Monthly Archives: November 2014

Brooke Shields Was Almost an Abortion Victim: My Grandfather Paid My Mother to Abort Me

Brooke Shields Was Almost an Abortion Victim: My Grandfather Paid My Mother to Abort Me

by Maria Vitale Gallagher | Washington, DC | | 11/19/14 11:08 AM<!––><!––>

I have always been fascinated with the actress, model, spokeswoman, and author Brooke Shields. She has always seemed a compelling mix of wholesomeness and glamour, forthrightness and mystery.

An ‘80s icon, she defined beauty and elegance. She socialized with living legends such as pop star Michael Jackson and tennis great Andre Agassi. I even worked with a TV producer who, during his time as a piano accompanist, had worked with Shields on a musical number.

He said she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met.

brookeshieldsFrom an outsider’s point of view, she seemed to live a charmed life. But it was not Cover Girl perfect—her marriage to Agassi ended in divorce and she battled post-partum depression, a struggle she courageously and, in her own inspiring way, revealed in her book Down Came the Rain.

Now the super celebrity is out with a new missive, There Was a Little Girl. In the interest of full disclosure, I have only read a sample so far, but I was especially struck by a passage about the drama that surrounded her life pre-birth.

Shields writes in her book that, when her mother became pregnant, her boyfriend did not appear ready to assume the role of father. She surmises that he told his own Dad, who in turn, decided to convince her mother to “terminate the pregnancy.” Her grandfather explained to her mother how an out-of-wedlock birth could jeopardize her father’s standing on the “Social Registry.” Her granddad even went so far as to give her mother money for the abortion (This was pre-Roe v. Wade).

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Instead of visiting an abortionist, her mother went to an antique store and used the money to buy a coffee table.

Shields remarks that the table ironically became a favorite of hers, which she used to pull herself up from the floor as a toddler.

She writes, “The table saved my life and helped me to stand.”

It is hard to imagine the pop culture landscape without Brooke Shields. To think someone of such beauty and grace could have had her life ended before birth is so mind-boggling. Shields is a mother herself, so an entire family could easily have been swept away if her mother had chosen to cave into pressure and abort.

How many stars have been lost to abortion? You might think it’s impossible to count, but actually the number is more than 56 million. For every child who is aborted is a star in God’s galaxy—every single life has value and dignity.

We now just have one more beautiful face to remember as we contemplate the thin line between life and death in our world today.



Advances in Adult Stem Cell Research Make Use of Embryos Outdated and Unnecessary

Advances in Adult Stem Cell Research Make Use of Embryos Outdated and Unnecessary

by Gene Tarne | Washington, DC | | 11/18/14 1:59 PM<!––><!––>

Diabetes has long been one of the main diseases for which human embryonic stem cell (embryo-destroying) research, or hESCR, was claimed to hold the greatest promise of curing.

But for well over a decade now, ethically contentious human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) has notably failed to live up to all its hype, with promises of miracle cures within “five to 10 years” remaining unfulfilled.

That remains true today, despite all the renewed hype that accompanied recent reports that researchers had coaxed hESCs into becoming insulin-producing cells.

stemcellpic21In October, researchers published an article in Cell describing how they had, for the first time, successfully used hESCs to create insulin-producing beta cells that were also responsive to changes in glucose in their environment.  The team was led by Harvard researcher Douglas Melton, who began his quest to create such beta cells from hESCs some 15 years ago.

But during that period, a major breakthrough in stem cell research occurred, a breakthrough that researchers could only dream of when Melton first began his work with hESCs.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka developed a method to induce ordinary somatic cells – such as a skin cell – to revert to a fully pluripotent, embryonic-like state.  Yamanaka dubbed these cells “induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).  Sooner than almost anyone had expected, researchers now had a method to create a relatively abundant supply of pluripotent stem cells without resort to human cloning or the destruction of living human embryos.  Moreover, these stem cells were patient-specific, creating the unprecedented   opportunity to pursue disease tracking and drug testing using human cellular models genetically identical to the patients.  Recognizing the magnitude of Yamanaka’s achievement, the Nobel Prize committee awarded him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012 – a mere five years after his discovery.[i]

While they did not receive as much attention in media reports, Melton and his team also reported generating insulin-producing beta cells from iPSCs that were identical to those generated from hESCs.

Writing at his Family Research Council blog site, Dr. David Prentice, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, notes:

“The [Melton et al.] paper itself makes the case that embryonic stem cells are not needed…The authors tested batches of [beta] cells made from hESC as well as from hiPSC.  The results were equivalent no matter the starting cell type.  So for any future production of [beta] cells, the authors have shown that no embryonic stem cells are necessary (emphasis added).

