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LIFE DIGEST: Court upholds Tenn. pro-life plate; Hwang fired from South Korean university; judge wants child on ventilator

WASHINGTON (BP)–The fate of pro-life, specialty license plates may be determined soon by the United States Supreme Court.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled March 17 a Tennessee law permitting the state to offer “Choose Life” auto license plates is constitutional. A three-judge panel overturned a federal judge’s ruling in a split decision, rejecting the arguments of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Sixth Circuit opinion conflicts with a Fourth Circuit ruling against a similar license plate in South Carolina. The difference between the two circuits makes Supreme Court review of one of the cases more likely, the Alliance Defense Fund noted.

ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb was pleased with the decision, “not only for the voters in Tennessee, but also because it reinforces the truth that pro-life speech is not somehow off limits. If the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case of this nature, we are hopeful they will agree.”

In the Sixth Circuit opinion, Judge John Rogers wrote for the 2-1 majority that making a distinction among specialty plates because some people believe the pro-life message is more controversial than others “is entirely indefensible as a matter of First Amendment law. … In the absence of a tenable distinction, invalidating the act in this case would effectively invalidate not only all those government specialty license plate provisions that involve a message that anyone might disagree with but also effectively invalidate all manner of other long-accepted practices in the form of government-crafted messages disseminated by private volunteers.”

On March 7, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the use of the phrase “Choose Life” on a pro-adoption license plate.

The Sixth Circuit is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, while the Fourth Circuit is in Richmond, Va., and the Second Circuit in New York City.

CLONER’S COLLAPSE — The public disgrace of Hwang Woo Suk continues.

Seoul National University announced March 20 the firing of Hwang, the once world-renowned, now discredited South Korean scientist. Hwang had been a professor at the university’s veterinary school since 1986, the Associated Press reported.

The school’s announcement followed by only four days the South Korean government’s decision to revoke Hwang’s license for conducting embryonic stem cell research, according to AP. The government’s March 16 action means Hwang cannot clone human embryos or accept eggs to perform such research.

In addition to firing Hwang, Seoul National University took action against six other professors who participated in the unethical research, suspending some and docking the pay of others.

In announcing its actions, the school said in a written statement, according to AP, “The professors fundamentally abandoned honesty and sincerity … and caused the fall in the school’s honor and the country’s international confidence.”

In January, a university committee reported claims of Hwang and his team that they had cloned the first human embryonic stem cell line were fraudulent. The panel also confirmed an assertion by the team that it had created 11 stem cell lines was faked. The investigation, however, found the cloning of a dog named Snuppy was authentic.

South Korean prosecutors are continuing their investigation into whether Hwang misused millions of dollars in government funds for his research.

LIFE WORTH LIVING — A British judge has rejected the arguments of a hospital and 14 medical officials by ruling a ventilator should not be turned off for a 19-month-old disabled boy.

Justice Holman of the High Court in London issued the landmark decision March 15, acknowledging the boy would not experience a normal childhood but he was conscious and able to bond with his parents and siblings during the eight or nine hours they spend with him daily, BBC News reported.

“It must be assumed that he processes all of those sights and sounds like any child of his age and gains pleasure from them,” Holman said. “No court has yet been asked to approve, against the will of parents, the withdrawal of life support with the inevitable and immediate death of a conscious child with sensory awareness and cognition, and no significant evidence of brain damage.”

In the case, the court barred the identification of the boy, his family and the hospital.

Baby MB, as the boy is known, has a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy and has been in the hospital since he was seven weeks old, according to BBC. He is almost completely paralyzed and cannot chew or swallow. The hospital wanted to remove him from the ventilator because of the poor quality of his life. A doctor testified he believed the boy has an “intolerable life,” BBC reported.

His mother, however, said in court Baby MB responds to animated movies such as “Finding Nemo” and “Shrek” and seems to like them, according to BBC. He also likes nursery rhymes sung by his brother and sister, she said.

“Just because he is in a hospital doesn’t mean he has a poor quality of life, because his family is there,” his mother said.

“As a Muslim, I believe that no one knows exactly when people will die,” the boy’s father told the court, BBC reported. “It was God who gave us life, and God will take it whatever the situation, good condition, sad or whatever your condition. You’ve got a certain time to die — that’s what I believe.”

After the ruling, the mother told BBC, “I really thank the judge for coming to that decision.”

DUTCH ‘NAZIS?’ — A foreign dignitary has compared The Netherlands’ legalization of baby euthanasia to the hideous policies of Nazi Germany, and the Dutch government has reacted angrily.

Italian Parliamentary Relations Minister Carlo Giovanardi said on a March 16 radio program that Nazi thinking was returning to Europe by means of Holland’s legalized euthanasia, including the elimination of suffering newborns, according to Reuters News Service, which cited a report by the Dutch news agency ANP.

“This is scandalous and unacceptable…. It is not the way to get along in Europe,” Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in reaction to Giovanardi’s comments.

Giovanardi has declined to offer an apology, according to Reuters.

A Dutch committee is expected to begin regulating the active taking of infant life in the next few weeks. There have been reports from The Netherlands of baby euthanasia for several years, but this development will mark a new step forward in legitimizing the practice. The protocol followed by the committee says there must be “unbearable” suffering by the child with no hope for healing or relief, and the parents and an “independent doctor” must approve.

Under Adolf Hitler’s German regime of the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis conducted experiments on and eliminated Jews and other unwilling human beings the perpetrators considered undesirables.