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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 June 2000

21 June 2000

21 June 2000 The Northern Ireland legislative assembly has overwhelmingly expressed its opposition to abortion. Mrs Betty Gibson, chairwoman of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland, said that a clear message had been sent to the British government that "they will not succeed in imposing abortion on demand on the people here". Mr Jim Wells, a Democratic Unionist member for South Down, had proposed the motion: "That this House defends the right to life of the unborn child and opposes any change in the law governing abortion in Northern Ireland." The Women's Coalition introduced an amendment calling for the issue to be referred to the assembly's health committee, and supporters of this move included members of the Progressive Unionist Party and Sinn Fein. However, the amendment was rejected by 43 votes to 15 and then the main motion was passed by acclaim. [BBC News Online, 20 June&SPUC] Education directors in Edinburgh, Scotland, have said that the police will be called in if Precious Life, a group which campaigns against abortion by direct action, goes ahead with its plan to hand out leaflets to children outside secondary schools. The group described the plan as a "counter-attack" against the publication of the Family Planning Association's booklet on abortion. [Scottish Catholic Observer, 16 June&BBC News Online, 19 June] German scientists have announced plans to import human embryo stem cells from the United States for use in research. The killing of embryos for research is illegal in Germany and the scientists have been accused of exploiting a legal loophole by importing the cells instead. The government-funded German Research Association said that it would be importing a single cell chain from an American test-tube embryo which was never implanted and would otherwise perish. Whereas German law dictates that all created embryos should be implanted, researchers in the USA are allowed to use embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation. [Reuters, 20 June; from Pro-Life Infonet] The Dutch medical association is training 1,000 doctors to be specialised consultants in the field of euthanasia. The curriculum of the three-day course includes training to resist pressure from patients, information on pain relief and the symptoms which patients may feel are unbearable, and testimonies from patients themselves. The doctors do not intend to practise euthanasia, but to give advice to those who do. A bill to legalise euthanasia in Holland is expected to be passed by parliament later this year. [New York Times, 20 June; from Pro-Life Infonet] The new Catholic Archbishop of New York has condemned abortion and euthanasia during his installation Mass in St.Patrick's Cathedral. Archbishop Edward Egan asked the rhetorical question: "May we stand idly while the being within the mother is killed, even though no one has ever been able to prove it has anything but an inalienable right to live?" At this, applause filled the cathedral, although Hillary Clinton, a candidate for the Senate, did not applaud and her rival, Rick Lazio, only clapped briefly. The Archbishop asked other similar rhetorical questions, one of which mentioned euthanasia. [New York Daily News Online, 20 June] Only seven out of 23 hospitals designated to perform abortions in South Africa's Eastern Cape actually offer the procedure, according to a senior health official. Dr Costa Gazi, head of public health at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, said that some doctors refused to perform abortions after three months' gestation and others refused to carry out any abortions on moral grounds. The Abortion Act passed four years ago gave women the right to abortion, while the constitution gives health workers the right to refuse to take part in the procedure. [SAPA, 19 June]

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