CULTURE DIGEST: Unborn children counted for White House tours
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Unborn children receive security clearances at the White House, but they have no protection elsewhere in the District of Columbia.
The White House Visitors Office sent an email newsletter May 7 to members of Congress and other recipients that outlined the process of registering unborn babies for tours.
"We have received a number of calls regarding how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born," wrote Ellie Schafer, director of the White House Visitors Office.
"Crazy as it may sound, you MUST include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour. It's an easy process."
The email explains the process of entering the unborn child's security information.
"Once the baby is born, you should send an email to the [Visitors Office] inbox with the tour request ID number, the baby's given name, their actual birthday and gender," Schafer wrote.
Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) called it "ironic that President Obama's staff recognizes the existence of unborn babies for purposes of providing security within the White House -- yet, there is no indication that President Obama has any problem with the fact that throughout the District of Columbia, abortion is now legal for any reason up to the moment of birth.
"Notably, the newsletter provides no guidance on what the staff should do if an unborn baby is first registered for security purposes, but then aborted," Johnson wrote.
Pro-life advocates in Congress are backing the District of Columbia Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
"If the President wants to provide for the security of the unborn child immediately outside of the White House gates, as well as inside, he should endorse this bill," wrote Johnson, NRLC's legislative director.
MURAL DEBUNKS 2012 MAYAN DOOMSDAY -- An archaeological find contradicts the myth of a 2012 Mayan doomsday belief, National Geographic News has reported.
A 1,200-year-old mural found in the Xultun archaeological site suggests dates thousands of years in the future, according to archeologists who found the mural in what is believed to have been the chamber of a scribe or record-keeper. Calculations on the walls, which would have helped scribes track time, extend some 7,000 years in the future, contradicting the doomsday myth.
Excavation leader William Saturno and doctoral student assistant Franco Rossi found the room while inspecting a tunnel left at the site by modern-day looters, according to National Geographic News May 10. Despite looting, the interior of the room is said to be nearly perfectly preserved.
"We keep looking for endings," Saturno said. "The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It's an entirely different mindset."
Because looters nearly cleaned Xultun of all antiquities in the 1970s, many archaeologists reportedly had written off the site.
"And yet we've still found things here that we've never seen anyplace else," Saturno said. "And we only started looking three years ago."
EMORY UNIV. ACCUSED OF ACADEMIC BULLYING OVER EVOLUTION -- A renowned neurosurgeon who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and who successfully separated twins who were joined at the head was the target of academic bullying recently at Emory University in Atlanta because he does not believe in evolution.
About 500 Emory faculty and students signed a letter to the editor of the university newspaper April 25 to call attention to commencement speaker Ben Carson's "dismissal of evolution."
"The theory of evolution is as strongly supported as the theory of gravity and the theory that infectious diseases are caused by micro-organisms," the letter said. "Dismissing evolution disregards the importance of science and critical thinking to society."
The Discovery Institute launched a petition drive in response, with more than 2,700 signatures gathered within a week in support of Carson, who serves as professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
"We call upon Emory University to publicly reaffirm that the university community welcomes and honors invited commencement speaker Dr. Ben Carson," the petition said.
David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said in seeking to cast Carson in an embarrassing light, the professors who wrote the letter to the editor "used the familiar tactic of attributing to Dr. Carson beliefs, patently foolish ones, he does not hold."
"This shoddy treatment adds to what's often called a 'chilling effect' on other scholars, less well armored by fame than Dr. Carson is," Klinghoffer wrote May 14. "If even a star like him can be subjected to the indignity of this unwelcoming welcome, then think of what a less well-known figure in academia would experience if he publicly voiced similar views."
'INTENSITY GAP' PROMPTS NARAL DEPARTURE -- The "intensity gap" on abortion in the United States helped convince the president of NARAL Pro-choice America to step aside.
Nancy Keenan, head of one of the country's leading abortion rights organizations for nearly eight years, will leave her post at the end of the year, The Washington Post reported May 10.
In an interview with the newspaper, Keenan, 60, said she is concerned about the pro-choice movement's future and believes younger leaders are needed to offset the rising tide of pro-lifers among Americans under 30 years of age. NARAL's polling has shown 51 percent of pro-life millennials consider abortion a "very important" voting issue, while only 26 percent of abortion rights supporters under 30 think of it in that way, according to The Post.
