Category archives: Human Rights

International Olympic Committee Abandons Women Athletes

by Linda Blade

November 23, 2021

Imagine that you are a top administrator at a track meet and you notice that in the 17-year-old category there appears to be a boy running in the girls’ race. What course of action you would take? Well, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), your approach would depend upon what year you noticed such a thing.

Pre-2003, you would have simply explained to the athlete that it is not permissible for a boy to compete against the girls. The boy would be instructed that in the future he should be racing with the boys.

After 2003 (Stockholm Consensus), you would have had to determine if the boy had undergone some sort of sex change surgery at least two years prior to the race and had legal recognition as a girl. This set a tough standard for a male wishing to participate in a female race, and transgender advocates felt that the IOC was being was too rigid.

Well, the IOC wanted this problem to go away, and so by 2015 they made it a lot easier. At that point, this boy would have had to self-declare that he “identifies as a girl” and “then lived as a girl for at least a year” (whatever that means), while ensuring that his testosterone level (T) was 10 nmol/L or below throughout that time. (Note: 10nmol/L is low for men but still many times higher than the maximum testosterone level allowed for women, which is about 2 nmol/L.) No surgery was to be required.

There was no real way for anybody to check 24/7 as to whether this boy was keeping his T level down throughout that year. And there was no scientific evidence to determine whether the selection of T concentration at 10 nmol/L was the appropriate level that could ensure “fairness” in the race.

As we know now from research and observation, the 2015 IOC consensus could not in any way eliminate the enormous male biological advantage that this boy would be bringing to the race. In the years following 2015, many examples could be found that revealed the immense unfairness of this approach; the Connecticut high school controversy being one of the most prominent.

Those concerned with fairness in women’s sports were alarmed and began speaking out in greater numbers. Organizations like Fair Play for Women (UK) and Save Women’s Sports (U.S., New Zealand, and Australia) arose to question the IOC’s thinking. In 2021, my own book was published on this topic (written in collaboration with journalist Barbara Kay), titled UNSPORTING: How Trans Activism and Science Denial are Destroying Sport.

It all came to a head with the participation of Laurel Hubbard (New Zealand) in women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (which took place in the summer of 2021). The world finally got to see what it looks like to have a male competitor in a female competition, and the public found it to be absurd. IOC medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, had to admit that the 2015 IOC consensus on transgender participation was “not fit for purpose.” But in making that statement, he stuck to the ideological line that “trans women are women.”

The truth is that “trans women” are, by definition, male-born individuals who identify as women but can never become biological females. This need not be an insulting statement; it is why they are called “trans women” instead of “women.”

Having adopted the trans activist line of discourse, the IOC needed to somehow find a way to make its eligibility guidelines more protective of the women’s category, while at the same time not “triggering” trans activists. So little was the IOC focusing on the plight of the female athlete and so greatly on placating the gender ideologists that, in the aftermath of Tokyo, they went out of their way to not consult with women across the globe who were advocating for sex-based eligibility criteria.

To the profound disappointment of sex-based advocates, the 2021 version of the IOC eligibility guidelines (announce on Tuesday, November 16, 2021) amounts to the complete abandonment of women’s sports.

In the *new* 2021 IOC eligibility guidelines, titled IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations, males who wish to self-identify into female competition no longer require testosterone suppression or surgery. Furthermore, inclusion in the female category will be automatic unless a sports official finds a way to decide if the male participant has a “disproportionate advantage.”

The boy in our example above can now assert: “It’s my human right to be in the girls race and the Olympic guidelines say that you are not allowed to exclude me from this race until you do a scientific study to prove that I have an advantage that is beyond acceptable.”

Unfortunately for sports administrators, the IOC offers no means to assess what is “disproportionate” or which of the thousands of physical variables is to be measured or assessed to determine this boy’s unacceptable advantage. Nor will the IOC be offering any financial funding from its vast reserves to help undertake such a study.

And why would the IOC go down this path when the results of such an inquiry would arrive months after the race, offering no immediate cover for allegations of “hate” that will inevitably come its way for even suggesting that this boy might be out of line?

One can foresee sports administrators and officials abandoning any attempt to enforce the biological boundary.

The entire point for having the women’s category in the first place arises from the distinction between male and female biological sex that gives males a physical advantage, categorically and overwhelmingly. But now in 2021, as an IOC official suggested in the November 16 IOC news conference, it is not up to sport associations to define “woman.”

Essentially, then, the 2021 IOC position is that eligibility rules must be “fair” to women, but no sport should presume to define what a woman is.

What a shameful display of cowardice and confusion!

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter says: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Biological sex is on this original list. And even though we can all agree that the category “male” has “disproportionate advantage” over the category “female,” the IOC is now apparently so fearful of running afoul of gender ideology that it is no longer willing to acknowledge that allowing a male person to compete against females is discrimination on the basis of sex.

