National Briefs

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House GOP advances Obamacare fix

(WNS)–House Republicans rallied May 4 to appease skeptical lawmakers within the party and narrowly passed legislation to gut the Affordable Care Act. After the first attempt crumbled in March, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared “we’re going to be living with Obamacare” for the foreseeable future. But during the last six weeks, conservatives and moderates found common ground on a few key amendments to push the bill over the finish line. The House passed the American Health Care Act on a vote of 217-213, with 20 Republicans joining Democrats to oppose the bill. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where more changes are likely to get the full support of the GOP’s razor-thin 52-48 majority.


Too young to cross a street but old enough for a sex change

(WNS)–More than 200 children under the age of 14 died in the United States in 2014 after being struck by a car. Another 8,000 suffered injuries, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis. A new research study conducted at the University of Iowa has determined children younger than 14 do not possess the cognitive skills and judgement to safely cross a street. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an excerpt of the study in its Daily Briefing, a nod some physicians found ironic, given the organization’s support for transgender treatment. “This same AAP, however, also frequently promotes the claim that children this age or younger are cognitively capable of deciding that they are the wrong sex,” noted Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative alternative to the AAP.


International furor erupts over embryo jewelry business

(WNS)–An Australian company has pledged to continue creating jewelry from human embryos despite facing international backlash. Baby Bee Hummingbirds, which founder Amy McGlade told me is a “two-mama small business,” hand makes rings, necklaces, and earrings using baby hair, breast milk, “loved ones ashes,” and discarded embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF). After couples succeed in having a child with the help of IVF, they often have a number of unused embryos. If the couple doesn’t want to implant any more of their children, they pay a yearly fee to leave them frozen, donate them to another couple to implant, thaw them and have them thrown away, or now, thaw them and have them made into jewelry.


Pence: U.S. will not ignore persecuted Christians

(WNS)–Vice President Mike Pence on May 11 worked to reassure religious freedom advocates that persecuted Christians around the world have the support of the Trump administration. “The Bible tells us all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Pence said in a keynote address at the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington. “The reality is across the wider world the Christian faith is under siege. Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than followers of Christ.” Pence addressed an audience of hopeful religious liberty advocates ready to see the Trump administration fulfill its promises to take substantive action for persecuted religious minorities around the world. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, led by Franklin Graham, hosted the summit to raise awareness of religious persecution around the world and stand in solidarity with the persecuted church.


Pro-life groups deliver 200,000 baby socks to U.S. Capitol

(WNS)–Pro-life advocates, led by Students for Life of America, on April 26 displayed almost 200,000 baby socks on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol to represent the number of Planned Parenthood abortions each year. “These socks represent all the women betrayed by the abortion industry and their preborn babies who will never be able to wear the baby socks because of Planned Parenthood,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “This generation wants to defund Planned Parenthood. They expect our elected officials to keep the promises they made during the election.” Planned Parenthood aborted 323,999 babies in 2016 and receives around $500 million of annual federal funding. Students for Life wanted to collect enough socks to represent each baby aborted. After reaching more than half of their goal, pro-life advocates transported the socks in a moving truck to display outside the Capitol complex. They said it was time for lawmakers to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.


China releases American accused of spying

(WNS)–After more than two years spent imprisoned in southern China on spying charges, American Sandy Phan-Gillis finally returned to U.S. soil on April 28, reuniting with her husband and family in Los Angeles, before heading home to Houston. “Sandy is overjoyed to be reunited with friends and family and sends out her thanks to the many people who worked tirelessly for her release,” her husband, Jeff Gillis, said in a statement. “Many of Sandy’s friends and family members have been crying tears of joy throughout the day.” On April 25, a judge sentenced Phan-Gillis to three and a half years in prison, followed by deportation. Because Phan-Gillis had already served more than half her sentence—during which she was tortured and kept in solitary confinement—Chinese authorities gave her parole and deported her on April 28.


Lawmakers urge Trump to appoint religious freedom ambassador

(WNS)–A bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a resolution May 11 urging the Trump administration to nominate an ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. “The right to practice any faith, or have no faith, is a fundamental human right of all people, no matter where they live on earth,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., one of the resolution’s sponsors. Lankford teamed up with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chris Coons, D-Del., to file the resolution in the Senate, while Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), introduced a nearly identical resolution in the House. Together they ask the Trump administration to appoint a new ambassador on international religious freedom, a position vacant since David Saperstein left in January. The resolution also calls for the White House to begin implementing existing law and allocate resources within the State Department to foster more awareness of and aid to persecuted minorities.


Trump sparks bipartisan furor over Comey firing

(WNS)–President Donald Trump is taking fire from both sides of the aisle over his surprise decision late on May 9 to fire FBI Director James Comey. Trump said he made the decision after a clear recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who concluded Comey had lost the faith of the American public for the way he handled Hillary Clinton’s email probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed with Rosenstein’s assessment and recommended a change in leadership. But Republicans and Democrats in Congress questioned the White House’s rationale.


Religious liberty advocates give presidential order mixed reviews

(WNS)–President Donald Trump on May 4 signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to operate with respect to Americans’ freedoms of speech and religion. In a White House Rose Garden ceremony, Trump combined the traditional signing of the National Day of Prayer proclamation with the executive order. The president called faith leaders in the audience to the podium as he signed the order. But not all of them offered unbridled support. Religious liberty advocates who have waited since Trump’s inauguration for the promised relief gave the order mixed reviews. “President Trump deserves credit for his order,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at The Becket Fund. “And now the agencies and government lawyers need to follow through to finally give up this futile crusade.” The order emphasizes three areas of concern: respecting religious and political speech, conscience protections, and religious liberty guidance.

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