CULTURE DIGEST: Ten Commandments may be allowed in Ga. schools
House lawmakers voted 161-0 Feb. 28 to expand a 2006 state law that already permits the Ten Commandments to be posted in judicial buildings and courthouses when accompanied by other historical documents, the Associated Press reported.
The measure has seen little opposition and has a strong chance at passing the Senate, AP reported.
But Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said expanding the law to include schools will draw closer legal scrutiny.
Lawmakers in Georgia have said their motivation for displaying the Ten Commandments is not religious. "If you look at the law of the United States," said Rep. Tommy Benton, a Republican who sponsored the bill, "we have a lot of laws that are based on the Christian and Jewish Ten Commandments so I felt that was a very appropriate item to be put in there."
Current Georgia law permits displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses only when accompanied by eight other same-sized texts that have been instrumental in American law, AP said.
Those texts include the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the national anthem, the national motto and the Bill of Rights.
MOVIE FILTERING SOFTWARE GIVES PARENTS CONTROL -- A mother wanted her young son to watch the movie "Transformers" because she believed it was an inspiring film about good versus evil, but the violence and sexuality it contained made it off limits.
So the mother, Traci Dysart in Washington state, developed her own software that gives parents complete control over the content in DVD movies their children watch.
The software, "enJoy Movies Your Way," allows parents to watch and evaluate each scene, assigning a category and an intensity level on a scale of one to five.
"Parents don't have to rely on what someone else says is appropriate for their family," Dysart said. "They can decide for themselves."
The filters can be tailored to different members of the household and even can be used for adults who want to watch movies without inappropriate content.
To download the software at $22 per computer, visit enjoymoviesyourway.com.
TEXAS DEFIES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION -- Texas continues to defy the Obama administration by excluding abortion providers from its Medicaid Women's Health Program.
Tom Suehs, head of the state's Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), signed a rule Feb. 23 enforcing a legislative ban that will prevent Planned Parenthood affiliates from participating in the program, The Texas Tribune reported. The law prohibits the commission from contracting with organizations that "perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions."
The Obama administration, however, has warned Texas that its ban violates federal law. If neither the federal nor state government relents, the $40 million program -- which receives 90 percent of its funding from the U.S. government -- apparently will shut down, according to The Tribune.
"Under federal law, states administer Medicaid and have the right to set the criteria for providers in the program. That is what Texas is doing," said Stephanie Goodman, an HHSC spokeswoman. "We have a state law that our attorney general says is constitutional, and it clearly bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women's Health Program. We can't violate a perfectly valid state law just to appease Washington."
Planned Parenthood, which is reportedly the only organization affected, criticized the state ban. Peter Durkins, president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said, "It is shameful that Governor Perry and Commissioner Suehs continue to politicize lifesaving breast cancer screenings and birth control access for low-income women."
Planned Parenthood, however, does not perform mammograms and cannot provide treatment for breast cancer, according to the Texas Alliance for Life. There are more than 1,000 health care providers certified for the program that are not affiliated with abortion clinics, the alliance said.
When the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused in December to grant full approval to the health program, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a written release, "We are committed to protecting life in Texas, and state law prohibits giving state dollars to abortion providers and affiliates -- a fact the Obama Administration ignores. I strongly urge the administration to do the right thing and grant this waiver, so Texas women can access critical preventative health services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, rather than making them pay the price for its pro-abortion agenda."
Affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, making PPFA America's leading abortion provider. PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
75 BABIES SAVED IN FIRST WEEK OF 40 DAYS FOR LIFE -- The 40 Days for Life staff received reports of 75 unborn children saved in the first seven days of its latest campaign, it reported Feb. 27.
The campaign -- which focuses on peaceful pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- began Feb. 22 and will conclude April 1. The latest 40-day campaign is the largest in 40 Days for Life's history, with initiatives in 258 U.S. cities, plus sites in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and Spain.
In two instances of unborn babies being saved, 40 Days reported:
-- A wife who entered the Planned Parenthood clinic in Memphis, Tenn., decided not to have an abortion when her husband called her after he received encouragement from a 40 Days volunteer. The volunteer talked to the man, who had their 18-month-old child with him, in the parking lot. "When he said he didn't want the abortion, we said he needed to protect his baby right now," said Libby, the volunteer, according to 40 Days. "He called his wife, and [a] few minutes later she came out and told us she was not going to seek an abortion."
-- A pro-life pregnancy help center director helped a woman in a late-term pregnancy choose life outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Silver Spring, Md. The woman, who is from Central America, had been abandoned by the baby's father, she told the director. "She was very happy after the director counseled her and explained that she would have support and better choices," said Molly, the volunteer, according to 40 Days. "Planned Parenthood would have referred her to a late-term abortionist in the area."
The semi-annual, 40 Days campaigns consist of 40 days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, as well as community outreach and prayer vigils outside clinics. The effort, which began in Texas in 2004 and went national in 2007, has received reports of more than 5,000 unborn lives saved from abortion as a result of its campaigns. More than 500,000 people have participated in 40 Days campaigns.
BRITISH DOCTORS PERFORMING SEX-SELECTION ABORTIONS -- Some British doctors apparently are performing illegal sex-selection abortions, an undercover investigation has revealed.
Using hidden cameras, undercover reporters with The Daily Telegraph filmed physicians who indicated their willingness to abort unborn children based on their sex and to provide false information on written forms to hide the reason for the abortions. The reporters went with pregnant women to nine clinics in various sections of England and recorded three doctors who were willing to do abortions based on the sex of the child, according to a Feb. 22 report by The Telegraph.
Prabha Sivaraman, an obstetrician/gynecologist, told a mother who said she wanted an abortion because the baby was a girl: "I don't ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination."
A clinic suspended Sivaraman, and a hospital suspended another doctor who was filmed agreeing to perform a sex-selection abortion, the Daily Mail reported.
Andrew Lansley, the Health secretary, told The Telegraph, "I'm extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong. I've asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency."
Sex-selection abortion is a major problem in such Asian countries as China and India. There is evidence it also is being practiced among some communities in the United States.
JUDGE REJECTS LAW EXCLUDING PRO-LIFE PROTECTIONS IN RESEARCH -- A Missouri judge has struck down a state law that permitted funding for destructive embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.
Daniel Green, a judge in the Cole Country Circuit Court, ruled Feb. 21 that the Missouri Science Innovation and Reinvestment Act is unconstitutional because it required the passage of a companion bill, which failed to happen, LifeNews.com reported.
Pro-life advocates and others brought suit against the measure. Pam Fichter, president of Missouri Right to Life, told LifeNews the fund created by the law "had no pro-life protective language on it to prevent funds from being used for abortion services, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research."
VA. SENATE SHELVES PERSONHOOD BILL -- The Virginia Senate refused Feb. 23 to move forward with a bill that would have established "personhood" as beginning at conception.
Senators voted 24-14 to return the legislation to a Senate committee, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The action thereby tabled the bill -- apparently for the remainder of this year's session.
The House of Delegates approved the bill Feb. 14 with a 66-32 vote.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).