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Argentinian doctor convicted of refusing to perform abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 23, 2019 / 12:32 am (CNA).- Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, an OB-GYN in Argentina, was found guilty on Monday of having prevented an abortion, after he decided to save the life of an unborn baby whose mother had taken an abortion pill.

After three days of arguments in the Rio Negro Court in Argentina, Judge Álvaro Meynet found Rodríguez guilty of failing to carry out his duty as a public functionary.

In the coming days, the court will announce the sentence, which could range from suspension from practicing medicine to two years in prison.

Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19-year-old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, the first of a two-part abortion pill regimen, which had been administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

However, Rodríguez and Dr. Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.

Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued on the grounds that he had stopped an abortion in progress.

Judge Meynet ruled that the doctor carried out a “delaying maneuver” to take advantage of a vulnerable woman. He said that since Rodríguez was not registered as a conscientious objector, he was obliged by law to perform the abortion.

During the course of the trial, thousands of people and pro-life institutions in the country backed the doctor through social media, petitions drives, marches, and vigils outside the court.

After the reading of the verdict, Rodríguez said he will appeal the decision and will continue fighting for justice to be done.

MS-13 gang member suspected in Salvadoran priest’s death

San Salvador, El Salvador, May 20, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A priest has been shot and killed by a suspected gang member in El Salvador, Vatican News reported Sunday. His funeral was held today in Sonzacate, El Salvador.

Father Cecilio Perez Cruz, 38, was pastor of San Jose La Majada Parish in Juayu, El Salvador, in the Diocese of Sosonate near the Guatemalan border.

A group of parishioners found his body Saturday morning; he had been shot three times.

There was a handwritten note next to the priest’s body, signed by the Mara Salvatrucha gang saying “he did not pay the rent,” Vatican News reported. Gangs in El Salvador often use extortion as a means of control.

Mara Salvatrucha is more commonly known as MS-13, a gang formed by children of Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 80s.

Bishop Constantino Barrera of Sonsonate asked Catholics to pray for Father Perez, and praised the priest’s pastoral ministry, saying he was “close to his people.”

The Government of El Salvador condemned the murder and in a statement expressed condolences to the priest’s family and to the Catholic community.

"We stand in solidarity with all the victims of violence, of any type of violence, and we ask the authorities to administer justice in all cases," Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador said at a news conference yesterday.

"It's not that we seek revenge, but justice is necessary for the good of the victims and for the good of the whole society, because violence will only be overcome if impunity is not allowed. It is truly worrisome the degree of violence that our country suffers. We must work and pray intensely for peace," the archbishop said as quoted by Catholic News Service.

A local police officer told AFP an investigation was in its earliest stages and the killer was not yet known to the police.

El Salvador has one of the highest rates of murder in the world, with 51 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, and gang violence is especially acute.

The Salvadoran government also announced Sunday new orders have been issued to security forces to make sure the priest’s killers are brought to justice, Vatican News said.

Gangs such as MS-13 compete with the government for power and in some cases control entire neighborhoods.

Rick Jones, a policy expert for Catholic Relief Services, told CNA last October that after the United States began deporting large numbers of Salvadorans from Los Angeles after the country’s civil war ended, many of the young people who returned were already involved in gang activity.

“You have a situation where in the mid-1990s most young boys were out of school and unemployed, and only made it to 6th grade. And so they started organizing and [the gangs] spread through the metropolitan area,” he said.

“Then, in 2003, the [US] government decided to put out the ‘Iron Fist’ policy. Meaning zero tolerance. Meaning any kid with baggy clothes, tattoos and a hat on backwards could get picked up and thrown into prison.”

These hardline policies backfired, however, as the homicide rate continued to increase despite the changes.

“The level of violence has risen ever since the country put in these hardline policies,” Jones said.

“What you have in the country, as I said, is you have the underlying conditions of people living in marginal, overcrowded neighborhoods, that were created spontaneously because of the war, so there's no social service, kids don't have access to school, and the communities are all living in fear during the war, and that just gets translated to the next generation. And this generation acts out on that by joining gangs.”

