Thursday, May 29, 2014

World Health Assembly calls for improved palliative care

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), has approved a resolution calling for the strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course.

Palliative care seeks to relieve pain and suffering and improve the lives of patients (and their families) who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses. WHO estimates that more than 40 million people around the world need palliative care each year.

"Human beings who are near the end of life should be treated with care and respect, no less than human beings at the beginning of life," stated Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO), from Geneva. "This resolution expresses a welcome commitment to the dignity of terminally ill and other suffering patients."

The resolution was adopted on May 23 at the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The United Nations' Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has noted that "States are under the obligation to respect the right to health by … refraining from denying or limiting equal access for all persons … to preventive, curative and palliative health services."

WHO estimates that 80 percent of the world’s population lacks adequate access to pain-management medications that are crucial for palliative care. The WHO resolution calls for those drugs to be made accessible to all, and for information about palliative care and pain management to be made available and part of educational programs for medical students.

"MCCL Global Outreach continues its call for the international community to respect all human life, at every stage of development—with extra protection and care for those who are most vulnerable," Fischbach concluded.

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Plan to reduce newborn deaths ignores effect of prior abortions

The following news release was issued on May 27, 2014.

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Assembly (WHA) last weekend adopted a plan to improve the health of newborn babies worldwide. "Every newborn: An action plan to end preventable deaths" aims to reduce high rates of neonatal mortality in large parts of the world.

Each year, the action plan explains, an estimated 2.9 million children die within the first month after birth, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Neonatal mortality has declined at a slower pace than both under-five mortality and maternal mortality.

"Improving the quality of health care during labor, childbirth and the days following birth will substantially reduce newborn deaths in addition to improving maternal health," commented Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO), from Geneva. "Proven measures that have saved the lives of newborns should be extended to countries and areas suffering from high neonatal mortality."

Prenatal care and nutrition are also crucial to the survival and health of newborns. Malnutrition during pregnancy can prevent healthy growth and lead to low birthweight and fetal growth restriction, increasing the risk of neonatal death and disability.

"It is wise to situate the issue of newborn mortality in the context of a continuum of care, covering healthy reproduction, maternal care, and infant and child care," Fischbach said. A new brochure produced by MCCL GO, released last week at the WHA, highlights the importance of the first 1,000 days in the life of a human being—from conception to the second birthday. This window of time is critical to the health and flourishing of mothers, babies and society as a whole.

MCCL GO participated in the online consultation on a draft version of the "Every newborn" plan. Fischbach noted that while preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn mortality (and second leading cause of under-five deaths), the action plan fails to mention a significant risk factor for premature delivery. A wealth of worldwide research has shown that induced abortion substantially increases the risk of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies.

"The prevalence of abortion significantly contributes to the problem of neonatal mortality," Fischbach observed. "The plan to end newborn deaths should have taken into consideration all of the known risk factors."

MCCL GO's brochure "1 to 1,000" is available in English, French and Spanish in the Resources section at the MCCL GO website,

Monday, May 19, 2014

MCCL GO highlights first 1,000 days of life at World Health Assembly

The following news release was issued on May 19, 2014.

GENEVA, Switzerland — The first 1,000 days in the life of a human being—from conception to the second birthday—are crucial to the health and prosperity of both mother and child, according to a new document released this week at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. It was produced by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO), a U.N.-accredited non-governmental organization.

"A wealth of research has demonstrated how important this 1,000-day window of time is," stated Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of MCCL GO. "Mothers and babies need quality health care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the two years after. This must be prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda."

This week's 67th annual WHA is a gathering of the U.N.'s World Health Organization, including delegations from all member states. This year's meeting will include consideration of an action plan to reduce newborn deaths.

An estimated 2.9 million children died within the first month of life in 2012. Many newborn deaths can be prevented by improving the quality of care during labor, childbirth and the days following birth, including essential newborn care, explains MCCL GO's new document, "1 to 1,000: How to ensure the health and flourishing of women, children, and society."

The brochure notes that prenatal care and nutrition greatly affect the life of a child. Malnutrition during pregnancy can hinder development of a child’s brain and immune system, inhibiting the child’s ability to learn and making her more susceptible to disease.

"Maternal and child health are intimately connected," said Fischbach. "Maternal mortality and morbidity remain a serious problem in large parts of the world. We can save the lives of both pregnant women and their babies by providing the care that they need, including skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric care, sanitation and clean water."

The brochure also describes the importance of early childhood, when suboptimum breastfeeding leads to an estimated 800,000 deaths each year, and it calls for respect and protection for women during pregnancy and motherhood, when they may be uniquely vulnerable to the threat of violence and abuse.

"The first 1,000 days after conception are so critical in so many ways, not just for women and children, but for society as a whole," Fischbach explained. "Good care throughout this period leads to healthier, better-educated and more-productive adults, increasing economic prosperity."

MCCL GO calls on the WHA to prioritize the 1,000-day continuum of care for mothers and babies. "It is absolutely essential to sustainable development," Fischbach concluded.

MCCL GO's brochure "1 to 1,000" is available in English, French and Spanish in the Resources section at the MCCL GO website,

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A response to Planned Parenthood on taxpayer funding of abortion

In our May 7 Star Tribune commentary we made the case against taxpayer funding of abortion in Minnesota. On May 9 the newspaper published a reply from Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

It is utterly unpersuasive. Three points call for a response.

