Archive for the ‘Life & Death Issues’ Category

Germany agreed today to allow access to a vast trove of information on what happened to more than 17 million people who were executed, forced to labor for the Nazi war machine or otherwise brutalized during the Holocaust.

The German government announced at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here that it is dropping its decades-long resistance to opening the archives in the town of Bad Arolsen. The files stretch for more than 15 miles, hold up to 50 million documents and make up one of the largest Holocaust archives in the world.

I had no idea that there were still sealed records- shows what I know. Germany, to their credit, has done a far better job of showing contrition for their war atrocities than Japan has. While this move is long overdue, better late than never. 


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Dead Babies

It takes almost a year to adopt a baby. We attended some informational meetings on adopting a baby from China, supposedly an easier route than most, and it was packed. There aren’t more unwanted babies out there than adoptive parents that want them, not by a long shot. Yet the news lately is filled with tragic stories of abandoned babies, some of whom do not survive. This one from this a nearby town especially disturbed me.

MOUNT KISCO — It could take several days or a week to get the autopsy report of a newborn girl found in the debris cleaned from a village storm drain, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office says.

"It is presumed that the baby was extracted from one of the catch basins that were cleaned by the Highway Department," Louis Terlizzi, Mount Kisco’s acting police chief, said yesterday. "That is what it appears to be right now, but we’re still investigating."

The baby was found about 2 p.m. Wednesday near a pile of sediment that had been sucked up by one of the village’s vacuum trucks.

A Highway Department worker had cleaned out catch basins with the truck a couple times on Wednesday and returned to the department yard off Columbus Avenue to dump the sediment, Terlizzi said.

The employee saw the body when he returned to the yard a third time to clean out the truck, the chief said.

"He initially thought it was a doll," Terlizzi said. "Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a baby."

Investigators hope the autopsy will determine when the baby died — and whether it was stillborn.

"The best-case scenario would be if it was a stillborn baby but, any way you look at this, there’s just no happy ending here," Terlizzi said. The highway worker was "visibly shaken" by the discovery, the chief said.


The baby girl’s discovery comes less than three weeks after a newborn boy was found alive in a plastic bag left in front of a Yorktown home. The baby was in a basket and covered with a blanket inside the bag, which had holes cut in it. He was treated at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt and released to child welfare officials.

His mother, Krishnia Schiaffino, 30, of 470 E. Main St., Jefferson Valley, was charged with felony child abandonment.

Schiaffino is not some destitute, at risk individual living on the fringe of society. She’s married and the mother of an 8-year old. Her husband was possibly unaware of the pregnancy. But it isn’t just that.

NEW YORK — A woman whose premature daughter died minutes after birth, and whose tiny corpse was later found mixed in with hospital laundry, has filed a negligence lawsuit against the hospital, her attorney said Thursday.

Verna Uptigrow, 35, of Queens Village, says she suffers from nightmares and depression following the death of her baby, named Isabella Rosa Pickney. The infant weighed less than a pound and only survived about 30 to 45 minutes after she was born on Feb. 19, said Uptigrow’s attorney, Dan Flanzig.

"I did get to hold her, I got to feel her breath on my lips," Uptigrow said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. "I told her I loved her, I told her happy birthday, and then they took her…"

Days after arriving home from South Nassau Communities Hospital, Uptigrow was told by her obstetrician that the infant’s body somehow ended up mixed with the hospital’s dirty linens.

Shouldn’t someone have kept their eye on the ball so that a woman who just lost her newborn can give the child a decent funeral, or to at least dispose of the remains in a respectful way? I know what we went through when we suffered a miscarriage at 11 weeks. I cannot fathom the mother’s grief. I’m sure that nobody meant for that babies body to go out with the dirty laundry, literally. But what does this say about our society?

Pro choice advocates probably view these abandonment stories as a reason why we should keep abortion legal, but believe me, in New York it is easier in some ways to get an abortion than it is to buy cigarettes or use a tanning booth.

This may be a very predictable thing to come from a pro life guy like myself, but is this not symptomatic of a society where forces have tried for decades to convince us that babies are not human until the cord is cut? If you have that mentality, what’s five minutes, one way or the other, especially if you are desperate?


