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BOSTON (AP) -- New research boosts the "use it or lose it" theory about brainpower and staying mentally sharp. People who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, a study of nearly half a million people in France found.

It's by far the largest study to look at this, and researchers say the conclusion makes sense. Working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged - all things known to help prevent mental decline.

"For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent," said Carole Dufouil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government's health research agency.

She led the study and gave results Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston.

About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer's is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5 million have Alzheimer's - 1 in 9 people aged 65 and over. What causes the mind-robbing disease isn't known and there is no cure or any treatments that slow its progression.

France has had some of the best Alzheimer's research in the world, partly because its former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made it a priority. The country also has detailed health records on self-employed people who pay into a Medicare-like health system.

Researchers used these records on more than 429,000 workers, most of whom were shopkeepers or craftsmen such as bakers and woodworkers. They were 74 on average and had been retired for an average of 12 years.

Nearly 3 percent had developed dementia but the risk of this was lower for each year of age at retirement. Someone who retired at 65 had about a 15 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to someone retiring at 60, after other factors that affect those odds were taken into account, Dufouil said.

To rule out the possibility that mental decline may have led people to retire earlier, researchers did analyses that eliminated people who developed dementia within 5 years of retirement, and within 10 years of it.

"The trend is exactly the same," suggesting that work was having an effect on cognition, not the other way around, Dufouil said.

France mandates retirement in various jobs - civil servants must retire by 65, she said. The new study suggests "people should work as long as they want" because it may have health benefits, she said.

June Springer, who just turned 90, thinks it does. She was hired as a full-time receptionist at Caffi Plumbing & Heating in Alexandria, Va., eight years ago.

"I'd like to give credit to the company for hiring me at that age," she said. "It's a joy to work, being with people and keeping up with current events. I love doing what I do. As long as God grants me the brain to use I'll take it every day."

Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, said the study results don't mean everyone needs to delay retirement.

"It's more staying cognitively active, staying socially active, continue to be engaged in whatever it is that's enjoyable to you" that's important, she said.

"My parents are retired but they're busier than ever. They're taking classes at their local university, they're continuing to attend lectures and they're continuing to stay cognitively engaged and socially engaged in their lives."

-- AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.

--- Online:

Alzheimer's info: HTTP://WWW.ALZHEIMERS.GOV

Alzheimer's Association: HTTP://WWW.ALZ.ORG

--- Follow Marilynn Marchione on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MMARCHIONEAP © 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Monday, 15 July 2013 10:40
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NEW YORK (AP) -- If you're lucky enough to live into your 90s, how well will your brain hold up? You may have an edge over people who got there ahead of you, a new study hints.

Researchers found that on tests of mental abilities, a group of 95-year-old Danes scored better than a group of Danes born 10 years earlier, who had been tested when they were about the same age.

In a standard simple test, for example, 23 percent of them scored in the highest category, compared to 13 percent of the earlier-born group. Out of the 30 questions and tasks, members of the later-born group averaged two more correct responses than the earlier-born group did. The results were released Wednesday by the journal Lancet.

Why the better mental performance? It wasn't just better education, but beyond that the researchers could only guess at things like more intellectual stimulation and better diets earlier in life.

More people are living to such old ages. The U.S. census counted 425,000 Americans age 95 and older in 2010, a 26 percent increase over the total in 2000.

The mental testing compared 1,814 elderly Danes examined in 1998 to the later-born group of 1,247 Danes tested in 2010. The researchers also found that later-born Danes were better able to carry out basic living tasks like getting out of bed or a chair. So they were functioning better overall, the study concluded.

Lead author Dr. Kaare Christensen, head of the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, said he imagines that in the future, Danes who live into their 90s will continue to be better off than their predecessors. He was cautious about applying the results to the United States, although he said the availability of education in the U.S. after World War II would be a plus.

Dr. James Pacala, associate head of the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, who didn't participate in the study, said he suspects the same trends are present in the United States.

He also said the findings fit with previous work that shows people are functioning better at given ages than they used to.

But Pacala, who heads the board of the American Geriatrics Society, noted that even in the better-functioning group of Danes, at least 40 percent and probably more had dementia.

Denise Park, an expert in mental function and aging at the University of Texas in Dallas, called the mental test results provocative but said it's not clear why the differences appeared. She said she would want to know if the effect holds up for 80-year-olds as well.

"If it's real, it should," she said.

