.

I was astounded that he seemed not to have grasped what the women were saying, and that as a government health official he didn’t understand the negative side effects of the contraceptives he was determined to promote. As we spoke more with the women not only about the health risks of contraception, but also about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church against their use, the government official seemed to imply that Fr. Opio and I could find ourselves in trouble with the authorities if we continued to spread our message without first seeking approval from the government. Needless to say, the thinly veiled threat did not have its intended effect.

At another meeting I was able to address a group of about 50 political and community leaders including the Mayor of Tororo, representatives of President Museveni and administrators of two local hospitals. Fr. Opio and I gave a presentation about the population control agenda in Africa and how Western governments and NGOs are using great sums of money and influence to destroy the traditionally life-loving African culture.  Not everyone in the room was pro-life and they asked some challenging questions, but the dialogue was very respectful and we ate dinner together afterwards.

A highlight of this trip was hearing the stories of a group of women whose children were saved from abortion by the HLI Uganda team. The mothers gave moving testimonies on how they chose life instead of abortion, and how their beautiful bouncing babies are sources of hope and consolation. While the laws in Uganda are mostly respectful of life, there is still widespread immorality and illegal abortions. In October of 2011, HLI Uganda was involved in a case that led to the arrest of a medic who performed an illegal abortion on his girlfriend, and in the process almost killed her. I had the chance to meet one of the police officers who was instrumental in bringing the young woman’s assailant to justice.

As a Catholic apostolate, HLI endeavors to work closely with the Church in every country in which we operate. Fr. Opio was able to arrange for us to give a special presentation to the Ugandan bishops during my trip. A number of topics were discussed, but there was a heavy focus on the influence of population control groups in Africa and what these groups are doing to undermine the moral authority of the bishops. We advised the bishops on some strategies they could undertake to combat this deadly influence. I had the impression that the bishops were very supportive of our message, and there was great optimism about what we could achieve together for the protection of life in the future.

As HLI Founder Father Paul Marx said many times, “In every country, contraception always leads to massive abortion.” While the West is falling into decay, we have in Uganda and other parts of Africa people hungering for the Gospel of Life who have so far been able to stop the tidal wave of legalized abortion. But the increased push for contraception is a continual threat. I hope HLI and the Catholic Church in Uganda can work even more closely together in defeating the contraceptive mentality to get Uganda back on the right track to saving lives from HIV/AIDS, and to stop abortion from ever being legalized.

Father Peter West is the vice president for missions at Human Life International.

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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."

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"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.

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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
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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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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