Monday, April 29, 2013

The expansion of euthanasia in Europe

In the May 2013 issue of First Things (subscription necessary for online access), Wesley J. Smith tracks the steady expansion of euthanasia in the Netherlands and now Belgium—"from the terminally ill, to more seriously chronically ill, to people with serious disabilities, to those suffering from existential anguish or mental illness," including "the profoundly depressed" and those with "early dementia." Some patients, including many disabled newborn babies, are euthanized even though they have made no request for death. Switzerland, meanwhile, has become a haven for "suicide tourism," a place where people come, many of them merely disabled or depressed, and are helped to kill themselves.

Rather than eliminate the suffering—by caring for those who need help, fixing their depression, and so on—Europe is increasingly choosing to eliminate the sufferers. This is disturbing stuff.

Consider the reaction to one of the first joint euthanasia killings in Belgium:
In 2011, Belgian media extolled the joint deaths of an elderly couple, who were lethally injected with the apparent knowledge and support of their local community. ... The couple's demise was celebrated by a Belgian bioethicist, who said, "It is an important signal to break a taboo. ... This can be viewed as a normal way of dying and viewed as such by the community at large. ... People think that euthanasia can only be applied to terminal cancer patients. But the group is a lot bigger. And this is a beautiful example that allows us to provide a dignified death to this couple, thanks to euthanasia." Most societies see joint suicides by elderly couples as tragic. For some in Belgium, they are beautiful.
Even worse, Smith shows how euthanasia followed by organ harvesting has become a reality:
As reported in Applied Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology in 2011, four patients (three disabled and one mentally ill) were euthanized and their lungs harvested. The authors seem to hope for more opportunities to study the efficiency and efficacy of harvesting organs from euthanized patients. ... [T]he acceptance of joint killing and harvesting sends a cruel message to disabled and mentally ill people that their deaths could have greater value than their lives.
Smith concludes:
I think widespread popular acceptance of euthanasia in Europe ... is a symptom of cultural nihilism. Consider: A hundred years ago, when people really did die in agony, there was little call for legalizing euthanasia. Yet today, when most pain can be significantly alleviated if not eliminated, we see calls for so-called "death with dignity." Clearly, more is going on than just a desire to eliminate suffering.

What is the antidote? Love. We all age. We fall ill. We grow weak. We become disabled. Life can get very hard. Euthanasia raises the fundamental question of whether our culture will retain the moral capacity to sustain a culture of care for those who have entered life's most difficult stages. On that question, it seems to me, hangs the moral future of Western civilization. For as the Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne has cogently warned: "A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured."
In the United States, Oregon and Washington (and arguably Montana via court ruling) have legalized physician-assisted suicide, but it has thus far been resisted everywhere else.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Senate votes against women's safety, defeats MCCL-backed amendment

The following news release was issued April 26.

ST. PAUL — State senators yesterday voted down an amendment that would protect women entering abortion facilities. The measure was part of H.F. 1233, the $11.3 billion omnibus health and human services budget bill the Senate passed late Thursday evening.

"This is a sad day for the women of Minnesota," said MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau. "The abortion industry has always lobbied in its own best interests, and the majority of state senators have responded by extending special privileges to abortion facilities at the expense of women's safety."

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, took up the issue of licensing abortion facilities by offering an amendment that contains the language of S.F. 752. The amendment requires that abortion facilities be licensed in the same manner as outpatient surgical centers, and also allows for up to two inspections per year.

Unlike the state's other outpatient surgical centers, surgical abortion facilities currently are neither licensed nor inspected. The Fischbach amendment would ensure that abortion facilities are accountable to the Minnesota Department of Health by closing the existing loophole in the licensing law.

The bill would require facilities that perform 10 or more abortions per month to be licensed by the state. The licensing bill would apply to the state's five abortion facilities, which together perform the vast majority of all abortions in Minnesota. In 2011, a total of 11,071 abortions were performed in the state.

Thursday's vote occurred in the midst of the lengthy trial of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist accused of several counts of murder at his filthy facility. Employees have testified to a wide range of dangerous and illegal conditions at Gosnell's abortion facility. Women allegedly were injured, illegally drugged and contracted STDs over a period of decades due to the lack of inspections.

The amendment was voted down on a vote of 30-35.

