News Articles

LIFE DIGEST: NIH officials oppose Bush on stem cells; mother arrested trying to stop teen’s abortion; pro-life plates upheld

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush and other foes of federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research found a lack of allies among officials in the president’s own administration during a recent congressional hearing.

Various directors at the National Institutes of Health expressed before a Senate committee their frustration with the Bush policy, which bars federal funds for research on stem cells that result in the destruction of human embryos. The rule permits funding for such research only on stem cell lines already in existence prior to Aug. 9, 2001, when the president announced the policy.

The testimony, presented to a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee without supervision from the Department of Health and Human Services at the request of Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., warned researchers might move to countries where there are more lenient rules and abundant funding, The Washington Post reported.

“Progress has been delayed by the limited number of cell lines,” said Elizabeth Nabel, new director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in written testimony, according to The Post. “The NIH has ceded leadership in this field.”

Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, cited “cumbersome procedures and long waiting times” for legal stem cells, which frequently are inferior and expire when thawed, The Post reported.

The negative testimony regarding Bush’s policy came April 6, about two weeks after it was revealed the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has promised a vote on legislation designed to liberalize the rule.

Rep. Michael Castle, R.-Del., is sponsoring the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, H.R. 810, while Specter is the sponsor of the Senate version, S. 471. The House has 193 cosponsors, signaling it could pass. If the House and Senate agree on the same measure. Bush would have to veto it to prevent it from becoming law.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations oppose embryonic stem cell research because procurement of the cells kills the embryo.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, building hope for the treatment of numerous afflictions. In addition to being extracted from embryos, the cells may be found in such non-embryonic sources as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat and placentas.

While embryonic stem cell research has failed to produce any successful therapies in human beings, research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources has produced treatments for more than 40 ailments, including spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

MOTHER ARRESTED –- An Illinois woman was arrested when she sought to prevent her 14-year-old daughter from having an abortion, according to a published report.

The mother, whose name was not published by The Illinois Leader, went to the Hope Abortion Clinic in Granite City March 17 and found her daughter had signed in on the register. She did not find her daughter in the waiting area and went to the front desk, The Leader reported.

“I was told I could not prove my daughter was there, so I began calling her name,” the mother said. “A medical tech at the clinic told me, ‘It’s your daughter’s rights; it’s her body. You have no rights.’”

When she continued to call out her daughter’s name, the police were called and arrested the mother, according to the report.

The mother of the young man who was the father of the baby posed as the girl’s grandmother in order to take her to the abortion clinic, according to The Leader. When the girl left the clinic, employees told her that no one would ever know she had been there and her records would be buried, the newspaper recounted.

Police reportedly told the girl’s mother they could not intervene despite her accusation that her daughter had been raped because the charge was too old, The Leader reported.

Illinois does not have a law requiring parental consent or notification before a minor undergoes an abortion.

DEAN ON LIFE –- Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean warned Democrats to halt “speaking down” to voters who oppose abortion and cultural decay only days before saying his party would use the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in elections.

In an April 13 interview with USA Today, Dean denied Democrats are pro-abortion, saying, “What we want to debate is who gets to choose: [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay and the federal politicians? Or does a woman get to make up her own mind?”

In an April 15 speech at a West Hollywood, Calif., event sponsored by Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality, the former Vermont governor charged Republicans with “grandstanding” in their effort to prevent Schiavo’s feeding tube from being disconnected, according to the Associated Press.

“This is going to be an issue in 2006,” Dean said, the AP reported, “and it’s going to be an issue in 2008, because we’re going to have an ad with a picture of Tom Delay saying, ‘Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?’

“The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?”

According to the AP, Tracey Schmitt of the Republican National Committee said it was “disturbing that Howard Dean would plot to use the life of Terri Schiavo for political gain. This demonstrates a troubling lack of sensitivity, and one would hope that Democrat leaders in Congress would reject such a strategy.”

Schiavo, 41, died March 31 after being disconnected from a feeding tube 13 days earlier. Despite a law passed by Congress and signed by Bush enabling a federal court to review her case, the judiciary refused to order the reconnection of her tube.

LOUISIANA PLATES OK –- The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a suit by Planned Parenthood and cleared the way for the state of Louisiana to issue pro-life license plates.

The appeals court vacated April 13 a federal judge’s ruling blocking distribution of the “Choose Life” plates and dismissed the suit brought by the country’s leading abortion provider.

“We applaud the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in this case,” Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Mike Johnson said in a written release. “Planned Parenthood and others who promote abortion didn’t like the fact that Louisiana can select a pro-life license plate option, so they attempted to get the federal courts to declare all of Louisiana’s voluntary specialty plates unconstitutional.”