Monday, March 26, 2007

“HPV: Sorting Through the Facts”

Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
March 2007

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

While waiting last summer for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its new vaccine, Gardasil, pharmaceutical giant, Merck, launched a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to create awareness and acceptance of the vaccine. The campaign, “Tell Someone,” encourages women to “Learn about cervical cancer and other consequences of human papillomavirus (HPV) and then tell someone.”

After Gardasil was granted FDA approval on June 8, 2006, the “One Less” campaign was launched to empower women to get vaccinations for themselves and their daughters—so as to ensure “one less life [will be] affected by cervical cancer.” According to Bev Lybrand, vice president & general manager, HPV Franchise, Gardasil, “Merck is committed to educating and providing access to women and girls who may benefit from this critical vaccine.”

In its “educational” efforts, Merck repeatedly asks the question, “Did you know that cervical cancer is caused by certain types of a common virus?”

It’s a virus we should all be concerned about—it’s called human papillomavirus (HPV). And even though HPV is really common, many people don’t know they have it because there often are no signs or symptoms. For most women, HPV clears on its own. But for some, cervical cancer and other consequences can develop.

The implication is this common virus is one that “all” of us could “catch.” But, is that true?

Curiously omitted from Merck’s advertising campaigns is any mention of the fact that genital HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Searching Merck’s website, you will find the facts:

Women and men who have any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact with an infected person can get human papillomavirus (HPV). That means it’s possible to get genital HPV without having intercourse. And, because many people who have the virus may not show any signs or symptoms, they can transmit the virus without even knowing it.
HPV and Cancer
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “Human papillomavirus is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these viruses are sexually transmitted, and they can infect the genital area of men and women.”

According to a study reported in Journal of Pathology, J.M Walbommers, et. al., found “The presence of HPV in virtually all [99.7%] cervical cancers implies the highest worldwide attributable fraction so far reported for a specific cause of any major human cancer.” HPV can also cause other genital cancers in both males and females.

Gardasil protects against only 4 strains of HPV that account for about for 70% of cervical cancers. The CDC reports, “Because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer or genital warts. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests).”

Eliminating or reducing risk
Information from the CDC on preventing genital HPV and cancer includes this:

The surest way to eliminate risk for genital HPV infection is to refrain from any genital contact with another individual. For those who choose to be sexually active, a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent future genital HPV infections. However, it is difficult to determine whether a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.

Regular Pap tests and follow-up can prevent most but not all, cases of cervical cancer . . . Pap tests can also detect most, but not all, cervical cancers at an early, curable stage. Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. have either never had a Pap test, or have not had a Pap test in the last 5 years.

Cervical cancer once claimed the lives of more American women than any other type of cancer. But over the last 40 years, widespread cervical cancer screening using the Pap test and treatment of pre-cancerous cervical abnormalities have resulted in a marked reduction in cervical cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S.

Merck pushes for mandating the vaccine
After the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted last June to recommend the use of Gardasil in females from ages 9 to 26, Merck has been engaging in huge lobbying efforts and—as former Congressman Bob Barr writes—“is pulling out all stops in an effort to secure legislation mandating vaccination with its product.”

There are two proposed bills in the Illinois state legislature that will require girls entering the sixth grade (in public, private or parochial school) to receive the HPV vaccination. While there is an opt-out provision, the pressure to vaccinate young girls for a sexually transmitted disease is a concern for many parents.

Oppose mandating
The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) and the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) have issued position papers on HPV Immunization in which both organizations strongly oppose state mandated HPV vaccinations for young girls.

The ACP’s position includes the following:

Until further research is completed, HPV vaccine recipients should be fully informed as to the current limits of knowledge regarding the vaccine’s potency and duration of protection.

They should be counseled, however, that HPV vaccination is not completely protective against cervical cancer. . .The most medically safe sexual conduct for adolescents is abstinence until marriage, and they should be counseled accordingly.

