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Texas abortion law clears latest hurdle

April 3 2014 by Jerry Pierce, TEXAN/Baptist Press

A Texas law passed last summer that tightened the state’s abortion regulations has been upheld by the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The much-anticipated ruling from the three-judge panel in New Orleans was unanimous.

In a Jan. 6 hearing, the tone of questions from the judges had hinted they were skeptical of arguments that the law placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

Last October, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck two down requirements in Texas House Bill 2: that abortion doctors have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their clinics and that a physician be present to monitor administration of abortion-causing drugs, such as mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486. Yeakel ruled that the requirements placed an unconstitutional “substantial obstacle” to abortion.

The bill also outlawed abortions beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization.

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The law is being challenged by a group of Planned Parenthood affiliates, several other abortion providers and three Texas physicians who have argued, among other things, that the hospital admitting requirements will close clinics and reduce access to abortions. The Dallas Morning News reported that 13 of the state’s 37 abortions clinics have closed since the law was passed, including the only two serving a four-county area of the Rio Grande Valley.

Judge Edith Jones, writing on behalf of the appeals court March 27, said “an increase in travel of less than 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden” and that of 254 Texas counties, only 13 of them had abortion facilities before HB 2 became law. Furthermore, the “burden does not fall on the vast majority of Texas women seeking abortions,” Jones wrote.

The court also found that the hospital privileges requirement met the legal test of being “rationally related to a legitimate state interest” in protecting women.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican candidate for governor, said in a statement after the ruling: “This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women.”

Pro-life groups also hailed the ruling.

“We are pleased that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with the overwhelming majority of the Texas Legislature that the state has a right to increase safety standards at abortion facilities to protect the health and safety of women,” Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said.

Kyleen Wright, executive director of Texans for Life, said via Twitter: “Happiness is 3 brilliant women on the 5th Circ! Justices Jones, Elrod & Haynes rock. #WomenRule #HB2 #Stand4Life.”

Abortion advocates, meanwhile, vowed to keep fighting.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement: “We will combat these laws in the courts, and our separate political arm will mobilize voters to replace lawmakers who champion these dangerous laws in the first place.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the appeals court “has turned a blind eye to the very real and devastating consequences that this law has had on thousands of Texas women, erecting barriers to abortion so high that women are simply left with no legal or safe options.”

Northup said her group is “considering every necessary step to end this health crisis and restore the essential health care that has been unconstitutionally stripped away.”

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court declined, by a 5-4 margin, to intervene in the case, placing the law back in the hands of the appeals court.

But many believe the Supreme Court eventually will take it up. Stephen Breyer, one of the four liberal justices on the High Court, wrote of the hospital privileges requirement back in November that it is “a difficult question. It is a question, I believe, that at least four Members of this Court will wish to consider irrespective of the Fifth Circuit’s ultimate decision.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN [www.texanonline.net], newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
4/3/2014 12:49:49 PM by Jerry Pierce, TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



End-of-life ethics examined by panel

April 1 2014 by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Press

A Baptist seminary leader joined a special panel at Loyola University New Orleans to discuss end-of-life cases that have sparked national debate.

Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and bioethicist, was among the panelists for the discussion titled “Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Decides?”

The group covered the cases of Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl placed on a ventilator following complications from tonsil and nasal surgery, and Marlise Munoz, a young mother declared brain dead but kept on life support for two months for the sake of her 14-week-old fetus.

The Center for Medical Ethics of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation sponsored the event. Other panelists included: Jennifer Popik, with National Right to Life; Jeff White, cardiologist and hospital system ethics director and Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University.

Popik cited a study by the American Academy of Neurology that indicated, while the protocol for declaring brain death varies widely from state to state and hospital to hospital, an average hospital determines brain death as many as 50 times a year.

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Steve Lemke (second from left), provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and bioethicist, was among panelists to address end-of-life cases that have sparked national debate. The panel discussion was titled “Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Decides?”

“[Cases like these] may push hospitals to develop a criteria,” Popik said during the March 19 panel discussion.


Defining brain death

Brain death is the total and irreversible cessation of the entire brain, including the brain stem, and is determined by a complete examination using a set of diagnostic criteria and not by a single test, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or an electroencephalogram (EEG), White explained.

“The science of brain death is very good. The concept of brain death is well-founded scientifically,” he said.

Jahi McMath was declared brain dead on Dec. 12, 2013, after three neurologists confirmed she was unable to breathe on her own, had no blood flow to her brain, and showed no sign of electrical activity in the brain.

When McMath’s family refused to remove the ventilator, a legal agreement was eventually forced requiring that a death certificate be issued by the Alameda County, Calif., coroner’s office before the patient was moved to an undisclosed facility where life support continues.

White said families sometimes have trouble accepting a doctor’s verdict because a patient on life support has a heartbeat, breathes and feels warm to the touch.

Wilde added that the issue is compounded in today’s society because death is often not discussed. Families also rarely witness the stages of death with a loved one, as in the past.

Lemke agreed, saying families used to care for patients in their final days at home and watched their loved ones struggle for longer periods of time. Because medical personnel today provide end-of-life care, the family is often removed from that struggle.

“We’re isolated and insulated from the reality of death, so when death comes it is all-the-more shocking and we are all-the-more ill-prepared for it,” Lemke said.

And with medical advances and prolonged life, Lemke said, “All these things together may make death a much more difficult experience in our day than perhaps in the past.”

Pregnancy and brain death

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in the middle of the night at her Ft. Worth, Texas, home in November 2013. Shortly after admission to the hospital, Munoz was pronounced brain dead.

Texas law prohibits the removal of life support from a pregnant patient until fetus viability at 23 weeks. The hospital continued support and a month later, Munoz’ husband sued to remove support. A judge ruled in his favor on Jan. 24, 2014, stating that the fetus was abnormal and not viable, and that women had a right to end pregnancies if they wished.

