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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 12 June 2000

12 June 2000

12 June 2000 Following all-night negotiations in New York, the United Nations meeting to review implementation of the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference ended on Saturday without incorporating stronger language on access to abortions and so-called sexual rights. Pro-life commentators claimed a significant victory for the developing nations and muslim countries. The final document did, however, declare that women had a right to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality". Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican's permanent observer at the UN, expressed his "satisfaction over the decisions reached", but Nafis Sadik, executive director of the UN Population Fund, signalled her disappointment at the defeat. Most Western, African and [surprisingly] South American countries argued against the Holy See's stance on these issues, but countries which did support the Vatican included Nicaragua, Libya, Algeria, Iran, Sudan and Pakistan. [Zenit news agency, New York, 11 June; Reuters on Yahoo News, 10 June; Associated Press in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 June] William Hague, leader of Britain's Conservative party, has voiced his belief that abortion laws in the UK should be tightened. Mr Hague, who is also leader of the opposition in parliament, said in an interview published by The Daily Telegraph newspaper: "This is a case where freedom comes into conflict with the rights of others. A lot of babies who are aborted are recognisable human beings." [The Daily Telegraph, 10 June] [Mr Hague has supported anti-abortion amendments in the past.] A prominent Catholic bishop in Rome has criticised amendments introduced by the Italian senate to a bill on artificial insemination, one of which would remove the obligation to inform couples that the technique involves the wastage of embryos. Bishop Eli Sgreccia, director of the Bio-Ethics Centre of Rome's Sacred Heart University and vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said: "The majority of embryos, in other words of [the couples'] children, will be sacrificed for the one child who will survive. If they knew the truth, I don't know how many would decide to go ahead with these procedures." Official figures have indicated that there were 15,500 abortions in New Zealand last year, an increase of 3.1 percent from the year before. In a separate development, a New Zealand Labour MP has called for legalised euthanasia and claimed that it has broad support among the people. Chris Carter, who was addressing a meeting of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in Auckland, said that euthanasia was being prevented by "a vociferous moral minority". [New Zealand Herald, 9 June] A feature writer for the Guardian newspaper in the UK has described the imminent decoding of the human genome as a "frightening prospect". Madeline Bunting wrote: "Our generation will face huge moral dilemmas - what's wrong with cloning? What genetic disorders do we weed out? What kind of eugenics is acceptable? - and we are without any of the old moral compasses." [The Guardian, 12 June] The parliamentary hearings into the working of South Africa's abortion law have closed. Cheryllyn Dudley, an MP for the African Christian Democratic Party, said that the hearings had demonstrated that most South Africans continued to oppose abortion and that the implementation of the abortion act had been unsuccessful. Dr Ruth Rabinowitz, health spokesperson for the Inkatha Freedom Party, called for the act to be amended so that abortions were only available at hospitals where doctors were on hand. She also said that abortions should be less easily available in the second trimester [four to six months' gestation] when the foetus was well-formed. [SAPA, 8 June; from Pro-Life E-News] Priests for Life, an American pro-life organisation which aims to assist clergy with regard to the abortion issue, is planning an advertising campaign in the run-up to November's elections. They have already placed advertisements in two Capitol Hill newspapers and the director has sent letters to members of Congress. The stated aim of the initiative is to make it clear to voters "that the right to life is the most fundamental issue in any campaign". [The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 June]

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