May 19

ACOG, as in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the doctors who care for women through pregnancy and deliver their babies. If anybody knows the origin and development of human life, they should. Or did.

Years ago, they became very political and ideological, and thus very flexible with science and human embryology.

Journalist Mollie Hemingway picks it up from here, in commentary on a Washington Post piece that could have come from the Onion. It’s about the flap over remarks Sen. Marco Rubio made on global warming, and science.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus:

A snip from his response…

All these people always wag their finger at me about ‘science’ and ‘settled science.’ Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time that someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

To which Hemingway responds

Now, it’s probably worth noting at the outset that everything Rubio said in this paragraph was true. Human life begins at conception and nobody is ever asked about whether they deny that.

But let’s look at what the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted out in response:

Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did.

Hemingway continues:

The blurb for the piece says, “‘Science is settled … that human life beings at conception,’ Sen. Rubio said. We spoke with an expert on the science who didn’t agree.”

The story itself, with the same UpWorthy headline, is written by one Philip Bump and reads, stunningly:

(repeat: reads, stunningly):

We reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an association comprised of a large majority of the nation’s ob-gyns. The organization’s executive vice president and CEO, Hal C Lawrence, III, MD, offered his response to Rubio.

“Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”

In other words: Consensus exists (if not unanimously), and the consensus is that uterine implantation is the moment at which pregnancy begins.

We presented that description to the senator’s office, asking if he wanted to clarify or moderate his statement. Brooke Sammon, the senator’s Deputy Press Secretary, told us that “Senator Rubio absolutely stands by the comment.”

Hemingway’s reaction:

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…It is somewhat mortifying that the idiocy of this is not immediately apparent to everyone. Did you catch it? Are you smarter than a Washington Post reporter? Do you know that “when human life begins” and “when an embryo implants in the uterine wall” are actually not synonymous statements? I bet you did. Or I bet you could figure that out pretty easily.

See, you will not learn this — or much of anything else about the reality of abortion or unborn human life — from the media, but in fact there is consensus about when human lives begin. It’s almost a tautology to say what Rubio said. It’s like saying “human life begins when human life begins.”

See, here’s what gets me. That the term “consensus” is thrown about so loosely and on such fundamental truths as human life, truths for which there is scientific evidence and about which it’s either embarrassing or ridiculous or both to hear serious people even introduce the idea of consensus. As if there is a consensus on the sun rising and setting each day, as if there is consensus on the idea of “a day” and its parameters and duration, beginning and end.

Anyway, Hemingway then gets into the scientific “consensus” on when human life begins (to continue with this article). And for those who need show and tell, she provides video and emphasis on the parts to pay particular attention to, for better understanding.

So…

Who to believe, bloggers at the Washington Post or embryologists? I’m so confused! And the Post wasn’t just wrong but, like, so embarrassingly wrong as to require a correction, a mea culpa, and a serious amount of soul-searching. (I get a kick out of how the people who make these videos, which are used by medical and media sites, say “Low health literacy costs the US healthcare system between $106 billion to $238 billion each year. Please watch and share a medical animation to raise health literacy!” Indeed!)

You can’t make this up.

OK, so some people tried to gently point out the egregious and embarrassing error to Cillizza and Bump, who have steadfastly refused to correct the piece they promoted.

Stay with this. Hemingway wrote a long piece, but characteristically incisive and clarifying, like a blast of ice water to the face. Because that’s just what it takes, and even then some people won’t flinch.

Please note: Bump thinks the problem is not with his own flawed reporting and comprehension but with Rubio’s statement! Bump thinks this tweet and his piece do something other than make him look extremely bad!

But it gets worse:

(Bump writing here)…

There’s a blurry line between “pregnancy” and “life” in this discussion. When we asked ACOG if the two were interchangeable, we were told that the organization “approach[es] everything from a scientific perspective, and as such, our definition is for when pregnancy begins.” On the question of when life begins, then, the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.

“Life” is something of a philosophical question, making Rubio’s dependence on a scientific argument — which, it hardly bears mentioning, is an argument about abortion — politically tricky.

