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NRL News
Page 6
November/December 2009
Volume 36
Issue 11-12

Pro-Life News in Brief
By Liz Townsend

Former Planned Parenthood Official Speaks Up for Life

Watching an unborn baby die during an ultrasound-guided abortion changed the heart and life of Abby Johnson, the former director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. Johnson, 29, resigned from her job October 6 and has begun speaking out against abortion and Planned Parenthood’s philosophy.

What I saw on the screen was a 13-week baby fighting for its life,” Johnson said on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor. “And I had flashes in my head of my own daughter. I remembered having an ultrasound at 12 weeks with my own daughter. And I just was thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ I was thinking, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’”

Johnson said that this was the first time she actually saw a child killed during an abortion. “Planned Parenthood really tries to instill in their employees and the women that are coming in for abortions that this is not a baby, that this is just a mass of cells,” she explained on The O’Reilly Factor. “You know, don’t say ‘baby’ in the clinic. Don’t say ‘baby’ to the women coming in for an abortion. And so you begin to believe that. You begin to believe that it’s not a life.”

Planned Parenthood filed a request for an injunction against Johnson, asking the court to forbid her from speaking about the organization. A temporary order was granted, but a judge lifted the injunction November 11 and refused to issue a permanent one, according to the Associated Press.

The pro-abortion group contends that Johnson is a disgruntled ex-employee whose performance was being questioned when she quit, reported.

But Johnson told Bill O’Reilly that “their business model has changed. And that, you know, this prevention that they preach about maybe is not really what Planned Parenthood is all about. And that, with the downward economy, they are really trying to increase their abortion numbers, because that is the most lucrative part of their business.”

Johnson said she will continue to speak about her recent conversion and about the lessons she has learned. “I plan on doing some public speaking on my change of heart and moving away from the abortion industry,” she told The Eagle. “I am just going to be spending a lot of time in prayer and waiting for God to lead me to my next opportunity. ... There are already quite a few events planned.”

Ohio Records Lowest Number of Abortions

The Ohio Department of Health reported in October that 29,613 babies were aborted in the state in 2008, down 4% from the year before and the lowest number since records began being kept in 1976.

Pro-life groups said they were pleased with the decline, although more work needs to be done to protect all babies in Ohio. “We are winning the fight against those who push abortion as the first and sometimes only choice for women in crisis,” Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Mike Gonidakis said in a press release. “While we take great joy that the collective efforts of Ohio’s pro-life community are making significant strides in ending abortions, the total number is staggering.”

The number of abortions declined between 2007 and 2008 in just about every statistical category. There were 35% fewer abortions among women 18 years old and younger, 22% less among women 20–24 years old, and 19% fewer among women 25 years and older. In addition, abortions decreased 30% among white women, 10% among African American women, and 15% among other groups.

Other statistics showed that the largest number of abortions—47% of the total—were to mothers were older than 24 years old, while most aborted women—83%—were unmarried.

Pro-lifers hope to see even larger declines as they spread the message of life and bring real assistance to women in need. “Ohio Right to Life and our life-affirming crisis pregnancy centers help women see that they have real alternatives to abortion,” Gonidakis said. “We will continue to promote life-affirming options including adoption and will work to increase the understanding that abortion hurts not only the unborn, but also the women who have them.”

Woman in Jail for Forced Abortion Attempt

Brooklyn police arrested a woman December 5 for trying to kill a baby conceived by her husband and another woman. The baby boy, born October 27, survived an abortifacient drug and another poisoning attempt, according to the New York Daily News.

Keisha Jones, 38, discovered that Monique Hunter was pregnant with her husband’s baby, although Hunter claimed that she did not know that Anthony Jones was married, the Daily News reported.

Mrs. Jones called Hunter October 26 posing as a health care worker and told Hunter to pick up a prescription that was supposed to prevent Down syndrome. The medication Hunter received was actually Cytotec, which is the prostaglandin used in the RU486 abortion technique, according to the Daily News.

Hunter, seven months pregnant at the time, took the drug and quickly went into labor. Anthony Jones, Jr., was born the next day.

Police alleged that Mrs. Jones next tried to kill the baby by sending what she claimed was “breast milk” to the hospital. The liquid, which actually contained an unidentified poison, was confiscated by workers and never reached the baby, the Daily News reported.

Mrs. Jones is expected to be arraigned on felony reckless endangerment and forged medical prescription charges, along with a misdemeanor criminal impersonation charge. She is currently in custody.

Despite his remature birth, the baby is reported to be doing well. “The doctors told me he’s going to be okay,” Hunter told the Daily News.

Research Gives Hope for Brain-Injured Patients

Patients diagnosed as minimally conscious or in a vegetative state can respond to stimuli and even learn, according to a new study. The findings from researchers at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina; the University of Cambridge, England; and the Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Argentina, could enable doctors to better diagnose patients and could even lead to therapies for brain-injured patients. (For more, page 15.)

