FRC Blog

Wait, there are two Sallies?

by Michael Fragoso

July 30, 2008

Where to begin with this story… A nurse in Birmingham, England gave an abortifacient drug to the wrong woman. It seems that in the interests of confidentiality, they call women from the waiting room by their first names-whereupon the nurse is to verify the identity. It just so happens that a woman who wanted a consultation and a woman who wanted an abortion shared the same first name. Guess which one got the abortion-confidentially, of course.

Sadly this is not unheard of in Europe. A 2004 case of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Vo v. France, dealt with precisely the same issue. In the case at hand Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant, was mistaken for another woman while at the hospital for prenatal care, and mistakenly given an abortion. She sued under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected.”) to vindicate the lost right of her child. Of course the ECHR was about to do no such thing.

Both cases reflect the awful truth about abortion in our society: it’s not about choice at all. The nurse in Birmingham violated the mother’s freedom of choice by giving her an undesired abortion, and she gets to keep her nursing job with a “caution” on her permanent record. Vo’s freedom of choice was violated and the ECHR refused to acknowledge the rights of the child she grieved. But what’s a mother’s choice to have a child next to the goal of legalized abortion? After all, the pro-aborts say, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

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Census: 6.4 Million Cohabitating Couples…

by JP Duffy

July 29, 2008

Census data released on Monday show that cohabitating couples now total 6.4 million - almost 10 percent of all couples, married and unmarried. Also released on Monday, a USA Today/Gallup Poll which finds that 49% of Americans believe that “living together makes divorce less likely” compared to 31% who said living together “makes divorce more likely.”

These disturbing numbers point to broad social acceptance of cohabitation despite studies showing that the mere act of cohabiting before marriage increases a couple’s chance of divorcing by 50 percent

It’s obvious that much work remains to be done to restore the place of marriage in our society. Marriage Savers is one organization that is leading the way to bring down cohabitation rates in many U.S. cities. Mike and Harriet McManus are Co-founders of Marriage Savers and recently published Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers. Earlier this year, they gave a lecture at FRC to discuss their new book and ways in which the church can help cohabitating couples. I highly recommend watching the webcast of the lecture.

This posted authored by JP Duffy, Media Director for FRC.

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Failing to Disclose

by Family Research Council

July 29, 2008

Within weeks of each other a newspaper in California (embroiled in a fight over same-sex “marriage”) and a newspaper in Massachusetts (which has had same-sex “marriage” on the books for a few years now but currently are set to overturn the law that prohibits out of state people coming to Massachusetts to get married) have printed articles bemoaning the fact that the U.S. Census won’t count any of the same-sex “marriages” in the census because of that pesky mean old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Coincidence? Not exactly. Consider the source for both stories, Gary J. Gates, Senior Research Fellow at UCLA Law School. According to his official bio at the school Mr. Gates is the “co-author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas and is widely acknowledged as the nation’s leading expert on the demography and geography of the gay and lesbian population.” The bio goes on to explain “Dr. Gates’ position at the Williams Institute was made possible by a generous grant from the Gill Foundation.”

For those unfamiliar with the Gill Foundation it is run by Tim Gill, a multibillionaire software mogul who has used his billions to defeat pro-traditional marriage candidates and legislators on the state and national level. Tim Gill and a network of his political Thumbnail image for Tim Gill.jpgallies in 2006 funded 38 percent of the opposition to same-sex marriage bans across the country. Tim Gill and his cabal of other pro-homosexual agenda millionaires targets a candidate opposed to the homosexual agenda and sends donations to opposition candidate in the last two months of the election, thus avoiding any nasty pre-election exposure.

In 2000 Tim Gill’s political donations totaled $300,000, in 2002 that increased to $800,000. In 2004 he upped that to $5 million and finally in the 2006 election cycle, Tim Gill gave $15 million to 111 state candidates in 16 states. His candidates won more than 70 percent of the time. This giving was associated with five state houses changing from Republican to Democrat. These changes took place in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania House went Democrat by only one member. The 2006 election swing for the Democrats caused at least three results for which Gill must have hoped. In 2007, Iowa passed strong anti-discrimination protection for homosexuals, killed a marriage amendment and passed a pro-cloning embryonic stem cell bill. Additionally, Oregon passed anti-discrimination protections and created a domestic partner system.

The two newspapers do not discuss Mr. Gates funding or background, giving the impression he is merely an observer. Clearly this not so subtle attack on census data is coordinated to go after and repeal the highly popular 1996 DOMA, an ultimate goal of many Democrats currently in Congress.

