News & Commentary

Pope Francis: “We are Called to Safeguard and Defend Human Life, Especially in the Mother’s Womb”

STEVEN ERTELT   OCT 16, 2017   |   11:02AM    THE VATICAN

Pope Francis has been a consistent pro-life advocate since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church and he is once again speaking out against abortion and in favor of protecting unborn children.

In a tweet that has been liked by tens of thousands of people across the world, Pope Francis said people should protect human life from conception until natural death. His tweet condemns both abortion as well as euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“We are called to defend and safeguard human life, especially in the mother’s womb, in infancy, old age and physical or mental disability,” he said.

We are called to defend and safeguard human life, especially in the mother’s womb, in infancy, old age and physical or mental disability.

A new book released last month contains thoughts and commentary from Pope Francis based on a series of interviews has the leader of the Catholic Church. The book makes it clear Pope Francis believes there should be no compromise on the longstanding pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.

The Pope makes it clear that the Catholic Church takes two heartfelt positions when it comes to abortion. First the church takes a clear cut stance in opposition to abortion itself as the destruction of human life. Pope Francis, 80, minced no words when it came to abortion, but did offer a gentle sentiment to women who have opted to abort their unborn children.

“[Abortion is the] murder of an innocent person,” Francis said. “But if there is sin, forgiveness must be facilitated.”

Secondly the Catholic Church also believes in restoration for women who have had abortions.

As the Bible plainly teaches, there is no sin too big for God to forgive via the redemption found in the life-saving death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. Both Catholic and Protestant organizations have spent decades reaching out to post-abortive women and offering Bible studies and counseling to help repair their relationship with God and provide them emotional and spiritual support.

Francis stressed those themes of Mercy, Grace and forgiveness during the conversations he had in the interview. He added that many women are emotionally and spiritually scarred before finding God’s forgiveness for her sin.

“Think of a woman who has physical memory of her child, which oftentimes happens, and who cries, who cries for years without the courage to go to see a priest,” the pope explained. “Do you realize how many people can finally breathe?” he asked, reminding people that forgiveness is there for those who seek it.

Pope Francis said that while women who abort their children need to seek and accept the Lord’s forgiveness, it is imperative that they never commit the sin again.

Experimenting on embryonic humans is evil and must be opposed

LONDON, England, October 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — UK scientists are experimenting on seven-day old humans to learn how to “edit” DNA before killing them and discarding them.

A team from the Francis Crick Institute is using “excess” living human embryos for their experiments who were frozen for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They then “edit” the human DNA by taking out a vital gene from “healthy, normal” embryos.

States the BBC:

Breakthroughs in manipulating DNA have allowed the team at the Crick to turn off a gene – a genetic instruction – suspected to be of vital importance. The easiest way of working out how something works is to remove it and see what happens. So the researchers used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to scour the billions of letters of genetic code, find their genetic target and break the DNA to effectively disable it.

They were targeting a gene. You are unlikely to have heard of it, but OCT4 is a superstar in early embryo development. Its complete role is not understood but it acts like an army general issuing commands to keep development on track. The researchers used 41 embryos that had been donated by couples who no longer needed them for IVF. After performing the genetic modification, the team could watch how the embryos developed without OCT4…But without OCT4 the blastocyst cannot form. It tries – but implodes in on itself.

From the embryo’s perspective it is a disaster but for scientists it has given unprecedented insight.

Pro-lifers oppose destructive human embryonic experimentation because it’s a human life that’s being destroyed at his or her earliest beginning.

Governor Sam Brownback, whom President Trump nominated for Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom, put it this way: “What lies at the heart of this debate is our view of the human embryo. The central question in this debate is simple: Is the human embryo a person or a piece of property?”

“If unborn persons are living beings, they have dignity and worth, and they deserve protection under the law from harm and destruction. If, however, unborn persons are a piece of property, then they can be destroyed with the consent of their owner,” he said.

Christians have always affirmed that men and woman are created in the image of God from the very first moment of their existence. Since the embryo is a living human being and not just a clump of cells, experimentation involves the willful taking of human life and can only be judged as morally and ethically wrong in every instance.

This isn’t just a matter of rules, but a matter of respecting “persons.”

At no point is one person, no matter what size or what state of development — be they zygote, preborn, infant, toddler, child, teen, adult, senior — of less value or less of a person than another human being.

As Dr. Seuss put it, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

One’s degree of biological development is irrelevant to the fact that a new being comes into existence when sperm meets egg, a person who must be valued and respected as a member of the human family who is a bearer of God’s image.

The embryonic DNA manipulation performed by the UK scientists deliberately targets and kills human beings. Experimenting on people and then killing them, even with the good intention of using the knowledge gained to help others, is simply wrong. No matter what good follows from it, it is always evil to directly murder someone.

The world was horrified when it learned about the horrors of Nazi experiments on those in concentration/death camps. With equal fervor, anyone who stands for human rights and justice ought to be equally horrified with human embryonic destructive experimentation.

Human embryos are people. Experimenting on them is morally equivalent to experimenting on any other human, like you or me.

Pro-life pioneer Dr. J. Willke put it this way: “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t profess to be pro-life and support experimentation on these tiny children that will result in their deaths.”

In other words, the end does not justify the means.

