CULTURE DIGEST: Atlanta archdiocese calls for end to Komen support
ATLANTA (BP) -- Atlanta's Roman Catholic Archdiocese has called on its parishes, missions and schools to halt their support of the world's leading breast cancer organization because of its advocacy for the country's leading abortion provider.
In an Oct. 1 memo, the archdiocese said it no longer supports Susan G. Komen for the Cure and told its organizations to do likewise.
Contributions to Komen's greater Atlanta affiliate "did not constitute a direct cooperation with evil" until recently, because the money did not go to Planned Parenthood, according to the archdiocese's statement. That changed, however, when news reports and Facebook postings by Komen Atlanta showed it "worked behind the scenes" early this year to urge its national office to restore funding to Planned Parenthood, the archdiocese said.
"[T]his public declaration of support for Planned Parenthood is an occasion for scandal," according to the archdiocese, which said it found the Komen affiliate's action "disappointing, discouraging, and we do not see how continued support is possible at this time."
Komen Atlanta has never given to Planned Parenthood Southeast, it told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Komen's national office decided to stop grants to affiliates of Planned Parenthood late last year. Komen received intense criticism when the move was reported Jan. 31, and it reversed course Feb. 3. It was during this time period that Komen Atlanta advocated for the national office to resume grants to the abortion giant, according to the archdiocese.
Planned Parenthood clinics performed 329,445 abortions in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That was more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures in the United States for the year.
Komen is funding at least 17 Planned Parenthood affiliates this year, according to The Washington Post.
The archdiocese represents about one million Catholics in northern Georgia, according to The Journal-Constitution.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD EXPERIENCSE LOSSES, GAINS -- Planned Parenthood, the No. 1 abortion provider in the United States, continues to make news -- sometimes in an unflattering sense. Here are some recent developments regarding the abortion rights organization:
-- The Oklahoma Department of Health has terminated its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) contract with Planned Parenthood centers in the state, according to the Tulsa World. Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, expressed concern it was a "political attack." The state, however, said the decision not to renew was based "on the needs of the Health Department, the contractor's performance and funding availability," the World reported Oct. 4.
-- Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio settled out of court a lawsuit brought by a young woman on whom it performed an abortion and whose sexual abuse by her father it failed to report to authorities, according to a Sept. 21 announcement. After he raped her over a three-year period, Denise Fairbanks' father took her to Planned Parenthood for a forced abortion when she was 16, according to Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF), which provided support for the victim. She told clinic staff about the abuse, but they did not report the abuse as required by state law. Fairbanks returned to the abuse for another 18 months before it was reported by her basketball coach. "This is just one of multiple cases that have demonstrated Planned Parenthood's willingness to cover for sex offenders," LLDF Executive Director Dana Cody said.
-- The New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Sept. 19 to renew Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's drug license though its clinics apparently have broken state law by dispensing drugs -- including ones that can cause abortions -- despite having no licensed pharmacists, according to LifeNews.com. "No matter where a person stands on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else," said Michael Tierney of Alliance Defending Freedom. Last year, New Hampshire barred Planned Parenthood's six state clinics from receiving $1.8 million in federal and state family planning funds, but the Obama administration granted a $1 million contract to the organization three months later.
-- Planned Parenthood is extending its outreach in Africa and Latin America, it was announced Sept. 25 at the Clinton Global Initiative's yearly meeting, Voice of America reported. The program, known as Youth Peer Provider, will equip young people to provide their peers with contraceptive counseling and access. The program will have six new partners in Africa and three in Latin America.
MORMONS LOWER AGE FOR MISSIONS SERVICE -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has lowered the age of full-time missionary service to age 18 for U.S. Mormon men (down from 19) and 19 for women (down from 21), a move The Salt Lake Tribune called surprising and historic.
The change, which is effective immediately, could dramatically increase the number of Mormon missionaries, the newspaper said, noting the number now stands at more than 58,000 worldwide.
"It will also bring sweeping changes to an array of areas -- from university sports recruiting to college admissions, family finances to dating and marriage patterns, missionary preparation and training to career planning," The Tribune said Oct. 8. "It also might help the LDS Church hold on to its young people, a number of whom leave the faith once they hit college."
One parent told the newspaper he wonders about the maturity of an 18-year-old who hasn't gone to college or been away from home. When starting missions at age 19, men typically attend college for a year before leaving.
"There is a big difference between 18 and 19 years old," David Stewart, an LDS physician who charts church growth, told The Tribune. "Eighteen-year-olds haven't been independent, haven't learned to get along with roommates, and haven't yet functioned in society."
