Life Advocacy Briefing

October 3, 2016

Taking Their Break / Coming Storm? / Abetted Suicide on the Agenda?
Divinely Inspired Intervention / No Right Way – or Even Need – to Do a Wrong Thing
The Drum Is Beating

Taking Their Break

CONGRESS WAS TO RECESS late last week, after our press deadline, until after the Nov. 8 election. Before recessing, a Continuing Resolution (CR) passed both houses, providing appropriations for the federal government until early December. A lame-duck session will convene shortly after the election in order to consider still-pending legislation and to attempt to adopt spending authority for the balance of the fiscal year.

Included in the must-pass CR was spending to confront the Zika virus – and the mosquitoes known to be spreading the infection – but we were unable to learn, in time for this Life Advocacy Briefing, whether the massive resolution limited Zika spending to agencies covered by the Hyde Amendment, the sticking point which had propelled the Senate’s Minority party into stubborn refusal to aid in Zika prevention funding all through the summer in its determination to include Planned Parenthood in the new emergency spending. We have previously published voting records on the Zika spending issue because of the Planned Parenthood connection; without its seeming to have been a hurdle for the CR as passed, we do not see last Wednesday’s CR roll calls as having sufficient “Life” implications to publish them for our readers.

Suggesting the GOP’s Planned Parenthood funding prevention tactic was dropped in the final CR version, National Right to Life’s legislative director, Douglas Johnson, said, reports Charlie Butts for, “that doesn’t mean Republicans caved on the issue and call[ed] GOP leadership ‘outstanding’ on the issue. ‘But until we get more Republican Senators or a Republican President, a pro-life President,’ the pro-life leader warn[ed],” writes Mr. Butts, “‘we’re going to be in the situation where Planned Parenthood manages to tap into the various federal health programs.’”

In any case, during the lame-duck session, we hope – dare we expect? – the Majority in each house to take up now-languishing pro-life legislation. Such measures as the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which have already passed the House and are pending in the Senate, need to see passage this year; babies are dying daily. And both the House and the Senate need to take up and pass such legislation as the Dismemberment Abortion Ban and a bill by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to “prohibit certain research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue obtained pursuant to an abortion.”


Coming Storm?

THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSN. (A.M.A.) IS RECONSIDERING its long-standing opposition to the legalization of doctor-abetted suicide. An “interim meeting” is to be held in November, according to a news bulletin from Illinois Federation for Right to Life, and the AMA “will consider taking a ‘neutral’ position” at its next annual meeting in July 2017. Such a non-position position, according to IFRL, “essentially sends a green light to the states that legalizing assisted suicide is acceptable.

“It is imperative,” urges IFRL, “that the AMA retain and affirm its current position” opposing legislative policies which foster physician complicity in suicide, regardless of the excuses being offered for such final “solutions.” We emphatically agree and urge readers to contact leaders of the AMA as well as to urge their own physicians – particularly those active in AMA deliberations – to weigh in on the medical profession’s duty to defend Life.

Contact information for AMA leadership, as recommended by IFRL, is as follows: AMA president Andrew W. Gurman MD, via electronic mail at [email protected] or postal mail at 330 N. Wabash # 43482, Chicago, IL 60611, via phone at 312/464-5618 or fax at 312/464-4094; and the AMA’s secretary for the Council on Ethical & Judicial Affairs Bette Crigger PhD, via postal mail at the same address as Dr. Gurman’s or via phone at 312/464-5223 or fax at 312/224-6911.


Abetted Suicide on the Agenda?

DOCTOR-ABETTED SUICIDE IS IN THE NEWS in both Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Pro-life and disability rights advocates are actively lobbying the DC City Council, reports Claire Chretien for, “to reject a bill that would legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in the nation’s capital,” a proposal filed in January of 2015 on which the council, writes Ms. Chretien, “might vote … this fall.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, she reports, has “launched a prayer campaign against [the] proposed legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide.” The council’s Health & Human Services Committee, notes the LifeSiteNews reporter, is scheduled to vote on the measure this Wednesday, Oct. 5, setting up a possible Council vote before the end of this year.

In Vermont, the state’s Alliance for Ethical Health Care and the Christian Medical & Dental Assn. are together suing in federal court, represented by legal counsel from Alliance Defending Freedom, to block the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the state’s Office of Professional Regulation from implementing their joint interpretation of the state’s abetted suicide law “to require healthcare professionals – regardless of their conscience or oath,” states ADF in a news advisory, “to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option.” The three-year-old abetted suicide law itself has “very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves,” notes ADF, but the two medical governing boards are taking the issue a step further by “constru[ing] a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for ‘all options’ for palliative care to include a mandate,” reports ADF, “that all patients hear about the ‘option’ of assisted suicide.”


