The freedom of speech is a fundamental right that many nations enjoy, though the future of this liberty has come increasingly under question, due to the actions of large media corporations. Facebook, Google, and Amazon have all recently taken steps to silence Pro-Life messages across their respective platforms.
Weeks before a May 25 vote that could potentially legalize abortion in Ireland, Google and Facebook made the decision to ban all website ads that are related to the upcoming referendum, with the latter claiming, “We feel the spirit of this approach is also consistent with the Irish electoral law that prohibits campaigns from accepting foreign donations.” According to National Review, an immense amount of Pro-Life advertisements come from outside countries, such as the United States and Canada. The decision to censor website adds relating to the referendum was based on rejecting international monetary assistance. Several critics have accused these media giants of intentionally swaying public opinion through censorship.
While Facebook and Google’s decision primarily pertains to advertisers, YouTube, also owned by Google, has gone a step further to censoring user-based ideas. Heartbeat International is an organization that uses social media to promote the Pro-Life movement. Specifically, its YouTube channel had been encouraging women to take Abortion Reversal Pills. These substances counteract the effects of abortion pills that deprive and starve the child in the womb. The reversal pills can be used to save the child from the effects of its counterpart. This week, it was announced that the channel had been banned, with all videos removed from the website. According to Christian Headlines, YouTube stated that its platform, “doesn’t allow content that encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death.” Heartbeat International is currently working to contest YouTube’s decision.
Lastly, Amazon has announced to pull the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) from its list of approved charities on Amazon Smile, a service that allocates portions of certain purchases to a charity of the customer’s choice. According to LifeNews, the online juggernaut channels the Southern Poverty Law Center to assess its list of approved charitable organizations. Apparently, the ADF, a conservative organization that touts its defense of life, as well as religious liberties and free speech, has been deemed as unfit for Amazon’s partner program. As of now, customers are deprived of the choice to give to this organization.
Every corporation has the right to regulate their product, as they see fit. However, many critics claim that it is unethical for companies to silence opinions by censoring or excluding certain viewpoints, while supporters state that corporations should limit discussion about controversial issues. As an increasing amount of Pro-Life voices are quashed by media giants, the debate only further grows. The line between freedom of speech and commercial enterprise has been blurred by the massive user-base of social media. Only time will tell if these decisions will lead to a larger discourse in the national community.
When doctors declared 13-year-old Trenton McKinley brain dead, his parents elected to donate his organs, and opted to remove their son from life support.
Trenton, however, no longer needed life support. Just days before doctors planned to remove his ventilator, the Alabama teen’s brain flickered back to life.
A severe accident had left Trenton with multiple skull fractures, forcing surgeons to remove portions of the boy’s skull. Doctors presented Trenton’s parents with a grim diagnosis: even if their son survived, he would lose nearly all brain function.
Indeed, when physicians deemed Trenton brain dead, their fears seemed to be confirmed.
Fifteen minutes later, though, the teen received a cranial reboot which his family attributes to divine intervention. “He’s a miracle, and he just amazes everybody,” Trenton’s mother, Jennifer Reindl, said of her son.
After Trenton continued to improve, doctors discharged him from the hospital. He awaits a second surgery to refuse portions of his skull.
“There’s no other explanation but God,” Trenton reflected. “There’s no other way.”
Thanks to middle-of-the-night efforts by Iowa legislators, unborn children in the state may soon receive significant new protections against elective abortions. Earlier this month, the Iowa House and Senate approved a measure to ban almost all abortions when the fetus presents a detectable heartbeat, usually six weeks after conception. Exceptions to the bill concern certain cases of rape or incest.
According to KATU news, the measure passed the Iowa House by a slim 51-46 margin, after nine hours of debate. The restrictive nature of the bill, which includes some of the most stringent protections against abortion in the United States, provoked intense criticism from Iowa Democrats.
“These restrictions do nothing to reduce or eliminate abortion but put roadblocks between a woman and her physician in making the best medical decision for her,” stated Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames). Meanwhile, Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) argued that the bill contains valuable protections for the unborn. “Today we are taking a courageous step . . . to tell the nation that Iowa will defend its most vulnerable, those without a voice, our unborn children,” Lundgren said.
Some Republican officeholders see the measure as a blatant challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “I don’t think we’re even trying to disguise that,” Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) explained. “Today we will begin this journey as Iowa becomes . . . the starting line back to the Supreme Court.”
Legal battles over Iowa’s new legislation appear inevitable. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which exercises jurisdiction over Iowa, previously rejected a North Dakota statute with similarities to Iowa’s new law.
Pro-abortion advocates argue that such legal disputes will squander taxpayer dollars. Pro-life legislators, meanwhile, hope for a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Comparatively few teenagers have the vision to establish a nonprofit organization. Few others have the logistical know-how to coordinate a public event with local businesses and news media.
But 16-year-old Malcolm Asher and 14-year-old Irie Page, both of Portland, Oregon, are not average teenagers. Last Sunday, the pair received national honors in Washington, D.C., for exceptional service to their communities. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, established by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), judged Malcolm and Irie to be Oregon’s most committed high school and middle school volunteers.
The teens enjoyed a dinner reception at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and accepted $1,000 awards from Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, who commended them for their service.
Both young adults earned their accolades for demonstrating “leadership and determination well beyond their years,” according to John Strangfeld, CEO of Prudential Financial. “[It’s] a privilege to celebrate their service,” he said.
