Douglas Johnson, NRLC Legislative Director

Opinion

The Obama abortion agenda: the last four years

Douglas Johnson, NRLC Legislative Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. October 15, 2012 (NRLN) – Over the four years of Barack Obama’s presidency, substantial damage has been inflicted to longstanding pro-life policies. In addition, new programs have been created which, during the years ahead, will result in large-scale federal subsidies to health plans that pay for abortion, other federally driven expansions of abortion, and rationing of lifesaving medical care, unless remedial legislation is enacted.

In addition, Obama placed two strongly pro-abortion justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, during the last four years, additional pro-abortion initiatives have been deterred, blocked, or repaired by pro-life forces.

If pro-life Mitt Romney is elected president on November 6, we can begin to repair the worst damage, and to resume the previous progress towards increased protections for unborn children and other vulnerable members of the human family. But if President Obama is re-elected, the damage will be compounded tenfold.

In short: The last four years have been bad, but it could have been much worse–and if Barack Obama is given another four years in office, it will be.

Obama has now been in office through the entire 111th Congress (2009-2010) and through most of 112th Congress (2011-2012)–although the 112th Congress will not formally end until the conclusion of a short “lame duck” session after the November 6 general election.

Any knowledgeable and objective observer would agree that Barack Obama holds more extreme pro-abortion policy positions than any previous occupant of the White House, and that his pro-abortion ideology has led him to embrace specific policy positions that are at odds with the views and ethical instincts of the great majority of Americans–for example, in his opposition to bans on partial-birth abortions and sex-selection abortions.

Yet, over the past four years, Obama’s ability to advance his abortion-expansive agenda has been somewhat constrained by strong resistance by pro-life forces–who since January 2011 have controlled the U.S. House of Representatives–and by his desire to win a second term. If he wins re-election on November 6, the second factor will no longer inhibit him. The extent to which the Congress will continue to constrain him will be determined in substantial part by the results of the congressional elections.

The 2009-2010 Congress:

Obama’s Health Care Legislation

When Obama was sworn as president in January, 2009, the new Congress was made up of about three-fifths Democrats in both houses. Pro-abortion Democrats (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada) were in command in both chambers, and all of the most important committees were chaired by pro-abortion Democrats.

On his third day in office–the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand nationwide–Obama issued a formal statement reaffirming his commitment to defending that ruling, stating that “this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: That government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”

The statement was hardly surprising, coming from the man who just two years earlier, as a U.S. senator, had cosponsored the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA, S. 1173), a bill to invalidate virtually all state and federal limits on abortion, including the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

Early in the 2009-2010 Congress, Obama declared health care restructuring legislation to be a top priority. While campaigning for president, Obama had vowed that his “health care reform” legislation would require universal coverage of abortion, and the initial Democrat-sponsored health care bills would have fulfilled that pledge with provisions that would have effectively mandated elective abortion coverage in nearly all health insurance plans, including a giant “public plan” to be run directly by the federal government.

NRLC and other pro-life groups mounted strong resistance. In November, 2009, an NRLC-backed amendment to the health care legislation was adopted on the House floor, with the support of nearly all Republicans and one-fourth of the Democrats. The amendment (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment) would have prohibited federal subsidies for abortion under any component of the 1990-page legislation.

The health care bill–temporarily fixed on abortion, although not on rationing–was then sent to the Senate. Obama attacked the House’s adoption of the pro-life amendment, and worked with Senate Democratic Leader Reid to defeat a similar pro-life amendment in the Senate. As a consequence, in December 2009 the Senate approved a different version of the health care bill that contained multiple provisions to allow federal subsidies for abortion and health plans that cover abortion.

NRLC and other pro-life groups kept fighting against that legislation, urging the House not to approve the Senate-passed legislation, and delayed House approval of the bill for months.

Finally, however, in March 2010, a small group of House Democrats who had previously withheld support from the health care bill because of the pro-abortion provisions switched sides, saying they were satisfied with an executive order crafted by the White House. The White House presented the executive order to the public as preventing any federal subsidies for abortion under the bill–a sham largely accepted as factual by gullible organs of the mainstream news media.

