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As Ohio and other states decide on abortion, anti-abortion activists look to rebrand themselves as not religious



As Ohio and other states decide on abortion, anti-abortion activists look to rebrand themselves as not religious

Abortion has become an increasingly polarized, political issue in the United States since 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion. This decision threw the question of abortion rights back to states.

Ohio voters will cast ballots on Nov. 7, 2023, to determine abortion rules in their state, joining six other states that have put the decisions before voters in ballot initiatives since 2022.

Currently, Ohio’s constitution does not mention abortion. Ohio residents will vote on “Issue 1,” which would amend the state constitution to explicitly protect an individual’s right to get an abortion. The amendment would still allow the state to prohibit abortion after a fetus is considered viable, with an exception when the health of the pregnant person is at stake.

The initiative is supported by a coalition of abortion-rights organizations, collectively called Ohioans United for Reproductive Justice.

Some anti-abortion activists in Ohio have said that Issue 1 is “too radical” for the state. But an October 2023 survey showed that 58% of likely Ohio voters support Issue 1.

I am an American politics scholar who focuses on how groups outside of government attempt to influence policy.

Since the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to get an abortion, I have interviewed 45 anti-abortion activists across the country and collected Facebook data from approximately 190 organizations. I wanted to better understand how anti-abortion groups are working in a post-Roe v. Wade world to ban abortion.

Prominent anti-abortion groups continue to reference religion, and specifically Christianity, in their arguments against abortion. But I found that these activists also recognize that framing abortion as a human rights issue may appeal to a broader audience.

Anti-abortion activists pray in New York in August 2022 outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Perceptions of the anti-abortion movement

Religious objections to abortion center around the sanctity of human life and the belief that humans are made in God’s image. To end a human life, including the life of a fetus, is to play God.

According to a 2019 poll, 77% of Americans believe religion has some or a lot of influence on U.S. abortion policy.

In my interviews, anti-abortion rights activists said they understood that the public views their movement as anti-woman and driven by conservative Christians. More recently, the movement has adopted pro-woman messaging to counter the perception that they do not support women.

These organizations are increasingly choosing to speak less about religion and more about human rights and science to combat the narrative that the anti-abortion movement is solely a Christian movement.

This movement does have a religious history – the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops created the predecessor of one of the most well-known anti-abortion organizations, the National Right to Life Committee, in 1966.

In the 1980s, Operation Rescue, which blockaded abortion clinics and had thousands of their activists arrested, brought an evangelical religious fervor to the anti-abortion movement.

Stopping abortion was seen as a Christian duty, even if it meant resorting to violence.

The changing role of religion

The religious environment in the U.S. has changed in recent decades, however.

While evangelicals remain a powerful voting bloc for Republicans, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has declined over the past 50 years from 90% to 63%. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased from 5% to 29%.

In 2020, less than half of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque – marking an all-time low in affiliation with a religious institution since 1940.

For anti-abortion activists, this means fewer people may connect to their religious appeals. One activist I interviewed put it bluntly: “Why talk the Bible to people, many people, who say the Bible is a fairy tale?”

What anti-abortion organizations say

My research shows that anti-abortion organizations in the U.S. fall into one of three camps. Some are openly religious. Others may have religious staff, but refrain from using religion in their advocacy. A small proportion outright reject the use of religion.

I analyzed how anti-abortion organizations use Facebook to promote their work. At least on this social media platform, most anti-abortion organizations do not use religious language.

Between June 2022 and September 2023, 193 anti-abortion groups posted 44,639 times on Facebook. Approximately 11% of these Facebook posts made explicit religious references, ranging from Bible verses to prayer requests.

A Facebook post shows the words, 'Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
A Facebook post from the anti-abortion group Prolife Across America has a quote from the Bible.
Prolife Across America

Some organizations use religious references in nearly all of their Facebook posts, while other groups make only passing references to religion.

Texas Right to Life, for example, posted 770 times between June 2022 and September 2023, and 50% of its posts mentioned religion. In contrast, the group Ohio Right to Life posted 586 times in the same time period. Only 8.7% of their posts mention religion.

More than 15% of the 193 anti-abortion organizations in my sample, however, make no religious references in their Facebook posts from June 2022 through September 2023.

Indeed, the majority of the 45 activists from anti-abortion groups I spoke with said they kept their religious beliefs separate from their activism.

As one anti-abortion activist told me, when someone finds out “you believe that all life is created in the image of God, they completely dismiss you.”

Other findings

Most of the activists I interviewed said their organization does not have a formal stance on religion. Approximately one-quarter of the 45 activists I interviewed, however, said their organizations are explicitly Christian.

When asked about the choice to frame anti-abortion arguments around faith, one advocate said, “We 100% present the faith and the theological argument of things. Yeah, part of our culture is being Catholic.”

This advocate continued: “We understand that we also have a responsibility before God on these subjects, so we’re not going to shy away from that.”

A few interviewees stressed that they are not religious. One described herself as an “atheist, vegan pro-lifer.”

Instead of using religion to bolster their arguments against abortion, these activists frame abortion as a human rights issue. For them, any loss of human life is tragic, whether it is from abortion, war or the death penalty.

This kind of framing could help the anti-abortion movement shift conversations about abortion away from religious beliefs.

Ohio’s vote

People in all six states that have voted on abortion since 2022 have affirmed broader abortion rights. But Ohio is the first red state to vote on adding a right to abortion to the state’s constitution.

Local anti-abortion groups like Cincinnati Right to Life are pushing back against Issue 1, saying, for example, that the amendment is too wide-reaching, and that “Issue One will only hurt women & children and not help them.”

Ohio Right to Life has framed Issue 1 as a matter of safety in their Facebook posts.

Ohio voters will be the ones to decide which way to move the issue forward.

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again




Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy



Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves



CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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