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Kenyan court considers guidelines for 'safe abortion'

Nairobi, Kenya, Jul 15, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Kenya's high court is considering the state of health care in the country, as it hears a case brought on behalf of a young woman who died last month from complications which were related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

The girl, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian “received a call from a relative informing her that the former was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a local clinic where she had gone to seek treatment,” Akello Odenyo reported in The Standard, a Nairobi daily, May 28.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that was sent to a variety of hospitals for post-abortive care.

In 2015, JMM's mother, along with the Federation of Women Lawyers and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, filed a suit against the Ministry of Health claiming JMM was not provided with proper post-abortion care and calling on the government to provide access to safe abortions.

JMM developed kidney failure, and died June 10, 2018.

The 2010 Kenyan constitution made abortion legal in certain circumstances – in the cases of emergencies and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy.

Since then, Kenya's health ministry “has withdrawn essential guidelines on conducting safe abortions and banned health workers from training on abortion,” according to Reuters.

The guidelines were removed in 2013 “after it emerged they were being used for unintended purposes,” according to the testimony of Dr. Joel Gondi, head of the Reproductive and Maternal Health Service Unit, The Star reported.

“The guidelines, amongst other things, provided clarity on who could perform abortions, safe-guarding against illegal practitioners,” reported Reuters. “The ban on training has meant fewer health professionals available to perform the procedure or after care.”

The suit filed on JMM's behalf maintains that the poor care she received following her abortion was a result of the lack of safe abortion services. Petitioners seek the reinstatement of the abortion guidelines, and an end to the ban on training health workers on performing abortion.

The Ministry of Health reported in May that the country had spent 533 million Kenyan shillings ($5.29 million) treating complications from back-alley abortions.

Evelyne Opondo of the Centre for Reproductive Rights said that “While JMM was entitled to quality post abortion care irrespective of whether it was within the law or otherwise, she did not receive it from the point of first contact with the health system. Instead there were several delays and missed opportunities to mitigate the adverse effect of the unsafe abortion on her health and life.”

JMM's mother said that her daughter's death “was entirely preventable,” and maintained that “Kenya has to make abortion safe and accessible.”

The Kenyan high court heard three days of testimony this week in the case. It has been adjourned until Sept. 18, and a verdict is expected before the end of the year.

Among the testimonies heard by the court was that of Dr. Wahome Ngari, who said that figures on the number of back-alley abortions procured, which are used to argue for the expansion of abortion rights, are wildly inflated.

Ngari said that a report by a reproductive health firm which had been cited in the court and which estimated 400,000 unsafe abortions in 2002 was inaccurage.

The physician said the correct figure was 140,000, The Standard reported.

Such inflation “was used in Malawi to push the Government to repeal their abortion law,” he told the court.

Ngari said the focus on health care for pregnant women in Kenya should begin with blood loss.

“The reason pregnant mothers die in the country is haemorrhage, followed by infections, hyperactive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labour and lastly abortion. Anyone who wants to offer a solution should follow that order.”

A good Catholic proclaims the Gospel, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2018 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By virtue of their Baptism, every Catholic is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a mission which cannot be separated from the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It is truly [our] Baptism that makes us missionaries,” the pope said in off-the-cuff comments July 15. “A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus, is not a good Christian.”

The first necessary element of all authentic missionary discipleship is the “changeless center, which is Jesus,” he said. This is because proclaiming the Gospel cannot be separated from Christ or from the Church.

Announcing the Gospel “is not an initiative of individual believers, groups or even large groups, but it is the Church’s mission inseparably united with her Lord,” Pope Francis said. “No Christian proclaims the Gospel ‘on his own,’ but only sent by the Church who received the mandate from Christ himself.”

Speaking during his weekly Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Christian’s mission as seen when Jesus sends out his disciples “two by two” to preach repentance.

Jesus’ message to his disciples in this episode of the Gospel concerns not just priests, but every baptized person, who is “called to witness, in the various environments of life, the Gospel of Christ,” he said.

Like the disciples were warned, the message may not be welcomed, but this aligns with what Jesus himself experienced, the pope said, noting that he was “was rejected and crucified.”

“Only if we are united with him, dead and risen, can we find the courage of evangelization,” Francis said.

Noting that the center of the mission must always be Christ, he pointed to examples of saints from Rome who are examples of being “humble workers of the Kingdom,” such as St. Philip Neri, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Frances of Rome, and Bl. Ludovica Albertoni.  

They did not work to advance themselves or their own ideas or interests, but acted always as messengers sent by Jesus, he said.

Pointing to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God,” the pope concluded by asking her help to bring “the message of the Gospel to the world in a humble and radiant exultation, beyond any rejection, misunderstanding or tribulation.”

As study claims benefits to porn, atheist author raises questions on methodology

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A study has claimed porn as necessary to men’s health, but author of Your Brain on Porn and self-proclaimed atheist Gary Wilson said the statistical system used in many of these surveys is inaccurate.

