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Members of Congress want a vote to protect abortion survivors – will they get one?

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Members of the House are once again trying to bring up a vote on legislation protecting infant survivors of abortions.

On Wednesday, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; the bill would require infants surviving abortions to receive the same standard of care as other prematurely-born babies.

Not all states publicize data on abortions. According to one data request from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, reported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, 143 babies survived abortion attempts in the United States between 2003 and 2014; the CDC added that the number may have been an underestimate.

For 2019, Florida reported that two babies survived abortion attempts; between the years 2013 and 2019, 23 babies in Florida were reported to have been born alive during abortions.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) supports the “Born-Alive” legislation.

“There should be no bill easier for Congress to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and will not be tolerated,” stated Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications for the USCCB’s pro-life committee.

“Infants who are born alive after an abortion attempt should be given the same degree of care to preserve their life and health as would be given to any other newborn baby,” Talalas stated.

Members sought to bring up a vote on the legislation in the previous Congress, but Democratic leadership stymied the attempts more than 75 times, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) claimed.

The bill introduced on Wednesday, a version of which was introduced last Congress, requires babies surviving abortion attempts to receive the same standard of care that other children born prematurely would receive. Health care staff present for the botched abortion are required to give the care, and report failure to provide the care to law enforcement.

Failure to give the required care or to report a violation is punishable by fines or up to five years imprisonment under the legislation. Mothers of children who survive abortions and are not resuscitated can have a civil cause of action for the failure to provide the care to their child, and are protected from prosecution under the bill.

In order for the discharge petition to successfully bring up a vote on the bill, however, 218 members need to sign it. In the previous Congress, 205 members – including three Democrats and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) who switched party affiliations in 2019 – signed the discharge petition.

A 2002 law that passed both houses of Congress, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, recognized unborn children as persons but did not include provisions requiring care for infant survivors of abortion.

Cammack is a freshman congresswoman endorsed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She recently told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that, while she was in her mother’s womb, doctors advised her mother to have an abortion due to medical risks from the pregnancy.

“She had something inside of her that told her that everything was going to be okay,” Cammack said of her mother’s decision to choose life. “And that, to me, is the most powerful, impactful thing that really has shaped my views on this.”

As of Wednesday evening, 169 members had signed the new discharge petition.

'What I can do is love': This Catholic sister is a missionary to refugees in Greece

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk with a refugee girl in Athens, Greece in April 2021. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk wanted to be a missionary in South America, but God had other plans for the Catholic convert from Crimea, who is now helping the refugee population in Greece.

“My dream was Brazil,” she said in an interview with EWTN News in Athens. “I didn’t go to Brazil and I think now it will not be [a] big problem if I will not go there because I really fell in love with Greece.”

“And this is the best place for this time which God gave me,” she said. “This is the place where he speaks to me through the country and through the people that I am working [with] every day.”

A Holy Spirit Missionary sister, 38-year-old Kovalchuk and other members of her community serve the refugee and migrant community in Athens together with employees and volunteers of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

She said she has no power to change the physical and political situation of asylum seekers in Greece, “but what I can do is love.”

“I tell them: I came here to be with you in your situation. When you cry, I will be with you. When you laugh, I will be with you. I can show you a little bit of love that I have.”

The sister said she also tries to teach people about the origin of her love, that “Jesus is the one who brought me here, who put this love inside me and [allows] me to leave my family and my country…”

During the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, Greece saw the arrival of over 1 million refugees.

While the number of people entering the country in 2020 was drastically lower, there were still over 15,000 new arrivals, mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of 2019, Greece was hosting over 186,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors. Most of these are on the country's eastern islands off the coast of Turkey.

In 2020, fires at camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos displaced thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom escaped to Athens, taking up refuge in Victoria Square, Sr. Kovalchuk said.

Refugee children play in a square in Athens. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA
<p>Refugee children play in a square in Athens. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA</p>

The square is often called Afghani Park now, after the Afghan refugees who live there. The sister said it is a meeting place for women and children.

