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An Ex-Gay Christian Says It Was Easier to Leave Homosexuality Than to Change His Diet

A man named Eric posted this on my Facebook page, and it was heartbreaking to read.

I have struggled with weight problems for years and it’s catching up with me. On December 5th I spent time in the E.R. due to dangerously high blood pressure. They’re still working on getting the right combo of drugs to get it under control. I am morbidly obese and it is a matter of life and death.

Some of you reading this can relate to Eric’s situation — the fear of imminent heart failure; the knowledge that you are killing yourself with your diet; the hope that doctors can help you but the guilt that you have brought this on yourself. …

But what can you do? You’ve tried every diet you know, you’ve confessed the sin of gluttony or unhealthy eating to the Lord a thousand times over, and still, you’re overweight — grossly overweight — and now it’s threatening your health.

Eric then said this:

I left homosexuality behind 6 years ago. That was SO much easier than getting my weight under control. I do understand being isolated from life due to weight. It’s more than just what people think. It is a physical bondage that fatigues and makes just fitting in a chair difficult. Other than learning about God’s word and knowing Jesus there is nothing I want more than to be healthy.

These are strong words: It was SO much easier to leave homosexuality than to get his weight under control. That is saying a lot.

I know many people who have struggled with same-sex attraction, some experiencing instantaneous, miraculous transformation, others working for years to see those attractions gradually diminish, and still others fighting for decades to see change without any success.

Yet Eric says that leaving homosexuality, obviously by God’s grace, was so much easier than changing his relationship to food.

When God set me free from heavy drug use in 1971 at the age of 16 (including shooting heroin), I couldn’t relate to those who would say, “I’m a recovering drug addict.”

For me, that was a thing of the past, someone who I used to be, and it had no bearing on my life after that. To this day, I do not think of myself as a recovering drug addict.

But when it comes to food, I live as if I’m a recovering food addict. In fact, one of the first chapters in my new book Breaking the Stronghold of Food (written together with my wife Nancy), is entitled, “Confessions of a Recovering Food Addict.”And even though I’ve been totally free from food addictions since late August, 2014, when my lifestyle transformation began, I live as if one wrong bite could set me back. Why play with fire?

After all, illegal drugs do not play a regular role in our lives — in other words, when I quit getting high in 1971, I cut off contact with that old part of my life — but when it comes to food, we need it to live, and we are constantly surrounded by unhealthy food choices.

As someone on the road constantly — traveling 30 hours straight on overseas flights, at endless airports and hotels, being taken out to restaurants all the time — I know how easy it would be to fall back into my old lifestyle. That’s why I don’t make any exceptions to my healthy eating. I recognize that the Lord has given me grace, and I know that one misstep could open the door to another and then another. I do not take my freedom for granted!

Getting back to our friend Eric, for whom I ask you to pray, he wrote this at the end of his post, explaining that there was one more reason he was ordering our new book, and for him, it was another reason to get healthy: “the morbidly obese make poor witnesses for Christ.”

Nancy and I really do understand how difficult the battles are (we’re totally candid in the book, and you’ll laugh — or sigh — at some of our stories), and that’s why there’s not an ounce of condemnation in anything we write.

We don’t want to beat you up, we want to help you out, and we’re convinced that if the Lord could help us, with all our bad eating habits and food addictions, He can help anyone. (For the record, according to recognized weight standards, which are probably a little too generous, we were both obese in the past.)

So, if you find yourself struggling with unhealthy eating habits or food addictions, even if you’re not overweight, there is a solid, lasting way out. And if you’re obese or morbidly obese, all the more are these promises for you. Even when it comes to food, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). There is a better way! (For more from the author of “An Ex-Gay Christian Says It Was Easier to Leave Homosexuality Than to Change His Diet” please click HERE)

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New for the Army in 2017? Beards, Nail Polish and Earrings

Army leaders are considering some big changes to the service’s uniform and appearance policies in 2017.

The Army Research Lab has been conducting a compatibility study of protective equipment with facial hair, long hair and head coverings, an ARL spokeswoman confirmed. This includes testing combat helmets this fall at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, with volunteers – male and female – who have hair with more than two inches of volume when tied back.

And as for beards, the Army’s top enlisted soldier is open to them.

“From a personal perspective: Am I opposed to it? Not really,” Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times in November. “I think we have to look at it, we have to research on it, we have to be informed by it” . . .

The Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force all currently allow nail polish, and all of those except the Marines allow small, stud earrings in their utility uniforms. (Read more from “New for the Army in 2017? Beards, Nail Polish and Earrings” HERE)

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Christians Most Persecuted Religious Group in the World, Study Says

Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with around 90,000 killed for their faith in 2016, the director of a leading religious study group has said.

Massimo Introvigne, Director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), told Vatican Radio that around half a billion Christians in the world are unable to express their faith completely freely, while around 90,000 – one every six minutes – died for their faith in the past year alone.

