Cover Story

Proverbial 1997

The Year in Review

Issue: "Year in Review 1997," Dec. 27, 1997

Honest testimony? "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies." -Proverbs 12:17 At 12:05 p.m. on Jan. 20, Bill Clinton placed his left hand on a family Bible to take the oath of office for his second term as president of the United States. He was five minutes late. No big deal, but the Constitution does stipulate noon as the official swearing-in time. To some critics, the lapse was indicative of the administration's general disregard for the rules. If Mr. Clinton hoped for a smooth beginning to his second term, 1997 was a disappointment. Just a month after the inauguration, the White House was forced to release a 1995 memo showing the president's enthusiastic endorsement of a plan to reward big Democratic contributors with overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom. "Ready to start overnights right away," Mr. Clinton had scrawled, ordering his staff to begin finding $50,000 and $100,000 donors "promptly." A computer analysis showed the 937 individuals who slept in the White House during the president's first term donated over $10 million to the Democratic Party. In a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the year, many in Congress-including Democratic Senators Russell Feingold and Daniel Patrick Moynihan-demanded that Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel to investigate the allegations. In April, just as the attorney general turned down the independent counsel request on narrow legal grounds, the White House was rocked by revelations that two top Clinton aides had helped to secure lucrative new employment for Webster Hubbell, a longtime "Friend of Bill" forced to resign his Justice Department post in the wake of several felony convictions. The Clinton aides had raised more than $400,000 worth of business for Mr. Hubbell, who suddenly changed an earlier commitment and refused to cooperate with Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr. May brought more bad news for the administration when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Paula Corbin Jones could proceed with her sexual harassment suit against the president while he was still in office. White House lawyers had argued that Mr. Clinton was shielded by presidential immunity, but the court, citing precedent from the Watergate case, disagreed. Administration officials acknowledged that depositions and testimony taken in the case were likely to hurt the president's image. In July, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee opened hearings into numerous alleged violations of fundraising laws by Democrats in the 1996 elections. Attention focused on charges that China had sought to influence U.S. policy by directing large contributions to the Clinton reelection campaign. Republican senators revealed millions of dollars of illegal foreign contributions to Democratic coffers, but the public responded with a collective yawn and the hearings ended inconclusively in the fall. When The Washington Post reported in September that calls made by Vice President Gore from White House telephones resulted in donations that flowed directly to the Clinton-Gore reelection effort, Ms. Reno finally agreed to consider appointing an independent counsel to investigate. But after separate interviews with both the president and vice president, Ms. Reno announced in December that their actions were outside the scope of federal election law and thus not sufficient to trigger the independent counsel law. Republicans angrily accused the Justice Department of a cover-up and demanded the attorney general's ouster, but for the moment their attempts to make any of dozens of allegations "stick" to the president appeared to be stymied. Larry Klayman, general counsel for Judicial Watch, which helped to bring many of the Clinton fundraising abuses to light, says the administration basically broke even for the year, dodging many bullets but not really putting any serious doubts to rest. But he believes 1998 will be a turning point. "Based on all that's percolating behind the scenes, I'd say [the president] is in poor shape in the long run. The decision by Reno not to name an independent counsel will generate greater scrutiny, not less. When there's a stonewall like this, it keeps the issue in the public eye." Casting off restraint "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law." --Proverbs 29:18 Conflict is the soul of drama. By that standard 1997 was a dramatic year indeed in the cultural arena, with the never-ending conflict between irreconcilable social and moral views being played out on a myriad of stages. At the top of the playbill, homosexuals, in their unrelenting drive for mainstream approval of same-sex unions, had help from the nation's leading man. In the first-ever presidential speech to a homosexual group, President Clinton threw the weight of his bully pulpit behind homosexuality, saying he would work with homosexuals in "redefining, in practical terms, the immutable ideals [of equality and liberty] that have guided [our nation] from the beginning." To that end, the president--at a White House conference on "hate crimes"--endorsed grade-school "diversity" training designed to teach children that openness to homosexuality is part and parcel of what it means to believe in freedom. Mr. Clinton also hired lesbian Virginia Apuzzo as a senior White House aide, making her the top-ranking open homosexual ever to serve in the federal government. And he named homosexual activist James Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Mr. Hormel awaits Senate confirmation. Many supporting players came along to help President Clinton in his quest to redefine old ideals. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, for example, tried to force all business and nonprofit groups that have contracts with the city to extend spousal-type "domestic partner" benefits to their employees. Most city contractors gave in without a fight, but airlines that fly to San Francisco balked, arguing that the city had overstepped its jurisdiction. The case is in court. Pro-family protagonists, trying to hold fast to the old definition of the moral code, refused to allow the homosexual agenda to go forward unchallenged. In Maine, just before a new homosexual "rights" bill was scheduled to take effect, the state's Christian Civic League stopped the measure in its tracks. The League gathered more than 50,000 petition signatures to force a repeal referendum, scheduled for 1998. Six thousand miles away, a state court judge in Hawaii gave his OK to the concept of homosexual "marriage," but the state legislature intervened, blocking the judge's ruling. In the process, however, Hawaiian homosexuals won a significant lesser victory: Though not able to legally marry, they gained new joint property and inheritance rights. As the redefiners tried to push their proclivities closer to the mainstream of American life, adherents of traditional, non-redefined morality had to fight-sometimes in court-to keep from being pushed out. In Cincinnati, citizens who said no to the idea of granting additional legal protections to gays won a four-year-long court battle. A federal court panel upheld a 1993 voter-passed law that prohibits the city government from making homosexuals a specially protected class. In a Washington, D.C., court, two chaplains who refused to give up the high ground defeated the U.S. military. A federal judge ruled that the military violated the chaplains' free speech and religious rights when it told the clergymen that, as federal employees, they couldn't tell their congregations to urge Congress to ban partial-birth abortions. An Alabama federal judge, however, took a decidedly less charitable approach to religion in the public square. U.S. District Judge Ira DeMent issued an order barring any "school organized or officially sanctioned religious activity" in government-run schools. Among the activities no longer allowed: commencement ceremony prayers and Bible-based devotional messages. The judge also appointed a "monitor"-with authority to enter any classroom or attend any school-initiated event-to watch for violations in one county school system. Alabama Gov. Fob James likened the monitor to "secret police" and vowed to resist Judge DeMent's order "by every legal and political means [and] with every ounce of strength I possess." Lawmakers in Louisiana, instead of redefining ideals, sought to recapture them. Trying to reduce rampant divorce, the state legislature approved creation of a marriage contract called "covenant marriage." Couples choosing covenant marriage must agree to have premarital counseling and to seek counseling again if their marital problems become severe. A covenant couple cannot divorce unless one partner is found guilty of one of several major infractions, including child abuse, adultery, or abandonment. Hundreds of thousands of men, disillusioned with their own sinful attempts to redefine the immutable, gathered in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of Promise Keepers to repent and to pledge themselves anew to the God whose law and character do not change. Speakers at the six-hour "Stand in the Gap" rally-likely the largest event ever on the National Mall-challenged praying and weeping men to live holy lives and uphold their responsibilities to their wives, children, churches, and communities. Theological disputes "Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them."--Proverbs 4:5 Two key religion stories made news during 1997. The first came in under the radar of most Christians early in the year but loomed large by the spring. The second remained almost invisible throughout the year but raised concern among many church leaders as winter approached. A quiet attempt to revise the immensely popular New International Version of the Bible came to an abrupt halt when evangelicals and conservative denominations threatened a boycott over plans to make the language in the new version gender neutral. The International Bible Society, copyright holder for the NIV, along with its publisher, Zondervan House, repeatedly denied the charges and accused WORLD--which broke the "Stealth Bible" story--of biased journalism. But in the face of growing dissatisfaction among religious conservatives, IBS and Zondervan abruptly changed their position and agreed to stop all plans for the new version. The controversy raised many questions about trends in Bible translation and prompted a group of concerned scholars and pastors to put together translating guidelines under the auspices of Focus on the Family. In a separate story, three evangelical and three Catholic theologians began meeting early in the year in an attempt to reach a compromise on questions that split Western Christendom almost half a millennium ago. The agreement, dubbed ECT II and unveiled in November, seemed to go further than the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together document in smoothing over theological differences between Catholics and Protestants that date back to the Reformation. Among other things, the 35 signers--20 evangelicals and 15 Catholics--agreed "that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God's gift" and that redemption "has been