CULTURE DIGEST: States shatter record for abortion restrictions; ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- State restrictions on abortion reached a yearly record of 92 in 2011, according to a Jan. 5 release from the Guttmacher Institute.
The total far surpassed the previous high of 34, which was achieved in 2005.
Michael New, an expert on abortion-related state laws, gave several reasons -- in addition to Republican electoral gains in 2010 -- for the huge increase in such laws.
Regarding long-term trends, New said, "[S]ince the mid-1990s, the Republican party has become a more uniformly pro-life party, so when Republicans possess unified control of government, they face fewer internal obstacles to the passage of pro-life laws. Also, many recent Republican political victories have occurred in Southern and Midwestern states where Democrats have historically controlled the state legislatures, and newly elected Republican majorities have succeeded in passing pro-life laws in a number of these states, including Alabama and Michigan."
New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, also cited these "circumstantial factors":
-- "Eight states responded to ... Obamacare by banning abortion coverage in new insurance exchanges.
-- "Technological developments prompted five states to ban the use of telemedicine for the provision of abortion medication." Telemedicine, or webcam, abortions occur when doctors at remote sites counsel by means of videoconferencing women seeking abortions and dispense the two-drug abortion method RU 486 to them without being in their physical presence.
-- "[T]he Live Action Films video series, coupled with fiscal shortfalls, ... resulted in nine states cutting funding to Planned Parenthood."
Undercover videos released by Live Action in early 2011 showed Planned Parenthood employees demonstrating a willingness to assist self-confessed sex traffickers whose prostitutes were purported to be in their early teens.
The Guttmacher Institute formerly was affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. While the organization continues to support abortion rights, its statistics often are cited by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates.
BARNA EXPLORES WHAT PEOPLE EXPERIENCE IN CHURCH -- David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said his researchers found that many churchgoers connect with God and others at church, but that's not the whole story.
"Millions of active participants find their church experiences to be lacking," Kinnaman said in a study released Jan. 9. "Entering the New Year, consider spending time thinking and praying how your faith community can identify, plan and measure a deeper, more holistic set of experiences and outcomes so that people are not mere observers of ministry but genuine participants."
Among Barna's findings:
-- 66 percent of churchgoers surveyed said they have had "a real and personal connection" with God while attending church.
-- 61 percent of churchgoers said they could not remember a significant or important new insight or understanding related to faith from their most recent church visit.
-- 68 percent said when they attend church they feel "part of a group of people who are united in their beliefs and who take care of each other in practical ways."
-- Older adults generally report the most favorable experiences at churches while those 18 to 27 are significantly less likely to describe positive outcomes while attending churches.
For more information, visit barna.org.
NUCLEAR FAMILY IMPROVES BOYS' BEHAVIOR -- An analysis of 20 years of school suspension rates nationwide shows that the greatest influence on boys' behavior at school is not the type of school they attend or teacher they have but the type of home in which they're being raised.
Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that boys being raised in intact homes with both parents had the least behavioral problems and school suspensions, while those being raised by single mothers had the most. However, this was not found to be the case among girls.
Glenn T. Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said intact families are the best for children of either gender.
"This supports over three decades of consistent research showing that kids who grow up in a home with their married parents tend to do better in all measures of educational attainment than their peers being raised in single, divorced and cohabiting-parent homes," he said. "This is true from everything from grade-point average, behavioral issues, high school graduation and going on to graduate from college. Moms and dads both matter here, as well as the type of relationship between them."
DIVORCE RATE UP SINCE IRAQ WAR -- A study released Jan. 2 by the nonprofit group Family Life shows that since the Iraq War began 10 years ago, the divorce rate among military service members has shot up by 42 percent.
Dennis Rainey, Family Life founder and president, said in a statement that the first 90 days of a deployment are the most crucial because that's when couples develop new habits that set the tone of their marriages.
But Corie Weathers, a licensed professional counselor who is the wife of an Army chaplain stationed in Georgia and the mother of two, said the first 90 days after a soldier comes home are just as crucial.
"The younger soldiers don't have coping skills to deal with what they saw in battle, so they come home and get into video games, pornography and social media," she said. "Women develop this mentality that says, 'I don't want to relinquish control, even though I really want you to take it from me.'"
Reintegration -- which can take up to a full year -- is a key time to take advantage of a chaplain-led military marriage retreat.
"You've got to get to know each other again, so the first 90 days are when we try to throw in a retreat, to learn new coping and communication skills," Weathers said. "It's like hitting the reset button."
EGG DONORS KEPT IN DARK ON RESEARCH -- Many American fertility clinics do not disclose to women who donate eggs that embryos from those eggs may be used in destructive research.
A new survey of 100 clinics found only 20 of the 66 that said they perform research on leftover embryos informed donors about such research, even on consent forms, Reuters News Service reported. In addition, only three of the 38 clinics that use embryos specifically in stem-cell research informed donors their embryos might be a part of the lethal experimentation.
The extraction of stem cells from embryos results in the destruction of the tiny human beings.
Eggs are taken from women either for their own fertility treatment or to help others become pregnant. Though women may be paid well for egg donations, the procedure can cause a variety of health problems for donors.
Donors should be informed by clinics if the embryos from their eggs may be used in research, the study's authors said, according to the Reuters report on Dec. 29.
Bioethics specialist Wesley Smith agreed.
"This is a profound violation of trust," Smith wrote on his blog. "Women risk their health and future fertility -- and in very rare cases, lose their lives -- to allow others to bear their children. They have a right to know if some of the embryos made from their eggs, which after all, are their biological progeny, could instead be destroyed for an instrumental purpose, an issue that could be material ... in the decision of some to become donors. ... [T]oo often egg donors (or sellers) are seen by IVF clinics as mere means to an end."
The study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
KILLER OF GIRLFRIEND, UNBORN BABY GIVEN 25 YEARS -- A New York City man who killed his girlfriend and their unborn son on the due date was sentenced Jan. 4 to imprisonment for 25 years to life.
Derrick Redd, 38, stabbed Niasha DeLain, 25, repeatedly Oct. 25, 2008, the day their son Aidan was to be born. Queens prosecutor Eugene Reibstein described it as "a crime of almost unimaginable viciousness," according to the New York Daily News.
DeLain's mother, Towanda Wimms, is seeking passage by the New York legislature of a bill to treat the killing of an unborn child during an attack on his mother as murder.
PRIESTS FOR LIFE OFFERS APPROACH TO CLOSING CLINICS -- Priests for Life -- a nationwide, pro-life organization -- has announced a four-part strategy for 2012 that it hopes will result in the closing of many abortion clinics and the imprisonment of many abortion doctors.
Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a Jan. 9 written statement the approach is:
-- "[U]ncover the ways abortionists break the law and get them punished for it;
-- "[R]eveal the nature of the abortion procedure itself;
-- "[S]how the harm abortion does to the very people the abortion industry claims to serve;
-- "[P]ray more intensely than ever for abortion to end."
"As I have said since I began my work with Priests for Life in 1993, our job is to exploit the weaknesses of the abortion industry, which is collapsing under its own weight," Pavone said. "The evil it does cannot withstand the light of human conscience."
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode, assistant editor Erin Roach and World News Service.