Referring to statistics from the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, Mr Introvigne said around 70 per cent of Christians murdered in 2016 died in tribal conflicts in Africa. These deaths were included, he said, because very often they involved Christians who refuse to take up arms for reasons of conscience.

“The other 30 per cent, or 27,000, were killed in terror attacks, the destruction of Christian villages, or government persecution,” he added.

He told Vatican Radio that the Catholic Church is currently considering possible sainthood for individual Christians killed in territories controlled by the Islamic State terror group. Some Christians, he said, had risked almost certain death by staying in these territories to give testament to their faith. (Read more from “Christians Most Persecuted Religious Group in the World, Study Says” HERE)

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5 Ways to Move From a Great Shaking in 2016 to a Great Awakening in 2017

According to the Chicago Tribune, 2016 was “A year unlike any year.” Merriam-Webster, famous for its dictionaries, picked “surreal” as the word of the year, and Nigel Farage of Brexit fame opined that 2016 was the “Year Of The ‘Political Revolution’ By The Little People.”

By all counts, 2016 was a year of great shaking, perhaps of divine proportions.

In America alone, a tremendous shaking has taken place through our presidential elections alone as: the mainstream has been shaken; the political system (in particular, the Democratic party) has been shaken; the evangelical church has been shaken; college campuses have been shaken; the status quo has been shaken — just to name a few. And in each case, we could add that the shaking has not abated.

Is this the hand of God at work?

Obviously, we cannot be dogmatic about this, since we do not have the inspired commentary of Scripture to take us behind the scenes, and some of the upheaval can be explained on natural grounds alone. But from my perspective, much of the shaking is the result of the Lord responding to the prayers of His people, who for many years have been asking Him to rock our world (not destroy our world) and wake us up. Are we getting the message?

But even if I’m right about this, there is a massive difference between a great shaking and a great awakening, and the burning question is: How can we move from the great shaking of 2016 to a great awakening in 2017 and beyond?

Before answering that question, let me give you a glimpse of what a spiritual awakening looks like.

Awakening in America

Consider the First Great Awakening which took place in the American colonies between 1730-1745. Before the awakening, young people caroused and partied all night, and women were afraid to walk the streets. But in the height of the revival even Benjamin Franklin could say that “it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in the evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”

Could you imagine something like this today?

Before the 1857-1858 prayer revival, the churches were becoming worldly and internalized, and immorality, violent crime, spiritualism, corruption, and atheism were on the rise (as recounted by the revival scholar James Edwin Orr). But a spirit of prayer swept across the nation, to the point that stores and businesses would shut down in some of our cities for noon prayer (again, try to wrap your mind around something like that today).

As described by Mary Stuart Relfe:

The Revival of 1857 restored integrity to government and business in America once again. There was renewed obedience to the social commandments. An intense sympathy was created for the poor and needy. A compassionate society was rebirthed. The reins of America were returned to the godly. Yet another time, Revival became the solution to the problems, the remedy for the evils, the cure of all ills.

Could a spiritual movement like this happen again in our day? To use biblical language, with people it’s impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

Shaking to Awakening in 5 Steps

Here, then, are five keys to moving from shaking to awakening.

1) To the extent prayer played a role in the shaking of 2016, it must be maintained and even increased.

Many Christians prayed fervently in the months leading up to the elections, recognizing how terribly broken our nation was and how desperately we needed divine intervention. But human nature being what it is, once we get past the feeling of crisis, we take our foot off the gas.

Now is not the time to let up. To the contrary, we must redouble our prayer focus if we want to see real, lasting change.

2) We must put our hope in the Lord, not Donald Trump.

Let’s say that Mr. Trump turns out to be a phenomenal president, appointing terrific Supreme Court justices, effectively fighting terrorism, strengthening our economy (especially in the inner cities), securing our borders and creating compassionate solutions for worthy immigrants, replacing Obamacare with a much better plan, restoring respect for America abroad — and even more.

Even if he managed to do all this, which would be more than remarkable, he would not in any way usurp the role of the church, nor could he. He could not turn the hearts of rebels and mockers; he could not restore a spirit of prayer to the church; he could not break the hold of sexual bondages; he could not unite broken families — and on and on the list goes.

So, while we pray for our president-elect to succeed in his mission, we put our trust in the Lord, not him, for spiritual awakening.

3) We must give ourselves to the Great Commission and to changing hearts and minds, especially among young people.

Change will not come to America from the top down. It must rise from the grassroots up, and the most effective “weapon” we have, along with prayer, is the gospel.

With the Lord’s help, we must make Jesus known to a generation that does not know Him, and we must demonstrate to the world that God’s ways are best — ways of life and harmony and peace.

4) If, in fact, we have been given a divine respite, a reprieve of sorts, we must maximize this opportunity with holy desperation. If we don’t, things could get worse than ever, and in a hurry at that.

