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Missouri Family E-NewsMarch 7, 2011

 

 

Hartzler Calls on Obama to Defend DOMA
 

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on President Obama to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  

 

Obama recently announced through Attorney General Eric Holder that the administration would no longer defend a section of DOMA in federal court because he believes it to be unconstitutional.

 

The Defense of Marriage Act was approved by Congress in 1996 with strong bi-partisan support, and was signed by President Clinton.  The major provision of DOMA ensures that states with a traditional definition of marriage do not have to recognize so-called same-sex "marriages" or "civil unions" from another state.

 

However, another provision of DOMA states that the federal government will only recognize a marriage between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law, including the determination of federal benefits.  That is the section that President Obama has said the Justice Department will no longer defend, saying that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

 

"President Obama's decision...is not a surprise but is disappointing," Hartzler says.  "He is subverting the will of the representatives of the people."

 

"President Obama took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and he is breaking his word to the American people," Hartzler continued.  "Once we start going down the road of selectively enforcing our laws we are headed for chaos."

 

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Attorney General Holder said that the Justice Department has a "longstanding practice of defending duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense."  Holder states in his letter that DOMA reflects "stereotype-based thinking" and "moral disapproval of gays and lesbians," and thus constitutes discriminatory treatment.

 

Homosexual rights activists have filed suit against DOMA in New York, Connecticut, and California.  The central thrust of the cases is that individuals in states which have ratified same-sex unions should be entitled to "spousal" benefits under federal entitlement and employee insurance programs.

 

Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, says that President Obama is abandoning his sworn duty to uphold the law to appease a vocal but wealthy minority. 

 

"One of the reasons we have a Constitution is to prevent opinions from getting in the way of duties," Nimocks remarks.  "The American people have a right to expect their laws to be defended by the people whose responsibility it is to do so.  The President's constitutional duty to preserve and protect the laws of our nation is not optional."

 

Legal scholars devoted to the defense of traditional marriage believe there is an upside to the Obama administration's decision to go AWOL on DOMA.  "The litigation efforts of the Obama Justice Department on DOMA have been so anemic that this paves the way for someone to give this law the vigorous defense it deserves," says ADF attorney Dale Schowengerdt.

 

That's exactly what leaders in the U.S. House appear ready to do.  House Speaker John Boehner has expressed his intentions to instruct legal counsel for the U.S. House to intervene to represent the federal government in the DOMA cases.   

 

Boehner has announced he will convene the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to implement that objective.  Congress usually confines actions to intervene in federal court cases to issues involving the separation of powers.  But it is also exceedingly rare for a chief executive to refuse to uphold laws duly enacted by a legislative body.

 

"The constitutionality of our laws should be determined by our courts, not by our President unilaterally," Boehner observed.

 

The Obama administration has clarified that they will continue to enforce DOMA in the administration of federal benefits.  They just won't show up in court anymore to defend the law, leaving the door open to a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

 

We strongly urge you to contact your Congressman and urge him or her to support Congressman Boehner in the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.  You can contact your Congressman by clicking the following link:

Your Congressman

 

 

 

Obama Administration Weakens Health Care Conscience Protections
 

Christian leaders in the health care profession are criticizing a decision by the Obama administration to  reverse federal conscience protections for medical personnel.

 

President Obama recently announced that he was partially rescinding health
care conscience rights regulations established in the latter days of the Bush Administration.  Those regulations ensured that doctors, nurses, and other health care workers could not be compelled to assist in medical procedures which violated their individual conscience.

 

The Obama administration is not removing conscience protections as they relate to abortion, as was feared.  However, the Department of Health and Human Services would be erasing conscience protections as they relate to abortifacient drugs marketed as "emergency contraception" such as Plan B or ella.

 

Dominique Monlezan, national coordinator of Medical Students for Life, says the reversal of the conscience regulations is a major setback for medical ethics.

 

"This is a direct attack on the entire medical community's conscience and our oath to 'do no harm,' Monlezan says.  "Without the enforcement of the complete Bush Conscience Rules, many of our peers will be forced to participate in taking the lives of human beings through medical abortion...and engaging in other objectionable medical practices."

 

A spokesman for the Christian Medical Association says the rules change on conscience rights will only weaken access to care, particularly in communities served by faith-based health care corporations.

 

"Losing conscientious health care professionals because of discrimination on the job especially imperils the poor and patients in medically underserved areas," says Dr. J. Scott Ries.  "We are already facing critical shortages of primary care physicians.  This decision threatens to make the situation far worse for patients across the country who depend on faith-based health care."

 

LifeNews reports that national surveys of faith-based physicians say they would rather leave the profession than be forced to violate personal ethical standards.  The surveys also reveal that many medical students with religious convictions are not pursuing careers in obstetrics and gynecology due to "perceived discrimination and coercion in that field."

 

Dr. Ries says he has experienced the survey results firsthand.  "Medical students across the country tell me the same story.  The threat of being forced to participate in abortion procedures and violate their moral integrity is enough to steer them in the opposite direction.  This means even fewer physicians for women in the future in this specialty that is already facing critical shortages."

