Life Advocacy Briefing

June 7, 2010

Interruption? / Dissing the Military / Planned Parenthood Panhandling Again
/ F.D.A. Preparing to Release New Killer Drug? /
Evangelical Group Seeking ‘Common Ground’ / Desperate for Childbirth
No, Thank You! / Undermining Transplant Medicine


AS OUR EDITOR WILL BE TRAVELING, it’s possible we will be unable to publish next week. She is planning to work while on the road, but the logistics are uncertain. So don’t be surprised either way; we hope to be in your “inbox” but cannot guarantee it.


Dissing the Military

UNDERMINING THE MILITARY is bad enough, but just before the Memorial Day break? In the House, it was a vote to repeal the long-standing ban on open homosexual practices in the armed services. In the Senate, Democrats on the Armed Services Committee – with the notable exception of Sen. Ben Nelson (NE) – voted to impose abortions on military hospitals, both overseas and Stateside.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was proposed by lameduck Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL).

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) was among the Senators who responded with speeches on the Senate floor.  Mr. Wicker deplored the amendment, stating, “Abortion-at-will will be the requirement for our military installations, and the medical facilities on those installations. And I guarantee you,” he declared, the amendment “will be challenged on the floor of the House and Senate, with separate amendments. Members will be given a chance to vote on this separate issue.”

We hope so, but we caution our readers not to count on the House, where the Rules Committee (and Madam Speaker) will control whether such an amendment is permitted.

In the Senate, a slew of amendments can be expected to the military policy bill; this one – to strip out the Burris outrage – should certainly be one of those offered and pushed by Senators who care about our military and those who care about the right to Life of innocent, vulnerable prenatal boys and girls.

Though the bill is not yet before the full Senate for action, readers are urged to call their US Senators now to urge that the Burris Amendment for military abortions be dropped from the Defense Authorization Bill. Ask your Senators to vote “no” on the Defense Authorization Bill if the Burris abortion amendment is not stripped out. Calls may be placed via the Capitol switchboard at 1-202/224-3121; messages may be sent electronically to individual Senators through the Internet website.


Planned Parenthood Panhandling Again

PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS LOBBYING the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), reports Sarah Kliff for, “to ensure that birth control is counted among the free preventive services that health insurers must cover under the Affordable Care Act.

“Birth control barely came up in the healthcare reform debate,” writes Ms. Kliff, “brushed aside by the more heated debate over abortion language and coverage. But with numerous religious groups opposed to contraceptive use, this issue is all but certain to become a flash point as implementation moves forward.

“‘We see this as a tremendous opportunity to get no-cost birth control in the bill and ensure that this part of women’s health is covered under preventive health,’ said Laurie Rubiner, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy,” quoted by Politico.

Though much of the ObamaCare program plays out over a number of years, Sept. 23 of this year is when the “preventive services” coverage mandate kicks in, reports Ms. Kliff, requiring “many health insurance plans … to provide free preventive services coverage, with no co-pays or out-of-pocket costs.”

Politico reminds readers that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) attached an amendment to the Obama/Reid/Pelosi bill which, reports Ms. Kliff, “specified guaranteed ‘additional preventive care and screenings’ specific to women’s health would also receive coverage.” That amendment was fiercely fought by pro-life lawmakers, but Ms. Mikulski prevailed, despite her admission that she fully intended “reproductive health” to be covered by her amendment.

“With little fanfare,” Politico reports, “Planned Parenthood has begun laying the groundwork for a birth control campaign that will ramp up in coming months.” Politico reports PP will put special emphasis on young adults, “particularly those who have had their dependent coverage extended up to age 26” by the ObamaCare mandates. “College campuses, too,” writes Ms. Kliff, “could be fruitful territory for reproductive rights activism.”

The Politico reporter notes that “other reproductive health [sic] groups are also at work on the issue, looking at whether emergency contraception could find a place under the new regulations.” Could the timing of the FDA’s consideration of a new abortion drug, masquerading as “emergency contraception,” be coincidental?

The whole idea of classifying contraceptive drugs as “preventive services” for coverage under ObamaCare is not sitting well with groups such as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Said Richard Doerflinger, of USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, quoted by Politico, “‘Congressional debate on the need to cover “preventive services” in healthcare reform centered on services needed to prevent life-threatening diseases like breast cancer, not on a need to prevent the birth of new recipients of health care. …

“‘Requiring contraception and sterilization in all private health plans would be an enormous imposition,’” said Mr. Doerflinger, “‘on the consciences of religious organizations and others who now have the right to purchase a health plan in accord with their moral and religious values.’”