--- Online: Lancet journal: HTTP://WWW.THELANCET.COM/JOURNALS/LANCET --- Malcolm Ritter can be followed at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MALCOLMRITTER © 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Thursday, 11 July 2013 10:21
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- It could mean no more having to check up on Mom or Dad every morning: Motion sensors on the wall and a monitor under the mattress one day might automatically alert you to early signs of trouble well before an elderly loved one gets sick or suffers a fall.

Research is growing with high-tech gadgets that promise new safety nets for seniors determined to live on their own for as long as possible.

"It's insurance in case something should happen," is how Bob Harrison, 85, describes the unobtrusive monitors being tested in his apartment at the TigerPlace retirement community in Columbia, Mo.

Living at home - specialists call it aging in place - is what most people want for their later years. Americans 40 and older are just as worried about losing their independence later in life as they are about losing their memory, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Common-sense interventions like grab bars in bathrooms and taping down rugs to prevent tripping can make homes safer as seniors deal with chronic illnesses. Technology is the next frontier, and a far cry from those emergency-call buttons seniors sometimes wear to summon help.

Already, some companies are offering monitoring packages that place motion sensors on the front door, a favorite chair, even the refrigerator, and then send an alert to a family member if there's too little activity over a certain period of time. Other gadgets can make pill bottles buzz when it's time for a dose and text a caregiver if it's not taken, or promise to switch off a stove burner that's left on too long.

Researchers at the University of Missouri aim to go further: Their experiments show that certain automatic monitoring can spot changes - such as restlessness in bed or a drop in daytime activity - that occur 10 days to two weeks before a fall or a trip to the doctor or hospital.

"We were blown away that we could actually detect this," said nursing professor Marilyn Rantz, an aging-in-place specialist who is leading the research. She compares it to "a vital sign of my physical function."

Why would the gadgets work? That monitor under the mattress can measure pulse and respiratory patterns to see if heart failure is worsening before someone realizes he or she is becoming short of breath. More nighttime bathroom trips can indicate a brewing urinary tract infection.

A change in gait, such as starting to take shorter or slower steps, can signal increased risk for a fall. Basic motion sensors can't detect that. So Rantz's team adapted the Microsoft Kinect 3-D camera, developed for video games, to measure subtle changes in walking. (Yes, it can distinguish visitors.)

The researchers installed the sensor package in apartments at the university-affiliated TigerPlace community and in a Cedar Falls, Iowa, senior complex. On-site nurses received automatic emails about significant changes in residents' activity. One study found that after a year, residents who agreed to be monitored were functioning better than an unmonitored control group, presumably because nurses intervened sooner at signs of trouble, Rantz said.

The bigger question is whether simply alerting a loved one, not a nurse, might also help. Now, with a new grant from the National Institutes of Health, Rantz will begin expanding the research to see how this monitoring works in different senior housing - and this time, participants can decide if they'd like a family member or friend to get those alerts, in addition to a nurse.

Rantz says embedding sensors in the home is important because too many older adults forget or don't want to wear those older emergency-call buttons - including Rantz's own mother, who lay helpless on her floor for eight hours after tripping and badly breaking a shoulder. Rantz said her mother never fully recovered, and six months later died.

"When we started this team, I said we are not going to make anybody wear anything or push any buttons, because my mother refused and I don't think she's any different than a lot of other people in this world," Rantz said.

Monitoring raises important privacy questions, about just what is tracked and who has access to it, cautioned Jeff Makowka of AARP.

To work, the high-tech approach has to be "less about, `We're watching you, Grandma,' but `Hey, Grandma, how come you didn't make coffee this morning?'" he said.

Sensor prices are another hurdle, although Makowka said they're dropping. Various kinds already on the market can run from about $70 to several hundred, plus monthly service plans.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Thursday, 11 July 2013 10:20
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- It could mean no more having to check up on Mom or Dad every morning: Motion sensors on the wall and a monitor under the mattress one day might automatically alert you to early signs of trouble well before an elderly loved one gets sick or suffers a fall.

Research is growing with high-tech gadgets that promise new safety nets for seniors determined to live on their own for as long as possible.

"It's insurance in case something should happen," is how Bob Harrison, 85, describes the unobtrusive monitors being tested in his apartment at the TigerPlace retirement community in Columbia, Mo.

Living at home - specialists call it aging in place - is what most people want for their later years. Americans 40 and older are just as worried about losing their independence as they are about losing their memory, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Common-sense interventions like grab bars in bathrooms and taping down rugs to prevent tripping can make homes safer as seniors deal with chronic illnesses. Technology is the next frontier, and a far cry from those emergency-call buttons seniors sometimes wear to summon help.