Along with many other leaders, I do believe that we have been spared what could have been a disastrous Hillary Clinton presidency, in particular when it comes to issues of great concern to the church (especially abortion, religious liberty, and the meaning of marriage). But if that is true, then what we do with this respite is of critical importance.

Will we redeem the time and maximize the moment, not only on the political and social fronts but on the spiritual and relational fronts as well? Will we seize hold of our liberties and make a real difference? I dread to think of what’s ahead of us if we don’t.

5) We must not underestimate the depth of division in our country. The task is massive, and only with the help of the Holy Spirit will we see positive, lasting change.

Even if we’re right about God giving us a respite with the Trump election, we cannot forget how divisive he has been as a candidate (and even president-elect) and how these elections have revealed the deep rifts that stand between us, in particular along the lines of sex, race, skin color, age, and religion.

And while we understand that there will always be deep divisions in a nation of 330 million people, we also understand that as followers of Jesus, we have been given the message of reconciliation, both vertically and horizontally, and it is through a great spiritual awakening that these deep divides can be bridged.

The good news is that revival and visitation and renewal not only happen on a national level. Awakening also happens one life at a time, and so we do well to follow the practice of an old evangelist who was asked how he prayed for revival. He answered, “I draw a circle on the ground, then I get inside the circle, then I pray, ‘Lord, revive everything in this circle!’”

Why not start praying that prayer for yourself today? (For more from the author of “5 Ways to Move From a Great Shaking in 2016 to a Great Awakening in 2017” please click HERE)

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Will Taiwan Be the First Asian Country to Adopt Same-Sex ‘Marriage?

Taiwan might be the first Asian country to fall to the Great Gay Juggernaut. Its government might follow the same path as many post-Christian Western governments and force its citizens to declare or pretend two men (or two women) may marry each other.

On 26 December, a second large rally in as many weeks supporting government-defined “marriage,” or gmarriage, was held in the capital city of Taipei. The rally coincided with a meeting of the country’s Legislative Yuan which was considering legislation to further the cause of gmarriage. The China Post (an English-language Taiwan-based paper) reported:

An amendment to the Civil Code was approved by a legislative committee Monday in a major step toward the legalization of same-sex marriage, as thousands-strong dueling demonstrators took place outside the Legislative Yuan.

After three hours, the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee approved the amendment proposed by ruling party Legislator Yu Mei-nu, which replaces “male and female parties” in the Civil Code’s marriage chapter with “two parties.”

This is not considered enough to ensconce a full-blown retreat from actual marriage. But words matter, as is understood by members of the “anti campaign.”

More than 110 demonstrators from the anti campaign were taped by the wrist by police officers after they broke through the police line and barged into the Legislative Yuan, attempting to interrupt the committee meeting.

This is interesting because these active counter-demonstrations were not often seen in the Western countries which adopted gmarriage, which is a signal that hope is not yet lost for Taiwan. Also, polls only show about 37% of Taiwanese support gmarriage, a number which has been dropping.

There is not much to be sanguine about, however. Only two weeks before the latest rally, on December 11th, another huge pro-gmarriage event was also held in Taipei. One report is as many as between 75,000 to 250,000 came.

A site called Pride Watch Taiwan keeps detailed statistics on the 113 members of the Legislative Yuan. As of this writing, 57.5% (or 65) of that body’s members have expressed support in one way or another for gmarriage. The support may have only been in public settings and not (yet) made official. Only 10.6% (or 12) of the members are openly opposed, with the rest remaining mute or supporting a version of civil partnerships.

A majority of the country’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), 66.5% (or 46), are for gmarriage, while only 34.3% (or 12) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) are for gmarriage. Historically, the KMT has been the more conservative party. It was also the first party after Chiang Kai-shek decamped to the island after being chased from the Chinese homeland by the murderous Mao Zedong. There is a rich and rough history of the KMT and Taiwan, so the usual left-right party breakdowns familiar in the USA don’t apply well in Taiwan.

Pride Watch also tracks which members of the Legislative Yuan call themselves Christian, of whom there are 12. Half of these are against gmarriage, and three are neutral or support civil partnerships. And three — curiously, since gmarriage is not justifiable or compatible with Christianity — are for it. All these three are in the DPP.

The country’s president since last January is Tsai Ing-wen, a DPP member and one-time college professor. Tsai is a confirmed bachelorette and cat fancier, and has said, “In the face of love, everyone is equal. Let everyone have the freedom to love and to pursue their happiness. I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality.” Speaking on the same day, but not at the 11 December rally, Tsai said, “Gay people also have the right to get married.”

It’s unclear whether Tsai has the charisma or the backing to carry the gmarriage policy forward. She was elected with a wide margin, but homosexual “rights” and gmarriage were not part of the platform she ran under. And though she was very popular immediately after her election, she ran into immediate troubles for failing to uphold her campaign promises, mostly involving vacation practices and treatment of cross-straight relations with China.

