1. Argentina Rejects Bill to Ease Abortion Law, Politicians in favor of legal abortion vow to present legislation again next year. 

By Ryan Dube, The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2018, 3:21 AM

Argentina’s Senate on Thursday rejected a bill to legalize elective abortions, an issue that sharply divided the nation while raising the prospect that it could prompt other Latin American countries to ease their strict antiabortion laws.

After hours of debate, the Senate voted 38 to 31 against allowing legal abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Opponents of the bill celebrated the decision on the streets outside Congress with fireworks as they waved Argentine flags.

Argentina’s current law allows abortions only in cases when a pregnancy results from rape or when a woman’s health is at risk.

Both supporters and opponents of legal abortion believed the approval of the bill would have galvanized activists elsewhere in the region to pressure their governments to expand access to procedures to end a pregnancy. In Chile, supporters of legal abortion recently held a rally using green bandannas that have become the symbol for Argentine activists that backed the bill. In Brazil, the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that could decriminalize abortions in the first trimester.

The vote was celebrated by members of the Catholic Church, only weeks after seeing Ireland overturn a constitutional ban on abortion. In Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, the church had increased its campaign against the abortion law after it was narrowly approved in June by lawmakers in the lower house.


2. Protecting Religious Liberty Advances Women’s Causes.

By Ashley McGuire & Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Ashley McGuire is a senior fellow with The Catholic Association and the author of “Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation, Real Clear Politics, August 9, 2018, Opinion

Religious liberty has long been a second-class citizen in the human rights arena. Increasingly, its opponents at home place the term in air quotes, as if it were an invented concept. The consequences of this have been borne disproportionately by women, who suffer the most when religious liberty is violated and stand to gain in a particular way when it is safeguarded. 

Recent atrocities committed in the name of religion – and at the expense of freedom of religion – make this abundantly clear. Nigerian girls continue to be vulnerable to being kidnapped by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group in the north of the country. Those whose freedom was achieved by government rescue missions and the few schoolgirls who have escaped on their own, often carrying their newborns in their arms, recount terror beyond comprehension.  

In contrast to the violence women and girls experience where religious freedom is thwarted, countries protecting this freedom are countries where women and girls thrive. Countries that do not force women to convert to their spouses’ or fathers’ religion are countries that allow more space for women’s rights.   

And religious pluralism has been a proven antidote to the radicalization that often justifies enslavement, rape, and the trafficking of women. Just as scholars are increasingly noting that religious liberty is positively correlated with economic freedom, it is increasingly clear that the same correlation exists for the legal safeguarding of the dignity of women.

In the Catholic tradition, this dates to the beginnings of the church, which played a transformational role in uplifting women. Long before society fully recognized women, the church was canonizing women and making them doctors of the faith. Saints Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila were important voices for internal reform.  Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel shaped the educational systems of their day. And the selfless charity and compassion of Saint Teresa of Calcutta continues to inspire attention to and care for the poor and suffering.   

Religion nurtures strong women who change the world for the better. Advancing the cause of religious freedom advances the cause of women across the globe. And as such, women are in a particularly important position to pressure governments to more fully defend the freedom to believe.


3. DOJ cuts off Southern Poverty Law Center. 

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, August 9, 2018, Pg. A2

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday the Justice Department would not partner with groups that discriminate against or defame others, singling out the Southern Poverty Law Center for its “hate group” campaign.

The attorney general, speaking at the Alliance Defending Freedom Summit on Religious Liberty, accused the SPLC of wielding the “hate” designation as a “weapon … against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience.”

“I have ordered a review at the Department of Justice to make sure that we do not partner with any groups that discriminate,” Mr. Sessions said in his prepared remarks. “We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.”

Nor will the department associate with “hate groups,” he said, insisting, “At the Justice Department, we will not partner with hate groups. Not on my watch.”

The attorney general’s definition of what constitutes a hate group was clearly at odds with that of the left-of-center SPLC, known for listing prominent conservative organizations alongside extremist societies like the Ku Klux Klan on its “hate map.”

“They [SPLC] use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and constitutional rights of others,” said Mr. Sessions.


4. Religiosity linked to lower teen suicide rates, Scientists study strength of beliefs, history of depression over three generations.

By Laura Kelly, The Washington Times, August 9, 2018, Pg. A6

Religion plays a large role in positive mental health, but new research has found it can even influence younger generations that aren’t observant, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute found that children of parents who believe in religion were less likely to have suicidal thoughts. Further, a fewer number had committed suicide.

The study focused on the 214 offspring ages 6 to 18 whose parents were majority Christian, with 59 percent being Catholic and 26 percent Protestant. Researchers had surveys on participants answering questions about how often they attended religious services and how important is religion or spirituality.

For parents who put greater importance on religion or spirituality, it was associated with a 40 percent decrease in risk of suicidal behavior in their children.

Compared to parents who indicated religion wasn’t important, parents who said it is “highly important” — the strongest indicator of belief — it was associated with an 80 percent decrease in risk of suicidal behavior among their children.


5. The DOJ under Trump is standing up for religious freedom.

By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, The Hill, August 8, 2018, 10:30 AM, Opinion

In a refreshing change of course from the prior administration’s uneasy relationship with matters of religious liberty, the Trump administration has delivered a consistent and staunch defense of conscience rights. The latest example is a religious liberty task force, the purpose of which is to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has all the enforcement power it needs to fully implement last October’s guidance to federal agencies on matters of religious freedom.

In sharp contrast to the Obama administration, which actively tried to pare down the free exercise of religion to a narrowly defined “freedom of worship,” the Trump administration’s DOJ has gone to bat for the faithful.

What has changed at the DOJ under Trump is something quite basic, but with enormous implications. The DOJ is putting the conscience rights enshrined in the First Amendment first, where they belong. The DOJ understands that faith is a personal experience that brings the believer joy and fulfillment, but also that it is an invaluable cultural asset, enhancing and benefiting the whole of society.

The Catholic Church, for example, is a crucial part of America’s safety net, through their many charities, programs, hospitals, schools, and voluntary parochial associations across the country. America is a stronger and better nation because Americans are impelled by their various faiths to feed the poor, welcome the orphan, house the homeless, and comfort the sick. The DOJ also understands that our country shines in a dark world for its foundational commitment to the right of each man and woman not only to believe, but to freely exercise their beliefs in the public square without being unduly burdened or discriminated against. It’s a point of pride for Americans, and a source of envy for other countries mired in oppression and religious violence.