"This common-sense legislation is necessary to ensure the safety of women," Rau added. "There is no reason for abortion facilities to be given special exemption from licensing that governs other outpatient surgical centers in the state."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New UNICEF Report draws attention to protecting babies in early months of life, before and after birth

The following news release was issued today, April 25, by MCCL GO.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Concern for the developmental health of the unborn child worldwide is a focus of a new report issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Pro-life citizens and organizations are encouraged to join their voices in this call for greater care for early human life.

"Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress" underscores the critical importance of the first 1,000 days of human life, from conception through the child's second birthday. The G8 leaders, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the World Health Assembly have made adequate nutrition for babies, unborn and born, a top investment priority.

"MCCL GO enthusiastically supports this new U.N. emphasis on healthy outcomes for babies," said MCCL GO's Scott Fischbach. "The global nutrition community has recognized the importance of caring for unborn children and their mothers, which gives us much hope in our efforts to educate leaders about the need to protect human life."

Recognizing the lifelong impact of undernutrition and stunting, UNICEF is calling for various means of intervention on behalf of unborn and newly-born babies. Programs will advocate for proper nutrition and health care for pregnant women and their babies in order to achieve the best outcome for children.

"Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of children's lives can have irreversible consequences," the UNICEF report states. "It is difficult to think of a greater injustice than robbing a child, in the womb and in infancy, of the ability to fully develop his or her talents throughout life."

These concerns are reflected in the U.N.'s foundational documents regarding children, including the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), which states that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth," and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which recognizes that "every child has the inherent right to life."

MCCL GO shares these beliefs in the rights of children. Every unborn child is innocent and deserves protection from harm, whether by malnutrition, assault on the child's mother or abortion.

"Indeed, it is a great injustice to rob an unborn child of his or her future," Fischbach said. "Whenever the U.N. speaks up for and establishes programs to help pregnant women and their unborn babies, MCCL GO is there to support them."

MCCL GO is a pro-life global outreach program of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund with one goal: to save as many innocent lives as possible from the destruction of abortion. Learn more at www.mccl-go.org.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whole Woman's Health has history of shoddy practice, legal trouble

Sign outside WWH clinic in Texas
Until last Wednesday afternoon the Whole Woman's Health (WWH) abortion facility in Minneapolis advertised "same-day surgical [abortion] procedures" on its website. Either this was false or WWH was violating state law, which requires a 24-hour period before an abortion can be performed. (It was unlikely that WWH was referring to one-day procedures, since on the same webpage the group advertised "1 day" and "2 day" abortions.) Hours after MCCL brought the matter to the attention of the media and state officials, WWH changed its website to instead read "same-day surgical consult." The group also publicly denied performing "same-day surgical procedures," its website notwithstanding.

Whole Woman's Health is an abortion chain based in Texas, and it only recently opened its facility in Minnesota. The group's track record is cause for concern.

In 2011 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined that WWH of Austin and WWH of McAllen were violating Texas law regarding disposal of the remains of aborted children. WWH was putting babies' bodies (and other abortion refuse, including syringes and disposable surgical instruments) into open public dumpsters. WWH was penalized $40,410 (the two clinics combined), and its medical waste vendor $42,612, for a total of $83,022 (see Appendix 1, page 8 of the Texas Commission's Annual Enforcement Report).

In 2012 the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and required to take a medical education course. Many other WWH abortionists have previous disciplinary histories. One abortionist at Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, which became WWH Twin Cities, was previously disciplined by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.

WWH in Texas has also been found illegally dumping private medical records. One WWH abortionist was recorded mocking the informed consent information he is required to provide patients, and disregarding the 24-hour waiting period.