F.D.A. Preparing to Release New Killer Drug?

AN ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO THE F.D.A. will hold a public hearing this month as a major step toward approval of a new abortion drug, which the FDA is considering clearing for marketing as a contraceptive though it more closely resembles, in chemical composition and in functionality, the notorious abortion drug RU-486. This new drug is called Ulipristal and will likely be marketed under the name “ella” or “ellaOne.” The protocol being considered by the Food & Drug Administration would call for customers ingesting the drug up to five days after sexual intercourse.

“The American people need to know,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life (AUL), “that Ulipristal works in the same way as RU-486 to kill an embryo before or after implantation. Ulipristal also has potential to be a dangerous drug that will place women’s lives in danger.”

AUL has submitted testimony to the FDA Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs urging the drug not be approved nor made available over the counter.

“The FDA and abortion proponents are representing Ulipristal as if it were Plan B,” the brand name of the morning-after pill, said Dr. Yoest. “However, in many respects,” she said, “it’s simply the next generation of RU-486.”

In its news release about the hearing testimony, AUL identified RU-486 as “the parent compound of Ulipristal” and noted, “RU-486 subjects women to drastic health risks, including risks of bacterial infection and hemorrhage. To date,” observed AUL, “at least 13 women have died after using RU-486. Ulipristal may be subject to similar risks, and unsupervised over-the-counter access would likely put countless women’s lives in danger.”

The FDA’s approval of RU-486, in the waning days of the Clinton Administration, continues to be controversial, as the agency used an emergency procedure to push the drug through without the usual safeguards. A petition by Concerned Women for America (CWA) to reconsider the RU marketing has fallen on deaf ears at the agency.

Meanwhile, results of a nationwide telephone survey undertaken by Rasmussen Reports in late May show only 29% of American adults “say the FDA is capable of adequately protecting the safety of the drug supply in the United States,” according to a Rasmussen summary released last Wednesday. “The plurality (44%), however, don’t believe the FDA is capable of such protection, while another 27% are not sure.”


Evangelical Group Seeking ‘Common Ground’

THE NATIONAL ASSN. of EVANGELICALS (N.A.E.) IS PURSUING ‘COMMON GROUND’ for the sake of reducing the abortion death toll in the US.

The major association of evangelical churches is launching what it calls a national dialogue by adopting a resolution painting a target on itself for every soothing serpent in the abortion lobby.

The NAE resolution lists contraception as a “possible means of achieving that goal” of fewer abortions, reports Charlie Butts for, who asked NAE government affairs director Galen Carey whether the common-ground impulse would “mean working with groups like Planned Parenthood. He said,” reports Mr. Butts, “it is too soon in the project to identify organizations that might be included.”

One thing is certain, however: The negotiating parties will certainly include advocates of commercialized abortion; else how would one call it “common ground?”

Mr. Carey characterized the initiative as “‘looking to work with people from across the political spectrum and organizations with a variety of perspectives, provided that they would be willing to work on this issue of reducing abortions.’ Asked” by OneNewsNow whether “NAE would align itself with groups that promote condoms and contraceptives,” writes Mr. Butts, “[Mr.] Carey pointed to a Gallup study that suggests the vast majority of evangelicals support the use of contraceptives as part of an ethical family planning program. ‘So yes, I think we would be happy to work with people who also are involved in family planning efforts,’ he replies” in the OneNewsNow interview, “‘provided that they are willing to actually work on reducing the number of abortions.’” Right. Just like President Clinton. Remember him?


Desperate for Childbirth

A REGION IN NORTHERN ITALY IS OFFERING EXPECTANT MOTHERS as much as $5,500 a year to overcome financial difficulties. The policy is seen as a bid to reduce the abortion death toll and to address Italy’s plummeting birth rate, at 1.32 children born per woman of childbearing age. A rate of 2.1 is necessary to assure a future for a people. Italy, reports Hilary White for, “ranks 206th of 223 countries in fertility rates and is expecting dramatic reductions in population over the next decades.” Indeed, demographic observers are predicting eventual extinction of the indigenous Italian population.


