PRO-LIFE TSUNAMI FLOODS AMERICAN STATE LEGISLATURES
Pro-life leaders say a nationwide surge in optimism is driving the wave of pro-life bills already introduced in the first few weeks of this year’s state legislative sessions. The nearly 50 new bills include bans on dismemberment abortions and any procedure after 20 weeks gestation, foetal burial requirements, and bills that would defund Planned Parenthood. “With the election of a pro-life president, and with all of the gains that we made across the different states after last year’s election, I think we are very optimistic of passing laws that protect the unborn baby and their mums,” National Right to Life Committee’s Ingrid Duran said. Last year, lawmakers approved 60 new pro-life laws across the country, and leaders expect more of the same focus this year, simply with more energy.
Eric Scheidler, director of Pro-Life Action League, said the surge of pro-life bills is a reaction to years of “elitist cultural bullying.” He pointed to President Donald Trump’s choice of pro-life advisers: Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. “It isn’t the person of Trump, but it’s all the people around him and the people he’s appointed. That’s really what’s driving this optimism,” Scheidler said. So far this year, legislators in Iowa, Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida have introduced 20-week abortion bans. Lawmakers in four states – Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Rhode Island have filed bills that would ban dismemberment abortions. And the Kentucky and Iowa legislatures will consider bills to defund abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
Scheidler said. “A reason behind the pro-life laws was an attempt to reign in some of the pro-abortion measures of Obamacare.” Coinciding with the release of undercover videos revealing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the foetal tissue trade, lawmakers began focusing on abortion facility regulations and the humanity of the unborn child. In Missouri, lawmakers filed dozens of bills targeting abortion, 22 for which Missouri Right to Life expresses support. The pro-life bills include a ban on abortions due to an unborn baby’s sex, race, or a diagnosis of Down syndrome; five bills addressing the sale or donation of aborted baby body parts; and a bill that would extend greater protections to embryos conceived through in-vitro fertilization.
In Iowa, state senators have introduced half a dozen pro-life measures. They include a bill that would classify unborn babies weighing at least 350 grams (0.77 pounds) as a “person,” and a bill that would make dealing in baby body parts a felony. After they reclaimed the Senate in November, Iowa Republicans now hold the state House, Senate, and governor’s seat for the first time in 20 years. Iowa Right to Life director Jennifer Bowen said the future looks bright for pro-lifers in her state. Iowa is “radically behind” other states in pro-life laws, she said, adding lawmakers now have a chance to close the gap. “Planned Parenthood lost. Completely lost,” Bowen said. “I don’t think the reality has sunk in yet, that voters responded very, very strongly in Iowa.”
Some pro-life bills may not survive a court challenge. Those most likely to succeed will mirror measures passed last year that avoided court interference, Denise Burke with Americans United for Life said. So much pro-life momentum is especially remarkable after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down a Texas law requiring abortion centres to meet ambulatory surgical centre standards and abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. “I think there’s increasing confidence among many pro-life allies and legislators that Hellerstedt may have a limited shelf life with the potential new Supreme Court,” Burke said. “So we’re seeing a lot of what we’ve seen in the last couple of years, but just with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.”
But not all states got a green light in November to push through pro-life bills. Oregon Right to Life director Gayle Atteberry told me state leaders “laid down the gauntlet” and pledged to fight the Trump administration’s pro-life agenda in the state. Oregon Right to Life is promoting a few pro-life bills, including one that would ban late-term, sex-selective abortions. It’s also fighting a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for contraception and abortions and notification for religious organization employees that their contraception and abortions won’t be covered. Despite strong opposition to the pro-life cause, Atteberry remains optimistic: “God is working here, and we’re not going anywhere.”
ANTI-ABORTION GROUPS HOLD TRIUMPHANT RALLY AFTER OBAMA YEARS
The politically ascendant anti-abortion movement recently gathered for a triumphant rally on the National Mall, rejoicing at the end of an 8 year presidency that participants said was dismissive of their views. Vice President Mike Pence told the crowd at the March for Life that anti-abortion policies were a top priority of the new administration, and President Donald Trump tweeted that the rally had his “full support.” The March for Life is held every year to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. While no official crowd estimates were available, the turnout was clearly larger than in recent years. Many thousands huddled in the shadow of the Washington Monument and stood in long lines outside security checkpoints made necessary by Pence’s appearance.
