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NRL News
Page 6
April 2009
Volume 36
Issue 4

Pro-Life News in Brief
By Liz Townsend

“Choose Life” License Plates Now in 24 States

Virginia and Missouri have joined 22 other states in offering specialty “Choose Life” license plates that benefit crisis pregnancy centers. Virginia’s pro-abortion Gov. Tim Kaine signed legislation approving the plates March 30, while on March 27 a federal appeals court upheld a judge’s ruling allowing the Missouri tags to be issued.

Previously vetoed by pro-abortion former governor, now senator, Mark Warner in 2003, legislation authorizing the Virginia license plate was approved by the state House and Senate once again in February. Virginia requires 350 orders before the specialty plate can be produced; pro-life Sen. Ken Cuccinelli told the Associated Press (AP) that at least 450 people have already sent in pre-orders. 

The license plates cost $25 per year. While the state keeps all proceeds from the first 1,000 plates, after that $15 of each fee will be distributed by Heartbeat International to pro-life groups that help women in crisis pregnancies, the AP reported.

“This law will guarantee that more women will receive responsible assistance and information about adoption and other help when making a decision about a difficult pregnancy,” said Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

Pro-abortion groups expressed outrage that Kaine, currently serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, would sign the bill. They derided crisis pregnancy centers as “deceptive non-medical establishments,” as the director of public policy for The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood told the AP.

However, Kaine issued a statement depicting the license plates as a voluntary expression of free speech. “I sign this legislation today in keeping with the Commonwealth’s longtime practice of approving specialty plates with all manner of political and social messages,” according to the statement. “Furthermore, if Planned Parenthood—an organization that is already a recipient of state budget funds—or another similar organization ever chooses to seek a specialty license plate in Virginia, I believe the Constitution would require the state to approve that plate to protect against any viewpoint discrimination.”

Freedom of speech was also the basis of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in the Missouri case. The appeals court upheld U.S. District Judge Scott Wright’s January 2008 decision calling the state’s procedure for issuing the plates unconstitutional. The “Choose Life” plates were distributed to about 170 drivers in February, the AP reported, and the program will continue after the latest court ruling.

“Because the ‘Choose Life’ plate is different from the standard Missouri license plate,” the appeals court wrote, “a reasonable observer would understand that the vehicle owner took the initiative to purchase the specialty plate and is voluntarily communicating his or her own message, not the message of the state.”

British 15-Year-Old Dies after Abortion

Discharged by an abortion clinic without being given antibiotics, 15-year-old Alesha Thomas of Huddersfield, England, died five days later from a heart attack caused by a severe infection, according to the London Times.

Coroner Roger Whittaker called for the Leeds clinic, run by pro-abortion group Marie Stopes International, to change its policies, The Express reported.

Thomas, 15 weeks pregnant, aborted her child in July 2007. Abortionist Peter Paku issued a prescription for the antibiotic Doxycycline one hour and 20 minutes after the abortion, intending for Thomas to take the medication to prevent infection, according to the Daily Mail. However, clinic staff had already released Thomas after only 45 minutes without checking to see if any follow-up care was needed.

“It has happened many times,” Paku said at the inquest, the Daily Mail reported. “Prescriptions would be forgotten many times and we would have to make arrangements.”

Three days later, Thomas’s mother Rose Bent called a Marie Stopes helpline, concerned because her daughter had stomach cramps and heavy bleeding. Thomas was told only to take ibuprofen. Her condition deteriorated, however, and five days after the abortion she was unable to move her legs and became unresponsive, according to the Times.

In an ambulance on the way to the hospital, Thomas suffered a fatal heart attack, the Times reported. Her death, ruled as the result of toxic shock syndrome, could have been prevented.

“If she had had the drugs administered to her,” Whittaker said at the inquest, “the balance of probability suggests she would have been more able to survive than die, which makes it all the more hard for her family in these circumstances.”

