LIFE DIGEST: Abortion doctors circumvent partial-birth ban by using deadly drugs
WASHINGTON (BP)--The abortion industry has found a way around the Supreme Court's support for a federal ban on a gruesome technique -- shoot the unborn baby up with deadly drugs before delivering the child almost totally to complete the procedure.
The Boston Globe reported Aug. 10 many abortion doctors in Boston and other parts of the United States are using the new method to protect themselves from partially delivering a live baby and violating the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. The partial delivery of a dead child instead of a live one may violate the spirit of the 2003 law, but it apparently does not transgress the letter of that ban.
"This shows the length to which physicians who have left their Hippocratic Oath in the dust and have become frontline soldiers in the culture of death are willing to go to perpetuate the killing of often-viable unborn babies," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Our nation's legislators need to address this situation urgently and pass measures to protect the most defenseless among us, our unborn citizens."
The Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 decision in April. The law bars a procedure in which, as typically used, an intact baby is delivered feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant's skull with surgical scissors before inserting a catheter into the opening and suctioning out the brain, killing the baby. The technique, which normally is used in at least the fifth month of pregnancy, provides for easier removal of the baby's head. The law allows an exception if the mother's life is threatened.
Three Boston hospitals are using the injection technique routinely, according to The Globe. Beth Israel Deaconness, Brigham and Women's, and Massachusetts General -- all hospitals affiliated with Harvard University -- inject lethal drugs into unborn babies beginning about 20 weeks into gestation, said Michael Greene, obstetrics director at Massachusetts General.
Mark Nichols, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University, said he senses the majority of later-term abortion doctors in the country are injecting unborn babies with lethal drugs as standard procedure, according to the newspaper.
The injections are not riskier and are "trivially simple," as compared to other obstetrics procedures, Greene said.
Philip Darney, chief of obstetrics at San Francisco (Calif.) General Hospital, decided not to use injections. "We do not believe that our patients should take a risk for which the only clear benefit is a legal one to the physician," Darney told The Globe in an e-mail.
STEM CELLS IN THE BANK -- In vitro fertilization patients who do not want to give birth to more children may have stem cells extracted from their remaining embryos for potential use in treatments of family members.
The new service, however, has some serious, even lethal, drawbacks: Obtaining the stem cells results in the destruction of the embryos; such cells extracted from embryos have yet to provide treatments in human beings, and the service is not inexpensive.
StemLifeLine, a San Francisco-area firm, announced July 31 it has partnered with fertility clinics in Colorado, Idaho and Nevada to provide the first service of this kind. Ana Krtolica, the company's chief executive officer, said StemLifeLife is "committed to offering new alternatives to patients who have completed their family planning goals."
The clinics determine the cost, but the service is available for less than $10,000, according to StemLifeLine, The Journal of Life Sciences reported. The fee includes two years of storage for the resultant stem cell lines. The annual charge after that is $350, according to the journal.
IVF embryos normally are frozen at three days, the journal reported. During StemLifeLine's process, the embryos are thawed until stem cells are grown. Extracting the stem cells destroys the embryos. The firm encourages patients to donate 10 embryos to increase chances of producing a stem cell line, according to the journal.
The service is similar to something from "bizarre science fiction movies," said Joseph Zanga of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. "We should never be trying to or intending to take someone else's life to make our own better," he told Family News in Focus.
CASE CLOSED IN NEW ORLEANS -- The investigation into patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is over, the Louisiana attorney general's office confirmed Aug. 6.
A special grand jury had voted July 24 not to indict surgeon Anna Pou on murder charges stemming from the deaths of nine patients at Memorial Medical Center after the devastating 2005 storm. Though Attorney General Charles Foti is seeking a court-ordered release of documents in the case, a spokeswoman said it is not an attempt to extend the investigation but to comply with the state's public records law, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
"No one is a target at this time. The case is closed," said Assistant Attorney General Julie Cullen, according to the newspaper.
Last year, Foti accused Pou and two nurses of the murder of patients at a section of the hospital set aside for the feeble. He said they gave lethal injections to the nine. The hospital was without electricity and water after Katrina hit, leaving patients and medical personnel in extremely difficult conditions.
Charges against the nurses were dropped, and they testified before the grand jury, The Times-Picayune reported.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.