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Trump administration starts withdrawal from WHO

July 8, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Jul 8, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization by July 6, 2021, the Trump administration has told the WHO, launching a yearlong process that will likely require approval from Congress and President Donald Trump’s re-election if it is to come to completion.
 
While the move would end the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to the WHO, withdrawal does not necessarily mean a reduction in overall global health aid, Elyssa Koren, director of United Nations advocacy at ADF International, told CNA July 7.
 
“Withdrawal from the WHO does not mean that the U.S. has stopped prioritizing humanitarian assistance, in particular COVID-19 relief, but that instead it can channel these funds directly without going through the U.N.,” Koren said.
 
A draft appropriations bill in Congress would increase overall money for U.S. development spending, and allocate another $10 billion for coronavirus assistance, she added in a July 8 essay in Newsweek.
 
President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the WHO in a May 29 Rose Garden media briefing. He charged that the agency failed to alert the world when the novel coronavirus emerged. He accused the U.N. agency of helping China cover up the threat.
 
The claims of a cover-up have been questioned by experts, including a report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
 
In April, Trump put a temporary freeze on U.S. funds during a review of U.S. membership. The U.S. had typically given $400 million per year to the organization, whose budget is about $4.8 billion annually.
 
Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, rejected the withdrawal effort.
 
“Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health,” Biden said on Twitter July 7. “On my first day as President, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”
 
A State Department spokesperson explained the Trump administration’s perspective.
 
“The President has been clear that the WHO needs to get its act together. That starts with demonstrating significant progress and the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks with transparency and accountability,” a State Department spokesperson told CNBC July 7.
 
“The United States will continue efforts to reform the WHO and other international organizations to ensure they operate with transparency, fulfill their mandates, and hold governments accountable for their commitments under international law,” the spokesperson said.
 
While Koren has backed defunding, rather than disengaging, from the WHO, she characterized the possible end of a U.S. relationship with the WHO as “an important step for the protection of American interests.”
 
“The U.S. spent $900 million on the organization last year alone, and given significant evidence of WHO dysfunction, it is clear that U.S. funds are better spent elsewhere,” she told CNA.
 
There are no reports that the Trump administration action is motivated by abortion.
 
However, Koren, a longtime observer of abortion issues at the U.N., said there is further reason for the U.S. to withdraw given “mounting proof that the WHO is promoting abortion under the guise of coronavirus relief.”
 
The WHO’s coronavirus pandemic plans for Ecuador includes Minimum Initial Service Packages from the United Nations Population Fund, which include instruments used in the context of abortion: vacuum extractors, craniocrasts for the crushing of fetal skills, and drugs to perform abortions. The equipment comes with manuals from the abortion provider IBIS, which explain how the equipment can be used for abortion.
 
“The U.S. is prohibited from the funding of abortion abroad, thus rendering the relationship with the organization untenable,” Koren said.
 
Given recent years’ U.S. leadership on pro-life protections at the United Nations, Koren said that as the U.S. withdraws from the WHO it should “seek avenues to maintain engagement across the U.N. system in the interest of the pro-life cause and other American priorities.” “Continued pressure for reform is needed for the longevity of the international human rights project,” she said.
 
After the president’s May 29 media briefing, the State Department began redirecting funds away from the WHO, instead giving the funds to other global health organizations, CNBC reports.
 
The withdrawal has drawn criticism from Congress, including Republicans in the House of Representatives. They have said the U.S. would be able to have a larger impact on the response to the novel coronavirus epidemic as part of the organization.
 
It is unclear whether Trump has the authority to withdraw unilaterally from the WHO. The draft 2021 foreign aid bill of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations would renew $200 million in WHO funding.
 
Koren, writing in Newsweek, has said the draft bill’s provision to give $55.5 million to the UNFPA would violate the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars U.S. funds for organizations with links to forced abortion.
 
Some reports have called into question Trump’s claim that the U.N. agency was involved in cover-up. On June 2 the Associated Press reported that while WHO publicly praised China’s response to the new coronavirus, it encountered significant delays in collecting data from the Chinese government. WHO officials were frustrated they did not get the information they needed.
 
Experts have debated whether WHO should have been more confrontational, or whether that approach would have put it at risk of being kicked out of China.
 
WHO has agreed to an independent probe of how it handled the global pandemic.
 
A Department of Homeland Security report dated May 1, acquired by the Associated Press, showed that some U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the outbreak and the contagiousness of the new coronavirus in order to stock up on medical supplies.