While the law seeks to balance the rights of individuals, Popik argued the mother’s rights were extinguished when she was pronounced brain dead.

“So what’s going on here that the rights of the [unborn] child were so lost in the dialogue?” Popik asked.

White noted that the Texas law was meant to protect the fetus when the mother was in a vegetative state and did not apply to a patient declared brain dead.

According to a Jan. 28, 2014 NPR article reporting on the case, the authors of the bill “intended to keep a pregnant woman who was in a persistent vegetative state on a ventilator until she could deliver, but not a dead pregnant woman,” and insisted the hospital had misinterpreted the law.

While the Munoz case was in the news earlier this year, a similar story previously unfolded in Canada.

Robyn Benson of British Columbia was declared brain dead at 22 weeks into her pregnancy. Life support continued and her healthy but premature son was delivered at 27 weeks. Benson died the next day.

Analysts of the Munoz and Benson cases point out that the hospital had declared the Munoz fetus not viable, while the Benson fetus was determined to be normal.

Lemke told the audience that in his ethics classes at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary he presents another case study similar to the Munoz and Benson cases. In that case, the judge allowed life support to continue, ruling that the state has an interest in the next generation of its citizens, and asking poignantly, “Who speaks for the fetus?”


Preparing for the unexpected

While it can be difficult to craft an advance directive for medical needs that covers a wide range of scenarios and circumstances, certain guidelines are helpful, Lemke said:
  • Put an advanced directive in writing that expresses the general guidelines. This is very helpful guidance for family and medical staff.
  • Ask a hospital official or attorney the language of a standard “boiler plate” advanced directive, then personalize it.
  • Prepare for unanticipated circumstances by appointing a surrogate decision maker with the medical power of attorney who can make decisions that follow general guidelines.
  • Allowing organ donation is a separate issue but should be expressed in an advanced directive.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Steward is a writer based in New Orleans. She is a frequent contributor to the Louisiana Baptist Message and The Times-Picayune.)
4/1/2014 11:21:06 AM by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Feds admit abortion mandate in SCOTUS

March 27 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Obama administration’s acknowledgment that its stance would require businesses to underwrite abortions without the right to a legal challenge may have been a particularly telling moment in a March 25 U.S. Supreme Court case that likely will be a landmark in religious liberty.
 
It seemed that way to some who oppose the government’s position, and they expressed an opinion that it seemed that way to some of the justices.
 
The Supreme Court heard 90 minutes of oral arguments regarding the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices for their workers. Two family owned businesses – nationwide retail chain Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties – had their opportunity to present their contention that the federal rule violates free exercise of religion rights and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.
 
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration’s advocate, if he thought a for-profit corporation “could be forced in principle to pay for abortions.”
 
At first, Verrilli seemed to deny it would, saying, “[T]he law now is to the contrary.”
 
Kennedy countered: “But your reasoning would permit that.”
 
Verrilli eventually said, “Well, I think that if it were for a for-profit corporation and if such a law like that were enacted, then you’re right, under our theory ... the for-profit corporation wouldn’t have an ability to sue.”
 
Lawyers for both plaintiffs cited the exchange in their assessments of oral arguments.
 
“The justices were extremely concerned about the idea that just because a family tries to earn a living in business they abandon their constitutional and statutory freedoms,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “I found it interesting that the justices also were very explicitly concerned about the notion that the government’s position is so extreme that if they force families and businesses to provide abortions of any kind, even presumably surgical or late-term abortions, those families would not even be able to have a day in court to object.
 
“[T]hose are extreme positions on the part of the government,” he told Baptist Press.
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“Ultimately, what the government is doing here is forcing people to buy abortion products for other people,” said Bowman, whose organization has represented Conestoga Wood. “And that unprecedented mandate – given at the same time that the government is exempting a hundred million people from it for secular, political reasons – can’t be squared with the deference that we give in our country to religious freedom itself.”
 
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented Hobby Lobby, said, “I think the court had a lot of very hard questions for the government. The government essentially admitted the theory that they’re offering in this case would support an abortion mandate.”
 
After Verrilli said there is no current law requiring for-profits “to provide abortions,” Chief Justice John Roberts cited the current case.
 
“Isn’t that what we are talking about in terms of their religious beliefs? One of the religious beliefs is that they have to pay for these four methods of contraception that they believe provide abortions,” Roberts told Verrilli. “I thought that’s what we had before us.”
 
Verrilli admitted it was the belief of the business owners but said federal and state law did not support a belief that the methods constitute abortion.
 
The regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the 2010 health care law requires coverage of federally approved contraceptives, including the IUD intrauterine device and such drugs as the morning-after pill Plan B. Both the IUD and morning-after pill possess post-fertilization mechanisms that can cause abortions by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act even after implantation to end the life of the child.
 
While some conscientious objectors to the HHS rule oppose underwriting all contraceptives, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood protest paying only for abortion-causing drugs.
 
Roberts, Kennedy and associate justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer seemed suspicious of Verrilli’s arguments, but justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg repeatedly challenged Paul Clement, who represented the businesses.
 
Kagan told Clement, solicitor general under President George W. Bush, the corporations have another choice – they could refuse to provide health insurance and pay the $2,000 tax per employee.
 
“Well, just to put this in concrete terms, for Hobby Lobby, for example, the choice is between paying ... a $475 million per year penalty [for refusing to abide by the mandate] and paying a $26 million per year [tax],” Clement said. “You have a government law that specifically says you must do something that violates your religion – and it’s enforced with a penalty, and with all due respect I think $2,000 per employee is a penalty.”
 
Kagan disagreed, saying, it is “not saying you must do something that violates your religion. It’s giving you a choice. You can do this thing or if this thing violates your religion you can do another thing.”
 