Because of her inconsistencies, she has come in for no small measure of teasing. Her family name “Tsai” mimics the sound of a popular, hollow-stalk vegetable, which has given rise to the nickname Kong Xin Tsai, or “empty-hearted vegetable” (proving insults are often culturally relative).

Correspondingly, her approval rating has been plummeting, and her mirror disapproval rating rising. This could mean she has to put her focus on more pressing matters and put homosexual matters on the side.

If Taiwan falls, it will be the first predominately Buddhist nation to embrace this denial of the nature of marriage . Thus far, only post-Christian countries have adopted gmarriage. Taiwan is largely Chinese in demographics and culture, with its corresponding history of Confucianism and its intense focus on family. That this is fading is important.

Maybe of most importance, is that Taiwan has crossed a secular threshold common in those Western nations that abandoned actual marriage, with some 18-20% of its adults saying they hold to no religion. These are similar percentages in those gmarriage nations which were once openly Christian. (For more from the author of “Will Taiwan Be the First Asian Country to Adopt Same-Sex ‘Marriage?” please click HERE)

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Let ‘Em Hang: A Response to Todd Starnes’s Column on the Christmas Mall Fights

Brawls involving hundreds of teenagers broke out at 15 malls in at least eight states the day after Christmas.

Yesterday, Fox News columnist and friend of The Stream Todd Starnes offered some thoughts about the incidents in a column entitled “Hey Parents, Malls Are for Commerce — Not Babysitting.” In the spirit of friendly disagreement, here are a few alternative arguments.

‘No Rhyme or Reason,’ or Coordinated Effort?

Starnes claims that “there was no rhyme or reason to the violence.” Reports from police actually indicate that there may have been a reason and a rhyme — in fact, an organized one.

Starnes acknowledges the speculation that social media played a role in the mall outbreaks, but given the striking similarity of the events (15 malls? Eight states? Same night?), I’m willing to give a little more credit to the organized-on-social-media theory than the growing-problematic trend theory Starnes favors.

It smells to me like a one-off online plot of mischievous rebels, and not something that should give all rule-abiding teens a bad rap from now on.

Unsupervised Teenagers Aren’t Terrorists

Starnes claims that “anyone under the age of 18 without parental supervision has no business in a mall.”

Not so long ago, I was under 18 myself, and spent my fair share of time in a mall with friends. Moreover, I have young teen relatives with young teen friends who regularly enjoy grabbing lunch at the food court, trying on clothes or catching a movie — at the mall.

I live not five minutes from one of the most popular malls in my metropolitan area, and I would say over 50 percent of the shoppers I squeeze by while meandering between stores are those “underage young people” Starnes complains about.

The worst offense I’ve seen from them in my several years of mall shopping? Not moving out of the way fast enough when I’m in a rush because they are too busy laughing with their friends, flirting with each other, or, in recent years, Snapchatting their very non-eventful exploits.

In other words, while unruly youth and teen violence are real issues, I don’t think they are the shopping-mall trends that Starnes seems to indicate.

To be fair, some share Starnes’s concerns following the frightening fights on Monday, with reports of certain malls considering restrictions or bans on underage teen shoppers. Only about one-tenth of American malls currently have such restrictions, and many others are loath to implement them. I get why.

When I first graduated college, I snagged a part-time job at my local mall’s Forever 21 to tide me over financially while navigating job applications and interviews in my field. Can you imagine how forlorn a Forever 21 would be without after school and weekend teen shoppers? (If you have never shopped in a Forever 21 — and I don’t necessarily recommend it — you’ll just have to trust me.)

The Real Reason Malls are Shutting Down

Starnes seems to think that these “rampaging mobs of teenage thugs” are the reason you don’t see as many malls anymore — or the ones you do see look creepy and abandoned, a relic of bygone ’80s glory.

“Why do you think so many enclosed shopping centers are shutting down?” Starnes asks. “Nobody wants to risk their life for a Cinnabon or a discount on hand soap at Bath & Body Works.”

Starnes is right — I don’t want to risk my life standing in line for a Cinnabon or buying discount soap at Bath & Body Works (how did he know what I do at the mall?!). But to be honest, when I go to the mall I am more concerned about a deranged lone wolf with a knife or a gun who might be attracted to a busy place, and not “little thuglings” hanging out with their friends. That’s why I keep my Glock on my body and my license to carry in my wallet (one of the benefits of being a mall shopper over the age of 21 in Texas).

The truth is that people have long been analyzing why malls are closing down (and will likely continue to close over the next decade). While the mall I frequent is always teeming with activity (the benefit of catering to an upper-middle class area), others, like the one my mom took me shopping at in the 90’s, are emptying out.