The church already has allowed young men in 48 countries to start their two-year missions at age 18, the newspaper said, and those experiences proved positive and helped spur the policy change.
ATHEISM LETTER BY EINSTEIN FOR SALE ON EBAY -- Ebay is auctioning a handwritten letter in which Albert Einstein presents an atheistic view of God, but experts say you'll likely need much more than the starting bid to snag the piece.
Einstein wrote the letter in German as private correspondence to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind after reading Gutkind's book "Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt." For auction is the original letter and envelope, mailed from Princeton, N.J., on Jan. 3, 1954.
Auction Cause agency president Eric Gazin told Reuters news service the letter is historically and culturally significant, and worth a lot of money.
Einstein's "letter could fetch as much as triple the opening bid threshold," said Gazin, whose agency is handling the eBay sale. "As related to God and Judaism, this is so significant."
In the letter, Einstein rejects that Jews are God's chosen people and scoffs at the idea of God.
"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish," Einstein wrote, according to a translation on eBay.com.
"No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can [for me] change this. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.... I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."
Einstein wrote the letter a year before his death and reportedly no record of his repentance is noted in history. The 1921 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics was raised a secular Jew and attended a Catholic primary school.
In 2008, the letter sold for $404,000, about 20 times its opening bid, and has since been stored in a temperature-controlled vault, news outlets reported. The letter's authenticity is not questioned.
Bidding is open through Oct. 18, according to eBay.
COURT APPROVES OHIO RULES ON RU 486 -- A federal appeals court has upheld Ohio's restrictions on the use of the abortion drug RU 486.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Cincinnati, ruled Oct. 2 a 2004 Ohio law regulating RU 486 is not "unconstitutionally vague," is not a violation of a "woman's right to bodily integrity" and does not act as an "undue burden" on a woman's right to abortion. The three-judge panel affirmed a federal judge's decision.
The law requires abortion providers to use the two-step abortion drug only in the manner approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Some providers have instructed women to use RU 486 vaginally, though the FDA approved the drug only for use orally. At least 14 women have died in the United States after taking RU 486, and critics have blamed its "off-label" use in at least some of those cases.
The Sixth Circuit panel rejected an appeal by Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio. Its majority was 2-1 on the "undue burden" question but unanimous on the vagueness and "bodily integrity" issues. Regarding "undue burden," the panel said the U.S. Supreme Court "has not articulated any rule that would suggest that the right to choose abortion encompasses the right to choose a particular abortion method."
"Planned Parenthood should not be experimenting with women's lives by using abortion drugs in a way not approved by the FDA.... Once again, Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that it is more concerned with its bottom line than with the health and safety of women," said Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
A federal judge has yet to rule on the law's refusal to provide exceptions for the life and health of the mother. The remainder of the law has been in effect since February 2011.
CHINESE INCREASINGLY USING IVF, SURROGACY IN U.S. -- Chinese couples increasingly are coming to the United States to produce babies via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogate motherhood.
When those babies are born, they return to China as U.S. citizens.
California-based surrogacy agencies especially have experienced increases in Chinese clients during the last two years, according to the Global Times. For instance, 70 percent of West Coast Surrogacy's clients are Chinese. About a third of those using Surrogate Alternatives in San Diego are from China.
The news provides another reason the "time is overdue to regulate" the IVF industry in the United States, said bioethics specialist Wesley Smith.
"Let's call it biological colonialism in reverse," Smith said in an Oct. 4 blog post.
"IVF clinics are getting rich peddling commercialized and consumerist procreation," he said. "Some are now happily participating in a scheme to make new American citizens by using surrogacy to establish anchor babies."
"Anchor babies" is a term used by some to describe children born in this country to undocumented mothers and thereby supposedly providing an "anchor" for their parents.
40 DAYS FOR LIFE REPORTS 135 LIVES SAVED SO FAR -- The latest 40 Days for Life campaign received reports during its first 13 days of 135 babies not being aborted by their abortion-minded mothers.
The 40-day effort -- which focuses on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- began Sept. 26 at locations in 49 states, the District of Columbia and seven Canadian provinces, as well as Australia, England, Spain and Uganda.
In Buffalo, N.Y., a 40 Days volunteer reported a young woman began talking with three vigil participants after leaving an abortion clinic. Eventually, she said, "I don't want to have the abortion." She "had come to the realization from seeing [a] sonogram that it was truly a baby growing in her womb and NOT just a 'fetus' as noted to her by clinic staff," the volunteer said.
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).