NASHVILLE (BP) -- The University of Iowa has become the first public university in the nation to specifically include optional questions about students' sexual orientation and gender identity in their admissions applications.
Elmhurst College, a private liberal arts school, was the first U.S. institution of higher education to add the option. Now at the University of Iowa, the application offers "transgender" as an option along with "male" and "female," and an optional question asks, "Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?"
"The new LGBT question on our undergraduate application reflects our foundational commitment to inclusion of all students, no matter what their origin or orientation," Michael Barron, assistant provost for enrollment management and executive director of admissions, said in a university news release.
The University of Iowa said it prides itself in being a place of historic firsts, including the first public university to offer insurance benefits to employees' domestic partners.
Georgina Dodge, the university's chief diversity officer and associate vice president, expects the new application to help with student success and retention.
"LGBTQ students are important members of our campus community, and we want to provide them with an opportunity to identify themselves in order to be connected to resources and to build networking structures," Dodge said.
The move was heralded by Campus Pride, a homosexual advocacy organization focusing on college campuses nationwide.
"For the first time, a major, public and national research university has taken efforts to identify their LGBT students from the very first moment those students have official contact with them. This is definite progress in the right direction," Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, said.
Jake Christensen, a senior admission counselor at the University of Iowa, said, "Even if a student who doesn't identify as LGBT but who might feel different or unaccepted where they grew up can see the new questions and recognize that the UI has a demonstrated, visible commitment to diversity in all forms, which simultaneously sets a very important precedent for the respect of all individuals on our campus."
'ALL MY BABIES' MAMAS' SHOW BLASTED -- The Parents Television Council is among many urging Oxygen cable network to abandon production of the planned show "All My Babies' Mamas."
The show, which features African American rapper Carlos "Shawty Lo" Walker and the 10 women with whom he fathered 11 children, is being developed as a one-hour special to air this spring. Oxygen has indicated the show may become a reality series.
"The PTC is proud to join its voice with a growing chorus of groups and individuals across America who are concerned about the harmful and exploitive messaging of this television project," PTC President Tim Winter said in a news release. "Every time we think that the television industry couldn't stoop any lower, sadly one of the networks steps forward to prove us wrong.
"This new project in development at Oxygen is grotesquely irresponsible and exploitive, and we urge the network to cease any further work on it immediately," Winter said.
Shawty Lo's new girlfriend, who is the same age as one of his oldest children, also is featured in early clips from the production, according to news reports.
A change.org petition launched by New York author Sabrina Lamb asking the Comcast/NBC Universal network to halt development of the show had garnered more than 27,000 signatures. Other voices condemning the show include Forbes.com. Many say All My Babies' Mamas capitalizes on African American stereotypes and demeans children and families of all races.
Winter is urging others to join the protest.
"We are asking our members to take action and let Oxygen know that this program would undermine children and families," Winter said. "If Oxygen moves forward with the program, we will be contacting every corporate sponsor that buys advertising time on the Oxygen network to hold them accountable as well."
Oxygen released a statement saying, "Oxygen's one-hour special in development is not meant to be a stereotypical representation of everyday life for any one demographic or cross section of society. It is a look at one unique family and their complicated, intertwined life. Oxygen Media's diverse team of creative executives will continue developing the show with this point of view."
The PTC, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, has 1.3 million members and 56 chapters nationwide.
'TELEMED' ABORTIONS PROHIBITED IN NEW LAW -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Dec. 28 legislation designed to strengthen health and safety standards for abortion clinics and prohibit "telemedicine" abortions.
The new law requires, according to the Associated Press:
-- Facilities that perform at least 120 abortions a year to be licensed as outpatient surgical centers.
-- Doctors to perform physical exams in person before prescribing abortion drugs.
-- Counseling for women considering abortion to confirm they are not being coerced to undergo the procedure.
-- Proper disposal of the remains of aborted babies.
The mandate for in-person physicals is an effort to bar "telemedicine" or Webcam abortions. Typically, a "telemed" abortion involves a doctor counseling by means of videoconferencing a woman seeking an abortion in another city. After he reviews sonogram images and visits with the woman, the physician can dispense the drug RU 486 to her by pressing a computer button, thereby remotely opening a drawer from which the woman in the clinic may remove the pills. "Telemed" abortions already are being performed in Iowa and Minnesota.
NEARLY HALF OF BRITISH IVF EMBRYOS DESTROYED -- Nearly half of all human embryos conceived in Great Britain by in vitro fertilization (IVF) during the last 21 years have been destroyed, according to a new report.
A report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) showed about 1.7 million of the more than 3.5 million embryos created by IVF since 1991 have been discarded, The Telegraph reported Dec. 31.
HFEA performed the research in response to questions from members of Parliament.
"It happens on a day-to-day basis with casual indifference," said pro-life leader Lord David Alton, according to The Telegraph. "This sheer destruction of human embryos -- most people would not know that it took place on such a scale."
ABORTION CLINIC BECOMES 24th TO CLOSE IN 2012 -- A Michigan abortion clinic closed in late December, making it the 24th to shut down in 2012, according to Operation Rescue.
The Muskegon (Mich.) Fire Department posted closure notices Dec. 26 at Women's Medical Services, the pro-life organization announced. The clinic was guilty of "serious violations ... that made it unsafe to continue operating," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
American abortion clinics totaled 2,176 in 1991 but have fallen to 660, Newman said.
Nearly 70 percent "of all surgical abortion clinics have closed for good," he said. "We look forward to the day when all abortion sites have been shut down and the pre-born baby is once again protected by law."
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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