First, Stoesz claims it is "completely false" and "a blatant disregard for the facts" to say, as we did, that "public funding means more abortions." Why is it false? Because abortions in Minnesota have declined in recent years even though the state funds the procedure for low-income women.

Actually, though, the number of abortions increased in the years after Medicaid started paying for elective abortions in 1994—interrupting a very substantial decline—and did not start consistently dropping again until 2002.

In any case, our point, which I had thought was clear, was that public funding increases the incidence of abortion relative to what it would be without public funding, and limits on funding decrease the incidence of abortion relative to what it would be without those limits. This is virtually undeniable—it is supported by a wealth of peer-reviewed research and even confirmed in a Guttmacher Institute literature review, which we quoted in our op-ed and which Stoesz does not question. (Stoesz acknowledges that "some women will choose to carry a pregnancy to term if their insurance doesn't cover abortion," but that is just a another way of expressing the same point we made, which she condemns as "completely false"!)

Stoesz does, however, seem eager to downplay the number of women who choose life when state abortion funding isn't available. But the number is significant. Using Guttmacher's own 25 percent estimate (which may well be too low), about 893 fewer Minnesota women would have had abortions in 2012 (the latest year for which data is available) if the state did not pay for abortions through Medicaid. There would have been 16,456 fewer abortions since June of 1994, when public funding began.

In other words: Thousands and thousands of abortions have occurred because of this policy of taxpayer-funded abortion, which Stoesz and Planned Parenthood so strongly support.

Second, Stoesz "celebrates" the long-term abortion decline in Minnesota because, she asserts, it means that Planned Parenthood's work is succeeding. This is an odd statement. Planned Parenthood is the state's leading abortion provider, performing 3,917 abortions in 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Planned Parenthood has somehow managed to increase its abortion total by 60 percent since 2000—even as overall abortions have dropped 26 percent.

It seems more plausible to say that abortions have declined despite the work of Planned Parenthood, not because of it.

Finally, Stoesz repeatedly refers to taxpayer-funded abortion as a "medical decision" that must be preserved for the sake of "a woman's health and safety." But we are talking about elective abortion, which, we noted in our original commentary, "is not health care—it violently attacks the health and ends the life of a developing human being."

Stoesz offers no real justification for treating the killing of human beings in utero as a public good that all taxpayers should be required to subsidize. She offers only confused and misleading statements and tired rhetoric.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Star Tribune commentary: Taxpayer funding of abortion is cause for concern

The following op-ed was published on May 7, 2014, in the Star Tribune.

By Diane Paffel and Paul Stark

Taxpayers fund one-third of abortions in Minnesota, according to figures released in early April by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This is cause for serious concern and discussion.

Consider, first, some history. Beginning in 1978, Minnesota law prohibited public funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother. Then, in June 1994, Hennepin County District Judge William Posten decided that the state Constitution requires Medicaid coverage of abortion for low-income women. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the ruling in its 1995 Doe vs. Gomez decision. Not even the U.S. Supreme Court — in Roe vs. Wade or subsequent abortion cases — has gone that far.

The state has since paid $20.7 million for more than 65,000 abortions. In 2012 (the latest year for which data are available), taxpayers reimbursed abortion providers $822,403 for 3,571 abortions. That’s 33.4 percent of the total of 10,701. Most of these abortions were purely elective.

One need not support legal protection for unborn children to oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to facilitate their destruction. A poll released in March by CNN/ORC International found that 56 percent of Americans oppose tax-funded abortion; only 39 percent support it. There is, indeed, common ground in the abortion debate. This is part of it.

Elective abortion is not a public good deserving of public support. It is not health care — it violently attacks the health and ends the life of a developing human being. "Abortion," the U.S. Supreme Court explained in a 1980 case (Harris vs. McRae) upholding limits on public funding, "is inherently different from other medical procedures." Why are Minnesotans required to pay for this?

A substantial body of research has established that government funding increases the incidence of abortion. A 2009 literature review by the Guttmacher Institute — a vigorous defender of unlimited abortion — concluded that "approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable."

Public funding means more abortions. Limits on public funding mean fewer abortions. And fewer abortions is something almost everyone wants.

Minnesota's current policy allows abortion providers to market "free" abortions to economically vulnerable women. Planned Parenthood, which performs more abortions than any other provider, increased its state-funded abortion claims by 64 percent over the last six years. In 2012, the organization collected $255,000 from the state for performing 1,139 abortions on low-income women, a 30 percent revenue increase over the previous year.

But abortion doesn't solve anyone's problems. Pregnant women facing difficult circumstances deserve our compassion, care and support. We can put tax dollars to better use.

The Legislature passed bipartisan legislation in 2011 to stop public funding of abortion; the bill was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. This year the House of Representatives passed a similar measure on April 3, but it was defeated in the Senate on April 8.

So government support for the abortion industry will continue — for now. But this is no justice to the human beings in utero who are dismembered and killed. Nor to the taxpayers who are made complicit despite broad and bipartisan disapproval. Nor to the women who are offered a quick fix that doesn't really fix anything.

There is a better way.

Diane Paffel is vice president and Paul Stark is communications associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.