“I think it's the latest manifestation of both structural issues, lack of opportunity, and then trauma from the war getting worked out in a new way, and thirdly the levels of repression that they've had now under the Iron Fist policies for over a decade,” he said.

Clergy in El Salvador continue to be outspoken about human rights violations, in the country, with many working with young people, to try to turn them from gang violence, while also speaking out against El Salvador’s highly overcrowded prison system and the hardline policies that have led to it.  

“We're now working with governments, we're trying to work with the police, to try to help them understand that the repressive tactics are not being effective, and to get better community policing, and more targeted, focused policing, and working with the kids before they get to the point where they need to be locked up...We need to work with adolescents and their families before they get engaged in gangs,” Jones said.

“You have to work with the guys that are locked up. So that when they get out, they don't just go back into the gangs or into criminal behavior, that they actually become peace promoters among some of these neighborhoods.”

Catholic organizations and leaders in El Salvador have recently decried the "impunity" with which gangs often operate, including in the death of another Salvadoran priest killed last year during Holy Week.

Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez Jiménez was shot and killed the afternoon of March 29, 2018, Holy Thursday, on a dirt road outside of the town of Lolotique, El Salvador, as he was on his way to celebrate Mass. The local press attributed the crime to gangs active in the area.

 

 

Venezuelan bishops say ending legislative immunity 'hijacks' democracy

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has expressed opposition to a decision of the country’s Supreme Court, which has requested that legislative immunity be revoked for members of the National Assembly accused of treason, conspiracy, instigation of insurrection, civil rebellion and other charges.  That would open the way for legislators to be tried for those alleged crimes.

“With this request, the will of the Venezuelan people, who freely elected the National Assembly is, in fact, abolished,” the bishops charged in a May 15 statement.

They also said that Supreme Court requests on the matter “constitute disrespect and a transgression of the commitments enacted with the different international bodies on human rights.”

“The denial of immunity without previously determining its merits and ignoring the rights of the National Assembly, contravening the express constitutional provisions, gravely harms the functioning of democracy,” the bishops added.  

They also explained that these decisions in practice constitute “the hijacking of popular sovereignty,” which is represented by the legislators elected by the will of the citizens.

“That is the essence of a democracy: respect for the will of the people and the observance of the due legal and judicial processes.”

They also reminded that in the face of a political crisis a peaceful solution is required. “We reaffirm  the will for an institutional and democratic solution to the political and social situation in Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan bishops' Justice and Peace Commission pointed out that more than 30 representatives of the National Assembly are not exercising their functions because of the violation  of their parliamentary immunity, while others have been arrested, are in exile, or their election was invalidated as occurred with the representatives from Amazonas State.

“We categorically reject the persecution against the political and social leaders, especially against the Representatives of the National Assembly by means of criminalization and stigmatization, placing pamphlets on their residences or graffiti that put their lives at risk and that of their families,” the reaffirmed.

The bishops' conference has asked the authorities to respect the will of the people. They also demanded  that “the security of persons that are the object of persecution and intimidation be guaranteed.”

“We ask God for the wisdom necessary for an institutional and peaceful solution to the grave political, social and economic crisis that has deepened in recent weeks, deteriorating democracy and the quality of life of the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest,” they concluded.

 

Pro-life activists call for acquittal of doctor who refused to perform abortion in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Argentina have called for the acquittal of Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, whose trial started May 13 in Rio Negro Province in Argentina for refusing to perform an abortion.

Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19 year old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, a drug administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate  the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

However, Rodríguez and Dr. Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.

Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued since the professional had allegedly stopped an abortion in progress.

Organizations including CitizenGo Argentina, Lawyers for Life, Doctors for Life, the March for Life, Medical Students for Life and Independent Federal Women delivered on May 14 more than 50,000 digital signatures calling for the acquittal of the doctor to Judge  Álvaro Meynet and Governor Alberto Wereltineck.

“It is obvious that the accusation made by provincial representative Marta Milesi, who is an abortion activist, seeks to intimidate doctors into doing abortions, even when these pregnancies are advanced,” the letter they delivered states.

“Dr. Rodríguez Lastra fulfilled his duty and the Hippocratic Oath as a doctor, committed to the defense and care of life. We  hope that justice will be done,” they concluded.

