LIFE DIGEST: 'Baby Scan Jesus' ad set despite criticism; ... Carhart to spread late-term abortions
WASHINGTON (BP)--An advertising campaign designed to help people focus on Christ at Christmas will portray an ultrasound scan of the Son of God in His mother's womb on British billboards in December despite criticism that it promotes an anti-abortion message.
The advertisement shows a sonogram image of an unborn child with a halo around his head. The message at the top of the ad says, "He's on His way," while the text at the bottom reads, "Christmas starts with Christ."
Promoters of "Baby Scan Jesus," as they have named the ad, hope it will reach 40 million people from more than 2,000 billboard and poster sites Dec. 6-20 in England, according to the Guardian, a British newspaper.
A critic called the ad incredibly naïve. "The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs," said Terry Sanderson, director of the National Secular Society, the Guardian reported in June in one of its stories about the ad.
Trustees for ChurchAds.net, the ecumenical charity behind the campaign, said the ad "is not, in any way, designed to either support or campaign against abortion." The poster "announces the imminent birth of the Christ child in the way that many modern-day parents choose to announce the coming birth of their own child," they said in a written statement.
A British pro-life leader, however, saw the ad as a "wonderful help in changing people's minds in the abortion issue."
"This is not a cluster of cells but a human person and it just happens to be the God man Jesus.... That is a very, very powerful statement that will strike a chord with the general population," said John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, according to the Guardian.
Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, commended the ad: "The picture of a scan is one of the most defining moments of a pregnancy these days -- it's full of promise and anticipation. I'm delighted to see this year's Christmas advert and pray it will encourage many people to sit up and take note of the Christmas message."
'LIFE PRIZES' WINNERS NAMED -- Five individuals and an organization were named Nov. 15 to receive "Life Prizes" for pro-life achievements. The recipients, who will share the $600,000 in prize money, are:
-- Jeanne Head, United Nations representative for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
-- Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America.
-- Douglas Johnson, NRLC's legislative director.
-- Alveda King, director of African American outreach for Priests for Life and founder of King for America.
-- Marie Smith, director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, an outreach of Gospel of Life Ministries.
-- The Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, which helps support people who are disabled or have life-threatening conditions.
The Gerard Health Foundation, which gave its first "Life Prizes" in 2008, presents the awards for important advances regarding the sanctity of human life. The prizes will be given at a Jan. 22 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
LATE-TERM ABORTION MOVE -- LeRoy Carhart plans to take his late-term abortion business to other states after a new Nebraska law banning the procedure at 20 weeks of pregnancy took effect.
Carhart of Bellevue, Neb., told the Omaha World-Herald he plans to begin providing late-term abortions at new clinics in the Washington, D.C., area and Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also plans to expand an abortion facility in Indianapolis.
Carhart told The Washington Post, "The laws are more favorable in these other jurisdictions, and we're going to do the maximum the law allows."
The new Nebraska law -- the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act that took effect Oct. 15 -- establishes a new standard in abortion bans. Rather than setting the benchmark at fetal viability, which can be 22 to 24 weeks, Nebraska's law utilizes evidence that an unborn child experiences pain at 20 weeks for its guideline.
Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said Carhart's move to other states demonstrates the effectiveness of the new law. "It's interesting to us that Carhart needed to expand to three other states to apply his late-term abortion trend," she said, according to the World-Herald.
ASSISTED SUICIDE GAINS IN VT. -- Assisted-suicide advocates hope Vermont will become the next state to legalize the controversial practice after Democrat Peter Shumlin was elected governor in the Nov. 2 election.
Vermont voters not only elected an assisted-suicide supporter to the governorship but gave advocates for the practice control of the legislature, said Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee.
The Oregon Death With Dignity Political Action Fund applauded Shumlin's election and said it would work for enactment of a law legalizing assisted suicide in 2011. The organization said, "A new Death with Dignity law in Vermont will establish the foothold for a larger movement throughout New England and the east coast."
Assisted suicide is legal in three states: Montana; Oregon and Washington.
TRACKING PLANNED PARENTHOOD -- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's leading provider of abortions, continues to be in the news -- often in a negative light. According to recent reports:
-- Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest agreed to pay $345,000 to the state of Washington in a settlement regarding claims the organization had billed to Medicaid, The Seattle Times reported Oct. 29. An audit had estimated improper Medicaid payments of $629,143 were made to the affiliate from 2004-07.
-- Planned Parenthood's office in Lawrence, Kan., has shut down, The Wichita Eagle reported Nov. 13. A sign in the window said the office closed because of a lack of requests for its services. Only three abortion clinics, all in the Kansas City area, remain open in the state, according to Kansans for Life.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.