Stephen Phelan

What Hungary and Poland can teach us about a post-Roe world

Stephen Phelan
By Stephen Phelan
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January 25, 2013 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - No democratic nation has ever voted in the majority to legalize abortion as such. Not one. Legalized abortion is always imposed by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, or by elites who manufacture court cases designed to reverse duly created laws that actually protect innocent human beings.

As the death toll rises in those nations that have embraced legal abortion, so does the need of those in power to use ever more authoritarian means to promote this injustice and shield people from the truth. What is happening now in the United States — the creeping overreach of politicians whose sense of accountability seems to diminish daily — has precedent in Europe, where similar democratically elected governments have found ways to legalize the destruction of unborn human beings.

In other cases, especially in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, nations had abortion forced upon them by dictators who wanted to control the populations. Several of these nations are only now starting to find their way out of the moral and demographic abyss into which they were thrown.

In Human Life International’s (HLI) new documentary, “Central and Eastern Europe: A Return to Life,” we examine the dramatic situations unfolding in Hungary and Poland, two nations that were decimated by the most destructive ideologies in history, Nazism and Communism. Both countries had abortion forced on them by the Communists over six decades ago. And while the people of both nations on occasion rose up against their oppressors, it wasn’t until Communist Russia began to crumble in 1989 that they were able to begin charting their own course.

In 1993, Poland became the first nation in Europe, and remains the first developed nation, to reverse the full legalization of abortion. Inspired by the 1979 visit of the new Polish Pope, John Paul II, Poles stood in solidarity against the Communists, starting the domino effect that led to Communism’s downfall.

But this is important: it was a revolution of faith as much as, if not more than, politics.

The Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, fully embraced the traditional Catholic faith of their homeland, and with a fire lit by the servant of the Holy Spirit, they peacefully persevered. This newly recovered confidence in their traditional faith led to the reversal of the abortion law after the fall of Communism, and today there are fewer than 700 abortions annually in Poland.

Hungary’s recovery has been slower, yet on Easter Monday in 2011, the Hungarian Parliament adopted what has become known as the “Easter Constitution.” Notable for its explicit embrace of its Christian heritage (in a continent whose supranational elite political body has written Christianity out of its own constitution), the new Hungarian constitution restates Hungary’s commitment to authentic human rights and defends the institution that any society must protect if it is to sustain itself – the natural family. With its enactment on January 1, 2012, Hungarians laid the groundwork for the return of pro-life and pro-family laws.

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But there is more to these stories, and Americans would do well to contemplate what their example means for our own nation as we draw closer to undoing Roe v. Wade.

As we hear from HLI’s pro-life leaders in Poland in “A Return to Life,” when Communism fell, there was an explosion of hope and enthusiasm, followed by an openness to what were perceived as more enlightened Western culture and values. Instead of sharing in the riches of the West, Poles have seen wane the religious fervor that animated their peaceful resistance to their oppressors, and secular materialism pick up where Communism left off. As we know too well, this secularism also can foment an anti-life mentality, and it has undercut Poles’ hopes for a brighter future. So while Poland is still a relatively Catholic nation in post-Christian Europe, it retains a low birth rate and must continue to fend off attempts to reinstate abortion and adopt the worst of the United States’ and other “developed” nations’ ideas.

Meanwhile, Hungarians find themselves fighting not only those inside the nation who oppose a recovery of traditional Hungarian values, but a body of unelected and radically secular bureaucrats in the European Union who are not happy that one of their member states would dare to promote Christian, pro-life and pro-family views.

So the question falls to us in the United States: What if Roe v. Wade were reversed, or in some other way abolished, tomorrow? Most agree that not one abortion mill would close as a direct result, though it may become easier to close mills in states where there was political will to do so. We can safely assume that the already growing number of proposals at the state level, both for and against abortion, would increase in number and take on greater urgency for both sides. There would immediately be new suits launched to reinstate some version of Roe, all tailored to reach the Supreme Court.

Which leads to a further question, given that we are about to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe: if the actual reversal of Roe is unlikely to immediately save lives, is all the attention given to Roe really warranted? That is, is it worth it to spend so much time and treasure on the reversal of Roe?

Of course it is, and not only for symbolic reasons. Just laws ultimately unite and order a society, as they protect both individuals and the institutions that make civil society possible. Unjust laws divide a citizenry, as they are tools used against politically vulnerable individuals and institutions, ultimately undermining any possibility of a well-ordered state.

We fight on the local, state and national levels to save every life we can, and to set right every law that enshrines the false “right” to choose to kill an unborn child. And as supporters of Human Life International well know, this same fight goes on around the world as well.

Here is the point: no victory in the fight for life and family is ever the end of the battle — it is always a new beginning. It is crucial, but not sufficient, that we seek a reversal of unjust, anti-life laws at every level. The examples provided by Hungary and Poland — nations that have already seen major national victories — demonstrate both major political victories are possible, and that our sights must be set beyond the political battles if we are to sustain the momentum of our victories.

The fire of love and hope set by John Paul II in Poland remains perhaps the most concrete example of what can happen when we allow ourselves to be radically swept up in God’s will, and step forward with courage and trust. Totus Tuus! (Totally Yours!) But as we follow Poland’s continuing struggle, we see that this must be sustained by Christians unafraid to proclaim the Truth, lest the reigning radical secularism that we see around us continue to feed the Culture of Death.

God can bring about change even beyond what we can imagine. We can’t lose hope even with the reelection of an administration here in the U.S. that clearly has disdain for people of genuine faith, religious freedom, and for human life. Greater things have happened than the kind of political and legal victory that we seek in overturning Roe. The current state-level victories, the growing ranks of pro-life advocates, conversions of abortion workers and closure of mills – these wonderful gains foreshadow higher level victories yet to be won.

But if we are to sustain this momentum, the courageous pro-life leaders in Poland and Hungary tell us that what we really need is a consistent and courageous witness of the faith. People need to see the love that they are really searching for, and the stark alternative it offers to the Culture of Death as embodied in Roe v. Wade.

Stephen Phelan is the communications manager at Human Life International. This article reprinted with permission from HLIWorldWatch.org

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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
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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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