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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 December 2000

28 December 2000

28 December 2000 The Roman Catholic bishops of Scotland have condemned the morning-after pill because it can induce an early abortion. In a pastoral letter to the country's Catholics, the bishops criticised the decision by the British government to make the drug available from pharmacists and observed that it can prevent a newly conceived human embryo from implanting in his or her mother's womb. The bishops affirmed: "In this case it is a form of early abortion. The Church cannot remain silent on this issue, given the gravity of what is being proposed. In stating these simple facts, the Church is not seeking to impose its judgement on others. Rather we aim to propose for public consideration the truth about these drugs and their effects." [BBC News online, 27 December 2000 ; EWTN News, 28 December 2000 ] The National Pharmaceutical Association in the UK has announced that the abortifacient morning-after pill will not be nationally available from pharmacists without prescription until the end of next month. The British government plans to reclassify the morning-after pill as a drug available from pharmacists to women over 16 without prescription from next Monday. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, welcomed the delay as "a chance to rethink an irresponsible and potentially disastrous change to social policy". Mr Tully continued: "This is a breathing space during which we shall seek to raise public awareness of this potent drug. It is an abuse of medicine and it encourages the abuse of women." [SPUC media release, 27 December 2000 ] Pope John Paul II has linked violence in the Holy Land and Indonesia to abortion and euthanasia as components of the same culture of death. In his traditional Christmas Urbi et Orbi address, the Pope said that abortion and euthanasia were "alarming signs of the culture of death, which pose a serious threat for the future". Turning to euthanasia in particular, he observed: "The temptation is becoming ever stronger to take possession of death by anticipating its arrival, as though we were masters of our own lives or the lives of others." [Zenit news agency, 25 December 2000] Researchers in England have developed a new way of preventing miscarriages by killing potential miscarriage victims before they are implanted inside their mothers' wombs. Doctors at Guy's and St Thomas's hospitals in London have revealed a new technique for screening out embryos with so-called chromosomal translocations using in vitro fertilisation technology [pre-implantation genetic diagnosis]. Women who carry the genetic anomaly which leads to so-called chromosomal translocations, which are thought to cause thousands of miscarriages each year, can choose to generate embryos in a test-tube and then accept only those who are most likely to be born healthy. [The Sunday Times, 24 December 2000 ] Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, has been widely criticised after he urged a review of the country's laws banning embryo experimentation. Mr Schröder refused to rule out research on cloned human embryos, insisting that it would be irresponsible to wear "ideological blinkers". He warned that Germany could fall behind other countries and "be forced to import what is banned here". It is reported that his comments were criticised by opposition politicians, church leaders and eminent scientists. [Daily Telegraph, 27 December] A federal appeals court in the United States has reinstated an abortion clinic buffer zone law in Massachusetts which was deemed unconstitutional by a lower court last month [see news digest for 21 November ]. The lower court had decided that the law infringed the right to free speech of pro-life demonstrators, but the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals judged that a perceived threat to public safety outweighed other concerns. The buffer zone law can now be enforced while its constitutionality is considered further. [AP, via Yahoo! News, 22 December ]

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