Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 3, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 3, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • North Korea Sentences Christian American to 15 Years of Hard Labor
  • Over-the-Counter 'Morning-After' Pills Only for Ages 17 and Up, Justice Department Says
  • Saudi Diplomats Trafficking Women?
  • Ireland Proposes Law to Loosen Ban on Abortion


North Korea Sentences Christian American to 15 Years of Hard Labor

An American detained for nearly six months in North Korea has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, Fox News reports. The sentencing of Kenneth Bae, described by friends as a devout Christian and a tour operator, comes amid signs of tentative diplomacy following weeks of rising tensions in the region. Analysts say Pyongyang could use Bae as a bargaining chip as it seeks dialogue with Washintgon, but the U.S. State Department had no immediate comment. Bae's trial on charges of "committing hostile acts" against North Korea took place in Supreme Court on Tuesday. He was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, and the exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed. Friends and colleagues say Bae, a Korean American who was living in Washington state, was based in the Chinese border city of Dalian and traveled frequently to North Korea to feed orphans. Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009, three of whom were also devout Christians. The others were eventually deported or released.

Over-the-Counter 'Morning-After' Pills Only for Ages 17 and Up, Justice Department Says

Less than one day after the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug company's application to make the "morning-after" pill available over-the-counter to women ages 15 and up, the U.S. Department of Justice has appealed a federal judge's ruling that the FDA lift all age restrictions on the drug, Christianity Today reports. In early April, a federal judge ruled that the FDA should make all emergency contraceptives available without prescriptions to women of all ages -- a decision that would put Plan B and similar birth control pills among women's health products on drug store shelves. The judge mandated that his ruling be implemented within 30 days, and the FDA seemed poised to comply by making the Plan B One-Step drug available to anyone over 15. However, the latest action by the Justice Department could stop the FDA from placing other morning-after pills on store shelves any time soon. The Justice Department's request for an injunction does not impact the FDA's decision to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B to 15-year-olds, but instead would limit sales of all other non-name-brand drugs. 

Saudi Diplomats Trafficking Women?

A case of "possible human trafficking" at a Saudi diplomatic compound in Virginia is under investigation, reports. Agents from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations and Fairfax County police were called to a home in McLean overnight and, in the words of a source familiar with the situation, "rescued" two women. It's not clear if the women, who sources say are from the Philippines, called investigators to the home themselves or if someone else did. "Homeland Security Investigations D.C. did encounter two potential victims of trafficking and the investigation is ongoing," a D.C.-based spokesman for ICE/Homeland Security Investigations said. If the women are from the Philippines, there is a high chance they are being trafficked for sex, as Saudi Arabia has a history of using the sex trade in the Philippines. According to, "This story will most likely be treated as a local crime issue when in fact, it's a major international problem. The incident above didn't happen in the Philippines or in the Middle East, it happened in one of the most affluent parts of the United States. Not to mention, these women allegedly escaped from an official Saudi government compound."

Ireland Proposes Law to Loosen Ban on Abortion

Irish lawmakers are considering a bill that would loosen the country's ban on abortion by clarifying a doctor's right to approve an abortion in cases where the mother's life is at risk, including the possibility of suicide, WORLD reports. That exception to the ban could open the door for abortion-on-demand in the staunchly pro-life country. Although supported by abortion rights activists, the measure likely will face stiff opposition from the majority of the country's Catholic residents. The proposed bill comes just a week after an inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who died from a lethal infection. Pro-abortion activists said Halappanavar's life could have been saved if doctors had allowed her to have an abortion. But after hearing testimony from medical experts, a judge ruled Halappanavar's death was the result of the hospital’s mismanagement of her severe infection.

Publication date: May 3, 2013