“Common sense tells us that no one has the right to kill another human being, no matter how much good they claim will come from that act. Most people instinctively reject the notion that doctors are qualified to decide who should live and who should die ‘for the greater good.’  That is why doctors have for centuries taken an oath declaring their first duty not to harm, let alone kill, anyone in their care,” said family advocate Gary Bauer.

The manipulation and destruction of human life at any stage have no humility, no reverence, no place for God.

From the perspective of human rights and justice, the issue is clear: The lives of preborn children must be defended from the earliest, smallest, and most fragile stages of development.  Killing innocent human life for experimentation, or for any other reason, must be opposed.

Futility Policies and the Duty to Die

I am on the road this week speaking to groups and doing radio interviews. So here is an article published in Voices magazine (a Catholic women’s’ magazine) in 2003 with an update in 2005.  In the intervening years, the problems have grown worse but I originally wrote this article when almost no one had heard of futility policies. Here is the article.

When I first saw “Jack” last September (2002), he was lying unconscious in an ICU with a ventilator to help him breathe. It had been two weeks since a truck struck the 60 year-old and his injuries were devastating — including broken bones, blunt-force trauma and a severe head injury.

When Jack’s family contacted me about seeing him, they were desperate. The doctors told them that he would never come out of the coma and the issue of withdrawal of treatment was raised. The wife refused.

I could make no guarantees but I gave Jack’s wife a pamphlet on coma stimulation and began visiting Jack weekly.

As an ICU nurse myself, I could see that some of the staff felt that taking care of Jack was a waste of time. So I was not surprised when the family was soon told that nothing more could be done. But it was shocking when the hospital told the family that Jack’s ventilator was going to be removed regardless of their wishes. The family was given a deadline to find another health facility to take him.

By that time, Jack was opening his eyes and his family thought he could squeeze their hands at times. The medical and nursing staff assured them that this was just a “reflex”.

After some frantic phone calls, Jack was transferred to a long care facility that took patients on ventilators. Soon after the transfer, his condition became critical again and the family insisted he be treated. Jack was transferred to a hospital ICU. When the staff found out I was a nurse, some of them asked me what the family’s rationale was for continuing treatment. It was obvious that they too felt Jack was a hopeless case.

But over time, Jack improved and was finally able to breathe on his own without a ventilator so he was transferred to a regular hospital bed. Eventually it became evident to all that Jack was starting to respond to commands but it took pressure to get rehab services for him.

Just before Thanksgiving — a little more than two months after his accident — Jack became fully awake. He is now in a rehabilitation facility near his home in Illinois where the staff is working to strengthen his arms and legs, which were broken in the accident. Now, no one meeting him would ever guess that he had had a brain injury.

Even doctors and nurses who ordinarily disdain religion often call cases like Jack’s “miracles”. Of course, for many in healthcare, it’s easier to believe in miracles than to accept that they were wrong and a life could have been unnecessarily or prematurely lost.

But while Jack’s story has a happy ending, many similar cases do not. Families often automatically accept or are even pressured into accepting a doctor’s grim prognosis for their loved one and withdraw treatment after a patient’s brain is injured by trauma or other conditions like a stroke. Usually, the patient then dies.

Unfortunately, families like Jack’s who choose to continue treatment despite a “hopeless” prognosis are increasingly being denied that choice because of “futile care” policies being adopted in many hospitals throughout the country.

And such “futile care” principles have so permeated much of medicine today that there are even cases of elderly or terminally ill patients expected to have months of life remaining whose doctors didn’t want to prescribe medications such as antibiotics because the person was going to die sooner or later anyway.

Futile Care Policies and “Choice”
Most people assume that either they or their families will have the right to decide about medical treatment when they become seriously or critically ill. The biggest problem, people are told, is that they or their loved one will be tethered to a machine forever if they do not sign a “living will” or other health care directive. The “right to die” movement has convinced most people and medical personnel that the ability to refuse treatment is one of the most important aspects of medical care to prevent patients and families from needless suffering. Indeed, poll after poll shows that most people say they would rather die than be a “vegetable”. And many people automatically assume that they would never want their lives prolonged if they had a terminal illness, were paralyzed or senile, etc. Most people assume that refusing treatment, like assisted suicide (the other goal of the “right to die” movement), means choice and control.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed “right to die” nirvana.

Some families and patients did not “get with the program” and insisted that medical treatment be continued for themselves or their loved ones despite a “hopeless” prognosis and the recommendations of doctors and/or ethicists to stop treatment. Many doctors and ethicists were appalled that their expertise would be challenged and they theorized that such families or patients were unrealistic, “in denial” about the prognosis or were mired in dysfunctional family relationships. (In contrast, families who agree to withdraw treatment are almost always referred to as “loving” and their motives are spared such scrutiny.)

At a 1994 pediatric ethics conference I attended, one participant was even applauded when he suggested that parents who refused to withdraw treatment from their “vegetative” children were being “cruel” and even “abusive” by not “allowing” their children to die. In some cases, doctors and ethicists have even gone to court to force withdrawal of treatment over a family’s objections. These ethicists and doctors were stunned when judges were often reluctant to overrule the families.

Yet over the years and unknown to most of the public, many ethicists have still refused to concede the choice of a right to live and instead have developed a new theory that doctors cannot be forced to provide “inappropriate” or “futile” care and treatment to patients deemed “hopeless”. This theory has now evolved into “futile care” policies at hospitals in Houston, Des Moines, California and many other areas. Even Catholic hospitals are now becoming involved.