The American College of Pediatricians is opposed to any legislation which would require HPV vaccination for school attendance. Excluding children from school for refusal to be vaccinated for a disease spread only by penetrating vaginal intercourse is a serious, precedent-setting action that trespasses on the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children as well as on the rights of the children to attend school. In addition, this vaccine prevents a disease which is exclusively sexually transmitted; mandating it as early as 9 years of age places the medical provider in an ethical dilemma.

Excerpts from the CMA position paper include the following:

There is no ethical objection to the HPV vaccine either as a strategy against disease or in its production. Patients and parents must have the opportunity to give informed consent to its
administration . . .

The CMA opposes mandating the use of HPV vaccine, as well as direct or indirect efforts to pressure parents or minors to accept it.

HPV vaccine is a medical treatment, and under natural and civil law, it is parents who have the primary authority and responsibility to raise their children and to approve medical treatments for them. Addressing the issue of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a part of parents’ indispensable task of teaching their children about sex and forming them in chastity. Using mandates or other pressure (such as threatening to exclude children from attending school) violates parental rights and undermines parents authority . . .

An explosion in the number and severity of STIs has been one result of the breakdown in sexual morality over the last 40 years. Gardasil® can help to address one consequence of the spread of HPV, i.e., cervical cancer. At the same time, to best promote the health and happiness of adolescents, physicians, parents and social institutions should redouble their efforts to promote chastity. Consistent messages about and support for this virtue will not only help to reduce disease, but will help individuals, couples, and marriages to flourish.

HPV is transmitted through sexual activity and not by casual contact in the school setting. For this and other valid reasons, the decision to vaccinate minor girls must be made by informed parents, not the government.

For more information:

Copyright, 2007

Totally Unreasonable

The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: March 2, 2007

Life Lines
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

“With a pro-choice governor, a Legislature controlled by the Democratic Party and a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union that has successfully challenged every attempt to place legal limits on abortion in Illinois, things are not likely to change soon, at least for women 18 or older . . . [b]ut for teens, the outlook is less certain.” So writes Cindy Richards in her February 14, 2007 column in the Chicago Sun Times. Richards was reacting to recent action by Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, setting into motion the process of lifting the long-standing injunction on the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995. This law has never been enforced due to the refusal of the Illinois Supreme Court to promulgate the “rules” for judicial bypass. Responding to a formal request, the Court finally issued the rules in September 2006.

As expected, the Court’s action was enough to strike fear in those abortion advocates who cannot accept any restrictions —no matter how reasonable—on the so-called “right” to abortion. They are so afraid of losing unbridled access to abortion that they are now pulling out all stops to ensure that parents have no right to be told that their minor daughter is seeking an abortion.

Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago)—with support and encouragement from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU— introduced the Adolescent Health Care Safety Act (now HB 317) on October 2, 2006. This bill specifically states it “repeals the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995.”

Fritchey, in a news release, writes “I would hope that my colleagues, regardless of their position on abortion, would have faith in family, clergy and medical professionals to give responsible counseling to a young woman seeking advice about her pregnancy.” No, Mr. Fritchey, those of us who truly care for the welfare of young girls do not have faith in the “family” you describe in HB 317, or the “clergy” who function as pseudo-chaplains at abortion mills, or abortionists and their staff.

In writing about working “closely” with Fritchey on HB 317, Planned Parenthood admits the bill “will expand parental notification to include other adults such as older siblings, aunts/uncles, and members of the clergy, among others. If a teen is unable to notify one of those adults the bill allows for her—instead of going in front of a judge in an intimidating legal system—to receive counseling from a trained health professional such as a licensed nurse, social worker, or member of the clergy.”

There you have it. If HB 317 passes, there will be no change in the status quo. A 12-year-old girl will still be able to procure an abortion without her parent’s knowledge.

Under the 1995 law, parents will not be required to give consent, but at least they will be made aware of what their daughter is planning and hopefully they will be able to lead her to life affirming choices that would be in her and her baby’s best interest. Under HB 317, parents will be left totally in the dark.