On Twitter, the hashtags #SalvarVidasNoEsDelito (Saving lives is not a crime) and #JusticiaParaRodriguezLastra (Justice for Rodriguez Lastra) were trending.

“We repudiate this persecution of a doctor who did his job: he saved both lives. Because of an illegitimate complaint, today there's an absurd trial. The only thing they want is to intimidate and impose their ideology,” wrote Twitter user Ana Marmona.

Health professionals from Costa Rica also expressed their support with photo messages.

Dr. Fernando Secin of Doctors for Life said “We are very  concerned about the persecution that we doctors are receiving.” “We're seeing a justice system acting in concert with politics, instead of going after all those people like the La Revuelta (The Revolt) group that is illegally distributing medications and illegally practicing medicine.”

Since the trial began, different groups have come to the Río Negro Court with banners expressing their opposition to the trial of Rodríguez.

 

This article was originally published by CNA's Spanish-language partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Ontario court: Doctors must refer patients for abortion, assisted suicide

Toronto, Canada, May 15, 2019 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- Ontario’s highest court has ruled that doctors who object to procedures such as abortion and assisted suicide must refer patients to another, willing doctor.

In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, the Court of Appeal upheld a 2016 policy set forth by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) requiring doctors in the province to provide an “effective referral” if they object to treatment such as abortion, contraception, transgender surgery, or assisted suicide.

"While the solution is not a perfect one for some physicians, such as the individual appellants, it is not a perfect one for their patients either. They will lose the personal support of their physicians at a time when they are most vulnerable," the opinion reads.

Though the lower court found in Jan. 2018 that forcing doctors to refer for those procedures  violated their religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it also determined that those violations were necessary in order to give patients access to those services.

Dr. Ryan Wilson, President of Canadian Physicians for Life, told reporters in a conference call that the group has yet to decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but said an appeal "is not off the table," The Canadian Press reports.

Canadian Physicians for Life was one of several groups, along with 5 individual doctors, who challenged the CPSO’s rules in court. Collectively the groups said they would be willing to provide patients with a general phone number or website for the provincial government’s coordinating service for assisted suicide, but they argued that to go beyond that would violate their faith, The Globe and Mail reports.

The groups also argued in the appeal that the original decision was unreasonable, because it gave more weight to an assumed problem with healthcare than to a real infringement of doctor’s rights, The Canadian Press says.  

“This is a disappointing decision and puts our doctors – doctors who entered the field of medicine to provide quality, compassionate, and patient-centered care – in an impossible position,” Wilson said last year.

“They don’t believe ending a patient’s life is medicine, and they don’t believe they can offer hope and healing in one room while assisting in killing a patient in another.”

“Ultimately it is patient care that suffers, as our doctors will retire early, relocate, or change fields. For many, their religious and conscience rights are being violated and they won’t be able to practice medicine in Ontario. This is a significant loss for the entire health care system in the province and will have a direct impact on patient care,” he said.

Ramona Coelho, a Catholic family doctor in London, Ontario, told The Globe and Mail she is still hopeful a solution can be found that would allow her to avoid formally referring assisted suicide patients, despite the ruling.

“I feel like this decision is going to exclude from mainstream medicine most people of faith,” Coelho told The Globe and Mail.

Canada legalized assisted suicide in 2016. Only people who are over the age of 18, have been deemed to be “mentally competent,” and have been diagnosed with a terminal physical illness by two doctors or two nurse practitioners are eligible.

At the federal level in Canada, some members of parliament are attempting to pass a law that would protect the conscience rights of doctors.

Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Saskatchewan) introduced bill C-418 in October as a private member’s bill, seeking to protect medical practitioners unwilling to euthanize their patients or provide referrals for medically induced deaths.

That legislation would make it illegal to “intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.”

Last year, assisted suicide accounted for 1.12 percent of all deaths in Canada.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has not yet commented on the ruling, but Cardinal Thomas Collins has pushed for conscience protections for doctors repeatedly in recent years.

