Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Susan B. Anthony List has criticized presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s recent remarks about his stand on partial birth abortion. The pro-life group argues that he knows his actual record on abortion doesn’t “resonate with everyday American voters.”
According to the Susan B. Anthony List, Obama is a co-sponsor of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which would allow taxpayer funding of abortions and reportedly nullify almost all state and federal limits on abortion. He has publicly pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as his first presidential action.
As a state legislator, Obama also opposed the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which is intended to protect babies who survive abortions. He voted against the legislation twice and “present” once – effectively a “no” vote.
He has also criticized the Gonzales v. Carhart Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth abortion ban. “I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman's right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women,” he has said.
"Barack Obama knows his extreme record on abortion doesn't resonate with everyday American voters, so now he's trying to soften his image," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a press release. She thinks such a strategy will not work.
Obama reportedly has a zero percent approval rating with the National Right to Life Committee and a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, while the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has also recently endorsed his presidential candidacy.
Responding to CNA in an e-mail, Susan B. Anthony List spokeswoman Joy Yearout said many voters know Obama supports abortion, but do not know the extent of his support.
She noted that Obama has said that passing the Freedom of Choice Act would be his “number one legislative priority.”
“In essence,” Yearout explained, “it would allow abortion at any time, for any reason, and paid for by American tax dollars. ‘Freedom of Choice’ sounds nice -- unfortunately it would mean death for thousands of unborn babies and pain for their mothers. And Obama would sign it first thing.”
Yearout thought that Obama is successfully balancing his extreme pro-abortion position with his need to appear moderate.
“He talks the abortion talk to Planned Parenthood rallies and usually avoids talking about it anywhere else,” she told CNA. “Many predicted he would use the abortion issue to reach out to supporters of Hillary Clinton -- but he isn't. He knows his extreme abortion position only appeals to a small slice of the electorate. Your everyday American woman doesn't believe abortion should be taxpayer-funded and available for any reason at any time.”
Legislative action at the state level, Yearout said, has even tended to add more restrictions on abortion, not fewer.
“Barack Obama would roll back every pro-life success of the last thirty years,” she argued. “Obama's advocacy for an extreme abortion agenda would be tragic for women and their unborn children.”
Ontario, Canada, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - At least 850 couples promised a lifelong commitment to their marriages at the Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Ontario, California by signing a five by eight foot banner bearing in large print the words “Forever Yours.”
Participants had met in Ontario to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the grass roots Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement, which has spread to 90 countries.
About 2,000 people participated in the meeting including 850 married couples, 250 children, 70 priests, and several bishops from the San Diego and San Bernardino dioceses.
Tony and Cathy Witczak and Father Emile Frische, the United States leadership team of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, explained the signing, saying “This is a way for us to reinforce the permanence of our marriage vows and the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony.”
The banner also included a statement supporting the sacrament of Holy Orders, while the signatories also affirmed their belief in traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
The typical Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend begins on a Friday evening and ends on Sunday afternoon. Participating spouses hear presentations by a couple and a priest and later write their thoughts and feelings to share with each other in the privacy of their room.
The weekends are held in various locations like hotels and retreat centers across the United States.
Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, citing his 100 percent pro-abortion rating. The presidential endorsement is only the organization’s second in its history.
"The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is proud to endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States," said Action Fund President Cecile Richards. "He is a passionate advocate for women's rights, and has a long and consistent record of standing up for women's health care.”
“As president, he will improve access to quality health care for women, support and protect a woman's right to choose, support comprehensive sex education to keep our young people healthy and safe, and invest in prevention programs, including family planning services and breast cancer screenings."
Anne Brewer, coordinator for the Women for Obama organization within the Obama campaign, reported on her blog that on Monday Obama held a conference call with Planned Parenthood Action Fund members from across the country. According to Brewer, in the conference call Obama said, "As president I'll make sure women have access to affordable health care, including affordable reproductive services. I thank you for your endorsement and your leadership."
“This marks only the second time in Planned Parenthood's history that the Action Fund has made an endorsement in a presidential campaign,” Brewer said on her blog, according to Cybercast News Service. She said the board of the national Planned Parenthood Action Fund voted unanimously to recommend endorsing Obama. The board’s recommendation was ratified by Planned Parenthood’s local action organizers, which Brewer said “represent the interests of all 100 Planned Parenthood affiliates.”
Brewer also noted that Obama supports the Freedom of Choice Act, which she said “would codify and protect a woman’s right to choose.” She attacked Obama’s presumptive opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, saying he “has a zero percent voting record on women's reproductive health and has stated he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union responded to the endorsement by emphasizing that Planned Parenthood disproportionately aborts black unborn children.
“By kowtowing to the abortion industry Obama proves he is just another politician, as he purposely overlooks the fact that 63 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 860 clinics are in African-American communities,”
Gardner said, according to Cybercast News Service. “Even though blacks comprise only 13% of the population, they make up over 36% of all abortions done in this country.”
