Fr. Peter West

Pilgrims seek victory over Russia’s culture of death

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West
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June 12, 2012 (Zenit.org) – As I write this, a small band of pro-life missionaries is driving through the vast desolate plains of Siberia, on a historic pilgrimage across Asia and Europe.

On June 14, the pilgrims left the port city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast of Russia with a replica of the famous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The icon will be venerated by tens of thousands across eight time zones in Russia, and eventually will zigzag across Europe to Fatima, Portugal and, hopefully, will even come to the United States in the spring of 2013.

What would motivate a small band of believers to undertake this long and potentially dangerous journey in what is being called the “From Ocean to Ocean International Campaign in Defense of Life?” The pilgrimage of the icon, led by a coalition of Catholic and Orthodox leaders including Lech and Ewa Kowaleski of Human Life International (HLI) Poland, is intended both as a response to nearly a century of legalized abortion in Russia, and for victory over the culture of death throughout the world. The pilgrims believe that this victory for life will take place through the powerful intercession of Mary, the Mother of God.

Scripture and Church history are full of precedents for this extraordinary event. In the Book of Joshua, we read that the Jews carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle (cf. Joshua 3, 3-6). In the Mother of Christ, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Church has long carried on the Old Testament tradition of carrying the Ark into battle. Indeed, several Fathers of the Church, as the original scholars of the Old Testament, help us understand why Mary is known to the Church as the Ark of the New Covenant. Saint Ambrose, for example, wrote:

The Ark contained the Tablets of the Law; Mary contained in her womb the heir of the Testament. The Ark bore the Law; Mary bore the Gospel. The Ark made the voice of God heard; Mary gave us the very Word of God. The Ark shone forth with the purest gold; Mary shone forth both inwardly and outwardly with the splendor of her virginity. The gold which adorned the Ark came from the interior of the earth; the gold with which Mary shone forth came from the mines of Heaven. (Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosii)

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Throughout history, the faithful have called on the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of battle to win great victories against overwhelming odds.

In 1571, when the Bishop of Mexico heard that Europe was threatened with an invasion from the Turkish Navy, he sent a replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Pope Pius V. The Pope gave the image to Admiral Andrea Doria, who carried it into battle on one of the lead ships at Lepanto. On October 7, 1571, Christian forces defeated the much larger Turkish Navy and saved Europe from invasion.

In 1812, Russian forces carried the icon of “The Reigning Mother of God” into battle as they drove Napoleon and his invading army out of Russia. Just over a century later, on March 1, 1917, a pious Russian widow named Eudocia received a revelation from the Blessed Virgin Mary to look for the icon, which had been lost for many years. The next day, at the same time that Tsar Nicholas of Russia abdicated his throne, the icon was found, having been hidden in a basement in the village of Kolomenskoye, just outside Moscow. Many people began to venerate the icon and miraculous healings began to occur, even as the October Revolution was launched against the ruling Tsars of Russia. The Mother of God told her that if the icon was marched around the Kremlin seven times it would not fall. Tragically, her requests went unheeded. The Bolsheviks captured the Kremlin, marking the onset of Russia’s century of darkness.

The icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has a fascinating history of its own. Tradition holds that St. Luke the Evangelist himself “wrote” the icon of what has now become known as “Our Lady of Czestochowa” on a cypress table made by Jesus Himself. The Icon was damaged by anti-Catholic, Hussite raiders in 1430 who slashed it and attempted to burn it, so much so that today she is referred to as the “Black Madonna.” In a sense, the icon is a symbol of Poland herself, scarred but persevering in faith.

Our Lady has interceded for the Polish people many times in her history. Just a relatively recent example, from May 1-7, 1979, many Poles held what became known as “The Siege of Jericho.” At the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa they prayed continuous rosaries for the intention that the Communist government would relax its restrictions on the visit of Pope John Paul II to his native land. On May 7, the Polish government unexpectedly relented and dropped the major obstacles that were preventing the Pope’s visit. Blessed Pope John Paul lit a fire with his bold proclamation of the Gospel “behind enemy lines.” The Pope’s visit set in motion the most remarkable peaceful revolution of the century, eventually bringing down Communism in the Soviet Union and all of Eastern Europe.

