Pro-Life News In Brief
By Liz Townsend
Missouri Women's Right to Know Law Enforced
Missouri women seeking abortions will have 24 hours to consider their decision after receiving information about their unborn babies and the abortion procedure as a 2003 Women's Right to Know law finally went into effect. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary restraining order May 27 that had kept the law from being enforced since last October, according to the Associated Press (AP).
"This is great news for the women of Missouri," said Patty Skain, executive director of Missouri Right to Life. "We know that many women in Missouri have been harmed both physically and psychologically from having abortions without proper counseling. Beginning today, this action by the court will save lives."
A Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis announced to the media that it had postponed all 40 abortions previously scheduled for May 29 in order to comply with the law, the Kansas City Star reported.
The Women's Right to Know law was passed by the legislature over Gov. Bob Holden's veto in September. With an exception for cases of medical emergency, the law requires an abortionist to confer with the woman at least 24 hours before an abortion can occur. The law states that an abortionist must discuss "the indicators and contra-indicators, and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors for the proposed procedure." The woman must also be informed about any medications that will be used, and evaluated for possible complications from the abortion.
It was scheduled to take effect October 11, but U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright imposed a temporary restraining order one day earlier. Planned Parenthood clinics challenged the law, saying it "was so vague that abortion providers wouldn't know if they were violating it and that prosecutors would enforce it arbitrarily," the AP reported.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court lifted the restraining order in an unsigned order, according to the AP. The court case against the law will continue in federal court.
Pro-lifers said they are confident the law will be upheld. "Missouri Right to Life worked with the sponsors of this bill, using information from previous court decisions and from post-abortion trauma organizations, to write it in such a way that it would be most effective and still be held constitutional by the courts," Skain said.
Commercial Suicides Banned in Florida
Responding to last year's threatened public suicide at a rock concert, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law May 11 that makes it illegal to stage an actual suicide at an event.
Rock band Hell on Earth garnered a huge amount of publicity when it announced that a man would kill himself during its October 4 concert in St. Petersburg, Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reported. The theater where the concert was to have been held quickly canceled the performance, but the band's leader, Billy Tourtelot, insisted that the suicide would still occur and be broadcast on the Internet.
Although the suicide show did not happen, and many speculated it was all just a publicity stunt, the Florida legislature decided to act to prevent any copycat events, the Times reported.
The law states that a "person may not for commercial or entertainment purposes conduct any event that the person knows or reasonably should know includes an actual self-murder as a part of the event or deliberately assist in an actual self-murder." It specifically exempts "simulated self-murder," such as suicide scenes in plays that are clearly intended for artistic purposes.
Violators could be charged with a third-degree felony. If convicted, they would face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to the Times.
Swiss "Suicide Tourism" Claims Another British Victim
Part of a growing trend called "suicide tourism," yet another British citizen traveled to Switzerland to kill himself with the help of the pro-euthanasia group Dignitas, the London Sunday Telegraph reported.
The family of Parkinson's disease patient Gordon Hurst, 76, expressed outrage that their loved one could so easily end his life without giving them a chance to change his mind. "I want to know how someone in Gordon's position can get on a plane and fly to his death," daughter-in-law Lesley Miller told The Express. "He had been suffering increasing problems with his health and had spoken about doing this in the past but we thought we had talked him out of it.
"We told him that, no matter how bad things got, we were there for him and there were still things to live for."
Hurst took an overdose of barbiturates at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich April 23, only 24 hours after flying to Switzerland, the Telegraph reported. Officials estimate that he was the 21st Briton to die with the help of the pro-euthanasia group.
Switzerland has some of the most permissive euthanasia laws in the world, allowing doctors to provide lethal drugs as long as the patient administers them.
Earlier this year, Swiss authorities promised that they would attempt to pass legislation that would require doctors to examine and assess patients seeking assisted suicide. "People are only here for one day before they die," said Andreas Brunner, Zurich's public prosecutor, according to the Telegraph. "We know nothing about them and we can't say if it was a long-term desire to end their lives."
Miller urged Swiss officials to work quickly to stop the deaths. "I don't see why a country like Switzerland should want to be Europe's suicide capital," she told The Express.
Australian Court Rejects "Wrongful Life" Lawsuits
In a 2-1 decision April 29, the New South Wales, Australia, Court of Appeal rejected two "wrongful life" lawsuits that attempted to hold doctors liable for allowing children with disabilities to be born.