“The abstract tells you what is completely crazy: if you are not using porn it is having a negative effect in your life,” he told CNA. However, the same studies claim “that more porn-use leads to greater positive and greater negative effects.”

“How can that be?” he asked. “Is every study published in the last 25 years wrong or is there something wrong with the PCES?”

Wilson dissected the errors of the Porn Consumption Effect Scale (PCES) – a self-perceived measurement of 47 questions used to study the health effects of pornography. This includes a study conducted in the July edition of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the American Psychological Association.

Titled “Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption among heterosexual men,” the study asked men in countries like the U.S. and Australia to survey the perceived effects of porn in their life. The study used the smaller version of the PCES with 14 question.

It analyzed the positive and negative effects porn has on sex life, attitudes towards sex, views on the opposite gender, sexual knowledge, and overall life. The survey also analyzed a participant’s religious background and level of religiosity.

The study concluded that a higher rate of use in pornography and masturbation to a more positive lifestyle and that negative results are more often tied to the infrequent and religious porn-users. It determined that religiosity did not affect the users’ quantity, but it did result in fewer perceived positive effects.

The PCES is 47-item questionnaire first used by Gert Hald and Neil Malamuth in 2008. Each question is organized into positive or negative categories and measured by the impact of the result on a Likert Scale of 1-7, with one being the least stimulating.

Wilson began fighting against porn after men in 2006 expressed concern on his wife's blog about pornography’s effects, including erectile dysfunction.

He said the PCES has repetitively demonstrated that greater pornography leads to more positive results while, at the same time, showing that more porn leads to more negative results. It contradicts itself and numerous other studies, he said, because men report on a decrease of sexual and relational satisfaction.

“When you go to the 55 studies on sexual and relationship satisfaction….all the ones on males say more porn use leads to poorer relationship and sexual satisfaction.”

Having previously been a pathology and physiology instructor, Wilson said the test does not take into the account the biological components of addiction. Rather, it follows a biased view of religion and porn from Joshua Grubbs.

A teacher at Bowling Green State University, Grubbs created the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire, which religious people tend to score higher on because roughly one-third of the questions involve shame. The survey sought to prove that the addictive aspects of pornography are not results of the substance, but shame and guilt.

However, Wilson said, “it’s just a biological effect.” He said the negative effects of pornography become more noticeable two to three weeks out from the last session. Because religious porn-users often try to stop looking at porn, he said, the effects are more apparent than regular users who have not tried to take a break.

“When you remove the addictive substance, food or drug, the brain starts to change and the level of changing it actually sprouts more connections that occur about two weeks out from your last use…[And] it makes the cravings greater and it also leads to higher levels of binging.”

Wilson also highlighted two areas of the PCES that lead to a less accurate study: self-perception mixed with false equivalencies and an irrelevantly determined categories of positive or negative.

The PCES determines the substance of each question to be equivalent when they are not equal, he said, noting how “learning about anal sex” does not balance the negative “problems in your sex life.”  

“You can’t take the average of a one to seven over on the good side and a one to seven over on the so-called negative side, and then say they got higher on this side. They are not equivalent.”

The manner by which the questions were organized into positive and negative also appears to be arbitrary, he said, noting the researchers made assumptions they did not validate.

“If you look at their current study they have 2.62 on the positive effect of life in general. …But just step back a little bit, what is the highest you can get on that? Seven that is the highest average. So what does a 2.62 even mean?”

In an example from the questionnaire, the survey ranked “Has made you less sexually liberal” a negative question and “Has made you experiment more in your sex life” a positive question, but Wilson expressed doubt that everyone would agree with either of the determined charges.  

Wilson said the questionnaire mathematically lean towards a positive result because the survey includes a greater quantity of positive questions.

“In other words, more questions that show a positive effect of porn than a negative effect of porn. So it’s actually mathematically leaning that way and you don’t have any counters to sexual knowledge.”

Psychologist John Johnson referred to PCES as a “psychometric nightmare,” and expressed doubt on survey’s accuracy.

"If I had been a reviewer on this manuscript, I would have probably rejected it on the basis of inadequate statistical methodology as well as various conceptual problems...It is impossible, given the nature of the data, to draw firm conclusions.”

 

Correction: This article erroneously stated that a majority of questions on the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire involve shame. In fact, about one-third of the questions involve shame.

Christian doctor in England denied work because of his traditional gender beliefs

Birmingham, England, Jul 14, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. David Mackereth, a Reformed Baptist who has worked for 26 years at the National Health Service, has said he was denied employment at the Department for Work and Pensions because he would not refer to transgender people using their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not attacking the transgender movement. But, I’m defending my right to freedom of speech, and freedom of belief,” Mackereth told The Sunday Telegraph July 8.

“I don’t believe I should be compelled to use a specific pronoun. I am not setting out to upset anyone. But, if upsetting someone can lead to doctors being sacked then, as a society we have to examine where we are going,” he reflected.

Mackereth, 55, is from Dudley, 10 miles west of Birmingham. He was training to take a job as a disability assessor, but maintained his belief that sex is genetic and biological, and is the basis of gender. Mackereth spent much of his time at the NHS working in Accident and Emergency departments.

