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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 June 2000

26 June 2000

26 June 2000 Scientists have completed the first draft of the human genetic code. The White House said yesterday that President Clinton would announce the news in the US today and a similar announcement will be made in London. Sir Robert May, the British government's chief scientific advisor, said: "The genome project is a scientific development on a par with Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and is probably a landmark more significant than man landing on the moon." Others are concerned about the prospect of designer babies, the implications of more effective genetic screening and extended human lifespans. [BBC News Online, Guardian&Metro, 26 June] The new president of Canada's Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has called for the morning-after pill to be made available without a doctor's prescription. Dr Thirza Smith explained, "Anything we can do to advocate for better access to care for women is what we're going to do," but Dr Will Johnston of Canadian Physicians for Life warned: "I would worry their judgement was being clouded by their close relationship with pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit from vastly increased use of the morning-after pill." [National Post, 23 June; from Pro-Life E-News] The Vatican's semi-official newspaper has welcomed the vote by the Italian Senate last week to reinstate the rights of the unborn, after a previous vote had cancelled them. Fr Gino Concetti, a columnist in L'Osservatore Romano, wrote: "The fact that that which is conceived is a human being should not be doubted by anyone today, unless there is a desire to deny the data of science and reason." [Zenit news agency, Vatican City, 23 June] Argentina has passed a new law which gives all women access to a gynaecologist and advice on contraception. Juliana Marino, the bill's sponsor, said she believed that adolescents had a right to use contraceptives and claimed that the main aim of the law was to reduce abortions, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The Argentine Health Society said that the new law was not an attempt to legalise abortion, but Catholic groups feared that it paved the way for this. During the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-99) both abortion and contraception were strongly resisted. Mr Menem admitted last year that his ex-wife had had an abortion in the late 1960s. [Agence France Presse English, 24 June; from Pro-Life E-News] The American state of Alaska is being taken to court by Planned Parenthood for allegedly disregarding a previous court order to provide abortions for poor women. The state had withdrawn funding for abortions, except in cases of incest, rape or danger to the mother's life, but last March a court deemed this unconstitutional because it discriminated against pregnant women who chose not to give birth. It is now claimed that the state legislature is continuing to withhold money for medically approved abortions. [Anchorage Daily News, 23 June] There has been an angry exchange of words among judges of the Texas Supreme Court over the issue of parental consent to abortion. The Parental Notification Act passed last year allows a minor to have an abortion without informing her parents if a state judge is satisfied that she meets certain criteria, such as maturity. Justice Nathan Hecht criticised the supreme court's 6-3 decision to overrule lower courts and allow a minor's abortion. He said that the majority "adamantly refuses to listen to all reason" and, noting that the state legislature had intended the law to discourage abortion, he continued: "The court not only ignores those purposes, it has done what it can to defeat them." Justice Craig Enoch countered by saying that his colleague had "once again succumbed to passion". [American Statesman, 23 June; from Pro-Life E-News]

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