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Uninformed Consent for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

There is a new brewing controversy about the NIH “approved” human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines (more a tempest in a teapot). These are the cell lines approved for federal funding with President Bush’s speech August 9, 2001, eligible based on their derivation occurring before the speech and also meeting specific criteria as published by NIH. Of the 78 hESC lines eventually identified as eligible, 21 lines are currently available for shipping, while the remainder of the lines are not available for research (some failed to grow, some were withdrawn by their owners, but the majority have not been thawed and tested.)

One criterion was that “Informed consent must have been obtained for the donation of the embryo.” Now Josh Keller of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that adequacy of the informed consent obtained for some of the approved lines is being challenged (subscription required) and several top hESC research institutions are considering a ban on the use of some approved hESC lines. In an article in the May-June 2008 issue of the Hastings Center Report, Robert Streiffer of the University of Wisconsin claims that many of the consent forms, used for parents to donate their embryos for experiments, were inadequate and did not meet ethical norms. In particular, the forms used by BresaGen of Atlanta, GA (now owned by Novocell) and Cellartis AB of Sweden were singled out for their deficiencies. The two companies account for only 5 of the 21 approved lines. According to Rick Weiss (formerly of the Washington Post, now with the liberal Center for American Progress that opposes President Bush’s policy on hESC research), Stanford has now determined that those 5 lines will no longer be available to their researchers. Johns Hopkins will consider lines individually as researchers express an interest in using them. According to Nature news, Story Landis, head of NIH’s Stem Cell Task Force, says the NIH will not be taking any lines off its registry. And it’s unlikely that stopping use of the 5 lines will have any impact. The BresaGen and Cellartis lines are the least-requested lines in the whole collection, accounting for only 90 out of almost 1500 cell shipments, according to NIH’s website. The favorites by far remain the five original lines developed by Thomson in 1998.

The report appears targeted more for its political utility, potential ammo for another push to open funding for more embryo destruction. The study’s subtitle notes it provides “ethical as well as scientific reasons to overturn the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research”, Weiss notes “the Bush stem cell policy is untenable and in need of a major overhaul”, and both Streiffer and Weiss spend time on the same old litany of supposed problems with the approved lines, e.g., they “had been cultivated with mouse cells and were potentially contaminated with mouse viruses, seriously diminishing their value as therapeutic tools.” Then again, hESC are nowhere close to any therapeutic use because of their many practical problems in application.

The contamination canard is worth a brief sidebar here. Critics usually cite a 2005 Nature Medicine paper that shows contamination of hESC with animal sugars (in particular an animal sugar type abbreviated as Neu5Gc) due to the co-culture with mouse cells and use of bovine serum in the culture medium. But curiously, they only cite the first half of the paper, showing there is contamination, and not the second half (esp. Fig 3), which shows that the contamination can be removed. Likewise Thomson also showed in 2006 that the contamination could be removed even from existing lines, and “no detectable Neu5Gc was found on cells grown in fully humanized conditions.” Other research has shown similar results at reversing contamination. In a June 2005 article in Science (subscription required), there was some admission that contamination was not a real problem: “But Keirstead, Okarma, and others now say that those concerns, widely reported, may have been overstated. Gage and his colleagues noted that the sugar gradually disappears once cells are removed from the feeder layers.” Okarma of Geron was more direct in this interview in 2006: “So the stuff you hear published that all of those lines are irrevocably contaminated with mouse materials and could never be used in people — hogwash. If you know how to grow them, they’re fine.” Geron of course has plans to use the original approved lines for a clinical trial. But we’ll save more on Geron and some of the other myths about the approved lines for another time.

Back to the ethics, it’s ironic that proponents of hESC research are just now examining the consent forms, years later. Maybe it was the rush to get at the cells and the funding that made them overlook such niceties before now. Of course the original lines were derived in an unethical way—after all, the derivation involved destruction of a young human life. Stanford’s decision seems irrelevant given their location in California, where $3 billion of state taxpayer funds is mandated to be prioritized for research that is NOT eligible for federal funding. And given the controversial nature of destructive embryo research, the lapses in ethics at numerous levels make one wonder what confidence this might offer to current and future donors about being made aware of all pertinent issues.

(thanks to R.D. & N.C. for additional thoughts)

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More Corruption In Congress

by Family Research Council

July 29, 2008

Every time a story like this breaks it unfortunately paints the good guys in Congress with the same brush. However as long as Congress is an “Old Boys Club” and earmarks are spent like taxpayer-funded campaign candy we will be seeing more and more of this.

Senator Ted Stevens Indicted in Corruption Case

By Kate Phillips

Updated A federal grand jury has indicted longtime Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, on charges of failing to disclose receiving gifts of services and construction work as part of a wide-ranging corruption inquiry involving public officials and corporations in his home state. The indictment accuses Mr. Stevens of failing to report on his financial disclosure forms receiving gifts of more than $250,000 — in labor and construction materials — from Veco Corp. more …

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State of Life in the States

by Family Research Council

July 29, 2008

Some good news on the life front in the states, all which show how the grassroots are where true success lies when we find hearts and minds can be changed. Victory can only be claimed when we stop thinking of the unborn child as a potential human being and, as a society, realize they are human beings with potential.