After the arguments, Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green said in a written statement her family had built the business based on the Greens’ Christian faith and wants “to continue to live out our faith in the way we do business.”
 
“We believe that no American should lose their religious freedom just because they open a family business,” she said, adding, “[W]e prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”
 
Anthony Hahn, chief executive officer of Conestoga Wood, said his family never expected to see a time when the government “would force us to be complicit in the potential destruction of human life.”
 
“We didn’t choose this fight,” Hahn said in a written statement after the arguments. The Hahns, Greens and others, he said, “would have been happy to just continue providing good jobs and generous healthcare benefits. But the government forced our hand. We hope and pray that the Supreme Court will uphold the religious freedom of all Americans who seek to glorify God even as they go about making a living.”
 
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America and a leading supporter of the HHS mandate, told reporters outside afterward, “We will not have our rights extinguished. Our bodies are not our bosses’ business.”
 
The plaintiffs’ lawyers expressed encouragement after the arguments.
 
“I won’t make guesses, but it felt like a good day,” Rienzi said outside the court. “It felt like they asked really good questions, and we’re happy with it.”
 
Bowman added, “I’m hopeful. I’m a Christian, and I’m hopeful.”
 
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards expressed optimism as an advocate for the mandate.
 
“It was a wonderful day I think for women, and I really believe that this court understood that women have the right to make their own decisions about their health care and their birth control, and it’s not their bosses’ decision,” Roberts told reporters.
 
Supporters of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood have said religious free exercise for Americans is in the balance as the Supreme Court ponders its decision, which is expected to be issued before its term ends in late June or early July.
 
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has described the case as “the most important religious liberty case in a generation.”
 
The decision “will set the tone for the next hundred years of church/state jurisprudence in this country,” he said. “If the federal government can force organizations and businesses to pave over their own consciences, to choose between being believers and being citizens, what will stop the government from imposing its will on anyone’s conscience next?”
 
The justices heard arguments about the mandate after more than two and a half years of protests by pro-life and religious freedom advocates. Objections to the regulation failed to produce either a withdrawal from HHS or adequate conscience protections requested by religious liberty proponents.
 
HHS provided an exemption to the rule for churches and their auxiliaries. The administration also offered an accommodation for non-church-related religious organizations, but critics called it inadequate because it still forces such groups to provide access to the drugs through third parties.
 
More than 300 parties, including non-profits and for-profit corporations, have combined to file 94 lawsuits against HHS, according to the Becket Fund. The consolidated case the justices heard March 25 only involves for-profit businesses. The non-profit cases have yet to reach the high court.
 
The case arrived at the Supreme Court after divided opinions at the appellate level. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Conestoga Wood, saying for-profit, secular organizations “cannot engage in religious exercise.” In ruling for Hobby Lobby, however, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected the Obama administration’s argument that protections under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act do not extend to for-profit companies. It ruled corporations “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes” of the RFRA, which requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use the least narrow means to burden a person’s religious exercise.
 
The ERLC signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Christian Legal Society in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Also among the 59 briefs supporting Hobby Lobby and/or Conestoga Wood, according to the Becket Fund, was one signed onto by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; its president, Daniel Akin, and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, a mega Southern Baptist congregation in Lake Forest, Calif.
 
The Green family has said it will not comply with the mandate if it loses in court. The arts and crafts retail chain of more than 600 stores could face fines totaling $1.3 million a day. The Christian bookstore chain Mardel, also owned by members of the Green family, is part of the suit as well. Both are based in Oklahoma City.
 
The Hahn family has been living under the mandate since its group health plan was renewed in January 2013. Refusal to abide by the mandate could cost the family an estimated $95,000 a day. Conestoga Wood is a wholesale manufacturer of kitchen cabinet parts.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington Bureau chief.)
3/27/2014 1:26:45 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



40 Days for Life’s impact felt, resumes March 5

March 3 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The most enriching occurrence in Krysten Haga’s time as director of a 40 Days for Life campaign came when she learned there was no longer a need for her to fill that role.
 
Near the conclusion of last fall’s campaign in Lubbock, Texas, the city’s only abortion clinic – Planned Parenthood – shut down a business that had taken the lives of more than 30,000 unborn babies, according to the 40 Days for Life national staff. The facility had not only been a site of 40 Days prayer vigils, but reportedly could not meet the state’s new abortion clinic regulations.
 
As the local campaign director, Haga “had the honor of sending the email that announced the closing of Planned Parenthood Lubbock for good, which was by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had while being involved with 40 Days for Life,” the Texas Tech University student told Baptist Press in an email interview.
 
When Planned Parenthood Lubbock, an affiliate of the country’s largest abortion provider, stopped performing the lethal procedures, Haga recalled, “I spent that Friday afternoon [Nov. 1] emailing everybody that I could think of to share the good news, including the national team” of 40 Days.
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BP photo
Krysten Haga, a student at Texas Tech University, speaks as campaign director at a 40 Days for Life rally in Lubbock, which is no longer home to an abortion clinic.  Photo provided by 40 Days for Life Lubbock.

 
As a result, there is no need for a prayer vigil outside an abortion facility in Lubbock when 40 Days launches its next campaign March 5.
 
During the campaign, tens of thousands of volunteers will gather outside abortion clinics in 251 cities spread across 11 countries, hoping for an outcome similar to the one the 40 Days team in Lubbock witnessed. The campaign, which concludes April 13, will be held not only throughout the United States but in cities in Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, England, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Spain and Wales.
 
