EDITOR'S NOTE: Culture Digest will not be published during Thanksgiving week but will resume on Friday, Nov. 30.
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The "Abortion Gang," a blog by "unapologetic activists for reproductive justice," is beating the drum for repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
In a Nov. 7 post, a writer for the Abortion Gang urged President Obama to act to put an end to Hyde, which has prohibited Medicaid coverage of most abortions since 1976. Obama "must take a stand this January and strike restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion when he presents his budget to Congress," according to the post.
The Hyde Amendment not only bars Medicaid funds for abortions but acts as a model for restrictions on abortion funding in other federal programs.
For the Abortion Gang and other abortion rights advocates, reproductive rights do not fully exist unless the government pays for the abortions of those who cannot afford them.
TV STAR SHARES TRIUMPH OF FAITH -- "Dancing with the Stars" champion and "All My Children" star J.R. Martinez said faith helped him survive the land mine explosion in Iraq that sidelined him for three years.
In "Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit," his recently published memoir, Martinez shares his life struggle, from his childhood, NFL hopes, the land mine explosion just a month into his service in Iraq, and his incredible revival as an actor and dance champion.
"I took to talking to God, praying my way through more treatments, more surgeries," Martinez wrote in a brief account in Guideposts magazine before the release of the memoir. "I know I survived for a reason, Lord. Lead me to the other side of this pain, and show me that reason."
Many became Martinez's fans in 2008 when he landed the role of wounded veteran Brot Monroe on All My Children, but little of his predicament was glamorous.
After joining the Army in 2002, his life changed while driving a Humvee with three other soldiers at the head of an envoy.
"I felt our left front tire hit something. A land mine. Boom! The other three guys were thrown clear of the explosion," Martinez wrote. He was left inside, burning alive.
"No one could reach me. God, help me. The pain was indescribable," Martinez wrote. "I watched the skin melt and fall off my hands. Flames seared my face, my arms, my back, consuming me. I'm going to die."
After his sergeant and team members freed him from the fire, Martinez spent nearly three years at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. With 40 percent of his body burned, he endured numerous skin grafts and surgeries.
His mother never left his side, he said, her prayers overcoming his desire to die.
"Be with my son. Comfort him, Lord," Martinez said his mother prayed. "We know you feel his pain. Keep him strong. Give him courage."
Martinez has become a motivational speaker, using his story to help others overcome obstacles.
"It teaches people we can all overcome," Martinez said of his book. "Change is scary, and I think my story allows you to understand -- you can make it work. We all have the power to make it work. We can find the way to do great things."
COURT REJECTS HUSBANDS IN FORCED ABORTIONS -- The husbands of Chinese women who undergo forced abortions because of China's "one-child" policy are not automatically eligible for asylum in the United States, another federal appeals court has ruled, according to World News Service.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston agreed with four other circuit courts Oct. 3 when it decided a 1996 federal law does not cover husbands because "the focus is on persons targeted for a procedure, not upon the results of the procedure," World News Service reported.
The law, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., permitted protection for "a person who has been forced to abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program."
Smith intended for the law to cover husbands of victims of China's coercive population control policy, and early immigration court rulings agreed a husband could qualify as a refugee. In 2008, however, then-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey decided the law did not include husbands unless they had other well-founded fears of persecution, according to WNS.
Xian Tong Dong, the husband in the First Circuit case, applied for asylum in the United States in 2006 and attempted to bring his wife and child to this country as well. Chinese authorities had forcibly aborted the couple's second child.
Xian did not qualify because he did not show any "special circumstance -- that is, something more than his relationship to the recipient of a forced abortion," the First Circuit said.
Husbands also are victims in forced abortions, said Kat Lewis, director of communications at All Girls Allowed, which combats China's "one-child" policy.
"Forced abortion, an ugly effect of China's brutal one-child policy, has many victims," she said, WNS reported. "The mother suffers a violent, involuntary procedure and loses a child. The child suffers death. And the father suffers deeply at the loss of a child and violation of his wife's human dignity."
PRO-LIFE GROUP TO CHANGE ENDORSEMENT PROCESS AFTER AKIN -- A major pro-life organization expects to change its process for endorsing candidates after Rep. Todd Akin's comments on rape apparently damaged his campaign for the U.S. Senate beyond repair.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said her organization will question candidates on such potential questions as abortion in the case of rape before making endorsements, according to The Washington Examiner.
SBA List initially endorsed Sarah Steelman for the Republican nomination to run in Missouri against unpopular Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, but Akin defeated her in the primary.
During a debate with McCaskill, Akin responded to a question about abortion in the case of a pregnancy by rape: "From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."
That reply produced a wave of criticism of Akin, as well as an exodus of financial support from Republican groups.
"With Akin, when asked about rape, there's only one thing you should say: 'What a horrible tragedy,'" Dannenfelser told The Examiner. "He clearly could have used a little bit of debate prep before he made that statement."
She said of the SBA List's likely approach in the future, "We go through and I drill you on all the questions, all the tough things, and then you give it back to me. And then we see if that actually merits endorsement or not, because if you can't handle a rape question after everything that we just went through and all the damage that that caused, then you're not paying attention and you don't care enough to figure it out."
Dannenfelser told The Examiner, "We think that women are great spokeswomen, they're natural spokeswomen -- that's why we have an emphasis on electing women as pro-life leaders. In addition to that, how we talk about that and how we communicate it in a compassionate and true way -- without fear -- is vitally important."
DUPED INTO BEING SURROGATE, MOTHER SAYS -- A woman who gave birth to twins she believed she would rear as her own has learned she may be no more than a surrogate mother.
Cindy Close, 48, delivered the babies in July at Texas Children's Medical Center in Houston only to be stunned by a visit from a social worker that night. "She told me we had a surrogacy situation," Close said, according to KHOU-TV in Houston. "I looked at her and said, 'I'm not a surrogate, what are you talking about?'"
Marvin McCurrey acted as if he were Close's friend and said he would partner with her to rear the children, she said. Close became pregnant by in vitro fertilization using McCurrey's sperm and a donor egg, KHOU-TV reported. He sought custody with his homosexual partner when the babies were born.
There was no romantic relationship between them, and she did not know McCurrey was homosexual, Close said.
"We didn't have everything nailed down because it was based on trust," Close said, according to KHOU-TV. "There was never any contract and no money was exchanged."
Close has visitation rights for only two hours a day, six days a week.
A Harris County judge will rule in the custody case.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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