Divinely Inspired Intervention

THAT NEW MEGABORTUARY IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, D.C., IS OPENING and was the site of a fundraising “gala” last week – at $350 per head, attended, notes Claire Chretien in, mostly by participants aged 60 or older. The reporter contrasted that demographic characteristic with the protest crowd outside, which, she writes, “included Catholic University of America students and many young professionals.”

We won’t go into much of the LifeSiteNews report on the gala, but we did find of real interest a segment of the story dealing with “local pro-life activist Lauren Handy, [who] told LifeSiteNews, ‘Not only do we need to be a witness, we need to be a strong witness, [and] we need to move from outrage to action.’”

Ms. Handy knows this first-hand, having been “a regular outside Planned Parenthood [NW DC] since it began construction.” She told Ms. Chretien one of the staff of the new, massive abortion mill “has already quit. ‘Last week,’” she said, “‘I talked with a clinic worker – so a woman who actually works for Planned Parenthood – and I showed her a picture of an abortion victim, and she didn’t know Planned Parenthood did abortions, and she quit on the spot and did not come back,’ [Ms.] Handy said.” Praise God!

We report this to illustrate the wisdom of not making assumptions about anyone “on the other side” until their own words or actions demonstrate their true intent. And as endorsement of the staff-rescue programs of Life Dynamics, Pro-Life Action League, 40 Days for Life, Abby Johnson’s And Then There Were None and so many others.


No Right Way – or Even Need – to Do a Wrong Thing

Sept. 26, 2016, BreakPoint commentary by John Stonestreet

Some issues in Presidential politics have staying power. Twelve years ago, everyone was talking about immigration, abortion and terrorism. Today, everyone is still talking about immigration, abortion and terrorism.

But another issue that gripped the public and had candidates shouting from the debate stages then has been all but forgotten today: embryonic stemcell research.

Here’s a quick refresher: Stem cells exist in every multicellular organism and have the
ability to differentiate into different types of tissue, whether it be heart, brain, lung, liver or other kinds of human tissue. The stem cells everyone is interested in – called “pluripotent” stem cells – have the ability to become any type of tissue anywhere in the body.

Scientists have long seen these cells as a potential cure or therapy for degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as paralysis, heart disease and a host of others. A decade ago, the only way to derive “pluripotent” stem cells was to conceive a human embryo in a test tube and then kill it.

Then-President George W. Bush issued a moratorium on new federal funding for this type of stem cell, sparking outrage from across the aisle. The move was roundly condemned as “anti-scientific,” and Bush was lampooned by the media, liberal politicians and cartoonists as a peddler of dark-age superstitions.

In 2009, a newly elected President Obama immediately lifted the moratorium and poured new funding into embryonic stemcell research. Since then, countless embryos have been destroyed with taxpayer dollars, but to this day, the technology has failed to yield the miracle cure Americans were promised.

And that’s only one reason the debate has gotten so quiet. During the years since the moratorium, a different kind of stem cell – tissue-specific “somatic” or adult stem cells – have been used to successfully treat over a million-and-a-half people with conditions ranging from blindness and cancer to juvenile diabetes and arthritis. Without killing human embryos.

And in 2006, a technique pioneered by Nobel Prize-winning Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka all but rendered embryonic stem cells obsolete. He discovered a way to induce pluripotency, causing adult cells to mimic embryonic stem cells. His method has since been developed to the point where researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital used it to grow a genetically compatible, beating human heart from a patient’s skin cells!

This method is actually superior to the embryonic method, because it eliminates the risk of rejection. The freshly grown tissue from adult stem cells is, quite literally, the patient’s own. All of this led Christopher White at Crux to declare the stemcell controversy effectively over. President Bush was right, White argues, and so were the legions of pro-life activists who supported alternatives to embryo-destructive research. The stemcell debate didn’t just fizzle out. On an important level, it was soundly won by those who insisted that medical science could advance without turning human life at its earliest stages into a disposable commodity.

Yet still the issue hasn’t gone away. Our government continues to fund ethically indefensible embryonic research. But the fact that such research is now so unnecessary has taken the moral and rhetorical wind out of advocates’ sails.

I want to be really clear. Embryo-destructive research exploits and destroys unique human lives, and it should be opposed even if such research could make the paralyzed walk. Doing or condoning evil that good may result is still evil, and we must defend the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

But very often, as in this case, the right thing turns out to be the more promising and successful option. In the late, great stemcell debate, it’s clearer now than it ever has been. Saving life doesn’t require destroying it.