In the July-August 2000 issue of the Catholic Health Association’s magazine Health Progress, Catherine M. Mikus and Reverend Peter Clark — a lawyer and an ethicist — argue that it is “time for a formalized medical futility policy” in Catholic hospitals. Like many such articles in secular ethics journals, the authors refrain from being too specific about what conditions and which patients would be subject to such a policy. The authors concede that even the American Medical Association says that medical futility is a concept that “cannot be meaningfully defined” and is a “subjective judgment” on which there is no widespread agreement.

Mikus and Clark make it clear that they are not talking about treatments that are “harmful, ineffective, or impossible”, the traditional concept of medical futility that, of course, is not ethically obligatory. For example, no doctor would honor a family’s request for a kidney transplant for a person who is imminently dying. Instead, the authors argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor’s and/or ethicist’s determination of the “patient’s best interest”. Ironically, the “right to die” movement was founded on the premise that patients and/or families are the best judges of when it is time to die. Now, however, we are being told that doctors and/or ethicists are really the best judges of when we should die. This is reminiscent of the imperious statement attributed to Henry Ford that his Model T customers could “paint it any color, so long as it’s black”. Thus the “right to die” becomes the “duty to die”, with futile care policies offering death as the only “choice”.

But despite the lack of consensus on what constitutes futile care, these Catholic authors are passionate about why such policies should be adopted and insist that their policies are “firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition”:

“Proper stewardship of these resources entails not wasting them on treatments that are futile and inappropriate. They must be rationally allocated; to waste them is ethically irresponsible and morally objectionable”. (Emphasis added)

In other words, a social justice-style argument is being made to save money.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Mikus and Clark’s opinions, not only is a sense of humility lacking but also a sense of God’s jurisdiction:

“In assessing whether a treatment is medically futile, physicians must consider carefully not only the values and goals of the patient/surrogate, but also those of the community, the institution, and society as a whole”. (Emphasis added)

This not only ignores God’s ultimate role in life and death but also turns the Hippocratic oath on its head. While the Hippocratic oath is no longer routinely used with medical students, its enduring legacy has always been the sacredness of the commitment of the doctor to his individual patient. Now, new doctors are often told that their ultimate commitment instead resides with the health and welfare of society.

It is appalling that Catholic doctors are now also being encouraged to adopt the secular and utilitarian concept of the greatest good for the greatest number rather than a spiritual commitment to each individual for whom they care. Under this new standard, Jesus the great Healer must be considered a failure for tenderly concerning Himself with healing such “little” lives during His ministry rather than constructing a more “politically correct” health system.

Where Do We Go from Here?
Just a generation ago, doctors and nurses were ethically prohibited from hastening or causing death. Family disputes and ethically gray situations occurred, but certain actions (such as withdrawing medically assisted food and water from a severely brain-injured but non-dying person) were considered illegitimate no matter who was making the decision.

But with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and “quality of life” has become the overriding consideration. Over time, the ethical question “what is right?” became “who decides?” — which now has devolved into “what is legally allowed?”

Thus, it is not surprising that the Health Progress article on futility policies is subtitled “Mercy Health System’s Procedures Will Help Free Its Physicians from Legal Concerns”. This is no afterthought, but rather the greatest fear of the authors that families may sue.

Doctors are understandably afraid of civil or malpractice lawsuits. In this article, Mikus and Clark attempt to convince doctors that a written futility policy — no matter how vague — is necessary. Then doctors would use the power of an ethics committee to back up their decisions in any legal proceeding in order to prove that the determination of futility meets the hospital’s standard of care.

Even more ominously, there have been efforts to incorporate futile care policy into state and federal law. For example, Senator Arlen Specter introduced the Health Care Assurance Act of 2001 that, while aimed at improving health care for children and the disabled, nevertheless contains a provision that there is no obligation:

“to require that any individual be offered, or to state that any individual may demand, medical treatment which the health care provider does not have available, or which is, under prevailing medical standards, either futile or otherwise not medically indicated”. [Emphasis added.]

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize it. We cannot always rely on a mainstream media that would rather exhaustively cover a star’s shoplifting charge than alert us to thorny ethical problems. Legislation and policies are often developed without public knowledge or comment. Health insurance can no longer be counted on to pay for all needed treatment in many situations.

This is why publications such as Voices and many other Catholic periodicals, pro-life news services and the Internet are so important, especially in the area of ethics. We in the Church are also blessed with encyclicals, Vatican documents and the writings of the doctors of the Church, which give clear principles that are still just as valid and useful as ever in a world of increasing technology and seductive decadence.

If we truly want to protect lives, save souls and fight injustice, we cannot remain silent in the face of an ever-expanding “culture of death”.

Postscript (2005): A couple of years after this was published, Jack was home and doing well when I was contacted by a documentary team from the UK who were making a film about Jack’s experience. I was asked to be a part of this.

I spent a lot of time with the British team and they told me how giving up on someone like Jack would not happen in the UK, despite their government-run National Health Service.

I knew this because in 2000, Dr. Keith Andrews of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and his team in the UK had determined that “The slow-to-recover patient is often incorrectly labelled as being in VS (vegetative state)” at a rate of four out of 10. Dr. Andrews and his team developed the SMART (Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique) to be used in hospitals to reduce the danger of misdiagnosis.

