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Arkansas House defies governor on 12-wk abortion ban, OK stares down Obama on HHS mandate, and more

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 22, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) - The pro-life movement continues to see successes, and failures, at the state level. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, must weigh whether the state legislature would override his potential veto of the 12-week abortion ban, which he believes is unconstitutional. Washington state may force health insurers to cover abortion if they cover prenatal care. And in Indiana, restrictions threaten to close a Planned Parenthood facility -- among other state items.

Arkansas

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed two bills limiting abortion on Thursday by overwhelming margins. A fetal pain bill that would effectively restrict abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy has passed both chambers of the state legislature and is now on the desk of Governor Michael Beebe, a Democrat. The House passed that restriction by a vote of 80-10. Mary Newbern, a lobbyist with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, called the ban “bad for women in Arkansas."

A stricter ban, a “heartbeat” bill that would place the cut-off date at 12 weeks, passed the Republican-dominated House on Thursday by a vote of 68-20. It must return to the state senate, which passed a different version of the bill. The House version added an amendment to allow an abortion in the case of a severe fetal defect.

Both include exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Governor Beebe has expressed doubts about the 12-week ban but has not stated he will veto the measure.

Washington

The Washington House of Representatives voted on Friday to force insurance companies to cover abortion or give up health coverage for expecting mothers. The chamber passed the Reproductive Parity Act by a vote of 54-43. The measure would force insurance companies that pay for prenatal care to cover abortion, as well. Its fate in the state senate is uncertain, as it may violate the federal Hyde/Weldon amendment, which withholds U.S. tax dollars from any state and local government that enacts abortion coverage mandates. Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has demanded the bill's passage, saying, “The Senate should not shut the door of democracy when it comes to women’s health care.”

Oklahoma

Oklahoma may be one of a number of states on a collision course with the federal government over the implementation of ObamaCare. If adopted, a new bill would respect the First Amendment rights of Oklahoma business owners by not forcing them to cover contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients in their health care plans. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 452 by State Senator Clark Jolley, a Republican from Edmond. The bill states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees.” The bill would be welcomed by the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby. They live in Oklahoma City. President Barack Obama did not carry a single county in the state in 2008 or 2012.

Florida

This week legislators in both chambers of the state house filed a bill to prohibit abortion for the purpose of selecting the child's race or sex. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, House Bill 845 was introduced in the House by State Representative Charles Van Zant and in the state senate as State Senate Bill 1072, introduced by Senator Greg Evers. Florida Right to Life strongly supports the legislation.

Indiana

Planned Parenthood is warning its facility in Lafayette may have to close if a bill passes the legislature requiring it to perform an ultrasond before and after administering RU-486. The bill, introduced by State Senator Travis Holdman, passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee Wednesday by a 7-5 vote. Holdman said, "We're just trying to control and regulate abortion-inducing drugs, which heretofore have not been regulated by the state of Indiana. I don't believe we're asking for anything that's unreasonable. We're talking about the life of the mother and the child." The bill exempts private physicians who administer the abortion pill.

The committee also passed a bill introduced by Michael Young to strengthen informed consent laws, presenting illustrations of fetal development in color. It would also remove provisions forcing an abortion-minded woman to hear her baby's heartbeat before the abortion.

New Mexico

The House Voters and Elections Committee voted 7-4 to kill a same-sex "marriage" measure. If passed, the measure from Democratic State Representative Brian Egolf of Santa Fe would have had voters decide in November 2014 on a constitutional amendment redefining marriage. Two Democrats crossed the aisle to join the committee's Republicans in blocking the measure. Egolf said, “If this doesn’t go forward, it’s an extraordinary shame.”

Montana

Anti-assisted suicide is again before the state of Montana. Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, introduced a bill seeking to penalize the practice, which was essentially legalized by the state supreme court in 2009. A similar bill failed last year.

Michigan

A House committee unanimously voted to strip language out of an insurance bill that would have forbidden private insurers from covering abortion in the state of Michigan. Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a similar proposal in December. The state's Right to Life chapter strongly opposed the amendment, both because it included exceptions for rape and incest, and because the chapter felt its language was unduly vague.

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Illinois

The date for the hearing of a bill to redefine marriage redefinition has been set. The House Executive Committee has announced it will open deliberations on February 26 on Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. A recent tactic of the marriage redefinition movement is to present its efforts as “religious freedom,” in that it does not compel churches to carry out same-sex wedding ceremonies, but mandates that all state facilities recognize homosexual unions as the equivalent of existing marriages.

Rhode Island

The vast majority of clergy in most religions oppose same-sex “marriage.” However, the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island announced its support for a bill to redefine marriage in the state. Not one of the 24 rabbis – representing Conservative, Reform, Orthodox and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism – vetoed a measure to support the bill. 

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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