accomplished by Christ's atoning sacrifice." ECT backers presented the effort as non-controversial, and Christianity Today lauded the agreement. But some conservative Protestants, including some members of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, argued that the document was theologically misleading and spiritually dangerous. The words about justification by faith sound good to Protestants, they noted, but have a different connotation for many Catholics. Though they made many concessions to evangelical orthodoxy, the Catholic signers of ECT II specifically exempted from the agreement such fractious issues as purgatory, baptismal regeneration, sacramental grace, and Marian devotion. Such unresolved issues, acknowledged at the end of the document, were crucial in the Reformation debate and seem unlikely to go away without a fight by conservatives on both sides of the Protestant-Catholic divide. Judge fairly "Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."--Proverbs 31:9 Two theoretically co-equal branches of government-Congress and the judiciary-battled over the parameters of religious freedom. Ruling that Congress had overstepped its constitutional authority, the Supreme Court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Lawmakers had passed RFRA in 1993, responding to what Congress complained was an overstepping of authority by the court in a 1990 case. That case involved ritual drug use by the Native American Church, a practice which the high court said the state of Oregon had the right to restrict. The implication: States had the right to restrict other religious practices, too. A riled-up Congress said, "No way"-and RFRA was passed to nullify the 1990 ruling. But the court ruled that RFRA was akin to trying to kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer, with language so broadly worded that it threatened to invite federal "intrusion at every level of government, displacing laws and prohibiting official actions of almost every description." The next move is up to Congress. The court also struck down a bid by Congress to ban indecent material on the Internet. By a unanimous vote, the justices ruled that a key provision of the sweeping 1996 Communications Decency Act went too far in its attempt to protect children from gaining access to sexually explicit material in cyberspace. The court said the provision was so vaguely defined that it trampled on the constitutional rights of adults. Further legislative attempts are likely. In other legal action, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld New Jersey's 1994 sex-offender notification statute, known as "Megan's Law." The measure requires local police departments to inform residents if a convicted sex offender moves into their community. The law is named for a seven-year-old girl raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived, unknown to Megan's parents, in their neighborhood. A New Jersey "affirmative action" case slated for Supreme Court review won't be going to Washington, after all. Fearing the case was a lost cause, civil rights groups financed a surprise out-of-court settlement with a white schoolteacher who was laid off by a school board that wanted to preserve the job of a black teacher. Affirmative action backers who were not even directly involved in the case helped the school board put up $433,500 to pay the white teacher's back salary and legal bills. Legal analysts said if the case had gone to the Supreme Court as scheduled, it likely would have resulted in a precedent-setting ruling limiting the use of racial preferences in the American workplace. Attempts to bring market forces to bear in education met strong resistance from the established order. In Wisconsin, Judge Paul Higgenbotham ruled state officials illegally expanded their school-voucher experiment to include religious schools. The judge said the expanded voucher program-designed for poor families in Milwaukee-violated a provision in the state constitution prohibiting the use of tax revenues for religious purposes. A similar school-choice program in Ohio also was struck down. The Ohio District Court ruled that the plan violated the "separation of church and state." In California, two federal judges, overruling more than half of California voters, quashed the state's seven-year-old term-limits law, ruling that voters had not been adequately informed about the potential impact of the measure. Golden State voters did win a court victory for the California Civil Rights Initiative, a citizen-passed measure that makes it illegal to use race and/or sex as factors, either positive or negative, in government-sector hiring and contracting. The prohibition on race- and sex-based preferences also applies to public college admissions. Washington plots and subplots "A king's rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass."--Proverbs 19:12 The 105th Congress opened in January as an ethics storm swirled around House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Two weeks into the session, the Speaker's colleagues voted 395-28 to reprimand Mr. Gingrich and make him reimburse the House $300,000 for the investigation that found he engaged in activities "that did not reflect creditably on the House." For his part, the Speaker said he was willing to take the punishment to put the matter behind him. In mid-summer, about 20 junior GOP House members-some concerned that Mr. Gingrich's ethics case had damaged the party, others arguing that he had been too quick to compromise conservative principles-tried but failed to oust him as Speaker. On the policy front: Following more than two years of budgetary trench warfare, the Republican-led Congress and Democratic White House agreed to a peace plan-a five-year deal offering long-sought-after relief to the American taxpayer and, ostensibly, putting the federal government on the path to a balanced budget. The deal clincher was the GOP's willingness to go along with sharp increases in social spending sought by President Clinton, including what he proudly described as the government's "largest single investment ... in health care since the passage of the Medicaid program"-a reference to the bill's provision creating a health care program for poor children. Speaker Gingrich emphasized that the 809-page tax bill provided "real tax cuts for the first time in 16 years." The bill offers parents a tax credit for children under age 17, provides a tax credit to help offset the cost of college, cuts the tax rate on capital gains, and protects a greater amount of assets from the federal estate tax. At the last minute, Republican leaders unceremoniously dumped a provision from the bill that would have allowed parents to set money aside, tax-free, for education-related expenses, even if their children attend a private school or are homeschooled. President Clinton, at the behest of teachers' unions, which viewed the provision as a threat to public education, had threatened to veto the entire tax-and-budget package unless the school-expense language was removed from the bill. Later, the White House crossed swords with Congress on the issue of educational testing. Mr. Clinton wanted to institute a nationwide student testing program that critics worried would lead to a nationally mandated curriculum. In the waning hours of the congressional session, a deal was struck to approve federal testing but delay implementation for two years. Translation: We ran out of time to fight this battle. We'll fight again another day. The president also pushed hard on environmental issues. Claiming that toughened air-quality standards would ease smog and thus reduce long-term health care costs, Mr. Clinton added new regulations covering airborne particles as small as 2.5 microns. A micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter. The restrictions are likely to be the costliest environmental regulations ever, forcing businesses and local governments to spend billions on compliance. At a December "climate change" conference in Japan, the Clinton administration, with on-site help from Vice President Gore, reached agreement with 158 nations on mandatory restrictions on the burning of coal, gasoline, and other fossil fuels. Critics in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, blasted the "global warming" treaty as scientifically flawed and unreasonably costly. This was the year new welfare rules kicked in nationwide. It was too soon to discern their full effect, but positive results continued to be reported from states that had made welfare changes on their own, before Congress passed a federal reform bill in August 1996. Vermont, for example, made it illegal four years ago for teens to collect welfare and set up a household independent of their parents. Since then, the number of births to Vermont teens has dropped sharply, with no increase in abortions. Other welfare changes also contributed to the teen-birth decline, according to state officials. Work requirements and welfare time limits, along with an emphasis on telling fathers they'll be held responsible for child support, have played a role in holding the rate to 29.6 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 1996, down 25 percent from a peak of 39.2 per 1,000 in 1991. Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat and a physician, said there had been a "culture change" in his state, with teens learning that "having a baby is not the way to independence in this state." In other states, too, people seemed to be receiving the message loud and clear that welfare should not be a way of life anymore. Nationally, however, the Clinton administration did all it could to preserve that endangered way of life. It pushed through revisions to the 1996 federal legislation that significantly weakened work requirements and the likelihood of welfare recipients' leaving the rolls. Those changes immediately took a lot of pressure off state welfare officials and raised a crucial question for 1998 and beyond: Will the message of responsibility continue to get through? One message came through loud and clear in Washington: Taxpayers want IRS reform. This fall, the Senate Finance Committee held eye-opening hearings into abusive IRS practices. For three days, taxpayers and even IRS employees criticized revenue agents for using strongarm tactics to meet collection quotas and boost their chances for promotion. One former and five current IRS employees, hidden from view by fabric-covered screens and with voices electronically scrambled, testified that IRS managers often pressure agents to bend or break rules in an effort to improve collection statistics. The hearings were instrumental in forcing President Clinton to abandon his opposition to a bipartisan IRS overhaul plan that would create an accountability board over the tax agency and guarantee taxpayers 28 new legal protections. The overhaul bill passed the House and awaits 1998 action in the Senate. Exercising a power U.S. presidents have wanted since the 1870s, Bill Clinton became the first chief executive to use the line-item veto. But Mr. Clinton's veto of a Medicaid funding provision for New York State hospitals provoked a legal backlash. New York City officials and a federal employees' union, not wanting to lose the vetoed $200 million in additional Medicaid