Ben Johnson

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HHS mandate means ‘ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance’: two new colleges sue

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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ALEXANDRIA, LOUISIANA, February 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The impending requirement that religious institutions provide abortifacient drugs not only violates their consciences, but favors some religions over others and would require “ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance” of private institutions’ religious beliefs, a new lawsuit filed against the Obama administration states.

Two more Christian colleges stand poised to introduce litigation against the mandate being implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the health care reform law.

Louisiana College, which is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, describes itself as “a private Baptist co-educational college of liberal arts” with a “dedication to academic excellence to the glory of God.” Its doctrinal statement declares everyone associated with the college “should contend for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

“They’re really concerned about the requirement that they would cover drugs that are abortifacients. That violates their sincerely held belief to protect life at all stages, even at the embryonic stage,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, told LifeSiteNews.com.

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

The college’s legal complaint is a scalding indictment of the requirement that it provide services that deeply offend the its moral and ethical sensibilities.

“The Mandate coerces LC to change or violate its religious beliefs,” it states. The defendants – which include HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their respective departments – “promulgated both the Mandate and the religious exemption in order to suppress the religious exercise of LC and others,” the suit states.

The college’s lawyers say the college will face substantial financial penalties if it does not provide services its leadership considers sinful, because it does not fit the administration’s narrow definition of a “religious institution.” They insist the president’s “accommodation” offers them no remedy, because it is “entirely fictitious. It does not exist in the rule or guidance President Obama enacted on February 10, and it need never be formally proposed or adopted.”

Instead, they contend the bill requires the government to ”analyze the content of LC’s religious belief requiring ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance that impermissibly entangles Defendants with religion.”

And it “distinguishes among religions and denominations, favoring some over others” – namely favoring those faiths or sects that do not object to abortion.

“The Obama administration has purposely transformed a non-existent problem – access to contraception – into a constitutional crisis,” said Mike Johnson, dean of Louisiana College’s Pressler School of Law, who is acting as co-counsel on this case. “This mandate offers no choice; Americans either comply and abandon their convictions or resist and be punished.”

The lawsuit says the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.

“There’s absolutely no reason for them to include these religious organizations in the way that they have,” Theriot told LifeSiteNews.

“Part of the mandate it to include counseling including these abortifacients, and that’s forced speech which violates the school’s free speech rights,” Theriot said.

Compelled speech has been cited in cases that struck down statutes in New York City and Baltimore that sought to compel crisis pregnancy centers to post signs outside their facilities, telling women they do not provide abortions.

Samuel B. Casey of the Law of Life Project explained to LifeSiteNews.com in that context that the First Amendment means the government cannot “make a private citizen speak the government’s message.”

“It doesn’t matter what the message is,” he said. “What matters is that it’s the government’s message.” 

“They have multiple constitutional protections,” Theriot said about his client, “and we’re very confident that the court will recognize that, and will say that the Obama administration’s attempt to trample on religious freedom in this instance is not justified.”

Tomorrow, the Baptist institution will be followed into court by Geneva College, an institution of higher learning in the Reformed tradition, based in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

“At Geneva College, we only have one Lord, and he does not live in Washington, D.C.,” said college president Ken Smith. He called the mandate to purchase abortion-inducing drugs “abhorrent and unacceptable.”

The Alliance Defense Fund is handling both cases.

ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said, “People of faith shouldn’t be punished by the state for following that faith in making decisions for themselves or their organizations. Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this, and worse, to everyone.”

Louisiana and Geneva join at least two other faith-based universities in challenging the mandate.

Colorado Christian University has filed suit against the mandate, as has Belmont Abbey College, which is affiliated with a Benedictine monastery in North Carolina.

The Obama administration asked a federal court to delay ruling on Belmont’s lawsuit, stating the final rule has not yet been offered and may differ from current proposals.

The attorneys general of 12 states are prepared to file a lawsuit in a matter of weeks against the rule.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed an amicus brief with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing three institutions in the legal battle over the HHS mandate.

Priests for Life, and the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) have also filed suit against the mandate, saying the accommodation is insufficient and remains a burdensome and unnecessary violation of their First Amendment freedom of religion.


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Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

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Arguments don’t have genitals

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

“As soon as he grows his own uterus, he can have an opinion.”

That was a comment left on The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s Facebook page by a woman who presumably opposes men speaking out against misogyny, domestic abuse, rape culture, and female genital mutilation as well. Apparently, you see, male genitals disqualify people from speaking out on various human rights issues deemed by women who define themselves by their uteruses while protesting angrily against being defined by their uteruses as “women’s issues.”