Russia again finds herself facing enormous difficulties today—difficulties of her own making. In 1920, Russia was the first country to legalize abortion for any reason. Josef Stalin again outlawed abortion in 1936, not because he respected human life, but he saw that it was weakening his nation and decimating the population of Russia along with war, the various purges and the starvation of millions. Abortion was legalized again after his death in 1954. The number of babies lost again skyrocketed, peaking in 1964 with 5.6 million abortions performed. Abortion remains the primary means of birth control in Russia, although the rate is falling (still at a very high rate of just under 40% of all pregnancies ending in abortion in 2010).

But now, Russia knows she has a problem. Her population continues to decline at an alarming rate. The total fertility rate of Russian women hit a historic low in 1999 of 1.16. By 2010, it had risen slightly to 1.59. Even President Vladmir Putin has encouraged Russian families to have more children by offering economic incentives, but these policies are having little effect.

Against this backdrop of demographic collapse, a faithful few are turning their eyes to the Mother of God. This is fitting since Blessed Pope John Paul’s monumental encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which he called “central to the whole Magisterium of my Pontificate,” and which closes with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary for victory over the culture of death.

Our Lady under her title of Our Lady of Czestochowa is venerated both in the East and the West. The icon arrived in Vladivostok on June 11 and was venerated in several churches, including the main Cathedral of St. Nicholas. Enthusiastic crowds have accompanied the Blessed Virgin asking for her prayers, and have also attended the pro-life conferences that are taking place as part of the pilgrimage.

A prayer before the icon was offered by Archpriest Aleksandr Talko, the head of the Department of Church Charities and Social Services. He said, “For all of the days of the stay of the Czestochowa icon in Vladivostok, there will be prayers before the miraculous icon requesting the Mother of God to strengthen family ties.”

The fact that Russian Orthodox leaders are working together with Roman Catholics to coordinate the historic pilgrimage through Europe and Asia is no small feat. We pray that our shared devotion to the Blessed Mother may be an occasion for the building of mutual respect, and for collaboration in other such efforts for the promotion of faith, life and the family in the future.

Please pray with us that God will bless the efforts of this tiny band of missionaries and that Our Blessed Mother will awaken the people in every place she visits, to be open to life and a respect marriage and family life.

Visit the website of the From Ocean to Ocean International Campaign for the Defense of Life for more information on the progress of this historic pilgrimage.

Father Peter West is vice president for missions for Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization, which is coordinating the From Ocean to Ocean pilgrimage of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. This article was originally posted on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.

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Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, speaks at a March 3 press conference announcing a report showing that Catholic Relief Services ran a program promoting abortifacients and contraceptives in Kenya. Nathan Mitchell
Lisa Bourne

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Critics fire back with new evidence after CRS denies it ran sex ed program pushing abortifacients

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, shows a poster promoting contraception from a program Catholic Relief Services ran in Kenya. Nathan Mitchell
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BALTIMORE, MD, March 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Critics of Catholic Relief Services say the international humanitarian agency apparently neglected to carefully read the latest claims that it promoted contraception and abortifacients for children in Kenya before issuing blanket denials.

The Population Research Institute and the Lepanto Institute continue to call for a full-scale reform of the U.S. bishops’ aid organization.

“CRS's response uses straw-man tactics, misdirection, and outright lies in order to cast doubt on the PRI and Lepanto Institute report,” Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, told LifeSiteNews.

The two groups also have 600 pages of CRS self-reported documents in their possession, obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and shared with LifeSiteNews, that they insist substantiate the claims they made in their report and irrefutably prove that the relief agency is being dishonest.

