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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 9 November 2000

9 November 2000

9 November 2000 Voters in the American state of Maine have voted against the legalisation of assisted suicide. 330,831 votes were recorded against the measure, compared to 313,454 votes in favour. This represented a 51 to 49 percent split. Oregon remains the only American state in which assisted suicide is allowed. Randolph D Smoak Jr., president of the American Medical Association, said that his organisation was "pleased that Maine voters have endorsed physicians' fundamental obligation 'to do no harm' by defeating a flawed ballot initiative that would have turned healers away from their primary purpose". [Zenit news agency and Pro-Life Infonet, 8 November] The Vatican has criticised a group of German Catholics who are continuing to participate in an official scheme whereby pregnant women who visit recognised counselling centres may obtain certificates required for abortions. After the German bishops discontinued their participation in the scheme at the insistence of Pope John Paul II, the Central Committee of German Catholics, a movement of lay people, established the Donum Vitae organisation without the bishops' approval. This organisation continued to participate in the scheme, but Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained in a letter to the papal nuncio to Germany that "whoever continues to operate in the system of counselling centres is placed in open opposition to the Pope". [Zenit news agency, 8 November] An abortion waiting period initiative was rejected on Tuesday by voters in the American state of Colorado. The proposed law, known as Amendment 25, would have allowed women to consider information on the dangers of abortion and its alternatives during a 24-hour period for reflection. Early reports suggested that the amendment had been rejected by 60 percent of voters. [Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, 8 November; from Pro-Life Infonet] Scientists attending the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, Louisiana, have spoken about a variety of new studies which indicate the potential of adult cells for the production of new body tissue. Brain stem cells taken from dead people were found to be extremely versatile and could be converted into a variety of other types of cell. Moreover, cells taken from bone marrow have been converted into brain cells with high levels of success. Ira Black of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey said that he and his colleagues had managed to convert 99 percent of bone marrow cells taken from rats and humans into nerve cells. [CNN, 5 November ] The president of the United States Catholic bishops' conference has spoken about the central importance of life issues for the next incumbent of the White House. Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas, told an Italian newspaper yesterday: "I hope that Catholics, including at the congressional level, have voted on the basis of the Church's teaching and their conscience. Later we will see if progress can be made." [Zenit news agency, 8 November] A baby girl who was born three months premature in New York, weighing only 12 ounces, has gone home from hospital. When Madison Savoia was born on 14 July, she was only 10 inches long and had only about one and a half ounces of blood in her whole body. Newborn babies usually have between 12 and 15 ounces of blood. Four months later she is thought to be perfectly healthy. [Nando media, 9 November ]

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