funds, filed separate lawsuits claiming the line-item veto is unconstitutional. In its annual report on the health of Medicare, the program's Board of Trustees said Medicare remains in precarious financial condition. The prognosis: Medicare's trust fund that pays hospital costs for the elderly will be out of money in 2001. Meanwhile, federal accountants, in their first comprehensive audit of Medicare, concluded that as much as 14 percent of the money the program spends is lost to waste and fraud. Exact numbers were impossible to come by, said one government investigator, because Medicare's records are in such disarray. In a separate study, the government's General Accounting Office discovered that nearly 40 percent of home health care services provided under Medicare are unjustified. At a Senate hearing, witnesses-including one former home care executive currently serving prison time for fraud-testified that Medicare's home health program is an easy mark for scam artists and hustlers. The federal government closed its books on fiscal year 1997 reporting the smallest deficit in 23 years: $22.6 billion. However, because of the way the government does its accounting, the $22.6 billion figure reflected only about 25 percent of government overspending for the year. Actual overspending was just under $90 billion, masked by borrowing funds earmarked for future Social Security benefits and other purposes. Calling for "a great and unprecedented conversation about race," President Clinton urged groups to hold special town hall meetings and other forums at which people could engage in "honest dialogue" about race relations. The dialogue quickly became one-sided. At a forum in Maryland, sponsored by Mr. Clinton's hand-picked advisory panel on race relations, opponents of affirmative action were not invited to speak. At a locally sponsored forum in Texas, whites were excluded. Republicans were the big winners of 1997's off-year elections, holding on to governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as the only congressional seat up for grabs. Rushing into sin "Their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood."--Proverbs 1:16 Two of the most shocking news stories came from high schools. In Mississippi, a 16-year-old boy, after allegedly stabbing his mother to death at home, showed up at school with a rifle and unleashed a hail of bullets. Two students died; seven were wounded. Police said the boy did not act alone. They arrested six of his friends, all apparently part of a satanic cult, on suspicion of planning to kill more classmates. At a West Paducah, Ky., school, 14-year-old Michael Carneal allegedly opened fire on a student prayer group, killing three and injuring five. The motive wasn't clear, but police said the incident apparently was inspired in part by a dream scene in the movie The Basketball Diaries, in which a student mercilessly shoots his classmates. A judge ruled that Michael Carneal will be tried as an adult. Timothy McVeigh was found guilty and sentenced to death for his role in carrying out the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the deadliest terrorist attack in American history. Later, trial opened in the case of Terry Nichols, accused of helping Mr. McVeigh plan and carry out the bombing. A new type of one-on-one terrorism emerged. Health workers in Missouri identified more than 60 women and girls, ranging in age from 12 and 22, who had been seduced and intentionally exposed to AIDS by Darnell McGee of East St. Louis. In January, Mr. McGee was shot and killed at point blank range-perhaps because of a drug deal gone sour, perhaps in revenge for his purposeful transmission of the AIDS virus. Police weren't sure. In upstate New York, health officials found at least 28 area girls infected with the virus that causes AIDS. They were all, allegedly, the victims of 20-year-old Nushawn Williams, who investigators said often traded drugs for sex. Fourteen months after being acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, former football star O.J. Simpson was found liable for their deaths in a civil case. In a 12-0 decision, a Santa Monica, Calif., jury determined that Mr. Simpson was indeed responsible for their "wrongful deaths." He was ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages. To raise part of the money, county officials auctioned Mr. Simpson's multimillion-dollar house. After packing their bags for what they believed would be a rendezvous with a UFO, 39 members of Heaven's Gate, a cult of computer programmers, systematically killed themselves at a swank estate in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Material posted on the group's Web site claimed its leader, Marshall Applewhite, was a space alien who had come to earth as Jesus 2,000 years ago. He had returned, the posting said, to help group members shed their earthly "containers" and "graduat[e]" to a "higher level." Mr. Applewhite was discovered among the dead. One of the most publicized cases of child killing involved a hired caregiver. A Massachusetts jury found teenaged British au pair Louise Woodward guilty of the second-degree murder of a child in her care. She was sentenced to life in prison. Less than two weeks later, a county judge set Miss Woodward free, ruling that the murder verdict had been a "miscarriage of justice." The state Supreme Court is scheduled to review the judge's controversial decision. The year saw more cases of mothers killing their children. A Texas jury found suburban homemaker Darlie Routier guilty of stabbing to death her five-year-old son and sentenced her to die. She's also accused of killing her six-year-old son. Mrs. Routier claimed an intruder killed the boys, but the seven-woman, five-man jury found her story implausible. Prosecutors argued that she killed the boys because she wanted to be free of the responsibilities of motherhood. In New Jersey, a county grand jury indicted 16-year-old Melissa Drexler on charges of killing her just-born son in a bathroom at her senior prom. Investigators believe the girl murdered her 6-pound, 6-ounce, full-term child by strangling or suffocating him. Most of the girl's friends apparently had no idea she was pregnant. Another New Jersey teen charged with killing her newborn pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Melissa Seaner, 17, had discarded her baby daughter in a gym bag. Innocent blood "Things the Lord hates ... that are detestable to him: ... hands that shed innocent blood."