Malcolm, a junior at Cleveland High School, established a not-for-profit foundation which helps hospitalized children all over the world create and share artwork with their peers. Malcolm volunteered at a children’s hospital in Portland and witnessed how drawing and painting helped young patients overcome the anxiety associated with a hospital stay. “I could plainly see what a lift this provided to kids who were feeling anxious and scared,” he told KATU news.
This experience motivated Malcolm to found ArtPass, which distributes art kits to hospitalized youth. The organization operates in 11 countries worldwide and encourages young people in developing nations to seek medical care, rather than delay treatment due to anxiety about a hospital stay.
Meanwhile, Irie hosted a nationally recognized author and educator at a free public event designed to inform teens about safe dating practices. Irie raised funds for the author’s speaking fee by establishing a GoFundMe account and securing sponsorships from local businesses. Portland State University provided a recital hall for the event, and local news media publicized the occasion.
As a result of Irie’s efforts, about 500 teens and their parents came to the program, prompting the author to waive his speaking fee. Irie subsequently offered the funds to local organizations which strive to eliminate sexual violence.
In summing up the awards ceremony at the Smithsonian, NASSP president Daniel P. Kelley told attendees that teens like Malcolm and Irie show that “one student really can make a difference. We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive, and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”
More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, along with a list of honorees for 2018, can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com and www.nassp.org/spirit.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment
On March 13th one of the most important cases concerning the freedom of speech was argued before the United States Supreme Court, NIFLA v. Becerra.
The central issue at stake, in this case, is whether the government can compel organizations and individuals to share a message that is fundamentally in opposition to the organization’s purpose or an individual’s belief.
In 2015, AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, was passed in California. The FACT Act mandated both licensed and unlicensed pregnancy resource clinics (PRC’s) to post large signs with information about abortion and contraception services provided by the state.
AB 775 is about freedom of speech and pushing a pro-choice agenda. This can be seen in the fact that 98% of the clinics subject to this law are pro-life. Compelling PRC’s to share about abortion in such a detailed manner is wholly against the PRC’s purpose.
It was argued that the reason for the law is that pro-life PRC’s are manipulating women into a carrying out an unwanted pregnancy.
During a visit to a pregnancy resource center, however, the woman is counseled on all of her options. Even abortion is discussed. While these resource centers hope the woman will choose to keep her baby, they do not force her into a decision, and they will support her after regardless of her decision.
Josh McClure, a pregnancy center director, said this law will “require us to use our walls as a billboard to promote abortion.”
The case was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 13th. Attorney, Michael Farris, arguing on the behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) said: “A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is alarming.”
Should the United States Supreme Court Justices deliver an opinion in favor of the California law, the first amendment as we know it will be no longer exist with the same power and protection it has afforded the American people for centuries. The opinion from the Supreme Court is slated to be published sometime in June. Let’s hope the Justices keep the First Amendment intact and protect our freedom to speak or not speak certain messages.
As of March of 2018, over 105,000 signatures have been collected for the initiative effort to stop taxpayer funding of abortions in Oregon. This, the 4th such attempt by pro-life group Oregon Life United (OLU), is the closest they have gotten to the required 117,578 signatures the group has achieved. OLU is attempting to collect 150,000 total signatures to account for any disqualified signatures.
If successful in the signature gathering stage, the initiative will give Oregon voters the opportunity to weigh in on the issue in the November election. Oregon Life United’s leaders have high hopes that this year they will be able to stop taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.
On average, 10 abortions per day are paid for by Oregon taxpayers. In Oregon, even late-term, sex-selective abortions are publicly funded. With the passage of House Bill 3391 by the Oregon Legislature last year, taxpayer funding of abortions was further expanded to undocumented immigrants.
Oregon Life United founder, Jeff Jimerson, first began his effort to stop taxpayer funding of abortion in 2012 by creating Oregon2012, a non-partisan, non-denominational political action committee (PAC). Its mission was to pass the state’s first-ever law to protect women and babies from abortion.
Jimerson believed the best way to fulfill the mission of Oregon2012 was to start a ballot initiative. This requires a certain percentage of registered voters to sign a petition that they want the proposed legislation to appear on the ballot. Once done, the ballot measure will receive a public vote in the next election. In this case, the initiative language would change the state constitution to prohibit public funding of abortions.
When Oregon2012 began their ballot initiative to qualify for the November 2012 election, volunteers from all over Oregon began to collect signatures. However, only 72,000 of the required 117,000 minimum were collected. In 2014, Jimerson and the team tried again, this time collecting 98,000 signatures.
Discouraged from the multiple defeats, but optimistic about the gradual increase of signatures collected each year, Jimerson tried again. The groups most recent attempt brought on a wave of pro-abortion opposition. Several pro-abortion organizations including Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others, made a lengthy court appeal which blocked Jimerson’s group from gathering enough signatures in time. Determined to stop taxpayer-funded abortions, Jimmerson filed the petition again for 2018 as Oregon Life United.
Although 105,000 signatures is a significant milestone, there are only three months remaining for petitioners to gather the remaining quota.
To qualify for the November ballot, a total of 117,578 valid signatures must be collected before the June 30th deadline. OLU’s goal of collecting 150,000 signatures is a frequently used strategy for initiative efforts in Oregon in order to avoid disqualifying the effort because of too many signature errors.
“I’m confident we can get it done,” says Jimerson. To learn more about Oregon Life United’s petition, go to www.StopTheFunding.org.