“Physicians across our country who have devoted their lives to healing patients will soon be asked to do the exact opposite. They will not be asked to ease their suffering by providing them with treatment and loving care, but by putting them to death,” Collins in 2016.

“Once we make people’s worthiness to live dependent on how well they function, our society has crossed the boundary into dangerous territory in which people are treated as objects that can be discarded as useless.”

Colombia food bank calls for ‘heroes’ to serve those in need

Bogotá, Colombia, May 14, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- A major food bank in Bogota, Colombia, is calling for local people and organizations to partner with them as they serve hundreds of thousands of at-risk people in the area.

“It's important for the people to be well fed, and have a culture of good habits, [and to] accompany the poorest so their children can go to school, and for the older adults to be placed in jobs,” said Fr. Daniel Saldarriaga, executive director of the Archdiocesan Food Bank of Bogota, Colombia.

The Bogota Food Bank is a completely self-sustaining foundation that began in 2001 with the goal of responding to Pope John Paul II's call in the Apostolic Letter “Novo Millenio Ineunte.”

The bank has a group of 126 collaborators that serve as “a bridge” that joins them to the most needy, and allows them to reach more than 313,000 people in at-risk conditions in Bogota.

This food bank is currently serving more than 61,000 children, 22,000 young people, 24,000 adults, 10,000 elderly and 47,000 families.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Saldarriaga said there is a need for more community involvement to continue meeting the needs of those served by the food bank, including children and the elderly, the sick, and those with disabilities.

The food bank has launched a new campaign, asking individuals and organizations to donate food, toiletries, personal hygiene products, as well as other items and services which are allocated and distributed to the NGOs registered with the bank.

To receive this support, the NGOs must demonstrate that they work with a vulnerable population to provide food or other material assistance.

Saldarriaga said the campaign is inviting people to “be heroes” by alleviating the suffering of their neighbors.

For example, the priest said, a hero is someone who “instead of throwing away products they were unable to sell, delivers them to be sent to organizations where they can improve living conditions and vulnerable situations.

“In our country, we only manage to utilize two-thirds of what we produce, harvest or market, the rest is wasted. That's why in Colombia we are contributing to the number of people suffering from hunger,” he said. 

In addition to providing food for the poor, the Bogota food bank is working to create a culture of sound and healthy nutrition and fight the culture of begging.

“It's not right that we're making beggars. We need to alleviate hunger and fight poverty. Otherwise, we'll go on doing works that seem very interesting, but don't have the positive effect of our truly bringing dignity to the quality of life of the people that most need it,” Saldarriaga stressed.

The priest also emphasized the importance of working with young people. They must have opportunities that allow them to “have the dream of preparing themselves for the workplace and engaging in the economy,” he said.

Cupich denounces pastor's decision to host Nation of Islam leader

Chicago, Ill., May 11, 2019 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is distancing himself from the decision of a pastor who invited controversial preacher Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish, saying that he was not consulted before Farrakhan’s talk.

“Antisemitic rhetoric — discriminatory invective of any kind — has no place in American public life, let alone in a Catholic church,” Cupich said in a May 10 statement.

Farrakhan, 86, is the founder of the Chicago-based group Nation of Islam and has a history of anti-Semitic preaching.

“I’m here to separate the good Jews from the satanic Jews,” Farrakhan said at one point during the talk.

“I have not said one word of hate. I do not hate Jewish people. Not one that is with me has ever committed a crime against the Jewish people, black people, white people. As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t bother you.”

Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, invited Farrakhan in response to Facebook’s decision May 2 to ban him from its platforms, due to Farrakhan’s violations of the site’s policies regarding “hate speech.” St. Sabina is a predominantly African American parish in Chicago’s South Side.

The Archdiocese had released a statement May 9 reiterating that the event was not sponsored by the archdiocese.

“Minister Farrakhan could have taken the opportunity to deliver a unifying message of God’s love for all his children. Instead, he repeatedly smeared the Jewish people, using a combination of thinly veiled discriminatory rhetoric and outright slander,” Cupich said.

“He referred to Jewish people as 'satanic,' asserting that he was sent by God to separate the 'good Jews' from the 'satanic Jews,'” Cupich noted.

