Patrick Craine

EXCLUSIVE: Poland to vote on historic bill banning all abortions after massive grassroots campaign

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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WARSAW, Poland, June 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) -  After months of shielding the initiative from English media, organizers of a massive pro-life grassroots campaign in Poland have now told LifeSiteNews.com that Parliamentarians in the country are preparing to vote this week on an historic bill that would enshrine total protection for children in the womb from the moment of conception.

The organizers told LSN that they were worried that if the news broke in the English-speaking world, pro-abortion foreign powers would have poured money into the country to oppose their popular efforts.

To bring the abortion ban before Parliament under Poland’s political system, the sponsors needed to collect 100,000 signatures within three months.  They got 600,000 in two weeks.

The bill, which comes up for first reading in the ‘Sejm’ (lower house) on Thursday, is the result of a huge nation-wide grassroots initiative launched by Warsaw’s PRO Foundation and supported by the country’s bishops and a newly-formed pro-life parliamentary committee.

Abortion was first foisted on the deeply Catholic people of Poland after Hitler’s tanks stormed the country 70 years ago; but the demise of the Nazis was followed by decades of state-promoted abortion-on-demand under their Soviet successors.

“This project is a chance to finally reject the heritage of Nazism and Communism which brought ‘legal abortion’ to Poland in the first place,” Jacek Sapa of the PRO Foundation told LifeSiteNews.  “It was Hitler and Stalin who imposed it on Poles and it’s high time we clearly disassociate ourselves from those deadly ideologies.”

“The Church clearly teaches that it is the obligation of Catholics not to protect the current ‘compromise’ but to aim at complete protection of life,” said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former personal assistant to Blessed John Paul II, in an interview for Gosc Niedzielny, Poland’s largest opinion weekly.  “This is a solution, which the Church calls for. I support all efforts aiming at improving the protection of human life.”

The status quo on abortion: Illegal, but “not punishable” if…

Ever since the Communists were overthrown in 1989, Poland has labored to restore its cultural and religious heritage. As part of that project, in 1993 the country passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the West.  Since then, abortions have fallen dramatically, with Ministry of Health data showing a drop from 82,000 abortions in 1989 to about 500 in 2008.

Under the current law, abortions can only be obtained where the child is diagnosed with a serious defect or disease, where the mother is diagnosed with a health problem, or where the pregnancy resulted from “illegal activity.”

However, the law and its exceptions are often abused by pro-abortion doctors.  ‘Defect’ can be deemed to include something as minimal as cleft palate, and though abortions are only supposed to take place up to the point of viability, or about 24 weeks, in practice doctors can fudge the dates.  Further, though pregnancies resulting from “illegal activity” would seem to refer to pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, it can also be applied to teen pregnancies on the basis that the law forbids sex with a person under 15 years of age.

Although abortions under the exceptions occur without penalty, a point often missed is that even under the current law, abortion is always “illegal” in Poland.  The law merely states that under the exceptions abortions are “not punishable.”

Striking down the exceptions

The PRO Foundation’s citizens’ bill is the first attempt to institute a total ban on abortion since the current law passed in 1993.  The bill would strike down all three exceptions in the abortion law, applying the current penalties in all cases.

Under the law, doctors caught performing illegal abortions face up to 3 years imprisonment, or up to 8 years where the child was viable.  The same penalties are applied to anyone who pressures a woman into abortion, or helps her obtain one.  The mother faces no penalties.

The bill will be debated in the ‘Sejm’ at first reading on Thursday, with a vote to decide its fate on Thursday or Friday.  If it gets 50% plus one vote, then it will move to committee for consideration, and then back to the ‘Sejm’ for a second and then third vote.  It would then go to the Senate for a vote, and, if passed, the country’s president must decide whether to sign it into law.  If he does not, then the Parliament would need to give it two-thirds support in order to overturn his veto.

Sapa said the bill has a “realistic” chance of passing, noting that 90% of parliamentarians are Catholics who have an interest in appearing on side with the Church.  “Politicians opposing this pro-life law risk openly defying the Church and this simply does not pay,” he explained.  “Poles are still a Catholic nation, and politicians often seek to present themselves as faithful Catholics during electoral campaigns to gain popularity.

“A vote for abortion would belie their ‘Catholic’ public image,” he added.

In 2007, an effort to enshrine the “right to life from conception to natural death” in the Polish constitution won support from 60% of parliamentarians, but failed because it needed two-thirds.  That amendment, however, would not have had the immediate effect of removing the exceptions for abortion.

Supported by the bishops

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has campaigned for the bill’s passage through letters to politicians, public statements, and efforts to mobilize the faithful into prayer and lobbying.

In a letter signed by Bishop Kazimierz Gorny, head of the bishops’ Council for the Family, they told politicians that “the fate of this Nation is in your hands.”  “[Act] so that every conceived child - whether healthy or unwell - has the right to life, without exception, and would not be threatened by the law allowing for their killing,” they wrote.

“We must stop the wave of killing in Polish hospitals. We must formulate the law in such a way, that it will obviously imply the right to life for every child, including sick children,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, archbishop metropolitan of Poznan, last week.

Mobilizing the pro-life politicians

Bogumil Lozinski of Gosc Niedzielny, the nation’s largest Catholic weekly, said that the grassroots effort has mobilized not only the populace, but pro-life politicians as well.  “One of the greatest effects of the whole debate is that a group for the protection of life has been formed within the parliament,” he wrote.  “The parliamentarians who formed it say openly that their main goal is to pass this bill and encourage their colleagues to vote for it.”

This pro-life parliamentary committee boasts members from nearly all the political parties, except for the pro-abortion and communist Democratic Left Alliance.  One of the founding members is Jacek Zalek from the ruling Civic Platform party.

“The defense of life and dignity of people is an obligation of every society and it is not a question of religion,” Zalek wrote in the major daily paper Rzeczpospolita.  “You don’t have to be a believer to be able to tell good from evil. Affirmation of the value of life results from natural law and goes beyond political competition between parties.”

Creating the conditions for success

Mariusz Dzierżawski of the PRO Foundation told LifeSiteNews that the campaign has been bolstered by a major cultural shift towards life in recent years, with Poles now strongly in favor of full protections for the unborn.  The shift, he says, is thanks to the “unrelenting efforts” of pro-lifers who have organized exhibitions, rallies, and other campaigns to educate the public.

A June 3rd survey showed 65% of Poles agreeing that the law “should unconditionally protect the life of all children since conception.”  Only 23% supported abortions in cases where unborn children of 24 weeks or less were diagnosed with a “serious disease.”

Significantly, 76% of those aged 15 to 24-years-old wanted total protection for the unborn – the most of any age group.  The lowest level of support came from the oldest age bracket, 55 to 70 years old, but still with 57% supporting total protection.

Jaroslaw Kniolek of the PRO Foundation noted that this older generation grew up under the Communists, when abortion was widespread and forced on the culture.  “Young people, on the other hand, not only have the knowledge of the facts of abortion, they also have wonderful role models, especially young Catholics of the ‘JP2 generation’,” he said.

Only six years ago, in 2005, the CBOS polling firm found that 57% of Poles would allow for early abortions, while only 36% were against it.  By 2009, they found that only 31% allowed for the abortions, while 64% were against it.  Then, earlier this year, their poll showed that 85% of Polish citizens identified themselves as pro-life, while only 9% supported access to abortion.

“We now have a great social basis for a change in the law, and we will change the law to make it pro-life,” Dzierżawski said.  “Even if it shouldn’t happen this year, it will in the coming years.”

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Lisa Bourne

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

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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.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

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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