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Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 13, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The deans of five Argentine law schools have protested the appointment of a supporter of legalized abortion as Argentina’s Ombudsman for the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents since “it's a clear violation of the federal juridical order.”
On June 26 the Argentine House of Representatives confirmed Marisa Graham, a well-known abortion advocate in Argentina, to lead the nation’s Ombudsman's Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents.
Graham’s appointment now awaits confirmation by Argentina’s senate.
The signatories to a letter of objection are the deans of the law schools of the Argentina Catholic University, the Catholic University of La Plata, the Saint Thomas Aquinas University of the North, the University del Salvador, and Fasta University.
Graham's “public and manifest advocacy in support of the legalization of abortion is discriminatory with respect to countless people who would be unprotected, helpless and deprived of the defense of their most elementary rights,” the deans said.
These rights are contained in the articles of the National Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Civil and Commercial Code.
The regulations recognize “that people's lives begin with conception and from that moment they are already children up to 18 years of age; that all children have the intrinsic right to life from conception and that their survival and development are to be guaranteed from that moment to the maximum extent possible, by the State and without any discrimination,” they said.
“The arguments invoked by Dr. Graham that her position on the legalization of abortion would not influence the exercise of her office are unsustainable, while it is not understood how she will defend the right to life of the unborn child, that they are persons according to the norms of the highest level in our legal system,” they warned.
The Ombudsman Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents monitors public policies on childhood and ensures that the State guarantees compliance with the rights of minors.
This office has been vacant since it was created in 2005 with the Law on the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents.
This story was initially published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language partner agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Ranchi, India, Sep 12, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Catholics in the Archdiocese of Ranchi have appealed for help after a local Jesuit mission was brutally attacked by a large armed mob last week.
St. John Berchmans Inter College, a Jesuit school and hostel in India's Jharkhand state, was attacked by around 500 armed Hindu extremists Sept. 3, the college’s secretary Fr. Thomas Kuzhively reported to Agenzia Fides.
The attackers were armed with sticks, chains, iron bars, knives, and pistols, and beat tribal students including two who were seriously injured, he said. They seriously damaged the school’s facilities.
The mob also tried to sexually harass female students, tried to prevent the transport of injured students to a hospital, destroyed and vandalized school property, stole cash, and attacked an attached hostel for tribal students, Kuzhively reported.
In the wake of the attack, school has appealed to the heads of Jharkhand, as well as other local and regional authorities, for action to be taken.
Christians in India have suffered an increase in attacks since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power in the country’s 2014 elections.
In recent years, religious minorities have been targeted by Hindu extremists for violence and oppression in efforts to keep them out of power and influence and to keep the poorer classes in the country in poverty.
After the BJP’s massive victory in 2017 elections, violent attacks against Christians increased in number; the country’s prime minister was recently reelected in May of 2019 and the BJP kept power, which sparked serious concerns for Christians in the country.
India is listed as a “Tier 2” country by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its latest annual report. Tier 2 countries are not the worst offenders of religious freedom in the world, according to USCIRF, but have serious violations of religious freedom that meet at least one of three conditions: “systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”
The Indian government has allowed for these acts of harassment, intimidation, and violence against religious minorities to continue, USCIRF says.
Bismarck, N.D., Sep 12, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- After a North Dakota judge nixed part of a new law requiring doctors to inform their patients about abortion pill reversal, pro-life advocates say they hope the decision will be overturned.
“While this is a disservice to women, who have a right to this information, we're hopeful that Attorney General Stenehjem will appeal and defend this common-sense law. Women have a right to know,” Medora Nagle, Executive Director of North Dakota Right to Life, told CNA.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction Sept. 10 against part of a North Dakota law which would have required physicians to tell their patients that a medically-induced abortion could be reversed if the patient acted quickly.
The injunction was sought by the American Medical Association, Access Independent Health Services, Inc., Dr. Kathryn L. Eggleston, and Red River Women's Clinic, which is the only clinic providing abortions in the state.
"Legislation which forces physicians to tell their patients, as part of informed consent, that 'it may be possible' to reverse or cure an ailment, disease, illness, surgical procedure, or the effects of any medication—in the absence of any medical or scientific evidence to support such a message—is unsound, misplaced, and would not survive a constitutional challenge under any level of scrutiny," Hovland said in his decision.
A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.
Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women who regret their decision to take the first drug doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of the mifepristone.
Teresa Kenney is a women's health nurse practitioner with the Sancta Familia (Holy Family) Medical Apostolate in Omaha, Nebraska. Kenney told CNA that because progesterone is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the benefit of reversing a medical abortion is so great, the procedure “makes complete sense” from a scientific standpoint.
“If I give a medicine that decreases or blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy, then it makes perfect logical medical sense to give progesterone to help reverse that,” Kenney told CNA.
“The benefit is overwhelmingly positive,” she added, “and in this situation...I would argue that two lives are actually saved when it works, because not only do you save the life of the baby, and that's a human life being saved...but you also save the life of the mother in the sense that when she has made a choice that she deeply regrets, and we have now given her the opportunity to emotionally and physically change that choice, and it succeeds, we've saved her life too.”
Kenney said that progesterone has been scientifically proven to be safe for women and their babies in early pregnancy to prevent natural miscarriages from occurring.
“Just because there hasn't been a randomized controlled double-blind study on abortion pill reversal doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to implement it in medicine, because there is already scientific support for progesterone in early pregnancy in the prevention and miscarriage,” she said.
“Do we need more research? Absolutely. But to withhold treatment when, again, we know that it does no harm...we know that it medically makes sense, it scientifically makes sense, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, why wouldn't we do it?” she said.
Kenney said that she finds it “frustrating” that there has been a lot of research and effort in the medical community to prevent pregnancy, but not as much to support it.
“We do live in a contraceptive society,” she said. “We have a culture against life. And so all of the studies are geared towards preventing pregnancy.”
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said Sept. 10 that “North Dakota legislators rightly believed that women should know about the procedure before starting the abortion process.”
He stated, “the abortion lobby co-opted the American Medical Association and used legal technicalities and medical complexities to deny women the right to know. We applaud the legislators who overwhelming supported HB 1336, Governor Burgum for signing the measure, the physicians who submitted testimony to the court in support of the law, and the Attorney General for defending women’s rights.”
One pro-life clinic that offers abortion pill reversal is Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado.
Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and executive director of Bella, told CNA in 2018 that because progesterone is known to be safe for pregnant women and unborn babies, the progesterone abortion pill reversal procedure is “common sense.”
A recent study, published in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals, and showed that the reversal success rates were 68 percent with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64 percent with an injected progesterone protocol.
Both procedures significantly improved the 25 percent fetal survival rate if no treatment is offered and a woman simply declines the second pill of a medical abortion. The case study also showed that the progesterone treatments caused no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births.
The study was authored by Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009. Delgado also sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a group that supports the abortion pill procedure reversal.
Nagle said that women should be empowered by the law, and that they should be given “all of the information before making a decision of this magnitude.”
According to Nagle, seven other states have similar laws on the books requiring doctors to tell their patients about the abortion pill reversal procedure, which she said has saved more than 750 babies so far.
“We won't be discouraged,” she said. “We will continue to fight for women's rights to be given all of the information.”
Tampa, Florida, Sep 12, 2019 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A judge in Florida has denied a couple custody of their four-year-old son, who has leukemia, because there is “imminent risk of neglect” if he stays with his parents, who skipped a chemotherapy session for the child in order to leave the state to seek alternative treatments.
A judge ruled Sept. 9 that the Tampa Bay-area parents, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball, will be required to undergo a psychological evaluation with a parenting index after which point they may be able to be reunified with their son Noah, who is currently with his grandparents, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Kevin Miller, assistant professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, stressed that the Catholic Church takes parental rights very seriously, but these rights should not be misused.
“When it is not fairly clear that parental rights are being abused, it seems to me, the state should generally be deferential to parents,” Miller told CNA.
But this case, he said, raises serious questions about whether the parents are misusing their authority and rights.
Florida law allows the state to provide medical treatment to children even if the parents object, CBS News reports.
“There was no alternative with a remote chance of success...They were choosing between life and death for their child,” Judge Palermo said as quoted by Fox13.
If the parents do not comply with the evaluation, the out-of-home placement could become permanent. They have 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision, the Times reports.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg diagnosed Noah with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2019.
After two rounds of treatment, on April 22, 2019, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office issued a Missing Endangered Child alert after the parents did not show up for Noah’s third treatment, stating that “the parents failed to bring in the child to a medically necessary hospital procedure.”
McAdams, Bland-Ball, and Noah were located in Kentucky a week later; they had fled to Ohio to seek alternative treatments. Authorities placed Noah in the custody of his maternal grandparents in early May 2019.
The child’s mother argues that rather than denying him lifesaving treatment, she and her husband were simply seeking a second opinion, believing that chemotherapy had harmful side effects. On a GoFundMe page, Bland-Ball says that they were unhappy with the treatment they received at the hospital in St. Petersburg, and also that Noah’s condition has not improved.
Bland-Ball had sought to use “rosemary, Vitamin B Complex, including B17, completely alkaline diet, Rosemary, a liver/kidney/gallbladder/blood herbal extract, daily colloidal silver, high dose vitamin c, collagen, Reishi mushroom tea and grapefruit peel and breastmilk” as alternative treatments for Noah’s leukemia.
She has also posted on Facebook seeking cannabis treatments for Noah, and her attorney has confirmed that Noah also has received CBD and THC oil treatments. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida.
Bland-Ball also moved Noah’s PICC line, which she had no formal training on how to do other than watching instructional YouTube videos, the judge said.
Among the reasons the judge cited for his decision were evidence the parents dumped a car and cell phones while fleeing Florida, and the judge stated that he was convinced that the parents would flee Florida again if given the chance.
The judge also cited McAdams’ “proclivity for aggression” towards family members. McAdams in August 2016 was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery by Brooksville police, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
McAdams reportedly threw a plastic toy bucket at Bland-Ball but accidentally hit Noah, cutting his face. McAdams then shoved Bland-Ball into a wall "multiple times," causing a head contusion, the Times reported.
He spent three days in jail, records show, and the case was dropped in March 2017; McAdams later attended counseling. The Times reports that Bland-Ball also filed for a protective injunction against McAdams, according to court records, but it was later dismissed.
‘Appropriate social measures’
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.”
According to Miller, those rights include the right of parents to make decisions about how to promote the welfare— physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual— of their children.
He also emphasized that “the family is a community of love in a way that no other community is capable of being,” and thus respect for family rights serves the good of both family members and of society more broadly.
The Catechism also teaches: “The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life.”
But, Miller told CNA, some actions that parents might claim to be exercises of parental rights might actually be abuses of those rights. In case of gross abuses, he said, putting children in serious danger, it can be appropriate for the state, as part of its natural purpose of looking after the common good of its members, to step in and stop those abuses; this is obviously the case when, for example, parents subject their children to certain kinds of violence.
Of course, Miller said, it is possible for the state to overstep its authority.
International cases such as that of 11-month-old Charlie Gard in 2017 and toddler Alfie Evans last year have highlighted situations of the state determining treatment for a patient against the parent’s wishes. In both cases, which took place in the UK, the state determined that the patients be removed from life support, despite the protest of the parents.
These cases are different from the Florida case, Miller said, because in both UK cases, the state was choosing death for the children in question, and in the Florida case, the state is prioritizing a treatment aimed at saving child’s life.
“I think one clear difference is that in those [UK] cases, it was the state that— I don't think it's hyperbole to say— wanted them to die,” Miller commented.
He noted that in the Gard case, the parents attempted to transfer to transfer the child to the United States to undergo an experimental treatment for his condition.
"In the one case, it was experimental treatment, but it was experimental treatment offered as part of a bone fide study by a bone fide doctor at a bone fide hospital here in the US. So in that case they were pursuing an approach that you could certainly call extraordinary rather than ordinary means of treatment, but there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's within the rights of the parents to decide whether to pursue that kind of a treatment or not."
He noted that in both of the UK cases, the question was not whether or not to pursue an alternate form of treatment, but rather whether or not to continue basic life-saving measures.
