News Roundup

Pro Life Campaign decry Oireachtas committee’s ‘appalling’ abortion recommendations

The Pro Life Campaign has said today’s vote for abortion by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment is “a total betrayal of women and their unborn babies and represents a tragic drift backwards for society rather than a step forward. Anyone who tries to suggest that today’s vote is not for abortion on demand is telling a lie.”

The PLC was commenting after the committee voted to recommend abortion on wide-ranging grounds, up to 12 weeks on request and up to birth on health grounds that are not and cannot be defined. Speaking on behalf of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock said: “The decision to opt for a time limit of 12 weeks on request was plucked from thin air. It reveals a frightening disregard for the right to life of the most innocent and defenceless members of society, namely unborn babies. Also, the vote in favour of abortion on physical and mental health grounds is even more radical than abortion laws in other countries like England, where 1 in 5 pregnancies now ends in abortion.

Commenting on the extreme nature of today’s vote, Ms Sherlock said: “When any group is handed the power to decide who’s in and who’s out, it follows that they feel they have permission to conclude that no unborn babies are deserving of any protections under the law. And that’s effectively what the committee decided today. She continued: “But thankfully they won’t have the final say on the Eighth Amendment. The electorate will have that responsibility and I am confident they will vote to keep it.


‘Soros donation was in breach of law’ Amnesty told.

In a stinging rebuke of Amnesty Ireland, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) have said they reversed course on instructing groups to return foreign based donations because, despite prior denials by the Irish recipients, the foreign donor subsequently confirmed the funding was given for explicitly political purposes. The commission also flatly denied Amnesty Ireland’s assertion that they have recently changed their oversight approach to political donations.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Commission said in 2016 they received information that several Irish organisations had received donations from a foreign donor. At the time, the statement reads, the Commission “made inquiries and received assurances from the recipients that the donations were not for political purposes. However, the Commission recently received new information that indicated the donations were indeed for political purposes. The Commission sought and received written confirmation from the donor that the funding was for explicitly political purposes. As it is the intent of the donor that determines whether a donation is a political donation, the funding very clearly fell within the Act’s prohibitions. The Commission has issued directives to the recipients to return the prohibited donations.” The statement continues: “In so doing, the Commission has administered the Act as enacted by the Oireachtas. The Commission rejects any assertion that its actions are out of keeping with the provisions or intent of the Act, or that it has acted inconsistently.  The Commission has not changed its approach to implementing the provisions of the Act.” Amnesty is not explicitly mentioned in the statement, but they have identified themselves as a group instructed by SIPOC to return a €137,000 donation from the US based-Hungarian Billionaire, George Soros’ ‘Open Society Foundation’.


Over 800,000 call on UN to protect Christians in Middle East

A petition signed by more than 800,000 people was presented at the United Nations in New York yesterday, calling for the protection of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, and recognition of the key role faith leaders can play in rebuilding efforts post-Islamic State.

The ‘Hope for the Middle East’ petition will be handed over by 12-year-old Noeh and his father, Hathem, from Karamles, northern Iraq, to representatives of the UN General Assembly, diplomats and members of other international bodies. ”We all hope to have our full rights in Iraq… This is the most important thing we need to continue staying in Iraq,” said Father Behnam Lallo, a Syriac Catholic priest from Bartella, northern Iraq, who is also part of the delegation. “The material things are really important. But to continue staying, to continue existing, we need to gain our full rights as real citizens of Iraq.”


UK peer fears proclaiming Christianity could be a hate crime

A member of the British House of Lords has expressed concern that telling other people about the Christian faith could soon become a crime. In an interview with the Christian news organisation Premier, Lord Pearson of Rannoch said religious freedom in the UK is being gradually eroded by hate crime legislation. He told Premier when he recently raised a question on the issue in the House of Lords the government refused to answer.

“I said to the government ‘Will they confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only son of the one true God cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offense?'” He said the reaction was “unique” and that he’s never witnessed a question being refused an answer. He added that he does not condone personal attacks against someone of another religion but “if you’re merely criticising a religion or proclaiming your own religion, I don’t see how the law can get involved”.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, racial and religious hate crime is defined as “particularly hurtful to victims as they are being targeted solely because of their personal identity, their actual or perceived racial or ethnic origin, belief or faith”. Lord Person has urged for a discussion on the issue because he believes what constitutes a hate crime has not been clearly enshrined in law. “It depends how much they feel hated, that’s what’s so stupid about it. What about free speech? That’s where I’m coming from. I just want to talk about it and I want the government to answer.”


Pastors in India beaten, forced to sign apology letter because the Gospel offended group of Hindus

Two pastors who were attacked and beaten by Hindu nationalists before a three-day Gospel meeting in India’s Chhattisgarh state were later forced to apologize because their conference and the words of Jesus had caused the Hindu group to be offended.

The pastors, Vijay Jogi and Santosh Rao, were coerced by police into signing an apology letter to a mob of Hindus who prevented them from holding the Gospel meeting that was to be attended by over 1,000 people. On Nov. 16, a group of about 70 Hindu nationalists attacked the pastors just minutes before the event was about to start. Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station. According to Jogi, the Hindu extremists became upset when they saw the words of Luke 7:22-23 in pamphlets advertising the event. That verse states: “And [Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.'”