The order was denounced by NRLC as “a transparent political fig leaf,” which fixed none of the multiple abortion-expansive provisions of the legislation, and was described by the president of Planned Parenthood as a “symbolic gesture.” However, a sufficient number of House Democrats embraced the charade to narrowly pass the bill, and the massive health care bill was enacted into law, although without the support of single Republican in either the House or the Senate.

Thanks to the tenacious resistance by NRLC and other pro-life forces, Obama did not end up with every abortion-expansive provision that he had originally sought. The final law does not mandate that all private health plans cover abortions, and it allows individual state legislatures to enact laws (now referred to as “opt-out laws”) to keep abortion coverage out of health plans sold through the government-administered “exchanges” that the federal law requires.

However, the legislation creates a new program under which scores of millions of Americans will receive subsidies from the federal Treasury to purchase health plans, including health plans that cover all abortions–a sharp break from decades of federal policy. Even if a citizen lives in a state in which the legislature has enacted legislation to specifically prohibit abortion coverage from being sold on that state’s exchange, that citizen cannot prevent his federal taxes from subsidizing the abortion-covering health plans in other states that do not pass such laws.

The health care law also contains multiple other provisions that empower the federal executive branch to expand subsidies for and access to abortion.

For example, a controversy that erupted in July 2010 provided further evidence that the new health care law allows abortion funding. NRLC discovered that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) had approved proposals to cover abortions that had been submitted by some states under one of the new federal programs created by the health care law, known as the “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan” or “high-risk pool program.” Under the ensuing glare of national media attention, the Obama Administration abruptly acted to exclude abortion coverage from that single program–while insisting that this action would not be a precedent for other programs. NRLC, the ACLU, and the White House all agreed that there was nothing in the health care law to prevent abortion coverage under the high-risk program.

(NRLC documented some of the major abortion-expansive provisions of the Obamacare law, and how they departed from decades of federal policy on abortion, in testimony presented to a House subcommittee in February 2011, available here.)

Supreme Court Appointments

During 2009 and 2010, President Obama nominated and won Senate confirmation of two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court–Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Based on their records, both justices are expected to vote on the pro-abortion side.

Obama nominated Sotomayor in 2009 to replace retiring Justice David Souter. For a period of 12 years (1980–1992), prior to becoming a judge, Ms. Sotomayor served on the governing board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), and for part of that time she was the chair of the PRLDEF Litigation Committee. During her tenure on the board, the PRLDEF was actively involved in litigation that attempted to persuade the Supreme Court to expand the judge-created “right to abortion,” often beyond what the Court was willing to embrace, including nullification of parental notification requirements and restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion.

Despite opposition from NRLC and other pro-life groups, Sotomayor won confirmation by a vote of 68-31.

In 2010, Obama nominated Kagan, then serving as U.S. solicitor general, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. In June, 2010, NRLC was the first group to call attention to documentation that Kagan, as a key member of the White House staff of President Bill Clinton, had played a central role in the successful effort to prevent enactment of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act during the Clinton Administration.

Despite opposition from NRLC and other pro-life groups, Kagan won confirmation by a vote of 63-37. Kagan was supported by 58 Democrats and by five Republicans. However, the 37 nay votes (36 of them cast by Republicans) was the largest number cast against a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee since the 19th century.

President Obama placed numerous other hard-core pro-abortion persons in powerful offices, including the lower federal courts. However, as Obama’s first term draws to a close, a substantial number of Obama’s judicial nominees remain unconfirmed, thanks to nearly unified opposition by Republican senators.

Executive Actions

Directly and through his political appointees, Obama also attacked pro-life policies through the use of Executive Branch powers.

Under Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, promotion of access to abortion has become a substantial component of U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. funds are flowing to many abortion-promoting entities overseas.

On his fourth day in office, Obama issued an executive order to rescind the pro-life “Mexico City Policy” which had been enforced by Republican presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. The effect of Obama’s order was to open the door to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. funding to private organizations that perform and promote abortion overseas.

Secretary of State Clinton openly proclaimed, at a 2009 House committee hearing, that “we are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care,” that “reproductive health includes access to abortion,” and that the Administration intends to advocate for this right “anywhere in the world.”

