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LIFE DIGEST: Abortions for Fla. girls in foster care common, judges say; stem cell bill in House gains votes

WASHINGTON (BP)–A 13-year-old foster girl’s recent court-approved abortion apparently is not uncommon in Florida.

The girl, known only by the initials L.G., had an abortion May 3 after Palm Beach Circuit Judge Ronald Alvarez lifted a state appeals court’s stay.

“It’s a tragedy that a 13-year-old child would be in a vulnerable position where she could be made pregnant, and it’s a tragedy that the baby will be lost,” said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, according to The Miami Herald. “There’s no good news in this at all.”

The news is even worse for Bush and other pro-life advocates. For years, Florida girls in foster care have had abortions without state interference, some judges who rule in foster care cases told The Herald.

“I have done this for 10 years. If a child wishes to have an abortion, she gets an abortion,” said Cindy Lederman, Miami’s chief juvenile judge.

Many teenagers in foster care have abortions without appearing before a judge, said a former state attorney general and manager of two Florida child welfare legal services offices.

“The key to it is that it was done very low-key,” said Nancy Barshter, according to The Herald. “It wasn’t brought before the court, and it wasn’t discussed among the lawyers unless something else was going on, such as the child had been raped or was truly emotionally disturbed.”

Anita Bock, former administrator of the state’s Department of Children and Families office in Miami, told the newspaper, “[W]e allowed these decisions to be made by adults acting in the best interest” of the girl.

Bush called the assertions of routine abortions for foster children “troubling.”

“If that’s the case, [and] it happens all the time, I’m not aware of that,” Bush said, according to The Herald. “It’s very troubling that children are put in a position, irrespective of whether they’re in the custody of the state, where they feel compelled to have an abortion. It’s a sad fact, and there’s an added responsibility when the state has some degree of responsibility over the well-being of that child.”

The Department of Children and Families had appealed Alvarez’s order to the Fourth District Court of Appeal but dropped its effort to prevent the 13-year-old’s abortion when Alvarez lifted the stay May 3. Bush, a Republican, announced the same day his administration would no longer seek to prevent the abortion, The Herald reported.

The girl fled a DCF-licensed group home in January and became pregnant during the month she was a runaway, according to the newspaper. She had been taken from her parents four or five years ago because of abuse and neglect, The Herald reported.

Florida has no law in effect requiring parental involvement before an underage girl has an abortion. The state’s Supreme Court struck down a law requiring parental notification in 2003.

PRO-STEM CELL VOTES GROW –- Legislation to fund destructive embryonic stem cell research is creeping near a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and a vote on the measure could be soon, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, H.R. 810, has 197 cosponsors, according to Congress’ website. With the vote of Rep. Michael Castle, R.-Del., the bill’s sponsor, it needs 20 votes to achieve a majority of the entire House. A similar Senate version, S. 471, has 23 cosponsors. Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., is the Senate sponsor.

If the House and Senate agree on the same measure, President Bush would have to veto it to prevent it from becoming law.

The legislation represents an attempt to overturn Bush’s policy, which bars federal funds for research on stem cells that results in the destruction of human embryos. The rule permits funding for such experiments only on stem cell lines already in existence prior to Aug. 9, 2001, when the president announced the policy.

It was reported in March that the Republican leadership in the House had promised a vote on stem cell funding.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations oppose embryonic stem cell research because procurement of the cells kills the embryo.

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 NRLC. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

VETO SUCCESS UNLIKELY -– Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s expected veto of a bill to allow cloning for research purposes appears destined to an override.

Both houses of the state legislature have approved by more than two-thirds majorities measures to permit researchers to clone human embryos and extract stem cells from them. The extraction of the cells destroys the embryos.

The House of Representatives voted 119-38 for the bill May 4, according to The Boston Globe. Earlier, the Senate approved the legislation with a 34-2 vote, the newspaper reported. The measure does not provide state funds for the research, according to The Globe.

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

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

I LEFT MY LIFE IN SAN FRAN –- San Francisco has won the bidding war to be the site of the headquarters of California’s new embryonic stem cell institute, apparently guaranteeing it will be the location of the deaths of a multitude of human beings.

The board of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine selected San Francisco May 6 over two other finalists, Sacramento and San Diego, according to the Los Angeles Times. The panel voted 16-11 for San Francisco over San Diego, the newspaper reported.

The institute was established by November’s passage of Proposition 71, which authorized the sale of $300 million in bonds each year for a decade to fund the research. It has been estimated Californians will have to pay back $6 billion for 30 years for the bonds.

The initiative not only supports embryonic stem cell research, but it permits the cloning of human embryos for research purposes. The extraction of stem cells from cloned embryos destroys the tiny human beings.

Opponents of Prop 71 have filed suit, effectively blocking the sale of any long-term bonds, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In its first meeting May 9, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Finance Committee, which was created by Prop 71, approved $200 million in “bond anticipation notes” to fund the enterprise until the lawsuit is settled, according to the Chronicle.