Gardner then cited a quotation by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger that advocated making a religious appeal to black Americans through ministers ‘with engaging personalities.’
‘The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,’ Gardner quoted Sanger as saying.
London, England, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Rt. Reverend Andrew Burnham, the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, has made public his plans to come into communion with the Roman Catholic Church and bring his flock with him. His move follows the Church of England’s decision on Monday to allow women bishops to be ordained.
In a column published in the Catholic Herald, Bishop Burnham explains that the move is the result of seeing traditionalist Anglicans denied any sort of special provisions in the Monday vote on women being ordained bishops.
Reacting to the news of debate taking place on Monday, Bishop Burnham said in a message, “I was aware that, in York, my job description was being demolished almost as I spoke.”
Bishop Burnham is one of three bishops in the Church in England that are officially called Provincial Episcopal Visitors but are more commonly known as “flying bishops.” These bishops oversee parishes that refuse to recognize women priests and now women bishops.
He also described the reasons that traditionalist Anglicans are leaving as “not motivated in the least by gender issues but by a keenness to pursue Catholic unity and truth.”
“For them,” the bishop said, “the decision of the Church of England to proceed to the ordination of women bishops without providing adequately for traditionalists renders the claims of the Church of England to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church shaky or simply untenable.”
The General Synod that approved the ordination of women bishops is planning to draft a code of practice designed to accommodate those who won’t accept women bishops, but Bishop Burnham said, “Codes of practice are shifting sands. The sacramental life of the Church must be built on rock.”
"How could we trust a code of practice to deliver a workable ecclesiology if every suggestion we have made for our inclusion has been turned down flat?"
George Pitcher, the editor of The Daily Telegraph’s religion section, described the Monday’s synod vote, saying, "Make no mistake, the Anglo-Catholics were done over." The Synod, wrote Pitcher, is like a mafia movie "where the luckless are stabbed in the back while they're being hugged."
Speculation is circulating that Bishop Burnham’s decision could trigger an exodus of traditionalists who believe they no longer have a place in the Church of England. When the Church decided to approve women priests in 1992, hundreds of clergy and laity flocked to Rome and 1,300 clergymen have threatened to leave over the recent approval of women bishops.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Bishop Burnham said he has not yet begun the process of his personal conversion because he is waiting for a formal response from the Vatican about the possibility of special provisions to allow his 120 parishes in the south of England to continue using their churches and possibly some Anglican prayers, if they convert.
Bishop Burnham has called for help from the Catholic Church and the Pope to help Anglo-Catholics cross the Tiber. “What we must humbly ask for now is for magnanimous gestures from our Catholic friends, especially from the Holy Father, who well understands our longing for unity, and from the hierarchy of England and Wales.”
Damian Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald and a lead writer for the newspaper, Daily Telegraph, reports that the Rt. Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough and Bishop Andrew Burnham both flew to Rome for discussions about joining the Catholic Church.
The situation now is quite different between Rome and traditionalist Anglicans due to Pope Benedict’s desire to renew the sacredness of the liturgy and his openness to Anglo-Catholics, says Thompson.
Thompson also delivers a valuable history lesson for Catholics wondering why the Anglicans are asking for a deal to come into the Catholic Church en masse. He explains that “in the mid-1990s, after the Church of England ordained women priests, many Anglo-Catholics drew back from union with the Holy See because the Bishops of England and Wales were so unwelcoming, and because they were so depressed by the low standard of liturgy in our parishes.”
The potential influx of Anglo-Catholics could bring many benefits to the Catholic Church, Thompson writes in his opinion column. “The treasures our new brethren will bring with them - a poetic and contemplative spirituality, glorious prayers, fine music - will permanently enrich the Catholic Church in England; they belong to us all.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - The British Library, the Monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai, the National Library of St. Petersburg, the University Library of Leipzig, and other institutions are collaborating to put online the entire Sinaiticus Codex, the oldest complete New Testament text and “one of the testimonies on which our knowledge of Biblical Greek is based.”
In an interview with the Vatican newspaper, Franceso D’Auito, professor of Philology and Byzantine History at Rome’s Tor Vergata University and a specialist in ancient and Medieval Greek manuscripts of the Bible, explained that the work so far has been a joint effort between the British Library, the Monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai, the National Library of St. Petersburg, the University Library of Leipzig, and other contributors.
D'Auito said the project should be completed in 2010, when the entire Codex will be available online, free of charge, for any user to access.
He pointed out the importance of the Sinaiticus Codex, which “is one of the few very ancient manuscripts that are the basis of all of our Greek editions of the Bible. Copied in four columns (in two poetic books), it also contains two patristic texts: the Letter of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermus.”
