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LIFE DIGEST: New Jersey closes major abortion clinic; another tiny baby survives; Ill. closer to embryonic research

WASHINGTON (BP)–Another abortion clinic has been forced to close its doors, this time a New Jersey center that performs more than 10,000 abortions a year.

The state Department of Health took the action following an inquiry prompted by the severe medical complications experienced by a 20-year-old woman who had undergone an abortion at Metropolitan Medical Associates (MMA) in Englewood, N.J., according to The Bergen Record.

Rasheedah Dinkins, who has two children, suffered massive hemorrhaging after undergoing an abortion Jan. 27. She received a 20-unit blood transfusion at a hospital and suffered a stroke. Doctors also removed her uterus. She was placed on a respirator but came out of her coma Feb. 23, according to The Record.

The state’s investigation, initiated by a complaint filed by the hospital, prompted the Department of Health to close the center after it found violations that caused serious threats to patients. The department cited infection control as one of the concerns, The Record reported. The clinic will not reopen until the problems have been addressed, according to the health department.

“I think it’s horrible what I had to go through,” Dinkins told the Associated Press. In retrospect, she added, “I probably wouldn’t have made this choice.”

Dinkins has filed a lawsuit against MMA and its doctors.

In 1993, a 20-year-old college student died hours after having an abortion at MMA, according to The Record. The county medical examiner ruled her death was accidental, the newspaper reported.

Since Dinkins’ ordeal became public knowledge, two other women have come forward to report their health problems after undergoing procedures at MMA.

Christina Ruvolo, 23, told The Record she began to hemorrhage five weeks after an abortion in May. Doctors at a nearby hospital treated her and told her part of the child’s body was still inside her, according to the newspaper.

Gloria Mozas, 36, said she went to MMA in October 2003 to get a pregnancy test and an ultrasound. Doctors told her she had already had a miscarriage, when in fact she had an ectopic pregnancy. She suffered a rupture and internal bleeding days later, she told The Record.

“A zoo is better than this place,” Mozas said, according to the newspaper. “I’m asking the state; I’m asking the governor; I’m asking whoever it takes to never open these doors again.”

MMA’s more than 10,000 abortions a year ranks it ahead of 23 of the country’s 50 states in annual number of abortions, according to 2000 statistics collected by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

MIRACLE BABY II –- Another girl born at less than 23 weeks gestation has survived.

Millie McDonagh is at home near Manchester, England, after four months in the hospital, the London Daily Mail reported Feb. 28. She weighed 20 ounces and was 11 inches long when she was born at 22 weeks and six days.

Millie was born a week older than Amillia Sonja Taylor, a Florida baby who was born at 21 weeks and six days. Amillia had a nearly four-month stay at Baptist Children’s Hospital in Miami, Fla., before going home Feb. 21. When Amillia was born, she weighed less than 10 ounces and was only 9 1/2 inches long.

Amillia was the first baby known to have survived after less than 23 weeks gestation, according to the Miami hospital. Infants who go to full term are born between 37 and 40 weeks. The hospital reported the death rate for babies born at 23 weeks is 70 percent, according to the American Association of Pediatrics.

Millie was given little chance of survival by doctors, and she stopped breathing several times, according to the Daily Mail. She was kept on life support at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, but she should not have any permanent problems, doctors said. She weighed five pounds when she went home.

“There were times when we were called in urgently because they feared the worst,” said her father, Tom McDonagh, according to the Daily Mail. “When they told us she had just one chance in a hundred, we couldn’t stop thinking, ‘What if she’s the one percent?’”

‘CELLING’ OUT –- The Illinois legislature took another step toward funding destructive embryonic stem cell research March 1.

The state’s House of Representatives voted 67-46 for a bill to permit grants for all forms of stem cell research, including the type that results in the killing of an embryo, according to The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. The Senate had approved a similar, though not identical, bill the week before in a 35-23 vote. Senators are expected to approve the House version when it returns to their chamber, the newspaper reported.

The House-backed measure bans cloning for the purpose of producing a birth, but it permits cloning for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. Such research or therapeutic cloning requires the destruction of an embryo only several days old.

The Illinois House vote occurred the same day Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, signed into law a bill lifting that state’s restriction on research cloning. The Iowa law prohibits implanting a cloned embryo in a woman’s womb, but it requires the destruction of any embryo cloned for research purposes.

The Illinois legislation does not provide an amount for funding stem cell research, but it codifies the stem cell program ordered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat. Blagojevich granted $15 million last year to his Illinois Regenerative Medicine program, according to The News-Gazette.

Rep. David Reis, a Republican, spoke against embryonic stem cell research, saying, “We feel that if this is not wrong, then nothing is wrong,” according to the newspaper.

Experiments using stem cells have yet to provide any therapies for human afflictions. Embryonic research also has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

Meanwhile, research using stem cells from non-embryonic sources –- such as bone marrow, fat, umbilical cord blood and placentas -– has produced therapies for 72 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. Extracting stem cells from non-embryonic sources does not require harming the donors.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues. The remarkable ability of stem cells has given hope for the development of cures for a variety of diseases and other ailments.