Last week, Time reported that Frank Amedia, a televangelist, had recently organized a meeting between Donald Trump and Hispanic evangelicals. The magazine noted that Amedia was the Trump campaign's new "liaison on Christian policy." What the story did not mention was that Amedia is a faith-healing pastor and self-described "apostle" and "prophet" who claims to have healed cancer with the power of prayer, calls AIDS the result of "unnatural sex," and says he once stopped a tsunami by appealing to Jesus.
Amedia is a former Jew who says he found God through an encounter with Jesus in 1980. He runs the Ohio-based Touch Heaven Ministries, an international ministry with affiliated churches in Africa and Asia, and he is a frequent presence on Christian TV networks. He appears daily on the evangelical Daystar network and occasionally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the North American version of Isaac TV, a Pakistan-based evangelical network that airs Christian broadcasting across several Asian countries.
Since becoming the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president, Trump has worked to shore up support among social conservatives and evangelicals who are likely to be skeptical of the twice-divorced real estate mogul who once held pro-choice views. Amedia's new role fits with the Trump campaign's efforts to reach out to the Christian right. But the pastor's past isn't without blemishes: District court dockets and media reports show that in 2001, Amedia admitted in court to having participated in an effort to bribe an Ohio prosecutor to drop a case against a car-dealer friend who had been charged in an odometer-rollback scheme. The bribery plan failed, and the car dealer was convicted. Amedia received immunity for his testimony against the dealer.
Amedia and the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Amedia claims to be an apostle—a messenger of the word of Jesus on Earth—and in a 2012 interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, he claimed to have stopped the 2011 tsunami in Japan from hitting the coast of a Hawaiian island that his daughter happened to be visiting. "I stood at the edge of my bed and I said, 'In the name of Jesus, I declare that tsunami to stop now,'" he recalled. "It was seen by 400 people on a cliff. It was on YouTube. It was actually on the news that that tsunami stopped 200 feet off of shore." Here's the clip of Amedia's claim, first found by Right Wing Watch:
In an undated Isaac TV broadcast, Amedia engages in faith healing, trying to assist people with jaw problems, bleeding teeth and gums, ringing in their ears, tongue cancer, and parched lips. None of those healed are seen on screen. In the same broadcast, Amedia says that AIDS is caused by "unnatural sex." He adds, "We understand that many of the diseases that we receive is because of exposure that we have to things that we should not be exposed to, lifestyles that are unhealthy."
In 2010, Amedia traveled to Haiti, where his ministry was providing aid and food to earthquake survivors. Amedia was interviewed at the time for an Associated Press story about recent clashes between missionaries like himself and Haitian practitioners of voodoo. Amedia told the AP that he would consider cutting off food aid to Haitians if they did not give up voodoo, because "we wouldn't want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel."
She said the "life" exception provided in the bill was "vague."
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 5:35 PM
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin
On Friday afternoon, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have made performing most abortions a felony in the state. On Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate passed the bill 33-12, with no floor debate. During the voting process, Sen. Ervin Yen, the sole state senator who is a physician, called the measure "insane."
As Mother Jonesreported in April, the bill would make performing abortions, except for those intended to save a woman's life, a felony punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.
If it is discovered that they have provided an abortion, doctors would be stripped of their state medical licenses. The only exception to these rules would be abortions to save the life of the mother, and the bill makes clear that the threat of suicide by a woman seeking an abortion doesn't fulfill the "life" requirement.
Had the bill been signed into law by Gov. Fallin, it would most certainly have led to a protracted and costly legal battle over the bill's constitutionality, since its near total ban on abortion goes against Roe v. Wade—the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. However, the prospect of litigation is not what Fallin took issue with when rejecting the bill. Instead, she said that the "life" exception provided in the bill was "vague."
"The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin said. "While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination. In fact, the most direct path to a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade is the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court."
The former president sent a letter commending the World Congress of Families after receiving an award from the controversial organization.
