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Archbishop of Erbil: Is the US abandoning Christians at risk in Iraq?

Erbil, Iraq, May 17, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Bashar Warda, one of the leading voices on behalf of persecuted and displaced Christians in Iraq, released today an urgent statement regarding the retreat of U.S. personnel from key areas in the country.

“We are gravely concerned regarding the recent draw down of the U.S. presence in Iraq,” the archbishop said. “Having faced genocide at the hands of ISIS, our shattered communities have drawn immense hope from the promise of the American commitment to Iraqi minority communities spearheaded by the Vice President.”

Warda, as Archbishop of Erbil in the Kurdistan region, received tens of thousands of Christian and Yazidi refugees displaced from the Nineveh Plain after ISIS took large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in 2012.

“The 2011 pullout by the last administration created the vacuum which allowed ISIS to emerge,” the archbishop said. “A new vacuum created by American disengagement will likely meet with a similarly unhappy result. We urgently await clarification from the U.S. government concerning its commitments to the endangered minorities of Iraq.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of all non-emergency U.S. government employees at the American embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil. The Trump administration said the order was given in relation to a threat connected to Iran. Iraqi authorities have expressed doubt about the threat. U.S. lawmakers have asked President Donald Trump for more information about the situation.

Stephen Rasche, counsel for the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, told CNA that Archbishop Warda is responding to this partial evacuation.

“We are responding particularly today to unclear information over the past several days from various sources within the U.S. government that the U.S. is preparing to pull back, at least in part, from its prior commitments regarding support to endangered minorities in Iraq,” Rasche said.

Rasche said that Christians and other minorities are increasingly nervous because “the Church in Iraq has yet to receive a clear statement from anyone in the U.S. Government as to what the drawdown of personnel means for efforts to help these minorities.”

On October 25, 2017, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence committed to defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

He told a crowd gathered in Washington D.C. for the annual summit of In Defense of Christians (IDC) that the US “will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups.”

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need,” Pence also said.

Pope Francis tells medical professionals to defend life

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Friday encouraged medical professionals to defend and promote life, highlighting the practice of conscientious objection in today’s healthcare environment.

“Defend and promote life, starting from those who are most defenseless or in need of assistance because they are sick, or elderly, or marginalized,” Pope Francis said May 17.

The pope met with the Italian Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers in Vatican’s apostolic palace and encouraged their commitment to pro-life healthcare.

The pope stressed that just because a medical technique is technologically possible does not mean it is necessarily ethical.

“Any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be evaluated carefully to see if it actually respects life and human dignity,” he said.

“The practice of conscientious objection … can be a sign for the healthcare environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients and their families,” he explained.

Francis said that in extreme cases where human life is endangered, conscientious objection based on one’s ethical convictions should be sought with respect and humility in order to prevent understandings.

“Always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours,” he advised.

Pope Francis critiqued the “corporatization” of healthcare systems today, commenting that healthcare workers must treat patients as people, not numbers.

“Its corporatization … has fundamentally changed the approach to illness and to the patient himself with its preference for efficiency often preceding attention to the person, who needs to be understood, listened to and accompanied, as much as he needs a correct diagnosis and effective treatment,” Francis said.

He said that this corporatization also has an effect on medical workers leading to “burnout,” with many struggling to cope with long work shifts and a stressful working environment.

To guard against these pressures, Francis emphasized the importance of prayer and prioritizing one’s own spiritual life, commenting that this is what sustained the many dedicated saints who served the sick with love.

“To keep your spirit alive, I urge you to be faithful to prayer and to nourish yourselves with the Word of God: always with the Gospel in your pocket,” the pope advised.

“Healing, among other things, passes not only from the body, but also from the spirit.”

Despite religious freedom concerns, House passes Equality Act

Washington D.C., May 17, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed the controversial Equality Act on Friday, amid heated opposition from those who argue it would pose serious threats to critical constitutional freedoms.

“This bill undermines human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Americans deserve better than the profound inequality that this intolerant, deceptively titled legislation offers.”

In a May 17 statement, Waggoner said the legislation would harm women.

“It undermines women’s equality by denying female athletes fair competition in sports, depriving women of business opportunities designed for them, and forcing them to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female,” she said.

Waggoner added that the legislation would force Americans to participate in events and message that go against their deepest convictions.

“Many activists want to con Americans into believing that disagreement on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality is a form of discrimination that requires the government to enforce one view over another, but that is obviously wrong,” she said.

The House approved the bill by a 236-173 vote. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Seven Democrats refrained from voting for or against.

The legislation would add anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to existing protections for race, color, national origin, sex, disability and religion.

It would apply not just to employment, but other areas like housing, jury duty, credit, and education, as well as at retail stores, emergency shelters, banks, transit and pharmacies, among others. It would also specify facility access for self-identified transgender persons, such as access to male and female bathrooms.

Critics have argued that the bill’s concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity are too broad and would penalize the appropriate recognition of difference between the sexes or differences between married heterosexual couples and other couples.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the measure in a March 20 letter. They said that while they support efforts to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect, the legislation would fail to advance those goals and would instead harm society.

“The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” they said. “Furthermore, the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person – who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it – and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications. Conflating the two will introduce a plethora of further legal complications.”

The bishops also warned that the Equality Act would harm free speech, conscience, and exercise of religion. It would require that homeless shelters place biological men with vulnerable women and adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, even if this violates their beliefs and the birth mother’s wishes. It could threaten professionals in the wedding industry who will serve all customers but cannot express messages to which they object. And it would require health professionals to provide “gender transition” treatments and surgeries in violation of their medical and ethical judgments, they said.

Furthermore, the Equality Act would exempt itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a move that the bishops noted is “unprecedented.”