The report, issued March 3, says CRS took government grant money from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to implement an AIDS prevention program for Kenyan children with two components, Healthy Choices 1 (HC1) and Healthy Choices 2 (HC2), both of which promoted contraceptives and abortifacients in violation of Catholic teaching.

The report also says CRS cooperated in altering PEPFAR documents once its involvement in the program had become known and was brought to the agency’s attention.

In addition to the FOIA documents, evidence of CRS’s involvement in the contraception-promoting program was corroborated by CRS sub-partner website content, and by on-the-ground field interviews conducted by an independent investigator retained by PRI who had a medical background and who was fluent in local languages.

PRI, the Lepanto Institute, and Human Life International (HLI) attempted unsuccessfully to meet with CRS leadership, CRS Chairman and Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, and other board members over several months before releasing the report.

After the apparent unwillingness of CRS and its governing body to discuss the concerns, the groups’ remaining recourse was the March 3 press conference called to share the results of the report.

“PRI has been trying for months to address these concerns through appropriate channels,” PRI President Stephen Mosher said. “We are now making our findings public in the hope that CRS will speedily enact credible reforms to ensure that such abuses never happen again.”

HLI Director of Mission Communications Stephen Phelan said at the press conference that his organization was part of releasing the report because of the unsuccessful efforts to meet, and while he expressed reluctance on the part of HLI toward taking part, they felt compelled to join with PRI and the Lepanto Institute because of their findings on CRS.

“We’ve read the reports, based on our own background in the area we find it to be very credible, and we’re very concerned that CRS’ current public explanation on the record cannot be true,” Phelan said. “I want to make that as clear as possible, what CRS has said about this cannot be true.”

“What makes it worse is that they’ve told the bishops this and now the bishops won’t talk to us about this,” he continued. “Again, forcing this out in the public.”

CRS issued its response to the allegations during the March 3 press conference, allowing PRI and the Lepanto Institute to respond at the event.

“After a careful review of the facts, the report's allegations unravel quickly,” the CRS statement said. “They are misleading, exaggerated, and untrue.”

Examples of what’s shown in the FOIA documents include CRS’s sub-partner, Africa Inland Church, indicating that it implemented eight modules (the full program) of Healthy Choices II through CRS-SAIDIA (Support and Assistance to Indigenous Implementing Agencies), and CRS’s sub-partner, Caritas Nyeri, indicating that it implemented Healthy Choices II, and that Healthy Choices II promoted “protected sexual intercourse,” “safe sex,” and “consistent condom use.”

The FOIA documents also show various results of the investigator’s findings, such as his being told by the CRS-Kenya secretary that CRS implemented HC2, that children he interviewed who had been through HC2 saying they had learned about contraception as a “healthy choice,” and CRS sub-partner MMAAK telling him they’d been advised by CRS “not to take Healthy Choices II to any Catholic school.” 

CRS stated in its response to the report it is false that it promoted condoms with its Healthy Choices 1 (HC1) program.

“CRS took the original Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthy Choices I program and changed it to remove all aspects that violated Church teaching,” it said. “We then implemented this revised version of the program. We could do this because of PEPFAR's conscience clause, which allows faith-based agencies like CRS to design publicly-funded AIDS programs that respect our religious convictions, including focusing on abstinence and fidelity. Our modified version was approved by the CDC and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

PRI President Stephen Mosher and Hichborn both replied that their report didn’t allege that CRS HC1 continued to push condom use. Mosher pointed out, as the PRI/Lepanto Institute report states, that the removal of condom promotion occurred only after complaints from local Catholics, and also the investigation did confirm that the Healthy Choices (HC2) did not remove the endorsement of condoms, hormonal contraception, and abortifacients.

“If CRS had bothered to carefully review the facts contained in the report,” Hichborn said, “it would have seen very quickly seen that the PRI/Lepanto Institute report indicated that the Healthy Choices I program was modified in order to remove the promotion of condoms.”