"There is an intensity gap between our side, being pro-choice, and the other side," Keenan told the newspaper.
Millennials will constitute 40 percent of the voting public by 2020, according to The Post.
"This issue has got to be a voting issue for them," Keenan said. "If we want to continue protecting abortion rights in this country, this is so clearly the case."
She said, "There's an opportunity for a new and younger leader. Roe v. Wade is 40 in January. It's time for a new leader to come in and, basically, be the person for the next 40 years of protecting reproductive choice."
Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek wrote in response to Keenan's announcement, "[T]he fact is the pro-abortion movement is suffering attrition. It has killed off its future supporters.
"Furthermore, it continues to kill off 3,300 more chips off the ole' block every day. So the 'intensity gap' is only going to widen, thanks to the birth gap," said Stanek, whose whistleblowing as a nurse helped bring about passage of a federal law protecting babies who survive abortions.
PEPSICO HALTS RESEARCH USING ABORTED TISSUE -- PepsiCo no longer will permit research for its products using tissue from unborn children.
The soft drink company announced it was halting the use of the aborted fetal cell line HEK-293 -- a human embryonic kidney colony -- by Senomyx in research to develop flavor enhancements for its beverages. A PepsiCo official revealed the decision in a letter to Children of God for Life, which announced the action April 30.
Children of God had led a boycott of the company since last May after it was learned Senomyx, a biotechnology firm, was using the fetal tissue in its research. The fetal cell line was used in testing but not in Pepsi products, according to Children of God.
"Senomyx will not use HEK cells or any other tissues or cell lines derived from human embryos or fetuses for research performed on behalf of PepsiCo," said Paul Boykas, PepsiCo's vice president of global public policy, in a letter to Children of God, according to the pro-life organization.
Children of God Executive Director Debi Vinnedge said her organization was "absolutely thrilled" with PepsiCo's decision. "They have listened to their customers and have made both a wise and profound statement of corporate integrity that deserves the utmost respect, admiration and support of the public."
The boycott, which was endorsed by more than 30 pro-life organizations, immediately ended with the announcement of PepsiCo's decision.
When Senomyx's use of cells from an aborted baby was revealed last year, Campbell Soup Co. quickly ended its relationship with the biotech firm, but PepsiCo refused.
MISS DELAWARE STANDS FOR LIFE DESPITE DISCOURAGEMENT -- Maria Cahill has continued to express her pro-life views as the reigning Miss Delaware despite being told not to by some.
"I heard a lot of people say that because I was Miss Delaware and represented the Miss America Organization, for that reason, I had no right to talk about anything political," Cahill said, according to an April 25 report by Townhall.com. "In my mind, I thought exactly the opposite."
She has spoken out for the pro-life cause since she was crowned last summer, according to Townhall. That included an appearance at the March for Life in January in Washington, D.C., an event she attends yearly.
"I was really debating going as Miss Delaware or not. I did not tell my directors I was going," Cahill said.
Advocating for unborn children is not new for Cahill. "I was always involved growing up. Ever since I can remember, I was volunteering at pro-life events," she said.
KANSAS REPUBLICAN SIDELINES PRO-LIFE PROPOSAL -- The Republican president of the Kansas Senate has put an end this session to an effort to limit abortions by changes in the tax code.
Three days after the House of Representatives passed the bill in an 88-31 vote, Senate President Steve Morris sent the measure to a committee just two days before the close of the legislative session, effectively killing the measure.
Under the proposal, taxpayers would be unable to deduct money spent on an abortion or for supplemental health insurance to cover the procedure, The Kansas City Star reported. The bill also would prevent employers from taking deductions for contributions to health plans for supplemental coverage of abortion and companies from receiving tax credits for donations to Planned Parenthood, according to the report. In addition, the measure would ban state employees, including medical residents, from performing abortions on state property.
Morris was concerned the legislation might affect the accreditation of the University of Kansas Medical Center, according to The Star.
"While I will always fight for pro-life values, we must also protect the accreditation of our flagship medical center," Morris said, the newspaper reported.
Kansans for Life's Kathy Ostrowski said the medical center's accreditation is not in danger and described Morris' explanation as "a phony excuse." The language in the proposal regarding the medical center is the same that exists in all of this year's budget proposals, including proposals supported by Morris, said Kansans for Life's state legislative director.
Compiled by the Baptist Press staff. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).