“Mostly we are working with the Afghani people, who are Muslims. And of course, also, we have Christians and we have Catholics from Cameroon,” she said.

She does not call them refugees and migrants, she stated. “These are my friends and these are ... the people of God, of my God who created them, who loved them and, of course, I would like them to know him.”

From Crimea to Greece

Kovalchuk was born in Crimea in the 1980s and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Though her family did not practice the faith, she said there were always signs of God’s presence in her life.

She recalled a specific moment from her childhood, when she borrowed a children’s Bible from the library. She did not want to return it, but knowing she would have to, she started to copy out the Bible stories in a notebook.

Kovalchuk never finished writing down the stories, and, she confessed, she never returned the Bible to the library.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Bibles again appeared on store shelves and in shops and her grandmother bought one.

“And I remember I was so impressed by this book that I used to bring it to the kitchen to open the very first page and start reading,” she recalled.

“I could not understand anything,” she continued. “I closed the book and I said, ‘one day I will read it.’ ... And thanks to God, I have read it and continue to read it. But even through this experience I can see God was somehow close and was already acting in my life.”

The missionary sister discovered the Catholic Church through her love of the French language and culture. When she read French novels, she was introduced to the features and vocabulary of Catholicism.

“So I just wanted to see how the French people pray and what was the Mass and remembering one of the books, even of Alexandre Dumas, I was reading about [the] ‘Te Deum’ and I felt I want[ed] to know what is this ‘Te Deum?’”

Polish girls at her university brought her to their Catholic chapel, where she attended her first Mass on July 8, 2001.

She said she wanted to stay forever. But knowing she had been baptized Orthodox, she at first had doubts about whether it was right to join the Catholic Church.

Kovalchuk came to realize converting was not so much a change -- she still believed in the same God -- as a discovery of something, a deepening of God’s presence in her life through the sacraments.

Soon after becoming Catholic at the age of 18, she began to feel a desire to enter religious life, which she did after finishing university. Before Kovalchuk’s superior asked her to come to Greece, she was serving in Ukraine.

English lessons and rag dolls

When refugees fled the Moria camp on Lesbos after the fires last year, some of them were living for days or weeks in Victoria Square, Kovalchuk said.

She and other volunteers would go there every day to play with the children and to tell the women about the center they run which has showers and a place to wash clothes.

The center also has a shop with free second-hand clothing and a social worker who answers questions and shares other resources for refugees and migrants.

The volunteers and sisters give language lessons in Greek, French, and English. During the COVID-19 pandemic the lessons have been done via video call.

They also offer activities and classes for children, many of whom are not in school, and otherwise do not have things to occupy them.

Sr. Kovalchuk also took up a Ukrainian tradition: making rag dolls called motanka.

“Our refugee kids do not have any toys and nothing to play with. This is actually the best place for my dolls,” she said, estimating that she has made and given out around 500.

The sister recycles leftover donated clothes, those in too poor a condition to be worn, to make her dolls.

She said the kids like to sit with her and watch her make the dolls, or even learn to make them alongside her.

Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk shows off some of the Ukrainian rag dolls she made from old clothes in Athens, Greece. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA
Sr. Victoria Kovalchuk shows off some of the Ukrainian rag dolls she made from old clothes in Athens, Greece. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

“They choose different color of the dress, of hair. And I think this is also very important and a little bit, like, therapeutic,” she said, because the children do not have opportunities to make choices in their day-to-day life, even about small things like what they want to wear.

She said, “So for them, it brings a lot of joy even if they can choose their own way, their own style.”

“And when I see the smiles, the happiness of these children who actually have nothing,” she said, “who sometimes are hungry, who cannot come to the shop and can ask, ‘mommy, buy me this doll or mommy, buy me this car. Or give me this or give me that,’ but they are happy with the simple stuff.”

Despite differences in language, culture, and religion, Kovalchuk said she feels respected and appreciated by those she helps

Families she visits will set a table and bake bread or make tea to serve her.

The children, unprompted, will bring her water when the weather is hot, or share their cookies with her. When sitting on the ground, they will bring her a paper bag to sit on.