Although it requires further investigation, our finding that individuals with chronic pathologies of awareness can acquire trace conditioning (and may recover) suggests that there is a window for cognitive neuro-rehabilitation,” the researchers wrote in the October issue of Nature Neuroscience. “Although extremely speculative, it is important to investigate whether training the circuits involved in awareness may help the recovery of consciousness.”

The study involved a control group of volunteers who were under anesthesia along with patients who had been diagnosed as in a vegetative or minimally conscious state. The researchers blew a puff of air into their eyes, causing a reflexive blink, at the same time a sound was played.

After a time of training, researchers would play the sound and see if the patients’ eyes would blink even without the puff of air. “The team found that most of the people diagnosed as being minimally conscious and some with a [vegetative state] diagnosis blinked on hearing the beep,” New Scientist reported. “They were anticipating the air puff, even when it didn’t come, a sign that they had learned to make the association.”

The patients under anesthesia, however, did not react to the sound. This finding indicated that there is a significant difference between true unconsciousness and a minimally conscious state.

The research could also be used to develop a test to better diagnose brain injury.

This test will hopefully become a useful, simple tool to test for consciousness without the need for imaging or instructions,” lead researcher Dr. Tristan Bekinschtein of Cambridge University told Press Association. “Additionally, this research suggests that if the patient shows learning, then they are likely to recover to some degree.”

Complaint Filed against South Korean Embryo Research; Hwang Convicted

A group of South Korean citizens filed a constitutional complaint against research that harms human embryos, objecting to programs heavily supported by the country’s government, Korea Times reported. The Constitutional Court heard their arguments in an October 8 hearing. A ruling has not yet been announced.

In addition, disgraced embryo researcher Hwang Woo-suk was convicted October 28 of fraud and embezzlement and given a suspended prison sentence. For three years after the world discovered that Hwang faked research on human cloning, the South Korean government imposed limits on embryonic stem cell research. However, in April officials lifted the restrictions, and pledged to triple government funding of destructive research to about $103 million by 2015, according to the Times.

In response to government backing of embryo research, the citizens’ complaint contends that embryos are human beings and should not be killed in experiments, the Times reported.

Embryos are the fundamental source of new beings and personalities, and their dignity and value should be rightfully respected,” the plaintiffs wrote in a statement, according to the Times.

The National Bioethics Committee, the government agency that regulates embryonic stem cell research, sent a representative to oppose the complaint. “The human embryo should be respected as a potential human being, but should not be regarded with the same legal status as real persons,” the representative said during the hearing, the Times reported.

In Hwang’s case, he has appealed his conviction for “breaching bioethics laws in purchasing human eggs and embezzling a combined 835 million won (US $705,200) he obtained based on a fake stem cell experiment,” according to Yonhap. Hwang’s downfall came after “breakthrough” papers in the journal Science, claiming that he cloned the first human embryo and extracted viable stem cell lines, were proven to be false. During testimony in 2006, Hwang asserted that his junior researchers were the ones who faked the data.

Although prosecutors asked for a four-year sentence, Judge Bae Ki-yeol said Hwang had shown “remorse” and suspended the prison term, International Herald Tribune reported. Other researchers who helped Hwang with the articles also received suspended sentences and fines, according to Korea Times.

Another Adult Stem Cell Success for Cardiac Treatment

Expanding on initial promising results announced in March 2007, researchers at the University of Miami declared that their “clinical trial is the first to show that treating patients with adult stem cells after a heart attack is safe and that it appears to repair damaged heart tissue,” according to a press release.

In an article in the December 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers reported that 53 cardiac patients who received adult stem cells derived from bone marrow showed much more improvement than those who received placebo injections.

The bone marrow cells did not even have to be derived from the patients themselves. All of the patients received cells that had been harvested from a single unrelated donor, according to Reuters Health Medical News.

Six months after receiving the adult stem cells, the patients saw an improvement in their overall condition, pumped more blood with each heartbeat, had far fewer irregular heartbeats, and suffered no side effects or immune system rejection, according to the Miami Herald.

The stem cells take part in the growth of new blood vessels to bring more oxygen to the heart,” Dr. Alan Heldman of the University of Miami told the Herald. “They help modulate the scarring from the heart attack. They fight inflammation. There’s a lot going on.”

The next phase of the trial will involve 220 patients in medical centers around the country, according to the Herald. The researchers are hopeful that if this next phase is successful, the procedure could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration within five years, lead author Dr. Joshua Hare told the newspaper.

The success of this trial should open the way for even more uses of adult stem cells. “Many have argued that it’s premature to test stem cells in patients,” Hare said in a press release. “This trial proves the value of rigorous and monitored clinical testing. It lays the foundation for a brand new cell-based therapy for the human heart.”