Which abortion isn’t, by the way. It’s a human rights issue.

To break it down really simply for our confused “feminist” friends: Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins, or we are simply choosing some random and arbitrary point at which human beings get their human rights. If we do not grant human rights to all human beings, inevitably some sub-set of human beings gets denied protection by another group with conflicting interests. In this case, of course, it is the abortion crowd, who want to be able to kill pre-born children in the womb whenever they want, for any reason they want.

Science tells us when human life begins. Pro-abortion dogma is at worst a cynical manoeuvre to sacrifice the lives of pre-born human beings for self-interest, and at best an outdated view that collapsed feebly under the weight of new discoveries in science and embryology. But the abortion cabal wants to preserve their bloody status quo at all costs, and so they make ludicrous claims about needing a uterus to qualify for a discussion on science and human rights.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

In fact, feminists love it when men speak up on abortion, as long as we’re reading from their script, which is why the carnivorous feminists have such a support system among the Deadbeat Dads for Dead Babies set and the No Strings Attached Club.

Male abortion activists have even begun to complain about “forced fatherhood,” a new cultural injustice in which they are expected to bear some responsibility for fathering children with women they didn’t love enough to want to father children with, but did appreciate enough to use for sex. Casual fluid swaps, they whine, should not result in custody hearings.

This is not to mention a genuine social tragedy that has men forcing or pressuring women to have abortions or abandoning them when they discover that the woman is, indeed, pregnant.

Or the fact that abortion has assisted pimps, rapists, and misogynists in continuing the crimes of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sex-selection abortion.

And coming against these disgusting trends are thousands of men in the pro-life movement who believe that shared humanity means shared responsibility, and that when the weak and vulnerable are robbed of their rights, we have to stand up and speak out.

We are not at all convinced by the feminist argument that people should think with their reproductive organs or genitals. We think that the number of people currently doing that has perhaps contributed to the problems we face. And we refuse to be told that protecting the human rights of all human beings is “none of our business” and “outside of our interests.”

Arguments don’t have genitals, feminists. It’s a stupid argument trying to protect a bloody ideology.

Reprinted with permission from CCBR.


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Rachel Daly

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Gvmt strikes UK Catholic school admission policy that prefers Mass attendees

Rachel Daly
By Rachel Daly

St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Epsom, England, was ordered to change its admissions policy after it was ruled discriminatory by the nation's Office of Schools Adjudicator, according to Your Local Guardian. St. Joseph's reportedly had been granting preferred acceptance to students whose families attended Mass at the affiliated church.

St. Joseph’s School is for students from age 4 to 11 and describes itself as “enjoy[ing] a high level of academic success.” The school furthermore places high priority on its Catholic identity, affirming on its homepage that “We place prayer and worship at the center of everything we do.”

The school states in its current admissions policy that it was "set up primarily to serve the Catholic community in St Joseph’s Parish" and that when the applicant pool exceeds 60 students, its criteria for prioritizing students includes "the strength of evidence of practice of the faith as demonstrated by the level of the family's Mass attendance on Sundays." 

Opponents of this policy reportedly argue that since donations are asked for at Mass, it could allow donation amounts to influence acceptance, and that forcing non-accepted local students to seek education elsewhere imposes a financial burden upon their families. 

Click "like" to support Catholics Restoring the Culture!

As Your Local Guardian reports, the adjudicators dismissed claims that donation amounts were affecting school acceptance, given that it is impossible to track donations. Nonetheless, the adjudicators maintained that "discrimination ... potentially arises from requiring attendance at the church rather than residency in the parish."

The Office of Schools Adjudicators, according to its website, is appointed by the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State of Education, to perform such functions as mediating disputes over school acceptances. The Office's ruling on St. Joseph's will require the school to release a revised admissions policy, which is expected in the next few days.

Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.


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Carolyn Moynihan

African women at risk of HIV, hostages to birth control

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan

Which should be the priority for a health organisation: preventing an incurable disease, or preventing a natural function that might have adverse physical consequences?

Preventing the disease, you would think. But the World Health Organisation would rather expose African women to HIV-AIDS than withdraw its support from a suspect method of birth control, arguing that childbirth is also risky in Africa. Riskier, apparently, than the said contraceptive. And at least one of WHO’s major partners agrees.

This is one of the stories you will not have read in coverage of the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne last week, despite the fact that WHO made an announcement about it during the conference and the findings of a highly relevant study were presented there.

The story is this: there is increasing evidence that the method of contraception preferred by family planning organisations working in Africa (and elsewhere) facilitates the transmission of HIV. The method is the progesterone injection in the form of either DMPA (Depo Provera, the most common) or NET-En (Noristerat).

