by Steven Ertelt
January 17, 2007
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The Miss USA pageant is coming under fire for forcing the winner of the New Jersey state contest to resign her crown because she’s pregnant. Detractors say the decision could encourage contestants who become pregnant to have abortions for fear of being asked to leave the contest or relinquish their crowns.
Ashley Harder, Miss New Jersey USA, said she had to step down because the rules of the contest forbid pregnant women from competing. She will now no longer be able to compete for the Miss USA title this March.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Harder, who received the crown in October, said that she is keeping her baby. She indicated that she and her live-in boyfriend are looking at plans to get married.
Harder also defended the pregnancy and said that having a baby shouldn’t be viewed so negatively.
"This isn’t another scandal. This is a baby; this is a life," Harder told the newspaper. And she said being a mom "is a title I have always wanted and will always cherish."
Both the pageant and the runner-up for 2007 Miss New Jersey USA confirmed Harder’s resignation. Erin Abrahamson, who finished second, said pageant officials contacted her to inform he she would be taking the crown.
"Whatever made her resign, I wish her lots of luck and hope she’s OK," Abrahamson told AP and added that pageant officials didn’t say why she was taking over.
Pageant spokeswoman Lark-Marie Anton said Harder resigned but only indicated it was for "personal reasons."
However, the reason for the resignation is coming under fire from pro-life advocates and others.
"Ashley could have kept the chance to compete for the Miss USA title … by having a safe and legal abortion," nationally syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher wrote in a column about Harder.
"Instead she demonstrated that some things really are more important than reaching for Donald Trump’s tiara," Gallagher said.
"I sincerely hope that Miss New Jersey USA has chosen a man who will prove an exception, the kind who properly appreciates having in his life a beautiful, talented woman who, given a choice between bearing and loving his child and parading before national television cameras, appears to have had no difficulty picking the former," Gallagher concluded.