"We were a little surprised in such a short time period to see these increases," Gladys Martinez, a demographer and the lead author of the report, said.
About 23 percent of the reported births in the study -- based on face-to-face interviews of 22,000 men and women from 2006 through 2010 -- were to unmarried heterosexual couples who were cohabiting when the child was born. In 2002, the figure from a similar study was 14 percent.
Researchers in the study did not attempt to explain the increase, but a sociologist from Bowling Green State University in Ohio told USA Today that it could be attributed to the economy.
"Marriage is an achievement that you enter into when you're ready. But in the meantime, life happens. You form relationships. You have sex. You get pregnant. In a perfect world, they would prefer to be married, but where the economy is now, they're not going to be able to get married, and they don't want to wait to have kids," Karen Benjamin Guzzo said.
Another sociologist, Kelly Raley at the University of Texas-Austin, told USA Today, "It just could be that it's OK now to have a kid outside of marriage."
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, said children with cohabiting parents are three times more likely to experience their parents' breakup by the age of 5 than children whose parents are married.
"They have less stability, security, legal and cultural support," Wilcox told TIME, adding, "... gives couples more flexibility but less stability to the kids born into these relationships."
VIDEO GAMES INCORPORATE 'GAY' CHARACTERS -- Electronic Arts (EA), a popular video game maker, has been praised by a gay advocacy group for adding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters to its games while the Family Research Council condemned the move.
Among the affected games is "Star Wars: The Old Republic," which allows role-playing in same-sex relationships and plot lines, according to CNET.com, a technology website.
"Being for equality is good for business," AllOut.org said in a news release April 10. "Groups like the Family Research Council are truly on the 'dark side' -- they put pressure on companies like EA to block fair, balanced portrayals of gay characters in gaming and other media.
"You don't have to be a gamer to understand that it makes a real difference for Electronic Arts to present positive portrayals of gays and lesbians to its community of 100 million players," AllOut.org said.
In January, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said on his radio broadcast, "On the game's website, there are more than 300 pages of comments -- a lot of them expressing anger that their kids will be exposed to this Star Warped way of thinking. You can join them by logging on and speaking up. It's time to show companies who the force is really with."
EA, meanwhile, recently was voted by readers of Consumerist as America's worst company, and over the last five years, the company's stock has lost 70 percent of its value, CNET.com reported.
ARIZ. BANS PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTIONS -- Arizona has become the seventh state to enact a ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the ban into law April 12. The Mother's Health and Safety Act not only bars late-term abortions but requires an ultrasound procedure on a woman at least 24 hours before an abortion, mandates doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and authorizes a website providing information about fetal development and abortion risks.
The pain-capable abortion ban includes exceptions for abortions at 20 weeks or later to prevent the mother's death or "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function," according to The Arizona Republic.
"This legislation is consistent with my strong track record of supporting common sense measures to protect the health of women and safeguard our most vulnerable population -- the unborn," Brewer said in a written statement. "Knowing that abortions become riskier the later they are performed in pregnancy, it only makes sense to prohibit these procedures past twenty weeks."
FAKE ABORTION TWEET 'CROSSES THE LINE' -- Comedian Sarah Silverman has created a stir by tweeting fake before-and-after abortion photos.
The controversial Silverman, 41, tweeted side-by-side photos April 12, one showing her belly uncovered and large, as if she were pregnant. The other showed her with an uncovered, flat stomach.
With the photos, she tweeted: "Got a quickie aborsh in case R v W gets overturned."
"R v W" apparently refers to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Pro-life advocates did not find it humorous.
"While a quick review of Silverman shows her to have years of tacky abortion jokes, this one crosses the line," wrote Susan Michelle Tyrrell, editor of the Bound4Life blog. "Many pro-abortion folks hailed her as witty and one broadcast labeled it as heroic, but the truth is it displays fear and cowardice, at best, and insensitivity at worst.
"Consider this: Those of us who are pro-life believe that an unborn baby is a person, but also many women on both sides live with regret for their abortions. I have friends who have had abortions and still defend the right to have them, but who live in pain from having done it.
"Silverman's 'joke' is cruel. Disguised as an attack on Republicans, it is actually a display of intolerance and prejudice...."
Before tweeting the side-by-side, fake before-and-after abortion photos, Silverman had tweeted the first photo to show her stomach after eating a burrito, according to the New York Daily News.
BRAZIL BROADENS ABORTION LAW -- Brazil's highest court has decided to permit abortion in the case of an unborn baby who has no brain.
The Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 8-2 April 12 to expand exceptions to the country's abortion ban to include anencephalic children, the Associated Press reported. A baby with anencephaly develops without a brain, although he usually has a brain stem. If a child is born with the condition, he normally survives a few hours or days.
"Eugenic abortion further erodes respect not only for human dignity in general but the dignity of the disabled in particular," said Piero Tozzi, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "Protecting the innocent is a chief duty of the legislature, and the court was wrong to overstep its authority and tear down the protections long ago established by Brazil's lawmakers -- protections that are consistent with the pro-life views of most Brazilians."
Abortion is otherwise prohibited in Brazil except in cases of a threat to the mother's life and rape.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD CLINIC MIMICKS 40 DAYS FOR LIFE -- A Planned Parenthood clinic in Eureka, Calif., has initiated a 40-day prayer effort for abortion providers and abortion-minded women -- but not unborn children.
Six Rivers Planned Parenthood is sponsoring "40 Days of Prayer: Supporting Women Everywhere," with the support of Humboldt County Clergy for Choice, an official committee of the affiliate. The campaign began March 18 and will conclude April 27. The effort includes a prayer guide written by Faith Aloud, a pro-choice organization, for each of the 40 days.
The campaign stands in stark contrast to 40 Days for Life, which concluded its largest spring campaign so far April 1. During those 40 days, the staff received reports of 876 unborn children being saved from abortion.
The 40 Days for Life efforts -- which expanded from regional to national, then international, campaigns in 2007 -- focus on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics. The campaign's volunteers also seek to minister to women seeking abortions, as well as abortion clinic workers.
"It's disappointing that Planned Parenthood has exploited clergy and churches in their efforts to promote abortion," 40 Days for Life National Director David Bereit told CitizenLink.com. "And it's disappointing that they try to wrap it up in prayer.
"This just underscores the importance of praying for God to intercede in saving the lives of innocent, unborn children at risk of abortion, as well as for their mothers at risk of making a decision that comes with a lifetime of regrets."
VT. SENATE REJECTS ASSISTED SUICIDE EFFORT -- The Vermont Senate has turned back an effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Supporters of assisted suicide failed April 12 to garner the votes needed to suspend Senate rules in order to consider the proposal as an amendment, according to the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. They needed 22 votes, or a three-fourths majority, but gained only 11. Eighteen senators voted against suspending the rules.
The measure would have enabled people considered to have fewer than six months to live the legal right to request a lethal drug dosage.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net