The around-the-clock prayer vigils outside abortion facilities that are at the heart of the semi-annual campaigns have provided a significant boost to the pro-life movement since the effort went national in 2007. In the ensuing six years, 40 Days – which also consists of community outreach, prayer and fasting to end abortion – has reported the following.
  • More than 8,200 unborn children have been spared from abortion.
  • 44 abortion facilities have closed, and 88 clinic workers have left their jobs.
  • About 600,000 people representing some 16,500 churches have participated in 522 cities across all 50 states and 20 other countries.
Haga, 24, became one of those participants four years ago when, in spite of her age, “knew it was time to stop stalling and jump head first towards something I knew God was calling me to.” She served as the 40 Days director for the final four campaigns outside Lubbock’s Planned Parenthood facility.
 
The “biggest motivation” for her pro-life work is her mother, Haga said.
 
“She found herself in a crisis pregnancy at the age of 16 and chose life after visiting Planned Parenthood and considering abortion,” Haga told BP. “She had me the beginning of her senior year in high school. Every time I find myself out on the sidewalks counseling, I see my mom in those scared and lonely girls. I thank God that someone was there to show her Christ’s love and know that I was given the opportunity to do the same.”
 
On its website, the 40 Days national staff encourages participants during each campaign to pray not only for women considering abortion and the unborn children whose lives are threatened but, among other requests, for post-abortion women and men, and abortion center workers.
 
Haga and the other participants in 40 Days have always been from a diversity of religious, ethnic and age groups, but “noticeable growth” came in three areas in the fall 2013 campaign, said 40 Days National Director David Bereit. These areas, he said, were “youth and young adults, Protestant and evangelical Christians, and minorities – most notably a dramatic increase in Hispanic participation.”
 
A Roman Catholic, Haga is part of the largest religious group of 40 Days participants. Catholics make up an estimated 65 to 70 percent of volunteers, while Baptists constitute the second largest religious affiliation and continue to increase, Bereit said.
 
The most recent 40 Days international campaign was marked by continued growth demonstrated in new locations and greater numbers of participants at repeat locations, Bereit told BP in an email interview.
 
The fall 2013 campaign appeared to reflect “a growing sense of hope and optimism as record numbers of abortion centers are closing, as more workers are converting and going public and as more local and state pro-life laws are enacted,” Bereit said.
 
“In addition to the reports of lives saved, more abortion workers experiencing changes of heart, record numbers of abortion centers closing, I was most encouraged by the reports and photos of children participating in this 40 Days for Life campaign who were saved from abortion during previous 40 Days for Life campaigns – some of them are now several years old.”
 
Along with the hopeful signs, the foremost discouragement reported to the national 40 Days staff, Bereit wrote, was volunteers asking: “Where is the rest of the church of Jesus Christ?”
 
There remains “enormous opportunity for greater Christian participation in pro-life efforts,” he said.
 
The locations for the next 40 Days campaign may be accessed at http://www.40daysforlife.com/location.html.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.)
3/3/2014 11:58:37 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New abortion stats spark divergent analyses

February 6 2014 by Baptist Press staff

WASHINGTON – The latest reported decline in abortions in the U.S. cannot be appreciated without giving credit to legislative and educational efforts of pro-life organizations, National Right to Life president Carol Tobias said.
 
Tobias was responding to a report released Monday (Feb. 3) by the Guttmacher Institute showing the U.S. abortion rate in 2011 is the lowest it has been since 1973. The institute, a former research arm of Planned Parenthood, said the statistics reflect a drop in abortions prior to a wave of pro-life advances in state legislation.
 
Tobias, however, rejected the Guttmacher Institute’s reasoning.
 
“The legislative efforts of the right-to-life movement, and significantly, the resulting national debate and educational campaigns surrounding pro-life legislation should not be minimized when discussing the decline in abortion numbers,” Tobias said in a news release.
 
“The more Americans learn about the development of the unborn child and the tragedy of abortion, the more they reject abortion as a legitimate answer to an unexpected pregnancy.”
 
Abortions declined to 16.9 per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 and the lowest since 1973, when procedures numbered 16.3 per 1,000 women in that age group. The Guttmacher report, titled “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States 2011,” largely parallels estimates in the National Right to Life Committee’s abortion report issued in January, which was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and previous Guttmacher findings.
 
Tobias said the continued decline in abortion rates and numbers is “heartening because it shows that women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy.”
 
The Guttmacher report “shows the long-term efforts of the right-to-life movement to educate the country about the humanity of the unborn child and to enact laws that help children and their mothers are having a tremendous impact,” Tobias said.
 
The Guttmacher made note of a 13 percent decrease in abortion during the study period, which pre-dated a surge in state anti-abortion laws and the closing of clinics offering abortion.
 
“While the study did not specifically investigate reasons for the decline, the authors note that the study period (2008-2011) predates the major surge in state-level abortion restrictions that started during the 2011 legislative session, and that many provisions did not go into effect until late 2011 or even later,” according to the Guttmacher study. “The…total number of abortion providers declined by only 4 percent between 2008 and 2011, and the number of clinics (which provide the large majority of abortion services) declined by just one percent.”
 
Abortion rates dropped in all four U.S. regions and in all but six states during the study period, the report said. Declines were steepest in the Midwest at 17 percent and the West, 15 percent, the study found, and less steep in the South at 12 percent and the Northeast, 9 percent. States showing an increase in abortion rates had rates below the national average at the start of the study period, Guttmacher found.
 
The National Right to Life Committee said the Guttmacher statistics were presented in a way to downplay pro-life legislation during the period covered by the report.
 
“This ignores the significant educational impact of the public policy debate surrounding pro-life legislation. Pro-life legislative efforts at the federal and state levels dating back to the 1980s have established legal protections for unborn children and their mothers,” according to an NRLC press release. “They have also increased public awareness about the impact of abortion by prompting discussion of such topics as the development of the unborn child, the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, and the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure.”
 