 

Abortion and homosexuality are a ‘living reflection of hell’: U.S. Archbishop

SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Those who doubt the existence of hell, despite Our Lady of Fatima showing its horrors to three Portuguese shepherd children 100 years ago, can nevertheless see a “living reflection of hell” in abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality, said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Archbishop Cordileone made his remarks during a homily last weekend as he consecrated his Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

He recalled during his October 7 homily the great evils witnessed in the past 100 years, including the great world wars, death camps, numerous genocides, and Christian persecution.

“Who would dare to say that such barbarity is not a mocking of God?” he asked.

Cordileone listed legal abortion as one of the many genocides.

“And then there is the attack on innocent human life: Our own land has been soiled by the blood of innocent children in what has become a deadly epidemic tantamount to a genocide on life in the womb,” he said.

“And now we are increasingly witnessing the abandonment of our suffering brothers and sisters at the other end of life’s journey,” he added, in a reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide of the elderly.

The Archbishop went on to list legal homosexual “marriage,” and made a reference to Pride Parades, as ways in which God is mocked.

“And even in our own city of St. Francis, we see … the celebration and even exaltation of the vulgar and the blasphemous, mocking God’s beautiful plan in how He created us, in our very bodies, for communion with one another and Himself,” he said.

“God is roundly mocked in our very streets, and it is met with approval and applause in our community – and yet, we remain silent,” he added.

Friday, October 13, marks the 100th anniversary of Fatima’s “miracle of the sun.” The day commemorates the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to the three children and the fulfillment of the promised “sign.” Tens of thousands of people, including atheists and those who had come to mock the children, witnessed the sun dancing and emitting radiant colors in the sky.

Cordileone said that today, 100 years after the Fatima apparition, shows itself to be “in so many ways … a living reflection of hell, one that on so many fronts has roundly mocked God.”

“If we think about what has transpired in these last 100 years,” the Archbishop said, “does it not tell us that the century through which we have just passed was nothing other than an experience of hell?”

“The century since the Fatima apparitions now ending has mocked God, but God will not be mocked: not because He delights in wreaking vengeance on us, but because turning our backs on God only bounces back to us, leading to our own self-destruction,” he said.

Heeding the message 

The Archbishop said that now, more than ever, people must “heed the message of Fatima in imploring God for mercy,” especially through her request of “prayer, penance and adoration.”

He asked every Catholic in the Archdiocese to honor Our Lady’s request by praying the Rosary “every day.”

“I ask every Catholic in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, if you are not doing so already, to pray the Rosary every day. And I ask all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week,” he said.

He also asked Catholics in his diocese to do penance on every Friday of the year.

“I ask every Catholic in the Archdiocese of San Francisco to dedicate Friday as a day of penance in honor of the day that our Lord died for us, selecting one concrete form of bodily fasting to observe on this day, whether that be abstaining from meat or another type of food or from some type of drink they normally enjoy, or omitting a meal altogether,” he said.

Finally, he asked Catholics to honor Our Lady’s request by praying before God in adoration once a week.

“I ask every Catholic in the Archdiocese of San Francisco to dedicate some time each week to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. If it is not possible during the week, take some time before or after Sunday Mass to pray on your knees before our Lord present in the tabernacle. At least some time every week praying before the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – will fulfill his desire that we ask him for mercy,” he said.

He also asked that Catholics observe the devotion of the First Five Saturdays once a year.

“The devotion consists of attending Mass and receiving Communion in reparation for sins on five consecutive first Saturdays of the month shortly after or before going to Confession, and spending a quarter of an hour praying five decades of the Rosary,” he said.

Cordileone said that if Catholics honor the requests of Our Lady, it will hasten the fulfillment of her promise that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

“Let us heed her message, let us grant her requests, in order to hasten that triumph, that triumph which is that of her Son over death, for she is inseparably linked to her Son, who came to win for us our eternal salvation,” he said.

“Her Immaculate Heart is the door that opens up for us entrance into that triumph. It is through that door that we walk from the darkness of sin and death to the light of Christ’s truth and mercy. There it is, on the other side of that door, a glorious, vast, light-filled paradise that is heaven. Her heart is the gate of heaven,” he added.

HHS to define human life as ‘beginning at conception’

  |   , 12:33pm

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a draft of its new strategic plan for 2018-2022, and with the addition of a few small words, it’s clear that there is a major change.

Formerly, the document stated the following in its introductory information:

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving Americans at every stage of life.

The new edition now states this:

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.

8 weeks from conception

The change might be five little words, but its meaning is deep. It signifies that at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services knows and accepts the truth, that life begins at conception (fertilization). Pro-life activists have said it for decades, scientists have proved it, and abortion supporters have denied and flat-out ignored it, but it’s true: life begins the moment a new human life is created – at fertilization. HHS is committed to protecting those lives.

READ: Science confirms that human life begins at fertilization

In addition to this change, HHS’ first strategic goal is to “Reform, Strengthen, and Modernize the Nation’s Health Care.” In the introductory paragraph, it is made clear that there is a mission to improve health care in the United States for all Americans, including those still in the womb. It states:

HHS is dedicated to reforming, strengthening, and modernizing the Nation’s health care system. By promoting greater affordability and balancing spending, strengthening health care quality and patient safety, improving access and expanding choices, and investing in the health care workforce, HHS seeks to improve health care outcomes for people we serve. While we may refer to the people we serve as beneficiaries, enrollees, patients, or consumers, our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across healthcare settings.

