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LIFE DIGEST: Abortion rights not helpful to candidates, poll implies; signature drive to rescind S.D. abortion ban begins

WASHINGTON (BP)–It does not appear promoting abortion rights will help candidates in the 2006 and 2008 elections, according to a massive public opinion survey.

In a poll of more than 30,000 Americans, Zogby Interactive found Americans favor pro-life positions on most questions asked about abortion.

Pollster John Zogby said “much of the poll’s findings suggest Democrats will have trouble gaining a political advantage by using the emotionally charged issue of abortion.”

Among the poll’s findings:

— 59 percent say abortion ends a human life, while 29 percent disagree.

— 50 percent believe life begins at conception, while 19 percent say it begins at birth.

— 71 percent disagree that nominees to the United States Supreme Court need to be pro-choice to be confirmed, while 18 percent agree.

— 59 percent say high court nominees should not be filibustered in the Senate because of their view of abortion, while 28 percent say they should be.

— 86 percent agree with a federal ban on sex-selection abortions, while 10 percent disagree.

— 56 percent support federal or state requirements for a 24-hour waiting period before a woman has an abortion, while 37 oppose them.

— 69 percent favor state laws requiring parental notification for girls under 16 to undergo abortions, and 55 percent support such laws for girls under 18.

A plurality, however, of those surveyed –- 46 percent to 45 percent — say a woman’s right to an abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution. The survey also found 44 percent believe Plan B, a “morning-after” pill that has abortion-causing properties, should be sold over the counter, while 31 percent say it should be sold only by prescription and 19 percent believe it should not be available.

In a look at a possible match-up in the 2008 presidential election, the survey found 60 to 80 percent of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s support comes from supporters of abortion rights, while 75 to 90 percent of Republican John McCain’s backing comes from pro-lifers.

The survey was conducted March 10-14, and the results were announced March 22. Because of the size of the survey, it had a margin of error of only .6 percent.

FIGHTING THE BAN — The battle over South Dakota’s ban on abortion is under way.

A coalition calling itself the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families announced March 24 it will conduct a petition drive in an effort to overturn the new law in a November vote. The campaign needs 16,728 signatures by June 19 in order to place the challenge to the measure on the ballot, according to the Rapid City Journal.

If the petition drive falls short, the law will take effect July 1. At that point, it likely will be overturned in federal court, although supporters of the law hope the U.S. Supreme takes the case and overturns Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, signed the bill into law March 6. The measure, which prohibits abortion except when the mother’s life is endangered, is the most expansive restriction on the practice since Roe.

Leaders of the campaign to rescind the law said in announcing the petition drive that the measure was extreme, but a sponsor of the bill rejected that notion, according to the Journal.

“On the basis of the fact that all of these elected officials have considered this legislation and supported this legislation, I think it’s a little strained to say this legislation is too far out,” Rep. Roger Hunt said.

The House of Representatives approved the bill 50-18, and the Senate passed it 23-12. Eleven of 16 women in the legislature voted for the measure.

PERFECTION BY EXECUTION -– North Korea is remarkably free of physically impaired people, because they are quickly eliminated, says a doctor who defected last year from the communist country.

Appearing at a March 22 forum in Seoul, South Korea, Ri Kwang-choi said babies with physical disabilities are put to death in hospitals or homes and soon buried, according to Reuters News Service. The practice is widespread, but he did not participate in it, Ri said.

The regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il promotes killing such infants, he said.

“There are no people with physical defects in North Korea,” Ri said, according to Reuters.

North Korea is guilty of widespread human rights violations, according to reports from the northeast Asian country. Among these are the detention, torture (including forced abortions) and execution of political prisoners. Human rights officials estimate 200,000 political prisoners are in North Korea’s gulag system and about 400,000 prisoners have died in those prisons in the last three decades. The regime has diverted foreign food aid to the military or the black market, which has contributed to the starvation of anywhere from two million to more than four million North Koreans since a famine began in 1995, according to an estimate. It has been estimated about 40 percent of the country’s children are chronically malnourished.

NO SATISFACTION — Wal-Mart appears to be receiving a lesson in how hard it is to satisfy some critics, even when it compromises.

The world’s largest retailer is under attack again from the state government of Connecticut, even though it acquiesced to demands to stock Plan B, an “emergency contraceptive” with abortion-causing properties. Although Wal-Mart announced March 3 a reverse of its position and said all of its more than 3,000 pharmacies would sell the “morning-after” pill, it maintained its conscientious objection policy, which permits pharmacists to decline to fill such prescriptions.

That was not satisfactory to Connecticut’s comptroller, Nancy Wyman. She said she would start an effort April 15 to prevent the state’s insurance plan for its 188,000 employees and retirees from covering prescriptions at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club unless the chain assures her there will be a pharmacist on duty to dispense Plan B in each store, United Press International reported March 24.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal rejected Wal-Mart’s plan to permit pharmacists to refer women with prescriptions for Plan B to other stores. “We have never encountered this issue with any other chains or pharmacies,” he said, according to UPI. Blumenthal ruled March 2 that the state’s insurance plan should not cover prescriptions at Wal-Mart unless the chain stocks the “morning-after” pill, according to an Associated Press report.

Wal-Mart had been the largest chain store that did not sell the controversial drug nationwide before its policy reversal March 3. Previously, Wal-Mart stocked Plan B only in its pharmacies in Illinois and Massachusetts, where it was required.

Plan B, as well as another “morning-after” pill known as Preven, is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes two pills within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. The “morning-after” pill not only works to restrict ovulation in a woman, but it can act after conception, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers point out. The method can block implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

ADULT CELL PROMISE -– German researchers report they have found adult stem cells in mice that have some of the properties of embryonic cells.

A team of scientists at Georg-August University of Goettingen said it isolated stem cells from mice testes that acted like embryonic cells under certain circumstances, Reuters News Service reported March 24. The researchers found when they injected the adult cells into mice embryos they helped some organs develop, according to the report. The journal Nature published the findings online.

Other researchers welcomed the report but said more experiments are needed to demonstrate the value of the newly isolated stem cells, according to Reuters.

Although most scientists believe embryonic stem cells have more potential for providing treatments for debilitating diseases, so far only non-embryonic stem cells have produced any therapies. Embryonic stem cell research has not only failed to treat successfully any ailments, it has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals. Research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources has produced treatments for at least 67 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia.

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

Extracting stem cells from non-embryonic sources does not harm the donor, but removing embryonic stem cells destroys the tiny human being.