News Articles

LIFE DIGEST: Alabama closes Birmingham abortion clinic after multiple violations; …

WASHINGTON (BP)–The state of Alabama has shut down a Birmingham abortion clinic for numerous infractions, including giving RU 486 to a woman late in her pregnancy.

Alabama’s State Board of Health suspended the license of Summit Medical Center May 17 after following up on a complaint that clinic personnel inaccurately told a woman in February she was only six weeks pregnant and gave her the abortion-inducing drug, after which she delivered a stillborn child who weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces, according to The Birmingham News. RU 486, a two-step regimen, is recommended for use only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy.

The investigation, which was conducted from April 17 to May 12, revealed these violations of state regulations, the newspaper reported:

— The woman who delivered a dead child after taking RU 486 received an ultrasound and the drug from a non-physician.

— Four of 10 patients interviewed had no attending physician.

— Five patients did not have fetal viability determined.

“There were multiple violations of rules over multiple days,” said Don Williamson, an Alabama health officer, according to The News. “The complete statement of deficiencies does highlight the gravity of the situation.”

Summit’s license suspension will last from 90 to 120 days, the newspaper reported. A June 20 hearing could result in a variety of actions, from reinstatement of the license to permanent withdrawal.

Williamson said an emergency license suspension is “not something we do very often,” The News reported. “There was no other means to address it except an emergency suspension,” he said.

The woman who gave birth to a dead baby “was almost certainly in the third trimester and near term,” Williams said, according to The News.

She was given a dose of RU 486, also known as mifepristone, Feb. 20 at the clinic. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child. She also received four tablets of misoprostol and was told to insert them vaginally Feb. 22. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, expelling the baby. She arrived at a Birmingham hospital’s emergency room Feb. 26 and delivered her dead child, The News reported.

MORE GENE SCREENS –- A recent decision by a British government agency has served to expand the definition by some in society of lives considered not worth living, pro-life bioethicists said.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ruled May 10 that human embryos could be tested at England’s fertility clinics to discover if they carry genes that could increase the risk of developing cancer as adults. If so, those embryos can be eliminated.

The HFEA previously had permitted preimplantation genetic diagnosis only on embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization who carried genes that would result in them having lethal conditions at birth or a high likelihood of developing such afflictions in childhood, The Washington Post reported.

Pro-life bioethicists said the action is another step down an unethical road and could lead to the destruction of embryos that carry a risk of developing conditions that are neither fatal nor debilitating.

“To destroy unborn human beings because they have ‘bad genes’ is a giant step toward eugenics,” said C. Ben Mitchell, consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago. “Today, the HFEA will permit the destruction of embryos with cancer genes; next, it will be destruction for the ‘wrong sex’ or ‘wrong height’ or male pattern baldness.

“This is not a slippery slope, it’s the logical conclusion, and the HFEA has just taken a swan dive in the moral abyss,” Mitchell told Baptist Press.

Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Post, “There does seem to be grade inflation here. You need fewer and fewer things wrong with you to fail to measure up.”

Suzi Leather, the HFEA’s chairwoman, said in a written statement the decision was “not about opening the door to wholesale genetic testing. This is about considering a particular group of genetic conditions to be sufficiently serious to merit the use of PGD embryo testing.”

“The decision today deals only with serious genetic conditions that we have a single gene test for,” Leather said. “We would not consider mild conditions — like asthma and eczema — which can be well-managed in medical practice. We would not consider conditions like schizophrenia where a number of genes have been identified but there is no single gene that dictates the condition.”

The new policy permits testing for conditions that include breast, colon and ovarian cancer.

Unlike Great Britain, the United States government does not regulate preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and it is uncertain how common such testing is, said Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, according to the journal Science.

DOWN BIRTHS DOWN -– Abortion is far surpassing birth for British babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb.

There were 657 live births and about 937 abortions of Down syndrome children in 2004, according to England’s National Health Service, the Telegraph reported May 21. The number of abortions of Down syndrome babies has tripled in 15 years.

The percentage of abortions is much greater for unborn babies diagnosed with the condition. Sixty-two percent of all Down syndrome children are diagnosed with the condition while in the womb; of those, 92 percent are aborted, according to the Telegraph, an online British newspaper.

Down syndrome is increasing, largely because of the rise in pregnancies among women in their 40s. The elimination of those children has set records, because of expanded testing and the help of physicians.

A NHS screening program has been offered to all pregnant women in Great Britain since 2003, and many of these mothers are being encouraged to abort, even late in their pregnancies, when their babies test positive for Down syndrome, according to the Telegraph.

One mother, Lisa Green, received the news that her unborn son had Down syndrome when she was 35 weeks pregnant.

Her husband, Tim, and she “were both in total shock, but this was considerably worsened when [the doctor] said, ‘You can have a termination,’” Green said, according to the Telegraph.

“He listed only the potential negatives about [Down] syndrome, without giving us any information to read for a more balanced view,” she said. “The midwife tried to interject and offer us some leaflets, but he talked her down.”

The Greens rejected the doctor’s advice. Two weeks later, Lisa Green gave birth to Harrison, who is 2 years old and a “happy and healthy child,” his mother said, according to the newspaper.

Down syndrome, which normally results when a person has three copies, rather than two, of chromosome 21, is the most common cause of developmental disability, according to the Down Syndrome Information Network. It can cause increased chances of such medical problems as heart abnormalities, vision and hearing problems, and infection.

It is estimated 5 percent of positive tests for Down syndrome are false, the Telegraph reported.