Further, the CDC was not mentioned in the PRI/Lepanto Institute report, as the government grant documentation reported on was from PEPFAR. The two government agencies work in concert, but the report did not include the CDC.

CRS also stated in its response that it is false that it and the CDC changed documents to cover up CRS’s involvement in distributing contraception.

“The CDC made an error in a report, incorrectly listing CRS as involved in a program related to contraception,” the CRS statement said. “We asked the CDC to correct their mistake on the report, which they did. The PRI/Lepanto claim that asking the CDC to correct their error constitutes a cover-up is simply absurd.”

The original document was produced by PEPFAR, not the CDC, Mosher replied. The original PEPFAR document states that CRS implemented HC 2, the later version removes all indication that CRS implemented HC 2, and then CRS claimed in its response that they implemented HC2, but without any reference to contraception. 

“All three of these things cannot be true,” Mosher told LifeSiteNews. “They can’t have it both ways.”

“CRS claims that the alteration of the PEPFAR document does not constitute a cover-up,” said Hichborn. “However, the removal of all mention of Healthy Choices II is neither consistent with the evidence, nor is it consistent with CRS's very next paragraph, which admits to implementing Healthy Choices II.”

“Either CRS implemented HC II or it did not,” he said. “If it did, then the PEPFAR document was falsified as we originally indicated.”

CRS states in its response that its implementing partners used only two of the four sections of HC2, “those two which were appropriate and in accordance with Church and CRS doctrine, and did not use the other sections, as they were deemed inappropriate.”

Yet, Mosher responded, PRI’s on-the-ground investigation and self-reporting by CRS acquired through the FOIA request indicate that CRS did implement Healthy Choices II as written, including the promotion of contraception. 

“Furthermore,” Hichborn said, “the on-the-ground investigator obtained the facilitator’s manual for Healthy Choices II from CRS’s sub-partner KWOSP (Kenya Widows And Orphans Support Programme), and this manual contains all of the contraception-promoting elements.”

CRS said in its response the dispensary referenced in the PRI/Lepanto report was one of several local partners under SAIDIA, and that “no CRS project funds were ever used to purchase or distribute condoms or artificial contraception.” CRS stated the dispensary’s work with CRS was “limited to antiretroviral and tuberculosis treatment and clearly in line with Church teaching.”

“According to the CRS-certified nurse at AIC Kalamba (dispensary),” Hichborn responded, “condoms were a part of the package, CRS knew it, and kept quiet about it.”

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CRS claimed in its response the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) Project referenced in the report was not operated under CRS, but was rather a separate project operated by the local organization, funded by another donor.

“This is completely false,” Hichborn countered. “We have dozens of pages of information obtained through a FOIA request, with CRS letterhead, indicating the number of individuals they reached with PMTC.”

Mosher concurred: “This blanket denial is especially concerning.”

CRS’s final rebuttal to the report was in regard to the investigator and more in the form of a disturbing charge in the direction of PRI and the Lepanto Institute.

“We are concerned that the ‘investigator’ misrepresented himself during his ‘research’ in Kenya,” the CRS reply stated. “He presented himself as a student doing research for his thesis when he visited CRS’ office and shared his CV. Such misrepresentation does not appear to comply with international standards on research that normally requires full disclosure on the purpose of research to all interviewees.”

“It is our sincere hope that international research standards were upheld during his interviews with children,” CRS said. “As young children were not only quoted, but photographed in this report.”

“This is what is colloquially referred to as ‘shooting the messenger,’ when you don't like his message,” Mosher responded. “Our investigator abided by the highest standards of investigative journalism.”

“Not only is this irrelevant, but the threatening tone of this statement is disgusting,” said Hichborn. “Why not just address what the investigator found?”

Mosher pointed out that PRI has a long history of conducting field research and that the investigator did not misrepresent himself. Additionally, Hichborn is formally trained in open source analysis.