Already, some companies are offering monitoring packages that place motion sensors on the front door, a favorite chair, even the refrigerator, and then send an alert to a family member if there's too little activity over a certain period of time. Other gadgets can make pill bottles buzz when it's time for a dose and text a caregiver if it's not taken, or promise to switch off a stove burner that's left on too long.

Researchers at the University of Missouri aim to go further: Their experiments show that certain automatic monitoring can spot changes - such as restlessness in bed or a drop in daytime activity - that occur 10 days to two weeks before a fall or a trip to the doctor or hospital.

"We were blown away that we could actually detect this," said nursing professor Marilyn Rantz, an aging-in-place specialist who is leading the research. She compares it to "a vital sign of my physical function."

Why would the gadgets work? That monitor under the mattress can measure pulse and respiratory patterns to see if heart failure is worsening before someone realizes he or she is becoming short of breath. More nighttime bathroom trips can indicate a brewing urinary tract infection.

A change in gait, such as starting to take shorter or slower steps, can signal increased risk for a fall. Basic motion sensors can't detect that. So Rantz's team adapted the Microsoft Kinect 3-D camera, developed for video games, to measure subtle changes in walking. (Yes, it can distinguish visitors.)

The researchers installed the sensor package in apartments at the university-affiliated TigerPlace community and in a Cedar Falls, Iowa, senior complex. On-site nurses received automatic emails about significant changes in residents' activity. One study found that after a year, residents who agreed to be monitored were functioning better than an unmonitored control group, presumably because nurses intervened sooner at signs of trouble, Rantz said.

The bigger question is whether simply alerting a loved one, not a nurse, might also help. Now, with a new grant from the National Institutes of Health, Rantz will begin expanding the research to see how this monitoring works in different senior housing - and this time, participants can decide if they'd like a family member or friend to get those alerts, in addition to a nurse.

Rantz says embedding sensors in the home is important because too many older adults forget or don't want to wear those older emergency-call buttons - including Rantz's own mother, who lay helpless on her floor for eight hours after tripping and badly breaking a shoulder. Rantz said her mother never fully recovered, and six months later died.

"When we started this team, I said we are not going to make anybody wear anything or push any buttons, because my mother refused and I don't think she's any different than a lot of other people in this world," Rantz said.

Monitoring raises important privacy questions, about just what is tracked and who has access to it, cautioned Jeff Makowka of AARP.

To work, the high-tech approach has to be "less about, `We're watching you, Grandma,' but `Hey, Grandma, how come you didn't make coffee this morning?'" he said.

Sensor prices are another hurdle, although Makowka said they're dropping. Various kinds already on the market can run from about $70 to several hundred, plus monthly service plans.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 07:47
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some smokers trying to get coverage next year under President Barack Obama's health care law may get a break from tobacco-use penalties that could have made their premiums unaffordable.

The Obama administration - in yet another health care overhaul delay - has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that the law says the companies may charge smokers. A fix will take at least a year to put in place.

Older smokers are more likely to benefit from the glitch, experts say. But depending on how insurers respond to it, it's also possible that younger smokers could wind up facing higher penalties than they otherwise would have.

Some see an emerging pattern of last-minute switches and delays as the administration scrambles to prepare the Oct. 1 launch of new health insurance markets. People who don't have coverage on the job will be able to shop for private insurance, with tax credits to help pay premiums. Small businesses will have their own insurance markets.

Last week, the White House unexpectedly announced a one-year postponement of a major provision in the law that requires larger employers to offer coverage or face fines. Officials cited the complexity of the requirement as well as a desire to address complaints from employers.

"This was an administration that was telling us everything was under control," health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski said. "Everything was going to be fine. Suddenly this kind of stuff is cropping up every few days."

A June 28 Health and Human Services Department document couched the smokers' glitch in technical language:

"Because of a system limitation ... the system currently cannot process a premium for a 65-year-old smoker that is ... more than three times the premium of a 21-year-old smoker," the industry guidance said.

If an insurer tries to charge more, "the submission of the (insurer) will be rejected by the system," it added.

Starting in 2014, the law requires insurance companies to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing medical problems. But it also allows them to charge smokers up to 50 percent higher premiums - a way for insurers to ward off bad risks.

For an older smoker, the cost of the full penalty could be prohibitive.

