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Pence hopeful the Supreme Court will restrict abortion in US

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he is hopeful the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court created during his and President Donald Trump’s administration will soon overturn abortion rights in the United States.

Pence spoke at a forum devoted to demographics and family values in Budapest, Hungary, where conservative leaders from central Europe expressed their anxieties about falling birthrates in the Western world and discussed ways to reverse the trend.

“We see a crisis that brings us here today, a crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilization itself. The erosion of the nuclear family marked by declining marriage rates, rising divorce, widespread abortion and plummeting birth rates,” Pence said.

The Budapest Demographic Summit, which was first held in 2015 and takes place every two years, has become a platform for leaders to denounce illegal migration and urge families to have more children.

Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban has become a political model for right-wing leaders and commentators across the Western world who admire his hard-line opposition to illegal migration and his support for conservative social values.

Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the right-wing Fox News Channel, spent a week broadcasting from Budapest in August where he heaped praise on Hungary under Orban’s rule, and made a visit by helicopter to a fence along the country’s southern border.

On Wednesday, the Hungarian state news agency reported that Budapest would next year host the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, an annual gathering of primarily U.S. conservative activists and politicians.

While Orban’s approach to immigration has earned him the admiration of many Western conservatives, they overlook his authoritarian streak — his consolidation of Hungary’s media, erosion of democratic institutions and discrimination against minorities, including asylum seekers and LGBT people.

Pence praised how abortion rates have fallen under Orban’s leadership. And he voiced hope that things would change in the U.S. as well, recalling that the administration in which he served as vice president appointed 300 conservative judges to the federal courts, including three new justices to the Supreme Court.

“We may well have a fresh start in the cause of life in America,” Pence said. “It is our hope and our prayer that in the coming days, a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States will take action to restore the sanctity of life at the center of American law.”

Pence has spent the months since leaving office building a post-White House operation that has included launching a new political advocacy group, delivering speeches, fundraising and bolstering relationships that could help him should he choose to run for president in 2024.

He has tried to position himself as a conservative who can appeal both to his white Evangelical Christian base as well as Trump supporters and those who may have been fond of Trump’s policies, but not his pugilistic style.

Still, Pence faces an uphill battle after he drew Trump’s ire by declining to block the certification of his 2020 election defeat, which the former president still refuses to accept.

Orban, the Hungarian leader who faces re-election next year, lamented that conservatives including Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have faced electoral losses recently. But addressing Pence, he said: “Vice President, we wish you a comeback as soon as possible.”

Orban also described how Hungary, under his rule since 2010, has used the state “to shape demographic processes” by restricting migration and using tax breaks and other state instruments to ensure that having children is beneficial economically for families.

Other leaders from the region also addressed the forum, including Serbian President Alexander Vucic, who voiced his concerns about Europe’s declining population growth relative to the rest of the world. If things continue as they are, he said, “within 30 years Nigeria — just one African country — will have more inhabitants than the entire European Union, more inhabitants than the United States of America.”

Pence spoke at a pivotal time for abortion rights in the U.S. Republican-led state legislatures have enacted increasingly restrictive laws and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority recently allowed a Texas law banning most abortions to go into effect.

The court is due next to consider a Mississippi ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.

Anti-abortion activists hope that the court will use that case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling which ensured a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

___

Gera reported from Warsaw.

Vanessa Gera And Balazs Kaufmann, The Associated Press

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CP NewsAlert: CFL, CFL Players' Association reach tentative collective agreement

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TORONTO — The second strike in CFL history is over.

Two sources told The Canadian Press that the CFL and CFL Players’ Association reached a tentative seven-year collective bargaining agreement Wednesday night.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither side immediately offered confirmation.

The contract must still be ratified by both the CFL board of governors as well as the CFLPA membership but the expectation is players will report to their teams Thursday and go through an opening-day walkthrough.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta premier Jason Kenney steps down as UCP leader

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has stepped down as leader of the United Conservative Party after narrowly winning the party’s leadership vote.

Kenney received 51.4 per cent support in voting results released tonight in Calgary.

He told supporters that the number is not what he hoped for and is not enough for him to continue on as leader.

If Kenney had received less than 50 per cent plus one, he would have had to quit as per party rules and a leadership contest would have been called.

Normally, leaders consider 75 to 80 per cent — or higher — the minimum credible mandate to continue leading their party.

Kenney had earlier said he would accept a slim majority, because the voting pool was skewed by last-minute members interested only in scuttling his big-tent conservative party.

“While 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader,” Kenney said.

“I’ve informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party,” he said to gasps in the audience.

“We need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us. And a large number of our members have asked for an opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election.”

The leadership review took on heightened importance over the past year as Kenney was buffeted by poor polling numbers, sluggish fundraising and open dissent from some in his party and caucus.

It was also punctuated by controversy. It had already been delayed by a year when it was set for an in-person ballot on April 9 in Red Deer, Alta.

When 15,000 members signed up — five times more than expected — the party said it couldn’t handle the logistics and moved to a mail-in ballot open to all 59,000 members.

Critics said the change was made to give Kenney the edge as it appeared he was going to lose the in-person vote.

Elections Alberta is also investigating allegations of illegal bulk buying of memberships in the review. And the party remains under investigation by the RCMP over allegations of criminal identity fraud in the 2017 contest that saw Kenney elected leader.

Kenney had made it clear that the vote and open dissent had become a “soap opera” distracting the party facing a provincial election next May.

He also said that if he got the required support, he would expect dissenters in his caucus to rally behind him or face unnamed consequences.

Two backbenchers who openly criticized Kenney last year — Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes — were voted out of caucus and sit as Independents.

Backbenchers Jason Stephan, Peter Guthrie and Brian Jean — who helped Kenney found the UCP — have been the most vocal. They openly urged the premier to resign for the good of the party.

Kenney has tried to downplay the dissent by tying it directly to unhappiness over COVID-19 restrictions his government bought in to try to stop the spread of the virus.

Opponents in caucus say the dissatisfaction is also over Kenney’s policies and management style, which they deem to be top-down, dismissive and undemocratic. They say Kenney has not done enough to gain a better deal for Alberta with the federal government on shared programs.

Conservative leaders in Alberta have not fared well after middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 per cent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 per cent in their reviews, but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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