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Illinois pharmacist ruling praised as conscience victory

Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2012 / 12:06 am (CNA).- Religious liberty advocates are hailing the end of a seven-year legal battle over the required provision of abortion drugs in Illinois pharmacies as a major triumph for conscience rights.

“This decision is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented the pharmacists in the case for several years.

“The government shouldn’t kick business owners out of the market just because it dislikes their religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.

“Over seven years of litigation, there was never a shred of proof that a religious objection at a pharmacy harmed anyone,” Rienzi explained. “These pharmacists do a wonderful job serving their communities, and the state’s decision not to appeal lets them get back to that important work.”

On Dec. 10, the Illinois Attorney General announced that it would not appeal a court decision upholding the conscience rights of pharmacists against a state mandate requiring the dispensation of abortion-inducing drugs.

After seven years in court, the decision secures a victory for two Illinois pharmacists and the pharmacies they run.

The case stems from a 2005 executive rule issued by then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to require all pharmacists and pharmacies in the state to dispense Plan B, also known as the “morning after pill.”

While it is commonly called “emergency contraception,” the drug can cause an early abortion by ending the life of a newly created human embryo.

Pharmacists who did not comply with the rule were threatened with fines and the loss of professional licenses.  
 
The governor did not allow a religious exemption to the rule, saying that pharmacists who were morally opposed to the drug should find a different profession.

Several pharmacists and pharmacies that morally object to cooperating in the destruction of human life filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.

The suit argued that the rule violated state religious liberty laws, health care conscience protections and the religious freedom guarantees in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

It charged that the rule unfairly discriminated against health care professionals seeking to contribute to society according to their principles by forcing them to choose between their constitutionally protected rights and their livelihood.
 
In April 2011, an Illinois trial court granted a permanent injunction blocking the rule from applying to the pharmacists. The court found no evidence that anyone had been harmed by a pharmacist’s religious objections to providing the drugs. It also noted that the law allowed pharmacies to refuse to sell drugs for many other business reasons, but not religious ones.

A state appellate court affirmed the injunction in September 2012, finding that the rule amounted to “discrimination in licensing” against those with religious objections to early abortion drugs.
 
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, hailed the decision as “a tremendous victory.”

Americans United for Life, which filed the original lawsuit in the case, noted that many individuals throughout the country face similar dilemmas due the Obama administration’s recent federal mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.
 
Yoest said that the victory in Illinois “has dramatic implications for all people of faith who object to being forced to throw aside their convictions to support an anti-life agenda.”

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Ecclesia in America congress participants leave unified, renewed

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2012 / 06:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the final day of the “Ecclesia in America” international conference, several participants agreed that it was a wonderful experience that helped them spiritually and intellectually.

“This conference, really seen through the lens of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been a really beautiful experience,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore in a Dec. 12 interview.

The congress was held Dec. 9-12 in Rome, and discussed regional challenges and the New Evangelization, while also marking the 15th anniversary of John Paul II's apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America.”

Archbishop Lori found it particularly edifying to be with bishops, religious, and laity, all of whom are devoted “to the Church's mission of evangelization.”

He said that the conference has proposed “afresh” the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe and “her perfectly encultured presentation of the Gospel for America.”

“All of us who are charged to proclaim the Gospel find ourselves in the position of being Juan Diego, feeling her love, her care, her persistent presence in our lives, as we go about the work of the new evangelization,” he said. “So this has been a spiritually enriching conference, as well as intellectually stimulating.”

He said that he will return to the Baltimore archdiocese with a “renewed and urgent concentration” on family life.

“Parishes are vital, growing, happy, places when they are made up of wonderfully strong, active families, (so) it's very clear how the family plays this huge role in evangelizing.”

“Young people don't really absorb the faith,” the archbishop explained, “unless they can see marriage as a way of living out the baptismal vocation to love. So it seems to me that's one thing that has to be brought home.”

Dan Zeidler, the U.S. representative for the Latin American Alliance for the Family, agreed that family life must be strengthened throughout the Americas.

Zeidler’s organization reaches out to parents who have had abortions to help them “heal and to reconcile with God and with their child.”

He said the meeting's emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe “has been very spiritually invigorating … we'll all be more involved in networking, so we'll also be more in touch and hopefully more effective.”

Curtis Martin, president of the U.S.-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students, was also pleased by the “tremendous desire for collaboration.”

“There's a growing hunger amongst faithful Catholics of how exactly do we collaborate with the New Evangelization,” he said.

Sister Theresa Slota, who is superior general of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, a religious order of Eastern rite Catholics founded in Ukraine, also shared what she will take away from the congress.

