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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 10 July 2000

10 July 2000

10 July 2000 The Church of England has re-affirmed its opposition to euthanasia. A new edition of the document On Dying Well, first published in 1975, insists that euthanasia cannot be justified ethically or theologically. It states: "Experience suggests that although it is an articulate minority who would like to see changes in the existing framework, it will be the poor and disadvantaged who suffer the consequences." [The Church of England Newspaper, 30 June] A British newspaper has suggested that social workers took a 12-year-old pregnant girl away from her parents and into care because the father was a Catholic and disagreed with abortion. The parents of the girl, who has behavioural problems, had vowed to support their daughter when they discovered she was pregnant, and Cardinal Winning's Pro-Life Initiative offered the family financial support. However, a few days after the girl and her parents again refused the option of abortion at 24 weeks' gestation, the girl was taken away on the basis that she was beyond parental control and that there were concerns about the father's behaviour. The girl had her baby, but it was taken away five months later against her wishes and is now being put up for adoption by the local council. The newspaper report by Anne Atkins concludes: "Because of their mainstream Christian beliefs, they are at odds with the society around them ... for this they have lost their child and grandchild." [The Mail on Sunday, 9 July] French police have raided a clinic in Saclay, near Paris, after claims by staff that they were forced to carry out euthanasia on elderly patients. Media reports allege that as many as 45 cases could be involved over a period of five years. One nurse said: "You have to have worked in that atmosphere of harassment to understand how difficult it was not to obey." [The Times, 10 July] Canadian tests of the abortion pill RU486 (mifepristone) began unannounced two weeks ago at four centres in Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec. Dr Ellen Wiebe, who made the announcement, revealed that 13 women have so far taken the drug. The study, which is expected to last a year and include 1,000 women, will compare RU486 with another abortion pill called methotrexate, which is believed to be less efficient. Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, pledged to fight the widespread use of chemical abortion and described it as "anti-human pesticide". Meanwhile, Joyce Arthur of British Columbia's Pro-Choice Action Network said, "This is a victory for women." It is estimated that 500,000 women have used RU486 in France, Britain, Sweden and China since 1989. [National Post Online, 8 July&The Province, Vancouver, 7 July] Pope John Paul II has stressed the responsibility incumbent upon doctors to defend life. Addressing 6,000 Catholic doctors in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, at the end of an international conference, the Pontiff said: "Sadly today we live in a society that is often dominated both by a culture of abortion, which leads to the violation of the fundamental right to life of the being conceived, [and] also a concept of autonomy, which is expressed in the claim of euthanasia to self-release from a situation that for some reason has become painful. You know that for the Catholic it is never licit to be an accomplice for an alleged right to abortion or euthanasia. Being intrinsically immoral, the legislation that favours such crimes cannot be a moral imperative for the doctor who, with good reason, must take recourse to conscientious objection." [Zenit news agency, Vatican City, 7 July] Three senior doctors have been suspended by the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, after allegations of a late-term abortion. A 40-year-old woman, in a distressed state, visited the hospital with her husband earlier this year demanding the abortion of her unborn child at 32 weeks' gestation because tests showed that the baby would grow up with dwarfism. Professor Glenn Bowes, medical director of the hospital, said that he was concerned that the death of the unborn child may have been caused by lethal injection before labour was induced and commented, "Clearly the fact that this was a late gestation pregnancy and that the foetal malformation present was not one that was lethal are matters that were substantive to our concern." [, 3 July] A brief summary of the legal situation with regard to abortion in Australia can be seen at or a more comprehensive exposition can be found at

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