Speaking of principles, the IOC could have avoided this predicament completely if only it had upheld Principle 5 of the Olympic Charter, which demands “autonomy” and “political neutrality” in maintaining IOC “freedom from outside influence” in establishing its own rules for sports.

We are now seeing what happens when the IOC violates its own charter and permits its functionaries to be captured by ideology. Sadly, it’s the female athlete who will be paying the price by participating in Olympic sports that are no longer fair nor safe.

Linda Blade, PhD (Kinesiology) is a former Canadian track and field champion and NCAA All American (University of Maryland Terps team captain in 1985). She spent 25 years as a sport performance professional coach in Edmonton, Alberta, teaching fundamental biomotor skills to athletes, from beginner to elite, in over 15 sports.

Nigeria Conspicuously Absent from State Department’s List of Religious Freedom Violators

by Arielle Del Turco

November 22, 2021

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the countries that the U.S. government considers Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on account of their having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” As is the case with many State Department mechanisms, the CPC list is only helpful if the people in charge utilize it well. With this announcement, the Biden administration is failing to do this.

This year, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan all made the dubious list. And with good reason.

The Burmese military has been caught shelling churches, detaining pastors, and brutally attacking Christian communities. The North Korean regime detains Christians in political prison camps where they are often subjected to torture. Young Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan are routinely subjected to forced marriage. These are just a few examples.

But this year, even more noteworthy than the countries that were included on the CPC list is a country whose CPC designation was removed by Blinken after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated it a CPC last year—Nigeria.

Nigeria could hardly be more deserving of this designation. In the first half of 2021 alone, an average of 17 Christians were murdered for religious identity every day. In the country’s Northeast, Boko Haram and other Islamist terrorist groups routinely target Christian villages, churches, and individuals to be burned, attacked, and slaughtered. Fulani militants in Nigeria’s Middle Belt raid Christian villages, kill defenseless individuals, and take over their land.

Unfortunately, terrorism and religiously motivated attacks are concealed under the surface of the continent’s most populous nation. Elites in cities may try to act like these attacks are not the norm and protect Nigeria’s reputation. But for Christians in rural villages, the fear is palpable.

Nigeria’s religious freedom problems are obvious. In order for Blinken’s removal of Nigeria from the CPC list to be justified, it should have made significant improvements in its religious freedom conditions. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nothing has changed except U.S. leadership. It’s also significant that the removal of CPC status came one day before Blinken went to Nigeria to visit with state leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari.

David Curry, president of Open Doors, said the change “is not only a baffling error, it’s likely in direct violation of the International Religious Freedom Act, the law that requires these designations to be made in the first place.”

The CPC designation is the U.S. government’s official “worst of the world” list regarding religious freedom violations. Established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), a country’s CPC designation is intended to spur that country to improve its religious freedom conditions. It was meant to be accompanied by sanctions, but most countries are given waivers, supposedly due to America’s “national interest.”

IRFA also established the independent and bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises the State Department every year on which countries deserve a CPC designation. Yet, there is often a disparity between the countries that USCIRF recommends and the countries the State Department designates.

Sadly, the State Department continues an unfortunate habit of not adequately using the designation to hold foreign governments accountable for religious freedom violations. Notably, most of the countries on this year’s list are countries with which the United States already has a strained relationship. So, it stands to reason that one more criticism won’t hurt. It costs the State Department very little to call out the obvious religious freedom problems in countries like China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. However, the State Department declined to designate the additional countries that USCIRF recommended: India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam. These countries deserve more scrutiny from the State Department, and its own annual report proves that.

It’s easy to call out our adversaries, but our allies shouldn’t be exempt from criticism on their human rights records. Friends hold friends to a higher standard, and that should apply to strategic U.S. allies like India and Nigeria.

The fact that the State Department chose to remove Nigeria’s CPC designation, despite ongoing attacks against Christians, shows that the Biden administration doesn’t take religious freedom advocacy seriously enough. This goes against IRFA, which made religious freedom a foreign policy priority, and against decades of American tradition promoting human rights around the world. The Biden administration should swiftly reverse its decision and work with Nigerian leaders to help improve religious freedom conditions.

Enes Kanter Proves Professional Athletes Can — and Should — Stand Up to China

by Arielle Del Turco

November 18, 2021

The Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter has been using his fame and social media accounts to publicly confront the Chinese government for its egregious human rights abuses. Over the past few weeks, the basketball star has released videos calling out “brutal dictator” General Secretary Xi Jinping for assaulting the rights of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and Taiwan. Kanter’s advocacy on these issues is unusual for a professional athlete, especially given China’s large sports market. By speaking up, Kanter is proving that athletes can confront the world’s most powerful authoritarian government. More should follow his example.