Spaniards March for Life

Hundreds of thousands of Spanish pro-lifers marched March 29 in cities across the country to protest proposed laws that would weaken protections for unborn babies. Organizers of the rallies estimated that 500,000 people showed their support for life, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“The government wants to approve a free abortion law that leaves the unborn completely unprotected,” Gador Joya of the group Right to Life told those gathered in Madrid, AFP reported. The law “will only lead to more deaths and more suffering by thousands of women. We demand that our laws protect the right to live and to be a mother.”

Current Spanish law allows abortion up to 12 weeks in cases of rape, to 22 weeks if the unborn baby has a birth defect, and anytime if the physical or mental health of the woman is threatened. As in the United States, the definition of “health” is interpreted broadly by many clinics, which “perform more than 100,000 abortions a year,” according to The Guardian.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government has proposed weakening the current law by allowing abortion on demand up to 14 weeks and to 22 weeks with a doctor’s certificate, The Guardian reported. The proposal would also permit abortions for minors over the age of 16 without parental consent.

Participants in the marches, which were organized by various pro-life groups, included people from all walks of life, from senior citizens to young families pushing babies in strollers, according to AFP. The rallies were supported by the Catholic Church, which has begun its own nationwide campaign against abortion. The campaign features a poster that reads, “Protect the lynx,” a protected species in Spain, along with a baby asking, “And me?”

Other European pro-lifers expressed support for their Spanish counterparts. “The Spanish marches help us to remember that we are not alone,” John Smeaton, director of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, wrote on his blog. “A powerful, peaceful, prayerful pro-life resistance (and, I believe, prayer) will, in time, roll back the culture of death, and the truth about human life will be seen clearly. So congratulations to the Spanish marchers!”

Swiss Group May “Help” Healthy Woman Commit Suicide

The founder of Swiss euthanasia group Dignitas told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that he plans to “help” a healthy woman commit suicide alongside her ill husband.

“There is a couple living in Canada, the husband is ill, his partner is not ill but she told us here in my living room that ‘if my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him,’” said Ludwig Minelli on the April 2 broadcast. “We will now probably go to the courts in order to clear this question.”

About 1,000 people have died under the supervision of Dignitas, according to the Daily Mail. This includes citizens of other countries who travel to Switzerland to take advantage of vague Swiss laws regarding assisted suicide.

Minelli told the BBC that there should be no restrictions on assisted suicide and that terminal illness, as stipulated in most euthanasia laws around the world, should not be required before a person can be “helped” to die.

“I say suicide is a marvellous marvellous possibility given to a human being,” he told the radio program. “Suicide is a very good possibility to escape a situation which you can’t alter. It is not a condition to have a terminal illness.”

Even while Minelli was advocating expansion of his client base, Swiss authorities began an investigation based on testimony from a former assistant, the Daily Mail reported. Soraya Wernli claimed that Minelli often collected much more than the usual £7,000 fee, receiving £120,000 from one suicidal person. Wernli added that Minelli would also sell jewelry and other possessions after the person died, according to the Daily Mail.

Swiss officials are considering tightening the country’s assisted suicide law, the BBC reported. A medical ethics commission has recommended “longer assessments, and tougher appraisals of psychiatric patients wishing to kill themselves, and of couples in apparent suicide pacts,” according to the BBC.

“We have this very strange situation of having a practice without regulation,” commission president Christoph Rehman Sutter told the BBC. “There is no regulation at the moment.”

Most British Physicians Reject Assisted Suicide

A majority of British physicians said that do not support euthanasia and assisted suicide, according to a study published in the March 25 issue of Palliative Medicine. While only 34% said they supported euthanasia and 35% approved of physician-assisted suicide, the doctors did admit to giving “a drug with the explicit intention of speeding death” to one in 200 patients, according to The Guardian.

While statistically this is only 0.51% of deaths, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) points out that it means that 2,500 British citizens died with the direct “help” of their doctor.