”Such statements shock the conscience. People of faith are called to live as signs of God’s love for the whole human family, not to demonize any of its members...I apologize to my Jewish brothers and sisters, whose friendship I treasure, from whom I learn so much, and whose covenant with God remains eternal.”

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center has reportedly extended an invitation to Pfleger to meet with their leadership and dialogue with survivors. Cupich encouraged the priest to accept the invitation.

This is reportedly not the first time Plfeger has hosted Farrakhan to speak at his parish, and also not the first time the archdiocese has had to walk back controversial comments by the priest. In 2008, the late Cardinal Francis George had to publicly respond to comments Pfleger made deriding Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

In addition, George suspended Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina in 2011 and barred him from celebrating the sacraments because of public statements Pfleger had made, the Chicago Sun Times reports. Pfleger reportedly threatened to leave the priesthood unless George relented.

“He said there were good Jews and there are bad Jews, true. There are good Catholics and bad Catholics,” Pfleger told ABC7 news regarding Farrakhan’s talk.

“I’m doing what I believe the Gospel calls me to do and continue to try and bring people together and try to speak truth.”

Pfleger said he has known Farrakhan for 30 years and embraced him after the talk. Pfleger has said that Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are respected locally for their anti-violence and anti-drug campaigns, CNN reports.

Canadian MPs fight to protect doctors, patients against euthanasia

Ottawa, Canada, May 11, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Canadian members of parliament are attempting to pass a law that would protect the conscience rights of doctors, as government leaders look to expand access to euthanasia in the country.

Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Saskatchewan) introduced bill C-418 in October as a private member’s bill, seeking to protect medical practitioners unwilling to euthanize their patients or provide referrals for medically induced deaths.

Anderson told CNA that he was inspired to submit the bill after hearing complaints from doctors that Canada’s “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) policies were a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“One [part] of that oath is ‘we will not administer poison,’” Anderson told CNA in an interview. “So it’s clear, right? And yet, now the medical system is expected to be the ones who actually administer these drugs that terminate people’s lives.”

The legislation would make it illegal to “intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.”

The bill would also make it an offence to fire someone for refusing to take part in MAID. Canada’s healthcare system is government-run, tying doctors' working conditions and practice closely to ministerial policy.

Last year, MAID accounted for 1.12 percent of all deaths in Canada. Although Canadians have an option to self-administer the drugs to end their lives, only a single person chose this option.

Anderson told CNA that he is concerned that MAID, coupled with Canada’s aging population and increasingly expensive healthcare system, could result in dehumanization.

Presently in Canada, women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of disability are "encouraged to abort [their preborn child] so they're not part of our medical system beyond that one event,” Anderson said.

The MP is worried that this attitude could be expanded to view the elderly and persons with disabilities as unnecessarily expensive costs to the healthcare system.

“Certainly, seniors, disabled people cost the system more than the healthy people do,” Anderson said.

“You can see people justifying assisted suicide, euthanasia in the future in order to save money, and we don't want to get to that point."

Anderson said there are currently posters in hospitals that explain MAID, and also explain who can request that their doctor end their life.

He told CNA that he thinks this is “entirely inappropriate,” and that people “shouldn’t go into the hospital in order to facilitate (their) death.”

Currently, only people who are over the age of 18, have been deemed to be “mentally competent,” and have been diagnosed with a terminal physical illness by two doctors or two nurse practitioners are eligible to receive MAID.

But these restrictions could be changed, Conservative MP Michael Cooper of St. Albert-Edmonton warned CNA.

The existing MAID policy that was passed into law is “far more limited” than the version originally recommended by the joint legislative committee, Cooper said.

“My concern at this point in time is that the limited safeguards that have been put in place...All of that now is potentially on the table to be opened up, whereby there would be virtually no safeguards in place,” Cooper said. 

Potential changes being considered, Cooper explained, include allowing those with mental illnesses as well as “mature minors” to request MAID, and the creation of an “advanced directive” whereby a person can give instructs for their own death as a contingency plan.

“At this point, there has been no indication that further changes to the law are going to be made,” said Cooper.

“But I'm not optimistic that over the long term that won't be the case.”

