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Archive of August 23, 2007

Controversy swirls as sales of Plan B soar

Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - The often contentious pill known as Plan B has turned out to be a major seller for its manufacturer with sales increasing eightfold since 2004. However, the pill still remains morally objectionable to many.

 

The company projects that sales of Plan B will total about $80 million for 2007, almost double the total for 2006 and up eightfold from 2004, when Barr acquired the product as a prescription-only drug. The doubling of sales corresponds to the August 24, 2006 approval by the FDA for dispensing Plan B without a prescription to anyone 18 and older, according to the AP.

 

The manufacturer of the drug, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., has reported that since it began distributing the over-the-counter version last November, all national pharmacy chains now stock it.

 

"Overall, we've been very pleased with the acceptance," said Barr spokeswoman Carol Cox. "The product may not be for everyone — but if you find yourself in a position to need it, absolutely it should be available."

 

Opponents of Plan B have not been silent even though sales of the drug have skyrocketed.

 

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington seeking to reverse the FDA ruling.

 

CWA President Wendy Wright said, “The FDA buckled to pressure to do something it has never done before — make a high dose of a drug available without a prescription when a low dose of the same drug requires a prescription. The agency skirted laws and regulations put in place to ensure drugs are safe and effective, relenting under undue pressure from political operatives.”

 

The moral objections have come because Plan B, which is a high dose of a drug found in many regular birth-control pills, can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

 

The potential abortifacient nature of the drug has caused some pharmacists to refuse to dispense the drug and according to Planned Parenthood, “women continue to encounter pharmacies which refuse to stock Plan B and individual employees who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to sell it.”

 

Catholic leaders in Connecticut have also resisted the drug and legislation promoting it, because the law forces health care providers to dispense the pill thereby violating their conscience. In May, the Connecticut state legislature passed a bill requiring all hospitals, including Catholic facilities, to offer Plan B to rape victims.

 

Deirdre McQuade, planning director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, also expressed concern about pharmacy employees, saying they should have the right to refuse to sell Plan B for reasons of conscience. Some states have passed laws to protect this right of refusal.

 

"Pregnancy is not a disease," McQuade said. "There is no absolute duty to dispense a non-therapeutic drug, but there is a basic civil right of conscience."

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Political ad campaign attacks Catholic candidate for governor

Baton Rouge, La., Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - A political scuffle has ensued between rival candidates who are campaigning to become the next governor of Louisiana. The brouhaha began when Bobby Jindal’s challengers ran a television ad that accuses him of calling Protestants "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical.”

The 30-second ad features a woman on-screen saying Jindal doesn't respect other people's religion and directs viewers to a website with links to several articles Jindal authored in the 1990s on Catholicism. The ad is running in heavily Protestant central and north Louisiana.

The articles referred to include a piece published in the New Oxford Review in 1996. In it, Jindal writes about the Catholic religion as the true Christian faith and refers to a "scandalous series of divisions and new denominations" of religions since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

"Despite my best efforts, I could find no justification in the Bible or the Early Church for any individual to establish his own church apart from the one established by Christ," Jindal wrote.

He also wrote about how Christians should strive for unity and says the Catholic Church must incorporate the "spirit-led movements" of other Christian faiths.

A lawyer for the Jindal campaign sent a letter to nine television stations airing the ad, requesting that they stop showing it and calling it defamatory. The Jindal campaign maintains that the ad distorts Jindal’s writing.

State Democratic Party officials said they would not pull the ad. And while both major Democratic candidates — state Sen, Walter Boasso and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell — denied their association to the ad, they did not call for it to be removed.

A former Democratic communications strategist reacted to the ad, calling it an outrageous attack that distracts from more important topics in the governor's race, like hurricane recovery, health care and education.

Bob Mann, now a mass communication professor at Louisiana State University, said he was surprised the Democratic Party “would run something that explosive and that inflammatory.”

John Sutherlin, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, said he did not think the ad would peel voter support away from Jindal, who is leading the governor’s race.

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Archbishop condemns fortune telling as lack of faith

Armagh, Ireland, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - People who put their trust in horoscopes, astrology and mediums are "colluding with an illusion" and must turn back to place their trust in God, said Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh and primate of Ireland.

Underlying the trend of "future-telling" is a fear of the future, said the archbishop during his a homily at Our Lady of Knock Shrine, reported The Irish Times. The archbishop celebrated the Mass of the Queenship of Mary, and gave a homily on the theme “Following Christ in the 21st Century.”

The archbishop said he has noticed people "seeking to control their future rather than entrust their future to God's promise and plan." He said “future-telling” was evidence of a life without God to address the deepest needs of the human spirit.

He observed that the "land of saints and scholars" had become better known as "the land of stocks and shares".

"Tragically, it has also become a land of increasing stress and substance abuse," he was quoted as saying. "The result is an increasing culture of insecurity and fear," he said.

