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LIFE DIGEST: U.S. medical group wants doctors forced to refer for abortions; fertility ships may anchor soon off British coast

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life doctors have decried a request from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that federal law be changed to require physicians who oppose abortion to refer patients to those who will perform the procedure.

In an Aug. 30 letter, ACOG President Michael Mennuti urged senators to amend the Abortion Non-discrimination Act to mandate that pro-life doctors make referrals for abortions. “Doctors who morally object to abortion should be required to refer patients to other physicians who will provide the appropriate care,” Mennuti wrote, according to the Christian Medical Association.

“We’ve always known that abortion affords no choice or rights to a developing baby. Now we learn that ACOG would also strip choice and rights away from the very physicians it claims to represent,” CMA President David Stevens said in a written release. “This is not only the height of hypocrisy; it is also a sure-fire way to lose more physician members who value their constitutional and professional rights of conscience.”

The American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which identifies itself as the largest special interest group within ACOG, called Mennuti’s request “abhorrent.”

“Those who morally object to abortion usually do so because they understand abortion as the taking of innocent life,” AAPLOG said in a written statement. “To require a physician who believes this to refer someone for an abortion would force him or her to be complicit in that act.”

The Abortion Non-discrimination Act, which became law in 2004 as part of an omnibus spending bill, prevents government agencies from discriminating against healthcare professionals and entities opposed to providing or referring for abortions. It also bars discrimination against insurance plans that refuse to cover abortions.

OFF-SHORE INSEMINATION — British couples may soon be able to obtain on ships anchored off the island’s coast fertility treatments banned by their government.

Artificial insemination from anonymous sperm donors and gender selection are among the procedures that have been proposed for the ships, which would be anchored in international waters near Great Britain, according to the newspaper The Guardian.

Great Britain has a shortage of both egg and sperm donors. Sperm donors are decreasing because of a change set for April that will end their anonymity, The Guardian reported. Under the new policy, children produced as a result of artificial insemination may learn the identity of their genetic father when they become 18 years old, according to the newspaper.

The operator of Europe’s largest sperm bank believes off-shore insemination could find a “huge market.”

“There is a market for hundreds of ships in Europe, and the most obvious markets would be around the UK and Italy. It is just a question of how quickly they can organize,” said Ole Schou, who founded the sperm bank Cryos in Denmark more than 20 years ago. His bank exports sperm to 40 countries, according to The Guardian.

In addition to Britain, other European countries that no longer protect the identity of sperm donors are Italy, Sweden, The Netherlands and Norway, according to the newspaper.

DEATH AFTER LIFE — A baby girl whose mother gave birth to her after being brain dead for 12 weeks has died.

Susan Anne Catherine Torres died Sept. 12 after undergoing emergency surgery for a ruptured intestine, USA Today reported. Though she weighed less than two pounds at birth Aug. 2, the baby girl appeared to be doing well until an infection developed a few days before her death, according to USA Today.

Justin Torres, an uncle, called it a “devastating loss,” the newspaper reported. “It was our fondest wish that we could have been able to share Susan’s homecoming with the world.”

Her mother, Susan Torres, was about 15 weeks pregnant when she lost consciousness May 7. At that time, doctors told Jason Torres his wife had a brain tumor and was brain-dead with no chance of recovery. There was some hope, however, she could be kept alive on life-support machines until the baby was ready for delivery, the physicians said. Susan had declined tests for defects in the baby, so Jason was sure she would have desired to try to give birth, and her parents agreed, The Washington Post reported.

The baby weighed only 1 pound, 13 ounces and was 13.5 inches long when she was delivered by Caesarean section in an Arlington, Va., hospital. Her mother died Aug. 3 after she was taken off life support.

In addition to her husband, Susan Torres is survived by a 2-year-old son, Peter.