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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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