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One of the saddest things to witness is the slow erosion of a loved one’s mind. This is what we are going through with my mother, and the only thing worse than the decline itself is the toll it takes on us as her caretakers. She does not have anything more than a low grade dementia, but that is enough to be torturous if you are around her all day.
My mother was a career woman before the term was coined, starting out as an RN in 1948. She earned Masters from Columbia and had a fine 50-year career. Over the years she was a nurse, professor, state official, and health care administrator. I never heard a friend or colleague say anything that hinted that she was even close to average or below. She lived to work, and retired at age 72. By this time she had lost a step, and it manifested itself in somewhat benign things. The house, for example, was a disaster. All her energy was saved for work. Ann and I moved in with her 3 years later after we were married. Her proclivities were manageable back then, especially since she wintered with my late brother half the year in Texas. We used that absence to clean and renovate the house, which she curiously did not acknowledge.
Five years later, she is with us full time, and her typical state is meandering about as if she is looking for a misplaced eyeglass case. She no longer just grasps for the word-she’ll sputter as if we are playing charades at times. She’ll wonder aloud if it cold out all day, forget her grand children’s names, or look for a picture frame or coat that has not been in a particular spot since the 90’s. She’s also painfully oblivious to what is going on under her nose. Last week, when Ann  was alone and dealing with a situation with three sick toddlers that looked more like an ER than a romper room, my mother burst in and blurted out "DANA REEVES DIED!" On her worse days, she has been known to ask my oldest brother if he’s met my wife, or mistake a shadowy corner for a house guest. She has also become a caricature of her former self in some ways, obsessed with getting the mail before we do, which has almost caused us to pay a mortgage on a rental property late on two occasions. In a typical household, this can mostly be glossed over, but we are atypical. We run a business out of this home and there are three toddlers about below the age of 4 here. And they don’t mix well with cutlery laying about, letter openers, and doors left ajar. She has become our 4th child.
Last week, my mother’s penchant for saving things caught up with her and she ate food that should have been thrown out. She became sick, most likely food poisoning, and she couldn’t make the bathroom in that state. We were already on the sleep deprivation program with the children having colds, so we have been worn ragged. Typically, my oldest brother has Mom up to his house two days a week, but he cannot have her there sick- his immunity is compromised by chemo. My remaining brother, who lives out of state, has never contributed in any meaningful way.
There is no moral to the story. I have no conclusion to draw or insight to offer. The only thing to state is that there are times that we all go through that are tough, and those times force us to make plans we would not otherwise consider. In our case, we need to educate ourselves on assisted living or home health aides. This can’t go on forever, because we have not just my mother’s well being to consider, but that of ourselves and our children. I know there are many people out there in similar situations, so if you run into one of them and they vent, give them room. You might be helping them keep their sanity.

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I always thought that "Pro Choice" meant that the person viewed abortion as a viable choice to other alternatives such as adoption. I guess I was wrong. Elliot Sptitzer doesn’t think so, if we are to believe his speech today.
Without naming names (though his allies did), Mr. Spitzer was clearly taking aim at a fellow Democrat who may challenge him for the party’s nomination for governor, Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi. Mr. Suozzi supports abortion rights as well as late-term abortions when the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy, yet on Tuesday he also announced $1 million in county grants for birth control, adoption and abstinence programs to try to reduce the number of abortions.

In essence, Mr. Spitzer rhetorically boxed Mr. Suozzi into a centrist corner in the national debate on abortion, and by doing so Mr. Spitzer is appealing to New York liberals and hard-core Democrats who tend to vote in the greatest numbers in Democratic primaries.

Mr. Spitzer made his remarks after being endorsed by Naral Pro-Choice New York, an abortion rights group that has been critical of Mr. Suozzi’s new initiative.

So these Naral people who preach that they don’t care how you choose to deal with an unwanted pregnancy so long as abortion remains legal really don’t think that way, because supporting alternative choices somehow makes you their enemy. Scary.


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I am quite pro-life, but I am skeptical of the methodology put forth by South Dakota representative Roger Hunt’s proposal to ban all abortions in that state.
The bill will be called the Woman’s Health and Life Protection Act. It will ban abortion, but won’t prosecute a doctor who performs one to save a woman’s life.

And the lawmaker who’s introducing the bill says he thinks now is the right time to try and over-turn Roe vs Wade.

Rep. Roger Hunt says, "Abortion should be banned."

Those four words will likely lead to many others in the South Dakota House and Senate as lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize abortion in the state.

Is this overconfidence that the law, which is obviously unconstitutional by Roe v Wade standards, will end up before a Supreme Court that is fortified with Bush appointees? If so, what if it backfires? What is the wisdom in doing this before Alito is confirmed, even assuming he’d uphold it? Is this legislative civil disobedience?
I want Roe v Wade overturned as much as anyone, but I don’t want to lose the chance because some overzealous local politician gave the opposition yet another chance to establish a precedent. Let’s do it right.

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Roe v Wade is 33

From the front page article of the New York Times which reported the ruling the next day:

For the first three months of pregnancy the decision to have an abortion lies with the woman and her doctor; and the state’s interest in her welfare is not "compelling" enough to warrant any interference.