Mollie Hemingway rebounds…

Uh, what? Let’s list the problems here:

1) Rubio didn’t mention anything about definitions of pregnancy, so there’s no blurry line in “this discussion” about his statement regarding when life begins and someone else’s statement about when pregnancy begins…

2) It’s probably a good time to mention that ACOG is a group known for its strenuous support of abortion. Beyond the question of why Bump used this group instead of embryologists as sources, there’s also the issue that he’s not identifying them as vehemently pro-choice (as in, they even support partial-birth abortions).

Don’t miss that point. It’s critical to this whole article, and more gravely, to the public debate over abortion, human life, women’s health, and frankly violations of law. Partial birth abortions: see Kermit Gosnell.

But stay with Hemingway for now…

3) No one is mentioned in this piece other than ACOG. Yet Bump claims, “the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.” This is a difficult claim to swallow…Is there any evidence whatsoever that he spoke with anyone other than the pro-choice group?

4) Dude, life can be a totally trippy thing, I agree, but Rubio was not talking philosophy. He was talking science. And the question of when human life begins is not philosophical, it’s scientific. You might debate when you have the right not to be killed by someone else, be it three months’ gestation, five months’ gestation, or birth. Some deny the right to life of various classes of people long after birth, too. Philosopher and abortion advocate Peter Singer has said children don’t achieve full moral status until after two years. And these are, in fact, philosophical questions. But the scientific question of when life begins is actually pretty straight forward, if mysteriously unknown to some at our biggest media institutions. Or as Dougherty mocked, “Guys, guys. Human ‘life’ is an illusion created by social consensus, WaPo is breaking this whole thing open!” To me Bump’s bizarre statements are more reminiscent of a group of college students from a third-rate public university having what they think sounds like a really deep conversation after passing around the bowl.

So here Hemingway brings readers back to the present ‘Politics vs. Science’, because science has been politicized for an ideological agenda.

If this is long for some readers already, here’s a cue to pay close attention now:

Bump inadvertently hit on something in his final lines, when he wrote, “After all, if someone were to argue that life begins at implantation, it’s hard to find a moral argument against forms of birth control that prevent that from happening.”

Did you know that the definition of pregnancy was changed not long ago from beginning at “fertilization” to beginning at “implantation”? Did you know that this was a political decision? Did you know that some groups have even tried to say that implantation is when “conception” occurs, too?

Before we get into this story of politics and science, I might note a few statements from early in the birth control battles. Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a leader in the International Planned Parenthood Federation said:

We of today know that man… starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, said, “If, however, a contraceptive is not used and the sperm meets the ovule and development begins, any attempt at removing it or stopping its further growth is called abortion.”

Birth control pioneer Marie Stopes said, “A large number of the opponents of birth control deliberately confuse birth control with abortion. I suppose it is all right for me to explain to you that abortion can only take place when an embryo is in existence. An embryo can only be produced after the sperm cell and the egg cell have actually united, after their nuclei have fused and after the first cell divisions have taken place. The moment that that has taken place you have there a minute, invisible, but actual embryo, and anything which destroys that is abortion, and we never in our clinic do anything which can in any way lead to that destruction. But until the sperm cell has united with the egg cell, no embryo exists or can exist, and anything which keeps the sperm away from the egg cell cannot lead to or be abortion because no embryo can then exist.”

All of these statements are from the first few decades of the 20th century. As technology developed that enabled embryos to be destroyed before implantation, what was so “simple” and “evident” and “common knowledge,” in Guttmacher’s words, suddenly became none of those things.

There’s still much more in this article, fully available at the link and advisable to read and re-read and grasp in its scope. Hemingway realizes it’s long.

So she concludes:

OK, that was a lot to work through. And for people who value the sanctity of all human life, from actual conception to natural death, none of these semantic changes matter one bit. But you can see how they would help those activists with different views on when human lives can be ended.

The thing is that activists can redefine pregnancy all they want and it won’t change the central issue at hand — the question of whether it’s ok to end the life of a genetically distinct human. We won’t resolve that debate any time soon, but obscuring the facts on when and how human life begins will not help matters.

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Oct 23

They’ve been evident lately on most major league baseball and football teams. And their advertising. They’re so ubiquitous, those pink ribbons are seemingly on most products in the stores right now.

So I’m grocery shopping and every aisle features food products that have somehow worked the pink ribbon onto its packaging. In fact, nearly every aisle I turn the cart into has a special display of these products to catch shoppers’ attention. Caught mine, because I write about this every year at this time. And interview people on radio in between Octobers…

I stop at one display and really look at it. ‘Okay, I’ll pay the attention you ask for. What is it you’re promoting?’ I think…

The signs all say the same thing. ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. I looked at that and wondered, what does that mean?