Another addition is noticeable in the third strategic goal, which states that the HHS works to “Strengthen the Economic and Social Well-Being of Americans across the Lifespan.” HHS clearly states that not only does life begin at conception, but it should end at “natural death”:

A core component of the HHS mission is our dedication to serve all Americans from conception to natural death, but especially those individuals and populations facing or at high risk for economic and social well-being challenges, through effective human services.

The changes are welcome moves for those who advocate for the protection of preborn humans in a country where preborn eagles currently have more rights. It’s a small step, but it is a step in the right direction, acknowledging that life exists inside the womb.

READ: Scientists say life begins at conception with a burst of fluorescence

While former HHS Secretary Tom Price recently resigned from his position, pro-life Teresa Manningserves as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, overseeing the federal funding for family planning programs, and Charmaine Yoest, former president of Americans United for Life, serves as assistant secretary of public affairs.

Women need free contraception like Cecile Richards needs a pay rise

Janet Garcia | Oct 13 2017

https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/women-need-free-contraception-like-cecile-richards-needs-a-pay-rise/20563

After the Trump administration’s rollback of the controversial and heavily litigated contraceptive mandate from the Affordable Care Act, everyone from Cecile Richards to Nancy Pelosi to Hollywood stars are crying foul.

When the mandate was put into effect in 2010, it was touted as “necessary” for women’s health and access to contraception. We have now had seven years to see whether the Mandate is actually “necessary” for women to access contraceptives. Short answer: it’s not. Research from the reproductive rights think tank, Guttmacher Institute, found that since the Affordable Care Act and the Mandate began, there has been no change in sexually active women’s use of contraception.

This is not surprising. Before the mandate began, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studyfound that among the 11 percent of women who do not use contraception, cost was not even a “frequently cited reason” for not using birth control (2). Guttmacher found that only 3.7 percent of women obtaining an abortion cited cost as a barrier to using contraception.

The 11 percent of women who do not use contraception have good reason to avoid it. It has been shown that some of the “birth control access” that we have pushed is correlated with an increase in casual sex, and in some cases, STD rates. Birth control has other serious health consequences for many women that are often not adequately communicated to them — nor the alternatives for spacing births or treating hormonal conditions. Saying birth control is essential healthcare for women can do them a disservice.

Birth control and skyrocketing STD rates

Many advocates of the HHS mandate support it because it ensures that all women will have free provision of long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). LARCs, which include intra-uterine devices, implants or hormonal injections, help keep women effectively sterile.  LARCs are associated with increased rates of casual sex among teen girls, likely in part because they foster the illusion that sex can be “consequence free”. LARC users are more than twice as likely to have two or more sexual partners in the previous three months, and twice as likely to have four or more lifetime partners, than those who did not use LARCs”. An especially popular LARC, Depo Provera, is also associated with an increased rate of HIV transmission.

The defense of the contraceptive mandate comes at the same time that the CDC released its annual report on the status of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States in 2016. The figures are staggering. The United States has reached record high rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and Chlamydia, with over 2 million new diagnoses. Especially heartbreaking is the CDC’s assertion that over half of 20 million new diagnoses of all STD’s occur in individuals aged 15-24. Interestingly, LARCs are currently being pushed to this exact population.

Birth control can harm women’s health

In addition to STD rates, contraceptives have other risks that have been largely ignored in this push for free birth control access because “women’s health” supposedly depends upon it. Hormonal contraceptives have been designated as a “known carcinogen” by the World Health Organization, and also carry an increased risk of blood clots which can result in heart attacks, pulmonary emboli or strokes. For example, Merck, the maker of the IUD, NuvaRing, paid out $100 million to settle 3,800 lawsuits related to blood clots. Bayer paid out almost $1.6 billion to settle suits related to Yaz and Yazmin birth control pill complications, which had led to heart attacks and strokes.

If our goal is really to support women’s essential health needs, then we need to start with a basic tenet of solid medical practice-informed consent, specifically in this case, actually informing women of the risks of these medications and devices. As a nurse, I have given presentations to college-aged women about contraceptives. The majority of these educated young women have little to no knowledge about these risks, or even about how contraceptives function in their bodies. I’ve heard these young women exclaim, “Why aren’t we told about this?”

It is disingenuous and simplistic to pretend that women as a group “need” hormonal birth control for their health, and that there are no alternatives for avoiding or achieving pregnancy, or treating hormonal conditions. Many hormonal conditions can be more effectively treated with targeted hormone therapies, rather than a daily contraceptive pill which only masks the underlying disease rather than actually treating it. I personally struggled with pelvic pain and irregular menstrual cycles and many physicians recommended the birth control pill; advice I didn’t take, due to both medical and moral concerns. Instead, I have found reproductive health through progesterone treatment during a limited, specific part of my cycle.

Further, women looking to space pregnancies have alternatives to birth control that are side-effect free and cost-free in the long run. Fertility awareness based methods empower women with knowledge about their cycles that they can use for a lifetime to avoid or achieve pregnancy, no hormonal manipulation necessary.

As a healthcare provider, I am ashamed that we have reached the point that we make women, both young and not-so-young, feel as if they “need” contraceptives to be healthy, or to succeed in life, and that we must force anyone and everyone to pay for it. Consequently, in that quest for access to free birth control, in the effort to paint BC as necessary for women’s health, we have failed to educate women about risks and alternatives.

