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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 November 2000

16 November 2000

16 November 2000 The report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, which addresses the issue of abortion in the Republic of Ireland, was published yesterday. Running to 700 pages, it outlines three options. The first option, favoured by the Fine Gael party, would be to retain the current constitutional and legal situation. The second option, favoured by the Labour party, would be to introduce legislation with the effect of protecting current medical practice [abortions to save the life of the woman] and underpinning the situation since the Supreme Court's 1992 X-case decision [whereby abortions were allowed when the mother was considered to be at risk of suicide]. The third option, favoured by Fianna Fáil, would be to use legislation and a referendum to protect current legal practice and to overturn the X-case judgement. The criminality of abortion would be reaffirmed, even in cases of threatened suicide. All parties agree in the report to a 50 million-pound initiative to reduce crisis pregnancies and abortions (the report recognises that Ireland does have a significant abortion rate, carried out in British clinics). The report also reveals a consensus on the view that an outright ban on all abortions would be impossible because no terms could be found which would "secure certainty of meaning" while protecting the lives of pregnant women. The report will now be considered by a cabinet sub-committee. [Irish Times and Irish Independent (articles 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 and 5 ), 16 November] At the High Court in Sheffield, England, yesterday, on the first day of proceedings in the case brought against a fertility clinic by Peter and Patricia Thompson [as reported in yesterday's digest], lawyers representing the clinic disclosed that it was normal procedure for three test-tube embryos to be implanted in the wombs of women as part of in vitro fertilisation treatment. However, they said that Mrs Thompson was the only one of 254 patients to have actually given birth to triplets as a result [Mrs Thompson had refused a reductive abortion]. [Metro, 16 November] Dominic Baster, information officer at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "This statistic illustrates the astonishingly high number of unborn children whose lives are considered dispensable in the course of in vitro fertilisation treatment, both before and after implantation." The National Right to Life Committee in the United States is among the groups which have become involved in the legal wrangling over the disputed presidential election result in Florida. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, agreed yesterday to hear an appeal from the pro-lifers challenging a judge's refusal in Orlando, Florida, to stop manual recounts of votes. The action is being supported by the campaign team of George W Bush, the Republican candidate with good pro-life credentials. [From the CNN website, 16 November] The first baby in France to have been selected using in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis has been born. Valentin, whose parents' identities have not been disclosed, was selected to ensure that he was free of a genetic disorder which had killed his two older siblings. [It has not been reported how many of Valentin's other siblings were discarded and killed in the test-tube selection process]. [Metro, 16 November] The Catholic bishops of the United States have condemned the various pro-abortion decisions of the US Supreme Court since 1973, including the Stenberg v. Carhart decision on partial birth abortions earlier this year. They have also committed themselves to "the long and difficult task of reversing" those decisions. In a statement released yesterday during a meeting of the full bishops' conference, the prelates stated: "...our legal system, and thus our national culture, is being pressed to declare that human life has no inherent worth, that the value of human life can be assigned by the powerful and that the protection of the vulnerable is subject to the arbitrary choice of others ... no human government can legitimately deny the right to life or restrict it to certain classes of human beings. Therefore the Court's abortion decisions deserve only to be condemned, repudiated and ultimately reversed." The bishops continued: "We rededicate our Church to education, public policy advocacy, pastoral care and fervent prayer for the cause of human life ... in so doing we hope to help bring an end to the abortion culture in our society." [Abortion and the Supreme Court: Advancing the Culture of Death, US Catholic bishops, 15 November ]

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