In Kansas a Sedgwick County judge ruled yesterday that the Kansas abortion statute on late term abortions is constitutional, denying a defense motion to dismiss a criminal case brought against George “the killer” Tiller, one of the most notorious abortionists in the country.

Meanwhile in Virginia the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will rehear a challenge to Virginia’s ban on a late-term abortion procedure. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell was successful in convincing the court that it deserved review.

Finally over in South Dakota, for the second Monday in a row, no abortion doctor showed up for work at the only abortuary in the state. The reason is that any abortionist is afraid to comply with South Dakota’s Abortion Informed Consent Law. Normally an abortionist flies in on Mondays from Minnesota to perform abortions. South Dakota’s new law requires the abortionist to inform the expectant mother seeking an abortion that the procedure will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Failure to comply can have the abortionist face fines and/or jail time.

These state laws still face serious threats though if a pro-abortion Congress, as we have now, were to partner with a pro-abortion President and pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would effectively overturn all state laws in regard to abortion, as I discuss in my new paper on FOCA.

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Americans Stockpiling Stem Cells

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Not purposefully, mind you. A new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that lower belly fat is rich in adult stem cells. The study examined the concentration of stem cells in liposuctioned fat taken from different parts of the body. While each source contained adult stem cells, the highest concentration was found in fat from the lower belly and inner part of the thighs. Since many Americans are putting on extra pounds, the country has an almost unlimited supply of stem cells.

But before you dismiss stem cells from fat as unimportant and reach for that extra donut, consider that adult stem cells from fat have shown some important clinical results. As just a few examples, they’ve been used to grow new bone to correct a skull defect, for breast reconstruction following surgery, and are being used to treat heart damage (maybe an attempt to make up for leading to the heart attack in the first place.) Veterinarians are already using stem cells from fat to treat dogs and horses for numerous conditions, including repairing the tendon of a winning racehorse to put him back on the track and continue winning. Several companies are developing the technology for humans and animals, and one scientific society has focused on the applications of stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue. Stem cells from fat are actually an underappreciated source for potential therapies.

Okay, so how about that extra donut now?

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Dolly’s Daddy Sheepish About No More Cloning Around

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Back in November of 2007, Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep, announced his intention to give up on cloning and instead focus on the new technique of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. Yamanaka’s technique “reprograms” ordinary cells such as skin cells back to an embryonic state where they have characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells, but the technique does not use embryos, eggs, or cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). In fact, Yamanaka never used any human eggs or embryos in developing the technique, only mouse. The reprogramming technique is also much easier to accomplish than cloning. In it’s August 2008 issue, Scientific American has published an article (originally titled “No More Cloning Around”) and an interview with Wilmut on his reasons for the switch in research direction. (Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, is quoted in the news article.)

The article notes that “practicalities… seem to be driving the SCNT exodus,” and “It is hard to escape the sense that SCNT research is on the wane. The ethical barriers and short egg supply remain daunting.” Not to mention the technical problems (it doesn’t work well at all, and is horribly inefficient; as noted by many scientists, including Wilmut in the article.) Bottom line: Wilmut has given up on cloning for practical reasons.

Still, there is an interesting discussion in the Wilmut interview about the possibility of using cloning to produce an embryo with its genetic defects corrected. What he actually describes is Embryo Cell Nuclear Transfer (ECNT). An embryo is first created by fertilization, one of the cells of this original embryo is genetically altered to correct whatever might be the problem, and then the nucleus of this embryo cell is transferred into an enucleated egg, to produce a new, cloned embryo. Wilmut doesn’t seem to have any problem with this.

This is what some have described as creating 3-parent embryos. But it’s still cloning.

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Cord Blood for Cerebral Palsy

by David Prentice

July 29, 2008

Another child has benefitted from umbilical cord blood treatment for cerebral palsy. Chloe Levine was diagnosed at age 1 with cerebral palsy. Her parents had saved her cord blood, and she had it re-infused in an experimental procedure at Duke University. Only two months after receiving her own cord blood stem cells, she is reported to have made a 50% recovery.

This is only the latest story where cord blood adult stem cells have helped children with cerebral palsy. Ryan Schneider and Dallas Hextell are a couple more. But it’s also important to keep in mind that while these are great feel-good stories, the treatment is still experimental; no peer-reviewed papers have been published yet on these clinical trials. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke cautions that “it’s impossible to tell at this point” just how much progress Dallas and others in the trial will make.

One other thing is of vital importance—that we collect cord blood and bank it. Private banks are good if people can afford it, but we also need many more public banks so everyone can have access to a match.

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