Premiums for a standard "silver" insurance plan would be about $9,000 a year for a 64-year-old non-smoker, according to the online Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. That's before any tax credits, available on a sliding scale based on income.

For a smoker of the same age, the full 50 percent penalty would add more than $4,500 to the cost of the policy, bringing it to nearly $13,600. And tax credits can't be used to offset the penalty.

The underlying reason for the glitch is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two. So younger smokers and older smokers must be charged the same penalty, or the system will kick it out.

That's not what insurers had expected. Before the glitch popped up, experts said the companies would probably charge lower penalties for younger smokers, and higher penalties for older ones.

"Generally a 20-year-old who smokes probably doesn't have much higher health costs than someone who doesn't smoke in any given year," said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "A 60-year-old is another story."

The administration is suggesting that insurers limit the penalties across all age groups. The HHS guidance document used the example of a 20 percent penalty.

In that case the premium for a 64-year-old would be about $10,900, a significant cut from the $13,600 if insurers charged the full penalty.

It's unclear what insurance companies will do. A spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, said insurers were aware of the issue and expected the administration would fix it eventually.

Another workaround for the companies would be to charge the full penalty to both younger and older smokers. In that case, there wouldn't be any savings for older smokers, and younger ones would see a big price shock.

Levitt said he suspects insurers would keep the penalties low to sign up more young people. Laszweski said he thought they would do the opposite.

"It's going to throw cold water on efforts to get younger people to sign up," he said.

Workers covered through job-based health plans would be able to avoid tobacco penalties by joining smoking cessation programs because employer plans operate under different rules. But experts say that option is not guaranteed to smokers trying to purchase coverage individually.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 07:08
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BEIJING (AP) -- A new study links heavy air pollution from coal burning to shorter lives in northern China. Researchers estimate that the half-billion people alive there in the 1990s will live an average of 5 1/2 years less than their southern counterparts because they breathed dirtier air.

China itself made the comparison possible: for decades, a now-discontinued government policy provided free coal for heating, but only in the colder north. Researchers found significant differences in both particle pollution of the air and life expectancy in the two regions, and said the results could be used to extrapolate the effects of such pollution on lifespans elsewhere in the world.

The study by researchers from China, Israel and the United States was published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While previous studies have found that pollution affects human health, "the deeper and ultimately more important question is the impact on life expectancy," said one of the authors, Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"This study provides a unique setting to answer the life expectancy question because the (heating) policy dramatically alters pollution concentrations for people who appear to be of otherwise identical health," Greenstone said in an email. "Further, due to the low rates of migration in China in this period, we can know people's exposure over long time periods," he said.

The policy gave free coal for fuel boilers to heat homes and offices to cities north of the Huai River, which divides China into north and south. It was in effect for much of the 1950-1980 period of central planning, and, though discontinued after 1980, it has left a legacy in the north of heavy coal burning, which releases particulate pollutants into the air that can harm human health. Researchers found no other government policies that treated China's north differently from the south.

The researchers collected data for 90 cities, from 1981 to 2000, on the annual daily average concentration of total suspended particulates. In China, those are considered to be particles that are 100 micrometers or less in diameter, emitted from sources including power stations, construction sites and vehicles.

The researchers estimated the impact on life expectancies using mortality data from 1991-2000. They found that in the north, the concentration of particulates was 184 micrograms per cubic meter - or 55 percent - higher than in the south, and life expectancies were 5.5 years lower on average across all age ranges.

The researchers said the difference in life expectancies was almost entirely due to an increased incidence of deaths classified as cardiorespiratory - those from causes that have previously been linked to air quality, including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Total suspended particulates include fine particulate matter called PM2.5 - particles with diameters of no more than 2.5 micrometers. PM2.5 is of especially great health concern because it can penetrate deep into the lungs, but the researchers lacked the data to analyze those tiny particles separately.

The authors said their research can be used to estimate the effect of total suspended particulates on other countries and time periods. Their analysis suggests that every additional 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter in the atmosphere lowers life expectancy at birth by about three years.

The study also noted that there was a large difference in particulate matter between the north and south, but not in other forms of air pollution such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health who has researched the health effects of fine particulate matter in the U.S., said the study was "fascinating."

China's different treatment of north and south allowed researchers to get pollution data that would be impossible in a scientific setting.

Dominici said the quasi-experimental approach was a good approximation of a randomized experiment, "especially in this situation where a randomized experiment is not possible."

She said she wasn't surprised by the findings, given China's high levels of pollution.

