Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent

From ‘adult’ bookstore to pregnancy resource center: Melbourne welcomes pro-life oasis

Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
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March 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The city of Melbourne - usually the source of Australia’s most depressing anti-life news - was recently the happy scene of the crowded launch of a new centre to support pregnant women.

On Valentines Day, more than 80 people turned out for the opening of The Babe’s Project Pregnancy Support Centre, in a shop front that was previously, of all things, an adult bookshop.

Within days of the opening, a young teenager and her boyfriend entered seeking help - and just two weeks later, the centre ran out of its pregnancy support packs, turning to pro-life advocates for support to keep the critical pro-life facility running.

Helen Parker is the visionary woman behind the project. In between her hectic schedule, she took some time to speak to LifeSiteNews.com. 

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LifeSiteNews.com: Congratulations on the opening! How did you feel to see a long-held dream become a reality?

Helen Parker:
Thank you! It was overwhelming to see a community come together and say, “it is not okay for women to be unsupported, so let’s do this together.” I knew there was a need. I knew we had support, but to see it eventuate into something tangible is amazing.

LSN: Tell us the story of how you first got the inspiration to create The Babes Project.

HP: I found out I was pregnant when I was 20 and studying at university. With very little support, I was confused and didn’t know where to turn and subsequently the doctor booked me in for a termination.

This was not at all what I wanted to do and I was alarmed at how easy this had been made available.

I proceeded with my pregnancy and soon after Ariel was born I started volunteering in the maternity ward of the local hospital. It was here that I heard recurring themes of how simply abortion was promoted, together with much experience of grief and loss.

When the abortion legislation changed here in Victoria in 2008, I knew it was time to go further, doing something practical addressing the needs of women terminating pregnancies because the felt they had no other option.

It was time to actively promote parenting and adoption as positive alternatives to abortion and to do whatever it took to see that reflected in the choices made by women in our communities.

LSN: Have you been able to help many women in your Pregnancy Support Centre since it opened on Valentines Day? What kind of things do the women who come through your doors say?

HP: We have already had women and families engage with The Pregnancy Support Centre looking for a variety of support. Most are looking for a safe place to chat and to begin talking through their circumstances. Some are still in shock after a positive pregnancy test, some are able to articulate further their own thoughts about possible options, but what we see from all women is a need for hope and reassurance about how their life might look in the future.

They want to see women doing life well who may have faced similar circumstances. They want to see that they still have value and that they can make great choices not only for their child, but also for themselves long term.

LSN: How much support is there for pregnant women in Australia? Are there many other centres like yours?

HP: We have been surprised to find very little support for women which works toward positive outcomes long term.

There certainly are a handful of pregnancy centres throughout Australia, some working effectively at reaching their community whilst others just aren’t being fully utilized. 

Whilst we are aware of some centres which seem to be reaching a number of women, most are battling a nation where pregnancy centres outside abortion clinics or family planning aren’t common, and as a result they don’t seem to be accessed as we would hope.

LSN: What needs to change in Australia’s culture, government policy and law regarding adoption?

HP: Australia is a country with deep wounds from past adoption practices. 

At a government level we need to engage in discussion about what adoption can look like and be committed to lobbying for reasonable change.

Once we see adoption working well, it is our hope that it can be embraced by women who might have alternatively chosen abortion. 

There is an uphill battle ahead to bring change to Australian attitudes and legislation regarding abortion.

One thing we cannot underestimate is the value of connecting with local MPs and asking them to put positive adoption legislation on their agenda.

LSN: You produced a very moving video for the launch of the new centre. At the end of it you said that the pro-life movement in Australia needs to change. In what ways would you like to see it change?

HP: The Babes Project highly values the work and perseverance of the pro-life movement; we have met some wonderful people who have taught us much.

I do, however, think we could all go further in ensuring there are excellent services available for women and their families toward long-term positive outcomes. 

She must have access to high quality assistance as she proceeds with her pregnancy in a loving, compassionate and non-judgmental environment.

It is up to us to see this become a reality.

LSN: What are the best ways to provide practical help for women in our own personal lives?

HP: Be engaged. Listen to her, encourage her and show compassion. Be willing to hear what you don’t like and learn from her. I think we could all challenge ourselves to take down the “us and them” walls. 

The best way I learned about adoption was to spend time with a friend who once claimed “I hate adoption.” It was the best way for me to learn what needs to be addressed.

Then you do whatever it takes to ensure she has great support long term.

LSN: What kind of support have you received from people around the country as the word has spread about your project?

HP: We have received a wonderful outpouring of generosity and encouragement from many.

To open a centre and to make sure it is sustainable takes much time, finances, and a great team of people willing to get their hands dirty.

The most significant, however, has been from locals who are passionate about seeing positive alternatives to abortion promoted in their community.

We simply created a space for them to express their passion, which has seen many take part and build walls, install the kitchen, donate funds, lay carpet, and see this Centre transform into a safe, lovely space.

LSN: Finally, would it be okay to ask your daughter a question? Ariel, what do you think about your mum?

Ariel: My mum is cool, sweet, kind and funny. She can always make you laugh no matter how grumpy you are. She cares about others a lot, and is very understanding. I love what she is doing with The Babes Project and I hope our story will benefit lots of people.


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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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