“After being at this conference, the one thing I can do is share with our people about Our Lady of Guadalupe,” she said. “We have many Madonnas in Ukraine, and we love the Madonna very much, but this is a special gift that I have received these days to be here.”

“The thing that's most important, especially with evangelization, is how we as women carry Christ in us, and how to bring that more and more to our people and the people we meet every day. And that is what I would like not only for myself to do, but for each of our sisters all over the world.”

Archbishop Lori also reflected on the battle which the Church is engaged in, particularly in the U.S.

“We are preaching the Gospel to a culture marked by hardened secularity … willing to debase human life … and an overarching indifference among people.”

“We're in mission territory, let's face it, and the New Evangelization is about taking up the mission of the Church that began at Pentecost, with renewed vitality and love,” he stated.

“Love diffuses itself, and the love we bear is stronger than sin and more powerful than death.”

Alan Holdren, Estefania Aguirre and Marta Jiménez Ibáñez from CNA's Rome bureau contributed to this report.

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Bishops say Our Lady of Guadalupe still brings Christ to Americas

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2012 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly five hundred years later, Our Lady of Guadalupe is still drawing men and women of the Americas to Christ, two U.S. Catholic bishops said at the “Ecclesia in America” conference in Rome.

“What has been proposed to us afresh is the image and the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her perfectly enculturated presentation of the Gospel in America,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told EWTN News Dec. 12.

“It’s an amazing story. The more you contemplate the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe the more you see how she speaks to all of America. How she brings Christ to us, and how she brings us to Christ.”

The Dec. 12 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1531 to St. Juan Diego near present-day Mexico City. She told Juan Diego to ask the local bishop to build a church on the site. Later when he asked for a sign, she said his ailing uncle would be cured. She also asked him to gather in his tilma roses and other flowers which had miraculously bloomed.

When he unraveled his tilma before the bishop, it bore a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary in an indigenous style of art. The image helped convert many natives to Christianity.

Archbishop Lori found inspiration in the story.

“All of us who are charged to proclaim the Gospel find ourselves in the position of being Juan Diego, feeling her love, feeling her care, feeling her persistent presence in our lives as we go about the work of the New Evangelization,” he said.

The “Ecclesia in America” congress from Dec. 9-12 marks the 15th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the anniversary of a bishops’ synod on the Catholic Church in the Americas. The event has brought to Vatican City over 200 participants, including cardinals from Toronto, Boston, Guadalajara, Santo Domingo and Tegucigalpa; bishops and archbishops; and clergy, vowed religious and lay experts.

The Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus organized the conference with the Mexico City-based Institute of Guadalupan Studies.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver reflected on his own experience of Our Lady of Guadalupe in his Dec. 10 congress presentation “The Encounter with Jesus Through Mary.”

“I will never forget the first time that I stood in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1996. As I stood there and gazed at the image I was struck with awe and wonder but I was struck more with the love of Mary, with the fact that the tilma should have been totally destroyed by now, with the fact that she left her image, her image for us and it was still there 500 years later.”

He said this image speaks of “the depths of her love for humanity” and of her “maternal love.”

“She is with child,” he said of the Guadalupe image. “The heart of her maternal message is Jesus and yet she reveals her tender love in her words to Juan Diego as she says, hear and let it penetrate into your heart,  ‘My dear little son.’ And that is the love that Mary has for us.”

Archbishop Aquila said the Virgin Mary “desires intimacy with us, just as the Father desires intimacy with us, just as Jesus does.” She is “the one who leads us more fully to Jesus.”

Archbishop Lori told EWTN News that the conference has been a “beautiful experience,” especially when “seen through the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

He noted the presence of bishops and vowed religious from all over America, as well as “so many dedicated, faithful laity who are devoting much or all of their time to the Church’s mission.”

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Advent a time to reflect on God's saving work, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2012 / 12:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians should use the time of Advent to become more aware of how God continues to carry out his plan of salvation in the world, Pope Benedict said Dec. 12.

“God has left His Heaven and come down to earth for man; forged an alliance with him coming into the history of a people,” the Pope reflected Wednesday.

“He is the king who came down to this poor province that is the earth, and gifted us with His visit, taking on human flesh and becoming man like us.”

In his General Audience in Paul VI hall, Pope Benedict continued his teaching on the history of salvation, reminding the faithful that Advent presents the Church with an opportunity to reflect on God’s redeeming work in humanity.

God, he said, is “not removed from the world” nor is he “absent.” Rather, the pontiff encouraged, “He comes to us in different ways, which we need to learn to discern.”