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 4:05 PM
Earlier this week, former President George W. Bush accepted an award from the World Congress of Families, a social conservative group that has played a leading role in fostering anti-gay movements and legislation abroad, including a widely condemned measure in Russia that criminalized the public expression of same-sex relationships.
The World Congress of Families, which awarded Bush its "Family and Democracy Pro-Life Award" at its conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, is the main project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. In 2014, Mother Jonesreported on the group's involvement in helping to bolster the nascent anti-gay movement in Russia, where WCF representatives met with legislators and other high-ranking individuals who helped pass the so-called "gay propaganda" law. The law, which inspired anti-gay attacks in Russia, garnered international outrage in advance of the Winter Olympics held in Sochi. The WCF has also supported anti-gay rallies, legislation, and more throughout Eastern Europe, in countries like Serbia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. The organization has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called it "one of the key driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right's global export of homophobia and sexism."
Bush did not attend the WCF conference this week, but he sent a letter thanking the group for the pro-life award and praising its work: "I commend your efforts to recognize the importance of families in building nations. Your work improves many lives and makes the world better."
"I care about this country being led by the most competent person."
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 6:00 AM
At a Trump campaign rally last week in Spokane, Washington, Donald Trump slammedHillary Clinton for "playing the women's card" to gain campaign support. When citing Clinton's criticisms of him, Trump mimicked the candidate, straightening his shoulders and flattening his voice to convey a cold, prim demeanor. He concluded the performance with the pronouncement: "All of the men, we're petrified to speak to women anymore…You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks. They get it better than we do."
The audience erupted into cheers and applause.
Moments like this one—where Trump's unabashed political incorrectness and machismo are on display—resonate with many of his supporters. But his message in Spokane made headlines in part because the notion that men have it worse off than women echoes a central tenet of the Men's Rights Movement (MRM), a network of activists who believe that in many contexts, men are a disadvantaged class. New York magazine even offered its readers a quiz: "Who Said It, Trump or a Men's Rights Activist?"
It seems like a no-brainer that men's rights activists would admire Trump's rhetoric on gender and thus support his candidacy for president. But several leaders of the movement who spoke to Mother Jones are ambivalent about Trump, at best—one has even donated to Clinton—and say that many others in their community haven't been won over by Trump's bluster.But why do many members of a group that would appear to be his natural constituency not support Trump for president?
"It's nice to hear him say" things that align with the men's rights movement, says Dean Esmay, now a contributor to and formerly the managing editor of A Voice for Men, a blog and men's rights discussion hub, but those talking points aren't enough. "Somebody had the guts to say that men have it tougher than women, it gives you an emotional rush," he continues. "But when you listen, where's the meat behind it? What's he offering? I see nothing." Trump isn't offering much by way of policy substance, Esmay says, both on issues key to MRAs, such asincarceration or the treatment of fathers in family courts, or on others.
"Why do I think he would make a bad president?" asks Esmay. "Because he is a loose cannon. You don't know what he's going to do. We have a student loan debt bubble that's going to burst. We have a middle class that's imploding. And Donald Trump is going to fix it all by saying, 'Believe it, baby?' Give me a break."
Warren Farrell, widely considered the father of the men's right's movement and the author of one of its foundational texts, The Myth of Male Power, says he's a "very strong supporter" of Clinton. He has attended several campaign events for Clinton and has donated the allowed maximum of $2,700 to her primary campaign. Still, Farrell says he thinks Clinton is "the worst candidate in recent history, in my lifetime, on gender issues from the perspective of understanding and having compassion for men." But Farrell, who has a Ph.D. in political science, still supports Clinton in part because, he says, "even though I care about men's issues a lot, I care about this country being led by the most competent person."
"Trump is the quintessential example of the immature man and men at their worst."
"Its very hard for me," he continues, "because Trump does have a clue about what's happening with men's issues. But Trump is the quintessential example of the immature man and men at their worst."
Farrell falls into a more liberal faction of the men's rights community, says Gwyneth Williams, a professor of politics at Webster University who also studies men's movements. But some of Farrell's more conservative colleagues also have serious concerns about Trump.
