Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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French Assembly approves more liberal embryo law

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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February 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The French National Assembly voted in favor of a revised bioethics bill on Tuesday that will allow for more widespread embryo research. The bill will now go before French Senate. If the higher chamber alters the text it will come back before the Assembly for a second reading.

Many points of the new law aim to liberalize embryo research. The first ever French bioethics law in 1994 prohibited embryo research of any kind. A revision in 2001 prohibited embryonic research in principle but allowed exceptions for “therapeutic” research purposes during a moratorium of five years.

During that time those seeking exceptions were forced to apply to the Agence de Biomédecine, which is in favor of embryonic research. The moratorium came to an end only a few days before the revised law was examined by the French Assembly, last week, and many scientists were pressing for an end to the ban.

However, while the ban would be maintained in the new law, exemptions will be easier to obtain. It would allow embryonic research in view of “medical progress,” including diagnosis and drug testing, a concession to the pharmaceutical industry.

On the other hand the text allows for conscientious objection for all medical workers who do not wish to participate in this research, and favors “ethical” alternative research whenever possible.

Most socialist and many communist representatives, as well as the Greens, voted against the text on the grounds that it was not liberal enough. The Greens had been pushing for the legalization of surrogate motherhood and for access to artificial procreation for singles and homosexuals, both of which were voted down.

Socialist representative Alain Claeys, who heads the Parliamentary bioethics commission, deplored the maintaining of the general ban: he said embryonic stem cell research is “useful for fundamental research.” He added that last time round, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime minister François Fillon both voted for a general authorization of embryonic research.

However, MPF representatives Véronique Besse and Dominique Souchet said France was losing an historic opportunity to close the five-year moratorium with a complete ban on embryonic research: “We all know now that research can make progress in other ways … Only ideological factors and financial interests that have nothing to do with the needs of science can have inspired the upholding and widening of this type of experimentation.”

Last Friday the pro-life group Alliance pour les droits de la vie organized a demonstration near the French Assembly in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote. A group of about 50 people, including pregnant women, heavily handicapped men and women and parents of children with genetic diseases stood under a banner proclaiming: “All genetically incorrect.” Some had their heads hidden behind white paper lampshades to symbolize nameless embryos who are being killed because they are not considered up to standard.

A young woman, Claire, whose parents chose not to abort her although she was diagnosed with spina bifida was present. She told LifeSiteNews.com she wanted to thank her parents for the gift of life. “I have more joy in life than many so-called normal people,” she said. “I’m here because I can speak, I want to be the voice of those who have no voice.”

Pro-life organizations say they are disappointed with the law, but underline that their efforts have brought themes to the fore that weren’t even talked about in the mainstream media during the debates preceding the 1994 and 2001 laws: eugenics, the interest of the child, alternative ethical research. They intend to redouble their efforts during the weeks leading up to examination of the law by the Senate.

In addition to the provisions on embryo research, the new law would give access to artificial procreation to unwed couples, who will no longer need to prove they have been living together for two years at least. The text also favors “zero defect” babies by obliging doctors to offer prenatal screening to “all” pregnant women when their medical condition or the state of the fetus “are susceptible of modifying the progress of the pregnancy.”

However, thanks to the efforts of pro-lifers, the law will also oblige doctors to give pregnant women information on existing therapy for the illness or handicap of their unborn child, and give them addresses of parent support groups. A new seven-day reflection period before deciding on a “medical” abortion in these cases will also be made compulsory.

Pre-implantation diagnosis, including double screening for “savior siblings,” will continue to be permitted within limited conditions.

The new law also favors research on umbilical cord blood, as well as storage and usage of umbilical stem cells in the interest of the general public. It maintains anonymous and free donorship of sperm and ovocytes and favors the reduction of the number of embryos created within in vitro fertilization procedures.

The new text also heavily favors vital organ donation, despite growing concern in some circles about the criteria of brain death that allow organ harvesting on people whose heart is still beating: significantly, there was no debate at all on this point, either in the media or at the National Assembly. Campaigns for organ donation will be held in high schools, higher education schools, the army and in the mainstream media on a yearly basis to encourage all types of human donation: vital organs, blood, sperm and ovules.