No, Thank You!

ANOTHER STATE HAS OPTED OUT OF OBAMACare’s ABORTION MANDATE. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) last week signed a bill based on model legislation devised by Americans United for Life. The new law, according to a report by AUL, “prohibits insurance plans in the soon-to-be-created healthcare exchanges from providing abortion coverage” in the state of Mississippi. The federal law provides that states may “proactively choose to prohibit abortion coverage in those plans,” reports AUL.

Mississippi joins Arizona and Tennessee in enacting an opt-out; the legislatures in Florida and Missouri have sent similar legislation to their governors, and such bills are being considered by lawmakers in Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.


Undermining Transplant Medicine

May 18, 2010, Internet Blog column by ethicist Wesley J. Smith excerpting a commentary he wrotefor First Things

First Things asked me to opine on the recently introduced New York legislation (A-9865) to enact a presumed consent law for organ donation. Glad to oblige. I open by identifying the problem. From “Presumptuous Consent:”

Many more sick people need kidneys, hearts and livers than there are kidneys, hearts and livers to go around. This shortage is the result of both decreased supply and increased demand. For example, public safety laws requiring that motorists wear seatbelts and motorcyclists helmets have reduced the kind of catastrophic head injuries that often lead to organ donation. At the same time, the capacities of transplant medicine have advanced exponentially, allowing more people to benefit from a transplant than ever before. The toll taken by the resulting shortage is measured in the number of patients who die while waiting in line for an organ to become available.

People are wary of transplant medicine. In order to gain trust, the transplant medical sector made two solemn promises to society.

Broadly stated, these rules prevent patients – no matter how sick or catastrophically disabled – from ever being treated as a mere organ system rather than an equal member of the moral community. This is accomplished through adherence to two legally enforceable principles:

  • Donors of vital organs must be clinically dead before procurement, a requirement known as the “dead donor rule;” and
  • Organs will be taken only if consent is freely given – either by the patient via signed organ donor cards or by family members. Indeed, informed and freely given consent is currently recognized as being so symbiotically bound with the public’s trust in the transplant system that organs are almost never procured without obtaining explicit familial consent even when a donor card is on file.

Both are now in danger of being broken. I warn against the many proposals to eliminate the dead donor rule, oft discussed here at SecondHandSmoke [the Wesley Smith blog]. I then pivot to presumed consent. I describe the legislation and explain that while it seems to have increased the organ supply in Spain and France, it has had mixed results elsewhere. Besides, the USA is not Europe.

We value individualism over collectivism, autonomous decision making over the imposed “greater good.” Indeed, presumed consent laws could unleash a boomerang effect. Many would resent the new approach as government coercion over one of the most intimate decisions anyone can make and protest by taking the opt-out option.

And then there is the current troubling medical context in which presumed consent would be implemented.

The ObamaCare debate, with its specter of “death panel” rationing boards and waiting lines, significantly undermined the people’s faith in our medical system. Now, factor in presumed consent to the popular fears that expensively ill and injured patients will soon be discarded as so much medical waste. Finally, mix in already existing medical futility policies – such as in Texas – which permit hospital ethics committees meeting behind closed doors to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment based on “quality of life” or the cost of their care – and you have a perfect prescription for distrust in all things medical. In such a milieu, the temptation to believe that your catastrophically head-injured son could have been saved but died because his organs were deemed more valuable than his life, would be, for some, hard to resist.

Last but not least, there is the issue of public policy integrity, a commodity I worry is in increasingly short supply in our world driven by emotional narratives.

We have become a public policy promise breaking nation. Think of the many times solemn assurances have been given that reasonable restrictions will be maintained in order to gain popular acceptance of controversial policies – and how casually they were cast aside once the deal was sealed. Remember when IVF was going to be limited to infertile married couples? Now “Octomom” – a fertile, single woman – has 14 children conceived by IVF and has become a cover model for celebrity magazines.

We can’t permit a similar pattern to swamp the ethics of transplant medicine. A bad idea – even when envisioned for altruistic reasons – is still a bad idea. Presumed consent has no place in American medicine or public health policy.

Good motives do not necessarily make good policy – in fact, as with presumed consent, too often just the opposite.


Permission granted to quote with attribution. Reproduction rights granted only by express authorization.