“In order to truly safeguard patients,” said Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, “what is needed in the UK is wider understanding of the pain control available, and the rewriting of recent pro-euthanasia legislation and protocols to make clear that intentional killing is not acceptable.”

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London surveyed 3,700 British doctors along with the general public. Physicians were much less likely to support euthanasia, while 82% of the public said they approved of the legalization of euthanasia and 62% backed physician-assisted suicide, according to The Guardian.

“This research shows stark differences between public opinion and that of doctors,” study author Professor Clive Seale said in a press release. “Elsewhere in the world, opposition among doctors has been a major factor in preventing the legalisation of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.”

Pro-euthanasia British legislators have been attempting to weaken the laws against the practice. A recent proposal to remove sanctions against people who take friends and relatives to other countries for assisted suicide failed to make it through Parliament, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Mother Charged with Forcing Daughter’s Abortion

A mother in Miramar, Florida, allegedly forced her 16-year-old daughter to take abortifacient drugs and disposed of her grandchild in the trash after the unborn baby was delivered into a toilet. Tonuya Rainey, 38, faces charges of “termination of a pregnancy, practicing healthcare without a license, child abuse and improper disposal of human remains,” according to the Miami Herald.

Rainey’s bail was initially set at $14,000 after she was arrested March 19. However, Broward County Judge John Hurley intervened the next day and raised bail to $185,000, saying that the alleged crime warranted a higher amount.

“I believe that what has allegedly occurred is tantamount to murder,” Hurley said at the bond hearing, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. “I’ve handled murder cases in here. I have handled sex cases. I’ve handled everything. This is it, this is the pinnacle. I have never been so disturbed.”

Rainey and her daughter, whose name is being withheld because of her age, gave police different accounts of the events. According to the 16-year-old, her mother did not want her to have the baby and made her take pills obtained from an abortion clinic. The girl, who said she was 24 weeks pregnant, told investigators “she experienced severe cramps, then at 3 a.m. on March 6 gave birth while seated on a toilet. She said she lay the infant on a bed and saw him breathing and his arms moving,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Rainey, however, said the baby was not alive after the delivery, and told police that she “placed the fetus in a bag and set it out with her garbage for curbside pickup,” the Herald reported.

After her attorneys protested to an appeals court, the bail amount was reinstated to $14,000 March 29. Rainey was released on bond, and her daughter is in foster care, according to the Herald.

Investigation into Abortionist Tiller Continues

A Kansas medical board is investigating notorious abortionist George Tiller for several violations of the law, despite a March 27 jury verdict that found him not guilty of similar misconduct, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts is looking into allegations that include “performing an abortion on a fetus that was viable without having a documented referral from another physician not legally or financially affiliated with him; unprofessional or dishonorable conduct or professional incompetency; and commitment of acts likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public,” according to a board press release.

Tiller performs late-term abortions in his Wichita, Kansas, clinic. For abortions after 21 weeks, Kansas law states that “an abortion can still be performed but the abortionist must get another doctor to sign off on the fact that she needs the abortion to avoid substantial and irreversible damage to her ‘bodily’ health. ‘Bodily’ is interpreted to include both mental and physical health,” according to the Kansans for Life web site. The second doctor is supposed to be completely independent from the abortionist.

The charges against Tiller involved his relationship with the doctor who provided the second signature for late abortions, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus. Prosecutors alleged that Neuhaus “essentially functioned as Tiller’s employee,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “She saw his patients at his office, and on his schedule. Also, in 2003, Tiller’s patients provided her with her only income.”

However, a six-member jury found Tiller not guilty on all charges, according to the AP. That same day, the Board of Healing Arts made public a complaint that was filed in December.

Beyond the financial relationship between Tiller and Neuhaus that violated the independent physician requirement, pro-lifers contend that authorities should examine if the abortions were in fact done to prevent “substantial and irreversible damage” to the woman.