Abortion The first major White House bill signing of the year was the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a new law granting federal protection to an unborn child harmed during an assault on his mother. President Bush signed the bill on April 1 accompanied by grieving families, including the mother and stepfather of California murder victim Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant when she died in December 2002 in a highly publicized case.
"If the crime is murder and the unborn child's life ends, justice demands a full accounting under the law," President Bush said before signing the measure. "The suffering of two victims can never equal only one offense."
Abortion-industry supporters denounced the measure as an attack on abortion rights because it represents the first recognition of federal legal rights for unborn children.
Pro-abortion lawyers, meanwhile, have placed 2003's Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act on trial in three cities, but testimony from one case shows the gruesome nature of the practice. A New York judge demanded that abortion doctors drop crass or vague euphemisms describing various abortion procedures. One doctor described the procedure of crushing a baby's head with forceps. "Like an end of tongs you use to pick up a salad, except they are thick enough and heavy enough to crush the skull," the doctor said. In an extraordinary exchange, the judge responded: "Except in this case, you are not picking up a salad, you are crushing a baby's skull" (story, page 16).
Politics President Bush fired an Opening Day strike on April 5, throwing out the first pitch of the year at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. "It just goes to show you a guy can get lucky occasionally," Mr. Bush said. The Cardinals should have stuck with the president; their pitchers gave up eight walks, eight runs, and lost the home opener to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The political regular season continued with both the Bush and John Kerry camps releasing new attack ads. There are moments of truth in advertising, but according to WORLD's "ad watch" analysis, the Bush campaign's claim that Sen. Kerry wishes to hike the gas tax by 50 cents is premised only on a single source. And a new Kerry ad promises a detailed plan to create 10 million new jobs. But the devil is in the details (story, page 19).
War on terrorism Even as a Shiite cleric whipped up militants against U.S. troops in Iraq, neighboring Jordan took action against another terrorist wanted for aiding insurgents there. A military court sentenced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven other al-Qaeda-
linked militants to death for conspiring to murder U.S. government aid worker Laurence Foley in 2002.
Mr. Foley was shot outside his Amman home. Mr. Al-Zarqawi and five others in the group are still at large, however. Two of the men involved in the murder were in court: a Libyan who pulled the trigger and a Jordanian who drove the getaway car. Mr. Al-Zarqawi is believed to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden who has been plotting to create a foreign terrorist network on Iraqi soil. American authorities have a $10 million bounty on his head.
In Fallujah, U.S. troops battled with insurgents as leaders of mosques in the besieged city called for holy war against Americans and women were seen carrying weapons in the streets. The chaos reigned one day after up to a dozen Marines, two more coalition soldiers, and scores of Iraqis were killed in the most extensive fighting since President Bush declared major fighting in Iraq over in May (story, page 20).
South Africa Voters are taking stock of 10 years of democracy after the end of apartheid, with their third free elections in South Africa on April 14. The successes and failures they've experienced offer handy signposts for democracy-builders in terror-torn lands like Iraq.
South Africans appear set to stick with the African National Congress and President Thabo Mbeki, but there is growing discontent-particularly among Christians-with his government. Equality has brought racial unity, but liberty has often crossed into license. The ANC has legalized abortion and pornography, allowed homosexuals to adopt, and abolished the death penalty despite an explosion of violent crime. The humanist party agenda, says local Christian activist Peter Hammond, "is like the Democratic Party agenda in the U.S., only more radical." Now South African Christians are finding themselves in a culture war similar to the one facing their American counterparts.
More are turning to the small African Christian Democratic Party, one of only two opposition parties offering solid biblical principles in public policy. But most black South Africans still see the ANC as their liberators from racial oppression, so it may take years before they start voting for the opposition (story, page 22).
Religion Several United Methodist bishops warn that other bishops should come to the UMC's upcoming quadrennial conference prepared to debate the church's stand on homosexuality. The church's Pacific Northwest regional unit recently exonerated a self-avowed lesbian pastor, Karen Dammann. Instead of removing her, the Council of Bishops claimed she did not really violate the denomination's Book of Discipline (story, page 36).
Nigeria Muslim attacks in central Nigeria over several weeks have led to the deaths of eight pastors and 1,500 Christians, according to Compass News. The violence began in the state of Plateau, spreading through villages and spilling over into neighboring states. So far Muslim extremists have also destroyed 173 churches. Local Christians say they've recruited 10,000 Muslim mercenaries from neighboring countries Chad and Niger to strike Christian towns and villages.
Nigerian authorities report that the strife has displaced 25,000 people in two states. President Olusegun Obasanjo, a professing Christian, complained that local authorities aren't doing much to stop the militants.