--Proverbs 6:16-17 For those who are even swifter to shed blood, there is still partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which a doctor delivers a living child feet first, stopping the delivery with the child's head still in the birth canal. The abortionist then plunges surgical scissors into the base of the child's head and sucks out the brains, collapsing the skull. At that point, delivery of the then-dead child is completed. Defenders of this practice prevailed once again upon President Clinton to veto a bill banning partial-birth abortions. Although pro-lifers in Congress lost an attempted override in 1996, lawmakers decided to try again after prominent abortion advocate Ron Fitzsimmons admitted to lying about how frequently partial-birth abortions occur. Also, 12 abortionists-in interviews with The New York Times--conceded that the procedure is most often used, not in emergency situations as President Clinton claimed, but as a routine method of ending late-term pregnancies. Despite such admissions from the pro-abortion side, and notwithstanding a statement by the American Medical Association that the procedure was "broadly disfavored" by medical experts, Mr. Clinton remained unswayed in his opposition to the bill. He stood by his claim that outlawing such abortions would endanger women's health. The override attempt is slated for 1998. The House is expected to be able to muster the necessary two-thirds vote; the Senate situation is much less certain. Meanwhile, the legal standing of the unborn got a boost in South Carolina. Ruling that a "viable fetus" is in fact a legal "person," the state Supreme Court voted 3-2 to uphold the abuse conviction of a woman who harmed her unborn child by using cocaine while pregnant. A state judge then sentenced the drug-abusing mom to probation and community service. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a ruling that also turned on the issue of whether a baby in the womb is really a person, said the state's child-protection law does not cover the unborn. The case involved a 36-weeks-pregnant cocaine user ordered confined-illegally, the court ruled-to a drug treatment program to protect her baby. In California, that state's Supreme Court struck down a law requiring minors to get parental or judicial approval before having an abortion. The court said enforcing the law would violate a teenager's right to privacy. Although on the books for 10 years, the abortion-consent law had never been enforced due to repeated legal challenges. Pro-abortion forces continued their drive to introduce non-surgical abortion to the United States. They got help from the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the use of high doses of birth-control pills-after intercourse-as a "safe and effective" method of preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Despite the federal OK, most manufacturers of birth-control pills, fearing lawsuits, said they would not advertise or package their products for such use. Hoping to fill the void, a newly formed company called Gynetics, Inc. announced plans to specifically target the "morning-after" market. Worried about pro-life boycotts of its pharmaceutical products, the German drug company that produced the abortion-inducing pill RU-486 through one of its subsidiaries ordered a halt to manufacture of the controversial drug. Hoechst AG said the $1.63 billion it earns in America each year wasn't worth risking over the small annual revenues generated by European sales of RU-486. Production of the drug was turned over to a new company created by one of the drug's developers. Parties trying to bring RU-486 to the American market continued to run into legal and practical obstacles. Several players involved in the plan for U.S. distribution of the abortifacient filed suits against each other, claiming misrepresentation of facts and mishandling of funds. Most of the suits were settled in November, but the RU-486 backers are having a tough time finding an American manufacturer. Jack Kevorkian once again escaped the long arm of the law. The so-called suicide doctor, on trial for a fourth time on charges of helping a person commit self-slaughter, walked away a free man after the judge declared a mistrial. It appeared to be a set-up designed to bring the proceedings to a quick end. The mistrial ruling came after Mr. Kevorkian's attorney made "improper and prejudicial" remarks during his opening statement. Prosecutors gave up and didn't refile charges in the case. In Oregon, voters turned back an attempt to repeal the nation's only law that allows physician-assisted suicide. Sixty percent of voters chose to keep the "Death with Dignity Act," which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals already had deemed constitutional.

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