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LIFE DIGEST: Controversial doctor injects fetal hearts with poison in 'partial' abortions
Posted on Feb 18, 2011 | by Tom Strode

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WASHINGTON (BP)--Abortion doctor James Pendergraft -- his medical license suspended four times in Florida -- has opened a secret clinic in the Washington, D.C., area to help perform late-term procedures.

Pendergraft, who received a one-year suspension in August from the state where he operates five abortion clinics, has advertised his new clinic online. The website describes a procedure for late second-term and third-term pregnancies that involves the injection of poison or air into a baby's heart to kill him or her. Pendergraft does not complete the abortion, however. After "several minutes" of observation, the woman is released in order for her to go to her doctor or a medical facility for induction of the dead child.

Pendergraft's secret operation and partial procedure, which were first reported by Operation Rescue, have been decried by pro-life advocates.

"How macabre! This is not medicine; it's the stuff of a B-grade horror movie," said C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a consultant to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "The fact that authorities allow James Pendergraft to continue practicing anywhere is an indictment on an abortion industry spinning out of control. James Pendergraft should be in jail."

Americans United for Life said Pendergraft's method is not only dangerous for women but could coerce pro-life health-care providers to complete his abortions to protect the lives of patients.

On Pendergraft's website, there is a warning for women who change their minds after the lethal injection: "The problem is if you do not go into labor for a few days, not only can the patient's blood become severely infected, but this can lead to a clotting disorder where the patient's blood does not clot, severe low blood pressure, bleeding constantly from needle sticks, internal bleeding, multiple organ failure which can lead to maternal death. This is nothing that should be taken lightly. Therefore once the intra-cardiac injection is complete, there is no turning back."

Pendergraft's website -- which only lists a phone number -- says the clinic's location is kept a secret in order to protect patients and staff, but Operation Rescue said it is likely an attempt to avoid law enforcement. Pendergraft does not have a medical license in the District of Columbia or the surrounding states, Maryland and Virginia, according to Operation Rescue.

The procedure, the website says, involves using a "spinal needle" that is injected "into the fetal heart." It "usually takes 2 to 4 minutes to perform."

STATE ACTIONS -- The North Dakota house of representatives voted 68-25 for personhood legislation that recognizes all human beings at every stage of development, including while they are in the womb, are persons with the right to life.

The Defense of Human Life Act serves as North Dakota's part in the nationwide effort to pass legislation or constitutional amendments in the states to protect all life. Rep. Dan Ruby said Feb. 11 his bill "is just common sense."

In other actions by state legislatures:

-- The Hawaii senate's health committee rejected in a 4-0 vote Feb. 7 a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

-- The Arizona house's health committee approved a ban on sex-selection abortions in a 5-3 vote Feb. 9, Capitol Media Services reported.

-- The Arizona senate's health care and medical liability reform committee voted Feb. 9 to require abortions using the drug RU 486 be administered only by doctors and to bar tax credits for individuals who donate to charities that provide abortions, according to Capitol Media Services.

-- A subcommittee of the Iowa house's human resources committee voted 2-1 Feb. 14 in favor of a personhood bill similar to that of North Dakota, according to The Des Moines Register.

ABORTION IN STUDENT PLANS -- Nearly half of the country's largest universities offer their students health-care insurance plans that cover elective abortions, according to research by Students for Life of America.

The results from the study of the 200 largest universities in the United States showed:

-- 44.3 percent, or 86, of the 194 schools that offer school-sponsored plans cover elective abortions.

-- 44 percent, or 38, of the 86 schools that offer such plans automatically enroll students in a plan that covers abortions.

Students for Life also said in the report released Jan. 20 it learned there could be an issue of federal funds being used for abortion in violation of the law. It said education funds, such as Pell Grants, may be increased for students receiving such money because of the additional cost for school health-care plans that cover abortion.

DOCTOR LOSES LICENSE -- An Anaheim, Calif., abortion doctor has agreed to surrender his medical license after being accused of homicide in the death of a patient.

Andrew Rutland entered the agreement with the Medical Board of California Jan. 20 after the panel had accused him of homicide and gross negligence in the 2009 death of Ying Chen, 30. Ying died after she had a toxic reaction to anesthesia and suffered a heart attack during the early stages of a second-trimester abortion to be performed by Rutland. The board said Rutland did not have the equipment needed or provide assistance in a timely fashion.

At the time of Ying's death, Rutland was on five years' administrative probation after losing his medical license and regaining it in 2007.

TWINS INTERACT EARLY -- Twins interact with each other in the womb as early as the 14th week of pregnancy, a recent study found.

The research with ultrasound technology showed the unborn children of five couples began reaching toward their partners in the womb by the 14th week and increased such movements in the weeks that followed. By the 18th week, almost 30 percent of their movements were toward their siblings. The actions, which included stroking the head or back, were longer in duration and more accurate than self-directed movements, such as touching their own mouth or eyes.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at two Italian universities, was reported by Scientific American and based on an article at the Public Library of Science website.

COUPLE ABORTS TWINS BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS -- An Australian couple has provided more anecdotal evidence of a growing new dark age for the sanctity of human life.

The unidentified man and woman, who live in the state of Victoria, aborted twin sons because they were not female, the Herald Sun reported Jan. 8. The couple is desperately seeking to have a daughter by means of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the method by which the twins were conceived.

The parents have three sons, but a daughter died soon after birth, according to the Melbourne newspaper. The mother acknowledged having a daughter has become an obsession for her.

"This is merely eugenics under the guise of parental choice," said C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a consultant to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Today it is sex selection, tomorrow designer children."

One ethicist suggested they adopt a girl from another country.

IN SWITZERLAND, OPPONENTS OF SUICIDE TOURISM LOSING -- An effort to roll back suicide tourism in Switzerland appears unlikely to gain approval.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, a former justice minister and now the country's finance minister, has proposed rules requiring independent doctors provide oversight of assisted suicide, according to Bloomberg News. The proposal would mean physicians with Switzerland's four right-to-die organizations would need independent verification that a person has a terminal illness and is near death before prescribing a lethal dose of drugs.

The four largest Swiss political parties oppose the recommendation, however.

About 40 percent of those who committed suicide in Switzerland from 2005 to 2009 were from other countries, Bloomberg reported Jan. 18.
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Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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