"Those who confidently tell us that the Catholic Church in Ireland is an anachronism, a superstition of bygone days which has been rejected by intelligent Irish people, have greatly overstated their case," he reportedly said.

"The challenge is to keep our lives focused on Christ amidst the distractions of increasing prosperity ... in an increasingly secular, sometimes hostile culture," he said, according to the Irish Times.

For all its "human imperfections," he said, the Catholic Church still holds the answers to the "big questions of people's lives.”

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Episcopal gay bishop to enter into civil partnership

London, England, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - The openly homosexual Episcopal bishop, Bishop V. Gene Robinson, has planned to enter into a civil partnership with his long-term partner just weeks before next year's Lambeth Conference, reports the Church of England Newspaper.

Robinson, whose consecration as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 has placed the Anglican Communion on the brink of schism, unveiled his intention during an interview to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 next week, in a program entitled Choice.

In an interview with Michael Buerk, the bishop denied that his plan to hold the ceremony next June had been chosen to be deliberately provocative.

He said he and his partner decided to take advantage of the new civil union law that will come into effect in New Hampshire on Jan. 1 and were looking for a three-day weekend that would allow people to travel more easily.

"That happened to be the fifth anniversary of my election as the Bishop of New Hampshire and [we] thought that would be an appropriate date,” he elaborated. "I think the fact is my critics would find any date impermissible."

He told the interviewer about his love for the Anglican Communion, but said he would never step down, as it would go against God's call for his life.

He said his election was the result of his community’s vote and that he is not sure that they necessarily did the right thing. “That community tried its very best to discern the will of God, and we may be wrong, I am ready to admit to you that I cannot be sure that this is the right thing or the right time or the right way.”

He also said he believes Episcopal Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria “is following his call from God as best as he can” in leading the campaign against gay bishops.

“I just wish he could believe I am following my call from God as best I can," Robinson reportedly said.

 

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Officials investigating laboratories that are hiding potential abortifacient effect of morning-after pill

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - Officials in Argentina are investigating the laboratories of Monte Verde and Biotenk, which market the “morning-after pill” under various brand names, for hiding from consumers the potential abortifacient nature of the drug.

The organization Portal de Belen, which runs five homes for single mothers in the city of Cordoba, said directors of the Monte Verde laboratory have already been interviewed by prosecutors of the city of Cordoba.

Monte Verde markets the pill under the name “Segurite” and company officials “were charged with excluding from the indications that come with the pill that Segurite acts by ‘impeding the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the uterine wall,’ a mechanism which Monte Verde itself admitted to the Ministry of Health.  The indications state that the pill prevents ‘implantation of an ovum,’ without mentioning that it is ‘fertilized ovum,’ that is a human being in his first days of life.”

Likewise, Portal de Belen said that at the beginning of September, officials of the Biotenk laboratory, which markets the pill under the name Norgestrel Max, would be charged as well with hiding the same information from the public, “with the complicity of state officials.”

According to Aurelio Garcia, President of Portal de Belen, “There are 27 products on the market in Argentina with essential information that is inaccurate about their mechanisms.”  These products include not only “the morning-after pill,” but also oral contraceptives, inject able hormones, intrauterine devices, known for their abortifacient effect that is denied by local laboratories.

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Mexican bishops call for civility during annual address by president

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico this week called on members of Congress members to act with civility and respect when the country’s president delivers his annual address on September 1.

The bishops warning came in response to the possibility that some congressmen, especially those of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which still has not accepted their defeat in the last elections, are preparing to embarrass the president.

Bishop Alberto Suarez  Inda, vice president of the conference, said there were many “deficiencies” in Congress and that lawmakers are “still learning and have yet to appreciate respectful dialogue and positive agreements for the good of our country.”

During a press conference, Bishop Inda said that as the date for the annual presidential address approaches, “the position of the Church is to invite all to civility, to mature dialogue, and therefore the Church considers it important that everyone be heard and that the radicalism that is proper to anti-democratic, dictatorial states be set aside.”

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Bishops of Guatemala denounce abortion campaign disguised as “post-abortion care”

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - In a document released August 22 which sharply criticizes the anti-life policies of the World Health Organization, the Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala denounced the existence of a veiled pro-abortion campaign that is being portrayed by the Ministry of Health as “post-abortion care.”

“Our Constitution projects human life from the moment of conception,” the bishops note in their document, warning against the danger of the Ministry of Health’s campaign promoting post-abortion care, and including the training of medical and paramedical personnel in the use of suction machines on women who are in a “post-abortion situation.”

“The move from post-abortion care to facilitating an abortion through the use of a suction machine” would be the practical outcome, “even though it would not be an official policy, as it would encourage the use of this method clandestinely in places away from health care facilities that don’t have the minimum standards of hygiene, much less the necessary medical equipment to address complications that may arise,” the bishops said in their statement.

