Pro-Life News In Brief

By Liz Townsend


Florida Voters Pave the Way for Parental Notification

By a lopsided 65%-35% vote, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment November 2 authorizing the legislature to pass a law requiring notification of parents before a minor girl has an abortion. The amendment will prevent the Florida Supreme Court from declaring such a law unconstitutional, which it has done twice before.

"It's fabulous, but I'm not surprised the amendment passed," said Lynda Bell, Florida Right to Life's director on the NRLC board of directors. "The people of Florida are incensed that moms and dads don't have the right to know their little girls are pregnant before they see the abortionist."

The amendment states, "Not-withstanding a minor's right of privacy, the Legislature is authorized to require by general law for notification to a parent or guardian of a minor before the termination of the minor's pregnancy. The Legislature shall provide exceptions to such requirement for notification and shall create a process for judicial waiver of the notification."

The next step will be to pass a parental notification law in the state House and Senate that conforms to the provisions detailed in the amendment. Bell said pro-lifers are very optimistic that a law can be passed soon, since the legislature approved such bills three times in the last 16 years. One bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, while the other two were overturned by the state Supreme Court for violating a "right to privacy" found by the court in the state constitution, according to the Associated Press.

The success of the parental notification amendment capped off a triumphant Election Day for Florida pro-lifers. President George W. Bush carried the state by a 5% margin, while pro-life candidate Mel Martinez won a Senate seat. "It took a lot of hard work," said Bell, "and the resounding support for parental notification ensured that many pro-lifers got to the polls to support Bush and Martinez. We won so clearly."


Brazil Court Overturns Decision Legalizing Some Abortions

Brazil's highest court restored the right to life of anencephalic babies in the country by reversing a July ruling that legalized abortion of unborn children diagnosed with the condition. The nation's law only authorizes abortion in cases of rape or severe danger to the mother's life, according to Knight Ridder news service.

The Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal ruled 7-4 October 22 that the temporary order issued by one judge in July was not enough to change the law. Federal Supreme Court Judge Marco Aurélio Mello based his July 1 order on the fact that anencephalic babies, who are missing some or all of their brains, rarely survive birth. "They are stillborn in 50 percent of cases and die immediately after birth in virtually all other cases," said Aurélio, the Associated Press reported.

The Brazilian National Council of Bishops (CNBB) issued a statement in July condemning Aurélio's decision. "In this manner, he authorized the voluntary interruption of the gestation of a human life," the CNBB stated, according to Brazzil magazine. "In fact, a human life, which is formed in the mother's womb, is already a new holder of rights, and, for this reason, this life should always be respected, regardless of the stage or the condition in which it exists."

Despite the positive ruling from the high court, pro-lifers in Brazil need to continue to be vigilant to keep their protective laws. Pro-abortion groups and the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are advocating for "limited abortion on demand" in Brazil, Knight Ridder reported. However, the influential Catholic church and other prominent Brazilians insist the country should protect unborn children, even those who have severe disabilities.

"The Church and pro-life associations defend human life from fertilization until natural death," Humberto Vieira, president of Brazil's Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, told Zenit news agency. "Every human being is loved by God, regardless of the fact he is the bearer of anomalies."


Study Finds Increase in Anxiety after Abortion

A study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that women who had abortions are more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than women who gave birth to babies conceived in an unintended pregnancy.

"Women need to know that there is a greater risk of anxiety after an abortion," study co-author Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University told NRL News. "We found that women who have aborted may feel guilty, have a fear of being punished in the future, and worry that something bad will happen to later-born children."

Coleman and her co-authors studied data obtained in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. According to the journal report, "The sample used for these analyses consisted of (1) all women having an unintended pregnancy ending in abortion for their first pregnancy event and (2) all women having an unintended pregnancy ending in live birth delivery for their first pregnancy event."

The women were asked specific questions about their experiences of worry and anxiety. Respondents who reported at least three symptoms of GAD were considered to have experienced generalized anxiety.

Women who aborted were found to have a significantly higher risk of generalized anxiety than women who gave birth to their babies. "Additional analyses revealed higher rates of generalized anxiety for aborting women compared to delivering women under the age of 20, but more comparable rates of generalized anxiety between the two groups among older women," the authors wrote. "This may be attributed to the higher rates of abortion concealment among older women or the experience of abortion being more stressful for younger women."

Coleman said that this survey is the latest in a growing body of research that shows abortion has serious negative consequences for women. "There needs to be more research to replicate the findings in this study," Coleman said, "but taken with other studies that show higher rates of depression, suicide, and the like, there is enough out there to show that the risks are real."


Ohio Court to Decide Fate of Brain-Injured Baby

Parents of a brain-injured one-year-old are fighting a legal battle against the baby's court-appointed guardian, who ordered Aiden Stein removed from life support. The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments October 26 in the case.