 

This issue came to a head recently on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Two fourth-year nursing students filed suit against the university.  They were required to promise as part of their nursing residency program application that they would participate in abortions.

 

The application stated:  "If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals."

 

The lawsuit prompted Vanderbilt to "revise" its nursing residency program application.  The university's director of nursing education apologized for the "confusion" and pledged that nurses in residency training would not be required to participate in procedures "contrary to their religious beliefs and moral convictions."

 
 

Missouri House Boosts Bill to Expand Battle Against Human Trafficking 

 

Local prosecutors would have additional tools to combat human trafficking in Missouri under legislation approved by the Missouri House of Representatives.  Legislators endorsed a proposal sponsored by Representative Anne Zerr of St. Charles by a vote of 155-0.  The bill would toughen current Missouri statutes criminalizing the trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual enslavement and exploitation.

 

The legislation broadens the definitions of human trafficking under Missouri law to include all aspects of involuntary servitude and sexual bondage.  The proposal toughens criminal penalties for trafficking activities to be comparable to federal law.  Finally, the bill contains new victim assistance and victim protection provisions in the areas of restitution and rehabilitation.

 

"Human traffickers destroy lives; they steal the future of women and children; they rob their victims of basic human dignity and freedom," says Representative Zerr.  "This bill would provide law enforcement with stronger measures to protect women and children from being enslaved and exploited by immoral individuals."

 

"We've seen a growing number of trafficking cases in our state yet our laws have not been updated to enable public safety officers to vigorously deal with these heinous crimes," Zerr adds.  "House Bill 214 will provide the legal framework to more effectively shut down human traffickers operating within our borders."

 

The current law on the books in Missouri, adopted by the General Assembly in 2004, regulates human trafficking for purposes of forced labor and "commercial sex acts," namely prostitution.  The new proposal would also address the trafficking of women and children in sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and massage parlors, and in the production of both "adult" and child pornography.

 

Missouri's current statutes address involuntary servitude and forced sexual "services" through violence and threats of physical harm.  The new bill would also cover forced labor and sexual exploitation through psychological coercion such as fraud, deception, blackmail, or threatening to cause financial harm.

 

Criminal penalties for trafficking in forced labor, sexual exploitation of an adult, sexual trafficking of a child, and sexual trafficking of a child under twelve would all be stiffened.  The potential punishment in terms of prison time and fines would be enhanced to match those of federal law.  Many trafficking offenses in Missouri are prosecuted on the federal level because those sentenced face harsher potential punishment.

 

Representative Zerr's bill seeks to provide greater support to victims of trafficking.  Individuals convicted of human trafficking would be required to pay restitution to the victim in an amount that not only
 
covers the value of the victim's labor, but also the costs for mental and physical rehabilitation of the victim and any child of the victim.

 

Victims of trafficking would also be authorized to pursue legal action against the perpetrators of the crime to obtain actual and punitive damages.  The Attorney General would also be empowered to seek civil penalties against human trafficking enterprises, with any money or property collected primarily dedicated to victim restitution.

 

The legislation encourages the Missouri Department of Public Safety to develop training programs and protocols for the identification and assistance of human trafficking victims.  The training programs would be directed to state social service employees, juvenile courts, local police departments and county sheriff's departments, health care professionals, and administrators of shelters for runaway and homeless youth.

 

The International Labor Organization estimates that 1.2 million children are victims of commercial sex trafficking each year around the globe.  It is believed that more than 700,000 women and children have been trafficked into the United States in the last decade.

 

Yet the problem of human trafficking in the United States is not just an international phenomenon.  It is estimated that over 100,000 domestic children are victims of sex trafficking and prostitution in America each year.  Many of these youth are runaway children, or youth who have already been victims of child abuse and neglect.  Victims of forced labor are often immigrants who do not have legal status in the United States. 

 

Missouri's geographic location in the center of the nation seems to make it a focal point for the exchange and trafficking of individuals to and from different parts of the country.  The U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City has prosecuted more human trafficking crimes than any other U.S. Justice Department office in the country. 

 

The profits from human trafficking worldwide are staggering.  The International Labor Organization reports that the human trafficking business is a $32 billion industry worldwide.  Groups who are on the front line battling the menace of sexual trafficking estimate that a trafficking enterprise or sexual predator can make more than $200,000 a year from the "services" of one woman or girl.

 

The legislation sponsored by Representative Zerr was developed by the Missouri Family Policy Council in collaboration with the Missouri Catholic Conference and the Attorney General's office.  The bill now moves to the Senate where Senator Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon has introduced human trafficking legislation at our request.  Senator John Lamping of Clayton has also filed similar legislation.

 

Please be praying that the Missouri Senate will move as resolutely as the House to strengthen Missouri's laws regulating the horrific crimes against human dignity committed by those who destroy the hearts and minds of women and children for their obscene profits and pleasure.

 

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