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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 July 2000

28 July 2000

28 July 2000 The French government has proposed a set of measures to liberalise the country's abortion laws. The reform would include the extension of the legal abortion time limit from 10 to 12 weeks' gestation, the abolition of any need for parental consent before girls under 18 have abortions or buy the morning-after pill, and the lifting of a ban on pro-abortion propaganda. The measures were announced by Martine Aubry, French labour minister, and will be reviewed by a Council of Ministers meeting next October. The extension of the abortion time limit will bring France into line with a number of other European countries, including its neighbours Germany and Belgium. Abortion was decriminalised in France in 1975, and there are currently 220,000 abortions performed every year. 5,000 more women are thought to obtain abortions after the tenth week of pregnancy in other countries. [The Guardian, 28 July; Agence France Presse, 27 July; CWNews, 27 July] Australian health ministers have agreed to ban reproductive cloning of human beings, but have signalled their support for so-called therapeutic cloning. The ministers were meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, to develop a consistent national approach to the subject. The distinction made between reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning has met with criticism. Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, a consultant ethicist to the Catholic Church, commented: "I am extremely disappointed they used the term therapeutic cloning, because it is highly misleading and obscures the reality that this would be producing embryos for the purpose of destroying them." Under National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, no human cloning is allowed at present in Australia and three states have laws banning it. [Sydney Morning Herald, 28 July] A prominent British politician and pro-life campaigner has accused Tony Blair, the prime minister, of deceit on the issues of abortion and human cloning. Lord Alton had written to Mr Blair about foetal experimentation and eugenic abortion. In his reply, the prime minister said that he did not believe current abortion legislation discriminated against disabled people. Lord Alton responded by pointing out that unborn children can only be aborted up to birth in Britain if they have a disability. Mr Blair also reaffirmed his opposition to reproductive cloning but expressed no personal view on so-called therapeutic cloning, an omission attacked by Lord Alton who said: "It is deceptive. It's the worst kind of spin." [Catholic Herald, 28 July] The Italian minister of health has said that euthanasia does happen and that it should be discussed. Umberto Veronesi said, "I do not consider euthanasia a taboo. Euthanasia is a problem which exists and current laws allow no space for this argument." Giuliano Amato, the Italian prime minister, told parliament that the bioethics committee would be making recommendations on the subject. A recent survey of 386 Italian doctors working in palliative care found that 39 percent had received requests for euthanasia, and that 4 percent of those patients who had made such a request received it. [La Repubblica, 14 July] A draft set of campaign policies issued by the Republican party in Philadelphia yesterday maintained that "the unborn child has a right to life which cannot be infringed" and proposed a ban on abortion through legislation and an amendment to the United States constitution. No mention was made of exceptions in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother, although George W Bush, the party's candidate-elect for the presidential elections in November, does believe that such exceptions should be made. [Associated Press, Yahoo! News, 27 July]

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