The suits involved Alexis Harriton, 21, who suffered brain damage after her mother contracted rubella during pregnancy, and Keeden Waller, 4, who has cerebral palsy and seizures stemming from a genetic disorder, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Their parents claimed that they would have aborted the children if doctors had diagnosed their conditions before birth, the Herald reported.
The appeals court majority contended that Australian law does not recognize the legal concept behind "wrongful life" lawsuits, which involve "an assertion by the child that it would be preferable if she or he had not been born," Chief Justice James Spigelman wrote. "In my opinion, the duty asserted by the appellants should not be accepted as it does not reflect values generally, or even widely, held in the community."
Lawsuits that ask for compensation from a doctor who actively harmed a child during pregnancy or delivery are often successful. However, the doctors involved in the Harriton and Waller cases were not accused of doing anything wrong to cause the disabilities. In contrast, these "wrongful life" lawsuits attempt to treat the very lives of the children as the "injury" caused by the doctors.
Lawyers for Keeden Waller said they would appeal the decision to the High Court, according to the Illawarra Mercury.
China's Gender Balance Tilts Sharply toward Males
China's 2000 census report shows that the alarming imbalance between males and females continues unabated. The fifth national census found 117 boys born for every 100 girls, a growing discrepancy that could have far-reaching implications.
"If such trends continue, there is no doubt problems pertaining to marriages, birth, and marriage rights will crop up, which may even jeopardize social stability," Yu Xuejun, head of the policy and legislation department of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, told China Daily.
The imbalance has grown from 108:100 in 1982 and 111:100 in 1990, China Daily reported. China instituted its repressive population control policy in 1980, limiting births to only one child per family. Families who want to ensure their one child is a boy often resort to prenatal sex selection, in which ultrasound is used early in pregnancy to determine the gender of the unborn baby, who is then often aborted if found to be female.
"In the countryside, boys are preferred because they are better labour than girls and labour is always the top priority," Yu told China Daily. "The nuclear family structure in the wake of a rapid fertility decline coupled with a strong son preference naturally led to prenatal sex selection of children when the means to predetermine the sex of an unborn child, such as ultrasonic scanning technology, made its appearance."
By the year 2020, there may be 40 million Chinese men who will not be able to find a woman to marry, Xinhua News Agency reported. "Such serious gender disproportion poses a major threat to the healthy, harmonious, and sustainable growth of the nation's population and would trigger such crimes and social problems as mercenary marriage, abduction of women, and prostitution," Li Weixiong, deputy chairman of the family planning committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told Xinhua.
The Chinese government has established programs to discourage sex-selection abortions and "advocate gender equality," China Daily reported. The Beijing Health Bureau announced May 12 that medical offices will not be able to use ultrasound to determine an unborn baby's gender unless it is needed for medical reasons, according to Xinhua. "Official institutes must stop such service at once and those for medical purpose should also receive supervision from the health authority," Deng Xiaohong, health bureau deputy director, told Xinhua.
Bodies of Aborted Babies Found in Kenya River
Kenyan police arrested a suspected abortionist after the bodies of 15 aborted babies were found in a Nairobi river May 25. Several of the babies were close to full term, the Independent reported. Abortion is illegal in Kenya.
Security guards working at a local church saw men tossing black garbage bags into the Ngong River just before midnight, according to Nation TV. They ran towards the men, who quickly drove away. Inside the bags were the babies' bodies, a syringe and bloody boxes, and medical records from a local "reproductive health" clinic.
Kenyan officials arrested the clinic's operator, Dr. John Nyamu, May 27. He has denied involvement in the abortions, Nation TV reported.
Health Minister Charity Ngilu spoke to Parliament on the day Nyamu was arrested and vowed to investigate illegal abortion clinics. "I am afraid to inform this House that doctors, nurses and quacks are carrying out these activities in unlicensed clinics," Ngilu said, according to the East African Standard. "We shall crack down on all these people and get them out."
Ngilu confirmed that 15 bodies were found, the Standard reported. The oldest was 40 weeks old, weighing about six and a half pounds. Three others were also considered viable, weighing over two pounds. The remaining babies were between 12 and 20 weeks' gestation.
Kenyans reacted in horror to the discovery. The illegal abortions were "wicked and barbaric," according to a statement released by the East African Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. "We trust that the government will swiftly take appropriate measures to stop this ugly practice that undermines human dignity and sanctity of life."
Health Minister Ngilu offered reassurance that the government will continue to investigate the illegal abortion clinics. "Abortion shall never, and will never, be used as a contraceptive method of preventing pregnancy in this country," she said, according to the Independent.