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Constitutional rights

In a big win for unborn children, the North Carolina Supreme Court has said the state constitution does not obligate taxpayers to pay for poor women's abortions. The Oct. 3 ruling held that current eligibility restrictions on the State Abortion Fund are constitutional. The abortion fund uses taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for women who are below the federal poverty level and not eligible for Medicaid, but only in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is endangered. The court said that "no person has the constitutional right to have the state pay for medical care." The court went even further in this case, holding that indigent women do not receive "extraordinary protection" as a class under the constitution. The restrictions, passed in 1995, have had a huge effect on the number of abortions paid for by the citizens of North Carolina. Up to 4,600 abortions per year were provided by taxpayers before the law; since then, only one abortion has been funded by the state.

"Safe and legal"?

It was just a week and a half before Christmas 1996, when 27-year-old Sharon Hamptlon walked into a medical clinic near Los Angeles seeking an abortion. She got more than she bargained for. In the process of killing Ms. Hamptlon's unborn child, abortionist Bruce Saul Steir punctured her uterus. She began bleeding to death as Dr. Steir headed for home on that Friday afternoon; he was home 40 minutes before the woman was discharged from the clinic, police say. The San Bernardino County coroner ruled the death was the result of gross negligence and declared it a homicide. Dr. Steir was arrested in late October on the charge of murder in connection with the death of the woman. The abortionist claimed he did not know he punctured the woman's uterus, and said he would have hospitalized her had he known. Dr. Steir's attorney blew off the charge as "a political prosecution based on antipathy for abortions."

British doctors feel their pain

An obstetrical panel in England recommended that abortionists provide a painkiller before killing unborn children 24 weeks gestational age or older. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that because later-term preborn babies have more advanced neurological development, they are more likely to feel the pain of an abortion.

A wrongful life?

A husband and wife in Hagerstown, Md., are suing a doctor, a nurse practitioner, and a medical practice for delivering their son, a boy the mother says she would have aborted had she known of his medical condition. Elliott Shull was born four years ago with Down syndrome. His mother, Joyce Shull, testified in court that her son had been tested for abnormalities while she was pregnant and the tests found none. Now she and her husband want $5 million to help raise Elliott. Defense attorneys disagree that Mrs. Shull was misdiagnosed. They also argued that it isn't any more expensive to raise a child with Down syndrome, since much of the care is taxpayer funded. "Is he a burden or is he a blessing?" the defense attorney asked in court. "I think the evidence will show the latter." "I love Elliott, I love Elliott with all my heart.... I only want what Elliott deserves," Mrs. Shull testified in court. Moreover, she said, "Life isn't easy for those of us with all our mental capacities." Had she known during her pregnancy that Elliott had Down syndrome, "I would have loved him enough not to have him."

Leveraging mutilation

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has devised a new Trojan Horse through which to promote abortion as family planning overseas. The UNFPA has created the position of "Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation." That ambassador, fashion model Waris Dirie, will tour Africa to support UNFPA and national programs that seek to end the practice, which is carried out in some tribal regions on the continent. This sounds good, but the devil is truly in the details of the UNFPA's efforts. Ms. Dirie's work, according to a UNFPA news release, "will be part of an international advocacy campaign to stimulate awareness of and support for the human rights of gender equality and reproductive choice, especially for women in developing countries." The organization says other goals of the effort (ostensibly) against female genital mutilation include "sensitizing the public to the need for universal access to reproductive health care, reproductive rights, the empowerment of women and to end harmful practices such as gender discrimination.... Another objective of the campaign is to ensure that population assistance for developing countries is forthcoming from industrial countries."