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BY Jim Cosgrove
THE POST-ABORTION REVIEW, March 7 — Dr. Joel Brind debunks the myth commonly used by pro-abortion-ists who say that “therapeutic abortions” are necessary for women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, reported the Post-Abortion Review.
Brind, a leading expert on the abortion-breast cancer link and head of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, notes studies have shown that pregnant women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and carry to term generally live longer than women who have abortions. In one study, while only 20% of women who carried to term were still alive 20 years later, all of the patients who chose to abort had died within 11 years reported the Post-Abortion Review.
Brind hypothesizes that the lower death rate may be due to hormone changes in the last stages of pregnancy that switch the cells from a growth stage into a milk producing tissue. Since this hormonal change shuts down cell division (cancer is characterized by out of control cell division), this hormonal shutdown signal may be a powerful form of “natural chemotherapy.”
New Bioethics Journal
THE LEAVEN, March 9 — A new voice in bioethics is unequivocally Catholic, reported the Kansas City, Kan., archdiocesan newspaper.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston has published the first issue of National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. The publication's editor, Edward J. Furton, said it would “come out of the Catholic life of reason and moral tradition.”
Father Jerry Spencer, Kansas City's archdiocesan health affairs coordinator said the new journal will interest those looking for solid scientific reference, regardless of their faith background.
Magazine Lauds Big Families
TODAY'S PARENT, December/ January — The popular Canadian magazine recently published an article extolling the benefits of big families, written by Dorothy Nixon, mother of two children born two-and-a-half years apart.
Nixon reflected on her brother-in-law who raised seven boys, “I'm beginning to think having small families, period, is highly impractical. A large family is like a complex organism, designed by nature to produce human beings who are responsible and cooperative, not to mention good at negotiating, alliance building and protecting themselves. Large families produce children for the real world, children with survival skills.”
Beyond benefits for children, Nixon wrote that parents of large families benefit from having siblings entertain one another. While her brother-in-law's children play outside for hours together, Nixon wrote her children refuse to go out saying, “There's no one to play with outside!”
BY Celeste McGovern
DENVER — The results of the latest and most extensive study of aborted fetal tissue transplants into Parkinson's patients have shown the therapy to be a failure.
Curt Freed of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver recorded no measurable benefit among Parkinson's sufferers over the age of 60 who had aborted fetal brain tissue directly injected into their own brains. The tiny positive effects measured among patients younger than 50 were offset by the devastating, disabling and apparently irreversible side effects they experienced following the procedure.
Fifteen percent of the patients who received fetal brain transplants in the $5.7 million study, financed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, have experienced runaway dyskinesia — uncontrollable muscle spasms causing them to twitch, writhe and fling their limbs spasmodically.
“They chew constantly, their fingers go up and down, their wrists flex and dis-tend,” Paul Greene, a neurologist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a named author of the study in the March 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, told the New York Times. “It was tragic, catastrophic.”
One patient's side effects were so bad, Greene added, he had to have a feeding tube inserted and lost his ability to speak. Such effects do occur in other Parkinson's patients, but they can be relieved by lowering medication doses. But with the fetal tissue recipients, reducing medication failed to alleviate the symptoms.
“No more fetal transplants,” said Greene. “We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that this should be considered for research only. And whether it should be research in people is an open question.”
Fetal tissue transplants were once the brightest hope for many people affected by Parkinson's disease, which occurs when the substantia nigra region of the brain fails to produce the brain chemical dopamine, causing patients to experience loss of muscle control, tremors and crippling “frozen” spells. It was hoped that implanted fetal brain cells would integrate into the host brain and take over dopamine production.
Since 1985 more than 360 Parkinson's patients have undertaken the surgical transplant procedure in at least 17 centers transplant procedure in at least 17 centers worldwide, but the small poorly designed studies of the results were inconclusive. Freed's study, conducted with Stanley Fahn of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, was the first to use a “control” group to eliminate the “placebo” effect that occurs in many medical treatments, in which patients report positive results that can not be objectively attributed to the treatment itself.
The researchers took 40 Parkinson's patients and divided them into two groups: half had a real transplant surgery; half had a sham surgery — holes were drilled into their heads but no tissue was implanted.
40 Aborted Babies per Patient
Each patient in the transplant group received four injections — the midbrain of four 7- to 8-week-old aborted babies. Freed told a Register correspondent last year that only one in 10 aborted fetuses renders useful tissue. So each Parkinson's patient required 40 aborted babies' brains.
Between 700,000 and 1 million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease. If the study had shown great promise, there would have been a staggering demand for aborted tissue.
The tragic side effects have not been limited to Freed and Fahn's study, however. Thomas Freeman of the University of South Florida, who is completing a similar federally funded control trial of 34 patients due to be published this summer, said 2 of 7 transplant recipients from another study he conducted in 1993 have had similar problems.
One patient has uncontrolled muscle movements “all the time,” said Freeman. He is considering doing a pallidotomy (surgery to destroy brain tissue) to try to halt the uncontrolled movements. The other patient's dyskinesia is limited to his foot.