The Drum Is Beating

Sept. 19, 2016, commentary by pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, reprinted from NRL News Today

“Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.” – Richard John Neuhaus

If you want to see what is likely to go awry in medical ethics and public healthcare policy, pay attention to the advocacy of bioethicists – at least some of those who don’t identify themselves as “conservative” or “Catholic.” In their many journal articles and presentations at academic symposia, they unabashedly advocate for discarding the sanctity- and equality-of-life ethic as our moral cornerstone. Instead, most favor invidious and systemic medical discrimination predicated on a patient’s “quality of life,” which would endow the young, healthy and able-bodied with the highest moral value – and hence, with the greatest claim to medical resources.

Thanks to the work of bioethics, life-taking policies that a few decades ago were “unthinkable” now are unremarkable. Withholding tube-supplied food and water from the cognitively disabled until they die – Terri Schiavo’s fate – is now legal and popularly accepted. The legalization of assisted suicide is a constant threat. Even where lethal prescriptions or injections cannot be legally provided, some of our most notable bioethicists urge that doctors be permitted to help the elderly and others commit suicide by self-starvation – a process known in euthanasia advocacy circles as VSED (Voluntary Stopping of Eating & Drinking).

Promoters of the culture of death never rest on their laurels. Listed below are a few of the more dangerous “advances” being promoted in bioethics.

  • Infanticide: When German doctors were hanged at Nuremberg for committing infanticide, it was thought that killing disabled babies was an unrepeatable historical evil. But human memory is short. Today, some of the most notable bioethics and medical journals have published articles promoting infanticide. Such articles are growing more acceptable by the year.

When the Journal of Medical Ethics published an article extolling “after-birth abortion” in 2011, there was a popular uproar. But on Sept. 4 of this year, Newsweek published an article promoting late-term abortion and infanticide in response to the Zika outbreak – and in terms disturbingly close to the old eugenics trope of the “life unworthy of life” – there was nary a peep. From “Is Terminating a Late-Term Zika Fetus Euthanasia?” by Cornell Law Professor Sherry F. Colb … her conclusion makes her infanticide advocacy clear: “… the issue of euthanasia nonetheless lurks and beckons to us to answer the question: Might some lives be better off ended than permitted to continue, given what is in store for them? The woman who terminates at 32 weeks for Zika-caused birth defects may thus have indirectly made a case for euthanasia, while allowing us to pretend that what she has had was just another abortion.”

This isn’t theoretical. In the Netherlands, doctors can kill disabled and dying babies using a bureaucratic checklist known as the Groningen Protocol to determine which infants are eligible. (This protocol has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.) In our current bioethical climate, infanticide falls somewhere between “debatable” and “justifiable.”

  • Killing for Organs: The “dead donor rule,” which says that vital organs can only be taken from the certifiably deceased, has been under steady attack for years. The latest example was just published in the Journal of Medical Ethics by bioethicist Zoe Fritz:

“Whether it is inevitable that an incapacitous patient is going to die – and specifically when it has been agreed through the courts that a patient in a PVS [Persistent Vegetative State] is going to have CANH [tube-supplied sustenance] withdrawn, it could be in a patient’s best interests to have a drug that would stop their heart and to have vital organs donated to a family member. … By extension, it could also be in the patient’s best interests to donate their organs to someone else, if that was consistent with their previously expressed wishes.”

I can think of no faster way to destroy people’s confidence in organ donation than to kill people for their organs. Not only that, but if this were permitted, decisions about withdrawing care would quickly become intertwined with the issue of organ harvesting, transforming patients into organ farms. Killing for organs – which is not yet happening – is currently considered “debatable.”

  • Futile Care: Medical futility, or “futile care,” permits a doctor to withdraw wanted life-sustaining treatment from a patient based on the doctor’s perception of the patient’s quality of life – and, less mentioned, based on the cost of the patient’s care. Texas has a law that allows hospital bioethics committees to refuse service or discontinue treatment – even against a patient’s written advance directive. Many a patient has died after such forced removal of treatment. There has been abundant litigation surrounding the issue, with the bioethics movement leading the charge to allow bioethicists and doctors to decide when a patient should die. Despite this contentiousness, I believe that futile care is at this point considered “justifiable.”

These and other policies that view imposed or chosen death as the answer to human suffering and medical-resource concerns are the products of careful planning and promotion. In 1970, an editorial in California Medicine celebrated the “inevitability of death selection and death control” in a project that would culminate in the “fulfillment and betterment of mankind in what is almost certain to be a biologically oriented world society.” Back then, the very idea of death control was unthinkable. A mere 46 years later – intellectually gestated by the bioethics movement – it is quickly becoming unexceptionable.