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News, 14 September 2000

14 September 2000

14 September 2000 In what is seen as an unprecedented move, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster and a pro-life group have been asked by the English Court of Appeal to make written submissions in the case of the Siamese twins Jodie and Mary. The twins' parents, who are opposing an application to separate their daughters, are themselves said to be devout Catholics. Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, seen as leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, has said that "a very dangerous precedent" would be set if the judges ruled that a person could be killed "so that good may come of it". The archbishop's spokesman said that he would be offering reflections based on Catholic moral teaching "which may be of assistance to the judges in deciding on this tragic and heart-rending case". The Pro-Life Alliance will make its submission with regard to the implications of the European Convention on Human Rights [certain aspects of which are given particular status in English law under the Human Rights Act which comes into force on 2 October], although Tim Owen QC, appearing for Jodie, said that the Human Rights Act would not prevent doctors from operating with the sole intention of saving Jodie's life [even if such an act inevitably led to the death of Mary]. Yesterday the court was told that Mary, the weaker twin, appears to be growing normally, possibly at the expense of her sister Jodie who is feeding but not developing as doctors had expected. [BBC News Online, 13&14 September; Daily Telegraph&The Times, 14 September] A French nurse who has admitted helping terminally ill patients to die at a lung hospital near Paris between 1997 and 1998 was committed to trial yesterday on seven counts of murder. Christine Malevre, aged 30, last year sparked a public debate on euthanasia in France by publishing a book on the subject. She was initially charged with 11 deaths and had originally told police that she helped up to 30 patients end their lives. [Reuters, 13 September; from Pro-Life Infonet] Anti-abortion activists in the United States are appealing against the verdict of a jury, given in February 1999, that they are liable to pay 109 million dollars for a campaign against abortionists conducted by way of posters and a website. Entitled The Nuremberg Files, the website listed the names of hundreds of abortionists for use in later trials for crimes against humanity. It was decided in the original case that this action had gone beyond free speech (enshrined in the US Constitution's First Amendment) because it was likely to cause "imminent lawless action". Other legal experts have said that freedom of speech is not exceeded unless an explicit threat is contained. Oral arguments before a panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals began this week. [CNN.com, 12 September; EWTN News, 13 September] The archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic has used his weekly television programme to affirm that science must be used to further a culture of life rather than promote a culture of death. Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez said, "We must rejoice that the Creator has given to humanity this capacity of investigation," but warned that science and technology had been wrongly linked to a culture of death which does not respect the integrity of the human being. He observed: "We are before two totally different thoughts: the culture of life and the culture of death." [EWTN News, 13 September] A national opinion poll in the United States has indicated that the public is very much divided as to whether the RU-486 abortion pill should be marketed. The ABC News poll, conducted by ICR on a random sample of 1,006 adults, indicated that 45 percent believe the drug should be legal, as compared to 47 percent who think it should remain illegal. The same poll indicated that when asked simply about abortion, 55 percent of Americans believe that it should be legal in all or most cases and 42 percent think that it should not. [ABC News, 13 September] A pro-life educational charity in the United Kingdom is launching an essay competition for 15 to 18-year-olds in memory of Robin McNair, a Second World War fighter pilot and later anti-abortion campaigner. The competition, jointly sponsored by the SPUC Educational Research Trust and the late Squadron Leader McNair's family, aims to engage young people in the issues surrounding abortion. [SPUC Educational Research Trust media release , 14 September]

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