Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Flourishing Belarus pro-life movement a ray of light

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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MINSK, Belarus January 6, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Good news is hard to come by in Belarus since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

The country is still ruled by Soviet-era dictator Alexander Lukashenko, whose human rights violations have resulted in many international sanctions against his government. It has also retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics and the government retains majority control over most of the economy.

Additionally, the fertility rate of Belarus is among the lowest in the world, with 1.25 children born per woman.

But while most in the pro-life movement in North America regard as disastrous the situation in Europe in general and in former Soviet countries in particular, there are pockets of good news.

In 1994, four years after Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union, the abortion rate in the country had reached an unimaginable high of 65.8 percent of all pregnancies. Since then it has fallen steadily to 28.2 per cent in 2008, according to figures issued by the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis and the Ministry of Health.

Some of this success may be attributable to a growing pro-life movement, which is doing everything it can to make sure that those numbers continue to drop. According to the pro-life education group, The Open Hearts Foundation, the Belarus pro-life movement had a very busy year last year.

In July, Foundation volunteers attended a pro-life “festival” in Moscow that “gathered many active defenders of life and family values from Russia” from both the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In August, Foundation volunteers gave talks to participants at the interdiocesan pilgrimage of families to the sanctuary of Virgin Mary “Queen of Lakes” in Braslav, organized by the Belarusian Catholic Church. They also attended the 5th annual World Day of Prayer for Life in Rome, organized by Human Life International.

In September the Orthodox Brotherhood organized a seminar to support young pro-life advocates in Brest. Also in September, lecturers from the Foundation gave talks on the life issues to audiences of about 4000 in Catholic Churches of Glubokoe and Shumilino. Students heard talks on family, chastity, the harms of contraception and abortion, and “a way out of the demographic crisis.”

In October, volunteers from the Orthodox churches in Brest organized “incessant” prayer and fasting for the protection of life. “This good practice unites many cities of Belarus,” the Foundation said. “Such spiritual support is really necessary in this uneasy business.” 

The Foundation also helped to organize a conference in defense of life and family in the town of Gomel. Lecturers spoke on “Abortion and its consequences for Church and society,” “Contraception and IVF: the truth and myths. Christian Response,” “Motherhood and service to God,” “Netherlands: clinical death for mentally ill,” and “In Vitro Fertilization: Children for sale.”

As well, there are the daily prayer vigils being held outside the Vitebsk abortion facility.

The Foundation’s organizer Oksana Makeenko said that “during the long years of Soviet power we were instilled [with] a strange fear of pregnancy and childbirth, so women and men today simply do not know what to do with children, and do not want for themselves this ‘burden.’ Selfishness more and more captures young people.”

This fear, she said, combines with “negative attitudes of medical staff and many other [issues to] stop modern moms and dads from birth.”

The goal of the conference they organized, she said, was to show “that to be parents [is] not terrible, and a family with many children is not a defective one, but is a blessing, pleasure and honor, the duty of every family.”

John Smeaton, director of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) told LSN that the secret of Belarus pro-lifers’ success is “joyfulness.”

“A spirit of detached endurance in pro-life work helps us to be joyful, and that joyfulness bears real fruit in the pro-life battle,” he said.

“Despite the fact that the Soviet era left a legacy of a high abortion rate, pro-lifers in Belarus are joyfully getting on with proclaiming the sanctity of human life to new generations. So there is no reason for Western pro-lifers to be despondent, as we have good friends in eastern Europe making progress often in harder conditions.”


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Michelle Kaufman, New Zealand Correspondent

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Abortion group targets pro-life doctors, nurses with new website: New Zealand

Michelle Kaufman, New Zealand Correspondent
By Michelle Kaufman

Pro-life health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres in New Zealand are the target of a new website designed to intimidate those who choose not to refer for abortion or prescribe contraception.

The website, My Decision, is created by the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ). 

The site lists health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres which they believe women should avoid.  The incomplete list includes the names of individuals or organisations, the region and town, and whether they are a doctor, nurse or other provider. 

Women are asked to submit their stories of “hostile or unhelpful health professionals.”  The stories are non-identifying and can be edited for length or clarity.  At the time of writing only two stories had been posted.

In an earlier blog post, ALRANZ mentioned that the new website, which was still under construction at the time, is “aimed at shining the light on ‘conscientious objectors’… who deny people the reproductive healthcare they want or need.”

Right to Life NZ says they believe the site is “denigrating the good name and reputations of health professionals who believe that abortion is a harmful choice.”

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Under New Zealand law, health practitioners can object to providing reproductive health services according to their conscience.  However, there is one caveat – they “must inform the person who requests the service that he or she can obtain the service from another health practitioner or from a family planning clinic.”

 “Sonscientious objection is a fundamental right and one that must be preserved if we are to continue to live in a free and civil society,” said Chris O’Brien, Vice President of Right to Life NZ. “We risk tyranny if this right is taken away.”

“There are very good doctors that appear on that website” said Dame Colleen Bayer, whose Dunedin Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centre is also named.  “These doctors speak truthfully and have real care and concern for their patients.  Women do themselves a disservice to discount them based on this information.”

The resource section on the My Decision website links to ALRANZ, Family Planning (an affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation and an abortion provider), and the website Abortion Services in New Zealand. 

The Abortion Services website is sponsored by ISTAR Ltd, a registered Charitable Trust which is the sole importer of mifepristone into New Zealand.  ISTAR also provides Manual Vacuum Aspiration equipment for early surgical abortions.