Illinois Governor Blagojevich has made it clear he thinks girls under the age of 18 are capable of making a decision for abortion and yet when it comes to tattoos he says, “At that age [18], most kids . . . don’t have the judgment or perspective to decide on something as permanent as tattooing your skin. Teenagers may not realize getting a tattoo is a decision they'll live with, and potentially regret for the rest of their lives.” He favors denying parents even knowing their minor daughter is seeking an abortion and yet he vetoed a bill that lowered the age (even with parental permission) for tattoos from 21 to 18.

Forty-four states have passed some form of parental involvement laws with regard to abortion for minor girls. Yet, in Illinois, abortion advocates continue to work to prevent parents from even knowing about the planned killing of their grandchildren and the possible consequences to their daughters. This is totally unreasonable and it is time for parents to stand up for their rights.

Copyright, 2007

Adequate and loving care

The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: February 2, 2007

Life Lines
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

February 11th— the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes— is also the 15th World Day of the Sick. In his message for this special day, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Once again the Church turns her eyes to those who suffer and calls attention to the incurably ill, many of whom are dying from terminal diseases.” The Holy Father continues, “I would like to encourage the efforts of those who work daily to ensure that the incurably and terminally ill, together with their families, receive adequate and loving care.”

After reading the Holy Father’s message, my thoughts turned to the pre-born children who have been diagnosed with lethal fetal conditions. Will these children “receive adequate and loving care” in utero or will they be rejected because they are expected to die before or shortly after birth?

It is estimated between 80 to 90% of all babies believed to have lethal conditions are aborted—some by “early induction” where labor is induced and the premature infant is delivered. Many parents are deceived into thinking this is not an abortion, but as the National Catholic Bioethics Center explains, “induction of labor before term performed simply for the reason that the child has a lethal anomaly is direct abortion.”

Rather than offering support and loving care, many in the medical profession, either directly or tacitly, send the message that abortion is best for the baby and the family. In reality, hastening the baby’s death has no benefit for him or her and ultimately not for the family.

Physicians at the Tepeyac Family Center in Virginia acknowledge this as they write, “Some think that we can control death by terminating the pregnancy, the aborting of the life is an attempt to eliminate the suffering. We have found that the exact opposite to be true. The suffering remains.”

Studies have shown that parents often experience even more suffering if they decide to abort their babies who have fatal conditions. Because of their deliberate decision, they believe they have no one with whom to discuss their feelings of grief. Many tell friends and family that they miscarried, so when the additional grief hits them, they feel they have nowhere to turn. To suffering parents who chose abortion, I pray you will follow the words of John Paul II: “If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

For those who are facing a difficult pre-natal diagnosis or may know someone who is, please know there are loving alternatives to abortion. A number of web sites offer information and support. is “an online outreach to parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis. The family stories, articles, and links within this site are presented as a resource for those who may have been asked to choose between terminating a pregnancy or continuing on despite the diagnosis. The families faced the same decision and chose not to terminate. By sharing our experiences, we hope to offer encouragement to those who may be afraid to continue on.”

Among the numerous resources listed on is The Haven Network—a peri-natal hospice located in Rockford, Illinois. One of The Haven’s programs “provides emotional, spiritual and practical support, including meal delivery, layettes and burial gowns, and memory boxes through trained volunteers . . . Family Partner volunteers receive specialized education that assists them to journey with their assigned family for one year and will extend that support through subsequent pregnancies if desired.”

I am privileged to serve as an advisor for this wonderful organization and I encourage anyone facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis to contact The Haven at 815.962.1512 or visit their website at

Families do not have to face the difficulty of a lethal pre-natal diagnosis alone. There are Good Samaritans who will provide more than “adequate and loving care.”

Copyright, 2007


Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
December 2006

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge, M.A.
Director, Respect Life Office

Pop-culture phrases and words come and go, but one that has hung on way too long is the frequently uttered “whatever.” characterizes the interjection as being “used to indicate indifference to a state of affairs, situation, previous statement, etc.” Used most often as a throw away expression, it typically indicates disinterest, apathy, or an “I don’t care” attitude.