Okay, we’re aware. But being aware of this dreaded disease is just the beginning, as it is with any form of cancer or any other affliction.

What needs an awareness campaign is the link of breast cancer to abortion.

A microbiologist says there are so many published studies confirming the link between induced abortion and breast cancer that he plans to publish one every day on his blog until he’s mentioned them all. It will take Dr. Gerard Nadal so many weeks to cover them all, the blogging will continue until early next year.

Nadal, who has a has a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from St John’s University in New York, has spent 16 years teaching science, most recently at Manhattan College.

He will report on one abortion-breast cancer study daily until he has exhausted all of the abortion-breast cancer studies and he anticipates he may be reporting on these studies as late as January or February of 2011.

“Today begins the inexorable presentation of the scientific literature on the abortion/breast cancer link,” Nadal writes. “Women’s lives depend on us getting the truth out to them. In short order we’ll generate plenty of pros armed with the simple truth of science!”

Yes, let’s have awareness.

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Aug 22

Time is a gift. Especially in a hospital urgent care setting where final determinations are made in more haste these days.

So another story emerges…

Aaron Denham was lying motionless in his hospital bed after suffering a broken neck, smashed pelvis and punctured lung.

Doctors were within hours of turning off the 22-year-old carpenter’s life support machine.

But now, just a few months later, he is making a rapid recovery and can even walk unaided.

The first sign that talk of Aaron’s funeral was premature was when his hand flipped over at Southampton General Hospital. His mum, Deborah, ran from the intensive care unit in disbelief as the unexpected movement sparked dreams that he may survive the ordeal.

She had been preparing for the worst – even beginning the heart-breaking task of choosing music for the funeral with his sister Leanne.

What a dreadful scenario.

But Aaron, from Fair Oak, near Southampton, Hants, has done more than just survive. And despite initial fears he would be paralysed for life he is now on the road to recovery.

Doctors described Aaron’s turn-around as “miraculous”.

Note in the story that doctors seemed to give it just hours, determing that if there were no sign of recovery in that short time, they would have to switch off life support. Thankfully, in this case the tunraround happened within that time. The medical ethics clash is, in part, over the unaffordability of the gift of time in health care. I understand the arguments. I just rejoice that cases like this still prove human truths beyond the calculations of medical science.

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Aug 03

Let’s count the ways…

So why is the federal deparment charged with the health and human services of its citizens suddenly requiring a massive implementation of an ideologically based scheme to cover birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills at great cost to insurers and taxpayers, and at a time when the federal government is in a budget crisis already?

To say this makes no sense is to state the obvious.

Go back for a moment to that AP report on the HHS announcement in the post below. The one that refers to this as a “broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.” Let’s parse this, according to the story as it originally appeared, because it’s gone through so many revisions and renditions, it no longer says the same thing at that same link.

Here’s what the AP said Monday:

Indeed, a government study last summer found that birth control use is virtually universal in the United States, according to a government study issued last summer. More than 90 million prescriptions for contraceptives were dispensed in 2009…Generic versions of the pill are available for as little as $9 a month. Still, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many are among women using some form of contraception, and forgetting to take the pill is a major reason.

So. It’s not a matter of availability. And there’s no need for the government to provide this form of active population control under the guise of ‘women’s health preventive services’ or some variation therof. Why does the government see a need to provide what’s already available cheaply or freely, and allegedly being used by the vast majority of women? Which, important to note, is not preventing pregnancies in a large percentage of cases.

That point came up in a debate on radio this week between bioethics nurse Nancy Valko and a Planned Parenthood director. She went on to cite statistics from the Guttmacher Report online (a research arm of Planned Parenthood).

Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently.

Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant…according to this report, cost was not a factor in not using contraceptives.

Valko went on to say “fertility is not a disease and powerful hormones are not vitamins, and many women are not aware of the sometimes life-threatening complications. She cited two cases of healthy young women hospitalized in the past year for life-threatening blood clots in their lungs. “Doctors attributed this to the pill,” she said. She went on to note the irony that women are choosing hormone-free food but don’t think about taking powerful hormones to “treat” fertility.

