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New law affects women's options

March 7, 2003

By Beth Bond

Since abortion can be linked to closely held, fundamental beliefs on politics, morality and religion, it is a highly controversial subject for many.

In the 30 years since abortion was made legal in the United States, debate has not decreased among politicians. One recently passed sexual health law, backed by Texas Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, will require most publicly funded family planning clinics to get parental consent to offer their services to teenagers. It will go into effect April 1.

Pam Smallwood, director of the federally-subsidized Planned Parenthood of Central Texas, said such decisions 'should be made by public health experts, not politicians.' She predicts the new law will have negative effects.

'You can expect that in the next year or two, teenage pregnancy rates will go up,' she said. 'Texas is already 49th in the country for teenage birth rates, and pretty soon we'll be behind Mississippi.'

Cathy Sones, executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central Texas, also believes such decisions should be in the hands of experts.

'Many people deal with it as a political or religious issue, not a medical issue,' she said. 'In any type of thing that can be politicized or seen as a religious issue, people get so caught up in the movement that they forget about the people with faces and lives. They lose sight of the individuals.'

Care Net supports those individuals as a 'Christian agency providing a positive avenue for Christians and the community to help women facing unplanned pregnancies find choices beyond abortion,' Sones said. It offers 'choices for women that are life-affirming.'

The moral and religious questions that abortion raises have caused Dr. John Pisciotta, associate professor of economics, to speak out against the procedure.

'In the Christian tradition, the reverence for life is so strong,' he said. For him, there is no question on how to categorize it.

'I just can't see in my understanding of Christianity that this is a health care issue and not a moral issue,' he said. 'I can't square that with the Christian tradition.'

Baylor's policy on sexuality, as stated in the student handbook, reflects standard religious values as well. 'Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm,' the handbook reads. 'Temptations to deviate from this norm include both homosexual and heterosexual sex outside of marriage.'

It's a common misconception that Baylor will expel female students who are pregnant out of wedlock, said Dr. Larry Brumley, associate vice president for external relations. However, 'it is not unilaterally a reason for immediate expulsion,' he said.

Bethany McCraw, associate dean for judicial and legal student services, said she has never had such a case referred to her.

'However, if I did, I would review the case on an individual basis as we do all cases,' she said. 'If a student violates the university's sexual misconduct policy, then we determine what sanctions are appropriate depending on the circumstances of the case. This policy states that, 'Baylor will strive to deal in a constructive and redemptive manner' when it comes to sexual misconduct.'