CULTURE DIGEST: Judge prevents Mississippi from shutting down last abortion clinic

NASHVILLE (BP) -- A federal judge has blocked closure of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. Judge Dan Jordan issued a preliminary injunction April 15 preventing the state from revoking the license of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

The state government was prepared to shut down the clinic for its failure to comply with a 2012 law that requires abortion doctors to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology and to have hospital admitting privileges. Jordan's injunction enables the clinic to remain open while its federal lawsuit against the state goes forward.

The clinic acknowledged its doctors have been unable to obtain admitting privileges. Its doctors are from outside Mississippi, and hospitals often don't provide such privileges to out-of-state physicians, according to the Associated Press.

DELAWARE PLANNED PARENTHOOD UNSAFE, NURSES SAY

Another abortion clinic in the Philadelphia area is guilty of hazardous and unhealthy practices, according to allegations by former employees.

Two nurses quit their jobs at Planned Parenthood of Delaware because of conditions at the Wilmington, Del., clinic, according to WPVI-TV, Philadelphia's ABC affiliate.

The April 10 report came as the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell continued in Philadelphia. Gosnell faces seven counts of first-degree murder for killing viable, born-alive babies outside the womb and a count of third-degree murder in the death of a mother. Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, which was closed in 2010, has been described as a "house of horrors" for its filthy conditions.

Nurses Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich and Joyce Vasikonis, who made the allegations against the Planned Parenthood clinic in exclusive interviews with WPVI, said they were shocked at what the news report described as "a meat-market style of assembly-line abortions." They quit because they fear their medical licenses would be threatened.

"It was just unsafe. I couldn't tell you how ridiculously unsafe it was," Mitchell-Werbrich said.

The clinic was using unsterile instruments and failed to clean operating tables between patients, they said. The tables had "bloody drainage" on them, Mitchell-Werbrich said.

"Planned Parenthood needs to close its doors, it needs to be cleaned up, the staff needs to be trained," Mitchell-Werbrich told WPVI.

The clinic has temporarily halted in-clinic, surgical abortions but will continue to provide abortion pills, the Wilmington News Journal reported April 12. Staff changes and the need to train new employees prompted the center's suspension of in-clinic abortions, said a Planned Parenthood official, according to the newspaper.

In an April 10 statement, Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, new chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, said the staff and she had begun reviewing the clinic's services. She "determined that we need to take immediate steps to assure our patients of our high-quality care," Lytle-Barnaby said.

WPVI reported five clinic patients have allegedly been taken to the emergency room since early January. A doctor and two other nurses also have left the center, according to the television station.

Delaware does not perform routine inspections of abortion clinics, according to WPVI. The state only investigates in response to patient complaints.

VIRGINIA BOARD OKs STRICTER BUILDING STANDARDS FOR ABORTION CLINICS

The Virginia Board of Health gave final approval April 12 to new regulations that require abortion clinics to comply with hospital-like building standards.

The board voted 11-2 for the rules, which cover such regulations as the size of rooms and hallways. The rules implement health and safety standards called for by a 2011 law, which was the first in the country to mandate such regulations for clinics performing first-trimester abortions.

Virginia's 20 licensed abortion clinics have less than two years to meet the requirements, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Upon the law's enactment in 2011, abortion rights advocates alleged the guidelines might result in the closing of all but four of the clinics.

Pro-life leaders applauded the Board of Health's action.

"These reasonable regulations will begin to rein in reckless abortionists in Virginia," said Olivia Gans Tuner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, according to The Times-Dispatch.

Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a written statement, "Virginia should be congratulated for holding abortionists to the same health and safety standards as everyone else. Their resistance to such standards exposes their real attitude toward women...."

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli certified the regulations after the vote. Gov. Bob McDonnell, who signed the bill into law, still must do a final review of the rules.

PRO-LIFE PIONEER BARBARA WILLKE PASSES AWAY

Pro-life pioneer Barbara Willke died April 14.

Willke, 90, who passed away after a head injury from a fall, partnered with her husband, Jack, to help lead early pro-life efforts. In 1971, they founded Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, one of the first chapters of its kind, though the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion was nearly two years away, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. She was chair of the Cincinnati chapter until 1999.

In 1971, the Willkes coauthored Handbook on Abortion, which became a vital resource for the pro-life movement. The Willkes coauthored 12 books about abortion or human sexuality, The Enquirer reported.

Jack Willke was president of the National Right to Life Committee for 10 years and serves now as president of Life Issues Institute.

The Willkes would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary later this year.

FRENCH SENATE APPROVES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

France's senate has approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, overcoming protests from conservative opponents.

The Scotsman reported that the upper house of the French parliament, which is controlled by President Francois Hollande's Socialist party, passed the bill April 13. The bill's opponents, mostly conservatives and Roman Catholics, were unable to halt its progress.

Justice Minister Christine Taubira said the reform will protect children living with same-sex parents and "move our institutions towards ever more freedom, equality and personal respect," according to the Scotsman.

Hollande promised to push legislation legalizing same-sex marriage during his presidential campaign, the Scotsman reported, and a slight majority of the French people support legalization, although support drops when questions are asked about adoption. The bill would allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

Demonstrations for and against gay marriage have drawn scores of people into the streets, the Scotsman reported. A January protest against legalization drew 340,000 people to the Eiffel Tower, while a rally supporting the bill drew 125,000 two weeks later.

According to the Scotsman, the bill is expected to become law after a May vote in the Socialist-controlled National Assembly, although some conservative opponents are not giving in.

"The parliamentary process continues so we will keep talking with the French people who seem to change their position," UMP party senator Jean-Pierre Raffarin told the Scotsman. "So nothing is definitive and the debate continues."

EVANGELICALS GIVE MORE TO CHARITY, BARNA FINDS

Evangelical Christians tend to give more to charity than their peers, according to a new study by the Barna Group.

The study finds that 79 percent of evangelical Christians gave money to a church or charity last year, while 65 percent have donated items and 60 percent volunteered their time. Only 1 percent of evangelicals say they donated nothing at all, which beats the national rate (13 percent) and the rate among those who claim no faith at all (25 percent).

"A person's religious identification has a lot to do with whether or not they donate to causes they believe in," the study said.

The study concluded that Americans support churches and non-profits about equally. Of those who gave in the last 12 months, 43 percent say most of their contributions went to a church, while 45 percent indicated a non-profit.

Evangelicals are least likely to give to a non-profit (28 percent), while about two-thirds of evangelicals (66 percent) who made charitable contributions gave to a church. Conversely, the study reported, 82 percent of atheist and agnostic donors gave to a non-profit, while only 4 percent gave to a church.

Evangelicals are also most likely to give relatively large amounts, while atheists and agnostics are more likely to give relatively small amounts.

The study found that the more financially secure donors felt, the more they were likely to give.

"For most Americans, giving is a luxury or a nice thing to do, but not typically viewed as a necessity," the study said. "While the economy and donor outlook continue to show signs of improvement, it would be a tragedy if donors did not reevaluate the overall basis of their giving—that it's not just an extra thing to do or for the tax benefits, but rediscovering the truest meaning of generosity."


Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston, and Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for 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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