“In addition,” they continued, “trained personnel, if they are unscrupulous, could offer this service especially to teens, which would cause themselves great moral and physical harm.”

The bishops call on Guatemalan authorities “to study in depth the grave consequences that result from the application of the post-abortion care program.  We agree that the best care possible should be given to women who have gone through such a situation, but not by suctioning the uterus in order to implant an intra-uterine device afterwards, as health officials are promoting.”

“We urge therefore that the funds or resources earmarked for these activities be used for the promotion of ethical and moral values among young people,” the bishops continued, “as we are convinced that we must get to the root of the problem inviting young people to live their lives based on principles of chastity and abstinence and not on the promotion of irresponsible sexual conduct that goes hand in hand with the consumption of contraceptives.”

In addition, the bishops said they would insist that the Guatemalan constitution “not be modified in its respect for the fundamental right to life of the unborn.

“We urge authorities not to support anything that could harm, in any way, the physical integrity of Guatemalans, especially those who are the weakest, as is the case of the unborn, who cannot defend themselves at all or avoid the actions that are taken against their lives,” the bishops said in conclusion.

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Africans demand countries follow Ugandan model of abstinence in order to stop AIDS

Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - The website AllAfrica.com has published an opinion piece by an African expert who is calling on leaders to follow the successful model of Uganda in the effort to stop AIDS, placing emphasis on abstinence and conjugal fidelity instead of the use of condoms.

The article entitled, “Uganda: ABC Aids Strategy is the Way to Go,” warns that by the year 2010, 100 million people will be HIV-positive, with most of them living in Africa and Asia.

According to the author, Uganda's success story of reducing HIV prevalence from 30% to 6% “will soon be a gone case.”  “Uganda's point was clear: Aids kills, abstain from sex before marriage and be faithful in marriage. Hope was restored and Uganda became a universal focal point on the Aids issue,” the expert said.

The author pointed out, however, that the “consequences of Uganda's approach were not business friendly because condom-makers would lose sales. Secondly, some organizations earn their daily bread from HIV/Aids. These [organizations] advocate the change of the prevention strategy to anything other than ABC.”

In response to those who view abstinence as a “primitive and religious act,” the expert notes that what is at stake is a person’s life, and he said that entities like UNAIDS do not appreciate the Ugandan model or invest in promoting abstinence.

He said the Uganda Aids Commission has bowed to pressure from donors and has begun distributing condoms.  This has caused some of the achievements in Uganda’s fight against AIDS to be lost, he noted, calling on Ugandans to remember that money is not worth risking one’s life.

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Sex-selective abortions skyrocket in India

New Dehli, India, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - The increasingly more widespread use of technology in India to enable mothers to know the sex of their unborn babies has led to a significant increase in the number of aborted girls, according to pro-life activists and government officials.

In India, scans and amniocentesis that reveal the sex of the baby are illegal. However, many women obtain the procedures and in many cases, upon learning that the child is female, elect to abort.  According to government figures, some 10 million unborn baby girls have been killed by abortion in the last 20 years.

“Sex-selection has been the main reason when the ratio of female births in the country has decreased,” said Pravir Krishna, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health.  “Technology has many benefits, but this is an aspect of technology that has given us a serious problem,” he added.

A large portion of the Indian population believes that male children enable families to survive and ensure that their parents will be taken care of.  Female children are considered a burden for whom parents will have to shell out expensive dowries, which leads many to elect to abort them.

On the other hand, a 2001 census revealed that there were 927 girls for every 1000 boys among children younger than age 7, as opposed to 945 in 1991.  Last month, police discovered thirty bags full of aborted and newborn babies in a well near a clinic in eastern India. 

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Tiller abortion clinic reopens after record 38 day closure

Wichita, Kan., Aug 23, 2007 (CNA) - Dr. George Tiller reopened his late-term abortion clinic yesterday, after having been closed a record total of 38 days because of vandalism according to Tiller. However, Operation Rescue representatives doubt that the vandalism is the real reason for the clinics prolonged closure.

As the protestors stood in front of the clinic, they observed a Lowe’s delivery truck dropping off a load of drywall and other materials, which reportedly indicated that repairs were underway at the clinic. They reasoned that if Tiller’s abortion clinic was closed because of vandalism then he would not have re-opened before having made repairs.

Pro-life supporters, affiliated with Operation Rescue, stood outside the clinic and observed six women enter the clinic for abortions, far below the usual numbers. Sidewalk Counselor Donna Lampkin reported one couple changed their minds at the gate of the clinic and decided to keep their baby.

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said his organization has helped to close more than two dozen abortion clinics. Operation Rescue moved its headquarters to Wichita to now focus efforts on Tiller’s late-term abortion business.

Tiller faces 19 criminal charges for having committed illegal late-term abortions and faces up to 19 years in jail if convicted.

“We are working very hard to make sure that the next time Tiller's abortion mill closes, it will be for good," said Newman

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