One explanation is the rise of online shopping, as this New Yorker article explained back in 2014. Another is the waning relevance of middle-class department stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penney, which have traditionally served as “anchor stores” and a main reason for people to go to a mall, according to this Money article.

A Cop’s Perspective

As someone who has grown up in a family of law enforcement and security officers, it’s easy for me to reach out to someone who can offer this unique perspective. I called my closest cop friend yesterday to ask whether Starnes’s statement that “if teenagers disrupt commerce and cause mayhem, they should spend the night in jail” was unequivocally fair.

My cop friend said no. He said in any fight involving anyone, the resulting consequences “totally depend” on the situation. He said it’s possible for one party to get arrested and another go free, for one or both (or several) to be handcuffed or made to sit down while the officers investigate, for one or multiple parties to be given tickets, etc.

Additionally, Starnes’s comment that “hardly anyone was arrested” in the December 26 mall fights is not exactly true. Eight teens were charged in Aurora, Ill. (where CNN reported that police were considering raising some misdemeanor charges to felonies), five teens arrested in Aurora, Colo., and seven juveniles were arrested in Memphis, Tenn.

If the multiple police officers responding to these calls on Monday decided to arrest only a certain amount of teens in each case, I am going to trust that they had a reason, and I’m also going to trust that their first priority (and rightly so) was the safety of all around.

(Side note: Christmas weekend can be one of the worst, busiest times for law enforcement officers. Filling jail cells with all 200 teens involved in no-weapons-found mall brawl might not be their top priority the day after Christmas.)

Teens Aren’t All Bad

There is one point that I’ll agree with Starnes on. America doesn’t need any more programs for youth paid for by the government — which is what Starnes says that some people are pushing for in light of Monday’s events. If there truly is a need for more youth programs, then churches, religious groups, non-profit or family-led efforts should step up and provide them. And in fact, many already are.

I won’t deny that trouble making teens are out there (aren’t they always?), but I’ve made somewhat of a habit of defending my Millennial generation, and that goes for those trailing behind a few years in age as well.

I say, let them eat Cinnabon — and shop — and hang at the mall — while we still have malls left. (For more from the author of “Let ‘Em Hang: A Response to Todd Starnes’s Column on the Christmas Mall Fights” please click HERE)

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The Pro-Life Cause in 2016: Some Bad Losses, some Hopeful Victories

2016 saw losses and victories for the pro-life movement. The biggest loss was million-plus lives lost in the womb thanks to surgical, medical and drug-induced abortions.

But our movement also saw victories. Perhaps the biggest was when voters blocked strongly pro-abortion Hillary Clinton from the White House and elected Donald Trump instead, in part because he promised to end federal funding of abortion and to nominate a pro-life U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Here is The Stream’s list of some of the most consequential losses and victories this year.

Losses

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Texas’ laws mandating that abortion centers increase their standards of care. Specifically, the laws required abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, as well as requiring abortion centers to raise their standards to meet those of outpatient surgical centers. The laws had closed about half of Texas’ abortion centers.

The Court’s decision provided legal justification for lower courts to knock down similar standards in other states, including most recently the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an admitting privileges law in that state.

A number of federal courts blocked state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, for example one in Ohio and another in Utah.

The U.S. Supreme Court also refused to hear a pharmacy owner’s challenge to a Washington State requirement that the pharmacy provide abortion-inducing drugs to customers.

Illinois enacted a law requiring pro-life pregnancy care centers to refer women for abortions. That law is being challenged by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of pregnancy resource centers in the state. (Disclosure: One of the plaintiffs representing the centers is the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which is a client of this reporter.)

In January, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

President Obama’s administration recently finalized a rule that effectively bans states from blocking Planned Parenthood’s access to Title X program funds. (Title X gives states money for “family planning services,” including abortion-inducing drugs and devices.) The rule was created after many states attempted to defund the abortion giant thanks to videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal abortions to illegally profit off of fetal harvesting.

California’s liberal Catholic Governor, Jerry Brown, signed a law written by Planned Parenthood that could jail pro-life journalists.

For the first time, the Democratic Party’s platform formally endorsed repealing the Hyde Amendment. In effect since 1980, the amendment has been annually approved in a bipartisan manner, and one analysis estimates it has saved over two million children from abortion.

Planned Parenthood, which spends millions in each election cycle to elect pro-abortion politicians, gave its first endorsement in its 100-year history. The endorsement went to Hillary Clinton.

A Houston, Texas, grand jury chose to not indict Planned Parenthood over fetal harvesting charges. Instead, the jury indicted investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for alleged lawbreaking. (On the good news front, those charges were dropped over the summer.)

The abortion industry and its allies used misleading rhetoric to create panic about the risk of microcephaly to the unborn children of women who contracted the Zika virus. That rhetoric likely was a reason that people across the country tended to support late-term abortions when the mother has contracted the Zika virus.

