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News

Health Highlights: June 26, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Most Chimps to be Retired from Medical Research: NIH

Most of the chimpanzees who've spent their entire lives in research labs are going to be retired by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The agency said Wednesday that it will retire about 310 chimps from medical research over the next few years, saying they "deserve special respect," the Associated Press reported.

Only 50 chimps will be kept so that they will be available if needed for important medical research that could be performed no other way, the NIH said.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine said that nearly all use of chimps for invasive medical research no longer can be justified, the AP reported. The NIH said more space in sanctuaries is needed in order to provide all the retiring chimps with homes.

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Texas Abortion Bill Fails After Filibuster Attempt

A Texas lawmaker spoke for 10 straight hours Tuesday in a failed filibuster, but her efforts ultimately helped to thwart a Republican effort to pass a highly restrictive abortion bill in the state.

Sen. Wendy Davis began her attempt at a 13-hour filibuster late Tuesday morning. Her goal was to keep speaking past midnight, the deadline for the Senate to approve the bill and send it to Gov. Rick Perry to sign into law, CNN reported.

But Davis' marathon filibuster ended at about 10 p.m. after the chairman ruled that she had gone off topic. However, a member of the Senate then moved that the ruling be appealed, putting the status of the ruling in doubt.

The next few hours featured a confusing mix of procedural maneuvering. At 3 a.m., Lt. Governor David Dewhurst declared to bill dead and the special session over, CNN reported.

"This is an unprecedented situation," said Jeremy Warren, spokesman for Democratic state Sen. Rodney Ellis. "I have been here 18 years and have never seen anything like this. We are still officially still in session because we never adjourned."

Perry may ask for another session to deal with the bill. "The governor reserves the right to call the legislature back into special session anytime during the interim," according to a statement from his office.

"In Texas, we value all life, and we've worked to cultivate a culture that supports the birth of every child," Perry said. "We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause."

Planned Parenthood said the Republican-dominated Senate's failure to pass the bill was a victory for women.

"This fight showed once again that we are all better off when women and their doctors -- not politicians -- are the ones making medical decisions," said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, CNN reported. "We made history tonight, but we know this isn't the end of the fight to protect women's access to health care in Texas."

Under the bill, most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be banned and abortion clinics and the doctors who work at them would face tighter restrictions. The bill would close most abortion clinics in Texas, critics said.

At the start of her filibuster, Davis said she was speaking for families whose "personal relationships with their doctor and their creator" would be violated by the bill," CNN reported.

"These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state," Davis said. "And sadly, he's being abetted by legislative leaders who either share this blind partisanship or simply do not have the strength to oppose it."

She spent much of the 10 hours reading testimony and messages from women who are opposed to the bill and shared accounts of the difficulties they, their relatives or friends had to deal with before birth control and abortion were legalized, CNN reported.

"Women realize that these bills will not protect their heath," Davis said. "They will only reduce their access to abortion providers and limit their ability to make their own family-planning decisions."

Davis' stand attracted nationwide attention.

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Legal Synthetic Drugs a Growing Problem, UN Warns

The United Nations has issued a warning about the worldwide growth in the number of legal synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of illegal drugs.

For the first time, these synthetic drugs -- with names such as "Bath Salts," "Spice" and "Meow-Meow" outnumber controlled drugs such as marijuana, opium and ecstasy, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in its latest World Drug Report, Bloomberg News reported.

The number of these synthetic drugs has risen more than 50 percent and there are now 251 of them, compared with the 234 controlled drugs.

"This is an alarming drug problem," UN agency said in a news release, Bloomberg reported. "But the drugs are legal. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of new psychoactive substances, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control."