ALRANZ, was instrumental in the writing of the Greens abortion policy, which was unveiled earlier this year.  That policy aims to take abortion out of the Crimes Act making it more accessible.  The policy also targets health professionals who may conscientiously object to ensure they refer patients on to a “neutral practitioner”.

More information about freedom of conscience in healthcare 


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The government is proposing allowing the killing of pre-born babies suspected of being disabled and those conceived through rape or incest.
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Northern Ireland considers allowing killing disabled unborn babies: pro-lifers condemn

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life group, Precious Life, has condemned this week's announcement by Justice Minister David Ford that a consultation on changing the abortion law will be "ready by autumn." The government is considering allowing the killing of pre-born babies suspected of being disabled and those conceived through rape or incest.

“Abortion is a serious criminal offence in Northern Ireland,” said the director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth. “The law here protects unborn babies, and David Ford as Minister for Justice must ensure that all children are legally protected."

Last December, Ford revealed he would be undertaking a consultation to consider changes to the law after he heard the stories of two women, who complained that they had not been allowed to abort their babies who had been diagnosed with anencephaly. Instead, they said, they had traveled to Britain for abortions.

Abortion was refused under Northern Ireland’s laws because the diagnosis of anencephaly for the child poses no medical threat to the mother.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

On Monday Ford told the BBC that the Department of Justice would bring forward its consultation paper on changing Northern Ireland's abortion laws by the fall.

However, Smyth warned that “the core ethical principle which must underpin this discussion is that every child deserves the right to life regardless of how short their life may be, and regardless of the circumstances of their conception."

She vowed that Precious Life will launch a public campaign in support of the life of all unborn babies.

“We all feel enormous sympathy for parents in these traumatic and distressing cases," Precious Life stressed in a statement. "But parents in these difficult situations deserve much more than our sympathy – they need a professional support system in place, which will provide them with help, support and resources.

"Precious Life are resolved to work towards a solution that loves and protects both mother and baby. Once again we call on the Health Minister to immediately establish perinatal hospice services for parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis for their baby,” said Smyth.

 

Contact:

Justice Minister David Ford
Department of Justice
Stormont Estate
Belfast, Northern Ireland
BT4 3SG
Phone:(028) 9076 3000
Email: via website (http://www.dojni.gov.uk/contact-us.htm)


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80% of parents who have an unborn child with spina bifida choose abortion. But Chad Judice (pictured with Eli) knows that life is worth it.
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

Abortion? No way. Dad says son with spina bifida is a ‘gift’ to the family.

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

What is the most pro-life, pro-God influence in your life? According to Catholic author and speaker Chad Judice, his five-year old, disabled son has been a tremendous source of happiness and faith for even the hardest of hearts.

In an op-ed published in The New York Post, Judice writes that when he and his wife found out their unborn son Elijah had spina bifida, they were offered the option of abortion. While they chose life, it didn't stop them from fearing the worst for their careers, eldest child, and Eli.

"That evening...Ashley cried as she read to me from the literature we’d been given," writes Judice. "It said 80 percent of parents who receive a spina bifida diagnosis choose abortion."

"And it told us that our son might have learning disabilities and be paralyzed from the waist down, unable to ever walk."

According to WemMD.com, the two most common forms of spina bifida have few, if any effects, on those who have them. However, the most rare and most aggressive form of the disability can result in significant problems for life:

  • Little or no feeling in their legs, feet, or arms, so they may not be able to move those parts of the body.
  • Bladder or bowel problems, such as leaking urine or having a hard time passing stools.
  • Fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus). Even when it is treated, this may cause seizures, learning problems, or vision problems.
  • A curve in their spine, such as scoliosis.

Eli's form of spina bifida was severe, but -- as it turned out -- manageable, writes Judice. Despite surgeries and "medical challenges," he was out of the hospital within thirty days, though seizures and surgeries would continue to challenge the family. At five-and-a-half, he is entering kindergarten, learning to walk with modern technology, and "his intelligence is at or above average, and he's very talkative."

But perhaps the greatest miracle of all, Judice says, is the effect Eli has had on those who are outside of the family. His story has helped "some pregnant mothers...to reject abortion," and "rekindle the dormant faith of some...drawing them into a life with more room for God and family."

One of those rekindled Christians was a man who, after years in prison, prayed for Eli "as he recited The Lord's Prayer." According to Judice, "it was the first time he’d prayed in 30 years."

Since Eli's birth, Judice has written two books about his son and their family. "Waiting for Eli: A Father's Journey from Fear to Faith" was the first, and has received praise from Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. According to Pavone, it is "an inspiring story of faith, hope, love, and the power of prayer."

"The world judges the value of human life by physical perfection, but God sees things differently. To Him, we are perfectly lovable in our imperfection. Uplifting in its reverence for human life in its most fragile stages, WAITING FOR ELI will encourage pro-life activists everywhere, from the most seasoned to the newly initiated."

Also unstinting in praise was the Chair of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Daniel Cardinal Dinardo, who writes for Judice's website that the book "chronicles [Judice's] spiritual journey from fear of one’s personal limitations to self-abandonment to the divine mercy of God’s providence."

The second book, "Eli's Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power of Prayer," received the "Best Book by Small Publisher" award in 2013 by the Catholic Press Association.

"I think of Eli as God’s special gift to my family," Judice wrote in the Post. "And as I share about him, Eli’s story softens hearts and brings people to a greater appreciation of the beauty and sacredness of life."


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