Aiden stopped breathing March 15 at his home in Mansfield, Ohio, when he was in the care of his 21-year-old father, Matthew Stein, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The then-four-month-old baby was flown to Children's Hospital in Akron, where doctors diagnosed him with a skull fracture and severe brain injuries caused by shaken-baby syndrome, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Police officials have said they suspect that Matthew Stein or Aiden's mother, Arica Heimlich, caused Aiden's injuries, but neither has been charged with a crime, according to the Dispatch. The parents have consistently denied the accusations. "Me and Arica never did anything to him," Stein told the Dispatch. "Who would hurt a little kid?"

Doctors recommended that Aiden be removed from the ventilator that helps him breathe and the feeding tube that provides nutrients, asserting that he is deaf, blind, and in a "vegetative state," according to the Dispatch. His parents, however, refused to authorize removal. "I just wish he could talk and speak for himself," Heimlich told the Dispatch. "Obviously he wants to live. He's hung on this long."

Aiden's grandmother said that the baby's condition is improving. "If we make noises in the room or talk, he moves his head in that direction and opens his eyes," Stein's mother Dawn Mansfield told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "When we read to him, it looks like he focuses. We do not know if he can see but believe he can hear."

However, the hospital petitioned the court to authorize life-support removal, and Summit County Probate Judge Bill Spicer appointed a guardian for Aiden April 16, asserting that "Aiden's parents had a vested interest in keeping him alive since they could face criminal charges if he dies," the Plain Dealer reported.

Guardian Ellen Kaforey agreed with the doctors and requested life support be withdrawn. "He does open his eyes on occasion, but that is about it," she told the Plain Dealer.

Aiden remains on life support while the parents appeal to higher courts. Spicer's decision was upheld June 9 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case is now being considered by the state Supreme Court.

Stein and Heimlich contend that their parental rights have never been terminated, so they should be able to make the final decision about Aiden's life, the Beacon Journal reported.

A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected before the end of the year, according to the Dispatch.


Canadian Euthanasia Activist Acquitted of Assisting Suicides

A British Columbia, Canada, jury found euthanasia activist Evelyn Martens not guilty of assisted suicide in the 2002 deaths of two women. Martens, an executive member of the Right to Die Network of Canada, admitted she helped the women "end their lives out of compassion," according to the Vancouver Sun.

Although it is illegal in Canada to assist in suicides, euthanasia proponents hope that the November 4 verdict will provide a precedent to allow even more people to die with the help of others. "The jury accepted, simply put, that it is not a criminal offence to simply be present when someone else commits suicide," Martens's attorney Peter Firestone said on the television show Canada AM. "It's an important decision."

The first victim, Monique Charest, 64, died in Duncan, British Columbia, January 7, 2002. Charest suffered pain in her back and stomach, but had no life-threatening conditions, according to the Canadian Press (CP).

Charest suffocated herself using a so-called "exit bag," a plastic bag with a Velcro collar and a hose that delivers helium to displace needed oxygen, designed by pro-euthanasia groups, the Sun reported. Her death was initially thought to be from natural causes. Testimony at the trial established that Martens visited Charest and discussed her suicide plans before her death, according to CP.

Leyanne Burchell, 57, had stomach cancer. She died June 26, 2002, of an overdose of drugs, the Sun reported. Undercover police, as part of their investigation into Charest's death, followed Martens to Burchell's home and were waiting outside when she died, according to the Sun.

Police found drugs, helium tanks, and exit bags in Martens's van and home, CP reported.

The not guilty verdict stunned euthanasia opponents. "I'm just shocked given the evidence," Beverly Welsh, a member of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and former palliative care nurse, told the Sun.


Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Kevorkian Appeal

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court refused November 1 to hear Jack Kevorkian's appeal of his 1999 conviction on second-degree murder in the death of Thomas Youk, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Kevorkian's appeal, which had already been rejected by two lower courts, contended that he received "ineffective legal advice" during his trial, in which he represented himself, the AP reported.

"I think it's sad," Kevorkian's attorney Mayer Morganroth told the AP. "Certainly, he was hoping that the Supreme Court would address this issue."

Kevorkian has served five years of his 10- to 25-year sentence.

Although he has failed to convince the courts, Kevorkian seems to have won over an Oscar-winning filmmaker. Director Barbara Kopple plans make a film next year based on a manuscript by euthanasia advocates about Kevorkian, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"It will look at the life of Dr. Kevorkian and all the incredible layers of his personality," Kopple told the Free Press. "And it will look at a man who's given up so much for what he believes."

Producer Steve Jones said he hopes that award-winning actor Ben Kingsley will play Kevorkian, according to the newspaper.