Furthermore

The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute (of Medicine), which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion advocate, said…

Science? What science?

Here’s some science, which another nurse concerned with women’s issues made available, since most media won’t. And Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, has plenty of science Sebelius should be aware of.

This is not health care. It’s blind ideology.

And it’s a threat to healthcare providers with religious believes and moral convictions that oppose that ideology, convictions that have long been protected by law. This new mandate requires a new law, and two congressmen co-authored one that deserves attention. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act started in the House and has now been introduced in the Senate. This is a good time to remind elected representatives what the people do not want, and cannot afford. In more ways than one.

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Jul 21

There’s a lot in the news about contraception and health care and Planned Parenthood right now. And a lot more that should be.

The scope of this is staggering.

Let’s go through just a few of the many stories.

Contraceptives are now recommended to be required in health care law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is praising a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine that insurance companies be required to offer free contraceptives to all women in a report she called ” historic,” suggesting she may make the recommendation an official policy.

The prospect of free, government-ordered contraceptives and even agents to induce abortion, has ignited a national debate. Some are clearly pleased.

Many are clearly not.

After the Institute of Medicine (IOM) this week publicly backed government-mandated birth control coverage, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is standing in the breach against what would prove a massive victory for abortion giant Planned Parenthood…

“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Tuesday.

Like other conservative leaders, the USCCB pro-life chairman noted that the mandate would violate the conscience rights of Americans morally opposed to birth control, and objected to coverage of “emergency contraception” such as ella, a chemical functionally identical to the abortion drug RU-486.

But the cardinal’s challenge did not stop there: DiNardo noted that the IOM report was so radical as to have indicated interest in recommending full abortion coverage as well. The report stated that, “despite the health and well-being benefits to some women,” abortion was outside of the project’s scope given federal legal restrictions.

“But most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious,” wrote the cardinal, who noted the celebration of Planned Parenthood, “the single largest abortion provider in the United States,” over the report.

“I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” he said.

That’s an understatement.

Let’s go back to some coverups by federal agencies for the abortion industry. Like this one that would have been called famous had it been reported by the media.

Though it did get reported.

Less than two months since the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued new guidelines recommending against routine mammograms for women in their forties, a second breast cancer scandal involving a U.S. government panel of experts has come to light which has implications for healthcare reform.

An April 2009 study by Jessica Dolle et al. of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center examining the relationship between oral contraceptives (OCs) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in women under age 45 contained an admission from U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) researcher Louise Brinton and her colleagues (including Janet Daling) that abortion raises breast cancer risk by 40%.

(emphasis added)

“Although the study was published nine months ago,” observed Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, “the NCI, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other cancer fundraising businesses have made no efforts to reduce breast cancer rates by issuing nationwide warnings to women.”

Brinton was the chief organizer of the 2003 NCI workshop on the abortion-breast cancer link, which falsely assured women that the non-existence of the link was “well established.”

(emphasis added)

Brinton has been out of reach of the media since the 2009 report that abortion raises breast cancer risk by 40 percent. Even liberal pro-choice writers checking on this incongruity have found the NCI website to only answer inquiries by linking back to the faulty and biased 2003 report.

The founders of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute have abundant resources on their site detailing the scientific studies and medical evidence linking contraceptives and abortion to breast cancer.

Which is why it’s crazy to think that the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation would be linked in any way with Planned Parenthood. They ought to extend their considerable resources to researching prevention before a cure is necessary. But that would direct them back to Planned Parenthood…

Which is why some U.S. bishops have finally called on Catholic institutions to redirect their charitable contributions and fundraising for breast cancer prevention and cure to other organizations without any morally objectionable connections. Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair issued this letter, for instance. Here’s a snip:

For some time, moral questions have been raised from various quarters about the research funded by the Komen Foundation. The Bishops of Ohio have discussed this and have looked into the matter. As best we can determine, at present the Komen Foundation does not fund cancer research that employs embryonic stem cells. However, their policy does not exclude that possibility. They are open to embryonic stem cell research, and may very well fund such research in the future. They are also contributors to Planned Parenthood, which, though it may claim to provide needed medical services to poor women, is also the largest provider of abortions in our country.

But they got that way by being extremely industrious and aggressive in their lobbying and political activism. Which gets back to the top and latest news story in this cycle…

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May 22

I have been an avid follower of the NASA program and followed its missions since childhood. So I found this last one particularly poignant.