Last week, Kanter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that when he recently took to the basketball court with shoes painted with the slogan “Free Tibet,” NBA staff members pleaded with him to take them off. But when he asked if he was breaking any rules, they replied that he was not. Kanter kept the shoes on, but he was not put in to play for the duration of the game. In response to Kanter’s advocacy, Celtics games were cut from the Chinese streaming service Tencent, which pays the NBA more than $1 billion.

Kanter said NBA commissioner Adam Silver had sat down with him regarding his newfound advocacy. To his credit, Silver said the NBA would support Kanter. But Kanter expressed concern regarding how strong that support would truly be, noting that the NBA has not put out a statement defending his right to speak up for human rights. Regardless, this promise from Silver is an improvement over past NBA behavior. The NBA showed notorious cowardice in 2019 when it pressured Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey to retract a tweet he had posted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors. 

Of course, many professional athletes have spoken in favor of woke social campaigns in the United States, but Kanter is the first to target the Chinese government. Yet, Kanter isn’t new to confronting dictators. Kanter is Turkish and began speaking up against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s arbitrary imprisonment of political dissidents years ago. In return, his Turkish passport was revoked, and his family members in Turkey were harassed by local authorities. Yet, even during years of speaking out about Turkey’s human rights issues, Kanter never encountered resistance from the NBA until he turned his attention to China.

Chinese leaders work hard to suppress criticisms of its human rights record, not just at home but around the world. Using access to the Chinese market as leverage over American businesses, the Chinese government seeks to shape international discourse in its favor. Hollywood studios change their movies to satisfy the Chinese government and show their films in the world’s largest movie market. American corporations are threatened with the loss of Chinese revenues if they do not lobby the U.S. Congress against bills that enhance America’s competitiveness.

Even American officials don’t demonstrate Kanter’s level of courage. Just last week, a reporter asked President Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry whether he raised the issue of human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang with his Chinese counterparts. He responded, “That’s not my lane.” Kerry is a high-level U.S. diplomat, and his “lane” is to represent America’s interests, which include the promotion of human rights. It’s irresponsible to do anything less. Yet, pressure from Kerry’s Chinese counterparts has sparked debate within the Biden administration about whether softer messaging on China’s human rights issues will secure a better climate deal with Chinese leaders. While the Biden administration wrestles with moral confusion, Uyghurs continue to suffer.

The tendency of American businesses and officials to shy away from confronting China makes Kanter stand out. But he doesn’t have to be alone. Kanter’s continued advocacy has not had negative professional repercussions so far. Even in the event that it does cost him, Kanter is ready. In a tweet addressing the Chinese Communist Party, he said, “You can NOT buy me. You can NOT scare me. You can NOT silence me.”

For China-focused human rights activists, Kanter is a breath of fresh air. One that is deeply inspiring and greatly appreciated. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen even thanked Kanter for supporting Taiwan’s democratic government. This should encourage other professional athletes and public figures to follow suit.

Despite widespread fear about speaking out against the Chinese government, Kanter proves that it can be done. Athletes can and should use their influence to advocate on issues that matter, even when that means standing up to a powerful regime known for bullying individuals and businesses around the world. For the victims of the Chinese government whose pleas for help are too often met with timidity or apathy, Kanter and others like him can do a world of good.

Biden’s State Department Slips Abortion into Human Rights Report

by Arielle Del Turco

November 16, 2021

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department made a minor change to its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Although the media largely ignored the move, the change adds to the ongoing shift in U.S. human rights advocacy taking place during the Biden administration. Its consequences could be far-reaching.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reinstated an Obama-era addition to the State Department human rights report—reporting on foreign countries’ laws and programs regarding abortion and contraception. The new addendum to the 2020 report released in March now features sub-sections on “reproductive rights” in the individual evaluations of every member country of the United Nations.

The term “reproductive rights” is code for abortion, and its use in official U.S. human rights reports is inappropriate. A “right” to abortion is nowhere to be found in international human rights law; meanwhile, the right to life certainly is. Now, American allies like Poland—known for being a great protector of human rights and champion of freedom—will receive a slap on the wrist at the hands of the State Department’s report for having pro-life protections. This is occurring even as authoritarian regimes like North Korea and China continue conducting forced abortions on vulnerable women, constituting a grave human rights abuse.

You might be thinking: how much harm can an annual State Department report that most Americans don’t even know about really do? As it turns out, a lot.

State Department reports set the tone for U.S. human rights advocacy and are frequently referenced by NGOs and international bodies. The topics that the United States chooses to cover in these reports conveys to the rest of the world what the United States considers human rights and what type of human rights issues our foreign policy will prioritize. These reports could also help guide discussions that U.S. diplomats have with their counterparts regarding human rights.

