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News, 10 May 2000

10 May 2000

10 May 2000 2,216 people were helped by their doctors to die last year in the Netherlands, according to the so-called regional euthanasia review committees. By law, Dutch doctors must inform these committees, consisting of legal and medical experts, each time they are involved in an assisted suicide. So-called mercy killings have been tolerated in the Netherlands for years, although the doctors involved could theoretically be prosecuted for murder. A bill currently before the Dutch parliament would make the country the first in the world officially to legalise active euthanasia. [Reuters, 9th May; on Excite News] Concerned pro-life groups, including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, attended a press conference at the House of Lords in London yesterday which was held in anticipation of the publication of the Donaldson committee report. This report was commissioned by the Government and is rumoured to recommend the legalisation of so-called therapeutic cloning. The speakers included Dr Peter Liese MEP, who was responsible for strong anti-cloning resolutions passed by the European Parliament with overwhelming majorities. The groups emphasised that ethically acceptable alternatives, such as adult stem cell technology, have made embryonic cloning redundant. They also warned of a "slippery slope" from so-called therapeutic cloning to reproductive cloning, and criticised the unbalanced composition of, and censorship of dissent by, recent bioethics committees. [Eye-witness] A senior doctor has told a committee of Irish parliamentarians looking into the issue of abortion that most of his colleagues would refuse to perform abortions "for religious, moral and ethical reasons" if they were legalised. Dr Declan Keane, Master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, was objecting to the assertion of Ms Liz McManus TD that abortions would have to be performed in Ireland sooner or later because about 12% of Irish pregnancies already ended in abortions obtained abroad. [The Irish Times on-line, 4th May] The funeral of Cardinal John O'Connor has taken place in New York. During the Mass the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, praised his late friend for his pro-life stance and said, "What a great legacy he has left us in this constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro-life." At this the congregation burst into robust applause and then a three-minute standing ovation. However, both President Clinton and vice-president Al Gore declined to applaud even though they eventually stood up. Other prominent pro-abortion politicians also declined to applaud, or did so reluctantly. No such reticence was observed on the part of Republican presidential candidate George Bush Jr., or his father, the former president. [Washington Times, 8th May&New York Times, 9th May; from Pro-Life Infonet] The largest Christian denomination in America to favour abortion may soon vote to fight partial-birth abortions. A panel of the United Methodist Church yesterday voted to fight the procedure by 77 votes to 32, and the full Methodists' general conference is expected to accept the recommendation later in the week. The Methodists are the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. with 8.4 million members, and their general conference meets every four years to set policy. [Associated Press, 8th May; from Pro-Life Infonet] Figures released in Canada show that 114,648 women had abortions in 1997, up almost 3% from 1996 and 10% from 1990. In 1997 there were 33 abortions for every 100 live births, and the abortion rate per 1000 Canadian women of all ages was 16.8 (compared to 20 per 1000 in the USA and 6.5 per 1000 in the Netherlands). Canada's supreme court struck down the country's abortion law in 1988, since when there has been no national strategy concerning abortion. All three of the main contenders for the leadership of the opposition Canadian Alliance party are pro-life. [Toronto Star, 7th May; from Pro-Life Infonet] The Chinese government has announced that it will refine its population control policies so as to ensure that the official population total will not exceed 1.4 billion in 2010. The total is currently 1.25 billion. Most Chinese couples are already limited to one child, and the new measures will strengthen the control system already in place through legislation and state policies. The official Xinhua News Agency also said that "More safe, effective and proper contraceptive methods should be made available to women of childbearing age." Penalties imposed for having more than one child have often led to the abandonment of baby girls in China and there are now said to be 100 million more men than women in the population. [Associated Press, 7th May; on Excite News]

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