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NRL News
Page 22
July/August 2009
Volume 36
Issue 7-8

Pro-Life News in Brief
By Liz Townsend

Arizona Passes Bills to Tighten Abortion Restrictions

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed three pro-life bills July 13 involving waiting periods, parental involvement, partial-birth abortions, and abortionists. The Arizona Senate gave final approval to the bills in June, while the House passed them in March, according to the Associated Press (AP).

House Bill 2564 requires women to meet with an abortionist 24 hours in advance and be told about risks, alternatives, the unborn child’s development, and assistance available if she chooses life. It also allows health care workers to conscientiously object to participating in abortion. In addition, it provides that minor girls need to get written, notarized consent from one parent before an abortion, the Arizona Republic reported.

“These new provisions will provide stronger protections for the minor girl and her parents,” Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC state legislative director, told NRL News.

A second bill, HB 2400, brings the state’s partial-birth abortion ban in line with the U.S. Supreme Court-approved federal ban. It imposes a fine or up to two years in prison for an abortionist who violates the ban, as well as clarifying the language that defines a partial-birth abortion.

“While it is true that partial birth abortion is banned by the federal law, the state partial birth abortion ban allows for enforcement of the law by state prosecutors—not just federal officials,” said Balch. “This is a prudent way for Arizona to ensure that this heinous practice of pulling a living unborn child out of his mother’s womb and stabbing him in the back of the head will not go unprosecuted.”

Another bill, SB 1175, requires that only licensed physicians may perform abortions. This bill “is extremely important since Nurse Practitioners and other non-doctors are not equipped to deal with complications arising from a surgical abortion,” said bill sponsor Rep. Nancy Barto in an Arizona Right to Life press release. “Women’s lives will be saved because of this clarification.”

Legislators finally saw their pro-life bills become law after years of vetoes by former governor Janet Napolitano. “This is common sense. It is something that Arizona women deserve. Besides that, this is something those babies deserve,” state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) told the AP. “That’s a live person, a real victim.”

Adult Stem Cells Treat Heart Disease in Clinical Trial

Mike Jones, 66, has shown marked improvement after participating in a clinical trial that used his own adult stem cells to treat congestive heart failure. Doctors from the University of Louisville (UofL) and Jewish Hospital harvested stem cells and then transplanted them back into Jones’s heart in an attempt to repair damaged tissue, according to a UofL press release.

“We’ve studied this in rats, mice and pigs but this is the first time we’ve tried it in a human,” said Roberto Bolli, director of UofL’s Institute for Molecular Cardiology. “If it works, it will be a revolutionary treatment for heart failure.”

The cells were transplanted July 17 into Jones’s bloodstream through his leg, and then traveled into his damaged heart. In only one week, his heart function rose from 20% to 30%, according to the press release.

Jones appeared with his doctors at a press conference July 24. He said that he is now exercising three times a day, and “I may even start jogging again.”

The clinical trial is expected to involve 20 patients over the next two years, testing for the safety and effectiveness of the procedure, according to the press release.

“We continue to enroll patients in this first-of-its-kind clinical trial,” Bolli said in a press release issued by Jewish Hospital. “We hope to help the heart regenerate its own tissue and improve heart function.”

Models of Unborn Babies Made from Ultrasounds

Taking ultrasound technology to the next dimension, a design student has developed a new technique to create three-dimensional plaster models of unborn babies that expectant parents can hold and forge an even closer bond with their children.

Brazilian Jorge Lopes, a PhD student at the Royal College of Art, displayed the models in a London exhibition beginning July 27, according to the London Times. “It’s amazing to see the faces of the mothers,” Lopes told the Times. “They can see the full scale of their baby, really understand the size of it.”

Lopes uses a technique called “rapid prototyping,” which takes ultrasound and MRI scans of the unborn babies and “prints” them with a plaster powder instead of ink. The plaster builds up, layer by layer, until it creates a perfect 3D replica of the baby.

Two of the models are of Lopes’s own son. “It’s my son with 13 weeks and almost 16 weeks. We’re having a baby in August,” Lopes told ABC News. When he held the completed models, “I was crying. Of course, it’s—amazing to see. And, you know, you can see the umbilical cord and everything.”

An obstetrics clinic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is conducting a trial to use the technology. Testers will include a blind woman, who would actually be able to feel the body and face of her unborn baby, the Times reported.

“Prenatal bonding is really important for postnatal bonding,” ultrasound pioneer Stuart Campbell, head of obstetrics and gynecology at King’s College London, told ABC News. “To have a model of the child they can carry around with them and feel and touch, to me, must help that process.”

Study Finds That Unborn Babies Can Remember

Researchers in the Netherlands found that unborn babies respond to stimulation and then remember the feeling, according to a report in the July/August issue of the journal Child Development.