The Equality Act now moves to the GOP-led Senate. Supporters of the bill will need to pick up more than a dozen Republican votes to advance the legislation. President Donald Trump has said that he opposed the measure, but has not indicated whether he would veto it if it came to his desk.

Pro-life activists call for acquittal of doctor who refused to perform abortion in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Argentina have called for the acquittal of Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, whose trial started May 13 in Rio Negro Province in Argentina for refusing to perform an abortion.

Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19 year old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, a drug administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate  the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

However, Rodríguez and Dr. Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.

Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued since the professional had allegedly stopped an abortion in progress.

Organizations including CitizenGo Argentina, Lawyers for Life, Doctors for Life, the March for Life, Medical Students for Life and Independent Federal Women delivered on May 14 more than 50,000 digital signatures calling for the acquittal of the doctor to Judge  Álvaro Meynet and Governor Alberto Wereltineck.

“It is obvious that the accusation made by provincial representative Marta Milesi, who is an abortion activist, seeks to intimidate doctors into doing abortions, even when these pregnancies are advanced,” the letter they delivered states.

“Dr. Rodríguez Lastra fulfilled his duty and the Hippocratic Oath as a doctor, committed to the defense and care of life. We  hope that justice will be done,” they concluded.

On Twitter, the hashtags #SalvarVidasNoEsDelito (Saving lives is not a crime) and #JusticiaParaRodriguezLastra (Justice for Rodriguez Lastra) were trending.

“We repudiate this persecution of a doctor who did his job: he saved both lives. Because of an illegitimate complaint, today there's an absurd trial. The only thing they want is to intimidate and impose their ideology,” wrote Twitter user Ana Marmona.

Health professionals from Costa Rica also expressed their support with photo messages.

Dr. Fernando Secin of Doctors for Life said “We are very  concerned about the persecution that we doctors are receiving.” “We're seeing a justice system acting in concert with politics, instead of going after all those people like the La Revuelta (The Revolt) group that is illegally distributing medications and illegally practicing medicine.”

Since the trial began, different groups have come to the Río Negro Court with banners expressing their opposition to the trial of Rodríguez.

 

This article was originally published by CNA's Spanish-language partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

‘Stand firm for life against the evil opposing it’ Kentucky governor says

Frankfort, Ky., May 17, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is urging his fellow governors to “be bold” on the issue of life.

The first-term governor made the call during an interview Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, as states across the country continue to debate abortion related legislation.



In recent weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisc.), and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) all rejected their states’ versions of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Shortly after, Bullock launched a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. In contrast, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) and Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) signed major pro-life legislation.

Speaking to Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro, Bevin said that arguments against Born-Alive laws are “weak,” and that such measures are far from redundant.

“It would seemingly be the same argument you might say for ‘why have airbags in a car if we already have a seatbelt,’” Bevin argued.

“Not to protect a human life, and to ask a doctor to take responsibility for protecting that human life, and to hold them accountable if they do not—especially given that they have taken an oath to do so, and in fact are licensed to do so—would be irresponsible.”

Urging his fellow governors to stand in defense of unborn life, Bevin said, “Don’t be politically opportunistic, don’t be beholden to outside interests that are going to help you politically, but be bold and do the right thing.”

 

Alabama's Governor signed the Human Life Protection Act into law.
Georgia's Governor signed the Heartbeat Bill into law.

We speak with another pro-life governor on @EWTNProLife, @GovMattBevin, who says - while there is pressure - being pro-life is the right thing to do. pic.twitter.com/0BCxEIm8Mc

— Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) May 16, 2019  



While discussing his work to pass pro-life legislation in Kentucky, Bevin called the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision a “travesty,” and said he believes the issue of abortion will ultimately be returned to the states.

“In the meantime, states like ours have passed very intentional laws related to things like informed consent and ultrasounds performed in advance,” Bevin said.

Bevin also pointed to a recent bill he signed into law prohibiting abortions based on the race, gender, or a disability diagnosis of an unborn child. He said that the “non-eugenics bill” might reach the Supreme Court and “may very well be involved in the ultimate decision making as it relates to Roe v Wade.”

“We passed a bill here in this past session in Kentucky that says you can’t kill a child based on its race, based on its gender, or based on some perceived disability. We used language very similar to what we find in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal statutes that are already on on the books.”

After the anti-eugenics bill passed into law earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky promptly announced they would sue over the legislation, but the governor said he is undeterred.

 

We will see the state of Kentucky in court (again) after they attempt to ban abortion (again) #HB5 #stopthebans #kyga19 https://t.co/dJGMYRBCpc

— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) March 13, 2019  



Bring it!

Kentucky will always fight for life...

Always!#WeAreProLife #WeAreKY https://t.co/mFfqhGhAWe

— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) March 13, 2019  



Critics of the discrimination abortion ban, Bevin said, “think that they’re defending folks when in fact they’re standing in the way of human life.”

“I’m grateful for the fact that ours is a strongly pro-life state, and that people are standing in the gap on the side of the vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The governor said he was bullish about the state’s prospects defending the law in court. “The gild is coming off the lily on the other side of this issue,” he said.

“We are standing firm and we will continue to do so regardless of the money, and the reasons, and just the evil, frankly, that is opposing us on the other side of the equation,” he said.  

Bevin acknowledged that “there is pressure of course, politically” on governors who sign pro-life legislation, “but here’s the thing, to do the right thing is the right thing.”

“Sometimes of course, in politics and in other areas, it’s easier for some to do the easy wrong than to do the difficult right,” Bevin continued. “But I think we have a moral obligation, and for many it’s maybe a religious obligation, but I think for those for whom it’s not religious based, it’s moral to save a human life.”

 

Kate Scanlon is a producer of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly