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Court dismisses suit over Northern Ireland abortion law, on technicality

June 7, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Jun 7, 2018 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The UK Supreme Court threw out a case challenging Northern Ireland’s abortion law on Thursday, saying the commission which brought the case does not have standing to do so. However, the judges also said the current law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

The challenge was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Abortion is allowed in Northern Ireland only if the mother’s life is at risk, or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Lord Mance, delivering the judgement June 7, said that had the commission the competence to bring the challenge, “I would have concluded, without real hesitation at the end of the day, that the current Northern Ireland law is incompatible with article 8 of the [European human rights] convention insofar as it prohibits abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest but not insofar as it prohibits abortion in cases of serious foetal abnormality.”

Four of the seven judges agreed that Northern Ireland abortion law is incompatible with the ECHR in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest. A fifth agreed it it incompatible only in casese of fatal fetal abnormality.

One of the justices, Lord Kerr, said that the court unanimously agreed that banning the abortion of unborn children with serious, but not fatal, abnormalities is compatible with the ECHR: “Many children born with disabilities, even grave disabilities, lead happy, fulfilled lives. In many instances they enrich and bring joy to their families and those who come into contact with them. Moreover the difficulty in devising a confident and reliable definition of serious malformation we regarded as a potent factor against a finding of incompatibility.”

Kerr also said that “to require in every instance” a woman to carry to term a child conceived in incest “could not … be considered as having struck the right balance between her rights and those of society.”

And with respect to children conceived in rape, Kerr stated: “A woman is potentially responsible for the child once born under a relationship which may continue for the rest of her life. For these reasons, we concluded that the blanket ban on abortion in cases of rape was plainly disproportionate.”

The court’s ruling signalled that while it could not strike down the law with the challenge from the human rights commission, it would were the case presented by a woman who was pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or who was carrying a child with a fatal abnormalities.

“The judges made absolutely clear that if a woman [who had suffered such a case] was brought forward they would find that our laws are incompatible with human rights,” said Les Allamby, the head of the NIHRC, the Guardian reported.

Legislators may also consider changing the law. Kerr noted that while the decision is not binding, “it must nevertheless be worthy of close consideration” by legislators.

The matter could be taken up by either the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended. The Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.

Bills to legalize abortion for fatal fetal abnormality or rape or incest failed in the assembly in 2016.

British prime minister Theresa May has said abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, said the government is “carefully considering” the court’s decision and that it “will be clearly heard by this house and politicians in Northern Ireland.”

The NIHRC hopes the British Parliament will change Northern Irish law “without delay”. The Northern Ireland director of the Royal College of Midwives made a similar comment.

In June 2017, May’s government announced that Northern Irish women would be able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England.

Peter Lynas, spokesman for the pro-life group Both Lives Matter, commented that “The Northern Ireland Assembly had a full debate on this in 2016 and didn’t want to make any changes to the law. It shouldn’t be over-ridden by Westminster. We welcome this ruling. The NIHRC did not have standing in this case. Any wider move to decriminalisation is off the table now.”

The push for the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland is not a new campaign, and has gained traction with the overturn of an abortion ban in the Republic of Ireland only weeks ago.

On May 28, abortion activists gathered at the main court buildings in Belfast to protest the country’s pro-life laws, and several women publicly took abortion pills.

However, many pro-life groups in the area have been fighting against the liberalization of abortion laws, emphasizing the importance of fighting for the right to life.

“It is so incredibly important to lobby for life at this present point in time because of the stark threat to unborn children here as Northern Ireland faces a great deal of political instability,” said Precious Life, a pro-life group in Northern Ireland, in August 2017.

“Unborn children cannot speak for themselves so they need us to be their voice.”

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News Briefs

Vanity Fair ad takes ‘#MeToo’ campaign to victims of religious violence

June 5, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Jun 6, 2018 / 12:52 am (CNA).- A new ad in the Italian edition of Vanity Fair magazine has given the global #MeToo movement another dimension, shining a spotlight on women who have suffered persecution, rape and violence due to their faith.

Three of these women – Rebecca Bitrus, a Christian woman from Nigeria; Dalal, a Yazidi woman from Iraq, and Sr. Meena, a nun from India – are featured in the ad, sharing just a glimpse of horrors they have endured.

“They raped me, they kept me as a prisoner for two years, they killed one of my sons and they sold me as a slave.” These are the words of Rebecca, who in the ad holds a sign bearing the famous #MeToo hashtag.

“At 17 years old I was kidnapped and sold as a sexual slave to nine different men in nine months. ISIS still has my mother and my sister as prisoners.” This is what happened to 21-year-old Dalal, who is pictured holding a sign that says #NotJustYou.

“They raped me and beat me, they forced me to walk naked for five kilometers while the crowd continued to hit me.” This is the story of Sr. Meena, an Indian nun raped by Hindu extremists, who is shown holding a sign saying #StopIndifference.

Sponsored by the international pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the ad was published June 6 in the weekly Italian edition of Vanity Fair magazine, which is one of the most successful women’s magazines in Italy and which has been heavily involved in covering the #MeToo movement.

In comments to CNA June 5, Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN Italy, said the goal of the ad is to raise awareness about “the sufferings of women persecuted for their faith.”

“We have thousands and thousands of women who are raped, tortured and forced to marry only in the name of faith,” he said, noting that until recently, there was not a true awareness of the atrocities these women have faced.

Monteduro praised the efforts of the many women who have spoken out about sexual violence through the “#MeToo” movement, which was born after the New York Times in October 2017 published an investigative report on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who this week pled “ not guilty” to charges of rape and other criminal sexual acts.

After the report ran in the New York Times, other celebrities and women throughout the world spoke up and began to share their own stories of sexual assault on social media, using the now world famous hashtag #MeToo.

“It’s good, it’s wonderful to create the awareness for actresses and women in the Western world who are in any way victims of violence,” Monteduro said, but stressed that at the same time, “all over the world there are women who are suffering the same, but maybe more aggressive violence in the name of faith.”

The ad begins by addressing some of the actresses who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo initiative, saying that their efforts have helped to raise awareness about sexual violence in western nations.

“Your faces, known by everyone, have been associated with the denunciation of a practice that seriously damages women, their sexuality and their dignity,” the ad says, noting that ACN for more than 70 years has sought to help persecuted Christians throughout the world, including many women who have suffered rape and sexual harassment.

“The faces of these women are invisible,” it says, and, introducing Rebecca, Dalal and Sr. Meena, notes that there are thousands of women like them who are both “persecuted and outraged without receiving any solidarity or visibility on social media.”

These women “need you,” the ad says, and asks the celebrities who have already spoken out on the #MeToo movement to join in condemning “the intolerable hypocrisy of those who are outraged only by what happens in the yard of their own home and who are stingy in their thoughts, words and help for those who suffer far away due to the silence of so many.”

“The solidarity of famous actresses such as yourselves would break the indifference.”

 

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News Briefs

After Irish referendum, abortion debate heats up in Northern Ireland

June 1, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jun 1, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After Ireland voted to legalize abortion in a referendum last week, efforts have increased to legalize the procedure in Northern Ireland as well.

On May 25, the people of Ireland voted to overturn the country’s 8th amendment, which recognized the equal right to life for the unborn child and the pregnant mother. As a result, abortion had been banned in the nation except when the mother’s health is deemed to be in danger.  

Just over 33 percent of the predominately Catholic country voted to keep the amendment, while more than 66 percent voted to repeal it.

However, abortion is still prohibited in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, unless a woman’s life or long-term health is at risk.

Abortion activists gathered at the main court buildings in Belfast on May 28. Several women took abortion pills in front of the police, although it was not clear if they were pregnant and had thereby broken the law.

In order to circumvent the country’s pro-life laws, the pills were delivered by small robots controlled from the Netherlands. The robots were sponsored by local and international abortion advocacy organizations, including Women on Waves, Women on Web, and Rosa Northern Ireland.

Police attempted to remove one woman from the protest after she had taken the abortion pills publicly. However, they later abandoned their efforts and only seized the drugs and robots.

U.K. Prime Minster Theresa May has faced pressure from pro-abortion groups in Northern Ireland. However, she stressed that legislative change would depend on local officials.

“It’s important to recognize that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to their own process which is run by locally elected politicians,” said James Slack, a spokesperson for May, according to NPR.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which currently holds the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, has said that it remains committed to the pro-life cause.

“The DUP is a pro-life party and we will continue to articulate our position. It is an extremely sensitive issue and not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration,” its leaders said in a statement following the May 25 referendum.

Bernadette Smyth, director of the Precious Life pro-life group in Northern Ireland, emphasized the need to inform and support women to help them choose life.

“Women in crisis pregnancies need real help and support. Abortion is never the answer,” she said.
 

 

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News Briefs

Gender theory flourished in an ideological vacuum, cardinal says

May 29, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, May 29, 2018 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Gerhard Müller reflected recently on the rise of gender ideology, saying it flourished in the vacuum left by the collapse of fascism and Soviet communism as a “new religion”.

“Marxism and fascism, anti-Christian ideology, fell. Capitalism is in crisis. There was room for true philosophy, for theology, for Christian religion. But people preferred to invent a new religion, which believes in the human being rather than God,” the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told CNA May 25.

The cardinal spoke before the presentation of the Italian edition of Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, by Daniel Mattson.

“People cannot be classified according to their sexual orientation,” Cardinal Müller said. “We do not have human beings who are more special than others. Man must be described according to his persona and the fact that he is created in the image and likeness to God and his vocation to eternal life.”

This character fits “every human being.”

Speaking about pastoral care for homosexuals, the cardinal noted that “the Church has always had respect toward every human person, beyond any categorization.”

He also emphasized that “in gender ideology you can count dozens of genders, while human being is created as man and woman: this is our nature, and the God cretor’s will is expressed in this nature.”

Cardinal Müller underscored that people “must resist those who organize as an ideological group and want to change all the society, imposing their thought on every people.”

That is “an imposition of a unique thought,” as ideological groups “attack all those who do not think their way, they insult, they even destroy the human dignity of people who think differently from them.”

He said these people “are a lobby, an organization with their own interests.”

Cardinal Müller praised Mattson for not labeling himself as gay, but as “Son of God.”

“We can talk about anything in the secret of confession and with pastoral care, but no man can identify himself with a category that does not exist in reality,” Cardinal Müller said.

He also stressed that this construction comes from Marxist thought, because “the Marxist rationale claims that mind does not recognize reality, but it builds reality: when the communist party says that 2+2 is 5, everybody must believe it.”

Gender ideology and pastoral care for homosexual people are among the most discussed topics in the Catholic Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued in 1986 a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which said, “We encourage the Bishops to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses.”

“No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin,” it added.

And Benedict XVI discussed gender ideology in his final Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia, on Dec. 21, 2012.

In the speech, he said that “the profound falsehood of (gender) theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

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