As early as 30 weeks old, the babies startled when they heard a low sound, but then became accustomed to it as it was repeated. Getting used to a stimulus and showing no reaction after repetition is called habituation. “Habituation is a form of learning and a form of memory,” co-author Dr. Jan Nijhuis of Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands told LiveScience.

Thirty-week-old babies stopped responding to the sound after about 13 repetitions. If another round of stimulation began 10 minutes later, these babies took only a few times to ignore the noise, LiveScience reported. Older babies, about 34 weeks old, remembered the sound up to four weeks later.

Babies younger than 30 weeks did not show evidence of memories. However, Nijhuis said that the type of stimulus used in the study may not be the best one to reach younger unborn children, and further research is needed, according to LiveScience.

“It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children,” said Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. “We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception.”

Nurse Forced to Assist in Abortion

Claiming that supervisors threatened to fire her if she did not assist in an abortion, Brooklyn nurse Catherina Lorena Cenzon-DeCarlo is suing Mount Sinai Hospital for violating her right to refuse to participate in abortion because of her religious beliefs.

“After I was forced to assist this abortion against my religious objection, I felt violated and betrayed, like I had been raped,” DeCarlo said in a statement. “I couldn’t believe that this could happen in the United States, where freedom is held sacred.”

DeCarlo claimed in the lawsuit, filed in late July, that she made her beliefs known to her employers both verbally and in writing soon after she began working at Mount Sinai in 2004, according to the New York Post. She was never asked to participate in an abortion until May 24, 2009.

That day, supervisors assigned her to assist in aborting a 22-week-old unborn baby. DeCarlo alleged that after she refused and asked them to assign the task to a nurse who did not object, they threatened to end her career by charging her with “insubordination and patient abandonment,” the Washington Times reported.

Capitulating to the threats, DeCarlo described the horrors of witnessing the abortion, as she was “forced to watch the doctor remove the bloody arms and legs of the child from its mother’s body with forceps. It felt like a horror film unfolding,” she claimed in the statement, according to the Times.

In the lawsuit DeCarlo, who still works at Mount Sinai, is seeking the assurance that her beliefs will be respected, monetary damages, and a return to her normal number of overtime shifts, which DeCarlo asserted were cut back after the incident, the Post reported.

“I hope that Mount Sinai will obey the law and allow health-care workers not to assist in abortion against their beliefs,” DeCarlo said in the statement. “I believe lots of nurses and doctors throughout the country are being pressured to assist abortion, and I want them to know they are not alone, and they should speak up for their rights of conscience.”

Girl’s Brain Adapted to Missing Right Side

Demonstrating the amazing ability of the human body to adapt to disabilities, a 10-year-old girl whose brain’s right hemisphere failed to develop fully in the womb can see normally using only one eye.

Describing the girl’s case in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists at Glasgow University added that the unidentified girl attends school, takes part in activities, and has a normal medical history aside from occasional small seizures and weakness on one side.

“Despite lacking one hemisphere, the girl has normal psychological function and is perfectly capable of living a normal and fulfilling life,” said Dr. Lars Muckli of the university’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, according to Press Association Scotland. “She is witty, charming and intelligent.”

Her parents did not even know she was missing one side of her brain until she was three and began having involuntary twitching on one side of her body, Press Association Scotland reported. MRI scans showed that her brain was underdeveloped.

Usually, if one part of the brain is missing the patient can only see to one side. However, in the girl’s brain, the retinal fibers that would normally go from the eye into the right hemisphere instead diverted to the undamaged left side.

“The brain has amazing plasticity but we were quite astonished to see just how well the single hemisphere of the brain in this girl has adapted to compensate for the missing half,” said Muckli.

Still Leaner and Meaner: Another Merger at Planned Parenthood

Yet another merger of Planned Parenthood affiliates is in the news, this time involving affiliates in Iowa and Nebraska.

At least 10 other mergers have been announced since May 2007. The latest, involving Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa and Planned Parenthood of Nebraska and Council Bluffs, was made because of “rising medical expenses and dwindling resources” at the Nebraska affiliate, the Omaha Herald reported (8/3/09).

The CEO of the Nebraska affiliate retired and several employees were let go. The new affiliate, called Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, will be run out of Des Moines by Jill June, head of the former Iowa affiliate. Paperwork on the merger is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Ten of the Iowa affiliate’s 18 clinics perform abortions, just one of the five from the Nebraska affiliate. One of the biggest differences highlighted by the Omaha Herald is the fact that the Iowa affiliate has long received Title X family planning funds from the federal government, along with a federal waiver that lets the group expand eligibility for Medicaid funds. Nebraska pulled out of the Title X program in 2005 and legislative efforts to apply for the Medicaid waiver failed.