“They told me it is very wrong that I have written these lines,” the pastor continued. “I said, ‘I did not write these words. It’s a verse taken from the Holy Bible and applies to the entire humankind.”‘ The activists declared, “We are offended by these lines,” Jogi said. “If because I quoted these lines in the pamphlet, it is offending you at personal level, I apologize to you brothers. We are very sorry,” Jogi recalled telling the Hindu radicals.

While Jogi and Rao were in the police station, they were “forced to sign a letter handwritten by the activists under the supervision of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) worker Rajguru Ghosale.”

“The letter said by conducting this meeting we hurt the feelings of Hindus, we sincerely apologize for it and cancelling the event,” Rao recalled. “They slapped me to sign it.”

The news surrounding the Gospel meeting in Charoda comes as India ranks as the 15th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.


Civil partnerships in UK to be opened up to heterosexual couples

Civil partnerships in the UK, which are currently available only to gay couples, could be opened up to straight couples for the first time thanks to a new bill which will soon be debated in Parliament. The move would remedy an inequality in the law and also make it easier for straight couples to commit to each other without having to go as far as getting married.

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary and minister for equalities, recently said the same rules should apply to all couples, straight or gay. One straight couple, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, have taken the Government to court after they were blocked from getting a civil partnership. Their case will reach the Supreme Court next year after they argued denying them the right to enter a civil partnership violated their human rights. They objected to marriage as a patriarchal institution which they refused to enter on ideological grounds, but said they would enter a civil partnership.

Other supporters of the proposed change argue that civil partnerships are a cheap and easy way for couples to guarantee that their relationship will be recognised in the eyes of the law. The proposed changes would help stabilise families with unmarried parents. Despite only accounting for a fifth of couples, more than half of family breakdown occur in unmarried families.


Govt u-turn: ten year olds in UK will not now be asked how they ‘feel’ about their gender

A question asking children whether they feel comfortable in their gender will be removed by the National Health Service (NHS) from primary school questionnaires after it was criticised by parents and MPs. On the questionnaire, children were asked whether they “feel the same inside” as the gender they were born with, the Daily Telegraph revealed on Monday. Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said the question, which was on a survey filled out by 10 and 11-year-olds, would no longer be routinely asked of all students. A spokesman for the Trust said that the question was introduced “following input from sexual health specialists, the charity Lancashire LGBT and primary schools, who confirmed that they were seeing a steady increase in requests for advice and support relating to school age children.” The trend is part of a national increase in children questioning their assigned gender. Charities and gender identity clinics have reported significant rises in families looking for support for children who say they have been born in the wrong body.


One in three pregnancies in India ends in abortion: Lancet Medical Journal

One in three of 48.1 million pregnancies in India ended in an abortion, according to a large-scale study on abortions and unintended pregnancies for the year 2015. The study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, reported there were around 15.6 million abortions that year.  The study also reported that close to half, or 48%, of pregnancies were unintended and 0.8 million women used unsafe methods for an abortion, putting their health and lives at risk.

Using abortion pills was the most popular method, which made up 12.7 million or 81% of all abortions, followed by 2.2 million surgical terminations of pregnancy. Around 22% or 3.4 million abortions were done in public health facilities. But 11.5 million or 73% were medication abortions done outside health facilities and 0.8 million were conducted by informal providers.


Amnesty Ireland defies order to return illegal foreign funding

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) have ordered Amnesty Ireland to return foreign funds for its pro-abortion political campaign for having breached statutory laws. Amnesty however have defied the order calling the law on which it is based a ‘violation’ of human rights.

Ireland’s campaign finance laws entirely prohibit foreign funding for political purposes, as well as requiring placing a strict cap on domestic donations. Amnesty, however, received €137,000 from the Hungarian-American billionaire, George Soros’, Open Society Foundation expressly for the purpose of its Repeal the Eighth Campaign. SIPOC has deemed that funding in breach of statutory law and has written to Amnesty instructing them to return the donation. Amnesty have refused. Their chief executive, Colm O’Gorman, told The Irish Times: “We’re being asked to comply with a law that violates human rights, and we can’t do that.”

Commenting on the news, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Today’s statement from Amnesty is nothing more than a public relations exercise to disguise the fact that they have been receiving vast sums of money from abroad to fund their campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment. Amnesty are behaving like they are above the law and are hiding behind the term ‘human rights’ as a justification for everything they do”.

Ms Sherlock said: “It is important to recall that the Open Society Foundation stated when giving the money to Amnesty that it was to assist the coordination of groups in Ireland with a view to repealing the 8th Amendment and taking away legal protection for the baby in the womb. The involvement of this US based organisation in the Irish abortion debate represents a gross interference in our democracy and in safeguarding the right to life. Amnesty should immediately return the money and stop trying to portray itself as a victim in all of this.”


Fianna Fáil committee members defy Ard Fheis in support for abortion law

Three Fianna Fáil members of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment have called for unrestricted abortion for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the period in which about 90pc of abortions take place. Their move comes just weeks after the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis passed a motion to preserve the Eighth Amendment in full so as to protect unborn life.  In a joint submission to the committee, Senator Ned O’Sullivan and TDs Billy Kelleher and Lisa Chambers outline their belief that terminations should be accessible when the life and the health of a mother is at risk. There should be no distinction between the mental or physical health of the mother, they add.

Their submission brings to ten the number of members of the 21 person committee, a near majority, who have called for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks. In contrast to the Fianna Fáil members, three Sinn Fein members of the committee say they will not vote in favour of the 12 week unrestricted abortion proposal as they have no mandate from their party’s Ard Fheis for doing so.