So did Pope Benedict.

The shuttle Endeavour and space station crews gathered on Saturday for an unprecedented conversation with Pope Benedict, who asked how the space program could promote peace and if the astronauts prayed while in orbit.

“I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each one,” the Pope said.

“When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?” he asked via a televised link from the Vatican.

This is a sweet story. The pope spoke with members of the crew about their own personal dramas as they carry out this universal one. (funny…the word catholic means universal…but I was referring to the nature of the space mission) Personal dramas like commander Mark Kelly’s, whose wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is still recovering from being shot in January. Kelly thanked Benedict for thinking of her.

The Pope also had a personal message for space station flight engineer Paolo Nespoli, whose mother died on May 2.

“How have you been living through this time of pain on the International Space Station? Do you feel isolated and alone, or do you feel united amongst ourselves in a community that follows you with attention and affection?” the pope asked, speaking in Nespoli’s native Italian.

“Holy Father, I felt your prayers and everyone’s prayers arriving up here,” Nespoli replied in Italian.

“My colleagues aboard the space station were very close to me at this important time, for me a very intense moment,” Nespoli said. “I felt very far but also very close.”

Astronaut Roberto Vittori, also from the Italian Space Agency, demonstrated microgravity by flipping a coin given to him by the Pope, a symbol of the Vatican’s involvement in the mission, the next-to-last for NASA’s space shuttle program.

The coin will be returned to the Pope after Endeavour lands, now scheduled for June 1.

“To live aboard the International Space Station, to work as an astronaut is extremely intense, but we all have an opportunity when the nights come to look out and, more, to look down at Earth. Our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful,” Vittori said.

“I do pray,” he added. “I do pray for me, for our families, for our future.”

This story is amazingly human, and global, and larger than each of us. Because it’s about what holds together all of us. And I know that sounds corny, but….

I’ve said it here on this blog before, a while back, that a long time ago I was thinking about ‘fanhood’ and loyalty to a small town school or sports team, then a larger one…and how the rivalries disappear and new alliances form when those circumferences spread to wider territories. The ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ grows into much larger bodies of individuals the bigger the contest and state or nation. Then my thoughts rolled forward to an odd idea….that one imaginable force that would cause otherwise hostile factions on earth to suddenly unify as a planet and work together (imaginable thanks to science fiction) is if earth were attacked by aliens from another planet and we faced destruction unless we were able to fend them off.

I would never have shared that, but then I heard one day that Ronald Reagan one time said the same thing! (or something similar, though more eloquently, to be sure)

Anyway, that thought came back to me while reading this story, and I found this conversation between the astronauts and the pope very touching.

The Pope asked the astronauts about the environmental health of the planet, as viewed from space.

“On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is, but on the other hand we can really clearly see how fragile it is,” said NASA astronaut Ron Garan, a member of the live-aboard station crew.

“For instance, the atmosphere, when viewed from space, is paper-thin. And to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us is really a sobering thought,” Garan said.

What the astronauts find hopeful, Garan added, is the space station itself, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that took more than a decade to build 220 miles above the planet.

“That just shows that by working together and cooperating, we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet,” he said.

Now, how to apply that here

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Apr 29

Sometimes, the best scientific argument over a controversial bioethical issue is just dry and uninteresting to anyone but the science and medical comunity.

So Dr. Gerard Nadal does this thought experiment.

Imagine one is dining in a family restaurant and there are three different families, each with five children. Family A has children who are engaged in a food fight, screaming and jumping about.

Family B has children who are generally very well behaved but are given to bouts of restlessness and need to be spoken to by their parents.

Family C has children who are models of decorum, and who on their own have even taken it upon themselves to quietly clean up some of the mess left by other patrons.

That’s the stem cell war in a nutshell.

Clever. He explains how the analogy works in each case.

Now, back to our analogy. Imagine a reporter comes to the restaurant looking to do a story on children’s manners in restaurants but spends 90% of her time interviewing the father of Family A. He makes not one mention of his children’s recklessness and destructiveness, not one mention of the exemplary behavior of the children in Family C, but instead he holds forth on the dire future of the children in Family B, whose behavior is merely in need of periodic tweaking.

If that sounds unbalanced and bizarre, that’s the essential structure and trajectory of a recent Reuters article by Julie Steenhuysen, entitled “Imperfections mar hopes for reprogrammed stem cells.”