When announcing the reporting change, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters, “We reaffirm our full commitment to promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health of all individuals, recognizing the essential and transformative role they play in gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment around the world.” This is a false and damaging narrative for women. Instead of leveling the playing field, legalized abortion pressures women into viewing their children as enemies of their success. Abortion is not necessary to ensure equality—having equal protections and rights under the law are.

Rather than monitoring (and by doing so, implicitly promoting) access to abortion around the world, the State Department should re-focus its efforts on addressing the truly pressing human rights abuses that are unique to women and girls. Currently, the forced marriages of young women from religious minority communities are all too common in Pakistan. Uyghur women in Xinjiang are being forcibly sterilized and undergoing devastating forced abortions. And Afghan girls are being sold by starving parents and barred from going to school. These are some of the serious human rights crises that women and girls are facing around the world today, and the State Department should be paying closer attention and taking action.

On his popular daily podcast, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, criticized the State Department’s inclusion of “reproductive rights” in its reports, saying, “It is a morally grotesque corruption of the idea of human rights… And it’s unhinged from any kind of understanding of the origin of rights coming from outside human beings ourselves.”

By their very nature, human rights preexist the state. They are not granted by governments; governments merely choose whether or not they will respect them. This preexistence is why diverse governments representing vastly different cultures can agree to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is also why the United States and other free countries can confidently advocate for human rights around the world. It’s not an imposition on cultural differences to stand up for human rights. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of the human dignity of each person. We advocate for human rights around the world because we aim to protect rights that every person already has by virtue of their humanity.

The rights recognized by the UDHR include freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; and the right to life, liberty, and security of person. The “right” to end the life of a preborn child through abortion clearly doesn’t belong in this list. The profound importance of human rights makes the promotion of new rights invented by activists or politicians inappropriate and damaging.

The United States must preserve the integrity of human rights advocacy in its annual reports and all other aspects of its foreign policy. We can start by making sure the State Department’s annual reports monitor what they purport to monitor—human rights.

Enes Kanter Brings Much-Needed Courage to the NBA

by Arielle Del Turco

October 25, 2021

Courage is an increasingly rare trait in American professional sports. But Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics is choosing to rise above the cowardice that seems to have infiltrated most of the NBA and is taking on the world’s most powerful authoritarian regime, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Kanter took to social media last week to raise awareness about one of the Chinese government’s lesser-known brutal crackdowns happening in the remote region of Tibet.

In a video on Twitter, Kanter said, “My message for the Chinese government is ‘free Tibet.’ Tibet belongs to Tibetans.” He spoke these words while wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of the Dalai Lama. That same image is illegal to display even in private homes in Tibet.

Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are non-existent,” Kanter continued. The reality is, he pointed out, that the Chinese government has put an entire region under lockdown. Tibetans can’t learn about Tibetan culture. Their movement is restricted. And they have no religious freedom.

Chinese troops first invaded Tibet in 1950, shortly after Mao Zedong came to power. During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government sought to destroy the culture and religious beliefs that made Tibet unique. For over 70 years, this has caused a great deal of suffering for Tibetans, especially those who want to retain their Tibetan Buddhist religious beliefs.

The battle against brutal dictators isn’t merely political for Kanter—it’s personal. Kanter was raised in Turkey but spoke out against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s thuggish regime, which is known for assaulting critics, repressing democracy, and wrongfully detaining innocent people.

Kanter’s outspokenness has cost him. Turkey revoked his passport. He cannot travel abroad for fear of arrest by Turkish authorities. He was even disinvited to participate in a kid’s basketball camp after a Turkish consulate threatened the New York mosque at which the camp was being held.

Erdogan is a notorious bully, much like China’s thin-skinned leaders. So, Kanter was likely prepared when the Chinese government blocked Celtics NBA games from airing in China in response to his comments about Tibet.

To bring his advocacy to the basketball court, Kanter asked Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist, to design a pair of shoes that read “Free Tibet” and feature imagery representing the Tibetan plight. Badiucao told The Washington Post, “It surprised me, indeed, because of the potential risks that Enes is taking for this project. To act and support people not from your country, it’s a profound and rare character.” Kanter planned to wear the shoes in a game last week, but coaches did not put him in the game.

The NBA has a history of cowardice when it comes to China. When Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey posted a single tweet supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors, Chinese broadcasters immediately threatened to cut ties. Under pressure, Morey retracted his statement, and the Houston Rockets and the NBA distanced themselves from Morey’s tweet.

But Kanter is no Morey. Instead of backing down, Kanter is expanding his human rights advocacy in China beyond Tibet. Last Friday, he posted another video to Twitter explaining the situation that Uyghur Muslims face in Xinjiang.

There is a genocide happening right now,” Kanter said. “Torture, rape, forced abortions and sterilizations, family separations, arbitrary detentions, concentration camps, political reeducation, forced labor. This is all happening right now to more than 1.8 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China.” In the same video, Kanter also called out the leaders of Muslim-majority countries for being silent about the Chinese government’s genocide.

