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CULTURE DIGEST: Celebrities campaign against pro-life efforts

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

NASHVILLE (BP) -- A leading abortion rights organization has enlisted Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and other movie/television stars in a campaign against pro-life legislative efforts.


The "Draw the Line" campaign of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) kicked off with online videos Oct. 9 featuring Streep, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Lisa Kudrow, Tea Leoni, Audra McDonald, Olympia Dukakis, Amy Poehler and others.

"Every day, the opponents of our fundamental reproductive rights are passing laws designed to take those rights away," Streep says in her video. "They're shutting down doctors and clinics across the nation. They're making it nearly impossible for millions of women to get the essential health care they need."

The effort urges endorsements of CRR's "Bill of Reproductive Rights," which calls for protection for the right to abortion and other services.

C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., asked by Baptist Press for comment, noted, "Even wonderfully talented people need to be educated about the sanctity of EVERY human life. Women's rights matter. And so do the rights of unborn children, especially the right not to be killed in the womb.

"Pro-life Christians are at least as concerned as these actors and actresses about every woman's right to get accurate information about abortion," said Mitchell, who serves as editor of Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics.

SPORTS BETTING DRAWS NCAA ACTION -- The NCAA is moving five championships out of New Jersey next year to maintain the integrity of the games as the state moves forward with allowing sports wagering on professional and collegiate games.

New Jersey passed a sports betting law earlier this year, limiting bets to Atlantic City casinos and four horse racing tracks, and the law signed by Gov. Chris Christie prohibits wagering on college games that are played in the state or any college game involving a New Jersey team.


"Maintaining the integrity of sports and protecting student-athlete well-being are at the bedrock of the NCAA's mission, and are reflected in our policies prohibiting the hosting of our championships in states that provide for single game sports wagering," Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances, said in a statement Oct. 15.

The events involved are regionals for the Division I men's and women's swimming and diving championships, early-round games for the Division I women's basketball championship, the Division III men's volleyball championship and the 2013 Division II and III women's lacrosse championships, according to

New Jersey officials said Oct. 15 the state will begin issuing licenses for sports betting Jan. 9, assuming the state can win a lawsuit by the NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL to block the law from taking effect.

A federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, bans sports betting in every state except Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, states that had legalized sports betting before a 1991 deadline.

Rather than relying on Congress to repeal the federal ban, supporters of New Jersey's new law hope a judge will rule in their favor and allow the plans to proceed, the Associated Press reported.

Sports betting proponents say the practice already occurs illegally, and if states could harness the industry, it could translate into significant tax revenue. Opponents point to the various negative side effects, including addiction and jeopardizing the integrity of the sports.

'COMMON GOOD' GROUP SUPPORTS FAMILY PLANNING -- Christians should support family planning without confusing the issue with abortion, according to the interdenominational New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.


The group released a lengthy statement in October asking evangelicals to find common ground in supporting family planning, which it promoted as morally correct, and asked pro-lifers to avoid viewing contraception as abortion.

Richard Cizik, former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, founded the New Evangelical Partnership in 2010 with David P. Gushee as a founding partner. Gushee is a Christian ethics professor at Mercer University.

"The association and the confusion of family planning with abortion has caused intense religious opposition by Christians and others with the result that opposition has extended not just to abortion, but to family planning as a whole," the group wrote. "This conceptually confused opposition to family planning is an international phenomenon, and has hindered funding and support of desperately needed family planning services both in the United States and around the world."

Not all evangelicals agree. Southern Baptists are among those opposing funding to such family planning organizations as Planned Parenthood because the clinics are the country's leading abortion provider. Many Southern Baptist and other pro-life evangelicals object to contraceptives that can cause an abortion of an early embryo.

The New Evangelical Partnership counters that family planning reduces abortion, pointing to countries with the lowest abortion rates, including Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, which have made contraception easily accessible and oftentimes free. Researchers calculate that in the United States, Title X-funded family planning clinics in 2008 helped avert some 973,000 unintended pregnancies, thereby avoiding 406,000 abortions.


