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Terminal terms

Human Race | A baby-killer is a baby-killer

Issue: "Tough love," Aug. 18, 2007

Christy Freeman, 37, entered a Maryland hospital in late July with vaginal bleeding. Doctors became suspicious after she denied being recently pregnant. Investigators went to her home and found a small body under the bathroom sink. They found three other small bodies and determined that the one most recently killed was at 26 weeks gestation.

As lawyers scrambled to figure out if Freeman was guilty of a crime, journalists tried to decide whether the baby should be called a fetus, a newborn son, a child, or-in the mother's crude term-a "gloopity glop." The dilemma is nothing new. During the Scott Peterson trial in 2004, The Washington Post and The New York Times referred to the unborn child his wife carried as both a fetus and a child. The Chicago Tribune made a stylebook revision and said a "fetus" refers to the first and second trimester and an unborn child is what a woman carries in her third trimester.

Freeman's neighbors don't seem confused. They formed a memorial outside the Freeman house. One visitor left a handwritten note that read: "May all the unborn Children rest gently in the Arms of God."

Identity crisis

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Muslim-born Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy is the first person to sue Egypt for the right to have his identity papers changed from Muslim to Christian. But he is not the first convert from Islam to go into hiding for fear of persecution. Hegazy, 24, filed a lawsuit against Egypt's interior ministry for refusing to recognize legally his change of religion. A national identity card bearing religious affiliation allows those designated as Christians to attend religious classes and openly attend church, among other things.

Five days after the filing, however, Hegazy's lawyer withdrew from the case. That has forced the convert, who became Christian four years ago, to go underground, Compass News reported.

Lawyer Mamdouh Nakhla held a press conference to announce his withdrawal, having received a death threat from Egypt's secret police. In his announcement, Nakhla said he was abandoning the case for the sake of "national unity." Muslim clerics filed a counter-suit against Hegazy, charging him with sectarian strife. Egyptian law, based on Shariah, or Muslim law, as in most Islamic countries, restricts changing religion on identity cards, making it illegal for converts to practice their new religion and opening them to charges of apostasy. Police jailed and tortured Hegazy in 2002 after discovering his conversion. "Martyrdom would be much better than being jailed under such a radical and fundamentalist authority," he said.

Close-ups

CO-OP: The Associated Press reports that the theologically liberal National Council of Churches and the theologically conservative National Association of Evangelicals are working together on environmental and poverty issues. But Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the NAE, says the national groups are not cooperating: "All we're talking about is on the local level. I would dispute any official cooperation or unofficial cooperation. There isn't any at the national level."

IRAQ: Rev. Canon Andrew White, the Anglican representative of the 1,300-member St. George's Church in Baghdad, where over 30 church members have been kidnapped in the last month, told the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom: "Whether we like it or not, the fact is that the Christians are targeted because they are seen as belonging to a Western religious tradition," which in the region is equated with pop culture and seen as an "immoral tradition," he said. "My people say the Creed and they believe it. My people live a very upright, courageous and respectful life."

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