Kanter’s message to Chinese leadership is simple: “Close down the slave labor camps and free the Uyghur people. Stop the genocide now.”

The possible consequences for Kanter’s bold words remain to be seen. It’s not easy for professional athletes to go up against the Chinese government and the enormous Chinese market. It takes courage, something Kanter has in spades.

While it’s common for professional athletes to promote woke social campaigns, few pay attention to the many ongoing human rights crises around the world. Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other oppressed peoples are desperate for the world to know their plight and speak up on their behalf. Kanter is a hero for doing exactly that.

Why Taiwan Matters

by Bob Fu and Arielle Del Turco

October 19, 2021

The Financial Times reported last week that China tested a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, a development that surprised U.S. intelligence agencies. This comes as China also continues to develop its conventional military capabilities.

Nowhere will China’s military buildup be felt more keenly than in Taiwan.

Just days before Taiwan celebrated its 110th National Day at the beginning of October, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent almost 150 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone. This show of force marks the largest threat to Taiwanese airspace since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took control of mainland China 72 years ago.

These events make it clear that Beijing is seriously upping the ante, and it signals that a military invasion may now be more likely than ever before.

Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China with which the United States has long-standing commitments that are partially outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. But for its part, the Biden administration met Beijing’s provocations toward Taiwan with lackluster and at times confusing statements urging Beijing to stop pressuring Taiwan.

So, why does the future of Taiwan matter to Americans, and specifically to American Christians?

Tensions between China and Taiwan point to a larger global struggle between authoritarianism and freedom. And for the 23 million people who currently live in Taiwan, the prospect of the CCP taking over would mean an abrupt end to many of the human rights they currently enjoy, including freedom of speech, political participation, and religious freedom.

Chinese President Xi views Taiwan as a breakaway province, but the reality is that the CCP has never ruled Taiwan. In a speech delivered on China’s national day, following days of military drills close to Taiwan, Xi struck a nationalist tone, declaring, “The historic mission of achieving the complete unification of our country must be realized, and can be realized.” While this narrative plays well for Xi on the mainland, most Taiwanese citizens would reject “unification” with China even if ideal conditions were guaranteed.

The day after Xi’s speech, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen responded in a speech of her own, saying, “[W]e will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us… as it offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”

And this is exactly what President Tsai says is at the heart of the issue—not only a dispute about territory or sovereignty but also a debate over which vision of government is better.

Do free countries want to see Taiwan succumb to the oppressive authoritarian leadership of the CCP as seen in mainland China? Or see it remain a democratic society, which while flawed, protects the most basic human rights for its people and gives its citizens a voice in the government?

For Christians, the answer is obvious. The concept of Imago Dei, found in Genesis 1:27, teaches that every human person is created in the image of God. Because of the worth and value that all people inherently possess, they have God-given rights that the American Founders called “unalienable rights” and international law identifies as “human rights.” These include core rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, religious freedom, and others outlined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. We can treat people with human dignity by working to protect people against authoritarian regimes like China’s.

We want to see more people living under governments that respect human dignity, not the other way around. The world has already seen the consequences when China takes over a freedom-loving population. Over the past couple of years, President Xi’s government effectively eliminated political rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong. We don’t want to see this happen to Taiwan, too.

President Tsai met China’s bullying with a principled reminder to the free world. In a recent op-ed in Foreign Affairs, she wrote, “[I]f Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.”

The values that Taiwan shares with America should be the backbone of our friendship. Now more than ever, Taiwan needs and deserves American support.

The United States should offer robust support for Taiwan in practical ways. This includes supporting Taiwan’s defense weaponry system, especially its missile defense and air to surface capacities, in order to deter an invasion. In addition, the United States, along with other allies, should hold military exercises on the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating American support for Taiwan and a presence in the region. 

The Taiwanese people formerly spent four decades under martial law, then demanded—and successfully achieved—democracy. That shift has led to greater prosperity and human flourishing. Today, Taiwan is a shining example for people suffering under authoritarian regimes that change can happen. To stand with Taiwan is to stand for fundamental human rights, including religious freedom. The United States should do so without reservation.   

Bob Fu is Senior Fellow for the International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council. Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

At 18, Chloe Kondrich Is Leading the Fight for Disability Rights

by Mary Szoch

October 14, 2021

At Pray Vote Stand Summit last week, Chloe Kondrich joined me on a panel to discuss what the future of life in America could look like in a post-Dobbs world. Even though Chloe is only in high school, she has already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. At age 3, with the help of her brother Nolan, Chloe became an avid reader. It has only gone up from there. 

