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LIFE DIGEST: Embryo screening increasing in U.S. fertility clinics; pro-life senator puts hold on FDA nominee

WASHINGTON (BP)–Fertility clinics increasingly are using embryo screening to weed out unborn children who don’t fit the genetic profile desired by their parents.

A new survey showed three-fourths of in vitro fertilization clinics in the United States use the genetic screening method, and nearly half of those clinics will permit couples to use the technique to choose the sex of their child.

The screening technique, known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), involves the extraction of a single cell from a test-tube embryo at the eight-cell stage. Testing is performed on the cell, and the embryo seemingly continues to develop without harm from its loss.

The online sampling of fertility clinics by the Genetics and Public Policy Center found the following among its results, the Associated Press reported:

— About 80 percent of PGD screenings done last year were for various types of genetic abnormalities, though the method is not considered reliable in testing for such problems.

— 42 percent of IVF clinics that use PGD perform screenings for the purpose of sex selection.

— 23 percent of clinics that offer PGD do so to find a genetic match for a brother or sister who needs a transplant.

The consequence for an embryo who is, in the parents’ eyes, not of a satisfactory genetic make-up, not the desired sex or not a match for his sibling is to be frozen or destroyed.

“PGD is eugenics pure and simple -– some embryos are chosen for their genetic characteristics, others are killed,” said C. Ben Mitchell, director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in suburban Chicago. “But because it’s done by people in white lab coats instead of khaki uniforms and jackboots, PGD is accepted by this sick society.

“The use of PGD for sex selection is a dual, cultural pathology,” Mitchell told Baptist Press. “It is schizophrenic in a culture that says it prizes equal rights for both women and men, and it is narcissistic in a culture of consumers.”

Mitchell is a consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The researchers sought input from 415 fertility clinics, and 190 responded to the survey, according to AP.

About three-fourths of IVF clinics offer PGD, The Washington Post reported. In 2005, they performed 3,000 PGD screenings, about five percent of all IVF procedures, according to The Post.

The survey also reported 21 percent of clinics that offer PGD were “aware of” errors in the testing, including babies being born with the anomaly that supposedly had been weeded out by the screening.

PARENTAL KIDNAPPING –- A resourceful, 19-year-old woman being driven across states line for a forced abortion in New York escaped from the kidnappers -– her father and mother.

Salem, N.H., police charged Nicholas and Lola Kampf, real estate developers in North Yarmouth, Maine, Sept. 18 with kidnapping, according to reports by the Associated Press. The morning after they learned Katelyn, their daughter, was pregnant, the Kampfs tied her up by her hands and feet, loaded her into their Lexus and started toward New York.

Katelyn escaped in Salem after convincing them to untie her so she could use a Kmart restroom. After taking her father’s cell phone, she fled to another store and called 911.

The Kampfs could receive sentences of 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

The parents were upset because of the race of the father of her child, Katelyn told police. Cumberland County (Maine) Sheriff Mark Dion said Katelyn, who is white, told him her mother “was pretty irate at the fact that the child’s father was black, and she had made a number of disparaging remarks about that.”

The father, Reme Johnson, 22, is serving six months in a Maine jail for theft and has been convicted of burglary and receiving stolen property, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Salem police found a rifle, ammunition, rope and the Kampfs’ passports in their car.

The case is not unique, a pro-life activist said. Routinely, pro-life sidewalk counselors witness women being forced to have abortions, said Cheryl Sullenger, an Operation Rescue spokeswoman who has counseled outside abortion clinics for 22 years.

“I have seen women driven into abortion clinic parking lots mouthing the words ‘help me’ through the window,” Sullenger said in a written release. “I have seen desperate women run away from abusive boyfriends at abortion clinics only to see their abusers capture them and return them for abortions they did not want. We’ve called the police, but they just tell us that abortion is legal. They don’t want to get involved.”

HOLD HIM -– Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., has blocked a confirmation vote on President Bush’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration unless he acts to suspend the sale of the abortion drug RU 486.

DeMint put a hold on the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach as FDA commissioner after the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nominee by a voice vote Sept. 20. The maneuver prevents a vote on the Senate floor.

Eight women’s deaths in the United States have been associated with RU 486, as well as nine life-endangering situations, about 120 blood transfusions and more than 200 hospitalizations, DeMint said.

“I believe a qualified FDA nominee would publicly discourage the use of RU 486 and take immediate steps to suspend the drug until a full investigation can be completed,” DeMint said of von Eschenbach, who has been acting FDA commissioner for about a year. “By allowing the continued use of this drug and by ignoring the scores of problems associated with it, the FDA is not acting in the interest of women’s health and it’s calling into question its ability to protect American consumers.”

The FDA has suspended the sale of nine drugs in the last eight years that were not connected with any deaths, DeMint said in a written statement.

RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used as the first part in a two-step process in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child. A second drug, misoprostol, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the baby.

The FDA approved the sale of RU 486 in the U.S. in 2000, four months before President Clinton finished his second term.