Victories

As mentioned above, the Center for Medical Progress’ Daleiden and Merritt saw charges against them dropped.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent to lower courts the Obama administration’s mandate that religious non-profits violate their employees’ consciences and participate in insuring contraceptives and abortifacients. Pro-life leaders said the decision was a partial victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and other plaintiffs..

A federal court rejected an American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) lawsuit meant to force a Catholic hospital chain to provide abortions and contraceptives.

As outlined in this Washington Post piece, South Dakota, South Carolina and Ohio passed bans on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation were signed in 2016, making 18 states with such bans. Additionally, at least two states lengthened abortion waiting periods, and Indiana banned abortion if the mother was getting one because of the race or sex of the child, or because the child had Down Syndrome.

Several states have banned dismemberment abortions, which are used in 95 percent of second-trimester abortions. While most of the measures have been blocked by courts, and even if upheld would still allow abortions in the second trimester, supporters such as Oklahoma Senator James Lankford (R-OK) say the effort will educate the public on the realities of abortion.

A Created Equal-commissioned study in Canada found that graphic images of abortion victims modestly swayed people’s views of abortion towards supporting life. Graphic images of abortion victims are controversial both inside and outside the pro-life movement, so understanding their effectiveness is important. Additionally, the study noted, people’s personal views on abortion are often correlated to supporting pro-life policies. Thus, the study could have a secondary effect of leading to pro-life policies, at least in the area in which it was conducted.

Another study found that about two-thirds of babies born at 22 and 23 weeks’ gestation survive to leave the hospital if proper medical care is provided. This German study further weakens the abortion industry’s argument for the alleged necessity of late-term abortions — the earliest birth at which a baby has survived is prior to 21 weeks’ gestation — and is yet another rebuttal to the idea that abortion until the ninth month is an acceptable political and moral perspective.

In the third and last debate during the 2016 general election presidential campaign, Trump said about late-term abortions, “I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

Trump said that in front of an estimated 72 million viewers. Millions of Americans also watched Mike Pence defend unborn life in the vice presidential debate with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). (For more from the author of “The Pro-Life Cause in 2016: Some Bad Losses, some Hopeful Victories” please click HERE)

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5 Things Pro-Lifers Have to Celebrate as 2016 Comes to a Close

2016 has been rough on everyone, and the pro-life movement is no exception. With the loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February, followed by a major pro-abortion victory in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the calendar year has been capped off by President Obama’s feeble, 11th-hour attempt to force states to fund Planned Parenthood.

However, as the numbers and some key developments illustrate, advocates for the unborn actually have great cause to celebrate at year’s end. Here are five signs of hope and encouragement.

1. Polling shows that a majority of Americans are pro-life

Almost 44 years after the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in January of 1973, a majority of Americans identify as “pro-life” and support substantial restrictions on abortion:

A July survey conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Policy found:

[A]bout 8 in 10 Americans support substantial restrictions on abortion (78 percent), and would limit it to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. This number includes 62 percent of those who identify as pro-choice, 85 percent of African-Americans and 84 percent of Latinos …

Furthermore, a Gallup poll in May found that more Americans regard themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice” (48 vs. 45 percent, respectively). “What’s more,” writes Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard, “opposition to abortion is rather plainly on the rise, as those numbers were effectively flipped 10 years ago — and as, in the mid-1990s, the number of people who considered themselves ‘pro-choice’ outpaced the number who considered themselves ‘pro-life’ by about 20 percentage points.

A November poll by the polling company, inc./WomanTrend found that a stark majority of Americans (64 percent) support a nationwide ban on abortions after 20 weeks (with the mother’s life, rape, and incest exceptions), when the unborn child is believed to feel pain. The measure was especially popular with African Americans and millennials, 70 and 78 percent of whom supported it, respectively.

2. Abortion clinics are closing nationwide

Recent findings from pro-life group Operation Rescue show that 31 abortion facilities across 18 states closed in 2016. According to the Christian activist group’s report, the number of facilities providing surgical and medical abortions currently stands at 731 nationwide, a 15 percent decrease from the 860-facility high in 2012.

“The political pendulum has swung our way, and we plan to work very hard to take advantage of this opportunity to immediately call for enforcement of laws that will shut down abortion facilities and save lives,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

“I believe this dramatic reversal of fortunes will pave the way for the eventual end to abortion in our country. There is now no excuse for failure.”

3. Abortion rates are down, in a big way

Data most recently available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that abortion numbers and rates are on a general decline. The latest figures, from 47 states, shows a total of about 665,000 abortions performed in 2013.

“[C]ompared with 2012, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions for 2013 decreased by 5%,” writes the Family Research Council’s Arina Grossu. “From 2004–2013, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions also decreased 20%, 21%, and 17%, respectively, reaching their lowest level across the board for that time period.

