Monthly Call

    Every first Thursday of the month, at 12pm US Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -5), the Secular Policy Institute hosts a conference call for the leaders of the more than 300 secular groups in our coalition..

    This Month’s Call IsConference-Call1

    Thursday 1st September, 2016, at 12 pm US Eastern (GMT -5)

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    If you want to present a project or need assistance from those on the call, please ask SPI CEO Jason Frye at jason@secularpolicyinstitute.net and at (619) 646-2191.

    Recent Call

    You can listen to a recording of the June call by CLICKING HERE.

    This Month’s Agenda

    Agenda for the Call:

    1. Come to Order
    2. Featured Speakers
      1. This month we have several distinguished presenters:
      2. Charles Haynes: Vice President of the Newseum Institute and founding director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center. The SPI is joining the Committee on Religious Liberty of the Religious Freedom Center.
      3. Naftuli Moser: The Founder and Executive Director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), Naftuli Moser, will tell us about the state of the curriculum in Orthodox Jewish schools in the United States and his organization’s efforts to increase the amount of secular curriculum.
      4. Glenn Northern of Coalition for Liberty & Justice network and Catholics for Choice will join us to tell us about their new “Abortion in Good Faith” Initiative.
    3. Advocacy Letters
      1. Protecting Reproductive Freedom in Poland
      2. Religious Freedom in Russia
      3. Mexican Marriage Equality
      4. Do No Harm Act
    4. Other Updates
    5. SPI Overview:
      1. SPI Mission: The Secular Policy Institute (SPI) is a think tank organization of thought leaders, writers, scholars, and speakers with a shared mission to influence public opinion and promote a secular society. We believe governmental decisions and public policies should be based on available science and reason, and free of religion or religious preferences.
    6. Fellows Corner

    This month’s sign on letter:

    to: To Her Excellency Beata Szyldo, Prime Minister of Poland
    His Excellency Andrzej Duda, President of Poland
    Esteemed Members of the Parliament of Poland

    Dear Prime Minister Szydlo and President Duda,

    We, the Secular Policy Institute (a think tank and human rights advocacy organization) and our undersigned affiliates call on Her Excellency Beata Szydlo, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and His Excellency Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland to oppose the two anti-abortion laws proposed in the Sejm. We do so because the dictates of religious institutions should be a matter of personal compliance rather than public coercion, that the universal criminalization of abortion is medically harmful, infringes upon personal liberty, and to further jeopardize the health of those in a compromised position is unconscionable.

    With the commemoration of 1,050 years of the Polish National Catholic Church as the official religious institution of Poland, Polish bishops have led a crusade to ban all forms of abortion by calling for the “full protection of the unborn.” While a 1993 compromise permitting abortion for medical necessity and for cases of rape and incest was reached between legislators and the clergy, a new bill proposed by outspoken Church affiliated legislators in the Sejm (the Lower House) would prohibit all abortion services and criminalize the procedure and the women who have it carried out on them.

    Since 1993, Polish law required at least one of three conditions in order to be eligible for  legal abortion services: that the health or life of the mother is endangered, the pregnancy came about as the result of a criminal act (e.g., rape or incest), or that the fetus was seriously malformed. After an anti-abortion 2015 civil initiative, two bills that would change the currently law have been proposed in the Sejm. The first, “O prawach kobiet i świadomym rodzicielstwie” (On women’s rights and planned parenthood), would ban abortions past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In its language of “The life and health of the child from conception remain under protection of the law,”  the other, “Stop Aborcji” (Stop Abortion), would prohibit abortions outright. Finding the current laws too liberal, the majority party (Law & Justice) who are most outspoken in their allegiance with the Catholic Church are promoting the latter.

    This support is thought to have come from fears over the diminishing birth rates in Poland as well as the political advantage received by Law & Justice from clerical support. Regardless of the rationale for the proposed legislation, the difficulties that women face under the current restrictive law pressures women into receiving only 1,800 legal abortions and between 80,000 to 200,000 illegal abortions annually (The Federation for Women and Family Planning). While none of those women would face criminal charges at this time, should the Stop Abortion bill pass, many of these women would be liable to serve up to five years in prison and their doctors could face an eight-year sentence, miscarriage may be pursued as “fetal murder,” emergency contraception (e.g., IUD’s and the “morning after pill”) would be categorized as “early abortions,” and victims of rape and incest would be forced to carry their fetuses to term. According to surveys, only nine percent of Poles support greater restrictions, if passed, this law be a menace to the health of the Polish people and to their democracy.

    As for human rights law, the European Court of Human Rights has found Poland to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (For which Poland is a signatory) in women’s rights in abortion cases (e.g., no.s 27617/04 and 57375/08). This has included Article 2 (no degrading treatment) and Article 8 (privacy in family life). This has not gone unnoticed. Since April several protests (some approaching 65,000 people) have taken place throughout the country. The #CoatHangerRevolution and the #Czarny (Black) Protest have had people taking to the streets in objection to these repressive bills. For some women who have absolute medical need for abortion procedures, they would have to go to extraordinary lengths to receive what would be easily available in Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, and other surrounding countries. To this and the other women seeking similar family planning services Civil Platform lawmaker Joanna Mucha said, “We can’t force women to be heroic.”

    While Friday, 29 September is the day that lawmakers send drafts of the bills to additional, fine-tuning committees, there is still time to oppose this bill. Regardless of one’s persona; thoughts on abortion, and no matter how well intentioned those opinions are, the fact of the matter is that the consequences of this bill far outweigh any perceived or anticipated benefit. Forcing women who become aware that the fetus growing inside of them will never survive to carry the baby to term is the height of cruelty, forced birth is akin to treating human beings as an incubator. But, this is one of many reasons that women pursue abortion services. Blanket legislation in the name of dignity and the protection to combat such a complex issue does nothing but ensure the contrary. Thusly we stand with #czarnyprotest in solidarity for the respect of human rights, and woman’s basic right to autonomy. We also respectfully request the Prime Minister and President to rescind and renounce their declared support for the ban.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Jason Frye, CEO

    Secular Policy Institute

    401 Ninth St., NW, Suite 640 Washington, DC 20004

    jason@secularpolicyinstitute.net

    (619) 646-2191

    Monthly Conference Call Schedule

    Our international coalition calls take place 12 p.m. Easter (U.S., GMT -5), the first Thursday of the month (with the exception of August & December)

    SPI Staff

    Jason Frye, CEO jason@secularpolicyinstitute.net

    Jacob Winter, COO jacob@secularpolicyinstitute.net

    Bassel Sommakia, Director of Development

    Chad Hetman, Volunteer & Intern Coordinator