News Roundup

FG TD Kate O’Connell pushes for even more extreme abortion legislation

Simon Harris has come under pressure from a prominent pro-choice TD and party colleague to amend his extreme abortion legislation to make it even more liberal.

Kate O’Connell TD has tabled amendments that would lift a requirement for women to be examined by a medical professional before they can have a termination. Ms O’Connell has also joined Sinn Féin and Solidarity-People Before Profit in calling for Mr Harris to scrap a rule that would mean the doctor who diagnoses a serious life-limiting condition and predicts a child is likely to die before or soon after birth has to be the same one who executes the abortion when requested by the parents on those grounds.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin is calling for doctors to be referred to the medical council if they refuse to offer abortion services and refuse to refer the woman to a doctor who will. It also wants the government to drop the threat of prison for those who help women to have illegal abortions.

Sinn Féin and Solidarity-People Before Profit have called for women in Northern Ireland to be given access to free abortions in the Republic, and they want the state to cover the cost for women who travel from the North to do so.

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Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charge in Pakistan after five years in prison

Pakistan’s Supreme Court this morning overturned the death sentence hanging over a Catholic mother, Asia Bibi, who in 2010 became the first woman in the country condemned to death for blasphemy.

Speaking within a few minutes of the announcement today, Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, 18, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “I am so happy. I want to thank God”. And, speaking through an interpreter, she told the charity for persecuted Christians: “This is the most wonderful moment. I can’t wait to hug my mother and then celebrate with my family. I am grateful to God for listening to our prayers.”

Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said:“Today is like the dawn of new hope for oppressed minorities.” Saluting the courage of the judges in acquitting Asia Bibi in the face of fierce opposition from Islamist protestors, he added: “It is important that justice is not just seen to be done but is done.”

The Supreme Court’s decision today overturns the 2010 sentence Asia Bibi received for insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable by death according to Article 295C of Pakistan’s Penal code – part of the so-called Blasphemy Laws.

The charge was brought against her following an altercation with Muslim co-workers who said that, as a Christian, she had contaminated a common water cup by drinking from it. Throughout, Asia Bibi has protested her innocence and on 8th October the case had its final hearing at Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad.

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Chinese authorities continue to break into churches, harass Christians

A group of police officers broke into a Church in China’s Fujian province last week, intimidated the church goers, stopped the liturgy and shut down the building.

The police claimed that they were there to “enforce the laws,” but they entered the building without the consent of the church and without any official documentation stating they could. The Pastor asked if they would be willing to speak with him after the service since it was then ongoing, but they shouted that it should be stopped, people should leave, and no one should attend church there anymore.

In the midst of the chaos, one mother attempted to flee with her one-year-old child, but a female government agent intercepted and chastised her. One of the attendees attempted to stand between the mother and the officer, but she bullied him. The two eventually left safely, but the child’s eye was hurt in the process.

As the church members attempted to leave, the authorities closed the door and demanded to see their identification and other personal information.

A report on the incident was publicised by ChinaAid, a group that exposes abuses, such as those suffered by the members of Yongfu Church, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

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Doctors trigger meeting of Irish College of GPs on abortion policy

Doctors concerned at the Government’s plans for a GP-led abortion regime seem set to secure an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) to change the organisation’s policy on abortion. It is understood that the ICGP has now received 600 signatures, amounting to about 20pc of members in good standing.

Doctors seeking the meeting want it to consider motions which, among others, would state that “routine general practice was not the appropriate setting in which to deliver an abortion service and consider a clinical setting, external to general practice, more appropriate for the provision of abortion services”.

They also want the ICGP to adopt a policy to favour “an opt-in system whereby GPs who wish to deliver abortion services receive adequate training, are sustained in their competence and can be subject to audit in keeping with international standards of governance”.

They also want a motion passed under which the ICGP would “agree unequivocally to support the right of all doctors to the effective exercise of freedom of conscience, within the professional context, with regards to abortion including no obligation to refer patients for termination of pregnancy”.

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Blasphemy offence removed from Constitution by 65%-35%

The referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the constitution was passed with 64.85 per cent having voted Yes, while 35.15 per cent voted No. The vote happened as the European Court of Human Rights upheld an Austrian law against blasphemy.

The largest No vote was in Donegal where 51.5 per cent voted Yes to 48.4 per cent No, while the next largest was in Sligo-Leitrim which voted 56.1 per cent to 43.9 per cent to change the Constitution. Last May Donegal was the only constituency to reject removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution in the abortion referendum, and in May 2015 Roscommon-South Leitrim was alone in voting No to same-sex marriage.

In all the Dublin constituencies the Yes vote was over 70 per cent, with the highest in Dublin Bay South, where 76.4 per cent voted Yes. Next was Dun Laoghaire, where 75.3 per cent voted Yes.

Welcoming the result, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said Ireland is ‘rightly proud of our reputation as a modern, liberal society’ and ‘We have again sent a message to the world, a strong message that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.’

