CULTURE DIGEST: Miss Universe opens pageant to 'transgender' participants
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- The Miss Universe Organization, run by Donald Trump and NBC Universal, has announced a policy change that will allow transgendered women to participate in its pageants beginning this fall.
"At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today's decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country," Herndon Graddick of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said April 10.
GLAAD pushed for the change, which stemmed from a case in Canada where Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old transgendered woman, won a regional competition but was disqualified for the national title because she was not a naturally born woman.
Talackova claims she knew she was a girl at age 4, began hormone therapy at age 14 and underwent "sexual reassignment surgery" at age 19.
The Miss Universe Organization produces the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.
ACTRESS DECRIES 'REDUCTION OF PERSONHOOD' -- Actress Ashley Judd condemned the cultural norm that allowed a barrage of media attacks against her appearance recently, set off by a "puffy face" in an interview about her new television series "Missing."
Legitimate news outlets, tabloids and social media speculated that Judd must have had cosmetic surgery and that at age 43 she "has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for," leading her to write an opinion piece for The Daily Beast April 9.
The conversation about women's bodies, she wrote, happens everywhere in American culture, publicly and privately.
"We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted," Judd wrote.
She chose to address what otherwise would be dismissed as gossip because the conversation "embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle."
"This abnormal obsession with women's faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times -- I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly," Judd wrote, defining patriarchy as privileging the interests of men over the dignity of women. "We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women."
PARENTS FIND THEIR BABY ALIVE IN HOSPITAL MORGUE -- The emotions of an Argentinian husband and wife recently went from grief to joy when they found their supposedly stillborn daughter alive in a coffin in a hospital morgue.
Fabian Veron and Analia Bouter went to see their baby's corpse in the morgue after she was born April 3, three months prior to the due date, in Chaco, which is in northern Argentina, USA Today reported. Bouter wanted to see her baby's body because she was sedated during her birth. Hospital staff had issued a death certificate, saying the girl had died of unknown causes.
The couple was taken to a small coffin in the refrigerated morgue, where their daughter's body had been for 12 hours.
"We looked for a bar to [pry] it open," Veron told reporters, according to USA Today. "The casket was nailed shut. I started to [pry], took a deep breath and took the top off. My wife was the first one to look at the body and she uncovered it slowly."
Bouter heard a whimper and saw indications her daughter was alive. Veron started uncovering her face, "and it was like she was just getting up, waking up," he said.
The parents named their fifth child Luz Milagros, which means "miracle's light."
ABORTION CLINIC TO LOSE LICENSE AFTER INVESTIGATION -- An Alabama abortion clinic will lose its license to operate after a state agency found it failed to provide safe and effective treatment to women.
New Woman All Women Health Care in Birmingham must surrender its license by May 18, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced April 6. The department had scheduled a license revocation hearing for April 19, but the clinic reached a settlement with the department that requires it to give up its license.
The department's action came after a month-long investigation found multiple rules violations. Among its findings, the department said the clinic failed to ensure:
-- Two abortion doctors were qualified to perform such procedures;
-- Staff was trained to provide adequate patient care;
-- Documentation of drugs administered was complete and accurate.
The investigation followed a January complaint regarding the transfer of two women from the clinic to a hospital after drug overdoses, according to the pro-life activist organization Operation Rescue.
"This is such great news on this Good Friday and goes to show what men and women of faith can accomplish when they work together toward a common goal," Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said in a written statement. "This victory represents a major defeat for the abortion cartel. We know lives of women and their babies will be saved because of this."
COMMITTEE CHAIR BLOCKS PRO-LIFE BILLS IN MISS. -- A pro-life measure survived but two others apparently died April 3 at the hands of a committee chairman in the Mississippi legislature.
The Senate Public Health Committee approved a proposal that would require abortion doctors to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology and to have hospital admitting privileges.
Sen. Hob Bryan, Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, decided not to bring up two other bills for a vote by his panel. Those bills would ban "telemed" abortions by mandating a doctor be in the same room with a woman to whom he dispenses the abortion drug RU 486 and prohibit abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Bryan blocked votes on the bills because he believed they would face legal challenges, according to the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American. Advocates of the measures hope to insert them into other bills for possible passage.
April 3 was the final day for a committee to act on legislation approved in the other house, the American reported.
The House of Representatives had approved all three bills.
"We are very disappointed after seven years of no pro-life bills passing the House. The House leadership was flipped this year and we anticipated the passage of five pro-life bills," said Mississippian Terri Herring, national director of the Pro-life American Network, according to the American. "The House passed five bills and now we're looking at the Senate and saying, 'Will the Senate now become the chamber of death for pro-life bills?'"
WISCONSIN ENACTS PRO-LIFE BILLS -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law two pro-life measures April 5.
The two bills signed by Walker, a Republican, will:
-- Prohibit "telemedicine," or Webcam, abortions by requiring doctors to perform physical exams and be in the same room with women before giving them the abortion drug RU 486. The bill also calls for a physician to consult with a woman at least 24 hours before providing the drug to make certain she is not being coerced into the procedure.
-- Bar any Wisconsin exchange plan under the 2010 federal health care reform law from covering abortion. Under the bill, a plan could provide abortion coverage only in cases of rape, incest and the health or life of the mother, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin Right to Life "extends its heartfelt thanks to the [legislature and governor] for bringing these vital measures to fruition," said Susan Armacost, the organization's legislative director.
Typically, "telemed" abortions involve a doctor counseling by means of videoconferencing a woman seeking an abortion in another city. After he reviews sonogram images and visits with the woman, the physician can dispense RU 486, which involves a two-step process, to her by pressing a computer button, thereby opening a drawer from which the woman in the remote clinic may remove the pills.
WYO. PAYS PENALTY FOR BARRING PRO-LIFE DISPLAY -- The state of Wyoming must pay $30,000 in attorney's fees after rejecting a request to exhibit a pro-life display in the state capitol building.
Federal judge Nancy Freudenthal approved April 5 a settlement in which the state is to pay WyWatch Family Action the amount in attorney's fees, plus $1 in nominal damages. The state agreed it violated WyWatch's First Amendment rights by rejecting its request while approving similar petitions by other organizations, LifeSiteNews reported.
The Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union even filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of WyWatch.
"While the ACLU doesn't agree with WyWatch's anti-choice message, we firmly support their right to say it," said ACLU lawyer Jennifer Horvath, according to LifeSiteNews.
"The best antidote to speech we disagree with is more speech."
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).