“And this is very touching and this helps me to see how God takes care of me also through them, although they are different nationalities and different religions,” she described.

“But these kids, they are just satisfied and then they will hug me and then they will kiss me. And this is the best [thing that] I can get as a reward, these signs of love as a response.”

“My journey here started maybe first of all from my need, my personal need to meet and rediscover God again in my life and in my vocation,” the sister said. “And those people they helped me here. So this is mutual: I try to help them in the way that I can, just being with them and then, they help me a lot.”

Daily Reading for Saturday, April 17th, 2021 HD

Reading 1, Acts 6:1-7 1 About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. 2 So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; 3 you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom, to whom we can ...

A Child's Prayer To Mary: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, April 15, 2021

Holy Mary, mother fair, Filled with love for God, Pray for us in all our needs. Pray for us today.

A Child's Prayer To Mary: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, April 15, 2021

Holy Mary, mother fair, Filled with love for God, Pray for us in all our needs. Pray for us today.

St. Paternus: Saint of the Day for Thursday, April 15, 2021

St. Paternus.The first 5th century saint. He followed his father's path by becoming a hermit in Wales. He founded the monastery at the great church of Paternus, and became a bishop of that region. He was known for his preaching, charity and mortifications. Scholars believe his story is an amalgam. His feast day is April 16.

Daily Readings for Thursday, April 15, 2021

Reading 1: Acts of Apostles 5:27-33, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:9, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:17-20, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:2, Gospel: John 3:31-36

St. Paternus: Saint of the Day for Thursday, April 15, 2021

St. Paternus.The first 5th century saint. He followed his father's path by becoming a hermit in Wales. He founded the monastery at the great church of Paternus, and became a bishop of that region. He was known for his preaching, charity and mortifications. Scholars believe his story is an amalgam. His feast day is April 16.

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

Haitian archbishop demands release of abducted Catholics

A tent camp in Haiti. / arindambanarjee/Shutterstock.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Apr 14, 2021 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince has called for the release of 10 people who were kidnapped in Haiti on Sunday and are being held for ransom.

“We demand security and peace for all missionaries and all people,”Archbishop Max Mesidor said. “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of our detained brothers and sisters.”

Five priests, two nuns, and three laypeople were abducted at Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, April 11. According to local news, they were taken while on the way to attend the installation of a parish priest. 

According to Haitian media, the “400 Mawozo” gang admitted culpability for the kidnapping, and is demanding $1 million in ransom. 

Two of the kidnapped, one priest and one nun, are citizens of France.

Church leaders in Haiti have condemned the kidnappings, and called for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Fr. Gilbert Peltrop, the secretary general of the Haitian Conference of the Religious, told Reuters that “the nation must stand up to fight these thugs.” 

Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne, vice president of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, told AFP that “the Church prays and stands in solidarity with all the victims of this heinous act.” 

“This is too much,” he said. “The time has come for these inhuman acts to stop.” 

The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned in a statement that gang violence has reached “unprecedented” levels in the country.

“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the archdiocese stated, as reported by AFP. “The public authorities who are doing nothing to resolve this crisis are not immune from suspicion,” the statement continued, condemning “complacency and complicity.”

The number of kidnappings for ransom has recently increased in Haiti, and protests have denounced the surge of violence plaguing the country. 

On April 1, four members of the Seventh-day Adventist Gospel Kreyòl Ministry Church in Diquini, Haiti were abducted during a ceremony being broadcast live on Facebook.. Many who were watching the service reportedly thought the kidnapping was an April Fool’s Day prank, before realizing they had witnessed a crime. 

The foursome, including the church’s pastor, pianist, and two technicians, were held as hostages until Easter Sunday, and were released after a ransom was paid.

Haiti has also been affected by other crises, including natural disasters and a lack of health care infrastructure to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2010 earthquake killed 200,000 people and left one million people homeless; one decade later, tens of thousands were still living in tent camps.

In October 2016, more than 1.4 million people were in need of emergency aid after Hurricane Matthew made landfall.

Violent protests have also occurred in Haiti since July 2018, with protesters calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.