His instructor had said reports on those claiming disability must refer to the patient by their gender identity, in accord with the Equality Act 2010, an anti-discrimination law in England, Wales, and Scotland which includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment among its protected classes.

“I said that I had a problem with this. I believe that gender is defined by biology and genetics. And that as a Christian the Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female. I could have kept my mouth shut. But, it was the right time to raise it,” Mackereth said.

He maintained that he could not in good conscience conform with the policy, and his contract was terminated.

Mackereth said that “Firstly, we are not allowed to say what we believe. Secondly, as my case shows, we are not allowed to think what we believe. Finally, we are not allowed to defend what we believe.”

“By stating … that gender and sex are determined at birth - you can come under ferocious attack.”

Under the Equality Act 2010 “everyone who holds my views can be sacked on the spot,” he stated. “I'm not an isolated case.”

Commentary: Catholic media, and the truth that sets us free

Denver, Colo., Jul 13, 2018 / 05:18 pm (CNA).- This week at CNA, we published an article about a bishop under investigation in India after a religious sister accused him of rape. The story is still developing, facts are not yet clear, and, of course, the bishop deserves the benefit of due process. CNA’s article explained those things.

But after the story was published, I received notes and messages from some readers, asking why we had published the story. Some said that it was scandalous to write the story before the allegations were proven. Or that we were causing mistrust. Or that articles like that one might cause people to lose their faith.

Those criticisms are nothing new. In fact, I hear them from some readers every time we publish a story about an allegation of sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, doctrinal infidelity, or some other negative charge against Church leaders.

I understand why readers have those concerns. And I think they deserve a reasonable response. Why would Catholic journalists- in fact, a Catholic news agency- publish negative stories about the Church?

Here’s why:

As Catholic journalists, our job is to do more than simply write about the Church. As Catholic journalists, our job is to report about the Church and the world as Catholics. This means that we presuppose that the Church’s doctrinal claims are true. Our coverage aims to write about the world from a perspective that takes Catholic teaching seriously, and tries to recognize the way in which grace is operative and evident in the world.

But it is not our job to be public relations agents for the Church. It is our job to look for the truth, and to report it. Sometimes the truth about the Church and her members is discouraging, or ugly, or scandalous. But we can’t ignore that. In fact, as Catholic journalists, we need to be especially zealous for the truth, because we know that the truth will set us free.

As Catholic journalists, we believe in sin, and we believe in redemption. We that God’s grace is real. We know his mercy can be transformative. We know that every person is made for holiness, and that God’s grace can make each one of us holy. But we know that holiness is rooted in mercy. And mercy depends on repentance. And repentance depends on acknowledging the truth about ourselves.

If we ignore, hide, or spin the ugly truth, it won’t go away on its own. Sin, like mold, festers in the darkness. Sunlight is a disinfectant. By bringing the truth into the light, we hope that the Church will acknowledge the places where sin has infected the Body of Christ- that Catholics will repent when necessary, that Church leaders will reform structures and institutions when necessary, and that God’s grace will make each one of us holy.

Our job is to inform, to inspire, to encourage, and to elucidate. I hope that our work helps Catholics to think, see, and act in the world as Catholics. St. Paul tells believers to be “transformed by the renewal of your minds.” I hope our work helps minds to be renewed, and hearts to be transformed.

But all of that depends on telling the truth. The Christian life can never be based on falsehoods, lies, or PR "spin."

Satan, the father of lies, seeks to confuse us, to hide what's real, to convince us that true is false and false is true.

Catholic journalists need to tell the truth about the great things happening in the Church- the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving - and about the things in need of reform, the places in which the Church must repent.

We also need to tell the truth when the Church is misrepresented, mischaracterized, or misunderstood.

When we know the truth, we know where we stand before God. We know what we must do to become holy. We know the good that fellow believers are doing, and we learn that we can imitate them. When we know the truth, we also know when we should ask for forgiveness, and when we should reform ourselves.

To be “iron sharpening iron,” we must see the places where we have grown dull or rusty.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church is a scandal. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. And most people know that if the media had not asked questions, and uncovered the places where Church leaders had acted negligently, the Church in the U.S. might not have begun the long process of reform. We’re still in the midst of that process, and so we need to continue asking questions.

Heterodoxy is also a scandal. So is pastoral negligence. We need to ask about those things, precisely because we believe what the Church teaches, and because we believe that God’s grace is real.

But our mission is also to tell the stories of God’s redemption, of his generosity, of his grace. We love to tell the stories of new apostolic projects, of bold and creative disciples of Jesus, of the New Evangelization in action. We love to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. That’s also part of telling the truth.  But to do that with any credibility- to be believed- our readers deserve to know that we won’t be compromised. That we’re a free press. That we are servants of the truth, and that we’ll follow it, wherever it leads.

Wherever the truth leads, we know that in Jesus Christ, it leads to our freedom.

 

JD Flynn is editor-in-chief of CNA. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Agency.