This recalls the criterion for pursuing hESC research, laid down in 1999 by then- President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), the first presidential bioethics panel to recommend federal funding for such research.

According to the NBAC report, harvesting “left-over” In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)  embryos for stem cells “is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research (at pg. 53).”  In other words, given the ethical problems associated with hESCR, it should not be pursued if viable, ethically non-contentious alternatives to it exist.  At the time, the NBAC judged that such alternatives did not exist; however, that judgment was provisional and “is a matter that must be revisited continually as science advances.”

Clearly, Melton’s research shows that ethically non-problematic iPSCs are capable of producing functioning, insulin-producing beta cells identical to those he created using hESCR, thus rendering the continued use of hESCs no longer “justifiable.”

Moreover, while it will likely be many years before the beta cells produced by Melton and his team reach clinical trials, patients with Type 1 diabetes have already been successfully treated using ethically non-contentious adult stem cells.

In 2007, Northwestern University’s Dr. Richard Burt, along with a team of Brazilian doctors, led a groundbreaking study that used adult stem cells to reverse Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes in patients.  That study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and a second study was also published in JAMA in 2009 (see also the New Scientist, here).

Burt has used a similar adult stem cell treatment to treat patients with other auto-immune disorders, including MS, lupus, and scleroderma.

Dr. Denise Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital has had promising results in treating Type 1 diabetes without using stem cells at all.  The treatment involves a vaccination made from an inexpensive generic drug that destroys the rogue cells responsible for attacking the insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas.  Using this method, Faustman succeeded in reversing Type 1 diabetes in mice, and she has also completed a Phase 1 clinical trial in human patients.

There is no doubting the technical prowess displayed by Melton and his team in creating beta cells from both hESCs and induced pluripotent stem cells.  The first source is ethically contentious, while the second source is not.

But applying the NBAC standard that hESC research is not justifiable and should not be pursued if alternatives exist, what Melton and his team have demonstrated in terms of possible stem cell treatments for diabetes is not the continued need for hESCs, but rather just how unnecessary, as science advances, they have become.

LifeNews Note: Gene Tarne is senior analyst for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.


[i] Researchers have found that, in all fields, the frequency of the Nobel being awarded after 20 years is increasing.  While Nobel’s will stipulated that the prize be given to discoveries made during “the previous year,”  a former chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee for Physiology or Medicine, Ralf Pettersson, says the Nobel Assembly today interprets “previous year” to mean “the year the full impact of the discovery has become evident.


Study Shows Children with Spina Bifida Fare Better with In Utero


NRL News Today

Study shows children with Spina Bifida fare better with in utero surgery

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. Not so long ago there was a fair amount of skepticism whether in utero surgery was, on the whole, a good idea for babies diagnosed with spina bifida. As we talk about in “First baby in France to have spina bifida repaired in utero, Mother and child doing well,” such surgery is still rare in Europe. However, the following story, which ran in 2011, is about a very important New England Journal of Medicine study documenting that babies did better with in utero surgery instead of trying to repair the damage after birth.

spinabifida2Over the last few months we have run several stories about in utero surgery. To this day there remain some skeptics. Their numbers are diminishing, however. Much research is demonstrating (for example) how babies with spina bifida will benefit when surgeons correct their problem before they are born.

One of the best examples was a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. “ABC News Tonight” did a wonderful job putting a human face on the study and showing the benefits of that surgery.

A smiling news anchor Diane Sawyer began

“We have medical news now. the result of a surgical experiment so promising, so profound the limits were lifted on the experiment so everyone could benefit.”

“It involves surgery in the womb with tiny instruments, microscopic skill and dexterity on a devastating birth defect that affects 1,500 newborns every year. And Deborah Roberts reports on the news tonight that could lead to other life-changing surgery for babies before they are born.”

I was aware that fetal surgery has been going on for a long time, particularly in cases of spina bifida, and that there were concerns that it might pose risks to unborn child and mother.

Spina bifida happens when the spine of the baby fails to close during the first few months of pregnancy. It can be associated with brain and nerve damage, including paralysis. Typically, prompt surgery after birth can prevent further harm but it cannot reverse the nerve damage that has already taken place.

“By the end of 2002, more than 230 spina bifida operations had been done, but some doctors remained skeptical,” is the way the Associated Press (AP) described the situation. “So the National Institutes of Health launched a big study that year at Vanderbilt, the Philadelphia hospital and the University of California, San Francisco. Other hospitals agreed not to do the surgery while the research was under way.”

