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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 October 2000

30 October 2000

30 October 2000 The health department in Zurich, Switzerland, has officially authorised assisted suicides in its care homes for the elderly. Active euthanasia remains illegal in Switzerland, but the removal of life-sustaining equipment or treatment is allowed and assisted suicides are tolerated. Suicide had previously been banned in care homes but Robert Neukomm, head of the Zurich health department, said: "In a changed society, which places high value on the right to self-determination, there is no longer room for such prohibitions." Albert Wettstein, head of the municipal doctors, opposed the plan because he feared it would encourage more patients to opt for suicide and constitute a first step towards active euthanasia. Only 1.1% of care home residents to date had expressed a desire for suicide. [Zenit news agency, 29 October] Cardinal Thomas Winning, archbishop of Glasgow and leader of Roman Catholics in Scotland, has urged a rejection of the culture of death in order to avert a dangerous decline in his country's birth rates. Writing in the Sunday Herald newspaper, he said that the government should allow couples to see children as a gift rather than as a burden, and suggested the provision of tax concessions to parents and generous allowances to mothers who chose to stay at home to look after their children. Stressing that child-rearing should be made an attractive option, the cardinal wrote: "That means changing a culture of death into a culture of life. It means developing a radically sane view of new life, not as something to be avoided like the plague through contraception and abortion but as something to be treasured and valued." [BBC News online, 29 October ] A leading fertility expert has told a conference in San Diego, California, that human reproductive cloning could be performed quickly and easily. [This conflicts with Professor Robert Winston's observation last week that reproductive cloning was still a long way off.] Professor Jacques Cohen, described as one of the world's leading test-tube baby experts, told the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: "Cloning a human would be easy - an afternoon's work for a PhD student. I could do it tomorrow." He said that he would not himself attempt the procedure with humans until the factors which have led to high incidences of abnormalities in cloned animals were better understood. [Daily Express online, 29 October ] A prominent US abortionist has been threatened with deportation from Australia if she 'incites civil discord'. For the second time in a year, Australian immigration officials had threatened to refuse entry to Dr Suzanne Poppema, former president of the US National Abortion Federation. Last November Dr Poppema and two colleagues were obliged to sign a declaration in which they promised not "to incite discord", particularly in relation to the abortion issue. Dr Poppema expressed her outrage at her treatment, but a spokesman for the Australian immigration minister described her as a controversial person who had provoked division within the community. [The Age, 26 October ] In the run-up to the US presidential election next week, pro-life groups have been scrutinising the conflicting stances of the two main contenders. Various publications have revealed Al Gore's apparent conversion to the pro-abortion cause in the mid-1980s. In September 1983, he wrote to a constituent: "As you know, I have strongly opposed federal funding of abortions ... Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected." In August 1984 he told another constituent: "It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong." However, by March 1988 he could tell US News and World Report: "I have not changed ... I have always been against anything that would take away a woman's right to abortion." [Pro-Life Infonet, 30 October]

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