For the next six months of pregnancy a state may "regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health," such as licensing and regulating the persons and facilities involved.

For the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, the period during which the fetus is judged to be capable of surviving if born, any state may prohibit abortions if it wishes, except where they may be necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Today’s action will not affect existing laws in New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, where abortions are now legally available in the early months of pregnancy. But it will require rewriting of statutes in every other state.

The basic Texas case decided by the Court today will invalidate strict anti-abortion laws in 31 states; a second decision involving Georgia will require considerable rewriting of more liberal statutes in 15 others.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in which Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis F. Powell Jr. joined.

Dissenting were Justices Byron R. White and William H. Rehnquist.

Justice White, calling the decision "an exercise of raw judicial power," wrote that "the court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life which she carries."

The Court’s decision was at odds with the expressed views of President Nixon. Last May, in a letter to Cardinal Cooke, he opposed "liberalized abortion policies" and spoke out for "the right to life of literally hundreds of thousands of unborn children."

But three of the four Justices Mr. Nixon has appointed to the Supreme Court voted with the majority, with only Mr. Rehnquist dissenting.

The majority rejected the idea that a fetus becomes a "person" upon conception and is thus entitled to the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. This view was pressed by opponents of liberalized abortion, including the Roman Catholic Church.

Justice Blackmun concluded that "the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn," although states may acquire, "at some point in time" of pregnancy, an interest in the "potential human life" that the fetus represents, to permit regulation.

It is that interest, the Court said, that permits states to prohibit abortion during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, after the fetus has developed the capacity to survive.

Does this 1972 story resemble in any substantive way how things are today? Do the states have sensible restrictions on abortions after the first ten weeks, balancing "privacy" with fetal viability, ensuring that we do not butcher babies that would otherwise survive, and acknowledging that personal responsibility is required of us? Or has the ruling become bastardized into some kind of religion, where every detail except what the court permitted within 10 weeks is suppressed, so that we might as well replace the word "week" with "month?" Would the Justices have objected to a sonogram of the baby, then not available, be shown to a women before she terminated the life she carried?

With all the discussion of "settled" law, I assert that the current law of the land in no way represents how the ruling, which was horrific and based on mid-60’s to early 70’s medicine, was reported that day. Subsequent rulings, instead of recognizing science, have destroyed the 10 week rule the article refers to. Reasonable regulations related to maternal health have become impossible thresholds to overcome, hidden behind the standard of "undue burden" so now a 16-year old getting an aspirin from the school nurse, going to a tanning salon or buying a cigarette is more regulated by the states than this grisly, murderous and sadly, widely accepted practice.  This ruling opened a Pandora’s box and makes January 22nd a black day.

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From what I can understand from the reports on the Supreme Court upholding the Oregon law allowing assisted suicide, it throws the issue back to the states. Not ideal, but better than saying that everyone has a "right to die," which they already struck down.

Oregon’s law, which was passed by voters, covers only extremely sick people — those with incurable diseases and who are of sound mind. At least two doctors must agree the ill have six months or less to live before they can use the law.

"For Oregon’s physicians and pharmacists, as well as patients and their families, today’s ruling confirms that Oregon’s law is valid and that they can act under it without fear of federal sanctions," said state Solicitor General Mary Williams.

The ruling backed a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Ashcroft’s "unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide."

The court’s ruling was not a final say on federal authority to override state doctor-assisted suicide laws — only a declaration that the current federal scheme did not permit that. However, it still could have ramifications outside of Oregon.

I was struck by some thing else in the article.

Justices have dealt with end-of-life cases before, most recently in 1997 when the court unanimously ruled that people have no constitutional right to die. That decision, by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, left room for states to set their own rules.

The Tuesday ruling, and dissents, were tinged with an understanding about the delicate nature of the subject. The court itself is aging and the death of Rehnquist this past September after a yearlong fight with cancer was emotional for the justices.

Scalia said in his dissent that the court’s ruling "is perhaps driven by a feeling that the subject of assisted suicide is none of the federal government’s business. It is easy to sympathize with that position."

My own father died after three years of painful terminal illness. I can relate to people who want to end that sort of suffering. It is difficult to watch a loved one suffer. To my father’s credit, he did his best to cope and accept that this was how things were to be, and I think he approached the suffering as penance. To him, suicide was out of the question. I will never forget that suffering, though.

Other states, mostly of the blue vintage like my own, will  no doubt pass similar laws now that Oregon’s has passed the litmus test. Like I said, not ideal for my sensibilities, but it is better for the states to deal with it than for the court to suddenly make it the law of the land.

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