The core of the article is built around the father of Family A, Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

In other words, intellectally dishonest and obviously tendentious.

…Dr. Daley makes no mention at all of Family C, the adult stem cells, which have over one hundred therapeutic applications. In so doing, he fails to grasp the essential reason why induced pluripotent stem cells were sought after. It’s because biologically, embryonic stem cells are wild and untamable, while adult stem cells have gone through the process of cellular maturation naturally and are remarkably stable. They are also expensive to isolate, which is an economic limitation to their widespread use. Also, as embryonic stem cells come from another person, there is the issue of tissue rejection by the recipient.

And that’s happening, time and again. But we aren’t hearing that from the proponents of embryonic stem cells, because they’re too invested in the biotech industry that relies those unruly cells.

That famous line from Jurassic Park comes to mind again. Life finds a way.

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Apr 22

According to the Bible, it quaked. Something to recall this year as Earth Day falls on Good Friday.

Except in the Philippines, where they’ve moved the date to honor the holiness of the Triduum.

Acton has some good perspective on this.

Remember when, in 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) declared that 50 million people could become environmental refugees by 2010, as they fled the effects of climate change? They’d rather you didn’t. It turns out that the climate refugee problem is only the latest disaster-movie myth to be shattered. AsianCorrespondent.com reported earlier this month that “a very cursory look at the first available evidence seems to show that the places identified by the UNEP as most at risk of having climate refugees are not only not losing people, they are actually among the fastest growing regions in the world.”

John Couretas addresses the issue of religious leaders involved in a World Council of Churches climate change conference and a certain apocalyptic vision afoot these days, not based on scientific credibility.

Religious leaders should celebrate Earth Day 2011 by showing more humility in the face of the exceedingly complex scientific, public policy, and political questions bound up in environmental stewardship. A good start would be to drop any attempt at interpreting deep climatological data, which like complex policy or economic questions, is outside the usual competency of seminary training. Instead, religious leaders should focus on advancing an understanding of environmental stewardship that has a place both for productive economic activity and the beauty of God’s creation — without the Manichean split.

The virtue of prudence should lead us all to do more to reduce destructive man-made effects on the environment, with an eye toward improving the overall health of the air, water, and land that sustains us. De-carbonizing the economy, over time and in an orderly fashion, without wrecking economic life that likewise sustains us, is the reasonable way to do that. A strong market economy that creates the sort of wealth that can lead to practicable and affordable energy alternatives, free of the waste, abuse and cronyism that accompany government subsidies, will get us to a cleaner future faster than more “expert” management from Washington, the UN, or the WCC.

Meanwhile, on Easter Monday in the Philippines

the government has scheduled tree and mangrove-planting events.

It will also encourage communities in Manila to “adopt a waterway”, and clean up the capital city’s creeks, canals and storm drains.

Do whatever you can, putting first things first.

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Jan 27

Jarring headline. Not that abortionists don’t end human lives every day. But startling to see that law enforcement and media actually noticed.

It took a particularly gruesome example to get their attention.

A Philadelphia doctor performed thousands of illegal late-term abortions and murdered newborns after inducing labour, prosecutors have said.

Dr Kermit Gosnell, 69, was charged with murder and other offences in the deaths of a patient and viable babies born as late as the eighth month of pregnancy.

Prosecutors said he made millions of dollars treating and sometimes maiming mostly poor minority women.

Nine clinic workers are also charged with murder and other counts.

Lawyers on both sides tried to find the right words to put to this horror, given abortion’s legality and all. The defense attorney called the allegations “very, very serious.” The DA started his statement acknowledging that abortion is “a hot-button topic.” He also said…

“A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law.

“A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.”

Horrible. But wait….that’s what happens in partial-birth abortions, which the pro-choice movement refers to as the ‘so-called partial-birth abortion’ procedure which they prefer to call ‘late-term abortions.’ And to look at this even more closely and clearly…living, breathing babies who survive abortion attempts would be protected under the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which a certain Illinois senator could not support when it came up for a vote….because it would confer constitutional protection on a fetus and render abortion illegal….

See how entangled this becomes when we follow an idea or argument through to its logical conclusion?

