WASHINGTON (BP)–It only makes sense an Illinois judge would rule an embryo is a human being, a Southern Baptist bioethicist says, but observers believe that decision could have far-reaching effects if it survives a challenge.
Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ruled a couple whose embryo was mistakenly discarded by a Chicago fertility clinic should be able to seek legal damages as if they were the parents of a child who was killed after birth, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In his Feb. 4 opinion, Lawrence wrote “a pre-embryo is a ‘human being’ … whether or not it is implanted in its mother’s womb. Philosophers and theologians may debate, but there is no doubt in the mind of the Illinois Legislature when life begins. It begins at conception.”
That ruling “is only stating the obvious,” said Ben Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago. “Law should conform to facts. The fact is, the human embryo is as fully human and as fully a person as a newborn baby. Every human being has a right not to be unnecessarily harmed. The law must recognize this fact, not deny it for the sake of social engineering.
“Geography should not dictate our view of the immorality of homicide,” said Mitchell, a consultant with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Legal observers on both sides of the abortion debate said Lawrence’s ruling is unlikely to stand up to an appeal. If it does, however, its impact could be profound.
“If the decision stands, it could essentially end in vitro fertilization,” Robert Schenken, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, told the Associated Press.
University of Minnesota ethicist Jeffrey Kahn said the opinion, if it survives, “will have implication not only for embryonic stem cell research but for all of reproductive medicine, potentially,” according to the AP.
Pro-life law professor Victor Rosenblum of Northwestern University told AP he doubted the ruling would survive, but if it did it could help foes of abortion rights and research that destroys embryos.
Alison Miller and Todd Parrish had undergone in vitro fertilization treatments at the Center for Human Reproduction in Chicago, the Sun-Times reported. One of nine embryos was to be stored, but when the couple requested the embryo be unfrozen, they were told it had been destroyed by error, according to the newspaper. They subsequently brought a wrongful-death lawsuit.
It is estimated there are about 400,000 embryos in storage in fertility clinics in the United States.
In embryonic stem cell research, embryos in normally the first week of life are destroyed when stem cells are extracted from them.
ROEMER DROPS OUT -– The sole candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee with pro-life credentials has dropped out of the race.
Tim Roemer, who compiled a strongly pro-life voting record as an Indiana congressman from 1991-2003, announced Feb. 7 he was ending his campaign for the DNC’s top post. Roemer’s departure apparently assures the position will be won by former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean. The DNC will vote for its chairman Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C.
Though Roemer said he would not seek to rewrite the Democrats’ platform on abortion, his candidacy met fierce opposition from abortion rights organizations. He called for inclusiveness on the issue.
The party’s support of abortion rights has prevented any candidate who is even moderately pro-life from being nominated to a national office for at least two decades and has reduced the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress markedly while pushing abortion opponents into the Republican Party.
Since the Democrats’ convincing loss in November, however, some within the party are calling for a new perspective on the issue. Dean, a strong abortion rights proponent, said the party needs to be more receptive to pro-lifers.
Hopefully Dean will remember those remarks when he takes over as chairman, said Kristen Day, director of Democrats for Life of America.
“He has a real opportunity to open the big tent of our party and let pro-life Democrats be heard,” Day told LifeNews.com. “We are confident that he understands this and will be open to working with us to rebuild our party by reaching out to pro-life Democrats.”
ABORTION CLINIC CONCEDES — An Oregon teenager became the first woman to win a judgment against an American clinic for not informing her of an increased risk of breast cancer after an abortion.
The All Women’s Health Services clinic in Portland offered compensation, and a judge signed the agreement Jan. 24, thereby settling the case out of court. The amount of the judgment was not disclosed.
The unnamed woman who won the settlement filed suit against the clinic after receiving an abortion in 2001, LifeNews.com reported. The woman, who was 15 at the time, was not informed of the risk of breast cancer, even though she indicated on a clinic form her family has a history of such cancer. The clinic also did not advise her of the possible psychological effects, according to the suit.
“Women have been told lies about the research and have been cruelly exploited by two industries –- the breast cancer fundraising industry and the abortion industry,” said Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, in a written release. “Women will not receive justice until they file civil lawsuits.”
While there are studies that appear to indicate a link between abortion and the development of breast cancer later in life, critics contend no such relationship has been shown.
FELDT LEAVES PPFA -– Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country’s leading abortion provider, lost its president recently.
Gloria Feldt, 62, resigned suddenly Jan. 27 after eight years as PPFA’s president. She did not provide an explanation upon her resignation but has since told the AP her departure was amicable after several months of discussions with the organization’s board of directors.
PPFA endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president last year, the first time it had endorsed a candidate for the White House. Feldt told the AP it was not Planned Parenthood’s “fault that the pro-choice candidate didn’t win.”
“I have great respect for John Kerry, but there’s no question he did not articulate these issues well,” she said. “He seemed equivocal. He ceded the moral high ground to the other side.”
PPFA affiliates performed about 244,000 abortions in 2003, according to the AP.
Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916 by Margaret Sanger, who promoted the reduction and eradication — through such methods as sterilization — of the poor, immigrants, racial minorities and the physically and mentally impaired.
CLONING HUMANS, NOT SHEEP –- The scientist whose research team cloned Dolly the Sheep will soon be cloning human beings legally in Great Britain.
The British government licensed Ian Wilmut Feb. 8 to clone human embryos for medical research. Wilmut intends to use the embryos for research on motor neuron disease, according to the AP.
It was the second license for cloning issued by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. The agency granted the first license in August to researchers at Newcastle University studying diabetes, AP reported.
Wilmut directed the team at Scotland’s Roslin Institute that successfully cloned Dolly after more than 270 failures.
Most pro-life advocates oppose research cloning because it requires the destruction of embryos.