“Additionally, the abortion rate for 2013 was 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, about half of the 1980 recorded rate. The Associated Press reported that the CDC has not recorded a lower abortion rate since 1971, two years before the Roe v. Wade landmark decision.”

4. Pro-life laws are on the rise at the state level

According to the Guttmacher Institute (also known as Planned Parenthood’s research arm), the year 2016 continued a growing trend of pro-life laws at the state level.

By July, states had already adopted 46 new abortion restrictions, the Guttmacher Institute lamented. The report goes on to say that, since 2010, states have passed 334 pro-life laws, which make up 30 percent of all such measures.

And with Republicans now controlling a record number of state legislatures, the trend is certain to continue.

5. The 2016 election results hold some serious pro-life promise

Perhaps some of the most heartening numbers for social conservatives this year are the following: 1 president, 2 houses of Congress, 4 big promises.

The sanctity of life played a tremendous part in the 2016 presidential election, and President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to pro-life voters were a big part of the coalition that arguably brought him over the finish line.

And he made some pretty big promises, too.

Now with a Republican-run legislative and executive branch stacked up to govern in January, there’s literally no reason whatsoever not to defund Planned Parenthood, replace Justice Scalia’s seat with a pro-life constitutionalist, pass and sign a pain-capable abortion ban, and make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.

2016 has indeed been a doozy, but — for pro-lifers, at least — the numbers are looking good for the year to come. (For more from the author of “5 Things Pro-Lifers Have to Celebrate as 2016 Comes to a Close” please click HERE)

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Scientists Keep Trying to Deny the Heartache of Abortion — With Poor Science

Our culture is in a worrisome state when major medical journals ignore the foundation and methods of science in service to a political end. Equipped for decades with billions in grant revenue, ideological control of the academy, and agenda-driven professional organizations, scores of scientists have suspended personal and professional ethics to safeguard women’s right to end the lives of their children and suffer the concomitant effects. Dr Antonia Biggs and colleagues are just the latest to march down this path with their JAMA Psychiatry article titled “Women’s Mental Health and Well-Being 5 Years after Being Denied an Abortion: A Prospective, Longitudinal Cohort Study.”

What once appeared to be a subtle mainstream journal bias in favor of publishing results, suggesting abortion poses no threat to women’s psyches, has morphed into a peer-review process, blind to scientific deficiencies as long as the results further leftist abortion rights initiatives. These are desperate times for the pro-choice community, as they seek to block women-centered abortion laws rooted in strong empirical evidence and the voices of brave women standing up to share their post-abortion struggles.

What better way than to grab bullet points from a JAMA article and flood the popular media with them? Women deserve better and here is why the latest study results have absolutely no merit and will not hold up in any court.

Study results and their obvious bias

The authors compared women who received abortions just under legal gestational limits with women who wanted an abortion but were denied, because they were just over the facility gestational limit (Turnaway Group) relative to psychological outcomes. The Turnaway Group was subdivided into those who gave birth and those who obtained an abortion subsequently or miscarried. The authors summarized the results by stating “Women who were denied an abortion, in particular those who later miscarried or had an abortion elsewhere (Turnaway no-birth group), had the most elevated levels of anxiety and lowest self-esteem and life satisfaction 1 week after being denied an abortion, which quickly improved and approached levels similar to those in the other groups by 6 to 12 months.”

The authors’ objective for publishing the study is introduced in the opening line: “The idea that abortion leads to adverse psychological outcomes has been the basis for legislation mandating counseling before obtaining an abortion and other policies restricting abortion” and it is nailed down at the end of the article when they state “…there is no evidence to justify laws that require women seeking abortion to be forewarned about negative psychological responses.” As scientists we never make such sweeping conclusions based on a single study, particularly when there is an abundant literature comprised of sophisticated studies with discrepant conclusions.

Courts throughout the US have concluded that women should be appraised of the risks before consenting to abortion; it is absurd that these researchers have attempted to shift the tide based on this one study. Funding was predictably secured from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation among other sources with a political agenda. As described on their website, “Our work in the United States seeks to advance reproductive health and rights for women and young people by improving access to quality comprehensive sexuality education, family planning and safe abortion care.”

Results are inconsistent with the current state of knowledge

The results of hundreds of studies published worldwide over the past three decades indicate that abortion is a substantial contributing factor to women’s mental health problems. I published a meta-analysis on the association between abortion and mental health in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP) in 2011. In a meta-analysis, the contribution of any particular study to the final result is based on objective scientific criteria (sample size and strength of effect). The BJP sample consisted of 22 studies and 877,297 participants.

Results revealed that women who aborted experienced an 81% increased risk for mental health problems. When compared exclusively to unintended pregnancy delivered, women were found to have a 55% increased risk of experiencing mental health problems. This review offers the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion currently available. Evidence of this nature has influenced informed consent legislation in many states. For example, upholding the South Dakota law in 2012, the US Court of Appeals relied upon the emerging body of data.