Half of 158 babies had surgery in utero (between 19 and 25 weeks) and half after delivery, according to the study that appeared in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“By the time they turned a year old, 40 percent in the fetal surgery group needed a drainage tube, or shunt, in the brain, compared with 82 percent in the standard surgery group,” according to the AP. “The fetal surgery group scored higher on combined tests of mental development and motor skills at 2½ years, though there was no difference in cognitive function alone.” In addition, “Forty-two percent of the toddlers in the fetal surgery group could walk without crutches or other support versus 21 percent in the other group.”

Furthermore, they found that after one year, those who had surgery before birth were less likely to need follow-up surgeries than did infants who had surgery after birth–30 percent less likely.

Dr. Scott Adzick, chief of surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was first author of the study. “This is a big breakthrough,” he told ABC News’ Lara Salahi. “For the first time we can show a clear cut benefit, treating a non life threatening malformation by repairing it before birth.”

One of the children featured on the broadcast who had previously undergone in utero surgery was Sean Mulligan. Now 10, Sean walks without the help of crutches or a wheelchair.

“That’s the gratifying thing,” said Adzick, who was Sean’s surgeon.”Not statistics and all that sort of stuff, but seeing the impact of that operation on that kid.”

“I don’t think it gets better than that.”

“Alive Inside” and the Power of Music to Arouse the Elderly


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“Alive Inside” and the power of music to arouse the elderly

  A touching documentary asks why so many elderly have been abandoned in dehumanising nursing homes.By Michael Cook

aliveinside43Caring for patients with dementia will probably be one of the biggest human dignity issues of our century, as the proportion of elderly grows across the globe.

So I was really delighted to see a ray of light in a new documentary, Alive Inside, which won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for an American documentary []. It features the power of music to raise patients out of their torpor. Sometimes the effect of placing earphone and an iPod on an unresponsive patient slumped in a wheelchair is little short of miraculous.

This solution is being promoted with missionary zeal by Dan Cohen, a technology consultant who has founded a group called Music & Memory.

One wonderful clip from the film features Henry, who spends his days in an almost catatonic state in a 600-bed nursing home. But when Dan places the earphones on his head and he hears the music from a favourite artist of his youth, Cab Calloway (famous for “Minnie the Moocher”), he begins to answer questions, his eyes light up and he even gives a short speech:

“It gives the feeling of love, romance! I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing. You’ve go beautiful music here. Beautiful. Lovely. I feel band of love, of dreams. The Lord came to me, made me holy. I’m a holy man. So he gave me these sounds.”

There are many such moments in the film. The joy on the face of patients will bring tears to your eyes.

The film also critiques over-reliance on anti-psychotic medications for demented patients. “What we’re spending on drugs that mostly don’t work dwarfs what it would take to deliver personal music to every nursing home resident in America,” says Dr Bill Thomas, a charismatic gerontologist. (What does it say about our view of the elderly that this sounds like an oxymoron?)

“I can sit down and write a prescription for a US$1,000 a month antidepressant, no problem. Personal music doesn’t count as a medical intervention. The real business, trust me, is in the pill bottle.”

Obviously iPods and Cab Calloway playlists alone will not turn dementia around; individually and collectively the issue is far more complex than this. But this uplifting documentary at least shows that some simple solutions work.

You cannot watch “Alive Inside” without asking questions about the future of old age in our society. Why do we have massive nursing homes, where half the residents may get no visitors, where most live lives of boredom, helplessness and loneliness. Henry was lucky; his daughter visited him fairly often. Others are completely alone in the world. How can these institutions be transformed into places where the residents are seen as human beings first and patients second?

Perhaps, as Dr Bill Thomas suggests, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that America (and similar societies like Canada and Australia) view the elderly. The pinnacle of our lives is adulthood, the time when we are independent, self-sufficient and, above all, productive. Adults are supposed to work like machines. And just as superannuated machines are scrapped, the elderly end up hidden in nursing homes. Thomas argues that we need to recover the notion of what he calls “elderhood,” the stage of life where people continue to produce, even though what are producing is wisdom and love rather than widgets.

Are developed societies ready for the epidemic of dementia? Already there are 35 million people over 65 in the US and that number will double by 2030. Are these dehumanising nursing homes the answer?

“Alive Inside” asks more questions than it can answer. In the end it is about how music supports our humanity. Director Michael Rossato-Bennett says that his life was transformed by making it. “I hope it will bring the story of Dan’s work to the world and awaken hearts and minds to the healing power of music. Music has great lessons to teach us about what it means to be human. I learned that from the sweet and vulnerable souls I met making this film.

“Through music, we have the power to help millions of people awaken to who they are and what they can be,” he adds. “Music gives us the ability to reach a population that might otherwise be unreachable. It allows us to touch hearts and ignite souls. Through music, we can help the old and the aging sustain their humanity and by doing so, inevitably, we’ll prove our own.”

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This appeared at