Despite the declining numbers, abortions still number 21.2 per 100 pregnancies ending in live birth or abortion, Guttmacher found. These numbers support the need for continued pro-life lobbying and education, Tobias said.
 
“While overall fewer unborn children are being killed by abortion, the Guttmacher report tragically finds that more than one in five pregnancies ends in abortion and takes the life of a living unborn child,” Tobias said. “The right-to-life movement must continue its efforts to protect these children and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and our society must do a better job in providing life-affirming alternatives.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor.)
2/6/2014 12:01:45 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Abortion: Ultrasounds face off with webcams

February 5 2014 by Edward Lee Pitts, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press

DALLAS – Carolyn Cline calls it “our God machine.”
 
The director of the Downtown Dallas Pregnancy Center is referring to the group’s latest ultrasound machine. Cline saw a father come in with his 17-year-old pregnant daughter recently, believing abortion to be the best option. But after seeing the ultrasound and hearing the unborn baby’s heartbeat, tears ran down the man’s cheeks.
 
“There’s my grandchild,” he said. Then he turned to his daughter and said, “We are going to do this together.”
 
Few things have done more for the pro-life movement than the ultrasound. 3-D and 4-D images now allow glimpses of babies inside the womb that are so clear they can compel a future grandfather to cry.
 
“It brings truth and reality into the room,” Cline said. “I’m so excited that science has caught up with the Bible.”
 
Places like the Pregnancy Crisis Center of Wichita, Kan., which sees 140 clients each month, now have high-definition big-screen televisions mounted on the wall facing exam tables. At the 10-day Nebraska state fair, Nebraska Right to Life sets up a big-screen TV that displays 4-D videos of babies in the womb throughout the day.
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Ultrasounds are not alone in providing a boost to the pro-life cause. Medical advances, such as neonatal and in-utero surgery, are giving pro-life lawmakers new legislative avenues to pursue. States are passing bills outlawing abortions at 20 weeks because medical science has proven that babies at that stage can feel pain. In 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, options for treating a sick baby in-utero were limited, but doctors today can perform life-saving surgery.
 
“OBGYNs always knew and were told that the unborn child was the second patient,” said Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “But on the other hand you have very powerful pro-abortion forces saying that there is no reason why we shouldn’t terminate the pregnancy.”
 
Because of these two positions, Harrison said, there are sometimes cases where doctors are trying to save a 23-week pregnancy in one room while abortionists are taking the life of a 23-week-old unborn baby in another room.
 
A hot topic in the abortion fight is the issue of ultrasound viewing requirements. In Wisconsin last year, lawmakers approved a law requiring hospital admitting privileges and ultrasound viewing 24 hours prior to the abortion. A judge has temporarily blocked its enforcement.
 
In North Carolina, a federal judge has thrown out the state’s Woman’s Right to Know Act (H.B. 854), which requires abortionists to display an ultrasound image of a woman’s pre-born child to her prior to an abortion and also to offer the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
 
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written response, stated, “Giving women the information they need before such a weighty moral and medical decision is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line. This law places the best interests of women and their preborn children first.
 
“Abortionists, of all people, should not be given a pass from the common-sense standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does,” Aden said. “We expect the appeals court will reverse this decision and uphold this important law.”
 
A total of 19 states have considered ultrasound requirements. Abortion advocates, meanwhile, argue that an ultrasound before an abortion is unnecessary and call ultrasound viewing laws “medical rape.” During an international conference in 2007, ultrasounds were tabbed as one of the main obstacles to the growth of abortion because, as Harrison put it, “it turns the mind of the mother to the human state of the unborn baby.”
 
Abortion advocates are actively engaging technology, particularly in Planned Parenthood pilot programs to supervise medical abortions remotely to counteract abortion clinic closures. At satellite facilities, a woman sees an abortionist by webcam. After they talk, the abortionist presses a button at his location that releases a locked drawer holding abortion drugs at the woman’s location. He then instructs her to take the first abortion pill while he watches on screen.
 
Pro-life groups want to quell this tactic before it takes off by requiring that the abortionist be present for all procedures. Legislators from at least 11 states addressed chemical and webcam abortions last year after numerous reports of dangerous abortions in hotel rooms involving webcams and the drug RU 486. Seven states enacted laws requiring a physician to personally administer the drug, and in Missouri, to have a follow-up appointment soon after.
 
For West Virginia resident Chelsea Svenson, seeing her baby on the ultrasound helped establish a relationship with her child. “There is an emotional disconnect when it is so little initially because you can’t really feel your baby,” Svenson said. “Then you’re listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and it is so loud and fast, and you think that it is amazing that something so tiny can have a soul. It is pretty indescribable.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Edward Lee Pitts is the Washington bureau chief for WORLD Magazine. Used by permission from WORLD News Service. Baptist Press staff also contributed to this report.)
2/5/2014 1:11:10 PM by Edward Lee Pitts, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



House vote on abortion ban slips

January 31 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funding of abortion but with a smaller majority than three years ago.
 
In a Jan. 28 roll call, the House voted 227-188 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 7, which would install a prohibition on both funds and subsidies for abortion. The vote for passage in 2011, however, was 251-175.
 
The bill would standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many that have to be approved annually, and certify they extend to all agencies. The measure also would halt funds for abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the 2010 health care law. In addition, it would make certain that Americans can easily identify before the ban takes effect whether plans in the health care exchanges include abortion coverage and surcharges.
 
The legislation likely will go no further in this session of Congress. The Senate, with Democrats in the majority, undoubtedly would defeat the ban if it comes up for a vote.
 
Were the bill to gain Senate passage, President Obama would almost certainly veto it. The White House issued a statement of policy on the eve of the House vote, saying the administration “strongly opposes” the proposal. Obama’s senior advisers would recommend a veto if the legislation were to arrive at his desk, according to the statement.
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The U.S. House of Representatives

 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore applauded the vote, saying, “Good for the House of Representatives for doing the right thing. Let’s pray for the Senate to have a conscience about the unborn and their families.”
 