In order to better understand this work, Christians must look at the ways in which God is present in a world which is “often superficial and distracted.”

“God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves,” Pope Benedict said quoting his predecessor Bl. John Paul II’s encyclical “Fides et Ratio.”

Christians “are called everyday to see and bear witness to this presence,” Pope Benedict said, and “to reflect in our lives the light that illuminated the cave of Bethlehem.”

The “best place” to discover the revelation of God is Sacred Scripture, Pope Benedict said.

The Pope recounted the stages of salvation history, as summarized in the Catechism from the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden to Redemption through the Incarnation of Christ.

Throughout this work, God “is always faithful” to his people and his “plan of liberation” so that man “can recognize and serve his Lord and respond with faith and love to his actions.”

Mary’s Magnificat is “one of the highest examples of the history of salvation,” Pope Benedict said, pointing out that in her prayer of thanksgiving, the Blessed Mother “praises God’s merciful action within the concrete journey of His people.”

The Incarnation, he said, presents us with the culmination of God’s saving work.

“Finally, in Christ the Revelation in its fullness is realized, God’s loving plan in which He becomes one of us,” Pope Benedict said.

During the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict said he invites everyone to “take up the Bible more often and meditate on it and pay more attention to the readings in Sunday Mass,” he said, calling Sacred Scripture, “valuable nourishment for our faith.”

In celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12, the Pope urged young pilgrims to “learn to love and hope at the school of Mary;” encouraged the sick to find “comfort and companionship” in their suffering; and asked newlyweds to “entrust to the Mother of Jesus” their “marital journey.”

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Bishop says Mayan prophecy believers should donate to Church before world's end

Santiago, Chile, Dec 12, 2012 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas, Chile has an interesting suggestion for those convinced that the world will end Dec. 21, as predicted by the Mayan calendar.

According to local newspaper La Prensa Austral, the bishop said that those who believe the Mayan prophecy should donate their worldly goods to the Church.

“If there are many who believe the world will end on Dec. 21, as the Church, we have no problem with them naming us as the beneficiaries of their possessions in their wills,” he quipped in a Dec. 9 interview.  

Doomsday predictions about the end of the world, as documented by the Mayans, have circulated in recent years and grown in popularity. The Mayan Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., which accounts for time in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The Mayans allegedly believed that the last, or 13th Baktun, ends Dec. 21, 2012.

To those who are convinced that the world is ending next week, Bishop Bastres said “I assure them that after Dec. 21, we will eternally pray for them.”

“Because I am sure that we will all be alive after that date. If they wish to pass on, they could do enormous good by donating their properties to the Church.”

Adding to criticism of the prophecy, Father Jose Funes – who directs the Vatican Observatory – wrote in the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano that “it's not even worth discussing” the predictions.

In his Dec. 12 piece titled, “The end that won't come – at least for now,” he countered doomsday scenarios by stressing that the “Word of God reminds us that we are heading toward a fundamentally good future, despite the crises of every kind in which we are immersed.”

“That's because we are assured that, in Christ, there is a future for humanity and for the universe,” the Jesuit priest added.  

“In the depths of the human being is the fundamental belief that death cannot have the last word.”

Although Cosmology shows that the universe will – billions of years from now – go into “a final state of cold and darkness,” he noted, the Christian message “teaches us instead that in the final resurrection, the last day, God will reconstitute every man, woman and all the universe.”

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In first tweet, Pope blesses his million-plus followers

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2012 / 10:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI made his debut on Twitter today, sending out a greeting and a blessing as his first tweet to his “followers.”

“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” read his first tweet, sent around noon Rome time from the Paul VI Hall.

He sent his tweet on an iPad at the end of his Dec. 12 general audience.

His account, @pontifex, already has over one million followers, with accounts in eight languages. The English-language feed alone has more than 830,000 followers.

He will respond today to three questions submitted over the last week or so, and he has already responded to two.

The first asked “how can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?”

He responded, “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need.”

In his third tweet he responded to the despair and isolation prevalent in modern culture: “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?”

Pope Benedict answered that “We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.”

In English alone, his first tweet has been re-tweeted 42,000 times in the six hours since its debut.

In addition to English, Pope Benedict is tweeting in Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. In the Arabic world, 9,300 people are following the Pope.

The pontiff's Twitter debut is “part of a strategy that the Church has to take part in social media to communicate the good news, and this is going to be the tip of the iceberg,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in a Dec. 6 interview with CNA.

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Cardinal Ouellet: Cultural renewal in Americas requires Mary's message

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2012 / 04:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe promotes a culture of life and is at the center of the New Evangelization of the Americas, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet at a conference in Rome.

