Kirsten Andersen

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Obama Administration appeals Hobby Lobby/HHS mandate case to the Supreme Court

Kirsten Andersen
Kirsten Andersen

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama Administration isn’t giving up the fight to force the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores to abide by the controversial HHS contraception mandate.

On Wednesday the administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling granting Hobby Lobby an exemption from the mandate, which requires employers to provide co-pay-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs for all females of childbearing age enrolled in their company’s health plan. 

More than 60 company owners have sued the Obama Administration over the directive, arguing that forcing them to pay for procedures and drugs their faiths hold to be immoral violates their constitutionally-protected religious freedom.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the company’s owners sought an exemption from the mandate because it requires coverage for so-called ‘emergency contraception,’ which works at least some of the time by making the uterus inhospitable to an already-fertilized embryo, inducing early abortion – something that goes against the owners’ Christian faith.  Initially, a lower court rejected their case, but in July, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their decision and Hobby Lobby was granted an injunction.

In its decision, the Tenth Circuit asserted that Hobby Lobby had “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”

But on Wednesday, just five days before the court-ordered deadline, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, and accused Hobby Lobby’s owners of trying to use their religious freedom as a “sword” to cut their employees off from the “benefits and protections” offered by the contraceptive mandate. 

The government’s attorneys argued that because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit corporation, it is not entitled to the same religious rights as an individual or a church.  It’s an argument that has met with success in two other similar cases this year in both the Third and Sixth Circuit Courts, decisions which the government cited heavily in its petition.

“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby.   Added Duncan, “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”

But the Obama Administration’s lawyers argued in their court filing that even if religious liberty was found to apply to for-profit corporations, in the case of the HHS mandate, the government’s “compelling interest” in making contraceptives freely available to every woman supersedes the company’s right not to pay for them.

“[The Religious Freedom Restoration Act] provides that the federal government ‘shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless application of that burden is ‘the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest,” wrote the government lawyers. 

“[T]he contraceptive-coverage requirement,” they asserted, “is the least restrictive means of advancing compelling governmental interests.”

According to the government’s attorneys, the HHS mandate serves a compelling governmental interest because when it comes to the government’s plan to improve Americans’ health, “increased access to FDA-approved contraceptive services in particular is a key component,” and when women have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives, it makes them less likely to use them. 

Although the World Health Organization lists hormonal contraception as a Class 1 cancer-causing agent, the U.S. government asserts that contraceptives “improve health by decreas[ing] the likelihood or delay[ing] the onset of a targeted disease or condition,” in this case, pregnancy.  Wrote the government’s lawyers, “a lack of contraceptive use has proven in many cases to have negative health consequences for both women and children.”

The government appeared to issue a veiled threat to both the Court and future religious objectors should the decision not go its way, telling the Court that “It would be perverse to hold that providing a targeted religious exemption [such as the one currently offered to some churches and religious charities] eliminates the government’s compelling interest in the underlying regulation, thus effectively extending the same exemption … to anyone else who wants it.”

“Such a reading of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” the government’s lawyers warned, “would discourage the government from accommodating religion, the exact opposite of what Congress intended in enacting RFRA.” (Emphasis theirs.)

The high court has six weeks to consider the government’s petition. If the justices agree to hear the Hobby Lobby case, it will be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2014.

The Hobby Lobby case is one of two cases dealing with the HHS mandate that were submitted to the Court Wednesday.  The other is Conestoga vs. Sebelius, one of the two cases cited by the government in its filing in which the Third Circuit ruled against the Christian owners of a custom cabinet manufacturing company, forcing them to comply with the contraceptive mandate.  The company owners have requested that in light of the circuit courts’ differing opinions, the Supreme Court review their case, as well. 


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UK quietly opens the door to genetic engineering, ‘3-parent’ embryos

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By Hilary White

Last month the UK’s Department of Health quietly redefined the term “genetic modification” to open the door to allow certain kinds of modification of human embryos – thus potentially making it the first country in the world to allow genetic engineering.

