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LIFE DIGEST: Congressmen ask Ginsburg to recuse herself from abortion cases

WASHINGTON (BP)–Thirteen members of the House of Representatives have called on Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from any Supreme Court cases involving abortion.

The representatives based their request on the associate justice’s recently reported ties to a feminist organization that supports abortion rights, the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ginsburg, an associate justice, spoke in January in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture Series on Women and the Law, which NOW Legal Defense helped sponsor. A photo of Ginsburg with the organization’s president, Kathy Rodgers, is on the homepage of the NOW Legal Defense website.

According to the congressional letter, The Los Angles Times reported March 11 Ginsburg voted only two weeks before her speech on the side the organization took in a medical screening case.

Her relationship with NOW Legal Defense “casts serious doubts on the impartiality that is so important in judicial matters,” the representatives said in the March 17 letter to Ginsburg. “As legislators, we believe your actions call into question your ability to rule with impartiality on any case involving abortion. We, therefore, respectfully request that you immediately recuse yourself from any such cases.”

They cited the code for federal courts, which says judges should avoid outside legal activities that “cast reasonable doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before them.”

Signing the letter were Reps. Todd Akin of Missouri, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Kevin Brady of Texas, Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Steve King of Iowa, Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Mike Pence of Indiana, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Chris Smith of New Jersey and Dave Weldon of Florida,

DOJ WINS AGAIN –- The Department of Justice has gained additional wins in a New York federal court in its effort to defend a federal ban on partial-birth abortions.

Federal Judge Richard Casey ruled that New York-Presbyterian Hospital must turn over abortion records requested by the Department of Justice. The department sought the records because two of the hospital’s doctors are part of a suit that has challenged the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act, according to The New York Times. DOJ has argued the records are needed to determine if, as the physicians contend, the abortions were medically necessary. In its findings in the law, Congress said the method is never medically necessary.

Casey also ruled a physician whose research has shown an unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation will be able to testify as a federal government witness. The judge rejected objections by the National Abortion Federation, which has challenged the law, to permit Kanwaljeet S. Anand to give testimony on an unborn child’s ability to experience pain during a partial-birth abortion, according to the Associated Press.

Trials will begin Mar. 29 in challenges to the law in three federal courts. In addition to Casey’s court, proceedings will start also in Omaha, Neb., and San Francisco. President Bush signed the legislation into law in November, but the courts quickly blocked its enforcement.

The law prohibits a procedure that normally involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull provides for easier removal of the baby’s head. This typically occurs during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.

The government’s case received something of a setback, however, when the University of Michigan Health System announced it had no abortion records that were relevant to the case, according to a March 25 report on LifeNews.com. Federal judge Avern Cohn had ordered the records be turned over to him to be transferred to Casey for the trial in New York.

The records were to be reviewed by Timothy Johnson, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at UMHS, before their release to Cohn, according to The Detroit News. Johnson is among seven physicians involved in the lawsuit filed in New York.

“Until Dr. Johnson was given leave by the court (to search the records), he was not sure if he had supervised any [partial-birth abortion] cases,” the university said in a statement, according to the LifeNews report. “He has now done a diligent search and has determined that he neither performed nor supervised any of the type of cases the government asked about.”

A federal judge in Illinois has barred DOJ’s request for patient records from a Chicago hospital in the New York case, but the department has appealed, according to The News.

On March 5, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked DOJ’s effort to gain records from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and some of its affiliates. Planned Parenthood challenged the partial-birth abortion ban in California.

POPE SAYS FOOD NOT ‘TREATMENT’ -– Food and water are not medical treatments and should be provided for patients in a “vegetative state,” Pope John Paul II said in a March 20 speech.

The provision of food and water is “morally obligatory,” the pope said at an international meeting in Rome on “life-sustaining treatments and the vegetative state,” according to LifeSite.net. “In particular, I want to emphasize that the administration of water and food … always represents a natural means of preservation of life, not a medical treatment.

“I feel the duty to reaffirm with vigor that the intrinsic value and the personal dignity of every human being does not change,” he said. “A man, even if seriously sick or unable to exercise his higher functions, is and will be always a man; he will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal.’”

The pope’s speech contradicted some Roman Catholic theologians, LifeSite reported. It also provided guidance for bishops in the United States who have expressed different opinions on the issue.

Numerous evangelical ethicists have contended nutrition and hydration should be provided to terminally ill and unresponsive patients.

The pope also described euthanasia as a “serious violation of the law of God.”

CHINA’S GIRL SHORTAGE -– China’s population control program, which includes coercive abortion and sterilization, has produced a growing imbalance in births by sex and may result in serious social problems, a Chinese official said.

At a recent conference in Beijing, a speaker said 117 boys were born for every 100 girls in the country in 2002, United Press International reported. At that rate, the world’s most populous country may have as many as 40 million more men than women by 2020. The rate was 108 to 100 in 1982.

If the imbalance continues, demographic experts predict it could produce crimes such as rape, prostitution, kidnapping of women and mercenary marriages, as well as physical and emotional harm for females.

The problem is even greater in rural areas, said Li Weixiong, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference committee on population, resources and environment. The ratio of male to female births is as much as 130 to 100 in the southern provinces of Hainan and Guangdong. In rural areas, female infanticide still exists to some extent, said a retired women’s rights official who asked to remain anonymous.

Ultrasound technology has made the problem worse, Li said. “Many parents just abort their baby once they find out they are expecting a girl,” the women’s rights official told UPI.

In addition, Chinese orphanages are overcrowded with girls.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RUTH BADER GINSBURG.