While the word itself is not inherently offensive, it may represent an attitude that is reflective of a society that has become apathetic about relationships, issues, or circumstances.

Apathy is problematic in many areas of life, but most importantly in issues that affect the dignity of the human person. As Catholics, we are obligated to respect and protect innocent human life from fertilization to natural death. As Catholics, we are called to be pro-life. The Catechism (#2270) states it clearly: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

Why then, do so many Catholics have nothing to do with efforts designed to teach respect and protection of innocent human life? Why do so many remain silent when people advocate for abortion? And why do some obstinately reject the teachings of the Church?

For some, it may be a case of really not understanding the issues. It may be a lack of knowing what to do or say. Some may truly believe there is nothing they can do to make a real difference. They feel powerless. Some feel

detached. For others, it might be—without even realizing it—that they have accepted the attitudes of the culture instead of the Church. For many, it is apathy.

They don’t see how abortion, for example, affects them, so they go about their daily activities with little or no concern for the 3,500 unborn babies who are killed by procured abortion each day in this country. If it doesn’t affect them personally, they are not concerned.

What they don’t realize is that their apathy may affect them some day. If their children and grandchildren don’t learn to respect and protect human life, who will protect their grandchildren and great grandchildren who may be conceived at “inconvenient” times?

Apathy can grow
Unchecked, apathy can grow into compromise, complicity, and ultimately evil acts. As Christian fiction author Bodie Thoene writes, “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.”

There is no doubt the Holocaust was evil. There is no doubt procured abortion is evil.

One of the stated objectives of the Holocaust Memorial Center is “To record the apathy of the many who did nothing and to honor those who risked their lives to save Jews.” Just as it was wrong for the many to ignore what was happening to their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust, it is also wrong for us to ignore the plight of our unborn neighbors who are “chosen” for abortion.

Some people are so distracted by material and social pursuits, they are not even aware that they have become apathetic to the plight of the most vulnerable among us. Of course, it is much easier to be apathetic if you purposely remain uninformed about the reality of abortion. It’s easier to yield to apathy when you don’t actually see the gruesome results of abortion. Most people do not search the internet for a video of actual an
abortion procedure or pictures of the resulting dismembered babies.

Not only are there many who don’t want to know what really goes on in abortion mills, some actually get angry when someone tries to tell or show them.
I have written about Brenda Pratt Shafer’s congressional testimony before, but a revisit seems appropriate here.

Shafer is a registered nurse who until 1993 described herself as “very pro-choice.” During a temporary nursing assignment at the women’s Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, Shafer stood by as abortionist Martin Haskell committed a Dilation and Extraction (D&X or Partial Birth Abortion) on a woman who was 26½ weeks pregnant.

Testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives on March 21, 1966, Shafer described the D & X:

Dr. Haskell went in with forceps and grabbed the baby’s legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby’s body and the arms—everything but the head . . .

The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the [surgical] scissors through the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out . . . like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.

The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp . . . Dr. Haskell delivered the baby’s head. He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw that baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.

Shafer witnessed what few people have seen and it changed her life forever. Not only was she no longer pro-choice, she became a pro-life activist!

I don’t know how anyone can read Shafer’s gruesome description of “choice” and remain apathetic and yet, I know some who have.

If you share this testimony with others and they are not moved, perhaps you should refer them to a new 2½ minute video entitled “Choice Blues.” If you e-mail me, I will send you the link. Be aware, it is an extremely graphic and horrific video of an actual abortion that is very upsetting to watch. For some, however, it may be what is needed to pull them out of their apathy.

What else can we do?
It is important to acknowledge apathy if, indeed, it describes an attitude about the value of all human life. Serious prayer for direction is also needed. Not everyone will be called to the same activity, but all of us should do something to protect and promote life.