Both Cooper and Anderson expressed concern about the state of palliative care in Canada as a result of the MAID law and a lack of clear conscience rights for doctors.

“We do have a strong palliative care community in Canada, who have been encouraging governments to really commit to that,” Anderson said.

“One of the things that concerns me is that I’m hearing about doctors who have been involved in palliative care in the past who are shutting down their practices because of the threat of being forced to participate in assisted suicide.”

This results in fewer palliative care doctors in Canada, “in a time when we probably should be encouraging it and strengthening it.”

“This government has basically window-dressed when it comes to palliative care,” said Cooper, the Albertan MP.

“There’s very little movement on the palliative care front.”

Cooper told CNA that he thinks it “essential” that palliative care be expanded in Canada and that it is not currently available to most Canadians, a problem he said predates the passage of MAID.

“Absent palliative care, many individuals may feel there is no other choice but to go down the road of physician assisted dying, or may even feel pressure from family members or friends who may be otherwise in a position of looking after them,” Cooper said.

50 Years of Abortion: Where does Canada go from here?

Ottawa, Canada, May 10, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- On May 14, 2019, abortion will have been legal in Canada for half a century. Since it became legal, approximately six million Canadians have died by abortion, and about 300 preborn babies are killed each day.

CNA spoke to influential pro-life Canadians to discuss where the country might go from here, and what can be done to promote a culture of life.

Abortion is legal in Canada throughout the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy, for any reason. Canada is one of a handful of countries with no legal restrictions on abortion, at all. Abortion is regulated in Canada like any other medical procedure, but is not permitted or restricted by any other law.

“When you tell Canadians that there actually is no abortion law in Canada, their initial response is they actually don't believe that,” Conservative Member of Parliament David Anderson told CNA.

Anderson believes that the pro-life community in Canada has not done a good enough job to inform Canadians about abortion, and that “when they find out what the reality of the situation is, they're much more likely to support (the pro-life) position.”

Canada lacks an abortion law because the country’s parliament simply refused to write one. Abortion was illegal entirely in Canada, until Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968-1969, which allowed for abortion under limited circumstances after approval from a “Therapeutic Abortion Committee.” Trudeau’s son, Justin, is the country’s current prime minister.

In 1988, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in the decision R v Morgentaler that the Therapeutic Abortion Committee requirement was unconstitutional, and ordered Parliament to write a law regarding abortion.

In the 30 years since that decision, Parliament has yet to write a law.

"Because of (Parliament’s inaction), we have no abortion laws in Canada restricting or granting access to abortion. By default, abortion has become available to Canadians by our medical system," said Anderson.

Canada’s single-payer healthcare system means that abortion is available free of charge to Canadians.

Anderson thinks that a better-informed Canadian population would be more accepting to pro-life viewpoints.

"As people get informed, there is a much more broader acceptance of the fact that there are restrictions in other places and it's reasonable to have restrictions in Canada," he said.  

Informing the public about abortion may prove difficult, as multiple members of parliament told CNA that they have faced hostility from the government over their pro-life views.

“Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau has made it really clear that his way of thinking is perceived to be the right way, and if MPs don't fit within his framework of values, then he has no use for them and no appreciation and really, him and his caucus show little to no respect of them," Conservative Member of Parliament Rachael Harder told CNA.

In 2014, Justin Trudeau made it a requirement that all candidates from his party, the Liberal Party, vocally support abortion rights. Last summer, he introduced a controversial new requirement that excluded any organization with a pro-life viewpoint from receiving government funding for a summer jobs program--even if the organization did no actual pro-life work. That measure was scrapped after considerable outcry.

Harder herself was voted down as chair of the House of Commons’ Status of Women committee in 2017, entirely, she said, over objections to her pro-life views.

“Liberal committee members walked out on me when my name was put forward as chair, and then they subsequently voted me down,” she said. When asked why they refused to endorse Harder as chairwoman, “one of the members remarked that due to my value for the preborn, there’s no way I could possibly represent all women in Canada.”

Trudeau said that he thought her appointment as chair was “the wrong choice,” something that Harder thought was “actually quite sad.”