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) strongly supports the ban, Moore said in a Jan. 27 letter to House leaders and all Southern Baptists in the chamber.
 
“Human lives in their earliest stages, Scripture teaches us, hold an intrinsic value equal to that of any other life – adolescent, adult, or aged,” said Moore, the ERLC’s president. “We therefore believe every unborn life is worthy of protection. Millions of other Americans, informed by their faith or simply by science, share this view as well. For the government to compel Americans to fund the destruction of the smallest and most vulnerable among us, in violation of those firmly held beliefs, is unconscionable.”
 
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the administration’s veto threat “demonstrates yet again that President Obama is engaging in establishing massive federal subsidies for abortion on demand, notwithstanding his evasions and denials.”
 
Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, criticized the House. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, charged House Republicans with “rolling back basic freedoms for women across this country.”
 
The smaller majority for the ban on abortion funding resulted from a drop in both Republican and Democratic support. This time, 221 Republicans voted for the bill, while all 235 GOP members supported it in 2011. Only six Democrats backed the measure in this roll call, a decrease from 16 last time.
 
The six Democrats who voted for the bill were Reps. Henry Cueller of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
 
The Hyde Amendment, first enacted in 1976, is the best known prohibition on abortion funding, but others have been implemented in various federal programs. The Hyde Amendment applies to Medicaid and other funding through the annual Labor and Health and Human Services spending bill. A Judiciary Committee report with the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act estimated the Hyde Amendment has saved more than a million babies because 25 percent of women who would have chosen abortion did not do so for a lack of government funds.
 
In debate before the vote, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., chief sponsor of the ban, said the Affordable Care Act “massively violates” the Hyde Amendment by providing federal funds in the form of tax credits for insurance plans that include election abortion.
 
He also told the House that the health care act “requires premium payers to be assessed a separate abortion surcharge every month to pay for abortions. We have learned that consumers may never know they are paying the surcharge, despite assurances to the contrary when the ACA was passed.”
 
Enactment of his bill “will help save lives,” Smith told the House.
 
The House-passed legislation includes exceptions for abortions in cases of a danger to the mother’s life and pregnancy by rape or incest.
 
Sen. Rogers Wicker, R.-Miss., is sponsoring a companion bill in his chamber, but it has only 25 cosponsors.
 

In other abortion-related news:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 13 it would not review a lower-court ruling striking down Arizona’s ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy – which is 18 weeks post-fertilization – based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point. The high court’s refusal means the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is in effect in that circuit.
  • The Ohio Department of Health has ordered a license revocation for a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic operated by Martin Haskell, a doctor who helped popularize the partial-birth abortion method. The clinic, Women’s Med in Sharonville, has appealed the order, which would prevent abortion procedures at the center, to a county court. In the 1990s, Haskell became identified with the gruesome procedure that came to be known as partial-birth abortion after he described it in a 1992 paper he presented at a seminar sponsored by the National Abortion Federation. The procedure, which has since been banned in federal law, typically consisted of the delivery of an intact baby feet-first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierced the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserted a catheter into the opening and suctioned out the brain. The collapse of the skull provided for easier removal of the baby’s head. The method typically was used during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
  • In North Carolina, a federal judge has thrown out the state’s Woman’s Right to Know Act (H.B. 854), which requires abortionists to display an ultrasound image of a woman’s pre-born child to her prior to an abortion and also to offer the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat so that the woman has full and complete information before surgery.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written response, stated, “Giving women the information they need before such a weighty moral and medical decision is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line. This law places the best interests of women and their preborn children first. Abortionists, of all people, should not be given a pass from the common-sense standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does. We expect the appeals court will reverse this decision and uphold this important law.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/31/2014 10:03:14 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. judge: ultrasounds not required

January 29 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

On Jan. 19, churches and pro-life organizations celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Also, the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade was remembered Jan. 22 by thousands of pro-life supporters rallying during the annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
 
These “life” events come on the heels of a state injunction that will affect pregnancy centers and pro-life nonprofits in the state of North Carolina.
 
Friday, Jan. 17, Catherine Eagles, U.S. District Court Judge, found that the ultrasound requirement of the 2011 law – “Woman’s Right to Know Act” (WRTK) – violates First Amendment rights. WRTK requires abortion providers to display and describe ultrasound images to all women seeking abortion in the state.
 
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Eagles issued a permanent injunction against WRTK that was first approved by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 over the veto of Governor Beverly Perdue. The WRTK bill overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly with the N.C. House vote, 72-47, and the Senate vote, 29-19.
 
“This ruling by Judge Eagles is egregious on several levels,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. “The fact that she would turn the First Amendment on its head in this fashion is beyond the pale. The ruling actually stifles free speech.
 
“To rule against the ultrasound requirement – that only by a woman’s consent the doctor avail her of an opportunity to see and learn about her fetus – is a suppression of free speech. This is a suppression of a woman’s right to know all the information that helps her make an intelligent decision about the procedure.”
 
Eagles’ decision does not strike down the full WRTK law. Her injunction targets the “speak-and-display” provision. This provision requires an abortion provider to conduct an ultrasound at least four hours – and no more than 72 hours – before an abortion.
 
Also, the law requires the provider to display the ultrasound images to the woman and to describe the image in detail, including the size and age of the unborn child.
 
WRTK was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
 
“The Act requires providers to deliver the state’s message to women who take steps not to hear it and to women who will be harmed by receiving it with no legitimate purpose,” wrote Eagles in her 42-page opinion and order issued January 17.
 