“We are concerned that CRS is seeking to discredit us rather than address our concerns for constructive reform,” Mosher stated.

PRI, the Lepanto Institute, and HLI continue to call for review of CRS programs, and assurances that the necessary modifications be made to ensure that CRS’s assistance to those in need globally would be certain of an authentic Catholic foundation. 

“We recommend that the USCCB establish a review committee of outside experts to review all CRS programs,” Mosher said, “including representatives from countries like Kenya which have been adversely affected, to enact needed reforms.”

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One of the leading gay ‘marriage’ activists in Ohio faked his own abduction: police

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By Ben Johnson

CINCINNATI, OH, March 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the leading activists for gay “marriage” in Ohio faked his own abduction this week, causing an uproar that threatened to drain away precious resources from real emergencies, police say.

Adam Hoover, 20, is co-president of Marriage Equality Ohio, an LGBT pressure group promoting the redefinition of marriage in Ohio.

Hoover left his job at Chipotle on Monday evening. Hours later, around 12:30 Tuesday morning, he posted messages on his Facebook page and Twitter feed claiming that he had been kidnapped, stuffed inside the trunk of his car, and his captors were threatening to murder his entire family.

“Please help me I’m in the trunk of my ford escort red 2000,” he said, sending his license plate number, as well. “They said they are going to kill my family please call 911.”

Hoover said he had not called 911, because he was afraid his kidnappers would hear him talking and kill him.

"Please, please call,” he implored. “I don't want to die."

His friends and followers did just that, sharing his pleas under the hashtag #FindAdamHoover.

Local emergency personnel were “inundated with phone calls from friends and family,” according to Green Township Police Lieutenant Jim Vetter.

Emergency operators said anyone in that situation should dial them directly.

“If he’s in the trunk no one will hear him,” dispatchers told callers. “If he has a phone he can dial 911. You need to post that. Any phone can call 911. You cannot disable 911.”

Soon, police found his abandoned car in a country area, with Hoover nearby.

Hoover told Lt. Vetter that an armed man was waiting in the back seat of his car after he got off work. Somehow, he said, he escaped to a farmhouse and asked the strangers there for help.

Under the circumstances, Hoover appeared remarkably composed, Vetter said.

Officers charged Hoover with making false alarms, a first degree misdemeanor.

WCPO reported that “such events are troubling, because the sheer volume of calls could possibly prevent dispatchers from answering other emergencies.”

Lt. Vetter would not say what made Hoover allegedly make a false report, but alluded to “stresses” plaguing the Miami University student. “It’s…personal stuff,” the officer said. “It wouldn’t be fair to go into too much detail, but he’s a young man and as many young kids do, he’s dealing with some issues.”

Following the allegation that he caused a false panic, his friends in the homosexual activist movement are distancing themselves but hope to welcome Hoover back into the ranks of leadership soon. "In light of the recent controversy surrounding him, he is indefinitely suspended from posting on the page," Nicholas Wymer, the group's co-founder, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “While it is our hope that we can work past this issue, we are waiting until the issue settles to make a permanent decision."

Hoover, who is now 20, had been part of the political wing of the LGBT movement since he was 17. In addition to promoting gay “marriage,” Hoover recently fought for the transgender cause, collecting $2,200 for a memorial for “Leelah” Alcorn, a transgender teenage boy from Ohio who committed suicide. As of January, no work had begun on the proposed memorial, according to media outlets.

If he is found guilty, Hoover will be far from alone. Numerous homosexuals have reported “hate crimes” – and often had their cases celebrated in social media – only to be revealed as frauds.

In 2012, onetime college basketball great and lesbian activist Charlie Rogers faked a hate crime, carving a cross into her own chest. A year later, she was sentenced to seven days in jail, as well as probation and community service.

