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January 30, 1998

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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana The other pro-life battle: Fighting disease, not the child By NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The pro-life battle, which has its most visible manifestation each year in the March for Life, is also being fought quietly in the laboratory. Following in the footsteps of the late French geneticist Jerome Lejeune, scientists in the United States, Canada and elsewhere are working toward the day when women will no longer be asked to choose between a child with Down syndrome or an abortion. Their work is being supported financially by The Michael Fund, a Pittsburgh-based international foun- the same way that researchers found that folic acid supplements help women avoid having children with spina bifida. Lejeune, who died in 1994, was one of the discov- erers of the chromosome that causes Down syn- drome. He also founded a pro-life organization called "Let Them Live" and campaigned for the recognition of the dignity of people born with genetic disorders. Dr. Marie Peeters-Ney of Victoria, British Colum- bia, told Catholic News Service in a telephone inter- view that although she succeeded Lejeune as medical director for The Michael Fund, it is "impossible to fol- low in his footsteps." "He was a pioneer in his field," said Peeters- Ney, who once worked with Lejeune in Paris and now oversees all the Michael Fund's genetic research projects. new standard of science upon which conclusion might be reached if l decided in 1998, rather than the that was available in 1973," Wright told the tion subcommittee of the Senate She compared those who would i scientific progress in the abortion discussion Luddites who "pitched dow" to show their disdain for that "We risk a Luddite label of our to look the process of medical eye, and recognize that as science has cally, it has provided us a world of the unborn," Wright ac those who would "solve" the problem and disease among the unborn by Peeters-Ney offers both the "good medical dation for genetic research. supported by The Michael Fund Dr. Peter Kurnmant, chairman of the board at the 20-year-old fund, said it is essential to continue research begun by Lejeune in order to fight Down syn- drome itself, rather than to simply elimi- nate in the womb those who have it. ':;;". :': '  i ;':i ! ': " ...... :; :"   '" * " i" "  iF' ou don't kill the patient just because I you can't cure the disease mitment to seek out care for disabled children matter what," even when medical resources are exhausted. She also works to encourage and other care "The lag in therapeutic chromosomal research has led to a popular attitude of despair, causing some scientists and physicians to-promote the selective abortion or infanticide of affected children as a means of eliminating, the disorders," Kummant said. "The Michael Fund is dedicated to reversing this destructive universal trend by opening up new doors of therapy in the field of mental retardation associat- ed with chromosomal disorders such as Down syn- drome and continuing the curative research program of Dr. Lejeune here in the United States," he added. Dr. Paddy Jim Baggot, director of maternal fetal medicine and human genetics at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb., received the fund's first major U.S. research grant in late 1996 to continue and expand Lejeune's chromosomal research into those with Down syndrome. Baggot hopes to discover some vitamin or other nutrient that would help pregnant women assure that their unborn children do not get Down syndrome, in Even 20 years ago, when prenatal diagnosis was still at a primitive stage compared to today's technol- ogy, Lejeune foresaw that the advances could put unborn children with handicaps at serious risk, Peeters-Ney said. "The way people think was changing," she said. "Any child born with a handicap was seen as a med- ical mistake." Dr. Jean A. Wright, medical director for Egleston Children's Hospital at Emory University in Atlanta, made a similar point before a Senate subcommittee at a Jan. 21 hearing for the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that lifted State restrictions on abortion. A pre-med student in 1973 and now a pediatric intensive care physician, Wright said advances in neonatology, surgery, anesthesia and intensive care have completely changed the scientific basis on which Roe was decided 25 years ago. "Medical knowledge in those areas provides a caps through groups called Faith and nities and through the ters that provide outpatient care mental disabilities. "It is very hard, very heavy to be a children or adults with Down said. The Lejeune centers Paris, New York and Santiago, Chile place where parents know they can go: But the main contribution that researchers and physicians bring to ari alternative response to the the best way to deal with genetic abortion. "That is the common answer, "But maybe there's another way a different perspective that we c But there is one thing abou has no doubt: "You don't kill the you can't cure the disease." New polls highlight shifting U.S. attitudes on 71i By NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS)  The American public's support for abortion is gradually declining, with 57 percent opposing it except in cases of rape or incest or to save a woman's life, according to a new W'wthlin poll. The poll was released Jan. 21 at a press breakfast hosted by the Family Research Council, which commissioned the Wirth- fin Worldwide survey questions on attitudes toward abortion. Neal Rhodes, vice president of Wirthlin Worldwide, said his organization had been asking the questions on abortion for many years and had found in the 1990s "a slight shift tending more toward the pro-life position." In the surve which has a mar- gin of error of plus or minus 3.09 percentage points, 1,002 adults were asked by telephone Jan. 9- 11 to pick from six options their personal position on abortion. In response, 11 percent said they would prohibit all abor- tions; 14 percent said they would permit them only to save only for rape, incest or the mother's life. Wirthlin labels those three responses, totaling 57 percent, as pro-life. Twenty-one percent of the respondents said abortion should be legal only in the first three months of pregnancy; 10 percent said they would permit abortions only in the first six months of pregnancy; and 9 percent said abortions should be allowed at any time up until birth. Combined, those "pro- choice" positions totaled 40 per- cent. Wirthlin also asked survey participants whether abortions should be permitted "after fetal brain waves are detected" and "after the fetal lieartbeat has begun," without defining when either of those events occur. Sixty-one percent said abor- tions should not be permitted after fetal brain waves are detected, while 58 percent said abortion should not be allowed after the fetal heartbeat has begun. Fetal heartbeat begins about 21 days after conception and fetal brain waves can be detected at about 40 days. "Americans are becoming abortions," said Gary Bauer, Family Research Council president, of the survey results. The poll was released to mark the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which removed most state restrictions on abortion. Noting that the number of abortions performed in the United States also is declining, Bauer said, "The shift in public opinion and behavior is heartening. It shows Americans will continue to chip away at Roe until it is reversed." The Wirthlin poll was one of at least four major surveys on abortion released in connection with the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. A survey by Baselice & Asso- dates on behalf of the U.S. bish- ops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities showed almost iden- tical results as the Wirthlin poll on support for or opposition to abortion. The Baselice poll, conducted Jan. 12-15 among 1,002 voters, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. increasingly pro-life and are : ........... ...... a he shift in public opinion and the0000a of a behavior is heartening. It shows Americans will supp00 continue to chip away at tionha00' 40 Roe until it is reversed cent, while indicating continued sup- port for legalized abortion, also revealed that 50 percent of adult Americans equate abortion with murdering a child. And although 83 percent of adult Americans in a new Asso- dated Press poll said that abor- tion should be allowed in at least some cases, 56 percent said abor- tion should not be legal in cases where a woman decides to end her pregnancy solely because she does not want a baby. The last New York Tunes/CBS poll on abortion was conducted in 1989. The news organizations' recent survey of 1,101 adults around the country has a sam- piing error of plus or minus 3 the mother's life; and 32 percent idtt'e: *wd all6vaborti'ons strong!y opposed to later:telrm CBS Nws po!l on abortion+ The latest New York Times/ percent. i Tt'e !atet o1! 'shbs iove r increased percent. And when asked rupted teenage dropped fr o 1989 to 42 In the AP 8-12 by ICR percent sion, 43 the rest were not answer. The AP respondents influenced issue of cent said a 37 percent beliefs, and medical inforaa