Together with the Vaticanus Codex and Alexandrinus Codex, the Sinaiticus Codex “allows us to get as close as possible to the date of the translation from Hebrew to ancient Greek,” said D’Auito.
Rome, Italy, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Civil Court of Appeals in Milan ruled this week that the father of Eluana Englaro, an Italian woman who has been in a vegetative state for 16 years after a car accident in 1992, can discontinue the food and hydration that is keeping her alive, which would condemn her to the same agonizing death suffered by the American Terri Schiavo.
The 37 year-old Eluana is from the town of Lecco. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been fighting the courts for 10 years to remove her feeding tubes, arguing that this would have been his daughter’s wish.
The court has ruled Eluana’s condition is “irreversible” and that she may be denied food and hydration. Her father has the option of asking doctors to pull her feeding tubes immediately or to wait until the 60-day period for the state to appeal the ruling has expired.
Adriano Pessina, Director of the Atheneum Center of Bioethics at the Catholic University of Milan, called the ruling a “grave decision” that ignores the principle that human life is not disposable as well as the duty of civil society to not legitimize the denial of therapeutic treatment to citizens who are not able to care for themselves.
The patient’s guardian is thus given true life or death power over the person entrusted to him, contradicting the meaning of guardianship itself, he said. “It is inconceivable that the best thing for someone could be death, which must never be treated as a good that should be protected,” Pessina explained.
“Suspending ordinary treatment such as that which is given to a patient in a vegetative state on the basis of ruling that has no clinical foundation” does not take into account “the fundamental duty to care for patients who are not capable of understanding the decision or desiring it,” he added.
Pessina said the ruling legitimized euthanasia and that it was unacceptable to define the life of someone who is in a vegetative state as “purely biological.” “Human consciousness does not define personal identity but rather simply manifests it. For this reason, the care of persons in a vegetative state is a duty,” he said.
“We hope this ruling is not implemented and we again ask Mr. Beppino Englaro to allow Eluana to continue to live,” Pessina said, noting that other parents caring for vegetative persons will be greatly impacted by the outcome.
Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo, reacted to the news of the court ruling by expressing his sympathy for the Englaro family’s situation. “Our heart goes out to this family as we know very well the profound affect that these types of injuries can have on loved ones.”
Yet, Schindler said that ending Eluana’s life is not the solution and called on those responsible for her to remember that “we have a grave obligation to do all we can to protect those with disabilities, recognizing that a person with a brain injury is a human being with an inherent dignity and a right to life.”
“This young girl needs only food and water and her family’s love to survive. At the very least this should be provided to her,” Schindler said.
Vienna, Austria, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - Human Life International is asking for prayers in response to the “vile attacks” in Vienna, Austria, against pro-life demonstrators by assailants who are being paid to harass them by the owners of abortion clinics. Pro-life demonstrators who are sidewalk counseling outside the clinics have been sexually assaulted, and some of the attacks have been captured on video.
According to HLI, the peaceful pro-life protestors are enduring “vile attacks and pressure tactics” solely for praying in front of the Gynmed abortion clinic run by Dr. Christian Fiala.
Fiala is president of the International Federation of Associated Abortion and Contraception Professionals and is one of the leading proponents of abortion in Europe.
He admitted to local reporters that “agents” had been hired to harass pro-lifers. “For defensive reasons I have contracted agents on repeated occasions to stop the activity of anti-abortion activists,” he recently told the Der Standard newspaper.
Father Phillip Reilly of the organization Helpers of God’s Precious Infants—which promotes peaceful protests outside abortion clinics—deplored the attacks, which he called “physical and sexual harassment that is truly immoral.”
HLI has asked Catholics around the world to pray for pro-lifers as police in Austria “have done nothing to detain these attacks against peaceful protesters.” The organization also asked for letters to be sent in English to Austrian officials.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - A Brazilian woman has given birth to a baby boy who developed outside her womb. Despite the possibility of being aborted out of concern for the life of the mother, Valdir Gabriel was born healthy, and both mother and child are recovering normally.
Gabriel was born at a Sao Paulo hospital at eight months, the second child of Maria Benedita. Five months into her pregnancy she discovered the baby was developing outside her womb, in an area next to the stomach.
Experts say such cases occur in 1 in 40,000 pregnancies, with only a five percent chance of survival for the baby.
The case of Maria Benedita was even more complicated, since she was above the age of 40. Nevertheless, she decided to save her baby.
“We overcame, thanks be to God. We never turned back,” she said of her decision not to abort.
The child developed in a space between the stomach and the uterus and was protected by a layer of fat that surrounded the placenta, serving as a substitute for the uterus.