Eagles said, “Thus, it is overbroad, and it does not directly advance the state’s interests in reducing psychological harm to women or in increasing informed and voluntary consent.”
 
Republicans and social conservatives who supported WRTK said the law is designed to give women adequate and balanced information about the methods of abortion and who provides it.
 
Creech said, “The irony of the court’s decision is that it cites free speech. But who speaks for the unborn child? It cannot speak.
 
“Without the ultrasound provision, it has no voice.”
 
There is no word yet if the state will appeal the Eagles’ decision.
1/29/2014 12:54:48 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Pro-life movement ‘alive and well,’ leaders say

January 24 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The survival and growth of the pro-life movement are remarkable, some of its leaders said as the United States reached the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion nationwide.
 
Right-to-life advocates applauded their movement’s continuing response to Roe v. Wade, the Jan. 22, 1973 decision that struck down all state bans on abortion.
 
“Forty-one years ago, if you had asked someone, ‘What will the pro-life movement look like in the year 2014?,’ they probably would have replied back, ‘Are you kidding? There won’t be a pro-life movement in 2014,’” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a statement for Baptist Press.
 
“And yet, today I watched thousands of people march down the streets of our nation’s capital to protest laws that dehumanize and destroy living human persons,” said Moore, who participated in Wednesday’s March for Life, which is the centerpiece of pro-life activity each Jan. 22 in Washington.
 
Tens of thousands of pro-lifers participated in the annual event despite snow on the ground, a temperature of 15 degrees and a wind chill of minus 1 when they began the procession to Capitol Hill.
 
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Russell D. Moore, ERLC president, posted on Instagram this picture of the crowd gathered Wednesday (Jan. 22) at the March for Life rally in Washington.

Rick Santorum, formerly a Republican presidential candidate and U.S. senator, told participants at another event Jan. 22, “No one would have predicted that 40 years after Roe versus Wade that teenagers and 20 year olds would be more pro-life than the generation that gave us Roe versus Wade.
 
“The bottom line is: Truth is on our side; science is on our side; young people are on our side,” he said at ProLifeCon, a conference for pro-lifers who blog and use social media. “This movement’s winning.”
 
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., the leading pro-lifer in Congress, said at the rally on the national mall that preceded the March for Life, “he pro-life movement is alive and well and making serious, significant and sustained progress.
 
“Rather than dull our consciences to the unmitigated violence of abortion, the passage of time has only enabled us to see and, frankly, better understand the innate cruelty of abortion and its horrific legacy – victims – while making us more determined than ever to protect the weakest and the most vulnerable,” he said, according to a draft of his speech.
 
The 41st anniversary of Roe followed new reports released by both pro-life and pro-choice organizations that documented the grim toll of legalized abortion, as well as inroads by its opponents:
  • An estimated 56 million unborn babies, or more, have died by abortion since Roe.
  • The annual total of abortions has fallen from 1.6 million in 1990 to between 1.1 and 1.2 million in recent years.
  • States have enacted 205 laws restricting abortion during the last three years, including 70 in 2013, according to a Jan. 2 report by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of the abortion rights movement.
State restrictions “have helped immensely” in reducing the number of abortions, said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), in a Jan. 21 news conference.
 
“The right-to-life movement is succeeding because even after 41 years and more than 56 million abortions, the conscience of our nation knows that killing unborn children is wrong,” she told reporters.
 
Pro-life advocates need to maintain and change, pro-life leaders said.
 
“As churches, we must continue to call for justice for the unborn while pointing burdened consciences to the forgiving mercy of God through the blood of Christ,” Moore said.
 
Santorum told the ProLifeCon audience at Family Research Council’s headquarters in Washington, “we are a movement that I think has learned lessons, and we continue to learn lessons about how to ... put our foot forward.
 
“We just need to keep loving, keep working and do so with a smile on our face,” he said.
 
Also at ProLifeCon, Joe Carter, the ERLC’s director of communications, urged pro-lifers – especially those operating online – to stop considering themselves “activists” and accept the role of persuading others “to recognize the intrinsic dignity of all humans.”
 
“In order to be more persuasive we need to change the perception of our movement,” Carter said. “Instead of being viewed as pro-life activists, we need to be viewed as normal people who simply want to champion the cause of human dignity.”
 
Neither the March for Life nor Twitter – despite their ability to rally pro-lifers – are means of persuasion that will produce a pro-life America, he said. Yet, social media can be helpful to the pro-life cause, Carter told the ProLifeCon audience. A photo of a baby on Facebook is the “most powerful and persuasive pro-life tool,” and posting, “liking” or sharing such a photo can produce change, he said.
 
“If we want to be more persuasive for the pro-life cause, we need to find more ways like this to change the context,” Carter said. “We don’t need to do this by showing pictures of bloody fetuses to trigger a gag reflex. We need to do this by evoking our neighbor’s natural love and protective instinct for children.”
 
Pro-life advocates should be more creative and innovative in using tools such as Facebook and Twitter, he said.
 
“We need fresh thinking about what methods work, and a ruthless weeding out of methods that don’t,” Carter said. “Too often we’ve simply been late, sloppy adapters of tools that were already created.
 
“For far too long we’ve judged ourselves on the nobility of our cause rather than on the effectiveness of our efforts. But it’s because our cause is so noble – and so urgent – that we have to do better.”
 
In a report it released Jan. 21, NRLC included the following in chronicling the successes of states in enacting pro-life laws:
  • 29 states have enacted effective parental involvement laws.
  • 27 states have passed measures requiring informed consent for women considering abortion.
  • 24 states have approved bans on coverage of abortion in insurance plans.
  • 23 states have enacted provisions requiring clinics at least to offer an abortion-minded woman the opportunity to see an ultrasound of her baby.
Americans United for Life (AUL) released Jan. 14 its annual state rankings in protecting unborn babies and their mothers.
 