“The fact that she appears, she doesn't have the child in her arms, because she has the child in her womb, it is a powerful message to our culture of death, where many babies die before coming to life,” Cardinal Ouellet remarked Dec. 11 at a small group discussion during the congress.

Cardinal Ouellet is the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and the president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He offered his insights at the Ecclesia in America Congress being held Dec. 9-12 in Rome.

“Mary is reminding us that the word of God took flesh in the womb of a woman, and he is bringing redemption, renewal of relationships, grace and mercy to the world, openness to life and to hope,” he said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe does this “with a great tenderness,” he observed, adding that in this apparition Mary is “proof of an inculturated gospel.”

He noted that “Mary” is originally a Judaic name, and that “Guadalupe” comes from Arabic roots. Those two components of her name result in “a message in itself of reconciliation … the Word made flesh is a solution for all humanity and all cultures. It is a gift of God for the whole of humanity,” he said.

Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, echoed the cardinal's comments on Mary and combating the culture of death in the Americas, and spoke about her ministry for men and women who have had abortions.

She recalled that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said that if women who have had abortions “come with a repentant heart, the Father of mercies is waiting for them, and they will then become the cornerstones of the culture of life.”

Project Rachel, she said, is not only for the U.S., where it was founded.

“Project Rachel applies anywhere in the world where women have had abortions, men who have lost their children. The only thing that varies from culture to culture is the cultural explanation and how does that culture grieve.”

“But the pain is that of a mother, who has lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion … it is not culture bound; it can go anywhere the Church is.”

She said the importance of Project Rachel is that women who are healed “restore the heart of the culture,” and that men who have been healed “actively take part in promoting a culture of life.”

Cardinal Ouellet also reflected on the importance of unity between North and South America, founded on “the treasure of our common patrimony, which is our Catholic faith and Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The conference, he said, is “an act of faith and hope,” anchored in John Paul II's call for a “deeper dialogue” and “greater exchange” between North and South America.

“The richness of Latin America is their faith, their treasure of popular piety,” he told the small group.

“When they come to Canada or the U.S., they help to restore or save a Christian culture … they must bring and keep their religious identity, and enrich us with their faith.”

He said the outlook for the Americas is “very promising,” and that a renewal must come “from the faith, from a return to Jesus Christ, and so from the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, fundamentally.”

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US Catholic ordinariate creates Canadian deanery

Calgary, Canada, Dec 12, 2012 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has approved a new Canadian deanery for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter that will minister to Anglicans and their clergy who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto said he is “delighted” at the approval of the new deanery, the ordinariate reports.

He and Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the head of the Houston, Texas-based ordinariate, announced the news on Dec. 7. They had petitioned the Holy See to create the deanery after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stated its unanimous support at its September plenary assembly in Quebec.

Pope Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter on Jan. 1, 2012. It is a special church structure the Pope allowed in his 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus.” The ordinariate aims to promote Christian unity by allowing Anglicans and Episcopalians to enter the Catholic Church as communities that maintain many of the traditions of Anglicanism.

There are two other Anglican ordinariates: the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales and the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross for Australia.

Msgr. Steenson said the North American ordinariate covers “enormous” territory and it will be a “great blessing” to delegate duties.

Fr. Lee Kenyon, the administrator of St. John the Evangelist Church in Calgary, will be dean of the new Deanery of St. John the Baptist. His church is the first ordinariate congregation in Canada. Fr. Kenyon served as a parish priest for the Church of England in the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn from 2005 to 2009.

He arrived in Calgary in 2009 and entered the Catholic Church along with his parish in 2011. In June 2012, Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary ordained him to the Catholic priesthood.

Fr. Kenyon is married and was ordained under a special provision for some Anglican clergy. He and his wife Elizabeth have three children.

Msgr. Steenson said Fr. Kenyon has a “superb foundation” in Anglicanism, adding “he brings this patrimony to the Catholic Church with a wise and generous pastoral heart.”

Cardinal Collins said Fr. Kenyon will provide “excellent pastoral leadership.” He offered his prayers for the deanery, calling it an “important initiative.”

Msgr. Steenson said he is “full of gratitude” for the Canadian bishops' encouragement and support for the deanery and for Pope Benedict’s vision for what the priest called “intentional communities of Christian unity.”

 Over the last year 25 priests and 1,500 laity in 35 communities across the U.S. and Canada have joined the ordinariate. There are almost 70 candidates for the Catholic priesthood undergoing formation for possible ordination in the ordinariate.