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Newsbusters Staff

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Disney ABC embraces X-rated anti-Christian bigot Dan Savage in new prime time show

Newsbusters Staff
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March 30, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Media Research Center (MRC) and Family Research Council (FRC) are launching a joint national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of bigoted activist Dan Savage. MRC and FRC contacted Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, more than two weeks ago urging him to put a stop to this atrocity but received no response. [Read the full letter]

A perusal of Dan Savage’s work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. Despite his extremism, vulgarity, and unabashed encouragement of dangerous sexual practices, Disney ABC is moving forward with this show, disgustingly titled “Family of the Year.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell reacts:

“Disney ABC’s decision to effectively advance Dan Savage’s calls for violence against conservatives and his extremist attacks against people of faith, particularly evangelicals and Catholics, is appalling and outrageous. If hate speech were a crime, this man would be charged with a felony. Disney ABC giving Dan Savage a platform for his anti-religious bigotry is mind-boggling and their silence is deafening.

“By creating a pilot based on the life of this hatemonger and bringing him on as a producer, Disney ABC is sending a signal that they endorse Dan Savage’s wish that a man be murdered. He has stated, ‘Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.’ ABC knows this. We told them explicitly.

“If the production of ‘Family of the Year’ is allowed to continue, not just Christians but all people of goodwill can only surmise that the company Walt Disney created is endorsing violence.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacts:

“Does ABC really want to produce a pilot show based on a vile bully like Dan Savage?  Do Dan Savage’s over-the top-obscenity, intimidation of teenagers and even violent rhetoric reflect the values of Disney?  Partnering with Dan Savage and endorsing his x-rated message will be abandoning the wholesome values that have attracted millions of families to Walt Disney.”

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f****ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum

  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bull**** in the Bible”

  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage

  • Promoting marital infidelity

  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”

  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

Reprinted with permission from Newsbusters

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Jacqueline Harvey

Ending the end-of-life impasse: Texas is poised to ban doctor-imposed death by starvation

Jacqueline Harvey
By Jacqueline Harvey

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2015 (TexasInsider.org)  After five consecutive sessions of bitter battles over end-of-life bills, the Texas Legislature is finally poised to pass the first reform to the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) in 12 years. An issue that created uncanny adversaries out of natural allies, and equally odd bedfellows, has finally found common ground in H.B. 3074 by State Rep. Drew Springer.  

H.B. 3074 simply prohibits doctor-imposed euthanasia by starvation and dehydration.

Since H.B. 3074 includes only those provisions and language that all major organizations are on record as having deemed acceptable in previous legislative sessions, there is finally hope of ending the end-of-life impasse in the Texas Capitol.

Many would be surprised to learn that Texas law allows physicians to forcibly remove a feeding tube against the will of the patient and their family. In fact, there is a greater legal penalty for failing to feed or water an animal than for a hospital to deny a human being food and water through a tube.

This is because there is no penalty whatsoever for a healthcare provider who wishes to deny artificially-administered nutrition and hydration (AANH). According to Texas Health and Safety Code, “every living dumb creature” is legally entitled access to suitable food and water.

Denying an animal food and water, like in this January case in San Antonio, is punishable by civil fines up to $10,000 and criminal penalties up to two years in jail per offense. Yet Texas law allows health care providers to forcibly deny food and water from human beings – what they would not be able to legally do to their housecat. And healthcare providers are immune from civil and criminal penalties for denial of food and water to human beings as long as they follow the current statutory process which is sorely lacking in safeguards.

Therefore, while it is surprising that Texas has the only state law that explicitly mentions food and water delivered artificially for the purpose of completely permitting its forced denial (the other six states mention AANH explicitly for the opposite purpose, to limit or prohibit its refusal), it is not at all surprising that the issue of protecting a patient’s right to food and water is perhaps the one point of consensus across all major stakeholders.

H.B. 3074 is the first TADA reform bill to include only this provision that is agreed upon across all major players in previous legislative sessions.

There are irreconcilable ideological differences between two major right-to-life organizations that should supposedly be like-minded: Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. Each faction (along with their respective allies) have previously sponsored broad and ambitious bills to either preserve but reform the current law (Texas Alliance for Life’s position) or overturn it altogether as Texas Right to Life aims to do.