In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Pro-Life Activities issued the following appeal:

Let us recommit ourselves today to tending the Lord's vineyard, beginning with our own little parcel. Let us read, and pray, and study and live the Gospel of Life that we may grow rich in grace and abundant in God's holy life.

Along with Saint Paul, let us have no fear. Rather, let us abide in the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and which will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Whatever is true, let us embrace it and live!
Whatever is honorable, let us embrace it and live!
Whatever is just, let us embrace it and live!
Whatever is pure, let us embrace it and live!

Let us embrace and live the Gospel of Life, that the harvest God finds in this blessed nation at the end of time may be rich, and faithful and true!

Studying the Gospel of Life* is, indeed, a good place to begin learning about the Church’s teaching on the dignity of innocent human life.

In addition, future issues of Life Matters will be focusing on the “how to’s” of defending life.

If you have specific questions about life issues that you would like answered in future Life Matters, you may submit them for consideration to

*Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) may be purchased at a Catholic bookstore or may be downloaded at:

Copyright, 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007

“Serious Blows to the Dignity

Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
December 2006

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

The November elections have come and gone. No more irritating ads. No more yard signs. No more unwanted political flyers. It’s finally over—at least for another two years. The ramifications, however, are just beginning.

The dominant media culture as well as average citizens are still analyzing the results of the mid-term elections. There is no shortage of opinions. One thing is certain: with the opening of the 110th Congress in January 2007, there will be a shift of power that will not bode well for the unborn, those with severe disabilities, and those with traditional values.

The sad reality is the dignity of every human being—especially of the most vulnerable—was dealt a serious blow by the 2006 mid-term elections.

In November 12th interview with the Zenit news agency, journalist Russell Shaw (who has served as a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for 10 years and was recently elected to another 5 year term) summed it up: “[The impact of the November elections] means no new pro-life legislation at the federal level in the next two years. In fact, pro-lifers will have their hands full protecting gains already made. Even more serious, in the new Senate the pro-choice side will be able to defeat any new Supreme Court nominees resembling Roberts and Alito that the president might send up.”

Failed referenda in California and Oregon
In addition to the change in the national political landscape, there were four failed state referenda that have abortion apologists and moral relativists cheering. California and Oregon rejected (54 to 46 percent) attempts to ensure that parents of underage girls seeking abortion would be notified.

Most people agree that parents should be involved in major decisions made by their minor children. In California, all non-emergency medical procedures on boys and girls under the age of 18 must have parental consent. It is not unreasonable to expect that parents should at least be informed when their minor daughters are seeking an abortion—a procedure than can have serious physical and emotional consequences.

According to the National Abortion Federation, “forty-four states have passed laws requiring either parental notification or consent, in some cases even by both parents.” The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has upheld these parental involvement laws as long as there is a provision for judicial bypass.

With misleading, dishonest advertising from Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, various medical associations, the Oregon Education Association, and the California Teachers Association it’s not surprising that California and Oregon rejected the ballot measures. What is surprising is that Oregon’s parental notification measure received the same 46 percent citizen support as did California’s proposition. I say “surprising” because Oregon has virtually no restrictions on abortion and has gone much further in removing legal parental involvement with children— Oregon does not require parental consent for medical procedures if the minor is 15 or older.

Pro-life citizens vow to be back in 2008. They will not give up—even in states as liberal as California and Oregon.

Ban goes down to defeat in South Dakota
Socially conservative South Dakota already has parental notification and a 24-hour waiting period. In March 2006, the legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1215—a bill that banned most abortions. While not a perfect law, it was anticipated that pro-abortion forces would file suit which would then send it to the Supreme Court where it would force a re-examination of Roe.

Before that could happen, Planned Parenthood and its ilk descended on South Dakota and garnered enough signatures to place a statewide initiative on the 2006 ballot in the hope of repealing the new prohibition on abortion. To cover all their bases, they also filed suit to prohibit the law from taking effect. Right on cue, one day before the law was to take effect, it was enjoined by a Federal judge. Now the citizens of South Dakota would vote on whether to uphold the abortion ban or repeal it.

