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LIFE DIGEST: Four Illinois pharmacists placed on leave because of pro-life practices

WASHINGTON (BP)–Four Illinois pharmacists have found out there is a price to pay for exercising their pro-life convictions.

The Walgreen Co. placed four of its pharmacists on indefinite, unpaid leave Nov. 28, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The four, all working at Walgreen stores in the Illinois suburbs east of St. Louis, had declined to abide by a state rule that requires pharmacists to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, including the “morning-after” pill, even if it violates their consciences.

Many people with pro-life views consider the “morning-after” pill, also known as emergency contraception, to be an abortifacient because it not only restricts ovulation in a woman but it can act after conception. The method can block implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers point out.

Illinois is the only state to have a rule requiring pharmacists to dispense the “morning-after” pill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who issued the rule earlier this year, said after the discipline of the four Walgreen pharmacists, “If a woman has a prescription for contraceptives, they ought to be filling that,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

A Walgreen spokesman told the Post-Dispatch the pharmacists could transfer to a store in Missouri, where such a policy is not in effect.

John Menges, 39, who was removed from his position at an Edwardsville, Ill., store, said it is only a matter of time before Missouri has a rule that “takes away his religious freedoms.”

“I’m not going around the country running from this,” he told the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat.

The pharmacists are hopeful the state’s conscience clause will protect them, according to the Bellevue newspaper.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved prescription use of two brands of the “morning-after” pill, Preven and Plan B. The FDA is considering whether it will permit over-the-counter sale of Plan B without a prescription to women 16 years of age and older.

The “morning-after” pill is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes two pills within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later.

‘IMMORAL’ DELAY -– The Senate’s failure to vote on legislation providing funding for research using stem cells from umbilical cord blood is “immoral” and “senseless,” bioethicist Wesley Smith says.

In a Dec. 4 column at Lifenews.com, Smith said at least one Democrat is blocking a Senate vote on a bill that would establish and fund a national network for the storage and distribution of stem cells from ethical sources. The House of Representatives already has passed a similar measure in a 431-1 vote earlier this year.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is seeking a vote on the floor, but such a vote requires unanimous consent as the legislative session nears its conclusion. At least one Democrat apparently has refused to consent and is thereby preventing a vote on the measure, Smith said.

A senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and a lawyer for an anti-euthanasia organization, Smith conjectured the purpose in holding up the cord blood bill is to “embarrass” President Bush, who supports it but opposes a measure overturning his ban on federal funds for destructive embryonic stem cell research.

“If so, the delay is senseless in the light of the fact that Frist supports the embryonic stem cell bill and has already promised its sponsors a Senate floor vote early next year,” Smith wrote. “This may be seen by some senators as a clever political ploy, but, coming at the expense of desperately ill people, the delay is immoral.

“If the bill is not passed before the next recess, it may take another six months to reach the Senate floor for a vote -– assuming it ever does,” Smith wrote.

Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of the tiny human being, has failed to produce any successful therapies in people and has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals. Meanwhile, research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources has produced treatments for at least 65 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, providing hope for the treatment of numerous afflictions. In addition to being extracted from embryos, the cells may be found in not only umbilical cord blood but other non-embryonic sources, such as bone marrow, fat and placentas.

‘MISSING’ WOMEN –- There are about 200 million women “missing” in the world, and sex-selection abortion and infanticide are the primary causes, a researcher said recently at a United Nations news conference.

According to Reuters News Service, Theodor Winkler, who heads the research center that directed the study, said Nov. 17 in New York that violence against women “starts in the womb. There are societies where male births are preferred, particularly if the number of births are [sic] limited. That’s where abortion for gender reasons starts.”

In the preface of the report, Winkler wrote, “We are confronted with the slaughter of Eve, a systematic gendercide of tragic proportions.”

The result of this ‘gendercide’ –- which includes abortion, infanticide, domestic violence and honor killings –- is a shortfall of about 200 million women as compared to what would be expected in the global population, according to the study, Reuters reported.

“Obviously, human rights and the legal protection of women is [sic] of crucial importance, but it is only one component,” Winkler said. “There is also a cultural change that must operate.”

India is one of the countries where such change is needed. It is estimated by some that there are nearly 50 million ‘vanishing women” in India, according to the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald. The northern state of Haryana has only 819 girls per 1,000 boys six years of age and younger, according to the report.

“There is a shortage of women in all the villages we have surveyed in Haryana,” human rights activist Ravi Kant told the Sunday Herald. “In some areas, there are as few as six hundred girls per one thousand boys. You even have villages where there is not a girl in sight, where you only see boys going to school.”

The reason for the vast difference is abortion, and it has created other problems, Kant said.

“[Sex-selection abortion] has created a big demand for women, and it’s being met by trafficking…,” he said.