In August 2012, a homosexual in Montana, Joseph Baken, said three men beat him and called him anti-gay slurs as he was celebrating his 22nd birthday. But video surfaced of him doing a backflip and smacking his face on the pavement.

In November 2013, New Jersey waitress Dayna Morales story that a couple refused to tip her because she's a lesbian went viral, generating thousands of dollars of contributions from sympathetic readers. The couple later came forward with their receipt, which recorded their generous tip. Morales also claimed she would send donations to wounded veterans, but veterans groups recorded no such donations. Her friends have described her as a compulsive liar.

In 2012, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) threw a “solidarity rally” for 19-year-old Alexandra Pennell, a lesbian allegedly receiving hate notes. However, she planted the notes herself.

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That May, police in Colorado charged a lesbian couple with writing “Kill the Gay” on their own garage.

The most famous gay “hate crime,” the murder of Matthew Shepard by "homophobes," has also been exposed as little more than a robbery gone bad. The assailants were reportedly bisexual.

A significant number of hate crime hoaxes take place each year on both sexual and racial grounds.

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West Virginia passes 20-week ‘fetal pain’ abortion ban: overrides governor’s veto

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CHARLESTON, WV, March 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – West Virginia has become the 11th state to pass legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks today, as the state Senate voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's veto.

On Friday, the West Virginia state Senate voted to enact the pro-life protections by a vote of 22-5.

The House of Delegates voted to overturn Tomblin's veto on Wednesday, 77-16. Seven members did not vote or were absent.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.B. 2568) is set to become law 90 days after today's vote.

Only 51 state Delegates and 18 state Senators were needed to override the veto.

The state Senators who voted against enacting the pro-life law were: Sens. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Doug Facemire, D-Braxton; Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha; Mike Romano, D-Harrison; and Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.

“I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life,” Gov. Tomblin said as he announced he would attempt to kill the fetal pain bill – wording nearly identical to his veto of a similar bill last March. Tomblin said he based his veto on a consideration of the bill's “constitutionality.”

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards denounced the measure, which would prevent anyone in the state from subjecting a child to abortion after he or she can feel pain, as “cruel and dangerous.”

Pro-abortion activists doubled-down on that sentiment after today's vote. "Governor Tomblin was right to veto this callous, cruel and unconstitutional attack on health care for women facing complicated and sometimes dangerous situations in their lives and pregnancies," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is based in New York state. "With this action today, the politicians behind this law have revealed how far they are willing to go to advance their ideological agenda at the expense of women's rights, lives and safety.”

“They should be ashamed,” Northup added.

But national pro-life leaders applauded the legislators.

“We commend the members of the legislature who supported this bill for their courage and compassion by adding their voices in favor of protecting pain-capable unborn children who are unable to speak for themselves,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. “We condemn Governor Tomblin for his cowardice and indifference toward the innocent, unborn child who is capable of great suffering from the violence of abortion.”

They were also outraged by Tomblin's reference to revering life in his veto message. "Governor Tomblin cannot claim to be pro-life and then veto a bill that seeks to protect unborn children who can feel pain from abortions," said Karen Cross, National Right to Life political director."Unborn children who recoil from painful stimuli and who must routinely be given anesthesia when operated on will still be painfully killed in West Virginia because of the callousness demonstrated by Governor Tomblin."

While 10 other states have passed some form of fetal pain bill, the law is in effect in only eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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The Arkansas 20-week abortion ban was also enacted over the veto of a Democratic governor, Michael Beebe. Abortion advocates have attempted to halt the laws in the courts.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, has promised to defend the law from the anticipated legal challenges it will face. House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, told the Associated Press, “I frankly hope we don't have to try that out in court, but we'll see.”

This marks the first time since 1987 that West Virginia legislators have overturned a governor's veto.

The votes paralleled the bill's original passage. The House of Delegates passed the bill by an 82-12 vote on February 11, and the state Senate approved the pro-life bill by a 29-5 margin on February 25. 

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