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LIFE DIGEST: Veteran pro-abortion organizer to lead Planned Parenthood; Korean research fraud investigation continues

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country’s No. 1 provider of abortions, has named a veteran pro-abortion, anti-conservative leader as its new president, and a critic predicts the organization will become even more aggressive.

Cecile Richards, 48, is the new head of PPFA, which announced its selection Jan. 9. Richards is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

The new Planned Parenthood president has served previously on the boards of directors of both PPFA and another leading abortion rights organization, NARAL Pro-choice America. She also established and directed the Turner Foundation’s national pro-choice project and Pro-choice Vote, a political action committee during the 2000 election campaign.

In the 1990s, Richards founded the Texas Freedom Network, which sought to offset the influence of religious conservatives.

She also has served as deputy chief of staff to House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Richards said in a written statement she looks forward “to working with Planned Parenthood affiliates, staff and partners to realize the dream of access to reproductive heath care for all.”

Richards’ hiring demonstrates PPFA is more concerned with promoting an agenda than in offering healthcare, said a leader of an anti-Planned Parenthood organization.

“The selection of Richards should be a clear sign that Planned Parenthood can be expected to intensify the spread of its radical pro-abortion philosophy,” said Douglas Scott, president of Life Decisions International, in a written release. “Since Planned Parenthood has chosen a leader who has been more involved in politics than in so-called health care, it is quite obvious that the group will become more active, more belligerent and even more out of the mainstream over the next several years.”

Richards is the mother of three teenage children.

CLONING CONFESSIONS – The fallout from fraudulent South Korean cloning reports continues. The following developments have been reported recently regarding the now-discredited claims of Seoul National University researcher Hwang Woo Suk:

— A investigative committee at the university issued its final report Jan. 10, saying results reported by a team headed by Hwang in a 2004 article in the journal Science were fabricated. The article reported the team had cloned the first human embryonic stem cell line. The committee also confirmed a 2005 Science article by the team on the creation of 11 stem cell lines was fraudulent, as had been previously reported. (Science announced Jan. 12 it would retract both articles, the Associated Press reported.) The investigation, however, found the cloning of a dog named Snuppy, reported in a 2005 article in the journal Nature, was authentic.

— University President Chung Un Chan apologized Jan. 11 to the Korean people for the “public confusion and controversy” caused by Hwang’s team, calling the fraud “nothing less than a crime in an academic community whose purpose is the pursuit of truth.” Chung said he would urge the school’s disciplinary committee to “take strict action” on the guilty scientists and would form an ethics panel to deal with future research.

— Hwang asked for forgiveness in a nationally televised news conference Jan. 12 in Seoul but blamed the fraud on other researchers. “The use of fake data … is what I have to take full responsibility for as first author,” Hwang said, according to AP. Researchers at Mizmedi Hospital in Seoul, however, misled him by reporting they had grown stem cells from human embryos cloned by his team, Hwang said, repeating previous assertions. “We believe they completely deceived [us] with their research results,” he said, AP reported.

— South Korean prosecutors announced Jan. 13 they had expanded the investigation into Hwang’s discredited research and had prohibited more of his colleagues from leaving the country, according to AP. Prosecutors raided Hwang’s home Jan. 12 and the offices of eight of his fellow researchers Jan. 13, AP reported. Hong May Pyo, the lead prosecutor, told AP the investigation would “look into charges of misappropriation of research funds.”

DOESN’T FEEL THEIR PAIN – Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a fetal pain bill Jan. 6, declaring the state should “keep the legislature out of” the relationship between doctors and women seeking abortions.

The legislation would have required physicians to inform women desiring abortions that an unborn child more than 20 weeks after fertilization can feel pain.

“This bill intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship in a heavy handed manner and means doctors don’t have to provide objective and accurate information to their patients,” Doyle, a Democrat, said in a written statement. “In any case, I trust doctors, not the legislature, to make medical judgments.”

Three states -– Arkansas, Georgia and Minnesota -– already have fetal pain laws, according to the Associated Press.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress. The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, S. 51 in the Senate and H.R. 356 in the House of Representatives, has yet to be acted on in either house this Congress. The Senate bill has 34 cosponsors, and the House version has 127.

Two 2004 public opinion surveys showed Americans strongly support giving information about fetal pain to women considering abortion when their pregnancy is 20 weeks or more. A Zogby poll in April found 77 percent support laws requiring that women receive such evidence, and a Wirthlin Worldwide survey in November found 75 percent agree with such laws.