Scottish journalist Lori Anderson recently raised the alarm over the change in a column in the Scotsman, in which she alleged that the change is designed to “dupe” the British public into accepting “full-scale germline genetic engineering,” using human embryos as test subjects.

Anderson said that in July, the Department of Health “effectively re-wrote the definition of ‘genetic modification’ to specifically exclude the alteration of human mitochondrial genes or any other genetic material that exists outside the chromosomes in the nucleus of the cell.”

“The reason for doing this is that it believes it will be easier to sell such an advancement to the public if it can insist that the end result will not be a ‘GM baby’.”

This change follows a statement from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government body that regulates experimental research on human embryos, approving the procedure to create an embryo from one couple’s gametes but with genetic material added from a third party donor, a procedure called in the press “three-parent embryos”.

Anderson quoted a statement from the Department of Health comparing this procedure to donating blood. The statement read, “There is no universally agreed definition of ‘genetic modification’ in humans – people who have organ transplants, blood donations, or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being ‘genetically modified’. The Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward these regulations.”

This assertion was challenged by one of the UK’s leading fertility researchers, Lord Robert Winston, who told the Independent, “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion.”

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The HFEA, which throughout its history has been known as one of the world’s most permissive regulatory bodies, has been working steadily towards allowing genetically modified embryos to be implanted in women undergoing artificial procreation treatments. In a document issued to the government last year, they called the insertion of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) into embryos “mitochondrial donation” or “mitochondrial replacement”. mDNA is the genetic material found in the cytoplasm outside a cell’s nucleus, problems with which can cause a host of currently incurable genetic illnesses.

In the statement issued in June, the HFEA said the technique of inserting “donated” mDNA into already existing in vitro embryos, “should be considered ‘not unsafe’ for the use on a ‘specific and defined group of patients.’”

“Mitochondria replacement (or mitochondrial donation) describes two medical techniques, currently being worked on by UK researchers, which could allow women to avoid passing on genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases to their children,” the statement said.

The HFEA admitted that the techniques are “at the cutting edge of both science and ethics” and said that the results of a “public consultation” in 2012/13 were being examined by the government, which is considering “draft regulations”.

In June, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children echoed Lori Anderson’s concern, commenting that the HFEA is attempting to deceive the public. Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said, “Human gene manipulation is being sold to a gullible public on a promise of reducing suffering, the same old con-trick that the test-tube baby lobby has been using for decades.” 

Any manipulation of human genetics, always breaks “several important moral rules,” entailing the creation of “human guinea-pigs,” Tully said. “Human germ-line manipulation and cloning – changing the genetic inheritance of future generations - goes against internationally-agreed norms for ethical science.”

He quoted Professor Andy Greenfield, the chairman of the scientific review panel that approved the techniques, who said that there is no way of knowing what effect this would have on the children created until it is actually done.

“We have to subject children who have not consented and cannot consent to being test subjects,” Tully said.

Altering the mDNA of an embryo is what cloning scientists refer to as “germline” alteration, meaning that the changes will be carried on through the altered embryo’s own offspring, a longstanding goal of eugenicists.

In their 1999 book, “Human Molecular Genetics” Tom Strachan and Andrew Read warned that the use of mitochondrial alteration of embryos would cross serious ethical boundaries.

Having argued that germline therapy would be “pointless” from a therapeutic standpoint, the authors said, “There are serious concerns, therefore, that a hidden motive for germline gene therapy is to enable research to be done on germline manipulation with the ultimate aim of germline-based genetic enhancement.”

“The latter could result in positive eugenics programs, whereby planned genetic modification of the germline could involve artificial selection for genes that are thought to confer advantageous traits.”


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Cable series portrays nun as back-alley abortionist

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By Ben Johnson
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'To depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,' said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The Cinemax TV series The Knick portrayed a Roman Catholic nun as a back alley abortionist who tells a Catholic woman God will forgive her for going through with the procedure.

In its latest episode, which aired Friday night, the series showed Sister Harriet (an Irish nun played by Cara Seymour) telling a Catholic woman named Nora, “Your husband will know nothing of it. I promise.”