At age 11, Chloe successfully lobbied for the passage of “Chloe’s law,” which requires health care providers to notify women receiving a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis of the full range of resources available for their child. At age 13, Chloe spoke at the United Nations along with her father. The two were so well received, they were brought back for an encore the following year. During the pro-life Trump administration, Chloe met both the president and Vice President Pence, and (as she told the audience at Pray Vote Stand) President Trump gave her a kiss on the head. Chloe’s picture with Vice President Pence hung in the West Wing.

Now at age 18, Chloe, who has Down syndrome, travels all over the world with her dad advocating for the right to life of all people, but specifically people with Down syndrome. She is a woman of few words—and plenty of smiles. 

Chloe brings out the best in everyone, and when you are around her, it is impossible not to wish more people were as positive, joyful, and kind as Chloe. As her dad said, “Chloe will have a mansion in heaven, and I’ll sweep the driveway.” 

Sadly, not all of Chloe’s efforts to advocate for the unborn are successful. In the United States, 67 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Across the globe, the situation is even worse. In Iceland, people with Down syndrome are extremely rare, not because the disease has been eradicated but because the people prenatally diagnosed with it are so rarely allowed to be born. In the U.K, British judges upheld a law that permits babies with Down syndrome to be aborted—and they did this in response to a lawsuit brought by a British woman with Down syndrome.

As Chloe’s dad, Kurt Kondrich (a pro-life advocate who works to pass legislation protecting those with Down syndrome in the womb) said at Pray Vote Stand, “It’s a genocide… When people identify, target, and terminate a human being because they don’t meet the cultural mandates—this culture’s mandate of perfection—it’s the ultimate extreme form of prejudice [and] bigotry. It’s hate. It’s actually capital punishment without even a jury.” 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It is also Respect Life Month. These two things go hand-in-hand. Those of us in the pro-life movement must advocate for all unborn children in the womb—especially those who are being targeted for extinction. 

This month (and every month, for that matter), if there is someone in your community who has Down syndrome, I encourage you to get to know that person. Invite that person to go for a walk, play a sport, or just hang out. If there’s a local business that employs people with Down syndrome, make an effort to patronize that business. Coffee is always better if it comes with a smile. If the Christian school your son or daughter attends does not have any students with special needs, advocate for the school to have inclusive classrooms. Inclusive education benefits all students—not just those who have disabilities. Finally, prayerfully consider whether God might be calling your family to adopt a child with special needs. That child will quickly become the best part of your family

If everyone knew someone like Chloe, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome would no longer be a death sentence. It would be an announcement that another person who has a unique ability to be joyful, loving, and kind—while simultaneously encouraging others to be more joyful, loving, and kind themselves—is entering the world. What a lucky world.

China Must Stop Sending North Korean Defectors Back into Grave Danger

by Arielle Del Turco , Tyler Watt

September 29, 2021

North Korea is infamous for having one of the worst human rights records on earth. In recognition of this fact, some human rights advocates dubbed September 24, 2021, as “Save North Korean Refugees Day.”

Crossing the border into China is the only option for most North Koreans trying to escape from North Korea. Yet, when they arrive in China, they face a whole new set of dangers. Most North Korean defectors are women, and most are sold into human trafficking once they arrive in China, often as brides for Chinese men.

Defectors who are caught by Chinese authorities and sent back to North Korea face an even worse fate, as the North Korean regime brutally punishes repatriated defectors. North Korean Freedom Coalition Chair Suzanne Scholte says that “certain torture, imprisonment and potential death” await the defectors upon their forced return to North Korea.

One Christian North Korean defector, Ji Hyeona, has shared her harrowing story of enduring a forced abortion in a North Korean labor camp after she was repatriated (the regime does not recognize half-Chinese children). She said:

Every night, I heard the screams of women going through forced abortions in the prison camp.

I, too, could not avoid this fate, as I was three months pregnant with a half-Chinese, half-Korean baby in my womb.

Where they placed me was not a hospital bed, but it was a desk. And a fearful-looking doctor forcibly pried open my legs and inserted forceps and started killing my baby in my womb by cutting up and shredding my baby.

This is the level of cruelty experienced by repatriated defectors.

The threat posed to religious freedom by these brutal repatriations should not be ignored. Upon their return to North Korea, one of the first questions defectors are asked by authorities is if they met any Christian missionaries. Responding in the affirmative would guarantee time in a labor camp or even a death sentence.

Many North Korean defectors encounter Christianity for the first time while in China, either by South Korean missionaries ministering to them or by seeking help from Chinese churches. For newly converted Christians, returning to North Korea is all the more dangerous. The North Korean regime views religion of any sort as a threat to the Kim regime’s stranglehold on the minds of its citizens—a threat they will brutally suppress.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea has become even more isolated and repressive. The U.S. State Department recently issued a statement condemning the North Korean regime for the “increasingly draconian measures [it] has taken, including shoot-to-kill orders at the North Korea-China border, to tighten control of its people under the guise of fighting COVID-19.” With devastating conditions such as these, it is all the more important that China stop repatriating North Korean defectors.