“If you looked at all the smaller numbers of patient studies, we each have found one or two of these [negatively affected] patients,” said Freeman.
“Fifteen percent of patients with disabling side effects, in all fairness, is heartbreaking for those individuals, but it is not that bad for a brand new experimental procedure,” said Freeman.
Tissue Caused Tumors
Those 15% are fortunate, according to Freeman, considering that two patients have died as a consequence of fetal implants. One case, described in the Register last year, was outlined in 1996 in the journal Neurology. A 52-year-old American man with Parkinson's paid a California doctor to fly to China to surgically implant aborted human tissue into his brain. Just weeks after the surgery both the man and his wife were convinced his health was much improved.
Twenty-three months later he died suddenly, however, and an autopsy revealed that the fetal tissue had indeed begun to grow — but not as nerves but as tumors that, doctors speculated, compressed his brainstem and led to his death. Some tissue from the aborted baby had grown wildly into hair, skin and bone within his brain.
Yet Parkinson's patients continue to be enthusiastic about fetal tissue transplants. Three of Freed's patients in the University of Colorado study, including two who suffered serious side effects, told The Times of London last week they would go through the procedure again, despite the disappointment. One patient had had a device implanted in his chest to control spasmodic uncontrolled arm flinging.
Freed's own enthusiasm for fetal transplant therapy has not waned. In e-mail correspondence, he told the Register, “Everything about our study is compatible with fetal cell transplant as a promising treatment for [Parkinson's disease]. Results have already led us to modify the transplant in ways that we expect will improve outcome and reduce risk.” He intends to continue to perform fetal tissue transplants at a cost of $40,000 each.
The University of South Florida's Freeman also thinks that calling off fetal tissue transplants would be “short sighted,” because new transplant techniques are developing. “There are really a lot of ways to skin a cat,” he said. “It took 30 years to do the first successful kidney transplant, but every year there was a 2% improvement in survival.”
A growing cadre of medical experts is criticizing the therapy, however. William Landau, professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis called it “incredibly naive” to compare a transplant into the complex human brain to a “simple pumping organ like the heart or kidney.”
Landau has vigorously opposed fetal transplants for more than a decade, not because of the ethics of using aborted baby tissue, but because of the experimentation on humans before adequately testing the procedure in monkeys. He said he would tell patients asking for fetal transplants: “If you want to go out and have your brain mutilated by an —— and pay a lot of money for it, go ahead.”
“To say Curt Freed is not well thought of within the medical community is an understatement,” added University of Toronto neurologist Paul Ranalli, who has in the past called fetal tissue transplants “yet another attempt by abortion advocates to fashion an altruistic spin on modern medicine's most shameful ongoing practice.”
Stem Cell Experiments
But fetal tissue transplant's light is fading under a new rising medical star. “Everybody is gearing up towards stem cells now,” said Freeman, referring to the cells derived from the inner mass sucked out of developing human embryos. “If history is going to judge this era, fetal tissue provided a road map to other advances. …We are in the process of learning lessons.”
Landau is still skeptical. “Now the popular issue is stem cells and I'm very fearful there will be a rush to pump stem cells into human brains and spinal cords without adequate experiments in animals first.” Already, researchers have begun to “dump stem cells into damaged brains of stroke patients,” Landau said, a practice he sees as virtually indistinguishable from fetal tissue transplants.
Said Landau, “It's criminal malpractice in my judgment.”
***Vatican logo here
In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul condemned as morally illicit all medical procedures “that exploit living human embryos and fetuses-sometimes specifically “produced” for this purpose by in vitro fertilization - either to be used as ‘biological material’ or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act” (No. 63).
Celeste McGovern writes from Portland, Oregon.
BY Brian McGuire
NEW YORK — Green turned blue March 4 for thousands of Catholics on Staten Island who boycotted an early St. Patrick's Day parade on Staten Island.
At issue is whether a local politician who supports abortion should lead the annual parade, which is underwritten by the Hibernians.
According to Msgr. Peter Finn, co-vicar for Catholics in the borough, the answer is No: The Hibernians are pro-life, and the man leading their largest event of the year should be pro-life too.
But a majority of the Hibernians responsible for choosing the parade's grand marshal disagreed. In January, they elected Councilman Jerome O'Donovan, who supports legal abortion, to fill the honorary role.
Staten Island Hibernian President Bill Reilly would not return calls for this story.
Contacted in Florida, the organization's national president, Thomas Gilligan, also said he “had nothing to say” about how the abortion issue rained on his affiliate's parade.
The choice was a defiant one. Two weeks before the election, Msgr. Finn met privately with the parade committee and O'Donovan, explaining that he would boycott the parade if a pro-abortion politician led it.
“The sad thing is that the selection was made in spite of those discussions,” Msgr.
Finn told the Register. “The point here is the honor and highlighting, if you will, that goes with the position of grand marshal.”