AUL’s 10 most protective states were: (1) Louisiana; (2) Oklahoma; (3) Arkansas; (4) Arizona; (5) Pennsylvania; (6) Texas; (7) Kansas; (8) Indiana; (9) Nebraska; (10) Missouri.
 
The organization ranked Washington as the least protective state for the fifth consecutive year. The next nine least protective states were: (2) California; (3) Vermont; (4) New York; (5) Connecticut; (6) New Jersey; (7) Oregon; (8) Hawaii; (9) Maryland; (10) Nevada.
 
On the federal level, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia announced at the March for Life that the House of Representatives would vote the following week, Jan. 27-31, on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, H.R. 7. The House is expected to approve the government-wide ban on federal funds for abortion, but President Obama and the Senate’s Democratic leadership oppose it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.)
1/24/2014 12:23:17 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Urban life receives first pro-life pregnancy center

January 20 2014 by Daniel James Devine, World News Service

Jackie Moffitt calls herself a “scaredy-cat.” The Georgia-born, white-skinned, dark-haired executive director of the Women’s Center of Northwest Indiana never planned to work in Gary, Ind., a city infamous for crime and murder. “I would run my tires bald to not get off at Grant, Burr, or Broadway,” she says of the three interstate exits for Gary.
 
Yet here she stands, checking in on the remodeling progress of her organization’s new Gary branch, housed on the bottom of a multistory brick building recently converted into apartments. With a historical hammered tin ceiling and suspended venting, the new pregnancy resource center sits in the heart of downtown, catercornered to the Gary Fire Department.
 
“This is the first pro-life organization to come into Gary. You’re standing in it,” says Moffitt, 53.
 
Gary is known not just as the hometown of late pop star Michael Jackson but as an impoverished and dysfunctional city. For five miles on Broadway, the main artery from downtown, half the shops are boarded up or empty, with broken windows and permanently locked gates. The mayor claims the true jobless rate is between 30 and 40 percent.
 
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Arial shot of Gary, Ind.

In the ’90s, Gary earned the title “Murder Capital of the United States” for its homicide rate. Crime has fallen since then, but the city still recorded 55 violent deaths last year. More deaths occur at the Friendship Family Planning Clinic of Indiana, an abortion facility long in town. A Gary Planned Parenthood does abortion referrals. As in other cities, these facilities target African-American girls and women, whose abortions disproportionately account for a third of the U.S. total.
 
For the past several years, members of the pro-life movement have focused on planting pregnancy centers in urban settings to counter the work of abortionists. They have found the work arduous to launch and difficult to sustain. The effort in Gary has been no exception so far, but Moffitt and her co-laborers are staunchly determined to help preserve this city’s future.
 
Some Gary women, unexpectedly pregnant and unsure what to do, currently travel as far as 12 miles to an outside Women’s Center branch. There they get a free ultrasound and advice from pro-life counselors who hope they’ll keep the baby or place it for adoption. The long drive is a likely deterrent for women who don’t have their own cars.
 
Moffitt was aware of the need. But when a pastor in a neighboring city challenged her to plant a pregnancy center in Gary, the task seemed daunting. She told a co-worker, “It’s too much, it’s too big. We’re white.” (Eighty-five percent of Gary residents are black.) A Gary woman who pled for Moffitt to come to the city helped change her mind.
 
Hurdles followed. Several initially proposed locations fell through. When Moffitt and her board of directors found a location in a historical building, their remodel plans required rounds of approval from city, state and federal officials. Gary officials grilled them about the center’s purpose. It took nine months and multiple visits to city hall before they got the first building permit, issued in October.
 
Despite the delays, other elements fell providentially into place: Someone sold the Women’s Center the necessary construction lumber for a penny, and the leasing company offered to cover a $19,000 plumbing bill. A Gary resident, LaDonna Bazziel, heard about the planned branch on a Christian radio station and called Moffitt to help: She’ll be the facility’s new manager once it opens, as early as January. “I had been praying for a long time for something like this for our city,” says Bazziel, who is African-American and grew up in a single-parent home, like many of her potential clients.
 
James Lewis dealt with young girls getting pregnant during his more than 30 years as a pastor at a Gary church. “And of course they’re not going to tell the pastor they’re going to get an abortion.” Sometimes they would quietly drop out of church. Trapped in a cycle of poverty and lack of education, such women have difficulty moving beyond the daily pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter. With support and guidance, Lewis says, “many go on to marry and live productive lives. But it’s a struggle.”
 
One example of the struggle: La’Brittnie McCafferty, 25, is due to give birth to her fourth child in March. She holds on her lap a 1-year-old son named Syncere, who has a crystal earring and beautiful teardrop eyes. The next baby will be her last, she says: “I’m getting my tubes tied!” McCafferty lives alone with her children and will have to use day care in order to get a job. She says her boyfriend is in jail for traffic violations, and the father of her 3-year-old was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 2012. “All those drugs out there are making them lose their minds,” she says of the violence.
 
Moffitt hopes to offer clients more than just pregnancy counseling: They need parenting and life skills coaching, and most of all they need the gospel. But much is uncertain in Gary, including long-term funding, as it is in other urban settings. The pro-life umbrella organization Care Net, after launching an initiative in 2003 to plant pregnancy centers in urban areas, is currently rethinking its approach in part because of the difficulty of obtaining local financial support.
 
“In Gary, it’s a real step of faith, because they can’t support this,” admits Moffitt. But she adds, “Every day we’re not open, someone’s dying.” Although the effort to plant in Gary has been frustrating at times, “I know [God] wants us here because I would have quit. … But I can’t quit. If we quit, who’s going to do it?”
1/20/2014 10:59:41 AM by Daniel James Devine, World News Service | with 0 comments



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