North Korea’s human rights violations, especially those against repatriated defectors, are well-documented. China is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which states that refugees should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. With North Korea’s long history of human rights violations, it is wrong for China to repatriate defectors back to North Korea. Instead, Beijing should cooperate with the South Korean government to help bring defectors to South Korea, a safe country that is ready and willing to take them.

Letters sent to President Xi Jinping and Chinese ambassadors have called upon the Chinese government to uphold the human rights of the defectors and pursue a plan to resettle to willing countries, especially South Korea which offers defectors automatic citizenship. Activists are delivering appeals for a change in policy at more than a dozen Chinese embassies located around the world.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused a brief pause in China’s repatriation of defectors, they have since resumed, placing thousands of North Korean defectors currently in China at risk. Now more than ever, the Chinese government should be held accountable for sending defectors back to certain punishment in North Korea.

The UK Is at a Crossroads of Conscience Concerning Assisted Suicide

by Arielle Del Turco

September 16, 2021

A bill proposed in the Scottish Parliament would legalize physician-assisted suicide, adding Scotland to a growing list of countries that allow the practice. What the Scottish Parliament eventually decides to do with the bill will reveal something about the conscience of the nation. Will Scots choose to tell their fellow man their lives are worth living, or not?

Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament, proposed the bill, which would allow terminally ill patients thought to have six months or less to live to choose to end their lives. All forms of assisted suicide are currently illegal across the United Kingdom (UK), but recent polling suggests the UK public is increasingly favorable towards the practice.

Critics of the bill from the medical field say that policies allowing for physician-assisted suicide fundamentally reorient the purpose of medical care. In July, 200 medical professionals signed an open letter opposing the bill, saying, “The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised. The prohibition of killing is present in almost all civilised societies due to the immeasurable worth of every human life.”

The bill in the Scottish Parliament is part of a wider push for assisted suicide across the United Kingdom. Baroness Meacher introduced a bill in the UK Parliament in May that would similarly legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, demonstrating a failure to acknowledge that any person—even those who are terminally ill—who seeks to end his life is in need of love, support, and treatment for depression.

UK Bishop John Sherrington warned of the dangers of a gradual expansion of the criteria by which one might be eligible for physician-assisted suicide. Indeed, other European countries have slipped further down this dangerous slope. For example, Belgium and the Netherlands allow physician-assisted suicide for psychiatric reasons, even for patients in perfect physical health. Such an allowance makes it clear that a state’s endorsement of assisted suicide is really an endorsement of all suicide. Not surprisingly, both countries have seen a sharp rise in assisted suicide in recent years.  

A major victory for proponents of assisted suicide was announced on September 14 when the British Medical Association adopted a “neutral” stance on the issue when they had previously been against it. The vote was narrow—with 49 percent of the association in favor and 48 percent against the “neutral” stance—but the effects will be substantial. Members of Parliament had often pointed to the medical community’s opposition to assisted suicide when Parliament voted against it previously.

Proponents of assisted suicide say they are motivated to end physical suffering. But the reality is that many patients who choose assisted suicide do not cite pain as the primary reason. The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund reports:

[T]he overwhelming majority of the people in Oregon who have reportedly used that state’s assisted suicide law wanted to die not because of pain, but for reasons associated with disability, including the loss of autonomy (89.9 percent), the loss of the ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable (87.4 percent), the loss of dignity (83.8 percent), and the loss of control of bodily functions (58.7 percent). Furthermore, in the Netherlands, more than half the physicians surveyed say the main reason given by patients for seeking death is “loss of dignity.”

The legalization of assisted suicide is intrinsically linked with devaluing the lives of people living with disabilities. While the reasons many people choose assisted suicide are not related to pain and suffering, they are related to struggles people with a disability face every day. Although not everyone with a disability has a terminal illness, everyone with a terminal illness eventually develops a disability. Society cannot condone those with terminal illnesses killing themselves without simultaneously condoning those with disabilities killing themselves. The message to those with disabilities is loud and clear: a life with a disability is not worth living. 

In addition, a 2007 study about assisted suicide patients in the state of Oregon found that 45 percent of assisted suicide patients made that choice out of fear of becoming a burden to their families. Thus, assisted suicide does not primarily serve to end suffering, as its advocates would have us believe.

Elderly patients, especially those who fear being a burden, are vulnerable to manipulation or family pressure, and it can be difficult to comprehensively safeguard against this. Even knowing that assisted suicide is an option can pressure some people into choosing death if they think they will become a future burden to their family or society. Instead of offering them assisted suicide, these concerns should be met with assurances that their lives are worth living and that we are prepared to love and support them to the end.