Janet Garcia writes from Minnesota. She is a wife, mother and registered nurse. Janet is a member of Women Speak For Themselves.

 

Inspiring: How a woman with cancer put assisted suicide advocates to shame

AUMSVILLE, Oregon, October 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Assisted suicide advocates call their cause “death with dignity,” but they never saw the likes of Esther Ybarra.

Stricken with Stage 4 cancer just as life was blossoming at age 19, Esther exemplified what a true “death with dignity” is.

She died in July after two years of degenerating from a 5-foot-10, 175-pound college scholarship athlete and female athlete of the year to a frail and broken 100-pound hospital patient struggling to breathe. But those she left behind say Esther was the strongest person they’ve ever known, whose enduring, ultimate trial-tested faith in Jesus Christ changed their lives.

Esther had always been athletic and competitive. The oldest of seven, she loved gymnastics, dancing, and kicking. Ron and Teresa Suelzle told World Magazine that at two years old their daughter used cabinet drawers to climb up to the bathroom sink to brush her teeth.

“I’m capable,” the toddler with the beaming smile told her dad.

As she grew and joined extracurricular sports, Esther was driven to compete. On the ceiling above her bed she taped, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” “No excuses.” “If I want to WIN, I will work harder.”

Finishing high school at the peak of health and athletic prowess, Esther even as a high school junior could squat 225 pounds and bench-press 155. Corban University gave her a scholarship to play volleyball.

Though she was raised in a Christian home, at one point the star athlete felt so strong that she didn’t need God anymore. That would soon change.

Two months into college, Esther’s life was turned upside down. When her back unexpectedly gave out, a biopsy near her fractured vertebra proved malignant. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a deadly soft tissue cancer.

Everything changed at that moment. For the better.

While her homemaker mom later recalled “My head was swimming” at her daughter’s hopeless diagnosis and her high school teacher dad “felt like we had hit bottom,” Esther paused, then shook her doctors’ hands.

“I want to thank you for telling me,” Esther said. “That must have been difficult for you.”

For the next two years, Esther became the Rock of Gibraltar. It is astounding how one woman’s faith can unite and sustain an entire family — even an entire community. When Esther faced the gravest diagnosis known to man, she calmly thanked her doctors. When her boyfriend broke up with her, she never lost faith in Jesus. When she lost her hair to chemotherapy, she never blamed God.

Sure, she asked, “Why?” And there were plenty of tears. Esther was not a stranger to anxiety or fear, either. But by having lost it all, she somehow gained something.  Something priceless.

“God took away everything that was important to me,” Esther explained. “He took away my ability to play volleyball, work out, go to school, and my hair. All I have left is God, my family, and my friends. And I’ve never been better.”

There was a period of remission. The whole family clung to fragile hope as Esther’s cancer treatment seemed to help. During that time, Esther met Jacob Ybarra, a track and field athlete at Corban.

When he took her out on Valentine’s Day, Esther was bald as a cue ball. She was also, understandably, somewhat guarded.

“She was a scared girl with a really, really strong shell,” Jacob told World’s Sophia Lee. “She acted like she was real tough and can do everything by herself, but she really needed help.”

Eventually, Jacob and Esther fell in love. When he asked her to marry him, Esther thought her life had turned around.

But not long after Jacob and Esther’s engagement, they got the crushing news that new cancer had formed and grown in her lungs.

Defying conventional wisdom, the two lovebirds wed in October 2016. Lee, who spent an entire day with the family recently, explained that when one was weak, the other provided strength.

“At times, Jacob returned home to find Esther in tears because she couldn’t finish the housework, and he taught her it was OK to rest. Other times, he came home to find his wife deep in prayer, and he sought to enjoy such intimacy with God as well,” Lee wrote.

“Esther’s greatest strength was her relationship with Jesus,” Jacob summarized. “Jesus was the only reason she could still sing, still fight.”

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Esther and Jacob Ybarra with their stillborn son

The couple became unexpectedly pregnant, but at three months along Esther hemorrhaged, and tiny, perfectly-formed Thaddeus was stillborn.

Cancer treatments no longer helped as Esther grew dramatically worse. The fluid building up in her lungs made it progressively harder to breathe. Jacob helped ease the fluid buildup.

Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997, and if anybody qualified, it was Esther. But instead of killing herself, even when in great pain, Esther sang.

One of her favorite hymns to sing was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and she didn’t care if others heard her. Hospital staff described her as the most joyful person in the room.

So often Esther would listen to someone’s troubles, lying on her deathbed herself, wiping away their tears and offering to pray for them. And any time she could, Esther would talk about Jesus with doctors, nurses, aides, and just about anyone.

“They were concerned about saving her life, but she was trying to save their souls,” Jacob told Lee.

Instead of killing herself, Esther saved souls. Of that, her family and relatives testify.

“She fully trusted what was supposed to happen, and that was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” her cousin, Kim Klaus, shared.

“She learned how to be instead of always doing,” her sister, Elizabeth, 20, said.

“Just by the way she lived, giving up everything for Christ, she really inspired me,” sister Marilyn, 13, said.

On July 24, 2017, Esther opened her eyes for the last time, in the loving presence of her family. After an all-too-brief goodbye glance, she was gone.