"The facility failed to provide a
safe and sanitary environment,"
according to state inspection
In 2007 the Texas Department of State Health Services fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations, including "failure to have licensed nursing staff." A 2011 survey of the Beaumont facility by the Department of State Health Services found numerous and disturbing health violations. The following are quotations from the 17-page report (several parts of the report have been blacked out and remain unknown):
  • "Based on observation and interview the facility failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment."
  • "The facility failed to ensure the staff was trained in sterilization process of surgical instruments."
  • "The facility failed to provide safe equipment in the patient's procedure rooms."
  • "The facility failed to staff the clinic with a registered nurse(s) or a licensed vocational nurse(s)."
  • "The facility administration failed to ensure staff received training, education, and orientation to their specific job description."
  • "There were numerous rusty spots on the suction machine used on the patient for evacuation of the products of conception."
  • "The facility's floor was stained and discolored which give the appearance of being dirty."
  • "An interview with the administrator ... confirmed the bed was broken in room #1, there was a hole in the [floor] in procedure room #2, the floors were stained, and the evacuation plan of the building was not posted for the safety of the patients and employees."
  • "The facility's staff failed to monitor the expiration dates on sterile supplies."
  • "The facility failed to maintain the sterility of the surgical instruments."
  • "The facility failed to have current emergency medication in the emergency crash cart."
  • "The facility failed to provide emergency airway equipment."
  • "The facility failed to follow [federal regulations] concerning portable fire extinguishers."
The Beaumont inspection was possible because Texas law, though far from perfect, at least provides for the licensing and once-per-year inspection of abortion facilities. But Minnesota law does not! We have no way of knowing whether abortion facilities like WWH are meeting basic health and safety standards, and no way of correcting violations in order to protect the health and safety of women. That is absurd, regardless of one's position on the ethics of abortion. It is especially so considering WWH's law-breaking history and the frequent news of unsafe conditions in other abortion centers across the country.

House approves MCCL-backed amendments related to women’s safety, abortion

The following news release was issued today, April 23.

ST. PAUL — Several pro-life amendments supported by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) were offered in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday. All were approved as part of the $11 billion health and human services budget bill and the health insurance exchange bill the House passed late last night.

Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, took up the issue of licensing abortion facilities by offering an amendment that contains the language of H.F. 900. The amendment requires that abortion facilities be licensed in the same manner as outpatient surgical centers, and also allows for up to two inspections per year.

Abortion facilities are currently neither licensed nor inspected; the Ward amendment would ensure that abortion facilities are abiding by Minnesota's existing laws. The requirement would apply to the state's five abortion facilities, which together perform the vast majority of all abortions in Minnesota. In 2011, a total of 11,071 abortions were performed in the state. The amendment passed on a vote of 71-62.

"This common-sense legislation is necessary to ensure the safety of women," said MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau. "There is no reason for abortion facilities to be given special exemption from licensing that governs other outpatient surgical centers in the state."

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, offered an amendment to H.F. 779, the health insurance exchange bill, specifying that abortion would not be included in the essential health benefit package for policies sold in the exchange. Because the essential health benefit package sets the minimum required benefits, abortion could still be offered in policies sold in the exchange; however, it would not be a mandated benefit. The language of the amendment makes an exception for abortions done to save the life of the mother, and in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Rep. Holberg's amendment was approved 70-64.

"Abortion is not health care, and House members rightly agreed that it ought not be considered essential to health insurance coverage," Rau said. "Abortion is an elective procedure in nearly every case."

Another H.F. 779 amendment to update an existing law stating that insurance companies can't be required to provide abortion coverage was offered by Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault. Although the law (145.414) already covers insurance carriers operating in the exchange, this amendment serves to clarify the intent of the Legislature. The House passed the amendment on a 71-63 vote.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is Whole Woman's Health performing abortions illegally?

The following news release was issued today, April 17.

MINNEAPOLIS—Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) today called upon Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger, M.D., to enforce the Woman's Right to Know law in our state.

"Whole Woman's Health abortion center in Minneapolis is doing same-day abortions and that is illegal in our state," stated Scott Fischbach, MCCL Executive Director. "Since 2003 we have had a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before any abortion can be performed, and Whole Woman's Health is not above our laws."

The Whole Woman's Health abortion center website offers "same-day surgical procedures" at its Minneapolis facility. At a minimum, this information is false and misleading to women if indeed they cannot walk in and have their unborn child aborted. If Whole Woman's Health will perform a same-day abortion, it is clearly illegal.

Whole Woman's Health is a Texas-based abortion chain that has a history of breaking state laws. Whole Woman's Health was fined $83,000 in Texas (see p. 116), along with its medical waste vendor, for illegally dumping the remains of aborted babies in open trash receptacles. Eight of its abortionists were disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for numerous allegations, including the illegal dumping of private patient medical records, HIPAA violations, and violations of Texas informed consent laws. Several Whole Woman's Health abortionists have previous disciplinary histories, including one who was responsible for a patient death.

"Their past record demonstrates that Whole Woman's Health is willing to violate the law. This only underscores the need to license and inspect abortion facilities in the state," Fischbach said. "And while abortion centers are not licensed or inspected by the State of Minnesota, the least that the Attorney General and Health Commissioner can do is enforce the laws that we have on the books."