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Catholic builds a shrine to St. Junipero Serra on the site of destroyed Sacramento statue

July 8, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Jul 8, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).-  

After rioters pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento on July 4, a local Catholic told CNA that she felt compelled, after prayer and reflection, to clean the spot where the statue once stood, to pray there, and to defend the 18th-century missionary’s legacy.

“I know enough about him to know that he was not a bad man, and that he doesn’t deserve the inaccurate histories that were being portrayed in our local media. I’m not going to be silent about that when given an opportunity.” Audrey Ortega told CNA.

Ortega, a homemaker from Sacramento and a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, set up a makeshift shrine to Serra on the statue’s empty plinth July 5, and led other Catholics in cleaning graffiti from the site.

On July 4, a rioter burned the face of the Serra statue with an ignited spray from an aerosol can, before a crowd pulled the statue from its base using tow straps. After the statue fell, members of the crowd struck it with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.

Ortega said it hurt her especially that the rioters waited for the cover of darkness to destroy the statue, which according to an eyewitness took less than ten minutes to accomplish before the rioters scattered.

St. Serra’s detractors have accused him in recent years of perpetrating abuses against Native Americans. The statue, installed on the grounds of California’s state capitol in 1965, was the third figure of the missionary saint to be torn down by crowds in California in recent weeks.

Ortega was not present at the protest, but watched the coverage that evening on the local news. She resolved to go to the site to, in her words, put “something beautiful on this marred, awful place.”

Her 12-year-old son had made a simple wooden cross for their family’s door during Holy Week, she said. She decided it would be an appropriate item to use to honor Serra, along with holy water, an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle, and holy dirt from Chimayo, New Mexico.

Ortega said she was scared at first to approach the former statue site— which is now little more than a “stump” with rebar sticking up, she said— but soon had her “prayer spot” set up on the stump with a lit candle, and she began to pray the rosary and the stations of the cross.

“I was just praying for peace, and praying for the safety of everybody involved,” she said. “I’m standing on firm ground as a Catholic…I don’t want to live with anger or bitterness in my heart. That’s what caused the statue to be torn down in the first place.”

She said praying the stations of the cross at the site was particularly powerful for her.

“I felt so connected to the sufferings of Christ, and to the sufferings of St. Serra, because I do know his story of how he suffered, of the deprivation he went through and the sacrifices he made,” referring to Serra’s practices of self-mortification and the health issues he endured as a missionary in New Spain.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say the priest actually was an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights.

While Ortega was praying at the stump July 5, a reporter from the Sacramento Bee approached Ortega and asked to interview her about why she was there. The reporter later posted the video, which shows Ortega passionately speaking in defense of Serra, online.

“Pope Francis canonized him in 2015. He’s not going to canonize a rapist. There were rapists, yes, but it was not St. Serra,” Ortega said in the Sacramento Bee video.

Serra specifically advocated for the rights of Native peoples, at one point drafting a 33 point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

Serra often found himself at odds with Spanish authorities over treatment of native people, and point to the outpouring of grief from native communities at his death.

Ortega lamented the fact that the statue was removed with due process, or a rational discussion. She said the groundskeepers have told her that the statue has been recovered, but she does not know if there are plans to put it back up again.

“The city has to decide: are we going to pretend like this isn’t happening? Or are we going to do better than this?” she said, suggesting that the city could hold a community forum to talk about the issue.

“At least people are now learning [Serra’s] story, even if it’s a little late for this statue,” she laughed.

On July 6, Ortega said she decided to go and scrub graffiti from the plinth, which she and her children did for two hours straight. She said many passers-by, including some state employees, thanked them for what they were doing.

Today, she said, the plinth looks nearly back to normal thanks to the cleaning efforts. But she worries that, because of the apparent inaction of the city government, it may be vandalized again.

A statue of Serra was torn down by demonstrators in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on June 19, and one was torn down in Los Angeles on the same day. Other California cities have moved Serra statues to avoid their toppling, or plan to do so.

Ortega said she plans to pray at the statue site for a few minutes each day for as long as she can.

“Anybody can walk around the capitol grounds and pray the rosary and pray for peace. And anybody can go and pray at the Serra statue, or pray the stations of the cross like I did…you can do that without a permit and without drawing…counter protestors.”

In a July 5 statement, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said that while “the group’s actions may have been meant to draw attention to the sorrowful, angry memories over California’s past,” their “act of vandalism does little to build the future.”