Justice Anthony Kennedy was so firm in his written opinion about the Carhart (partial-birth abortion) ruling that he spelled out clearly for the record what grisly things happen when a doctor performs one.

The New York Times stated flatly in its headline Doctor is Charged in Killing of Newborns. Here’s the lede:

An abortion doctor who served minority and immigrant women in his clinic in Philadelphia was charged with multiple counts of murder on Wednesday in the deaths of a woman and seven newborn babies whose spinal cords had been cut with scissors, the district attorney’s office said…

When labor was induced and a baby was born, Dr. Gosnell would kill it by cutting into its neck and severing its spinal cord in a process he referred to as “snipping.”

But the difference between that and the ‘late term abortion’ the pro-choice movement has vigorously defended is a matter of inches  and minutes. When the baby is in the middle of being born and the scissors are plunged into the base of his or her skull etc…it’s still called abortion. When the scissors end the life of that child moments later outside the birth canal, it’s murder.

That should generate a vigorous debate. As well as the obvious question raised in the grand jury report, noted by the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

The 262-page jury report, available at the Web site of the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, devotes considerable attention to the question, “how did this go on so long?”

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Jan 10

Abby Johnson’s story spread rapidly back when she went from being a leader in Planned Parenthood and one of their clinic directors, to a committed pro-life advocate, in short order. After witnessing the horrifying sight of one abortion on an ultrasound screen. Now, she tells her compelling and dramatic story in unPlanned, a new book about to be released. Great title, heart-stopping drama. It should certainly be a debate changer.

Monday evening, Johnson is participating in a webcast originally reserved for 3,000 total participants and has now grown to over 14,000. The webcast provider is maxing out its server to provide a bandwith capable of carrying this load. Promotions promise the crowd who signs on that they’ll hear Johnson talk about the following:

• What initially attracted Abby to volunteer and then work for Planned Parenthood — America’s largest abortion chain — even after being raised in a faithful Christian home
• The hidden personal secret that Abby had kept buried for years
• The shocking discovery that suddenly caused Abby to question everything Planned Parenthood had told her over eight years
• Planned Parenthood’s confidential plans to expand its biggest money-maker – abortion – all across America
• The abortion industry’s furious reaction when Abby decided to quit her job and join local and national pro-life efforts
• What Abby’s court battle brought to light about Planned Parenthood’s REAL agenda
• The single most effective way to reduce Planned Parenthood’s abortion business and change the hearts and minds of clinic workers

I had an advance copy of unPlanned, and interviewed Abby Johnson last week. We never got past chapter one, “The Ultrasound.” When I read it the evening before the interview, I was thunderstruck. After the final sentence of that chapter, I perceptibly exhaled. And realized I had been holding my breath. It was captivating.

Without giving anything away here, I just want to point out her preface, ‘A Note from Abby Johnson’, brief as it is. She says:

…I’ve spent years on the front lines of the face-off between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. Which side? Both sides…

I reveal my story not because I am proud of it. I am not. But my thinking and choices are not unlike those of so many people I have encountered. And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth.

People have asked her things like how she could have been so naive, or gullible, or inconsistent in holding Christian values but not acting on them, etc…  She understands the difficulty in understanding this whole business, on both sides.

To this day I have friends on both sides of this polarizing debate. We all long for a story that shows that “our” side is right and good, and “their” side is wrong and bad, don’t we? But…we have far more in common with the “other” side than we might imagine.

She’s singing my song. For years and years, I’ve tried to generate a conversation between those who disagree on the big life issues, with the presumption of goodwill that probably, people on both sides are acting on what they believe to be what’s best for women and/or children and/or other groups of human beings in the life debate (the impaired or dying, if the debate is euthanasia, for instance…). But after years of this, I’ve found precious few advocates of the most permissable abortion laws willing to talk to anyone who doesn’t share their views. It’s one thing to have friends on both sides, and I agree with Abby that I do as well. It’s another to generate that conversation, both talking and listening, engaging reason and charity toward the person and the argument.

So I asked her if she’s been able to do that with some of her former colleagues in the abortion business. She paused, and slowly said ‘No, I’m sorry to say that hasn’t been possible…’

The promotion from Ignatius Press says

Planned Parenthood took Johnson to court in an attempt to keep a lid on her story. Johnson won. unPlanned is the result.

The book is going to make a lot of people squirm. “If so,” she says, “welcome to my journey.”

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