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CULTURE DIGEST: Public not swayed by Gosnell case, Gallup finds

NASHVILLE (BP) — The Gallup polling organization said Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial did not change public opinion on abortion, but it also acknowledged Americans paid little attention to the case.

In a survey conducted May 2-7, Gallup found views on abortion’s legality were nearly identical to those of most of the last decade: 52 percent think abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances; 26 percent think it should be legal in any circumstance; and 20 percent think it should be illegal in all circumstances. Of the 52 percent, 38 percent said it should be legal only in a few circumstances.

A Philadelphia jury convicted the abortion doctor May 13 of the first-degree murder of three babies who were delivered alive at his clinic. Gosnell received three consecutive life sentences without parole for the murders of the children, who were only a few of hundreds killed after induced delivery at least six months into gestation, according to a grand jury report. Gosnell or a co-worker typically killed the babies outside the womb by a method he called “snipping” — jabbing scissors into the back of a baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord.

In addition, jurors convicted him of 21 counts of violating a state ban on abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy and of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a mother after an abortion at a clinic that was a health and safety hazard.

The Gallup poll also found self-identification on the issue remained closely divided: 48 percent identified themselves as pro-life and 45 percent as pro-choice.

Gallup reported a minority of Americans paid attention to the trial: 54 percent said they followed news about the case “not at all,” while only 7 percent said “very closely,” 18 percent “somewhat closely” and 20 percent “not too closely.”

Nearly half, 46 percent, of those Americans following the case said the mainstream news media had not provided enough coverage of the trial.

Gallup said it was unclear whether the “relatively low attention to the Gosnell case reflects a lack of interest in it, or a lack of coverage by the mainstream media.”

Michael New, an expert on abortion legislation, said the Gosnell trial still may produce “some long-term good for the pro-life movement.”

“It may lead to better enforcement of existing abortion clinic regulations,” New wrote in a blog post at National Review Online. “It will likely facilitate the passage of stronger regulations on abortion providers. It may also generate some much-needed discussion about the legality of late-term abortions. Overall, the Gosnell trial may well shift the national debate on abortion to terrain that is advantageous to pro-lifers.”

FRENCH PROTEST GAY MARRIAGE, ADOPTION — Opponents of France’s new law legalizing marriage and adoption for gay couples plan a major protest in Paris May 26, the country’s Mother’s Day, PBS NewsHour reported.

Protestors are expected to include Roman Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as members of France’s conservative-leaning Union for a Popular Movement party and the right-wing National Front party.

Also in protest, essayist and historian Dominique Venner committed suicide at Notre Dame Cathedral’s altar, citing the new law as the reason he went to the altar and shot himself in the mouth, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported.

“The May 26 protesters are right to scream their impatience and their anger. A despicable law, once it has been voted, can always be repealed,” Le Nouvel Observateur weekly magazine translated Venner’s last blog post. “There needs to be new — spectacular and symbolical –- actions to shake people out of their torpor, wake up these anesthetized consciences and wake up the memory of our origin. We are entering an era where words must be authenticated by actions.”

French President Francois Hollande signed the bill into law May 18 after the country’s Constitutional Council dismissed a legal challenge to stop the law, ushered in by France’s Socialist-dominated lower house of parliament.

On the day of the vote that made France the 14th nation to legalize gay unions and adoptions, riot police used tear gas to dispel about 200 protesters who threw glass bottles in anger. Over the course of the months-long gay marriage debate in the country deeply divided over the issue, more than 300,000 protestors clashed with police. Police estimated a crowd of 45,000 protested the measure April 21, the Sunday preceding its passage, compared to 3,500 who supported it.

While the “Marriage for Everyone” law also approves adoptions by same-sex couples, public opinion polls show the country may be more divided over gay adoption than gay marriage. As many as 60 percent of French approve same sex-marriage, but no more than 53 percent approve of adoption for same-sex couples, PBS reported.

The first gay marriages could commence in the country as early as June, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told reporters. The country has allowed civil unions since 1999.

Other countries allowing gay marriage are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. Gay marriage is legal in Washington, D.C., and 12 U.S. states.

STEM CELLS OF TODDLER USED TO MAKE HER WINDPIPE — Surgeons have implanted in a 2-year-old girl a windpipe made partly from her own stem cells, making her the youngest person to receive a tissue-engineered organ.

The surgery on Hannah Warren who was born without a windpipe, or trachea, took place April 9 in Peoria, Ill., and was announced April 30, according to The New York Times. Paolo Macchiarini, a regenerative medicine specialist, led the nine-hour operation.

His team constructed a tube from plastic fibers and coated it in a solution consisting partly of stem cells from the girl’s bone marrow before incubating it in a bioreactor, The Times reported. After implantation, doctors think the stem cells communicate to the body to send other cells to the windpipe for the growth of tissue both inside and outside the tube.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, giving hope for the development of cures for a variety of diseases and other ailments.

Research with embryonic stem cells requires destruction of a human embryo and has failed to provide treatments for any disease. Research with adult stem cells does not harm the donor and has produced therapies in human trials for more than 70 afflictions.

Hannah had breathed since birth through a tube in her mouth while living in a Seoul, South Korea, hospital.

Darryl Warren, Hannah’s father, learned about Macchiarini’s pioneering work on windpipe implants while searching on the Internet two years ago. According to The Times, he said of the successful surgery on his daughter, “It actually is unbelievable.”

UNBORN CHILD OF FIRST WOMB TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT DIES — The Turkish woman who benefited from the first successful womb transplant and became the first transplant recipient to become pregnant has lost her child.

An examination eight weeks into Derya Sert’s pregnancy “showed no embryo heartbeat” so her “pregnancy was terminated,” Akdeniz University Hospital in Antalya, Turkey, reported, according to Reuters News Service.

Sert, who was born without a womb, received a womb from a dead donor in 2011. Physicians waited 18 months before transferring an embryo into her womb, it was reported in April. Doctors took eggs from her ovaries, which are healthy, and fertilized them with the sperm of her husband, Mustafa. Specialists transferred at least one embryo to her womb in early April.

Other women have received womb transplants since Sert did so successfully, but she is the first to become pregnant.

OKLAHOMA TIGHTENS RULES FOR MINORS’ ABORTIONS — Oklahoma has enacted legislation strengthening requirements for under-age girls seeking to obtain abortions.

Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, signed into law May 14 a bill that mandates a girl under 18 may receive a judicial waiver for an abortion from a judge only in the county in which she lives, the Associated Press reported. The waiver would enable her to avoid the state’s parental consent requirement.

Also under the new law, parents must show proper identification to prove they are the legal parents and are qualified to provide consent for their minor daughter’s abortion.
Compiled by Tom Strode and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. 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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