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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 25 September 2000

25 September 2000

25 September 2000 The English Court of Appeal has ruled that Jodie and Mary the Siamese twins should be separated. The decision by the three judges on the panel was unanimous and the ruling itself ran to more than 130 pages. Lord Justice Ward observed that Mary, the weaker twin, had been "living on borrowed time" and said, "She is incapable of independent existence. She is designated for death." He conceded that Mary had a right to live but affirmed that she had "little right to be alive ... because ... she sucks the lifeblood of Jodie, and her parasitic living will soon be the cause of Jodie ceasing to live". For this reason he said that taking Mary's life to save Jodie could be "legitimate self-defence". The twins' parents, who are devout Catholics from the Mediterranean island of Gozo, Malta, are now considering whether to take their appeal to the House of Lords. [BBC News online, 22 September; Daily Telegraph, 23 September] A number of frozen embryos stored for use in fertility treatment at an English hospital have disappeared. The Sun newspaper claimed that up to 80 women may have been affected by the blunder, discovered at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke and a private clinic which shares the same facilities. A spokesperson for the hospital had said that the total number of patients affected was 10, although reports today suggested that 39 women have been contacted with the news that their frozen embryos have either been lost or are now "unusable". The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has insisted that there is no suggestion that any woman had been implanted with the wrong embryo, although Alan Milburn, the health secretary, has ordered an immediate inquiry to allay public concerns. Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "This is an almost inevitable consequence of the commodification of human life. We object to turning human procreation into a lab process. Part of the reason for that objection is the inevitable mishaps that occur." [BBC News online, 23 September; Electronic Telegraph, 24 September; Daily Mail, 25 September] It has been reported that the Irish government is ready to propose a referendum to overturn the X-case judgement in 1992, which allowed for abortions in cases when the mother threatens suicide. The Irish Independent reported that Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach [prime minister], plans to proceed with a referendum question which would explicitly ban abortions in cases of rape and threat of suicide, but make so-called medical abortions fully legal. Reports on the proposals expected from the Oireachtas committee on the constitution suggest strong parallels with the strategy used to liberalise abortion in Britain in the 1960s, with "medical abortions" and references to "current medical practice" as key factors influencing the committee. The report is likely to outline a number of options and a cabinet sub-committee could still be needed to decide on the final course of action. [Irish Independent, 25 September,&other sources] One Oireachtas committee member is quoted as saying: "Mr Ahern faces being the first taoiseach to introduce abortion into Ireland, no matter how he seeks to portray it. Recognition of current medical practice will see to that." Bertie Ahern belongs to the Fianna Fail party which, it is reported, will be proposing a new abortion referendum. The Fine Gael party has recommended that nothing be changed and that the current status quo be preserved, whereas the Labour party supports the introduction of legal abortion in Ireland within a gestational time limit. [Irish Independent, 25 September] George W Bush, the Republican candidate in November's US presidential election, has again affirmed his intention to pursue pro-life policies if he is elected. In an interview on his campaign aeroplane, Mr Bush said: "One of the things ... I'll do as president is to talk about the culture of life, the need for a welcoming society, the need for Americans--no matter what their personal view is on the life issue--[to see] that we can do better as a society. I recognise that until we have a cultural shift, there's going to be a lot of folks who disagree with my pro-life position, but that's not going to stop me from setting the goal that the born and the unborn ought to be welcomed in life and protected by law." A Bush campaign health policy adviser also confirmed that Mr Bush would cancel federal funding for embryonic stem cell research if he becomes president. [Catholic News Service, 22 September; United Press International, 22 September; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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