Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

A year of dangerous living

Abortion | From chemical abortion to ‘humanized mice,’ 2018 brought new threats and new protections for the unborn
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 12/24/18, 11:03 am

Pro-lifers worked tirelessly in 2018 to save unborn babies from new and old threats. Drug-induced abortion threatens to eclipse surgical abortion as the country’s preferred method of ending pregnancies, and side-effects from the grisly process threaten moms, too. Much of the effort to protect the unborn happened at the state level, but the Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking ruling in favor of pregnancy care centers in June, and federal agencies said they would take a hard look at taxpayer-funded experiments using tissue from aborted babies. Going into 2019, pro-lifers hope courts will uphold the gains they made this year in state legislatures.

Poison pill

The year began with new hope for California babies facing chemical abortion. The California Board of Registered Nursing reinstated in January a class for nurses on how to help women keep their babies alive even after starting a chemical abortion procedure. Twice before, the board had cut the class after pressure from abortion advocates.

The reversal process, engineered separately by Drs. Matthew Harrison and George Delgado, uses progesterone injections to allay the effects of mifepristone, the first of a duo of drugs used in chemical abortion. Mifepristone blocks progesterone receptors, killing the baby, and a second drug, misoprostol, sends the mother into labor.

Cheaper than surgical abortions, chemical abortions are rapidly becoming abortionists’ go-to technique, but many states are working to regulate them. Arkansas requires abortionists who dispense the pill to contract with doctors at nearby hospitals who can handle any complications. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a case challenging the law, effectively halting chemical abortions in the state.

Conversely, health centers on California college campuses could begin dispensing abortion-inducing drugs to students. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill in September that would have mandated all California State University and University of California campuses offer the drugs. But Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva reintroduced it as Senate Bill 24, and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is likely to sign it. —S.G.

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Brett Kavanaugh promises to tell the truth at his confirmation hearing Sept. 4.

Saving babies from the bench

In a major win for pro-life pregnancy centers in California, in June the Supreme Court overturned a law requiring them to post signs telling women where to get state-funded abortions. The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, directly affected a similar law in Hawaii.

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July encouraged pro-lifers that the nominee’s moderately pro-life record could spell the end of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Abortion advocates feared as much, too. After a bombastic confirmation process, Kavanaugh’s first opportunity to consider a pro-life case came in December: Both Louisiana and Kansas had asked the court to review rulings preventing them from directing Medicaid funds away from Planned Parenthood toward other groups that don’t perform abortions. Three justices dissented from the court’s refusal to take the case. Kavanaugh, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, did not. —S.G.

Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Gruesome experiments

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been funding research for years that uses aborted fetal tissue to make “humanized mice,” meaning mice with human immune systems, according to an August report by CNS News. The Food and Drug Administration contracted with Advanced Bioscience Resources, one of the tissue procurement companies that the Center for Medical Progress accused of buying aborted baby body parts from Planned Parenthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) disclosed a $13.8 million contract with the University of California, San Francisco, for aborted fetal tissue.

Pro-life leaders and members of Congress urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to end all involvement in fetal tissue research. Their efforts may have had some impact: HHS launched an audit of its fetal tissue procurement practices, along with a review of all its fetal tissue research “in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

In September, HHS announced it had canceled its contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources. In December, the NIH said it would spend up to $20 million researching alternatives to using aborted fetal tissue. But an NIH senior official later promised to continue funding the research. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, called the NIH decision to keep funding experiments on fetal tissue “deeply disturbing to the millions of pro-life Americans who embrace the sanctity of every human life.” —S.G.

Associated Press/Peter Byrne/PA Associated Press/Peter Byrne/PA Tom Evans with a photo of Alfie outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Parental rights on trial

Despite superhuman efforts, Tom Evans and Kate James failed to convince Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to keep their son, Alfie Evans, on life support or at least transfer him to Rome for treatment. Alfie had an undiagnosed neurological disorder. The parents’ legal battle for the almost-2-year-old went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which sided with doctors. The European Court of Human Rights also refused to hear their case. Alfie died in April.

Alfie’s case was eerily similarly to that of Charlie Gard, the British baby who died last year despite his parents’ intense legal battle to transfer him to the United States for experimental treatment. Both cases brought up the fight for parental rights over medical decisions for children, something often trumped by the so-called “rights of the child” in Britain. —S.G.

Across the nation

Iowa passed a bill to protect the unborn after a detectable heartbeat at about the sixth week of pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately filed suit, and a judge temporarily blocked the law. Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill last week, repeating his shuttering of a heartbeat law in 2016. Next year, legislators in South Carolina and Kentucky are likely to consider heartbeat bills.

Both Mississippi and Louisiana passed laws to protect the unborn after 15 weeks of gestation. Abortion advocates filed suit against the Mississippi law, and a judge temporarily restrained it. The state appealed in December. Louisiana’s law will not be able to go into effect unless Mississippi wins its case.

Kentucky passed a law protecting the unborn from death by dismemberment after 11 weeks of gestation, with an exception for medical emergencies. The ACLU sued to stop that law, too, and a federal judge delayed its implementation in June. The Florida House passed a similar law in March, but it died later that month in the Senate. Though he vetoed the heartbeat bill, Kasich on Friday signed a bill to safeguard unborn babies in Ohio from death by dismemberment.

A federal appeals court ruled in April against an Indiana law that not only protected the unborn from abortion due to race, sex, or a diagnosis of a disability, but also required the burial of fetal remains. In September, a federal judge issued an injunction against a Texas law requiring the burial or cremation of aborted babies. The state appealed in November. —S.G.

Around the world

In a May referendum, Irish voters chose to remove the Eighth Amendment from their constitution, opening the door to legal abortion through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The unborn previously had protection unless the mother’s life was in danger. In December, legislators overwhelmingly approved and sent a bill to President Michael Higgins’ desk that mandates even pro-life doctors and nurses refer patients for abortions.

The Australian state of Queensland removed protections in October for the unborn through 22 weeks of pregnancy and allowed abortion through birth with the approval of two doctors. Pro-life advocates considered it an “abortion-to-birth bill.”

Argentina nearly stopped legal protections for the unborn, but the largely Catholic nation’s Senate voted in favor of life. Pro-life advocates celebrated, and abortion supporters rioted in the streets. —S.G.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Tue, 12/25/2018 12:03 pm

    "A person's a person, no matter how small."  (Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who)

  • Nanamiro
    Posted: Fri, 12/28/2018 04:37 pm

    How evil we are to celebrate the marginalizing and killing of not-yet-born humans. I see this as just as evil as the Afro-European-American slavetrade. Calling one group of people "less than" the rest and therefore allowing injustice against them. Sounds like the Holocaust as well. And this from "enlightened", educated, "woke" westerners. Come, Lord Jesus!