"Cuts to family planning, even when intended to signal opposition to abortion, could actually increase the number of abortions," the group wrote. "In the United States alone, 95% of the unintended pregnancies reported yearly occur because of the lack of, or improper use of contraception." Of those unplanned pregnancies, 40 percent end in abortion, according to research the group cited.

Physicians for Life, however, points to studies that show greater availability of contraceptives and emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after" pill, does not reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion.

Objections to contraception generally do not drive evangelical objections to family planning, the New Evangelical Partnership also wrote, citing a Gallup Poll on Values and Beliefs from May in which 89 percent of respondents graded contraception as morally acceptable.

"If a married couple can add to their family at a pace and at a size that they can manage, it also allows greater, more consistent, and less stressed attention of parents to each of their children," the partnership wrote, "and increases the likelihood that children will receive the emotional, relational and financial resources necessary to thrive in their own adult lives. Such decisions carefully undertaken are an expression of moral responsibility and care."

BATTLE OVER PREGNANCY CENTER SPEECH CONTINUES -- Another city's effort to police pro-life pregnancy help centers recently received a mixed review in federal court.

Federal Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled that a San Francisco ordinance barring "false or misleading advertising" by pregnancy help centers had been shown to infringe the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, Courthouse News Service (CNS) reported Oct. 3.


Armstrong, however, rejected the suit's claim that the law is unconstitutionally vague. In a victory for the cause of the pregnancy centers, she said the vagueness complaint could be amended as the case proceeds in court, according to CNS.

As with other cities that have passed ordinances regulating pregnancy centers' speech, San Francisco's measure does not apply to centers that perform abortions.

First Resort Pregnancy Center, which has three pregnancy help centers in the San Francisco area, challenged the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Act after it was enacted in 2011.

"We're very concerned about the city attorney of San Francisco taking his own definition of what is misleading and what is misinforming and forcing it down our throats," said Paul Sluis, a First Resort board member, according to

"We don't mislead anybody," he said. "We don't even use factual information that is dubious. We stick to medical information that is well attested, peer-reviewed and absolutely accurate."

Ordinances adopted in New York City, Baltimore, Md., and Austin, Texas, require pregnancy help centers to display signs saying they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for the services. A law approved in Montgomery County, Md., mandates each center post a sign saying there is no "licensed medical professional" on its staff and the county urges women who are or who may be pregnant to see a licensed provider.

In June, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled both Baltimore and Montgomery County violated the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers with their ordinances.


A federal judge blocked enforcement of the New York City ordinance while it is being considered. Austin repealed its law after it was challenged.

MORE THAN 200 BABIES SAVED SO FAR IN 40 DAYS FOR LIFE -- The latest 40 Days for Life campaign received reports during its first 21 days of 219 babies not being aborted by their abortion-minded mothers.

The 40-day effort -- which focuses on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- began Sept. 26 at locations in 49 states, the District of Columbia and seven Canadian provinces, as well as Australia, England, Spain and Uganda.

In recent reports:

-- Two women changed their minds on the same day outside the Feminist Women's Health Center in Atlanta. The clinic performs second-trimester abortions. One of the women was 22 weeks pregnant, the other 17 weeks pregnant. "These women were met with love and acceptance from the

moment they drove onto the clinic property and it was this love that drew them to us," a volunteer reported to 40 Days staff. One of the women texted, "I'm just glad to have some support. Thank you!"

-- A man spoke to volunteers outside a Raleigh, N.C., abortion center, saying, "I have taught my daughter moral values all her life," he said, according to 40 Days. "She heard y'all out here praying when she came here today. She heard y'all when she came out. She has decided to have my grandchild. Thank you!"

JUDGE UPHOLDS ALASKA PARENTAL NOTIFICATION LAW -- An Alaska judge has upheld a state law requiring underage girls to notify at least one parent before having an abortion.

John Suddock, a state Superior Court judge, ruled Oct. 8 the law -- which permits minors to request a judicial bypass of the requirement -- is constitutional, according to Reuters news service.


Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the law after it was approved in a 2010 ballot initiative.

"A young girl's well-being is worth more than Planned Parenthood's bottom line. Abortionists don't care more about children than parents do," said Steven Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped defend the law.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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