When Msgr. Finn announced that he would honor his pledge by boycotting the parade — a move that was quickly seconded by the Knights of Columbus, the Ladies Division of the Hibernians and several Staten Island schools — parade organizers held their ground.
Preparing for the prospect of depleted numbers, they began to advertise the parade around town, something Staten Island native Joe Gerrito called a first.
Gerrito, who owns a restaurant/bar along the parade strip, said Msgr. Finn is “very well-known and respected for everything he's done,” for Staten Island Catholics. He questioned Msgr. Finn's consistency, however, saying that two pro-abortion grand marshals have led Staten Island's St. Patrick's Day parade in the past with no one raising the issue.
Msgr. Finn countered that when it has come to light that a candidate for grand marshal was an abortion supporter, he has always voiced opposition. “There has been a great deal of consistency on this issue,” Msgr. Finn said, noting that Councilman O'Donovan was up for nomination five years ago, but that his election was blocked “because of this very stance.”
Staten Island resident Virginia Hogan also brushed off the allegation of inconsistency, saying, “This is the first time that we have been aware of a grand marshal being pro-choice.”
Hogan, the president of Staten Island's first division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, told the Register that by a unanimous vote, the 150 members of her division decided not to participate in this year's parade because of Councilman O'Donovan's election as grand marshal. Instead, she said, they will attend a Mass for the unborn and for peace in Ireland that Msgr. Finn will be offering at parade time.
“Any time you have a celebration celebrating a saint, the patron of New York City and of Ireland, it should be celebrated with dignity and should be religious,” Hogan said, adding, “We just feel that a person who is pro-choice — how can they be our grand marshal?”
A Divided Island
Staten Island has hosted an annual St. Patrick's Day in its present form for 37 years. A smaller, more devotional procession goes back to 1876. It's an event that, as far as the locals are concerned, lacks none of the punch of neighboring Manhattan's own high-profile street celebration of the fifth century saint. So it's no wonder that this year's boycotts have put the island in an uproar.
The local newspaper has been a lively forum for debate and, according to Gerrito and Hogan, everyone is talking about it.
Gerrito said he thinks Msgr. Finn is dividing Staten Island by offering a Mass during the parade. But Hogan said Councilman O'Donovan is the one dividing the borough. “I think he should do the gentlemanly thing and step down,” she said.
“Right now, Staten Island is divided,” said Gerrito.
Said Msgr. Finn, “The issue has surfaced for discussion, and maybe that's a good side effect.”
Added Hogan: “I'll tell you one thing: This is really waking a lot of people up on the issue [of life].”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Billings Method Beats IUDs
WORLD ORGANIZATION OVULATION METHOD BILLINGS (WOOMB) Jan. 29 — A Chinese trial demonstrated the effectiveness of the Billings Ovulation Method — a method of natural fertility regulation which can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
The study compared the effectiveness of the intrauterine device against that of the Billings Method. It involved 1,654 women aged 24-35, with 992 using Billings and 662 using IUDs. Results after one year showed that in the Billings group five women became pregnant due to faulty application of the method, the pregnancy rate being 0.5%, while in the IUD group there were 12 pregnancies (2%).
Moreover, in the IUD group, there were 15 expulsions of the device and 38 removals due to severe pain and bleeding caused by the IUD, whereas no such complications exist with the Billings Method.
Anti-Life Protest Backfires
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN, Jan. 28 — An Ottawa pro-life poster gained extensive media attention over the use of a quote from a Dr. Seuss book, reported the Ottawa Citizen.
The poster showed a tiny 6 to 8 week-old embryo under the Seuss quote: “A person's a person, no matter how small.”
The Citizen reported that Audrey Geisel, widow of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, is upset that the quote is being used and her lawyer is demanding that it be removed.
A spokesman for Action Life, the pro-life group that designed the poster for the Archdiocese of Ottawa, told LifeSite Daily News they were pleased that the additional publicity helped spread the pro-life message.
Judge Allows KMart Suit
AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE, Jan. 25 — U.S. District Court Judge Herman Weber rejected the argument of KMart in their bid to quash a lawsuit filed by a pro-life pharmacist in Hamilton, Ohio, reported the American Center for Law and Justice.
In 1996 K-Mart fired pharmacist Karen Brauer after she refused to dispense an abortifacient birth control pill called Micronor. Micronor, a progestin-only birth control pill, works in a significant number of cases by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, ending a human life that has already begun.
Judge Weber said the state conscience statute “is obviously intended to allow an individual who morally or ethically opposes abortion ... to follow the dictates of her conscience and refuse to participate in such procedures.”
UK Tories Open to Life
BBC NEWS, Jan. 24 — The Conservative Party in England has demonstrated openness to pro-life initiatives, causing consternation among abortion supporters, reported BBC News.
The shadow health secretary Liam Fox is recorded in a Christian Fellowship prayerbook as asking party members “to pray that there would be a huge restriction if not abolition of our pro-abortion laws,” reported the BBC.
Fox confirmed the comment and suggested that a Conservative government would reverse the decision to make the abortifacient “morning-after” pill available over the counter from pharmacists.