Prior to H.B. 3074, bills filed by major advocacy organizations have often included AANH, but also a host of other provisions that were so contentious and unacceptable to other organizations that each bill ultimately died, and this mutually-agreed-upon and vital reform always died along with it.

2011 & 2013 Legislative Sessions present prime example

This 2011 media report shows the clear consensus on need for legislation to simply address the need to protect patients’ rights to food and water:

“Hughes [bill sponsor for Texas Right to Life] has widespread support for one of his bill’s goals: making food and water a necessary part of treatment and not something that can be discontinued, unless providing it would harm the patient.”

Nonetheless, in 2013, both organizations and their allies filed complicated, contentious opposing bills, both of which would have protected a patient’s right to food and water but each bill also included provisions the rival group saw as contrary to their goals. Both bills were ultimately defeated and neither group was able to achieve protections for patients at risk of forced starvation and dehydration – a mutual goal that could have been met through a third, narrow bill like H.B. 3074.

H.B. 3074 finally focuses on what unites the organizations involved rather than what divides them, since these differences have resulted in a 12 year standoff with no progress whatsoever.

H.B. 3074 is progress that is pre-negotiated and pre-approved.

It is not a fertile springboard for negotiations on an area of mutual agreement. Rather it is the culmination of years of previous negotiations on bills that all came too late, either due to the complexnature of rival bills, the controversy involved, or even both.

On the contrary, H.B. 3074 is not just simply an area of agreement; moreover, it is has already been negotiated. It should not be stymied by disagreements on language, since Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life (along with their allies) were able to agree on language in 2007 with C.S.S.B. 439. C.S.S.B. 439 reads that, unlike the status quo that places no legal conditions on when food and water may be withdrawn, it would be permitted for those in a terminal condition if,

“reasonable medical evidence indicates the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration may hasten the patient’s death or seriously exacerbate other major medical problems and the risk of serious medical pain or discomfort that cannot be alleviated based on reasonable medical judgment outweighs the benefit of continued artificial nutrition and hydration.”

This language is strikingly similar to H.B. 3074 which states, “except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providingartificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

  1. Hasten the patient’s death;
  2. Seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  3. Result in substantial irremediable physical pain, suffering, or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  4. Be medically ineffective; or
  5. Be contrary to the patient’s clearly stated desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.”

With minimal exceptions (the explicit mention of the word terminal, the issue of medical effectiveness and the patient’s right to refuse), the language is virtually identical, and in 2007 Texas Right to Life affirmed this language as clarifying that “ANH can only be withdrawn if the risk of providing ANH is greater than the benefit of continuing it.”

Texas Right to Life would support the language in H.B. 3074 that already has Texas Alliance for Life’s endorsement. Any reconciliation on the minor differences in language would therefore be minimal and could be made by either side, but ultimately, both sides and their allies would gain a huge victory – the first victory in 12 years on this vital issue.

It seems that the Texas Advance Directive Act, even among its sympathizers, has something for everyone to oppose.

The passage of H.B. 3074 and the legal restoration of rights to feeding tubes for Texas patients will not begin to satisfy critics of the Texas Advance Directives Act who desire much greater changes to the law and will assuredly continue to pursue them. H.B. 3074 in no way marks the end for healthcare reform, but perhaps a shift from the belief that anything short of sweeping changes is an endorsement of the status quo.

Rather, we can look at H.B. 3074 as breaking a barrier and indicating larger changes are possible.

And if nothing else, by passing H.B. 3074 introduced by State Rep. Drew Springer, we afford human beings in Texas the same legal access to food and water that we give to our horses. What is cruel to do to an animal remains legal to do to humans in Texas if organizations continue to insist on the whole of their agenda rather than agreeing to smaller bills like H.B. 3074.

The question is, can twelve years of bad blood and bickering be set aside for even this most noble of causes?

Reprinted from TexasInsider.org with the author's permission. 

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I can’t believe how quickly our annual Spring campaign has flown by. Now,with only 3 days remaining, we still have $96,000 left to raise to meet our absolute minimum goal.

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