“It's actually really sad that the prime minister would have the audacity to dictate what women should or shouldn't believe in this country," she added.  

Anderson also spoke to CNA about hostility created by the Trudeau government, saying that the prime minister’s administration has refused to even have a debate on the issue.

“Clearly, that (attitude) permeates right through their party, when the present prime minister made it clear that anyone who held views that were contrary to his have no place in the liberal party,” said Anderson.

Abortion in Canada is “a deeply embedded reality,” Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto told CNA.

To change this culture, Collins thinks pro-lifers need to form effective cooperative coalitions, even if religious beliefs differ among members.

“I can do certain things as Archbishop of Toronto,” said Collins. “But I think others can do more effective work--you know men and women, young men, young women, lay people, people of other faiths, and I would say also, people of no faith.”

At the moment, there is a push to ensure conscience rights for medical practitioners. Even this is an uphill battle, Collins explained, as “there’s a lot of pressure against it” and “lots of this politically-correct stuff.”

Harder and Anderson also told CNA that any sort of change must stem from the Canadian people, not members of parliament passing legislation.

Anderson said that it is “unrealistic of the pro-life movement to expect that the success of a pro-life movement in Canada is going to come through a very small group of Members of Parliament.”

"I think the push for change is going to have to come from a large group of the Canadian population,” he said. “Some governments are reluctant to move on this issue, probably because it's a very contentious issue, and typically governments are not going to engage in issues where they're not going to get some sort of clear agreement on the way forward."

Harder concurred, and thinks that change must come from Canadian citizens, through extensive communication and dialogue.

"I don't believe that we can ‘make’ people do anything. I do believe that Canadians have an opportunity though to value the preborn; have an opportunity to share their beliefs in a respective manner, and engage in productive dialogue,” said Harder.

She continued, saying “I believe that through that engagement, that greater education can take place and a deeper understanding can be produced, with regard to the value of the preborn. And as those conversations take place, and a greater understanding is created, I believe that culture can be shifted. But this is a matter of the human heart and conscience more than anything."

 

Mexican bishops ask government to assist in migrant crisis

Tapachula, Mexico, May 9, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The Mexican Bishops' Conference has made a public request for help from the country's authorities, as well as all people of good will, in addressing the migration crisis at the country’s southern border.

In a May 7 statement entitled “Request for Help,” the bishops noted that “we Mexicans have always been known for our joy, solidarity, treating others well and hospitality.”

However, they lamented, with the recent migrant caravans, “some people have taken on attitudes of rejection, indifference, xenophobia, discrimination and racism.”

Thousands of migrants have arrived in recent months at the southern border of Mexico on their way to the United States. Many come from Central American countries facing gang violence, economic crisis and environmental instability, as well as from Haiti, Cuba and African nations.

While Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on a pledge of protecting migrants and their rights, the Mexican government has begun detaining caravans as numbers of migrants arriving in the country increased.

Mexico is currently facing a “humanitarian emergency” as migration caravans move through the country, often lacking basic shelter and necessities, the bishops warned.

They pledged “to do everything possible to be a Samaritan Church to make the journey of our brother migrants less onerous.”

“We have requested Caritas National's action in organizing the aid in our country, just as we are motivating the different dioceses in our homeland to raise up an additional effort of generosity among our parishioners on behalf of our brothers,” they said.

The bishops particularly noted concern over the situation on the southern Mexican border, “specifically what the city of Tapachula is experiencing in Chiapas.” They said that the vast number of migrants has outpaced aid from the Church and government.

With the migrant assistance station overburdened, the migrants now wander the streets in search of help, they said.

“At the door of the southern border there are thousands of our brothers, people who have already gone several days without eating and who are sleeping in the streets. There are children, elderly people, the sick, some women close to going into labor.”

The bishops of Mexico called on the federal government to activate an emergency plan and request humanitarian assistance for those in need, particularly in Tapachula. They also asked for clarification regarding the legal situation of those seeking to pass through the country.

“We urge adequately addressing this moment of crisis in which our country has the opportunity to show its true level of humanity,” the bishops said. “As a Church we offer our prayer, all our support and help.”