Miller said the only similarity he sees between the UK cases and the Florida case is the fact that the state overruled the wishes of the parents.
“This [Florida] case, in multiple respects, is almost like the opposite of what was going on in the Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases,” Miller said.
“In terms of what the parents are trying to do, and in terms of what the state is trying to do...there's absolutely no inconsistency in siding with what the state is doing in this present case and siding with the parents in those earlier cases.”
‘An abuse of parental rights’
“I suspect that the parents are genuinely sincere in claiming that what they want to do is in their son’s best interest – although the fact that the father, on one occasion, attempted an act of violence against the mother that ended up injuring their son is cause for concern,” Miller said.
“Nevertheless – and putting aside that point about the father’s history – it seems to me that what they want to do constitutes an abuse of parental rights.”
According to Fox13, the judge said the particular type of chemotherapy being given to Noah has a 70-year track record with 90-95% success rate.
“Proper treatment, based on evidence established by a tremendous amount of research, is, sadly, very difficult for the child, his parents, and other family members. It takes several years. There are side effects, including serious ones, during this period. There is the possibility of other side effects appearing years later. The fact remains that in the vast majority of cases, treatment is lifesaving, and so confers benefits that far outweigh the burdens,” Miller noted.
“In contrast, there is absolutely no evidence to support the parents’ view that stopping standard treatment very early, and switching to the approach that they favor, will confer any benefit. Rather, it is certain that – barring a miracle – the child will come out of remission and die of leukemia.”
Miller also pointed out a fact that has been circulated in news reports about the case: that at least one of the alternative treatments that Bland-Ball mentions, known commonly as Vitamin B17, has been found by the National Center for Biomedical Information to not only be likely ineffective for curing cancer, but also bringing with it the potential for cyanide poisoning.
“Again: We ought to be vigilant about the problem of abuse of state authority. This does happen – including in the area of health-care decision making. The phenomenon of ‘medical kidnapping’ is not purely fictitious,” Miller cautioned.
“But in the case at hand, it is clear to me that it is the parents – not the state – who are abusing their rights.”
‘Measure of last resort’
Father Tad Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that removal of a child from parental custody ought to be a measure of “last resort,” to be used only after a “shared understanding” between the parents and healthcare professionals cannot be achieved.
“Sometimes parents may be attracted to ‘alternative’ treatments they came across on the internet that have not [been] tested or verified, and it may be important to spend a great deal of time and energy explaining to such parents the clear preferability of using standard treatments that have been tested and verified as efficacious for many patients,” Pacholczyk said.
Pacholczyk said parents should generally be permitted to make medical judgements on behalf of minor children, especially when weighing the burdens of particular treatments such as chemotherapy— or, as in the Charlie Gard case, whether to discontinue treatment altogether.
“The decision to discontinue such interventions ultimately lies with the patient — or in this case with the parents as the child’s proxy,” he said.
In making such judgements, he noted, parents need to be in close communication with healthcare professionals, and avail themselves of their medical expertise, prior to reaching any conclusions regarding the proposed treatment.
“In situations where there is a standard treatment available, one that works in a high percentage of cases...it may indeed be unreasonable, and even wrong, for parents to decline such a treatment if the burdens to their child associated with its use are fairly low,” he said.
“In such cases, however, the first line of attack should be not to take away the custody of their child, but to work assiduously to convince the parents to use the most effective approach.”
Echoing Miller, Pacholczyk said that the family is, broadly speaking, the best place for a child, and “custody should be taken away only in clear situations of manifest danger to the child or in other evident situations of abuse or gross neglect.”
Judge Palermo in the Florida case emphasized that in his view, the state had “met its burden and found clear and convincing evidence for neglect.”
“Being raised through substitute arrangements set up by the state is many times more detrimental to the well-being of children than remaining within their native family setting,” he said.
“State and governmental agencies are almost invariably worse at caring for the needs of children than the child's own parents, even when those parents may not exercise perfect judgment or may lack ideal parenting skills.”
Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- US Senate Democrats sought to repeal the Mexico City Policy this week in an appropriations bill, raising concern that some pro-life policies could be endangered during budget negotiations as the end of the fiscal year approaches.