In a brief statement the Catholic bishops said, with the offence of blasphemy gone, “it is vital to ensure that the rights of individuals and communities to practise and live out their faith openly are protected by our law”.

The promotion of “freedom of religion, and the freedom of conscience – for all in society – greatly enriches the social fabric of a country, and is one aspect of respect for the dignity of human persons,” they said.

Commenting on the result, the Irish Times religious affairs correspondent, Patsy McGarry asked why we should ‘stop there?’ He suggested further referendums to remove every reference to God, and changing every use of ‘man’ to ‘citizen’, to make the constitution a truly ‘inclusive’ and a ‘purely legal document’.

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UK High Court grants permission to challenge Northern Ireland’s abortion ban

A Belfast woman has won High Court approval to challenge Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

Sarah Ewart’s lawyers argued that the current regime breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, dealing with entitlements to private and family life. They also contended that the legislation is having a “chilling effect” on anyone considering assisting in an abortion as doctors could be left fearing potential life imprisonment if they become involved, the court heard.

Earlier this year Britain’s supreme court concluded that abortion laws in the North are incompatible with human rights law. But the court still rejected the case because the party who brought it, Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission, did not have the necessary legal standing.

Mrs Ewart has now brought a case in her own name, as a woman directly affected by the abortion legislation,

Mr Justice McCloskey ruled on Wednesday that she has established an arguable case against the Departments of Justice and Health at Stormont.

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Australian State set to remove gender from birth certificates

The Australian state of Tasmania is set to completely remove gender from birth certificates. The move is being hailed as a step forward for the State’s transgender residents but is being criticised by feminists.

The bill is expected to be put to a vote in Tasmania’s lower house next month, according to The Australian. The proposed change comes as part of amendments to a bill that puts an end to transgender people having to divorce before than can get their gender changed on official documents.

A spokesperson for the group Women Speak Tasmania, however, said there is a need to “protect the integrity of the historical record contained in birth certificates” by keeping gender markers.

“Birth certificates are historical records that serve a number of demographic functions and inform both government policy and legislation on a wide range of areas,” Ms Williams said in a statement.

She said laws where “biological males can be declared legally female” are impeding on women’s rights.

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Fewer Sex Partners Means a Happier Marriage, finds US sociologist

Americans who have only ever slept with their spouses are most likely to report being in a “very happy” marriage, a sociologist at the University of Utah in the US has found. Meanwhile, the lowest odds of marital happiness—about 13 percentage points lower than the one-partner women—belong to women who have had six to 10 sexual partners in their lives. For men, there’s also a dip in marital satisfaction after one partner, according to Nicholas Wolfinger of the Institute for Family Studies.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, when it comes to sex, less experience is better, at least for the marriage,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. In an earlier analysis, Wolfinger found that women with zero or one previous sex partners before marriage were also least likely to divorce, while those with 10 or more were most likely.

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Only 12 TDs vote ‘No’ to abortion

Abortion legislation passed the second stage of the Dáil’s legislative process yesterday by 102 votes to 12 with seven abstentions. It now goes to the committee stage for closer scrutiny. The margin was far bigger even than the two to one vote in the May referendum.

The vote will be remembered as one of the saddest days in the history of the nation said Dr. Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign. Commenting after the vote, she said: “It is the day that a majority of the Dáil have voted to usher in an abortion regime that permits the killing of unborn babies through every stage of pregnancy. We know from history that when big majorities vote to strip vulnerable groups in society of all their rights under the law, it is usually celebrated and hailed in the immediate aftermath.  But over time, the injustice and barbarity of the changes to the law become apparent.”

The TDs who voted NO to the Abortion Bill today are as follows: Minister Seán Canney IND, Michael Collins IND, Michael Fitzmaurice IND, Peter Fitzpatrick IND, Danny Healy-Rae IND, Michael Healy-Rae IND, Michael Lowry IND, Marc McSharry FF, Mattie McGrath IND, Carol Nolan IND, Eamon O’Cuiv FF and Peadar Tóibin SF.

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Trump administration to base gender on biology not opinion

The US Department of Health and Human Services is set to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” according to a leaked memo reported by the New York Times. The move would reverse a decision in the final months of the Obama administration that had radically redefined sex as grounded in a subjective sense of self as dictated by gender ideology. The new codification would be applied for the purposes of Title IX, a federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance.

“In the last months of the Obama administration, federal bureaucrats unlawfully redefined the word ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity,’ and then imposed a radical bathroom and locker room policy on all our public schools, and said that doctors who declined to perform sex ‘reassignment’ procedures would be guilty of discrimination,” Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” told The Daily Signal.

“Thankfully, it appears that the Trump administration has rejected Obama’s transgender agenda and understands the word ‘sex’ correctly as a bodily reality,” Anderson said.

The memo reportedly says: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female, based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

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