Issue: "Church inside the state," Oct. 12, 1996

Mississippi judge discovers right to perform abortion

Safety and cleanliness are the latest casualties in Mississippi abortion clinics. A federal judge there ruled that regulations governing medical facilities-such as minor emergency clinics and dialysis centers-can't apply to abortion mills because those regulations might interfere with an abortionist's right to ply his trade. The move to establish basic regulations for clinics was sparked by the practices of infamous abortionist Tommy Tucker, who has lost his licenses in both Mississippi and Alabama after women died after his procedures. The 12 restrictions included such things as having a pre-existing agreement with a nearby hospital and having a certain number of restrooms in the building, according to Brian Young of the American Life League. The Mississippi Department of Health already has a set of regulations for abortion clinics, but legislators noted that the regulations were not being enforced. U.S. District Judge William Barbour did something more disturbing than exempt abortion clinics from basic standards-he ruled that abortionists have a right to perform abortions. This previously unrecognized "right" could be cited in other states to tear down basic medical standards in abortion clinics, pro-life attorneys fear.

Assisted suicide

The Supreme Court Oct. 1 agreed to hear cases from New York and Washington, states that have outlawed doctor-assisted suicide. The justices will decide by next spring whether to affirm state governments' constitutional authority to protect their citizens from would-be Jack Kevorkians.

Head-on collision with truth

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Jeannie Coronado of Corpus Christi, Texas, was seven-and-a-half months pregnant when a routine car trip came to a jarring, violent end. The truck driven by a legally drunk Frank Flores Cuellar, 49, veered into the lane in which Mrs. Coronado was driving, struck her car, and fatally injured the woman's preborn baby. Her baby died two days after an emergency Caesarean section. Lawyers in that Texas city are now arguing about whether Mr. Cuellar can be charged with intoxicated manslaughter in connection with the baby's death. Nueces County prosecutors charged Mr. Cuellar, whose license was already suspended because of drunk driving, with manslaughter. But his attorneys say the baby wasn't legally a human. Texas law, the lawyers told a state district court, defines a person as a human being who has been born and is alive. Although the baby did not die until after birth, the crime occurred while the baby was still in utero. The case will likely be decided later this month. Mr. Cuellar is currently in the Neuces County Jail, in lieu of $100,000 bail. The case comes on the heels of a well-publicized ruling in a Wisconsin case in which a woman is being prosecuted for trying to kill her baby with alcohol. Last week a judge refused to throw out the charges, writing that "the instrumentality ...was not the shooting of a bullet or the plunging of a knife.... Instead, it was the massive consumption of a potentially deadly quantity of alcohol." The intent was the same, he said. He ruled the evidence supported charges of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless conduct. Deborah Zimmerman, 35, was taken to a Racine hospital last March and tried to refuse a Caesarean section when doctors told her the baby's weakened heartbeat necessitated it. She allegedly told doctors, "If you don't keep me here, I'm just going to go home and keep drinking and drink myself to death, and I'm going to kill this thing because I don't want it anyways." The Caesarean was performed, according to the hospital, and a baby girl was born with a blood alcohol content of 0.199 percent. She is now in foster care. Defense attorney Sally Hoelzel made the same argument the Texas defense lawyers made: "The alleged victim was not a human being." But the mother apparently now considers her daughter a person. The attorney told reporters: "She loves her child very much and in no way intended to harm her child." Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life says the cases show a promising trend. "The more the courts demonstrate that this is a baby, not a mass of tissue, the more society will realize that legally, Roe vs. Wade is an anomaly," said Mr. Forsythe, an attorney. "The cases might not overturn Roe, but they can educate the public and lead to a better understanding about life." c Mississippi judge discovers right to perform abortion


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