CULTURE DIGEST: In video, Obama pledges to keep fighting for Planned Parenthood
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- President Obama recently reaffirmed his abortion rights advocacy by providing a video message filmed in the White House to supporters of the country's leading provider of the lethal procedure.
In a message that appeared on Planned Parenthood Action Fund's YouTube page, Obama promised to work throughout his presidency to protect government funding for the organization.
He also said, "[O]ver the past year, you've had to stand up to politicians who wanted to deny millions of women the care they rely on and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a woman and her doctor."
The action fund is the advocacy and political arm for Planned Parenthood.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted last year to eliminate federal funds for Planned Parenthood, but the Senate defeated the proposal.
Planned Parenthood affiliates reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10.
A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee is conducting an investigation into Planned Parenthood's policies and practices. Undercover investigations by pro-life organizations in recent years have shown Planned Parenthood employees demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly were in their early teens, seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African American babies.
700 BABIES SAVED IN '40 DAYS FOR LIFE' -- More than 700 unborn children were saved from abortion in the 40 Days for Life campaign that concluded April 1.
As of April 3, 40 Days leaders had received reports of 718 babies rescued in the latest effort. The reported number of babies saved likely will increase as more reports come in. The effort, which began in Texas in 2004 and went national in 2007, has received reports of more than 5,700 unborn lives saved as a result of its campaigns.
The 40-day effort -- which focuses on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- was the largest spring campaign in 40 Days for Life's history, with initiatives in 258 cities in the United States, plus sites in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and Spain.
Shawn Carney, 40 Days campaign director, reported the following developments in the last week of the campaign:
-- Three more abortion clinic workers left their jobs, bringing this spring's total to eight and the overall total since 2007 to 69.
-- A 40 Days volunteer in Charlotte, N.C., reported five more babies saved for a total of 46 during the spring campaign.
-- A 40 Days volunteer at an unnamed location shared the following testimony: "I had my first abortion at age 14 and hardly knew what it meant -- then another through the following years, still not understanding that it was true lives being terminated. When a friend talked me out of a fourth at age 23, it was the best thing my friend could have done. My one and only son is now 18 and graduating high school. It was the best decision I ever made."
-- A participant in Pensacola, Fla., said five more children were saved at the city's last abortion clinic.
The semi-annual 40 Days campaigns consist of 40 days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, as well as community outreach and the prayer vigils outside clinics.
LOTTERY IS 'SUICIDAL CRAZE,' PASTOR SAYS -- As the frenzy ensued over the record-breaking $656 million Mega Millions drawing in late March, a pastor warned would-be winners not to tithe their lottery money at his church.
"Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. Pray that Christ's people will be so satisfied in him that they will be freed from the greed that makes us crave to get rich," John Piper, preaching pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, wrote at desiringgod.org March 30.
Lottery agents in New York reportedly were selling 1.3 Mega Millions tickets per hour the day before the drawing of the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. On average, more than $500 per American household is spent on lottery tickets each year.
Piper gave seven reasons why people should not play the lottery and should ask their political representatives not to support it. Among them, "It is a kind of embezzlement."
"Managers don't gamble with their Master's money," Piper wrote. "All you have belongs to God. All of it. Faithful trustees may not gamble with a trust fund. They have no right. The parable of the talents says Jesus will take account of how we handled his money."
Playing the lottery is a fool's errand, Piper said, noting the odds of winning were nearly 176 million-to-one. "The smaller amounts paid out more often are like a fog to keep you from seeing what is happening," he wrote.
Also, the lottery system is built on the necessity of most people losing. The lottery is just another form of gambling without the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas -- the "house" controls the action and the players all will eventually lose, Piper wrote.
JUDGE STRIKES DOWN ULTRASOUND LAW -- An Oklahoma judge nullified a state law that requires an abortion provider to make available to a mother an ultrasound of her unborn child before she undergoes the procedure.
The 2010 law, which has been blocked from enforcement during the legal process, also mandates an abortion provider describe the sonogram image to the woman considering abortion, according to the Tulsa World.
Oklahoma County District Judge Bryan Dixon issued a summary judgment in declaring the law unconstitutional March 28. It is likely the state will appeal the ruling.
Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said the law's foes want the public to believe abortion is like all other procedures. "But ultrasound -- the window to the mother's womb -- puts a bright light on that lie," she told National Right to Life News. "It is a light they desperately want turned off."
GA. LEGISLATURE BANS PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTIONS -- Both houses of the Georgia legislature have approved a ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
The Georgia Senate and House of Representatives both passed the legislation March 30, and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign it into law.
Georgia will become the sixth state to enact a ban on pain-capable abortions, but its version falls short of what pro-life organizations sought. It was amended to include an exception for a "medically futile" pregnancy, giving a doctor the opportunity to abort a child if he decides a baby may have a condition that would cause his death after birth, according to Georgia Right to Life.
"While this bill will save well over 1,000 babies a year, it still is far short of our goal of protecting all human life," Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, said. "The final outcome was heavily affected by intense pressure from those who resorted to half-truths, misinformation and in some cases outright intimidation.
"The futile pregnancy exception leaves the door open to destroy a whole class of babies a doctor decides may be less than perfect -- that's not who we should be as a society."
In other recent developments in the states:
-- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law March 20 legislation requiring a woman seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours after receiving information on fetal development and abortion alternatives, United Press International reported.
-- The New Hampshire House voted March 29 for a bill that would prohibit pain-capable abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and had previously approved proposals banning partial-birth abortions and establishing a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, according to the Associated Press.
-- The Arizona Senate also passed a ban on pain-capable abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a 20-10 vote March 28.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).