Ben Johnson

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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

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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