“Will God forgive me?” Nora asked, adding, “I don't want to go to Hell for killing a baby.”

“He knows that you suffered,” the sister replied, before performing the illegal abortion off-screen. “I believe the Lord's compassion will be yours.” 

The period medical drama is set at the Knickerbocker Hospital (“The Knick”) in New York City around the turn of the 20th century, when abortion was against both civil and ecclesiastical law.

“It is no secret that Hollywood is a big pro-abortion town, but to depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said. “The only saving grace in this episode is the real-life recognition of the woman who is about to have the abortion: she admits that her baby is going to be killed.”

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The series is directed by Steven Soderbergh, known for such films as Erin Brockovich, the Oceans Eleven franchise, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. More recently he directed The Girlfriend Experience, a film about prostitution starring pornographic actress Sasha Grey.

Critics have hailed his decision to include a black surgeon in circa 1900 America. But after last week's episode, the New York Times stated that The Knick has chosen to “demonstrate concern for other kinds of progress,” citing the depiction of the abortion. 


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Balcony of the Grandmaster Palace in Valletta, which houses the Maltese Parliament. Shutterstock
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Catholic Malta enacts ‘transgender’ employment discrimination law

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By Hilary White

An amendment to Malta’s Employment and Industrial Relations Act means that employment “discrimination” against “transsexuals” is now officially prohibited in the Catholic country. The provision, which was quietly passed in May, came into effect on August 12th.

The law allows those who believe they have a complaint to make a case with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, with an industrial tribunal or the courts. A government spokesman told local  media, “Employees do not need to prove that their employer has discriminated against them.”

“They only need to provide enough evidence pointing to a likely case of discrimination. The employer will then need to prove that discrimination has not taken place.”

The amendment defines illegal discrimination against “transgendered” people as, “in so far as the ground of sex is concerned, any less favourable treatment of a person who underwent or is undergoing gender reassignment, which, for the purpose of those regulations shall mean, where a person is considering or intends to undergo, or is undergoing, a process, or part of a process, for the purposes of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.” 

Silvan Agius, Human Rights policy coordinator with the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, told Malta Today newspaper that the new amendment brings Maltese law into harmony with EU law.

“This amendment is continuing the government’s equality mainstreaming exercise. The inclusion of gender reassignment in the Act also brings it in line with the anti-discrimination articles found in both Malta’s Constitution and the Equality for Men and Woman Act,” Agius said.

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Agius is a key member of the homosexual activist apparatus in Malta’s government working to entrench the ideology of gender in law in Malta and elsewhere. In June, he was a featured speaker, with the notorious British anti-Catholic campaigner Peter Tatchell, at a Glasgow conference organised by the Edinburgh-based Equality Network, a group that helps organise and train homosexualist campaign groups.

The amendment to the law follows promises made recently by the country’s equalities minister, Helena Dalli, to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May. Dalli, who brought forward Malta’s recently passed same-sex civil unions bill, told a meeting of gender activists in Budapest that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, that she would shortly be turning her attention to “trans” people.

“The next step now is a Bill towards the enactment of a Gender Identity law. A draft bill has been prepared and it has now been passed to the LGBTI Consultative Council for its vetting and amendment as necessary,” Dalli said.

“Some of you may be thinking that we are moving forward quickly. I have a different perspective though. We are doing what is right, what should have been done a long time ago,” she added.

Since the legalisation of divorce in 2011, Malta has been remarkable for its rapid adoption of the gender ideology’s agenda. In 2013, Malta was named the “fastest climber” on the Rainbow Europe Index, a survey organised annually by ILGA Europe, the leading homosexualist lobby group funded directly by the European Union.

The ILGA Europe report notes (p. 114) that Helena Dalli Helena “was one of 11 EU Member States’ equality ministers to co-sign a call for the European Commission to work on a comprehensive EU policy for LGBT equality.” The report also noted that although the new Labour government has proved cooperative, the Christian Democrat Nationalist Party has “progressively proved more receptive to LGBTI issues, including same-sex unions.”


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