Last month, a “Celebration of Life” was held in Esther’s honor. Six hundred people gave thanks to God for the life and for the death of Esther Ybarra. Many gave testimony of the spiritual paradigm shift they experienced just by knowing the woman who truly “died with dignity.”

There’s more in Lee’s beautiful account of how Jacob and the family are now coping, but one lesson — among many — stands out.

Esther’s tragic plight has a lot in common with others who ultimately decide to kill themselves, with society’s legal blessing. Another vivacious woman stricken with cancer way too young, Brittany Maynard, became the poster-child for assisted suicide in 2014.

Lee points out that both Esther and Brittany may have had a common tragedy, but their responses were as different as life and death.

Brittany aggressively decided to fight for the right to kill herself, considering suicide as her “death with dignity,” and the state government blessed her death wish. She justified it as best for her family, because her suffering would be a “nightmare” for them. She sought to avoid “fear and uncertainty” by taking her own life.

In contrast, Esther sought to live what time she had left “to the glory of God.” While death has no dignity, Esther prized the days and used them to draw closer to Christ and to her family. In her suffering, she comforted those around her. She truly lived the hymn, “I Surrender All,” submitting her unknown future to her Lord.

As a result, Esther’s death, though tragically sad, inspired her family and countless others to see what truly matters in life. And as a result, her death brought eternal life to those around her.

“Her legacy is not one of despair,” one person said at Esther’s memorial. Instead, Esther’s awesome example encouraged all who came near her to “choose joy every day.”

“For the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the Right Hand of God the Father.” (Hebrews 12)

Amen.

U.S. fertility rate plummets to new record low

October 5, 2017 (Population Research Institute) – The last year of the Obama administration saw the fertility rate fall to an all-time low.

According to recent data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the U.S. fertility rate sank to a record low of 62.0 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2016.

This was a slight decrease from the 2015 fertility rate which stood at 62.5. The downward trend is not showing signs of stopping either. According to NCHS preliminary estimates, fertility slumped even lower to 61.5 in the first quarter of 2017.

The U.S. birth rate—a slightly different measure of fertility—also fell among younger women, 15-29 years of age. A small increase in births among women 30 years of age and older was not enough to make up for the decline among younger women.

The Great Depression led to a staggering drop in fertility rates.

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The current fertility decline is similarly driven by the still-lingering effects of the Great Recession of 2007.

Studies have shown that unemployment[1],[2] and employment uncertainty[3] adversely affect the birth rate overall and lead young people to postpone marriage. Both for male and female unemployment affects fertility, though the effect remains stronger for male unemployment.[4]  Fertility is also more likely to decline in developed countries when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracts.[5]

A decline in the birth rate has also been found to be linked with other economic indicators such as per capita GDP, per capita income, the number of first-time unemployment claims, and consumer confidence.[6]

The Great Recession has fallen particularly hard on young adults who play a major role in contributing to the overall fertility rate. Following the 2007-16 Great Recession (which is more accurately referred to as a second Great Depression), many young adults have struggled to enter the workforce, to find affordable housing, and to accumulate wealth, prerequisites necessary in contemporary American society for partnership and family formation.

The Great Recession has also fallen particularly hard on Hispanics, a demographic that, for the past few decades, has helped boost the fertility rate in the U.S. While non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white women have seen a modest decrease in fertility by 7.3 and 1.7 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age from 2007-2015 respectively, Hispanic women have seen a precipitous decline of 25.7 births per 1,000 women over the same time period.[7]

According to NCHS, the total fertility rate in the U.S. in 2015 was 1.84. This rate sits below the replacement fertility rate, the rate of births necessary for population replacement. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, replacement fertility in the U.S. is estimated to average 2.07 from 2015-2020.

If birth rates continue to decline, and immigration drops off, the impact on the U.S. economy could be significant. Population growth, or more specifically, an increase in the labor force, is a key determinant of economic growth. Economists estimate that as much as one third of economic growth is attributable to workers being added to the labor force every year.

Low birth rates correspond to aging population.  The U.S. is facing a substantial increase in its dependency ratio as the Baby Boomers retire, and working-age adults must replace the productivity thus lost and pay for entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

To maintain productivity, one solution is to work longer hours or to postpone retirement. But, given there are only so many hours in a day and only so many additional years the elderly can be expected to work, there is only so much lost productivity that can be compensated for in this way. Barring a major technological breakthrough to boost productivity and efficiency, demographic decline will almost certainly have a net drag effect on the economy.

Will birth rates rebound?  As the Great Recession recedes into memory, and as the Trump economic policies stimulate growth, birth rates will likely increase again.  They did, after all, following the Great Depression.

But the demographic recovery this time around is unlikely to be nearly as robust as it was during the Baby Boom. American society has changed. Fertility rates are unlikely to reach former levels because desired fertility goals in the U.S. overall have declined.

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In recent decades, however, women have increasingly opted to postpone childbearing. The shift has been so consistent across the U.S. that the birth rate for women in the 30-34 age group has now surpassed the 20-24 age group. There are far fewer teenage brides than in years past, and more and more young women are choosing college over childbearing.

A more educated population is, of course, vital to continued economic growth.  But so is a healthy birth rate. Are young couples merely postponing childbearing until they are older and have completed their education.  Or are they foregoing it altogether?