The Obama Administration urged the Senate to ratify a treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), that has been employed as a pro-abortion weapon to pressure nations to weaken or repeal laws. But strong opposition from NRLC and other pro-life forces ensured that the treaty could not muster the two-thirds vote required for ratification, and it was never brought to the Senate floor.

In March 2009 Obama signed an order allowing the federal National Institutes of Health to fund the type of stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

These and other pro-abortion executive actions by the Administration were not challenged by Congress during 2009-2010, due to both houses being in control of pro-abortion Democrats. Indeed, in response to a White House proposal, the Democratic congressional leadership rammed through legislation that lifted a longstanding ban on government funding of abortion in the District of Columbia.

The 2011–2012 Congress:

Pro-Life House, Pro-Abortion Senate

The November 2010 election results brought a major change to the power dynamic in Washington–pro-life Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.

The election brought a net shift of 63 House seats to the Republicans, giving them a 242-193 seat majority when the 112th Congress convened in January, 2013. All but a handful of the newly elected Republicans were pro-life. Pro-life Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) was sworn in as Speaker of the House, ending Nancy Pelosi’s four-year reign as speaker. Longtime pro-life champion Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was selected as majority leader.

The election also resulted in modest changes in the Senate. The Democrats remained in control, and remained under the direction of pro-abortion Majority Leader Harry Reid, but the election reduced the Democrat majority from 59-41 to 53-47. While Reid retained the power to largely set the agenda for the Senate, the diminished Democrat majority strengthened the ability of pro-life Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to block legislation and nominees objectionable to most Republicans–since it usually takes 60 votes to win adoption of a controversial bill, motion, or nomination in the Senate.

The first major bill brought to the House floor by the new Republican leadership was an NRLC-backed measure to completely repeal the Obama health care law (“Obamacare”). On January 19, 2011, the House passed the repeal bill (H.R. 2) by a vote of 245-189. Two weeks later, however, the Senate rejected a nearly identical measure on a straight party-line vote.

This essentially set the pattern for the entire 112th Congress. The House–with unified or nearly unified support from Republicans, joined by a small number of Democrats–passed measure after measure supported by NRLC. But all of them were either voted down outright in the Senate, or smothered without action by Reid.

These Senate-killed bills included:

– the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), which would establish a permanent, government-wide ban on federal subsidies for abortion, with narrow exceptions. The bill would supersede a patchwork of different laws limiting federal subsidies for abortion, many of which must be renewed each year because they are incorporated into annual appropriations bills. The House passed the bill 251-175, despite a formal veto threat issued by the White House. The Senate never voted on the House-passed bill or on the companion bill (S. 906) introduced by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Ms.).

– the “Protect Life Act” (H.R. 358), introduced by pro-life Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), a bill to prohibit pro-abortion subsidies and mandates in every component of the massive Obamacare law. The House passed the bill in October, 2011, 251-172, notwithstanding a formal veto threat issued by the White House. The Senate never voted on the House-passed bill or on the companion bill (S. 877) introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

– Legislation to block further federal funding, during Fiscal Year 2011–2012, for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. In the spring of 2011 the House approved such cutoffs twice, but the Senate voted 58-42 in favor of continued funding of Planned Parenthood. The issue was one of the last matters to be resolved in direct negotiations on an omnibus appropriations bill between House Speaker Boehner and President Obama. Obama indicated that he would block enactment of the government-wide funding bill–forcing a government shutdown–rather than agree to the House position that funding to Planned Parenthood should be curtailed. However, Obama did bow reluctantly to the House position in favor of restoring the longstanding ban on government funding of abortion in the District of Columbia, which had been lifted at the instigation of the White House in 2009.

During 2012, the House also conducted test votes on two other important pro-life measures, strongly supported by NRLC–both of which mustered substantial majorities on the House floor. However, the Senate failed to act on the identical companion bills. They were:

– The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 3541), which would prohibit the use of abortion to eliminate an unborn child because she is not of the sex desired by the parents. The House tally was 246-148 in favor of the bill. The White House issued a statement opposing the bill the day before a majority of the House voted for it, saying that the proposed ban would “intrude” on “private family matters.” The legislation was authored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.). The Senate companion bill (S. 3290) was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-La.).

