The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
BY GREG TROTTER ©2008 Religion News Service
Study Finds Abortion at Lowest Rate Since 1974
bortion rates have reached their lowest since 1974, according to a new study of U.S. abortion clinics released by the Guttmacher Institute. The study found that both abortion rates and the total number of abortions have declined, though one in five pregnancies ends in abortion.
In 2005, the abortion rate declined to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, according to the study, after peaking in 1981 at a rate of 29.3 per 1,000 women. The total number of abortions dipped to 1.2 million in 2005, from its all-time high of 1.6 million in 1990.
The Guttmacher Institute is an independent research firm that specializes in sexuality and reproductive health. It was formerly a division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The study cited a possible explanation for the decrease in abortions: early nonsurgical abortion medications, such as the French pill RU-486, that are more readily available and used than ever before.
Fifty-seven percent of abortion providers now offer medication abortion services; only 33 percent did in early 2001. Medication abortions accounted for 13 percent of all abortions in 2005. "Currently, more than six in 10 abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and almost three in 10 take place at six weeks or earlier," said Rachel Jones, lead researcher, in a news release. "Medication abortion, which provides women with an additional option early in pregnancy, clearly reinforces this very positive trend."
Anti-abortion groups, however, found little to cheer about. "It is no less tragic, each life is precious," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee. "If we are down to 1.2 million abortions, that's still 1.2 million babies being killed."
O'Bannon added that women are only trading one set of risks in for another when they opt for early medication abortion over surgery.
Catholic Charities Study Links Poverty, Racism
As the U.S. marked Martin Luther King Day, Catholic Charities USA is issuing a call to sever the ties between poverty and racism.
A new study, "Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good," is part of Catholic Charities' campaign to cut the U.S. poverty rate in half by 2020. It was to be officially released by the Rev. Larry Snyder, the group's president, during a January 21 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit.
"We are convinced that without a conscious and proactive struggle against racism, our efforts to reduce the plague of poverty will be in vain," the study says. For example, the study cites evidence that the poverty rate for African Americans in the U.S. is 24 percent -- three times the rate for whites. Latinos and Native Americans also suffer from poverty rates above 20 percent, according to the study.
On average, white families are 10 times richer than minority families, the study says. And while white families' wealth grew 20 percent between 1998 and 2001, the net worth of African American households decreased during that period. At the same time, "the ghosts of our legacy of racial inequality continue to haunt us," the study says, citing racial violence as well as discrimination in housing and health care.
The Virginia-based charity network, which includes more than 1,700 local agencies and institutions nationwide, is also urging Congress and the White House to enact reforms to the criminal justice system, to improve public schools and housing laws, and to fix the nation's immigration laws. "We ask others to join us in our effort to fight racism and cut poverty in half so that together, we can make our country whole," said Snyder.
Pastor Challenges IRS Rules on Pulpit Politicking
A Wisconsin pastor has challenged the Internal Revenue Service by writing an open letter that criticizes rules against ministers getting too political in their pulpits.
In a full-page advertisement published in The Wall Street Journal on January 16, Pastor Kenneth Taylor of Calvary Assembly of God in Algoma, Wisconsin, dared the IRS to investigate a November 2006 sermon he preached about faith and elections. "The clergy of every church, synagogue, temple and other religious group in the country should be able to preach freely, without the IRS looking over their shoulders and parsing every word," said Taylor. "That kind of government intrusion into religious assemblies is what dictatorships do, not democracies."
Taylor is being defended by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which paid for the ad and believes the IRS has interpreted the law too broadly and is intimidating faith leaders.
"Churches and other houses of worship have always been unique places where Americans discuss how their deepest beliefs intersect with their daily lives," said Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, founder and president of the Washington-based law firm. "The IRS should not be allowed to stop that conversation by threatening to strip a church's tax exemption."
Taylor cited the IRS' recent investigation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., saying the agency "all but admitted" it couldn't enforce rules against it. Last year, the IRS informed the Pasadena church that its tax-exempt status would remain intact despite an anti-war sermon officials said "constituted prohibited political campaign intervention."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the ad contains "grossly inaccurate" information about partisan politicking in churches. "Churches are perfectly free to talk about issues," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based watchdog group. "But they are not free to abuse their tax exemptions and endorse political candidates. This ad could mislead clergy into deep tax trouble."