As in California and Oregon, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups led the fight against the ban. The Los Angeles Times reported that “abortion rights supporters . . . relied on money and volunteers from across the nation to defeat the ban.” What they didn’t report was how they also relied on medical disinformation and false claims to sway voters to vote “no.”

Unfortunately, the referendum was rejected by 55-45 percent. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the vast majority of legislators who voted for HB 1215 were re-elected and the pro-life people will not give up. Like pro-lifers in California and Oregon, South Dakota pro-lifers will be back in 2008.

A heartbreaking loss in Missouri
If ever there were an example of out and out lies affecting the outcome of an election, it was the battle over Missouri’s Amendment 2—the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. Unfortunately, it was narrowly passed by a mere 51 to 49 percent.

While there were a number of false assertions in the debate surrounding Amendment 2, the most egregious was that a “yes” vote would ban human cloning. This statement was widely publicized and even appeared on the website of the Missouri Secretary of State under the so-called “2006 Fair Ballot Language.”

“Fairness” would have acknowledged that the passage of amendment 2 would make cloning a constitutional right in Missouri.

Perhaps the Secretary of State was counting on the fact that the average citizen would not read the full text of the Amendment to the Missouri Constitution. Section 38 (d) 1.2. (1) states, “No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.” Section 38 (d) 1.2. (3) states, “No stem cells may be taken from a human blastocyst more than fourteen days after cell division begins.” Section 38 (d) 1.6. (1) offers the following definition: “’Blastocyst’” means a small mass of cells that results from cell division, caused either by fertilization or somatic cell nuclear transfer, that has not been implanted in a uterus.”

“Somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT) is the scientific term for cloning. How, then can the Amendment state that human cloning is banned?

What is banned is “reproductive” cloning (carrying a cloned human being to term), not “therapeutic” cloning (creating a human being and then destroying it for research purposes). Therapeutic cloning is now legal in Missouri.

Like pro-lifers in California, Oregon, and South Dakota, Missouri pro-lifers will be back in 2008.

What now?
Archbishop Raymond Burke summed up the loss in Missouri:

“The election campaign for the passage of Amendment 2 has shown us all how deeply rooted the culture of death is in our society. The experience of the campaign is a clarion call to all Catholics and other men and women of good will to rededicate ourselves to prayer and work, in order that we restore, in our state and nation, the respect for the integrity of human procreation and for the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the first moment of its existence.

The Catholic Church will continue to teach the moral law written upon every human heart, which teaches us that nothing can ever justify the artificial generation of human life and that nothing can ever justify the killing of innocent and defenseless human life.

With regard to stem-cell research, the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis stands by its unparalleled tradition of compassionate health care and pledges continued support of ethical stem-cell research.”

The same sentiments could be applied to losses in California, Oregon, and South Dakota. The defeats we experienced in this mid-term election are only a setback. We may be down, but we are not out!

We will not give up until all innocent human life—from fertilization to natural death—is respected and protected.

For additional commentary related to this topic, please see my “LifeLines” column in the December 1st edition of The Observer.

Copyright, 2006

Deception wins over truth

The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: December 1, 2006

Life Lines
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

“Passage of the stem cell constitutional amendment in Missouri, albeit by a slim margin, came as a welcome victory of science over ideology.” That is the opinion—though a poorly informed one—of the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch three days after the citizens of Missouri voted by a margin of only 2 percent to pass Amendment 2—the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.

Jaci Winship, executive director of Missourians Against Human Cloning, had a different view as she writes, “Truth was defeated and deception won a victory.”

These two opposing comments reflect the basic struggle that took place in Missouri between those who argued for a “Yes” vote on Amendment 2 and those who advocated for a “No” vote. Fueled by the mainstream media, confusion and deception reigned.

In making an informed decision, a person needs to know the facts. But in the debate on embryonic stem cell research and cloning (as well as many other issues), the average person relies—unfortunately—on the mainstream media and his or her circle of family, friends, or colleagues for the “facts.” That often results in disinformation and serious error.