Pence, the first vice president to address the rally said “Life is winning in America.” Pence said ending taxpayer-funded abortion and choosing a Supreme Court justice in the mould of the late Antonin Scalia, a conservative Catholic who opposed abortion, are among the administration’s most important goals. One of Trump’s first acts after taking office was to sign an executive order banning U.S. aid to foreign groups that provide abortions. Pence said more such actions would follow. A budget provision already bans federal funding for Medicaid coverage of most abortions. Conservatives would like to see the rule made into a permanent law. Republicans in the House and Senate would also like to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than a third of the nation’s abortions in 2014.
They also hope to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has pledged to sign both measures if they reach his desk. Many people at the march said they were encouraged by the early days of the Trump administration, even if they did not support him initially or disagreed with him on other issues. Trump “was elected because of people who did not have a voice before. The past administration did not listen to us and did not even care,” said Glenn Miller, 60, from Connecticut, who was attending the march for the fourth time. “I wouldn’t say I am a supporter of Donald Trump. I voted for him because there was no other choice.” Other participants said they felt the march was important this year because their voices were not represented at an earlier Women’s March on Washington, an anti-Trump demonstration that drew massive crowds around the country. The women’s march included support for abortion rights in its mission statement.
Joi Hulecki, 63, a nurse practitioner from Orlando, Florida, said abortion-rights supporters wrongly portray the decision to terminate a pregnancy as empowering for women, when in fact women often feel pressured to have abortions and regret it later. “We don’t want to judge them. We want to help them,” she said. “We consider ourselves pro-women too.” The annual event was never expected to attract a crowd on the scale of the women’s march, which brought more than half a million people to Washington. Organizers said that they had expected 50,000 people, though they hoped for more. “There’s been a lot of talk about numbers this past week,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life. “It’s hard to add up so many numbers after 44 years because there have been a lot of us.”
Mancini added that the most important number for marchers was 58 million, an estimate of the number of abortions performed in the United States since 1973.Americans remain deeply divided on abortion. The latest Gallup survey, found that 47% of Americans described themselves as pro-abortion rights and 46% as anti-abortion. It also found that 79% believed abortion should be legal in either some or all circumstances. The March for Life is running ads arguing that a majority of Americans support some restrictions on abortion and don’t believe it should be funded by tax dollars. Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, also addressed the rally and assured the crowd that Trump and Pence were on their side. “Their decisive actions as president and vice president will further this cause,” she said.
MANY YEARS BEFORE MOSUL STABLE ENOUGH FOR CHRISTIANS TO RETURN
Christians from Mosul, northern Iraq, waiting to return after their city’s liberation from Islamic State is completed may have many years to wait, and their chances of doing so depend on the actions of the Iraqi Government, a leading researcher has warned. Charlie Winter, senior research fellow at the International Centre for Radicalisation Studies at King’s College, London, said there is no such thing as a post-IS world and added that ideological measures will be needed after military victory is achieved, to address ongoing levels of sympathy for the group. Winter said that it’s vital that the Shia-led Iraqi Government shows they care about the population who lived under the group’s occupation, and rebuild what was lost.
The rise of IS came amidst disaffection among Iraqi Sunnis, which increased during the rule of Nouri al-Maliki, who centralised power around himself. “The best way to inoculate territories the Islamic State has held for a long time is to re-establish services’ provision, repopulate areas, get people talking to each other again, get trade going again, take back to these territories everything that was lost over the last few years,” Winter said. However, Mr. Winter warned that if the Iraqi Government continues to fail to look beyond sectarian divisions and provide for its citizens equally, stability will be “many years” away. He said he believes IS will be defeated in western Mosul in the next few months, but that it will focus on insurgency tactics to undermine Baghdad and “salvage some sort of momentum” for the group.
He was also critical of US President Trump’s pre-election pledge to “bomb the hell out of ISIS”. He suggested that believing the problem requires only a military response is “damaging” and is a “foolish, naive and superficial” understanding of the issue. The Middle East Advocacy Coordinator for global charity Open Doors, said: “Open Doors believes that equal citizenship, dignity in all aspects of life and enhanced and inclusive peace and reconciliation efforts, which give faith-based organisations a leading role, are the key three elements for achieving sustainable peace in Mosul.” Open Doors has produced a detailed report on the vital contribution that Christians make in Iraq (and Syria).
The report’s coordinator said: “We need recognition of the vital role of the Church in rebuilding and reconciliation. Maintaining the presence of Christians is for the good of society as a whole. “When Christianity spread across the Middle East, Christians contributed to societies in literacy, health, and in translating and contributing to the Arabic language. Some of the best centres of learning in the world were founded by Christians. Christians were among the first to introduce charitable works. They are involved in politics, and in the development of the Iraqi state. Christians are among the most well-known business people. Christians, are vitally important for the stability of Iraq. Policy-makers agree that we need to maintain diversity to ensure sustainable peace and lasting stability in the Middle East.”
WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE CALL TO WELCOME REFUGEES
In light of the ongoing global refugee crisis, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is issuing the following ‘Call to Welcome Refugees’: “We wholeheartedly affirm the clear teaching of the Holy Bible that the people of God are called by God to ‘love’ and ‘welcome’ the foreigner and stranger (Leviticus 19:33,34 and Matthew 25:34-36). We therefore call upon the worldwide body of Christ to reflect the heart of God and to actively love and welcome refugees. We call upon Christian leaders and pastors to deepen their biblical understanding of forced displacement and to intentionally minister in ways that will create space in the hearts and minds of others for refugees. We call upon Christians everywhere to pursue a biblically informed perspective of forced displacement and to actively seek the welfare of refugees.
Recognizing that the global refugee crisis is putting great pressure on governments, we call upon Christians to pray for wisdom for government leaders involved in refugee-related policy-making. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution; Considering that the granting of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation;” Article Three of the Convention states, “The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.”
We call upon the governments of signing nations to clearly honour these international agreements as they respond to the challenges and pressures of the global refugee crisis.” Over two billion Christians in the world today are represented by three world church bodies. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is one of those, serving more than 600 million evangelicals. Launched in 1846 to unite evangelicals worldwide, the WEA continues to be a dynamic movement with 7 regional and 129 national Evangelical Alliances, and over 150 member organizations. WEA’s mission is to establish and strengthen regional and national Evangelical Alliances, who in turn enable their national Church to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ and effect personal and community transformation for the glory of God.
Total chaos broke out a few weeks ago in Turkey’s Parliament: fists flew, yelling and screaming ensued, and one lawmaker chained herself to the podium, as President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) sought to consolidate power for the president. After the brawl, 342 members voted and accepted an 18-point constitutional amendment package giving Erdogan vast executive powers, not seen since Dictator Ataturk in 1920. Since the vote did not receive the minimum 367 needed to change the constitution directly, a referendum on these changes is set for April. If it becomes law, all power will rest solely in the president’s office, and the system of checks and balances will be thrown out of the window.
President Erdogan will be able to dismiss the prime minister and declare a state of emergency at will. Erdogan has long sought to move Turkey towards an Islamic State. Concentrating unilateral power in the president’s hands will do just that. The failed July coup resulted in unprecedented arrests and dismissals of academics, police officers, and military personnel. It is only deepening as the purge continues. Academics warn of a brain drain occurring in the country as many are seeking asylum in other nations. Some 43,000 people have been arrested, and 95,000 employees have been fired from state institutions and universities since15 July. Turkey needs God’s intervention!
Please pray for:
* God’s intervention before the April referendum on the constitutional amendment package concentrating power in President Erdogan’s hands. May the necessary votes for passage fail.
* Turkish citizens to be successful in registering their outrage and opposition to the dictatorial powers threatening their way of life.
* Turkish Christians to mobilize prayer for their country and for the government to remain allied to NATO. Pray Turkey retains its democratic form of government and opposes a form of government that removes ultimate power from its citizens.
HISPANIC CHRISTIAN LEADERS WILLING TO WORK TOGETHER WITH TRUMP
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which represents more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals in over 40,000 U.S. churches, said regarding President Trump’s executive orders pertaining to immigration and the building of a wall: “While I have differences of opinion with the Trump Administration on how to achieve our shared goal of securing our national borders, we at the NHCLC have made ourselves available to the Trump Administration throughout this process and have made our position clear. “When President Trump builds his wall, he must also build bridges with the Latino community. We will vigorously oppose any action that would forcibly remove the 11 million undocumented people living, working and raising their families in the US with the exception of criminals, drug dealers and others who bring shame and pain on our community.
“I am grateful that our concerns have been met with both an open mind and a willingness to work together. In fact, after a call with the Trump transition team in December, a call organized by the NHCLC, then President-elect Trump made it clear that he would not oppose us but would find a way to assist our young people. “I agree with President Trump that securing our borders is critically important to ensuring the safety of all Americans and that the American people have a right to determine who comes into our country, and to demand that our laws are respected in the process. Our focus at NHCLC will be to ensure these policies are always balanced by a respect for the sanctity of all life and the well-being of the immigrant.”