"I think Trump was right on for saying that men are afraid of upsetting women," says Paul Elam, the CEO and founder of A Voice for Men. But Elam notes that he doesn't buy that Trump would be "some sort of savior for" the men's rights movement, and that there are other Trump positions he finds especially worrisome.
"Trump talks a lot about building a wall and the outlandish proposition that he's going to stop drugs from entering the country—which is impossible," says Elam. He's wary of a candidate who would further criminalize drugs, leading to greater incarceration of men. While Trump hasn't directly promised this, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of Trump's surrogates and a potential vice presidential pick, has said he supportsthe criminalization of marijuana use. That's why both Elam and Esmay say the possibility that in a Trump administration Christie might be elevated to a position of power might push them to vote for Clinton.
But many men's rights activists are definitely not Clinton fans: Both Elam and Esmay referred to her as a "lizard" while speaking with Mother Jones, and men's rights forums on Reddit and elsewhere are filled with anti-Clinton sentiments. But despite their Clinton scorn, many MRAs say it's obvious Trump is more swagger than substance. "Trump doesn't have the ability to successfully call out Hillary on her sexism. He is to [sic] crass and doesn't grasp the issues," writes one user on the men's rights subreddit. Another sums things up: "Trump VS Clinton. Whoever wins, America (and the world?) loses."
Here's what happens when women live in countries that criminalize the procedure.
Hannah LevintovaMay 13, 2016 6:00 AM
In a new study published Wednesday, researchers from the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute examine abortion and contraceptive access throughout the world. The report, in the British medical journal The Lancet, highlights major disparities in trends for women in wealthier nations compared with those in poorer countries.
The researchers looked at country data on abortion prevalence, contraceptive use by method, and unmet need for contraception in order to analyze trends across every major region and subregion between 1990 and 2014. They came to several illuminating conclusions:
Abortion rates in the developed world decreased significantly, but not in poorer nations: Between 1990 and 2014, the rate of abortions in the developed world per 1,000 women of childbearing age fell from 46 to 27. In developing countries, the rate stayed virtually the same: It dropped from 39 women out of 1,000, to 37 women.
The percent of pregnancies that end in abortion increased in poorer nations and fell in wealthy countries: Between 1990 and 1994, in developed countries 38 percent of pregnancies were terminated; between 2010 and 2014, that rate fell to 28 percent. In developing countries, however, the proportion increased—from 21 percent between 1990 and 1994 to 24 percent from 2010 to 2014. In Latin America—where more than 97 percent of women of childbearing age live in countries where abortion is banned—about 1 in 3 pregnancies between 2010 and 2014 ended in abortion. This rate was higher than that of any other region.
Three-quarters of abortions across all regions were performed on married women: This challenges the notion that most abortions are sought by unwed women or irresponsible teenagers.
Strict abortion restrictions didn't necessarily lead to a significant decrease in the rate of abortion: For example, the study's authors note that across the 53 countries where abortion is completely illegal or only permitted to save a woman's life, the rate of abortions is 37 per 1,000 women. In the countries where abortion is legal, the rate is 34 abortions per 1,000 women. That's in part because women living in countries with more restrictive abortion laws are also more likely to have an unmet need for contraception. "This adds to the incidence of abortion in countries with restrictive laws," the Guttmacher Institute's Dr. Gilda Sedgh, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The researchers don't have complete data on what percent of abortions are done in unsafe conditions but know that "nearly 300 million dollars are spent each year on treating the complications from unsafe abortions," said Dr. Bela Ganatra from the World Health Organization in a statement.
"The obvious interpretation is that criminalising abortion does not prevent it but, rather, drives women to seek illegal services or methods," wrote Diana Greene Foster, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in a commentary responding to The Lancet study.
But Greene Foster also points out in her commentary that some of these findings don't provide the full picture. "This simple story overlooks the many women who, in the absence of safe legal services, carry unwanted pregnancies to term," she writes. "As a consequence of increased rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, such women face an increased risk of maternal mortality and bear children that they are not ready to care for and often cannot afford."