Democrats on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee attempted to insert an amendment that repealed the Mexico City Policy into a State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, resulting in the bill being pulled from consideration for advancement out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.
With just weeks to go before the Sept. 30 end of the 2019 fiscal year, budget appropriations for federal agencies need to be determined for FY 2020—but congressional leaders are admitting that might not be possible before the deadline.
The attempted repeal of the Mexico City Policy was coupled with a proposed amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Sept. 10 for another appropriations bill, this one to repeal the administration’s Title X “Protect Life Policy.”
That policy went into effect in August, and required any recipient of Title X family planning funds to not refer for abortions and not be “collocated” with an abortion clinic. Murray’s proposed amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill resulted in its being pulled from consideration for markup as well.
“Senate GOP pulled an approps bill before a markup today to avoid voting on my amendment to get rid of the #TitleX gag rule,” Murray tweeted Sept. 10. “If they are more willing to listen to President Trump than patients in their own states, they should own up to it & let their votes show it. #SaveTitleX”.
In a Sept. 10 press conference Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed Republican attempts to insert $12 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border into appropriations for holding up the process.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a markup hearing Sept. 12 that the planned advancement of the two appropriations bills had to be scuttled because of the “threat of poison pill amendments” which “would have prevented Senate passage and drawn the President’s veto.”
“I am hopeful we can resolve these matters and move forward on both measures soon,” Shelby said in his remarks at the beginning of the hearing, adding that the proposed amendments violated the budget agreement between President Trump and Congressional leaders.
The budget agreement—reached in July by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—called for no attempts to insert “poison pills” into spending legislation in the next two years, including any attempts to undo pro-life policies of the administration, without the consensus of all involved in the agreement.
“Poison pills” refers to attempts to insert amendments or riders into legislation that would be deemed troublesome or controversial; opponents would supposedly be forced to scuttle the legislation or keep the controversial amendments.
Senate Pro-Life Caucus chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) had called for Trump to stand strong against any attempts to use the appropriations process to repeal his administration’s pro-life policies.
However, the July budget agreement was flawed because it amounted to nothing more than a “handshake deal,” March for Life Action president Tom McClusky told CNA, and is “not worth the paper it was written on.”
There would reportedly have not been enough votes in the appropriations committee to prevent the “poison pills” from staying in the legislation anyhow. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are two Republicans on the committee who might have supported the proposals; they have a 70 percent rating and a 65 percent rating, respectively, for 2019 from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
With just weeks to go before the end of the fiscal year, McClusky warned that a Continuing Resolution—a short-term temporary extension of budget authority for federal agencies—would be better than alternative scenarios.
“The best thing for pro-lifers right now is a CR,” McClusky told CNA, explaining that the status quo would be better than other alternatives where senators might have to vote on “poison pill” amendments to fund the government.
The Mexico City Policy is generally one of the first policies implemented—or repealed—by an incoming presidential administration. Started by President Ronald Reagan, the policy bars foreign non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions from U.S. family planning assistance.
In 2017, the Trump administration reinstituted the Mexico City Policy and vastly expanded its protections against taxpayer funding of abortions internationally, through the new “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in May that the administration would also not fund any groups that give financial assistance to other groups in the abortion industry, and would not fund any lobbying for abortion.
Senators from both parties emphasized the importance of passing appropriations bills before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“As appropriators, we should all want to extend that bipartisan success, not relapse into the partisan bickering that left us lurching from crisis to crisis,” Shelby said on Thursday. “The time for haggling over the terms of the budget agreement has passed. The time to get our work done is upon us, and it is running short.”
“I know both the chairman and I wish we could have begun the process sooner, but I hope we can work very well over the next few weeks,” the committee’s vice chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stated at the Sept. 12 hearing.
“The reason our subcommittee has been successful in passing bipartisan bills in the past is because we avoided controversial issues,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the committee, said in a written statement to CNA.
“What Democrats appear to be proposing in terms of stopping the president’s Title X regulations is clearly a violation of the budget agreement. I would hope to see our Democrat colleagues keep their word so we can get to work on this bill, which funds a variety of critical health care programs,” he said.