At its core, assisted suicide promotes a false compassion. It benefits caretakers or families who prefer not to observe or care for someone experiencing trials at the end of their lives, rather than the patients themselves. We ought instead to exercise true compassion, the root of which means to “suffer with.”

Even if assisted suicide was primarily utilized to end suffering, it focuses the efforts of doctors, medical professionals, policymakers, and others toward the wrong goal. The goal ought not to be ending human suffering at all costs. In a broken world, suffering will always be with us.

An appropriate goal that truly treats humans with dignity is to love people well by providing everyone with the best medical care, emotional and spiritual resources, and community support possible until their lives come to natural ends.

Doctors should be focused on healing patients and enabling them to live as well as they can for as long as they can. Premature death is not an equally valid option in the category of health care—rather, it sidesteps health care entirely.

The Scottish Parliament will debate the issue this fall, and the UK House of Lords will debate its bill later this year. One thing is for sure—this issue will test the conscience of the people. Concerned individuals should reach out to their members of Parliament about the dangers of assisted suicide and the value of all human life.

Those in favor of assisted suicide have co-opted the phrase “death with dignity,” but they fail to recognize that human dignity cannot be taken away by life’s circumstances.  It is because human beings have dignity that all people must be loved, supported, and cared for until natural death.

After Biden Abandoned Afghan Women, His “Women’s Rights” Rhetoric Rings Hollow

by Arielle Del Turco

September 8, 2021

In a bold act of defiance against the Taliban, hundreds of Afghan women took to the streets of Kabul on Tuesday morning, demanding that the Taliban respect their rights. Taliban fighters beat them with sticks and rifles in response. Validating the fears of Afghan women’s rights activists, the Taliban seems to be showing its true colors after initially attempting to reassure the world it would respect human rights.

This is happening as President Biden denounces the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to leave a Texas pro-life law—that protects an unborn child from abortion after a heartbeat is detected—in place and touts his own concern for women’s rights. In a statement, Biden said the situation in Texas is an example of why he decided to create a Gender Policy Council “to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights.”

Biden can pretend to care about women’s rights, but that’s rich coming from the president who just triggered the most significant women’s rights crisis of our time in Afghanistan.

In the 1990s, the Taliban regime was notoriously oppressive for women and girls. With President Biden’s ineptly managed withdrawal and the Taliban’s sudden return, women have been sent back to the dark ages of Taliban rule. Many young women and girls who grew up in a democratic Afghanistan will be experiencing those dark ages for the first time.

Physical danger to Afghan women is great. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid recently warned that women should stay inside their homes since Taliban fighters “have not been yet trained” to respect women. And the targeting of women has already begun.

Well-known Afghan journalist Beheshta Arghand has already fled the country, afraid for her life. She said, “When a group of people don’t accept you as a human, they have some picture in their mind of you, it’s very difficult.” The Taliban has already been accused of murdering a pregnant policewoman. Other Afghan women who have achieved career success are afraid of being similarly punished by the Taliban.

The Taliban promised that women “will be given all their rights within Sharia ‘the Islamic laws.’” Unfortunately, the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law in the 1990s meant that women could not leave their homes without a male guardian, most women could not work outside the home, and girls could not even go to school or play sports.

Knowing the risks, many Afghan women have already stopped going to work, even though the Taliban promised women could work. Supposedly, recent measures which sent women home from work in parts of Afghanistan are temporary. However, Taliban requests for women to stay home after they seized power in Afghanistan 25 years ago were said to be temporary then, too. But it wasn’t temporary; it was the new reality.

The Afghans who fled to Kabul from other areas already held by the Taliban reported that Taliban fighters were forcing families to hand over unmarried women to become wives for the fighters. Some young women went into hiding as fighters searched houses, looking for victims to be used as sex slaves. 

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan perfectly demonstrates what an assault on women’s rights really looks like.

The Taliban takeover is a worst-case scenario for Afghan women, and they are devastated. Small groups of women have staged protests demanding basic rights. But few will be so bold, and most will mourn silently.

The ongoing work to secure women’s rights in Afghanistan was well known to American foreign policy leaders and human rights experts. Some had spent years working to improve the plight of Afghan women. So, it should not come as a surprise for the administration—or Biden himself—that women now face an impossible situation in Afghanistan. Yet, Biden’s hasty and careless withdrawal seems not to have taken women into account.

Caring about women’s rights means caring about women’s education, opportunities, equal treatment, and fundamental right to life. The situation unfolding in Afghanistan over the past few weeks proves Biden cares about none of that. If Biden wants to promote the “right” to kill unborn children in Texas, he can. But he cannot act like he is a women’s rights hero while doing so.

Protecting innocent children in the womb after they develop a heartbeat—which is what Texas’ new law does—is not a threat to women’s rights. Joe Biden’s policies, on the other hand, are.

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