MCCL supports S.F. 752 / H.F. 900 to require licensing of abortion facilities. This legislation would empower the state to ensure a degree of safety for women and to hold abortion providers to state standards for outpatient surgical centers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

10th anniversary of Woman's Right to Know Law signing

The following news release was issued April 12, 2013.

ST. PAUL — This Sunday, April 14, marks the 10th anniversary of Governor Tim Pawlenty's signing of the Woman's Right to Know law that is saving lives in Minnesota every day. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) was instrumental in assisting state lawmakers to pass this lifesaving measure into law.

Enactment of Woman's Right to Know followed an epic nine-year legislative war that involved endless legislative committee hearings, numerous floor votes over nine consecutive legislative sessions, and three different vetoes from pro-abortion Governors Arne Carlson and Jesse Ventura.

"This protracted fight to inform and empower women was well worth the effort, and remains a reminder that through perseverance, justice for women can be achieved," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach.

Woman's Right to Know is a straightforward "informed consent" law that empowers a woman seeking an abortion. Women considering abortion are now provided a wide range of information (in English, Spanish, Braille and audio recording) compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health about abortion, including medical facts, risks and complications, alternatives and information about agencies that offer aid. One of the most important provisions of the law is that once the woman is provided the informed consent information, she is given 24 hours of reflection prior to undergoing an abortion.

The law took effect on July 1, 2003, and the impact has been dramatic. Every year since enactment, many more pregnant women have been provided the Woman's Right to Know information than actually have aborted. In 2011 alone, 13,645 women were provided information and only 11,071 actually went ahead with the abortion—a difference of 2,574!

From its enactment in 2003 through 2011 (the last available report from the Minnesota Department of Health), records indicate that 15,696 women have chosen life for their unborn children after receiving the Woman's Right to Know information.

Woman's Right to Know has also been a leading factor in the reduction of abortion numbers, as well as the abortion rate. The number of abortions reported to the Minnesota Department of Health has decreased every year except for one since the law took effect.

"We commend Gov. Pawlenty and all the DFL and GOP legislators who fought for so many years to make this possible," Fischbach added.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pro-choice tension, the moral irrelevance of birth, and three possibilities

Consider the following three stories:
  1. Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial for delivering viable babies and then killing them by severing their spinal cords (he is also charged with the murder of a pregnant woman). 
  2. Last week a Planned Parenthood lobbyist testified against a Florida bill to protect babies born alive after failed abortions. The Planned Parenthood representative said that "any decision that's made [about the fate of the living newborn child] should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician." She objected to transporting the infant to a hospital for possibly-lifesaving care because in "those situations where it is in a rural health care setting, the hospital is 45 minutes or an hour away," so "there's just some logistical issues involved that we have some concerns about." (President Obama, as an Illinois state senator, repeatedly voted against legal protection for already-born abortion survivors because such protection would undermine the logic of "abortion rights.")
  3. Last year two bio-ethicists argued in the Journal of Medical Ethics for the moral permissibility of "after-birth abortion" (the killing of human infants), a position that has been expounded for decades by leading pro-choice philosophers like Michael Tooley and Peter Singer.
These stories point to a tension inherent in the standard "pro-choice" position (that abortion is permissible, but not infanticide): Birth doesn't matter morally. A change in location doesn't change the nature or moral status of the developing human being. If a newborn baby has a right to life, then she had a right to life moments earlier in the womb; and if a full-term fetus has no right to life, then she has none moments later after birth. Because a trip down the birth canal cannot make a moral difference.

So here are three possibilities:
  1. We may deny rights to the voiceless and powerless human beings in utero (and ex utero) according to our own preferences, according to what we think is best or most convenient for us. Might makes right. This seems to be the Planned Parenthood/Kermit Gosnell position. 
  2. Our rights are based on possession of certain acquired properties (usually higher mental functions) that some human beings have and others lack, that can be gained and lost throughout the life of a human being, and that some have to a greater degree than others. Human equality is a myth. And since both unborn and newborn children fail to meet the criteria, both abortion and infanticide are okay. This is the Peter Singer/Michael Tooley/Journal of Medical Ethics position. 
  3. Our rights are based on what (the kind of being) we are. So all human beings by nature—irrespective not only of race, gender and social status, but irrespective also of age, size, location, ability, stage of development and condition of dependency—have an equal fundamental dignity and right to life. This is the pro-life position. 
Which one of the three options is true? And which one will win the day?