Senate debates partial-birth abortion ban
The U.S. Senate yesterday began debating a bill that would ban partial-birth abortions, and both sides of the debate expect it to pass with a vote as early as Thursday.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), the chief sponsor of the bill, says he has at least 60 votes, enough to break a filibuster, but expects a "very close" vote on a plan by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would require proof that the fetus is viable outside the womb and would allow exemptions for the health of the mother.

Santorum says Durbin's plan is bogus. "Partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses serious risks to a woman's health, and lies outside the standard of medical care, and should, therefore, be banned," he said. "Partial-birth abortion is a detestable procedure that affronts and insults human dignity. … Just to describe it here has to send shivers down your back."

Sen. Barbara Boxer claims Santorum's bill is just a smokescreen to throw women into prison. "It's an attempt to outlaw all abortions, to take away a woman's right to choose … and criminalize abortions," she said. "And what follows from that? Women and doctors would be in jail." Advocates of abortion rights promise to sue if the bill passes and Bush signs it as promised.

Meanwhile, one of Britain's leading brain scientists says new evidence suggests fetuses develop consciousness before 24 weeks. "Given that we can't prove consciousness or not, we should be very cautious about being too gung ho and assuming something is not conscious," says Baroness Greenfield, a professor of neurology at Oxford University. "We should err on the side of caution." Still, she didn't call for changes in Britain's abortion laws. In both the U.S. and Britain, about 1.5 percent of abortions are performed after the 20th week.

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War with Iraq:

  • Just war—or a just war? | It is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet the principles of a just war. (Jimmy Carter, The New York Times)

  • Just Carter | The former president's twisted morality. (Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online)

  • A just war? | Despite Christian support for war, churches lobby bush to avoid battle (

  • War knocks on door of houses of worship | Over the weekend, from churches to synagogues to mosques, houses of worship addressed the looming war, whether it be with brief prayers and words of comfort, sermons by pastors or discussions among members after services (Seattle Times)

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  • The privilege of power | The US is right to oust Hussein - but it must better balance national values with national interests (Robert A. Seiple, The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Faith and war support linked | The stronger the faith, the more a person backs war, a poll shows. Yet many religious leaders oppose war (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Threat of war conjures visions of Armageddon | To many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, the battle of Armageddon is not the end but the beginning (The Greenville News)

  • Bush uses faith-based language to soothe Americans | Like the forecasted war itself, President Bush's reliance on faith-laced rhetoric is cleaving the diverse religious community in America (Contra Costa [Calif.] Times)

  • Bush's crusade mentality creates unease | The traditional biblical positions regarding war and peace are now being represented in the public square: pacifism, just war and, lamentably, crusades (Leo Sandon, Tallahassee Democrat)

  • Praying for peace | Bishop Melvin G. Talbert and President George W. Bush share the same faith, but one preaches for a peaceful resolution in Iraq while the latter prepares for war (Newsweek)

  • Politicians praise Maronite bishops' stand on conflict | Vatican's position called 'honorable' (The Daily Star, Lebanon)

Politics and law:

  • Judge backs Va. laws requiring pledge, motto | The ruling by U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris is a sign that a controversial appeals court ruling in California that banned teacher-led recitation of the pledge in schools has had little impact nationally and that the issue is probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court (The Washington Post)

Faith-based initiative:

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Pop culture:

  • Is the Pope Catholic … Enough? | Mel Gibson is making a movie about Jesus and he's financing an ultraconservative church near Los Angeles. His father couldn't be prouder—but his views may be even more unorthodox (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Also: LA Rabbi asks Mel Gibson to reconsider Jesus film | Marvin Hier wants to make certain that his new film on the last 12 hours in the life of Christ does not portray the Jews as collectively responsible for the crucifixion (Reuters)

  • Reality TV, featuring God … online | The Ark— setting virtual sail on Easter Sunday—is billed as 40 days and 40 nights of games, challenges, topical discussions and arguments about mucking out the gorillas: "Theology meets showbiz meets cowpats - and there are no lifeboats" (BBC)


  • Love a passion for seminary's Grounds | A review of Bruce L. Shelley's Transformed By Love: The Vernon Grounds Story (Douglas Groothuis, Denver Post)

  • The split verdict on Harry Potter | There is a growing acceptance of the stories of the boy wizard, with a blessing of sorts from the Vatican recently and even new efforts to preach Christianity itself through them. (The New York Times)

  • Pope's poetic last testament | Catholic leader's reflections on life and death published (The Guardian, London)

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  • Christian publishing company takes root, grows | FaithWalk Publishing Company's Dirk Wierenga stopped seeing people's contributions as "skills" and started seeing them as "gifts." (The Grand Haven [Mich.] Tribune)

  • Danger lurks in the fringes | The "Left Behind" phenomenon should be a case of literature (and I use the word reluctantly) acting as a warning. They are danger signs. They are an expression of aspects of our culture that have the power to undo us. (Zachary Karabell, Los Angeles Times)

  • Jesus is 'left behind' in series | So says Loren Johns, New Testament associate professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana (The Newton Kansan)

  • Unorthodox, yes | Lauren Winner found her way to Christianity in a roundabout manner (Los Angeles Times)

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