Methodological shortcomings

• Only 37.5% of women invited to take part in the study actually participated, and across the study period 42% of these dropped out, rendering the final sample comprised of under 22% of those eligible for inclusion! The 78% of women whose voices are not included were likely those who had the most serious post-abortion psychological complications. With sensitive topic research, securing a high initial consent rate and avoiding sample loss are vitally linked to the validity of the conclusions. The authors acknowledge this fact as they state “we cannot rule out the possibility that women with adverse mental health outcomes may have been less likely to participate and/or been retained.” We really can just stop here, because this is a fatal flaw.

• In a previous article with the same data published last year in PLoS ONE, the authors noted that the sample had a high concentration of women from low socioeconomic backgrounds, obviously not representative of US women undergoing abortion today. Now we hear from the research group that “given the large number and range of recruitment facilities representing geographically diverse regions in the US (30 clinics from 21 states), and that our sample demographics are consistent with those of nationally representative samples of women seeking abortion, we believe these results are generalizable.” A sample is either representative or it is not.

• The authors failed to reveal the specific consent to participate rates for each group. Second trimester abortions have been established as potentially more traumatizing than first trimester procedures; therefore it is likely that a significantly higher percentage of women in the first-trimester group compared to those in the second trimester group consented to participate. If the rates were comparable, why not report this? Failure to report critical information increases suspicion that this “near limit’ group is in no way representative.

• In the Turnaway Study, women who secured abortions near the gestational limits included women for whom the legal cut off ranged from 10 to 27 weeks. There is a wealth of data indicating that women’s reasons for choosing abortion and their emotional responses to the procedure differ greatly at varying points of pregnancy. Women aborting at such widely disparate gestational ages should therefore not be lumped together, particularly when such information is available in the data.

• The authors do not explain how the sites were actually chosen. What type of sampling plan was employed? Why were only those identified with the National Abortion Federation used? What cities were included? Which areas of the country were sampled?

• All 4 outcome measures are shockingly simplistic with 2 variables containing only 6 items and 2 variables measured with single items. This is inexcusable given the many psychometrically sound multiple item surveys available in the literature. Further, no theoretical basis is given for the cut-score employed to determine clinically relevant cases of depression or anxiety. Well-trained behavioral science researchers should not measure complex human emotions in such a superficial manner; and ethically responsible scientists would not extrapolate from minimalistic assessments to women’s emotional reactions to one of life’s more challenging decisions.

The authors suggest that later abortions are healthier for women than childbirth when women seek abortions, obscuring the well-documented risks of late abortions to women’s physical well-being in addition to the elevated psychological risks. For example, using national data, Bartlett and colleagues reported in 2004 that the relative risk of abortion-related mortality was 14.7 at 13–15 weeks of gestation, 29.5 at 16-20 weeks, and 76.6 at or after 21 weeks. This compares to a 12.1 rate for childbirth. Bartlett reported that the causes of death during the second trimester included hemorrhage, infection, embolism, anesthesia complications, and cardiac and cerebrovascular events.

Many women who make the decision to abort do so without a thorough understanding of the procedure. A number of studies have revealed that feeling misinformed or being denied relevant information often precipitates post-abortion difficulties. There is also considerable evidence that a high percentage of women walking into abortion clinics are conflicted about the choice.

In a 2006 study I published with colleagues in the Journal of Medical Ethics, we found that 95% of a socio-demographically diverse group of women wished to be informed of all possible complications associated with drugs, surgery, and/or other forms of elective treatments, including abortion. Fortunately state-level legislation has responded to the needs of women, respecting the gravity of an abortion decision by mandating dissemination of accurate information on the procedure and risks involved, time to reflect on the decision, and sensitive pre-abortion counseling.

This latest study in JAMA will be aptly tossed on the dusty stack with other similarly compromised studies that have yielded results palatable to a culture fighting to normalize a procedure that will never feel natural or right to countless women. The studies will be unattended to by the average person, clinicians, and the science-savvy alike, because the results simply do not align with the lived experiences of women. (For more from the author of “Scientists Keep Trying to Deny the Heartache of Abortion — With Poor Science” please click HERE)

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An Arizona Waitress Receives a Christmas Gift From God

From Phoenix comes a story of good will this Christmas season. It’s a story about a woman with child who had an encounter with God in the most unusual of places.

Sarah is about to give birth and her fiance is recovering from knee surgery — so money is tight. And Sarah has been putting in as many hours as possible before she goes on maternity leave . . .

Sarah was clearing a table when she noticed the customer had given her a $900 tip on a $61.30 check!

he diners had written a note on the receipt:

“This is God’s money – He gave it to us so we could give it to you.” (Read more from “An Arizona Waitress Receives a Christmas Gift From God” HERE)

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