Peter Wilkinson, the former Anglican Bishop of Victoria, British Columbia, was ordained a Catholic priest in Victoria on Dec. 8. He is the third priest ordained for the ordinariate in Canada.

One of the newest converts is Laurence Gipson of Houston, Texas. Gipson served as rector for 14 years at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, whose parishioners include former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush. Gipson and his wife entered the Catholic Church in October.

The ordinariate recently received a $5 million land donation for a chancery adjacent to Our Lady of Walsingham Church, an Anglican Use parish in Houston that is the ordinariate’s present headquarters.

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Mennonite-owned wood manufacturer sues over contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2012 / 05:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Three Mennonite Christians who own a wood manufacturing company in Pennsylvania have filed a lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate for threatening their right to religious freedom.

“Being told that we must provide a health plan that includes a provision that violates the Christian beliefs of our family and the Christian values that our company was founded on is deeply troubling,” said Anthony Hahn, president and CEO of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation.

“Forcing Americans to surrender long-standing, deeply-held principles in order to own and run a business is not merely troubling but unnecessary and unconstitutional,” he added.

Hahn is challenging a federal regulation that requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Conestoga would be required to comply with the mandate when its insurance plan renews on Jan. 1, 2013.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the mandate by religious employers who argue that it forces them to violate their sincerely-held beliefs. The federal government has argued that businesses which are deemed “secular” do not have the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

On Dec. 4, attorneys with Independence Law Center filed a legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Conestoga’s founder Norman Hahn, and his sons Norman Lemar Hahn and Anthony Hahn, who manage the company.

A family business with some 950 full-time employees throughout the U.S., Conestoga is a manufacturer of wood cabinets, doors and other specialty products.

The Hahns have always sought to “operate Conestoga in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs” as Mennonite Christians, the lawsuit says, noting that the company’s mission statement includes a commitment to “the highest ethical, moral, and Christian principles.”

The family believes “that their Mennonite faith prohibits them from separating their religious beliefs from their daily business practice,” the suit stresses.

Given their conviction that “God requires respect for the sanctity of human life,” the Hahns believe “it would be sinful and immoral for them to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate, or otherwise support any contraception with an abortifacient effect,” the legal challenge says.

The Hahns currently provide health insurance that does not include drugs such as Plan B and ella, which can kill a newly-conceived human embryo. Coverage of these drugs is required under the mandate.

The family is now asking the court for an injunction to block the enforcement of the mandate. Several other for-profit businesses have secured initial injunctions in similar lawsuits while their cases progress through the court system.

The Independence Law Center noted that Mennonites have faced a long history of religious discrimination and persecution, and many of them were attracted by the promise of religious freedom to settle in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.

“People of faith should not be punished for making decisions according to the deepest convictions of that faith,” said attorney Charles W. Proctor III in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

“Americans should be free to honor God in the way they see fit whether at work or at home or at church,” added attorney Randall Wenger. “To ask us to do otherwise would show extreme disrespect to our freedom of conscience.”

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Uruguayan doctors say abortion norms fail to respect conscience rights

Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 11, 2012 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly one hundred doctors in Uruguay filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, arguing that the country's new abortion norms to not allow for conscientious objection.

According to the newspaper El Observador, the doctors state that because they are directly responsible for implementing and administering the regulations, they feel obliged to denounce “several grave illegalities” they contain.

The abortion law took effect on Dec. 3, when it was signed by President Jose Mujica. Fifteen pro-life groups in the country are collecting signatures for a referendum to revoke the measure, as Uruguay's Catholics bishops continue to voice their opposition to it.

The physicians, who belong to the association Doctors for Health and for Life, charge that the norms “seek to limit fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” such as “independence in the moral and civic conscience of every dependent worker.”

The conscience clause in the regulations is “restricted to the execution of an abortion and to the personnel that directly participates in such execution.”  

“There are other aspects of the Law which health care personnel might object to, and such a right is explicitly excluded from this decree,” the doctors said.

Conscientious objection to performing a abortion by health care workers is also prohibited if the attending doctor determines that it would threaten the woman’s health.  

“The life of the mother must always be safeguarded, but the decree arbitrarily defines the concept of 'grave risk to health,' eliminating the word 'grave' and including 'any risk to the bio-psycho-social health of the mother, whether they are grave or not,'” the doctors added.

Uruguay’s abortion law requires that women seeking the procedure receive counseling from a team of health care experts, including information on the choice of adoption, but “these tasks are omitted from the duties that experts that make up the team are supposed to carry out,” the doctors said.  

Such restrictions turn the team of experts into a mere “preamble for abortion,” they said.

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