– The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803). This bill would prohibit abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks fetal age, based on congressional findings that by that point – if not earlier – the child is capable of experiencing pain during an abortion. Currently, there is no law whatever limiting reasons for which abortion may be performed in the nation’s capital – abortion is legal, for any reason, until the moment of birth.

The House tally was 220-154 in favor of the bill. (See roll call vote, pages 18-20.)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney referred to the bill as “controversial, divisive social legislation” and suggested that Congress should not be wasting its time on it.

The bill, based on an NRLC model that has already been enacted in eight states, was introduced by Congressman Franks in the House, and in the Senate by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) as S. 2103.

Assaults on Conscience Rights

In 2011, the Obama Administration rescinded (nullified) a Bush Administration rule to help protect health care providers who are threatened with penalties for refusing to participate in providing abortions.

In 2012, the Obama Administration employed one provision of the Obamacare law to issue a new mandate (technically, a “final rule”) that most employer-sponsored health plans must pay for all FDA-approved methods of birth control, including both drugs and sterilization procedures. The mandate sparked strong protests from the Catholic Church and from many religiously affiliated colleges, employers, and other institutions.

Pro-life members of Congress responded, proposing new legislation to amend the Obamacare law so that it could not be used to force coverage of drugs and procedures contrary to conscience or religious belief. This legislation, strongly supported by NRLC, was offered by pro-life Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as an amendment to unrelated bill, but it failed, 51-48, on March 1, 2012.

In the House, the same legislation was proposed by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Ne.) as H.R. 1179, and gained 224 cosponsors–a majority of the House. But in view of the Senate’s rejection of the identical legislation and the certitude of an Obama veto, the House bill never came to the floor for a vote.

The Obama mandate has been challenged by a host of lawsuits, which remain unresolved.

Not content only to block the pro-life initiatives advanced by the House, pro-abortion members of the Senate made multiple attempts to win Senate approval of bills to roll back various longstanding pro-life policies—but these were blocked by pro-life senators in cooperation with NRLC. (See, for example, the account of the successful pro-life effort to block a funding bill containing multiple pro-abortion provisions, in “Pro-life House and Pro-abortion Senate Divided,” Fall 2011 NRL News, page. 1.)

Reprinted with permission from National Right to Life News. The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author only.



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BREAKING: In historic meeting Pope, Russian Patriarch decry abortion, defend traditional marriage

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Feb. 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A joint declaration signed by both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, issued today after their historic meeting in the Havana Cuba airport issues a strong call for the defense of life and family. 

The declaration commenced with a wish to reestablish Christian unity, stating a “determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited.”

The religious leaders expressed the wish to combine the efforts of Orthodox and Catholics “to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world” since “human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change.”

"We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."

After discussing the violent Christian persecution underway in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pope and Patriarch turned their attention to the West. “At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them.”

“In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom,” they said. “It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.”

The declaration expresses concern about the “crisis in the family in many countries” and notes “Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family.”

“The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman,” it says. “We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”

Marriage, they said, “is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.” It is “a school of love and faithfulness.” Love, says the declaration, seals the union of the husband and wife “and teaches them to accept one another as a gift.”

The Pope and Patriarch called for an end to abortion. “We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life,” said the declaration. “Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).”

The declaration also condemned euthanasia and immoral reproductive technologies, which would include IVF and destructive research on human embryos.

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

The declaration decries the persecution of Christians, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.” 

They called on the international community to act urgently since “churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”  With “pain” they called to mind “the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

They specifically called on all Christians to pray that may “not permit a new world war.”

 

The complete text of the joint declaration follows:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the  Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way.  The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate.  Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.  It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
 
Francis                                  Kirill
Bishop of Rome                      Patriarch of Moscow 
Pope of the Catholic Church    and all Russia



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Congress subpoenas StemExpress, notorious late-term abortion facility in body parts investigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood has declared itself innocent - but it forgot to consult Congress.

The special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, announced on Thursday night that it is issuing subpoenas to three organizations involved in the possible trafficking of human organs.

StemExpress, the company that partnered with Planned Parenthood to extract tissue and organs from aborted babies' cadavers, is the most conspicuous of the three.

Former StemExpress technician Holly O'Donnell described how a technician restarted an aborted baby's heartbeat, then told her to cut through the child's face to harvest his brains.