One of the major deceptions in the Missouri debate centered on what the Amendment would or would not permit. Proponents insisted the amendment would not permit cloning. Opponents insisted it would. Who was telling the truth?

The “Fair Ballot Language” from the Missouri Secretary of State’s website states, “This amendment will allow Missouri patients and researchers access to any method of stem cell research, therapies and cures permitted under federal law.” It definitely states that a “Yes” vote would “ban human cloning or attempted cloning.” But is a definite statement necessarily a true statement?

The question (not answered by the Fair Ballot Language) that must be answered is “what is meant by ‘stem cell research’ and ‘human cloning?’”

In the “Full Text” section of the Secretary of State’s website, the amendment’s definition of “stem cell” is found:

“Stem cell” means a cell that can divide multiple times and give rise to specialized cells in the body, and includes but is not limited to the stem cells generally referred to as (i) adult stem cells that are found in some body tissues (including but not limited to adult stem cells derived from adult body tissues and from discarded umbilical cords and placentas), and (ii) embryonic stem cells (including but not limited to stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts and from cell reprogramming techniques such as somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Human embryonic stem cell research,” also referred to as “early stem cell research,” means any scientific or medical research involving human stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts or from somatic cell nuclear transfer.
The last four words in both definitions hold the key to understanding the truth. “Somatic cell nuclear transfer” is the scientific (not ideological) term for cloning. The amendment clearly says it bans human cloning, so how can it ban cloning in one section of the amendment and permit it in another? Checking the definition section again, you will find:

“Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being.
There you have it. While a “Yes” vote on Amendment 2 was a vote against reproductive cloning (implanting a cloned human being in a uterus and carrying him or her to term), it was also a vote for therapeutic cloning (creating human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells).

When all the other examples of deception (too numerous for this space) surrounding Amendment 2 are objectively examined, there can be little doubt that Jaci Winship is right—deception won over truth.

Copyright, 2006

“Parents Left In The Dark”

Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
November 2006

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office

In 1995, the Illinois State General Assembly passed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act—a bill requiring an abortionist to notify a minor girl’s parent, grandparent, or legal guardian before committing an abortion. Then-Gov. Jim Edgar, despite holding a pro-abortion ideology, signed the bill into law.

Unfortunately, the law never took effect due to the refusal of the Illinois Supreme Court to promulgate the “rules” for judicial bypass. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois quickly filed suit to prevent enforcement of the law and U.S. District Court Judge Paul Plunkett issued a permanent injunction order on February 9, 1996 making the law unenforceable.

If the Illinois Supreme Court had stayed out of politics and just fulfilled its responsibility under the Illinois constitution, parents would have been given the opportunity to at least be told that their minor daughter was scheduled for abortion. It was the Court’s duty to promulgate the “rules” and it refused to do so—bending instead to political pressure from the pro-abortion crowd.

The Chicago Tribune (which supports legalized abortion) recently admitted in an editorial that the Court “did indeed allow politics to creep into the courtroom . . . The court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the law. But by refusing to write the rules, the court killed the law: A federal judge ruled that it could not be enforced without the rules. The state court sat on its hands; in effect, it vetoed a law supported by the governor and a majority of the House and Senate.”

Eleven years later, minor girls from surrounding states with parental consent or notification law(Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana) circumvent those laws by traveling to Illinois for their abortions. The ACLU of Illinois (a rabidly pro-abortion group) admits, “The number of women traveling to Illinois for abortions has risen in recent years as result of . . . mandatory parental involvement laws in other states and other restrictive legislation.”

In the state of Illinois, girls old enough to get pregnant (that could be as young as 12) are considered old enough to procure an abortion without parental knowledge.

