January 06, 1999 12:00 AM

Reigning Miss America Nicole Johnson has joined a chorus of critics denouncing the pageant’s decision to open up the contest to women with divorces or abortions in their past. “I see the Miss America Organization as an organization that thrives on tradition, principles and standards,” said Johnson, 25, who will crown a successor on Saturday. “To deviate at all from those traditions, standards and principles saddens me.” Meanwhile, Miss Rhode Island (Karen Lindsay, 24) won in swimsuit and Miss Louisiana (Julie Lawrence, 22) in talent Wednesday as preliminary competition continued in the 79th annual Miss America Pageant. Miss Louisiana performed a ballet dance to “Man of La Mancha.”

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