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Article on fetal pain draws 'vindictive' e-mails

Abortion critics see JAMA bias

CHICAGO -- The editor of a medical journal that published an article this week saying fetuses probably do not feel pain until late in pregnancy said yesterday that she has received dozens of angry e-mails from abortion opponents.

Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, editor in chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association, said she received dozens of ''horrible, vindictive" messages.

''One woman said she would pray for my soul," DeAngelis said. ''I could use all the prayers I can get." DeAngelis said she is Roman Catholic and strongly opposes abortion, though she supports women's right to choose.

''Your license should be stripped," DeAngelis said, reading aloud from the 50 or so e-mails. ''You're hypocrisy," ''You should get a real job," ''Eternity will definitely bring justice for you," others wrote.

Critics said the article in Wednesday's edition of JAMA was a politically motivated attack on proposed federal legislation that would require doctors to provide fetal-pain information to women seeking abortions when fetuses are at least 20 weeks, and to offer women fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy.

One of the five authors of the article is a University of California at San Francisco obstetrician who works at an abortion clinic. A second author -- a UCSF medical student and lawyer -- worked for several months at the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

DeAngelis said JAMA will publish properly submitted critics' comments and will give the authors an opportunity to respond.

DeAngelis said the obstetrician's experience is not a conflict because performing abortions is part of that job. She said she would have published the medical student's NARAL connection as a potential conflict of interest had she known about it, but that not mentioning it does not mean that the article or the journal are biased.

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