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LIFE DIGEST: Abortion increases risk of premature birth, study shows; Mass. Gov. Romney tries to amend cloning bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–Women who have had abortions are nearly twice as likely to give birth extremely early in subsequent pregnancies, according to new research.

A French study of more than 2,800 births revealed post-abortive women were 1.7 times more likely to deliver a child at less than 28 weeks gestation than women who have not had abortions, according to The Telegraph, the online publication of the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Babies born that early in pregnancy are often in danger of dying or suffering disabilities.

The study is the first to demonstrate conclusive evidence of a connection between abortion and a later premature birth, said Caroline Moreau, leader of the research team and an epidemiologist at a Paris hospital.

“Clearly there is a link,” Moreau said, according to The Telegraph. “The results suggest that induced abortion can damage the cervix in some way that makes a premature birth more likely in subsequent pregnancies.”

Abortion apparently increased the risk of most of the primary causes of premature birth, including spontaneous premature labor, early rupture of membranes and wrong positioning of the baby on the placenta, The Telegraph reported.

About 185,000 abortions are performed each year in Great Britain, and there are about 80,000 premature births in the United Kingdom and Ireland annually, according to The Telegraph. About 17,000 of premature babies require intensive care treatment, according to the report.

“We have been saying for years that surgical abortion inevitably increases the risk of later problems,” Jack Scarisbuck, chairman of the British pro-life group Life, said, according to The Telegraph. “It seems that the abortion procedure carries with it risks that women will know nothing about until they become pregnant with a ‘wanted’ child later on.”

The study’s results were published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

AMEND FIRST — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has stopped short of vetoing a bill to allow cloning for research purposes, instead sending the measure back to the legislature with amendments, The Boston Globe reported.

Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature have passed by more than two-thirds majorities bills to allow researchers to clone human embryos and extract stem cells from them. The extraction of the cells destroys the embryos. The legislature appears to have the votes to override a Romney veto. Such an override requires two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Among the amendments offered by Romney is one that would prohibit cloning — an amendment that would seem to be dead on arrival in the legislature. His other amendments include one concerning when life begins and another limiting compensation to women who donate eggs. The compensation would be limited to travel and medical expenses.

In a letter to legislators, Romney said the section on the beginning of life is “a matter of profound moral and ethical consequence,” according to the May 12 issue of The Globe. He said it “implicates a much broader array of issues than the relatively discrete question of whether stem cell research should be permitted.”

“It is very conceivable that scientific advances will allow an embryo to be grown for a substantial period of time outside the uterus,” Romney told The Globe. “To say that it is not life at one month or two months or four months or full term, just because it had never been in a uterus, would be absurd.”

If the legislation becomes law, Massachusetts would join California and New Jersey in legalizing research cloning.

Romney, a Republican, opposes cloning but has endorsed stem cell research using embryos left over in storage at fertility clinics, according to The Globe.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, building hope for the treatment of numerous afflictions. In addition to being extracted from embryos, the cells may be found in such non-embryonic sources as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat and placentas.

While embryonic stem cell research has failed to produce any successful therapies in human beings, research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources has produced treatments for at least 58 ailments, according to the National Right to Life Committee. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

GEORGIA ENACTS WAITING PERIOD –- Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law May 10 legislation that requires a 24-hour waiting period and the provision of accurate information for a woman considering an abortion.

Perdue, a Republican, signed the Woman’s Right to Know Act into law, saying in a written statement it is a “common sense approach to a sensitive issue, and it reflects the mainstream values that Georgians share. Women have a right to learn about all of the options available to them in the event of an unwanted pregnancy.”

The new law requires women considering abortion to receive 24 hours prior to the procedure such information as its medical risks, the approximate gestational age of the unborn child and the medical aid available for her baby and her. It also says a parent or guardian must accompany a minor seeking abortion. Parents or guardians must be notified 24 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor.

SCHOOL SUFFERS BACKLASH –- The University of Western Ontario has learned honoring abortion doctors is not a popular decision with everyone.

Alumni have mounted a campaign to force the Canadian school to reverse its decision to grant leading abortion provider Henry Morgentaler an honorary doctor of laws degree. Morgentaler started the first abortion clinic in Montreal in 1968, challenged legal restrictions on abortion and now operates six clinics in Canada.

In response to the university’s announcement, a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor has been withdrawn and alumni have threatened to sever ties with the school, according to Scripps Howard News Service.

The school’s senate committee chose to honor Morgentaler at UWO’s June 16 convocation, a decision that is being protested even by the chairman of the school’s board of governors, according to the report. Dan McDougall, the board chairman, told Scripps Howard, “From day one I felt that it was a mistake from the reputation of the university point of view.”

A website started by alumni and friends of the school (uwoprotest.com) says, “To honour Henry Morgentaler is to set him before alumni, students and friends of the university as an exemplary model of scholarship and contribution to Canadian society. Many cannot honour Dr. Morgentaler, as they see him as a murderer of infants — one who violated Canadian law leading to a situation where Canada has no law protecting the unborn prior to the moment of delivery.”

Teresa Douma, a 2001 graduate of UWO’s law school, says in a written statement on the website, “It is absurd that the University of Western Ontario would esteem and honour with a Doctor of Laws a person who has repeatedly shown complete disregard for Canadian laws. This cheap distribution of an honourary law degree devalues Western and its law school reputation.”