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Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official who was forced to resign last month, decided Tuesday not to accept a new position with the agency. She is pictured with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Sherrod declines Ag. Dept. post

WASHINGTON -- Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a

racial firestorm last month, declined this week to return to the agency, though she said it was tempting.

Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that she may work with the agency in a consulting capacity in the future to help it improve its outreach to minorities. She told reporters she did not think she could say yes to a job "at this point, with all that has happened."

"I look forward to some type of relationship with the department in the future," she said. "We do need to work on the issues of discrimination and race in this country."

Vilsack, who apologized to Sherrod for pushing her out, had offered her a new position in the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, which works on civil rights issues.

"I think I can be helpful to him and the department if I just take a little break and look at how I can be more helpful in the future," Sherrod said.

Antibiotics urged before C-section

WASHINGTON -- Women who need a C-section should get antibiotics before, not after, they're cut, preferably within an hour of the start of surgery, says a new guideline for the nation's obstetricians.

Infection occurs in 10 percent to 40 percent of women who undergo a cesarean delivery, making it the most common complication, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In comparison, 3 percent or fewer women who deliver vaginally get an infection.

Antibiotics long have been given for C-sections to reduce that risk, but usually not until right after the baby was born. That was a precaution in case antibiotics made it into the baby's bloodstream and prevented newborn testing from spotting an already brewing infection; another concern was the potential to spur antibiotic-resistant germs.

ACOG's new guideline, released this week, cited recent studies that concluded an intravenous infusion of antibiotics before surgery reduces the chance of a mother's infection without harming the newborn. The guideline, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, said women who need an emergency C-section should get the antibiotics as soon as possible, while those already taking antibiotics for another reason are exempt.

Nebraska abortion law blocked

OMAHA, Neb. -- One of two controversial abortion laws put on the books in Nebraska this spring was likely blocked for good last week, and the future of the other law is murky.

Attorney General Jon Bruning announced that he'd agreed to a permanent federal injunction against enforcement of a law requiring health screenings for women seeking abortions. Citing an earlier ruling temporarily blocking the law from taking effect, his spokeswoman said Bruning thinks there's little chance the law would prevail in court against a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. "Losing this case would require Nebraska taxpayers to foot the bill for Planned Parenthood's legal fee," spokeswoman Shannon Kingery said. "We will not squander the state's resources on a case that has very little probability of winning."

But the state's leading anti-abortion group said it expects Bruning's office to throw its resources behind preserving the other law should it be challenged. That law, the first of its kind in the U.S., would ban abortions starting at 20 weeks based on assertions from some doctors that fetuses feel pain at that stage of development. "Any suggestion that Attorney General Bruning is shirking his responsibility to defend pro-life legislation is not shared by Nebraska Right to Life," Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin said.

The ban is scheduled to take effect Oct. 15, but it also could face a legal fight.

Dr. Leroy Carhart, whose clinic in Bellevue is among the few in the nation to offer late-term abortions, has taken on other abortion laws before the U.S. Supreme Court. And his backer, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, hinted in an April letter to Gov. Dave Heineman that it would challenge Nebraska's ban.

Lawyers on both side of the debate have said abortion rights groups may choose not to take on Nebraska's ban because of fears that losing could change the legal landscape for abortion nationwide. If opponents challenge the law and lose, the court could redefine the timeline for abortion restrictions, throwing out viability, when a fetus could survive outside the womb, in favor of the point when a fetus could feel pain, as it's defined by Nebraska's law.