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa receive the injection every three months. The method overcomes problems of access. It can be given by nurses or health workers. A wife need not bother her husband for any special consideration; the teenage girl need not remember to take a pill.

But for 30 years evidence has been accumulating that, for all its “effectiveness” in controlling the number of births, the jab may also be very effective in increasing the number of people with HIV.

Three years ago at another AIDS conference in Rome, researchers who had analysed data from a number of previous studies delivered the disturbing news that injectables at least doubled the risk of infection with HIV for women and their male partners.

That study had its weaknesses but one of the experts present in Rome, Charles Morrison of FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International, a family planning organisation that also works in AIDS prevention), considered it a “good study” and subsequently led another meta-analysis that addressed some of the issues with previous research.

Last week at the Melbourne conference he presented the results. His team had re-analysed raw data on the contraceptive use of more than 37,000 women in 18 prospective observational studies. Of these women, 28 percent reported using DMPA, 8 percent NET-En, 19 percent a combined oral contraceptive pill, and 43 percent no form of hormonal contraception. A total of 1830 women had acquired HIV while in a study.

The analysis showed that both injectables raised the risk of infection by 50 percent:

Compared to non-users [of any hormonal contraceptive], women using DMPA had an elevated risk of infection (hazard ratio 1.56, 95% CI 1.31-1.86), as did women using NET-En (1.51, 95% CI 1.21-1.90). There was no increased risk for women using oral contraceptives.

Similarly, comparing women using injections with those using oral contraceptives, there was an elevated risk associated with DMPA (1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.67) and NET-En (1.30, 95% CI 0.99-1.71).

Morrison also noted:

The results were consistent in several subgroup and sensitivity analyses. However, when only studies which were judged to be methodologically more reliable were included, the increased risk appeared smaller.

Morrison acknowledged that observational studies such as the FHI analysis depended on have their limitations. He is looking for funding to conduct a randomised controlled study – something that, after 30 years of suspicions and evidence, still has not been done.

So what is his advice to the birth control industry? Stop using this stuff in regions with a high prevalence of HIV until we are sure that we are not feeding an epidemic?

No.

One reason is that FHI is at least as interested in contraception as it is in HIV prevention. Though its website reflects a broad range of development activities, its core business is integrating birth control programmes with HIV prevention. The WHO – one of its partners -- describes the US based, 83 percent US government funded non-profit as “a global health and development organization working on family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.”

Another reason is that FHI 360 has a vital stake in precisely the kind of contraceptives that are under suspicion. Its annual report refers to:

Our trailblazing work in contraceptive research and development continues, as we develop and introduce high-quality and affordable long-acting contraceptives for women in low-income countries. Research is under way to develop a new biodegradable contraceptive implant that would eliminate the need for removal services. We are also working with partners to develop an injectable contraceptive that would last for up to six months. Currently available injectables require reinjections monthly or quarterly, which can be challenging where health services are limited.

That project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

So Morrison did not argue in Melbourne for restrictions on the use of injectables, and neither did the WHO, whose representative at the conference outlined the UN body’s new guidelines on contraception and HIV. Mary Lyn Gaffield said a review of studies up to – but not including Morrison’s – did not warrant a change to WHO’s policy that DMPA and NET-En should be available, without restriction, in areas of high HIV prevalence.

The most WHO will advise is that women should be informed of the risk:

“Women at high risk of HIV infection should be informed that progestogen-only injectables may or may not increase their risk of HIV acquisition. Women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition considering progestogen-only injectables should also be informed about and have access to HIV preventive measures, including male and female condoms.”

Condoms? How do they defend such cynicism? By equating the risk of HIV with the risks of motherhood – complications of pregnancy or childbirth, maternal death and the effect on infants... And yet motherhood remains risky precisely because 90 percent of the world’s effort is going into contraception!

Seven years ago a meeting of technical experts convened by WHO to study the injectables-HIV link showed the reproductive health establishment worried about that issue, to be sure, but also concerned that funding was flowing disproportionately to HIV-AIDS programmes, setting back the cause of birth control. The integration of family planning and HIV prevention spearheaded by FHI 360 looks like they have found an answer to that problem.

Whether African women are any better off is very doubtful. They remain pawns in a game that is, above all, about controlling their fertility. They and their partners are encouraged to take risks with their health, if not their lives, while researchers scout for funds to do the definitive study.

FHI had an income of $674 million last year, most of it from the US government. Couldn’t it give Charles Morrison the money to do his research today?

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com.


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