"In the U.S. I think it's pretty much been accepted that even small changes in PM2.5, much, much, much smaller than what they are observing in China, are affecting life expectancy," said Dominici, who was not involved in the study.

---

AP researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 07:06
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DUBLIN (AP) -- Ireland appeared on course to legalize abortion in limited circumstances as lawmakers voted Tuesday to support a bill that would permit a pregnancy to be terminated when deemed necessary to save a woman's life.

Catholic leaders warned that the proposed law, which faces potential amendments this week and a final vote next week, was a "Trojan horse" designed to permit widespread abortion access in Ireland. But Prime Minister Enda Kenny insisted Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion would remain unaffected, and his government's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill won overwhelming backing in a 138-24 vote.

Ireland's 1986 constitutional ban on abortion commits the government to defend the life of the unborn and the mother equally. Ireland's abortion law has been muddled since 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled that this "ban" actually meant that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman - including, most controversially, from her own suicide threats.

Six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of the Supreme Court judgment, citing its suicide-threat rule as open to abuse. This left Irish hospitals hesitant to provide any abortions except for the most clear-cut emergencies and spurred many pregnant women in medical or psychological crises to seek abortions in neighboring England, where the practice has been legal since 1967.

Kenny's government had been under pressure to pass a law on life-saving abortions ever since the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2011 that Ireland's inaction forced women to face unnecessary medical dangers.

But the catalyst for change was Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist who died last year in a western Ireland hospital one week after being admitted in severe pain at the start of a miscarriage. Doctors cited Ireland's ill-defined and Catholic-influenced laws when denying her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured and exposed her to increased risk of blood poisoning.

By the time doctors authorized an abortion, Halappanavar had already been hospitalized for four days and the 17-week-old fetus was stillborn. She fell into a state of toxic shock, then into a coma, and died from massive organ failures three days later. Two fact-finding investigations since have found that an abortion one or two days before the fetus' death would have increased Halappanavar's chance of survival, but said the hospital was guilty of many other failures in her care.

In years past, a government that took on Catholic orthodoxy in Ireland would have feared damaging splits and electoral annihilation. But Tuesday's vote illustrates changed social mores and widespread disenchantment with Catholic leaders following two decades of revelations of the Irish church's role in protecting pedophile priests from public exposure and prosecution.

The most recent opinion poll found that 89 percent want abortions to be granted in cases where a woman's life is endangered by continued pregnancy. Some 83 percent also want abortion legalized in cases where the fetus could not survive at birth, 81 percent for cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest, and 78 percent where a woman's health - not simply her life - was undermined by pregnancy. The government bill excludes those three scenarios. The June 13 poll in the Irish Times had an error margin of three percentage points.

Four anti-abortion lawmakers from Kenny's socially conservative Fine Gael party did vote against the bill, fewer than expected given the strong Catholic traditionalist wing in his party. They particularly opposed the bill's section authorizing abortions in cases where a panel of three doctors, including two psychiatrists, unanimously rules that a woman is likely to try to kill herself if denied one.

But Kenny, who since rising to power in 2011 has repeatedly clashed with Catholic Church attitudes, emphasized beforehand that he would tolerate no dissent and pointedly described himself as a prime minister "who happens to be Catholic" but has a public duty to separate church and state.

The four rebels were expected to be expelled from Fine Gael's voting group in parliament and, much more damagingly, be barred from seeking re-election as Fine Gael candidates. The move would not affect Kenny's commanding parliamentary majority.

Ireland's other traditional center-ground party, the opposition Fianna Fail, did not attempt to impose such discipline because it risked tearing apart the party. Thirteen Fianna Fail lawmakers voted against the bill, while only six supported it.

Kenny won strong support from the left-wing side of the house, both from his Labour Party coalition partners and opposition lawmakers including the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein. Only one of Sinn Fein's 14 lawmakers voted against the bill and he, too, faces expulsion from his voting bloc.

Hours before the vote, Cardinal Sean Brady, leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics - two thirds of the island's population - appealed to Fine Gael lawmakers to rebel against Kenny. Previously some Catholic bishops have hinted that Kenny and other Catholic lawmakers who vote for the bill should be barred from receiving Communion at Mass, a traditional method of public shaming.

"In practice, the right to life of the unborn child will no longer be treated as equal. The wording of this bill is so vague that ever wider access to abortion can be easily facilitated," Brady said in a statement. "This bill represents a legislative and political Trojan horse which heralds a much more liberal and aggressive abortion regime in Ireland."

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 09:08
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