A recent editorial in the Rockford Register Star (another supporter of legalized abortion) opined, “In 1997, more than 4,500 minors crossed the state line to get an abortion in Illinois, bypassing state law and bypassing the moral authority of their parents. That’s the latest record available, but we believe it’s a relevant number because abortions tend to be underreported.” Couple this with a recent editorial from the Chicago Tribune which stated, “many people, including many people who support abortion rights, believe that a parental-notification law is simply common sense” and you can see why so many organizations and individuals have been outraged by the inaction of the 1995 Illinois Supreme Court.

New Court—New Opportunity

Last summer—with assistance from the legal advocacy group, the Thomas More Society— a coalition of organizations including the Catholic Conference of Illinois joined an Illinois state attorney in his request that the Court reconsider the “rules.”

It didn’t take long for the Court to respond. On September 20, 2006 the Illinois Supreme Court finally issued the rules for the judicial bypass procedure. Parents will have to wait for the state’s attorney general to ask Judge Plunkett to lift his 1996 court order that will then allow the Parental Notice of Abortion Act to take effect.

What will happen if the law takes effect?
If the court order is lifted and the parental notification law takes effect, an abortionist will be required to tell a parent, grandparent or legal guardian at least 48 hours before a girl under the age of 18 procures an abortion. Parents will not have to give consent, but at least they will be aware of what their daughter is planning and hopefully they will be able to convince her that there are life affirming choices that she can make.

As with most parental involvement laws, the Illinois law provides an exception for “medical emergencies” or if the minor has been sexually or physically abused by a parent. There is a provision for judicial bypass whereby a judge may waive notice “if the minor is sufficiently mature or if notification is not in the minor’s best interest.”

It is not a great law, but it is the best we have—for now. It does have the potential to prevent young girls from being pressured into to having abortions by those who really have no lasting interest in their well-being. Minors need to be protected in many areas, but particularly with a decision as serious as abortion. The abortion decision can have lasting emotional consequences as well as the possibility of physical complications. Parents must not be kept in the dark about such critical decisions.

Pro-Abortion forces respond
The rules were barely printed before the pro-abortion forces began their campaign to assure that parents will have no say in a young girl’s decision to abort her unborn child. Filed in the Illinois House on October 2, 2006 “The Adolescent Health Care Safety Act,” would repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. The act “Provides that a person may not intentionally perform an abortion on a minor or on an incompetent person unless 48 hours’ notice has been given to a specified adult family member or a member of the clergy.”

What makes this new act unique is that it casts a much wider net to include any family member (siblings, step-siblings, aunts and uncles) age 18 or older to act as an “authority” for the minor girl. In addition, members of the clergy, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and physicians would also be included in that wider net. It is not far fetched to imagine an older boyfriend posing as a teen’s “uncle.” And let’s not forget some abortion facilities have their own “clergy.”

David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, responded to the proposed act by explaining, “There’s no compelling state interest to modify the existing law. This bill serves the interests of the radical abortion industry in Illinois—not girls nor the parents who love them.”

Pray and Act
It is my hope that parents will pray for their children daily and that they will convey to them that while there are expectations for chaste behavior, parents love their children unconditionally. If a young girl makes wrong choices and becomes pregnant, she needs the love and support of her family. While it will not be easy, life is always the right choice. Circumstances—no matter how dire they appear—do not change the fact that human life is precious at every stage.

A pregnant teen is usually frightened. On the advice of her boyfriend or “counselor” at an abortion facility, she might be led to believe that abortion is her only option. Deirdre McQuaid, pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writes, “Secret abortions undermine parents’ ability to care for their children in crisis and put young girls at particular risk both physically and emotionally . . . Abortion does not solve an adolescent’s problems, but instead often compounds her fears, anxiety and sense of isolation.”

Better than the provision of law is the love and support of parents. With their love, support, and counsel, she may see that although her sexual activity was wrong and pregnancy is not what she wanted, she can carry her baby to term and place him or her with a loving family.

Parents also need to let their elected representatives know that, at minimum, they want the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. The Adolescent Health Care Safety Act should be rejected. Call or write your state representative or senator and tell them that parents should not be left in the dark regarding a minor’s abortion— a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Copyright, 2006