CULTURE DIGEST: Child becomes human at birth, Canadian medical association says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Canada's leading doctors association has approved a resolution that says an unborn child does not become a human being until it is fully born.

Delegates to the annual General Council meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) voted Aug. 15 to endorse wording in Canada's Criminal Code that says a baby "becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother...."

The resolution was intended to stop a "backdoor" effort in the Canadian Parliament to renew a debate about abortion by revising the code, said the delegate who proposed it, the CMA reported.

Canadian Physicians for Life decried the resolution, declaring "every Canadian doctor knows that the unborn child is a live human being," according to LifeSiteNews.com.

The CMA General Council meeting was held in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

ACADEMIC WITCH HUNT AIMED AT SOCIOLOGIST -- An important component of pro-homosexual propaganda is the notion that children raised by homosexuals turn out as well as children raised by heterosexuals -- but University of Texas at Austin (UT) professor Mark Regnerus undercut that notion with a study published in June in the journal Social Science Research.

Regnerus used one of the largest data sets ever amassed for such a study. He found that children raised by homosexual parents have had more problems than children raised by married heterosexual parents in virtually every one of more than 40 categories examined. When the children grow up, they have problems with impulse control, depression and thoughts of suicide. They are more likely to need mental health therapy and identify as homosexual themselves.

Regnerus concluded, "The empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go."

The study received nationwide media attention and an immediate backlash from pro-homosexual quarters. Activist blogger Scott Rose complained in a June 21 letter to UT President Bill Powers that Regnerus' study made "gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory." He also said the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, which provided $750,000 to fund the study, are "anti-gay political organization[s]."

But Regnerus has defenders in the academic community. Byron Johnson, co-director of Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, decried the "witch hunt" and said, "Typically, when [academics] disagree with research, we do our own." Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith argued in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Whoever said inquisitions and witch hunts were things of the past? A big one is going on now.... In today's political climate, and particularly in the discipline of sociology -- dominated as it is by a progressive orthodoxy -- what Regnerus did is unacceptable. It makes him a heretic, a traitor -- and so he must be thrown under the bus."

Regnerus has a bus ticket -- tenure -- so he cannot readily be thrown under. Bob Woodberry, an untenured Christian professor also in the UT sociology department, did not have that protection, and in July he moved to Singapore for employment.

HIGH STUDENT LOAN DEBT COMMON AMONG SEMINARIANS -- Rising educational costs are becoming a critical problem for an increasing number of seminarians, the Association of Religion Data Archives has reported.

It's not unusual for seminarians to graduate with up to $80,000 in debt, the ARDA reported, based on data from several studies representing a diversity of denominational service. Concurrently, the average starting salary for full-time clergy was $44,140 last year, the U.S. Labor Department estimated.

The debt is affecting graduates' ability to serve and their readiness to start families, research revealed, and seminaries are employing more caution when accepting applicants who already are financially heavy laden.

The ARDA cited studies from the Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but noted no research about Southern Baptists specifically.

Southern Baptist seminarians generally carry less debt than their counterparts in other denominations because the cost is offset by the Cooperative Program.

In tracking three studies conducted in the past 20 years, Auburn researchers noted the disturbing trend. While the average level of debt for borrowers was $14,450 in 1991, that figure was $25,000 just 10 years later, researchers said. Figures from the latest study were still being tabulated, but researchers said numbers already indicate an "alarming" rise in debt levels, the ARDA reported.

The Georgetown study noted that some Catholics are graduating with so much financial debt that they're "too poor to take the vow of poverty."

Researchers cited a two-sided problem "reflecting both the debt acquired to become a minister and the ability to pay it back after graduation," the ARDA reported. Seminaries are addressing the problem by educating students on the perils of student debt, while trying to cut educational costs.

DESIGNER BABIES 'MORAL OBLIGATION,' ETHICIST SAYS -- A leading bioethicist has promoted the creation of designer babies as a "moral obligation" in a popular mainstream magazine, the British edition of Reader's Digest.

Writing for the magazine's September issue, Julian Savulescu said parents should be able to weed out embryos who test positive for personality traits that could prove harmful to "themselves and others."

"Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children," Savulescu wrote, according to an Aug. 16 report in The Telegraph.

Savulescu is an ethics professor at Oxford University and editor in chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith said Savulescu's recommended path has been traveled before.

"Eugenics originated as a 'moral obligation,' moved from there to legal coercion, and ultimately crescendoed into the worst evils of human history," Smith wrote on his blog. "And now many of those same ideas have regained sufficient respectability the Reader's Digest editors think them worthy of respectable presentation. This won't end well."

According to The Telegraph, Savulescu also said, "If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring -- rather than consigning them to the natural lottery -- then we should."

Genetic screening already is performed in some cases, Savulescu pointed out.

"We're routinely screening embryos and [fetuses] for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and [Down] syndrome, and there's little public outcry," he said.

"What's more, few people protested at the decisions in the mid-2000s to allow couples to test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes, and this pushes us a lot [closer] to creating designer humans.

"Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now," Savulescu wrote. "Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance."

KNOXVILLE ABORTION CLINIC CLOSES AFTER 38 YEARS -- A Knoxville, Tenn., abortion clinic closed Aug. 10 because it did not have a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Volunteer Women's Medical Clinic was forced to shut down after a state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges took effect July 1. The clinic was no longer able to provide abortions without an approved physician. The facility could no longer meet its financial obligations because of an inability to see patients, said the center's owner, Deb Walsh, in a message to supporters.

"I'm so angry about this, also sad ...," said Walsh, who had worked at the clinic for more than 30 years. The center had been open for 38 years, she said.

Pro-life advocates welcomed the closure, reducing to eight the number of abortion clinics in Tennessee. "Protective pro-life legislation saves lives," said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.


Compiled by Tom Strode and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press and Warren Cole Smith of World News Service. 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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