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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 11 April 2001

11 April 2001

11 April 2001 Euthanasia will be legal in the Netherlands before the end of the month after the country's upper house of parliament passed the measure yesterday by 46 votes to 28. The law will take effect once it has received Queen Beatrix's assent and has been published in the official media. 10,000 opponents held a rally outside the senate as the legislation was passed, and two anti-euthanasia petitions which together contained the signatures of 40,000 people were presented to legislators before the debate. Mrs Els Borst-Eilers, the Dutch health minister, said that she hoped other countries would now "find the courage to enter into similar debate", although reaction from abroad was in many cases negative. The Russian health minister warned that the law would be open to abuse, while pro-life campaigners and religious leaders in America, Britain, Poland and elsewhere condemned the legislation. Dominic Baster, a spokesman for SPUC in London, said: "Moves towards the legalisation of euthanasia in Europe and elsewhere are intimately connected with the denial of human rights to unborn children who are killed in the course of experiments, fertility treatment, post-coital birth control or surgical abortion. All of these constitute assaults on the inherent dignity and value of human life. Legalised euthanasia is thus directly related to the legalisation of abortion, for the latter provided the foothold for a culture of death which logically leads on to euthanasia. The only way to prevent further proliferation of a pro-death culture is to defend the fundamental premise that human life, at every stage and in every situation, possesses an inherent dignity of itself." [Pro-Life E-News, 10 April; BBC News online , Reuters and SPUC, 11 April] Members of the British House of Commons have attacked the biased composition of the House of Lords select committee on stem cell research [see news digest for 7 March ] and have singled out the Anglican bishop who will serve as its chairman for particular criticism. An early day motion so far signed by five MPs points out that Rt Rev Richard Harries, the Anglican bishop of Oxford who is one of the lords spiritual in Britain's upper house of parliament, has consistently supported destructive research on human embryos and rejects his assertions that this view is compatible with traditional Christian teaching. The motion observes that significant sections within his own church oppose such research, as do Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox Christians. [House of Commons early day motion 570, 9 April ] The Vatican has reiterated its opposition to destructive experimentation on human embryos. In response to a proposal by Italy's health minister that 250 abandoned frozen embryos who are destined for destruction anyway should be experimented upon, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Council for Life, said that the use of human embryos for research was inherently immoral. The bishop also lamented the fact that 240,000 frozen embryos in Italy alone were stored in liquid nitrogen, a "scandal" which he referred to as "a very grave act of violence". [EWTN News, 10 April ] The government of the Netherlands has said that it would prevent Dr Philip Nitschke from providing euthanasia on a boat moored in international waters under the Dutch flag [see news digest for 9 April ]. Dr Nitschke had announced plans to offer euthanasia to Australians on the boat under Dutch law, but Mrs E Borst-Eilers, the Dutch minister of health, said that she would co-operate with Australian colleagues to prevent the initiative. [Pro-Life E-News, 10 April] Alaska's state senate has attempted to ensure that no state money will be used to fund abortions for poor women. The Republican controlled senate passed a budget bill on Monday which included a specific stipulation that the budget for the health and social services department would fail if a judge ruled that abortions had to be provided for. Democrat senators objected to the wording, which they said amounted to a blackmail clause. A joint conference of the state's two legislative chambers will now discuss the budget bill. [AP, via Anchorage Daily News, 10 April ]

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