“All monuments are imperfect as are our efforts to live up to America’s founding ideals. The primary task is to build up our community, not tear it down,” the bishop added.

 

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‘Roe’ abortion decision could still be overturned at SCOTUS, law professor says

July 7, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-  

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturned a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, one law professor says that longstanding abortion precedents could still be overturned, even if the makeup of the court does not change.

“Given the right case, a strong enough factual record developed by state legislatures and supported at trial, I believe that the current majority on the Supreme Court could overturn Roe and Casey, and return the question of abortion to the states to resolve through the usual political processes,” University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA July 7.

On June 29 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

Its 5-4 decision in the case June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo ruled that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women.

The decision was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion. In his concurrence, Roberts said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of a Texas law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case about Texas safety regulations for clinics in the 2016 ruling Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Roberts, long considered a skeptic of pro-abortion rights jurisprudence, had dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”

For Snead, the latest decision was disappointing, but also a “road map” for continued efforts.

He lamented that Roberts failed to join four other justices in “affirming the constitutionality of a modest health and safety law for women seeking abortions, namely, the requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.”

“Nothing in the Constitution forbids Louisiana from enacting such a law. But Chief Justice Roberts felt bound to strike it down under the prudential doctrine of stare decisis because it was so factually similar to a Texas law invalidated four years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (in which Chief Justice Roberts dissented).”

Snead thought the four justices who dissented in the Louisiana case were right that stare decisis did not require rejecting the law.

However, even with the Supreme Court’s apparent dedication to a recent precedent, Snead was hopeful that pro-abortion rights decisions like 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey could be overturned.

“No one in June Medical Services asked for Roe or Casey to be overturned, and Chief Justice Roberts applied Planned Parenthood v. Casey without affirming or endorsing it,” said Snead.

“He made it explicitly clear that he does not believe the Court can or should balance a woman’s self-determination against a state’s interest in the life of an unborn child. But this is the very calculus from whence the right to abortion came in Roe and Casey. So it’s clear that Chief Justice Roberts believes that Roe and Casey are conceptually unsustainable.”

“That leaves the issue of stare decisis as the final obstacle to convincing him to undo the injustice of Roe and Casey. It is clear from his concurrence that pro life litigants need to explain why principles of stare decisis do not require Casey and Roe to be sustained,” he said.

In a July 4 essay for the First Things website, “The Way Forward After June Medical,” Snead argued that Roberts’ concurrence is “the controlling opinion for purposes of precedent” and “leaves pro-life litigants on a better jurisprudential footing than before.”

“Most important, June is a road map for tailoring arguments to the new swing vote on abortion, Chief Justice Roberts,” Snead said. “It is certainly tempting to give up because there is still so far to go. But in the face of setbacks in the struggle for the equal protection of the law for every member of the human family, born and unborn, we must remind ourselves that none of it matters. We must find a way to win.”

Roberts’ concurrence acknowledged that the 2016 law was wrongly decided. For Snead, a case can be “readily made” to address Roberts’ concerns about precedent because of the unstable place of abortion in constitutional law. He wrote “it is built on outdated and dubious factual predicates.”

Snead told CNA that American jurisprudence on abortion “has never offered a stable, coherent, or predictable legal framework; it has been re-theorized multiple times, thus reducing its precedential standing; and there is no evidence that women have structured their lives around access to abortion, nor evidence that their personal or social flourishing depends on it.”

He said Roberts’ concurrence puts forward a “new standard.” If a state’s abortion restrictions face legal challenge, the state needs only “to demonstrate that it is pursuing a legitimate purpose via rational means.”

“This is a very low standard that states can almost always meet,” said Snead, saying this standard allows states “far more latitude to restrict and regulate abortion than before.”

“Indeed, the Supreme Court just vacated and remanded for reconsideration two cases where lower courts had previously struck down a parental notice law and a law requiring an ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion,” Snead told CNA.

“States should continue to pass laws that respect and protect the intrinsic equal dignity of all human beings, born and unborn, and extend the basic protections of the law to unborn children and their mothers,” Snead said. He advised a combination of abortion restrictions and laws that strengthen “the social safety net” for pregnant mothers and families.

States should make it easier for men and women to care for their babies or, where not possible, to make an adoption plan, he suggested.

“And in our own lives, we all have the duty to extend to all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, love, respect, and radical hospitality,” he said.

 

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