The National Institutes of Health paid StemExpress thousands of dollars for fetal tissue samples, records show.

Undercover videos depict the biotech company's CEO, Cate Dyer, boasting, "I have a picture from Hillary" Clinton on her desk. In another video, she jokes about shipping the fully intact bodies of aborted babies to unsuspecting lab technicians.

StemExpress publicly cut ties with Planned Parenthood last August.

The University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options have come under investigation after it became clear the university had a close relationship with one of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionists to receive aborted babies' tissues and organs for scientific experiments.

Last year, investigators discovered that the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center obtained its samples from SWO, where Dr. Curtis Boyd is one of a handful of people in the nation willing to perform abortions in the third trimester.

University officials told the Albuquerque Journal they had no documentation of the specifics of arrangement - how many organs Boyd supplied, for instance. But the New Mexico Alliance for Life uncovered a document containing the information.

"Fetal liver and kidney samples were obtained 15 minutes after termination from six fetuses ranging from 12 to 22 weeks gestation," the document states.

The group questions whether he changed the abortion technique to obtain the greatest number of organs, and whether he employed the illegal partial birth abortion method.

As part of the arrangement Dr. Boyd, who was deemed "faculty" in university documents, also trained UNM students in his industry. The university later ended that program.

All three organizations had been asked to comply with the Congressional investigation but had failed to do so voluntarily, according to the panel's chairwoman.

“By failing to fully cooperate with our investigation, these organizations have compelled our panel to subpoena these documents in order to acquire information that is vital to the completion of our work,” said the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN. “Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry."

"We cannot leave questions unanswered,” she said.

StemExpress has stonewalled before, seeking a legal injunction forbidding David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from releasing undercover footage of its CEO. A judge in California ruled against the company last summer.

Meanwhile, New Mexico pro-life leaders welcome the focus on their state.

"The fact that UNM HSC disbanded its late-term abortion resident program at SWO is a tacit acknowledgement of guilt in violating their own policies, procedures and blatant misuse of public trust and funds," said Elisa Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Life. "The flimsy agreement between UNM and late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd, signed by UNM's Dr. Eve Espey, appears to be constructed to conceal the potential sale of late-term baby body parts to UNM, which to date, has withheld any documentation as to the compensation of Curtis Boyd, the compensation of residents and any record of their late-term baby body parts inventory."



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Clinton and Sanders commit to fund abortion worldwide by gutting the Helms amendment

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed a key pillar of the population control agenda, for the first time pledging to "fix" a U.S. law prohibiting foreign aid from funding abortion overseas.

Hillary Clinton makes the new promise in a new video posted online by the Population Connection Action Fund, formerly Zero Population Growth.

An unidentified activist for the group asks if the former Secretary of State will "help fix the Helms Amendment" - a 1973 law that blocks federal dollars from paying for abortion “as a method of family planning" overseas.

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm on record on that," Clinton replies on the video, which was publicized by The Huffington Post.

She continues, "One of the reasons why I -" before abruptly interrupting herself and giving the activist a thumbs-up as the video ends.

Despite her comment, Clinton had not publicly said she would change the way the law is implemented in any way. In an Iowa town hall meeting last November, she said she would "we have to take a look at this for conflict zones" where rape is used as a weapon, but held out the possibility that a future government "maintains our prohibition."

Her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, went further, promising to fund global abortion providers by executive order.

“Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment,” Arianna Jones, Sanders' deputy communications director, told The Huffington Post. “As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions for American women except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

The question is the latest in an ongoing attempt to siphon money from the U.S. Treasury into the hands of abortionists, at home and abroad.

While the late Sen. Jesse Helms, who was staunchly pro-life, intended to prevent taxpayers from underwriting abortion, population control advocates and others who promote abortion say the law he authored never did that - but three Democratic presidents somehow missed that fact.

"The restriction has been wrongly implemented by all eight presidential administrations since its inception, as a total ban on abortion care," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Feminist activists and non-governmental organizations like the Global Justice Center have lobbied President Obama to reinterpret the rule and fund abortion for African women raped by Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the region.

Although President Obama shown little restraint in recasting the law - for instance, claiming that civil rights laws banning sexual discrimination apply to transgender people - he has declined to do so in this case.



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