March for Life leader Nellie Gray Dead at 88

RNS photo courtesy March for Life Board of Directors

Nellie Gray, RNS photo courtesy March for Life Board of Directors

Nellie Gray, the longtime leader of the annual March for Life, which protests the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, has died at age 88.

The March for Life website said on Tuesday that Gray died “over the weekend.”

“Until the very last moment of her life, Nellie pressed for unity in the prolife movement,” the website states. “She firmly believed that not a single preborn life should be sacrificed for any reason.”

The Rev. Frank Pavone, a high-profile anti-abortion activist and national director of Priests for Life, has been a march participant since 1976.

“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,”  he said. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was 'no exceptions.’”

Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Many Are Saying Both

Courtesy Public Religion Research Institute

Courtesy Public Religion Research Institute

The influence of clergy in swaying their congregants' attitudes about moral issues like abortion and contraception access is dwindling, according to a new study. 

The Religion, Values, and Experiences: Black and Hispanic American Attitudes on Abortion and Reproductive Issues survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, shows that there continues to be a disconnect in personal, moral belief and feelings about public policy. 

"What they're hearing at church is not the big mover on attitudes of legality of abortion," Robert Jones, PRRI CEO, said. 

While 51 percent of black Americans believe abortion is morally wrong, 67 percent say it should be legal in all or most cases. 

"I really think that freedom of choice is probably one of the most precious components of what it means to be a Christian. Blacks have been quite possessive and reflective of this fact," said Dr. Stacy Floyd-Thomas, associate professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School. "… You do have the majority saying that they might see it as a sin or they are against it, but you still have the right."

Both groups believe it is possible to disagree with church teaching and be a good Catholic or good Christian. Jones pointed to the growing trend of personal versus external focus. Previous surveys have shown that attitudes about religion are mostly influenced by people's own beliefs and behaviors rather than institutional doctrine. 

Survey: Black, Hispanic Americans Say Economy Critical Issue in Election

A new poll released today shows an overwhelming percentage of black and Hispanic voters favor Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in the upcoming presidential election — 87 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Both groups say the economy is a critical issue in the election.

The Religion, Values, and Experiences: Black and Hispanic American Attitudes on Abortion and Reproductive Issues survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, also showed that two-thirds of black Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while only 46 percent of Hispanic Americans agreed. 

Both black and Hispanic Americans (81 and 79 percent, respectively), say contraception is morally acceptable and support expanding access to it. Further 61 percent of black Americans and 64 percent of Hispanic Americans say religiously affiliated institutions should provide contraception at no cost to their employees. 

For more on the survey, stay tuned to the God's Politics blog for continued coverage. 

Michigan Legislator Silenced

NPR reports that Michigan state representative Lisa Brown was not allowed speak on other legislation yesterday after she made a speech against a bill restricting abortion in which she used the word "vagina." A Republican spokesperson said Brown had violated the "decorum of the House."

"Brown called a press conference, today," the Detroit Free Press reports. "She defended her use of the word "vagina," saying it is the "anatomically medically correct term."

"If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it," she said according to the Free Press.

"Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office," Brown added in a statement released by her office.

Read more here

The Atlantic: The Geography of Abortion

Richard Florida examines how geography impacts abortion in the United States, and what it tells us: 

"Few issues divide Americans more severely than abortion. Even accounting for changes in the nation's political climate over time, polling numbers consistently show a close to even split in the percent of the population who identify as pro-life or pro-choice. And given the variation in abortion laws across the 50 states, that divide has a definite geographic dimension as well."

Read the full story here

U.S. Nuns Rip Vatican Over 'Unsubstantiated Accusations'

Nun kicks a heavy bag in a gym. Photo by Martin San/Getty Images.

Nun kicks a heavy bag in a gym. Photo by Martin San/Getty Images.

Leaders representing most of the nation’s 57,000 Catholic nuns on Friday (June 1) answered a Vatican crackdown on their group by charging that Rome’s criticisms of the sisters were “unsubstantiated,” caused “scandal and pain” and “greater polarization” in the church.

“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission,” the 22-member board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious warned in a statement issued after a special four-day meeting in Washington.

The LCWR board meeting followed the surprise announcement in April that Pope Benedict XVI wanted a Vatican-led makeover of the group on the grounds that it was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the LCWR for doctrinal ambiguity and sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The unexpectedly strong pushback to the Vatican may be an indication of how much backlash the campaign has sparked among Catholics, who value the sisters’ longstanding ministry in education, health care and social services, and who bristle at Rome's demands to focus instead on sexual morality and enforcing orthodoxy.

One Psalm, Two Causes, Two Meanings

Psalms, Vibe Images, Shutterstock.com

Psalms, Vibe Images, Shutterstock.com

For decades, Psalm 139 has been a byword of the anti-abortion movement, printed on posters in crisis pregnancy centers. More recently, it's been tied to high-resolution ultrasounds, the movement's most potent technological persuader.

At the same time, the famous Psalm has also "come out" as a source of strength for gay and lesbian Christians.

Together, the two uses illustrate how great verses -- particularly the Psalms -- attract diverse constituencies.

Film Traces Real-Life Story of Abortion ‘Survivor’

A new movie confronts a controversial topic by highlighting two words that don't typically go together: "abortion" and "survivor."

"We didn't know there was such a thing," said Jon Erwin, who wrote and co-directed "October Baby" with his brother, Andrew.

The film, the latest in a recent string of Christian-themed movies, opens Friday (March 23) and has broken into Hollywood despite rejection at first by many studios.

The movie tells the story of Hannah, a 19-year-old college student who finds out that she not only is adopted, but she is a survivor of a failed abortion attempt, which explains why she has been suffering from health problems all her life.

At Stake: Religious Liberty

Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.

Alec Hill. Image via InterVarsity.org.

A letter from Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to Intervarsity Staff

I’m upset.

Last month, the Federal government mandated that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities must provide – and pay for – contraceptives to their employees and students. The mandate may also — depending upon interpretation – include the provision of sterilization services and the morning-after pill. (There appears to be some disagreement amongst scholars regarding the potential scope of the new Health and Human Service mandate.)

Why should I care? I am not Catholic. Nor do I agree with Catholic teaching on contraception, though I do have grave concerns about the morning-after pill.

Politically, I am a moderate and hence not prone to condemn every governmental edict.

I care because this matter touches upon the religious freedom of us all. I care because InterVarsity is engaged in a parallel struggle. Over the past 18 months, our status as a recognized student organization has been challenged on 41 campuses.