CULTURE DIGEST: HPV infections drop 56%; Santorum becomes EchoLight CEO

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Human papillomavirus infections in female teenagers ages 14 to 19 have decreased by 56 percent since 2006 -- the year the HPV vaccine began to be administered,'s Religion Today has reported, citing a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and is blamed for causing cancer (primarily cervical cancer) in 27,000 Americans each year, Religion Today noted.

The CDC study compared infection rates in girls ages 14 to 19 before and after the vaccine became available. The proportion infected with the targeted HPV strains dropped 56 percent, from about 12 percent before the vaccine was sold to 5 percent, Religion Today reported. That result was for all teens after it was on the market, whether or not they were vaccinated.

According to the CDC, two-thirds of girls ages 13 through 17 in the U.S. have not been fully vaccinated against HPV. Only about half of teen girls have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among girls who had gotten the vaccine, the drop in HPV infections was higher -- 88 percent.

However, given that only a third of young females have received the full vaccination protocol, Religion Today noted it would seem that the vaccine is not solely responsible for the falling rate of HPV infections.

Still, media outlets may be creating their own narrative, as one Washington Post article implies: "A vaccine against a cervical cancer virus cut infections in teen girls by half in the first study to measure the shot's impact since it came on the market."

The Washington Post article states that although only a third of girls studied had received the vaccine, the significance of the reduction "could be due to 'herd immunity' -- when a population is protected from an infection because a large or important smaller group is immune," and "that a higher percentage of vaccinated teens said they'd had three or more sex partners...." "which could have driven down infection rates if the teens who got vaccinated were the ones at highest risk of getting an infection and spreading it."

The argument seems plausible, Religion Today observed, but it also seems to jump to the conclusion that the vaccine is solely responsible.

The CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination for both boys and girls ages 11 and 12, as well as for older teens and young adults who have not previously received the vaccine (up to age 21 for males and 26 for females).

RICK SANTORUM BECOMES NEW CEO OF ECHOLIGHT STUDIOS -- Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator and GOP presidential candidate, is now CEO of Dallas-based EchoLight Studios, the first movie company to produce, finance, market and distribute faith-based films across all releasing platforms.

Santorum announced his new venture on the Fox New Channel's "The Huckabee Show" June 22.

"This is the right place and right time, and I've jumped in with both feet," Santorum said, having spent the past year helping EchoLight develop and grow. "I often say that culture is upstream from politics, and I know entertainment also can be strength and light for people who want to be uplifted and reinforced in their values."

EchoLight's first release, "The Redemption of Henry Myers," is slated for this fall. Meanwhile, EchoLight's second movie is in post-production and anticipated to be released in 2014, focusing on the story of Illinois basketball player Eric "Hoovey" Elliott and starring Patrick Warburton and Lauren Holly and directed by Sean McNamara of "Soul Surfer."

Santorum said he has high expectations for blowing open a burgeoning entertainment category. "Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market. And the keys are great content and economic success," he said, "using money from all over to build out the industry and distribute an authentic product truthful to the faith in people's lives."

EchoLight's commitment to new filmmakers boasts:

-- a $250,000 commitment to produce and distribute a new work by the winner of the Short Film category in the 2013 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

-- a multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement to produce films from Liberty University's cinematic arts program with production wrapped on the first film from that effort.

-- up to $1 million pledged to produce and distribute a new work from the Best Film winner in this year's 168 Film Project.

"We're in a position with potential to transform the industry," Santorum said. "EchoLight is a wide door into movie excellence and to more of it -- which is why we're also helping to cultivate young filmmakers in the faith community, helping them develop cinema that, in many, many ways, can go further and do more."

CUOMO'S ABORTION BILL REJECTED -- The New York Senate has turned back Gov. Andrew Cuomo's effort to enact what pro-life advocates described as a radical abortion agenda.

Senate Republicans defeated an effort to pass an abortion rights measure June 21 as part of Cuomo's 10-point Women's Equality Act that addressed such issues as pay equity and domestic violence, according to the Associated Press. They rejected an amendment that would have required them to vote on the abortion legislation. Instead, the Senate passed the other nine pieces of Cuomo's bill.

The State Assembly had passed the 10-point package and refused to consider the Senate-approved version without the abortion legislation.

The abortion measure, however, could receive attention in a special session.

Pro-lifers applauded the Senate's refusal to pass the abortion proposal.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, described Cuomo's abortion measure as an "Abortionists Empowerment Act."

It would have rescinded "the few legal restrictions in place in New York and sanctioned an environment where more women would be victimized and hurt by an unregulated and unrestrained abortion industry."

The proposal pushed by Cuomo, a Democrat, also would have undercut the freedom of conscience of pro-life health care workers, according to AUL. In addition, it would have repealed protections for unborn victims of criminal violence who are more than 24 weeks gestation.

New York's liberal abortion law already has no informed consent or parental involvement laws and requires state funding for "medically necessary" abortions for poor women, AUL reported.

BELGIUM WEIGHING EUTHANASIA FOR CHILDREN -- Belgium appears on the verge of becoming the first developed country to legalize euthanasia for children.

The Belgian Federal Parliament reportedly has a consensus for passing legislation that would permit some seriously ill children to choose to die by euthanasia, according to the International Business Times, which based its reporting on an article in the Belgian newspaper Der Morgen. To conduct euthanasia, a physician administers a lethal dose of drugs that takes a patient's life.

Belgian legislators are considering a bill that would guide doctors in determining if a child's health is serious enough to merit euthanasia and whether he is mature enough to decide to end his life, according to the June 11 report.

Euthanasia of children is a reality now, according to the testimony of the head of the intensive care unit at Fabiola Hospital in Brussels.

"We all know that euthanasia is already practiced on children. Yes, active euthanasia," he told a Senate committee, the International Business Times reported.

The Netherlands has not legalized euthanasia for children but has agreed since 2005 not to prosecute doctors who follow a set of rules while performing euthanasia on some minors.

FEDERAL GOVT.: PREGNANCY CENTER ELIGIBLE FOR LOAN -- A rural Care Net pregnancy center is eligible for a federal building loan, the government has decided in a reversal of an earlier decision.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Appeals Division ruled June 14 the agency wrongly discriminated against the pregnancy center in Brattleboro, Vt., by rejecting its request for a loan, according to WORLD News Service. The USDA originally ruled the center was ineligible because it holds Bible studies at its facility.

"The USDA should have known that disqualifying a faith-based provider from funds needed to help women in need was both unconstitutional and wrongheaded," said Steve Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Care Net center.

Care Net, a Christian nonprofit organization, has a network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers. Its centers provide various services to pregnant women and offers optional Bible studies.

The USDA's loan program for nonprofits in rural areas specifies "a religious organization is eligible, on the same basis as any other eligible private organization, to access and participate in USDA assistance programs," WNS reported. The USDA also says it does not require religious speech to occur in a separate facility.

The USDA rejected a building loan for Care Net of Windham County in 2011, citing undisclosed "faith-based eligibility criteria." The USDA recommended Care Net hold Bible studies in a local public school.

Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and Baptist Press staff writer Beth Byrd. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

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