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CULTURE DIGEST: California’s Brown vetoes egg donor bill

NASHVILLE (BP) — Liberal California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have lifted a ban on payments to egg donors for research purposes.

In rejecting the bill Aug. 13, Brown, a Democrat, expressed concerns about the potential risks to women who undergo invasive techniques for their eggs to be harvested.

“Not everything in life is for sale nor should it be,” Brown said in his veto message.

“In medical procedures of this kind, genuinely informed consent is difficult because the long-term risks are not adequately known,” he wrote. “Putting thousands of dollars on the table only compounds the problem.”

Brown said he saw no “sufficient reason” to reverse the state legislature’s nearly unanimous decision six years before to ban payments by research organizations for donated eggs.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC), a California-based organization that has led opposition to egg donation for a decade, applauded Brown’s veto.

“[T]his veto is especially encouraging to us,” CBC President Jennifer Lahl said. “We commend [Brown] for his leadership on the bill.”

CBC and other opponents have warned against egg donation because of its commodification of women and their eggs, as well as the coercion of women and risks to donors’ health that are involved.

Women must receive injections of a strong drug to undergo ovarian hyperstimulation before donating their eggs. The eggs are extracted by a 12-inch needle inserted into each ovary. Among the possible risks for donors are ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), infertility and kidney disease, critics say. The effects of OHSS can vary from abdominal pain and swelling to, in rare cases, blood clots, kidney failure, shock and death.

U.S. birth rate remains at record lows

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the birthrate in the United States is at a record low of 63.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The birthrate began to decline at the beginning of the recession of 2008.

Though the recession technically ended in 2009, the birthrate has not yet rebounded, perhaps due to a still sluggish economy. The 2012 numbers, which remained virtually the same as 2011, indicate the drop may have leveled off, according to D’Vera Cohn, senior writer at Pew Research Center quoted in an MSN News report.

“Research has shown that when economic times are bad, fertility rates are down,” Cohn told MSN. “When the economy improves, we’ve seen the fertility rate rise again as women have the children that they didn’t have during more difficult economic times.”

Other experts say it’s too soon to tell if the current low rate is a result of the recession or of changing demographics and social trends, such as women waiting longer to have children.

Georgia halts funds for state employee abortions

The Georgia government has freed its residents from having to pay for state employees’ abortions.

The Department of Community Health (DCH) voted 5-3 to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion for state workers except in the case of a threat to the mother’s life, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Aug. 8 vote reversed a policy that provided payment for abortion as it does for other surgeries.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, urged the panel to take the action. According to The Journal-Constitution, Deal said the vote “shows our state’s commitment to reducing the number of abortions in our state by ensuring that state taxpayers aren’t paying for a procedure that many find morally objectionable.”

Dan Becker, Georgia Right to Life’s president, expressed gratitude for Deal’s “follow through on this important issue. His willingness to stand up for innocent life should serve as an example to others in Georgia government.”

State employees had 366 surgical abortions and 47 chemical, or drug-caused, abortions in 2011, according to Georgia Right to Life. The cost was almost $223,000.

The state provides coverage for about 650,000 workers, retirees and family members, The Journal-Constitution reported. State funds pay for about 75 percent of the insurance coverage for state employees.

The new policy will take effect Jan. 1.

Judge invalidates city’s action against mobile pregnancy unit

A federal court has ruled the city of Elgin, Ill., acted unconstitutionally in shutting down a mobile pregnancy help center.

Federal judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued a permanent injunction Aug. 8 against a 2012 amendment to the city’s zoning code that effectively prevented Life Center from operating its mobile unit more than four times a year at each of two locations. The City Council of Elgin, which is located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, changed the zoning code to classify the mobile facility for “temporary land use,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents Life Center in the case.

The new injunction means Life Center may again park its mobile pregnancy help center at Evangelical Covenant Church and JB’s Pub & Bar. Both are located near Elgin Larkin High School. The mobile unit provides free ultrasounds, pregnancy information and services.

“Women deserve access to the help they need for themselves and their unborn children without undue interference from the government,” ADF Senior Counsel Steven Aden said.

“Life Center’s free services help both the city and its citizens, so the city’s actions have been both counterproductive and unconstitutional.”

Life Center operates the mobile unit under the name TLC Pregnancy Services.

Judge shuts down Birmingham abortion clinic

An Alabama judge has shut down a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker agreed with the Alabama Department of Public Health Aug. 8 by ruling the New Woman All Women clinic is an abortion center, not a doctor’s office, The Birmingham News reported. Boohaker’s permanent injunction means owner Diane Derzis and abortion doctor Bruce Norman may no longer operate the clinic.

It is not the first time the clinic has been shut down, but it appears the action will be permanent this time.

The New Woman All Women clinic lost its license to operate in 2012 after the state Department of Public Health found it violated multiple health and safety rules.

Operation Rescue is “pleased with the fact that Derzis and Norman were finally caught red-handed operating outside the law,” said Troy Newman, the pro-life, watchdog organization’s president. “We are thankful that women will now be protected by the permanent injunction on Derzis and Norman. We hope this will be the end of their schemes to evade the laws.”

Third Circuit Court rejects request by pro-family business

The full Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia denied Aug. 14 a request by a Pennsylvania family business to consider its suit against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate.

The Hahns, a Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., appealed to the full Third Circuit after a divided, three-judge panel of the court denied July 26 their request for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the controversial rule. The mandate requires employers to pay for health insurance coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortions. The Hahns object to the mandate because they believe life begins at conception.

The three-judge panel ruled “for-profit, secular organizations cannot engage in religious exercise.” The Third Circuit’s opinion conflicts with one issued in June by the 10th Circuit, which ruled corporations “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion” under federal law.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Hahns, said it would appeal to the Supreme Court. The split decisions at the appeals court level increase the likelihood the high court will grant a review in one of the cases.
Compiled by Tom Strode and Laura Erlanson of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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