Doctors said the baby was conceived in the fallopian tubes and was never implanted in the uterus. Brazilian pro-life groups have pointed to the case of Gabriel as another testimony that life begins at conception and that drugs that prevent implantation are in reality abortifacients.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - A group of pro-life African-American pastors and other leaders plans this coming Monday to ask the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to join them in demanding that over $300 million in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood be stopped. Ms. Day Gardner, one of the leaders of the effort, charges that Planned Parenthood is a “racist organization” which has “bought off” presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
The group includes NAACP delegate Loretta Grier, Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Levon Yuille of the National Black Pro-Life Caucus, and Alveda King, niece of the civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Explaining their motives in a press release, they argue that Planned Parenthood should be defunded for reasons like the revelation earlier this year that a Planned Parenthood development director was willing to accept a donation from an actor posing as a racist donor. In his call to the fundraiser, the supposed donor claimed he wanted to target black babies for abortions.
The group also cites Alan Guttmacher Institute and Center for Disease Control statistics showing that a “huge majority” of abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. They further cite investigations of Planned Parenthood in Kansas for falsifying documents and preparing illegal late-term abortions and also note accusations that California Planned Parenthood has defrauded taxpayers of over $180 million.
Speaking in a phone interview with CNA, coalition member Day Gardner, founder and president of the National Black Pro-Life Union explained the NAACP’s stand on abortion.
“The NAACP takes the ‘position of no position,’ and of course we know that if you don’t come out for or against something, usually you’re for it,” she stated.
The demonstrators’ presence at the NAACP convention, Gardner explained, aimed to bring attention to abortion issues in the black community.
“It’s necessary to state what a lot of America does not know, especially Black America,” she said. “In the African-American community we’ve lost more than 17 million children to abortion.”
She said the demonstration would bring to light “the fact that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization,” citing the YouTube videos depicting Planned Parenthood fundraisers who were what Gardner described as “happy and excited” to take donations from racist donors.
Describing Planned Parenthood as a “billion-dollar organization,” Gardner said one-third of the organization’s funding came from taxpayer monies.
Last month, she noted, her coalition demonstrated at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committee headquarters, demanding candidates refuse campaign donations from Planned Parenthood.
Day Gardner said her coalition has sent letters to Senator Barack Obama regarding what she called Planned Parenthood’s “racist past” and present day activities which she said included “planting these abortion facilities in our neighborhoods and targeting African-American girls and women.”
According to Gardner, the coalition has also asked Sen. Obama to refuse any money from Planned Parenthood.
However, she noted, Planned Parenthood has recently endorsed Obama, lamenting that “he is accepting of, and happy about, that endorsement.”
“He is not on board with us at all,” Gardner said. “He knows what this racist organization does, but money is more important to him. Basically they’re buying him off and his hard work.”
Bern, Switzerland, Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - A Swiss proposal to ban the construction of minarets, the thin towers on mosques used to make calls to prayer, has collected 115,000 signatures in support. Under Swiss law, a group can request a binding national referendum if it collects 100,000 signatures.
The proposal campaign is led by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest party in the Swiss parliament. According to BBC News, the SVP argues that the minaret is not needed for worship and is in fact a symbol of Islamic law, being therefore incompatible with the Swiss constitution.
Buildings with minarets, the SVP claims, symbolize a “political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights.” Islam, they argue, “places religion above the state and... completely contradicts the federal constitution.”
There are about 350,000 Muslims in Switzerland, many of whom reportedly have been shocked by the campaign.
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has said the government will oppose the proposal.
In a statement the Federation of Churches called the proposal “inappropriate.”
“Polarization is a bad thing. We should be working on integration,” the federation said.
By law Switzerland is a secular state with constitutional guarantees of freedom of religious expression to all.
However, Swiss mosques reportedly tend to be confined to disused warehouses and factories. In the Swiss capital of Bern the largest mosque uses a former underground parking garage.
There are two small minarets in the country, one in Zurich and one in Geneva. Neither one can be used to make the Muslim call to prayer.
Front Royal, Va., Jul 10, 2008 (CNA) - Due to efforts by the Population Research Institute, for the seventh consecutive year, the U.S. government has decided to withhold nearly $40 million from the UN Population Fund. The decision honors the Kemp-Kasten amendment of 1985 which prohibits tax dollars from funding forced abortion programs.
As the organization that exposed the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), PRI released a statement applauding the Bush administration for their decision.
Over the past several years, PRI has sent investigators to China who discovered that UNFPA was operating in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment through their involvement in programs of forced abortion and coercive sterilization in China.
When President Bush was informed of PRI’s findings in 2001, he decided to redirect $34 million from UNFPA’s family-planning programs and instead fund programs emphasizing child survival and anti-trafficking efforts.
Since PRI’s discovery in China, President Bush has not allowed funds to support UNFPA for the past seven years, totaling $235 million.
President of PRI, Steve Mosher explained that the UNFPA has still not changed its position. "The evidence demonstrates that the UNFPA continues to aid and abet China's barbaric one-child policy. It doesn't deserve one penny of U.S. money."