It may be too soon to tell which way fertility will trend, post-Great Recession. While many couples initially seemed to merely postpone having children as when the downturn hit, recent fertility data seems to indicate that, as the Obama recession dragged on year after year, many ultimately revised their fertility goals downward. Couples who postponed births have generally yet to make-up for the loss, proving once again that fertility delayed is fertility denied.

The solution, in our opinion, is an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Senator Marco Rubio has long advocated increasing the maximum credit from $1,000 to $2,500, as well as making it fully refundable. A fully refundable CTC would reduce the taxes of working families across the board.  This in turn would be a powerful inducement for them to have another child. After all, children are the only future a family—or a nation—has.

[1] D’Addio AC, d’Ercole MM. Trends and determinants of fertility rates: The role of policies. OECD Publishing; 2005 Sep 2.

[2] Schmitt C. Gender-specific effects of unemployment on family formation: a cross-national perspective 2008; SOEPpaper No. 127; DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 841.

[3] Sobotka T, Skirbekk V, Philipov D. Economic recession and fertility in the developed world. Population and Development Review 2011; 37(2): 267-306.

[4] According to observation made by: Sobotka (2011).

[5] Relationship dissipates in multivariate model, however. See Sobotka (2011).

[6] Fokkema T, de Valk H, De Beer J, van Duin C. The Netherlands: Childbearing within the context of a “Poldermodel” society. Demographic Research 2008; 19(21): 743-794.

[7] Calculated using data from: Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Driscoll AK, Mathews TJ, Division of Vital Statistics. Births: Final data for 2015. National vital statistics reports. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics 2017; 66(1): 32-33.

Editor’s note: Reprinted by permission from Population Research Institute.

One of the Most Compelling Bible Verses That Ought to Prompt Christians to Oppose Abortion

MARIA GALLAGHER   OCT 9, 2017   |   12:33PM    WASHINGTON, DC

It is entirely possible to adopt a pro-life position based solely on reason. After all, science shows us that the baby’s heart starts beating at 24 days after conception; brain waves can be detected 43 days after fertilization.

Since every being in creation has a beginning, conception is the logical marker for determining the initiation of life. And, once a human life is initiated, the boy or girl should be protected. No religious creed is required to subscribe to that position.

Still, some look to faith to answer the question of when life begins, or to validate their position on abortion.

To me, one of the most telling verses in the Bible comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 25: “Amen, I say what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.”

The least among us are preborn children. They have no money, no voice of their own. They are small in stature and, under the tragic U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, they are largely unprotected under the law.

But according to Christian Scripture, whatever is done, or left undone, for these little ones is done, or not done, for Jesus, the Son of God.

Therefore, a Biblical imperative exists to defend the lives of preborn children. In honoring them, Christians honor God.

Again, one can come to a pro-life position entirely based on scientific evidence. But for those who look to the Bible for direction, the right to life is as clear as the waters of Baptism.

LifeNews.com Note: Maria Gallagher is the Legislative Director and Political Action Committee Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and she has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.

Ends rule requiring nuns to fund contraception

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump administration issued an order today ending the federal requirement that employers violate their consciences to participate in the provision of employees’ contraceptives and abortifacient drugs.

The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began this mandate, often called the HHS contraceptive mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor, pro-life nuns who care for the elderly, along with Hobby Lobby and other religious entities, refused to comply. The Little Sisters of the Poor providing contraceptive and life-ending drugs and devices would explicitly contradict their mission of respecting the dignity of every human life.

“HHS has issued a balanced rule that respects all sides– it keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for most employers and now provides a religious exemption,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The Little Sisters still need to get final relief in court, which should be easy now that the government admits it broke the law.”

The new rules, which are nearly 300 pages in total, prevent the Little Sisters of the Poor and other conscientious objectors from litigation.

“The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions,” the new rules state. “These rules do not alter multiple other Federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for women at risk of unintended pregnancy.”

The Supreme Court offered relief from the burdensome mandate to Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations in its 5-4 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

President Trump promised to end the coercive mandate during his campaign. He signed a religious liberty executive order in May 2017 that seemed to begin this process, although some social conservatives blasted it for being “woefully inadequate” and much weaker than an initial leaked version. Today’s new rules fulfill this executive order.

“No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenants of their faith,” Trump said when he signed this order in the White House Rose Garden. He called the Little Sisters of the Poor up to the stage with him.

In June 2017, a draft of a new federal regulation addressing the contraceptive mandate was released. Pro-life groups praised that leaked draft.

The New York Times reported that Matt Bowman, a pro-life attorney who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) before joining the Trump administration’s HHS, is the “principal author of the rules.”

ADF has been one of the mandate’s strongest critics.

According to The New York Times, the new regulation cites some of the many health risks of contraception as well as its availability likely promoting teen sexual promiscuity. The June leaked version of this new regulation mentioned that as well.

The rule released today allows employers with religious and moral objections to contraception to not participate in its provision. This would exempt groups like the March for Life, which have expressed moral opposition to cooperating.

“The new exemptions will be available to colleges and universities that provide health insurance to students as well as employees,” according to The New York Times.

“After eight years of the federal government’s relentless assault on the First Amendment, the Trump administration has taken concrete steps today that will once again erect a bulwark of protection around American’s First Freedom – religious freedom,” said Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.

“President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom,” said Perkins. “Last May, the president ordered the federal government to vigorously promote and protect religious liberty.”

HHS is “moving to make that order a reality,” he said.