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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 6 April 2001

6 April 2001

6 April 2001 The European Union's Council of Ministers has affirmed that national abortion legislation does not come within the competency of European Community law and is not an obstacle to full membership of the European Union (EU). The statement follows concern on the part of some members of the European parliament that EU delegations to international conferences had promoted increased availability of abortion and, on one occasion last year [the Beijing+5 meeting], had in effect questioned Poland's suitability for EU membership [abortion is illegal in Poland in most cases]. The council stated that Poland was continuing to fulfil the criteria set for EU membership and that abortion was not a relevant issue. [SPUC, April 2001] Doctors in Canada are to treat a nine-month-old child who has cancer by using stem cells extracted from his umbilical cord. Jesse Farquharson, who has eye cancer, has been responding well to chemotherapy and will undergo the stem cell transplant next week. Doctors hope that the stem cells will help to restore the child's own bone marrow which has become depleted as a result of the chemotherapy. They say that the technique has major advantages over a conventional bone marrow transplant because there is no need to find a matching donor. [LifeSite, 5 April ] The use of umbilical cords as a source of stem cells provides an ethical alternative to the proposed use of human embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. Pope John Paul II has congratulated the Argentine president for his country's respect for human life, while lamenting international anti-life forces which exert pressure on countries such as Argentina to abandon their values. Addressing President Fernando de la Rúa in the Vatican, the pope said that Argentina had "given proof of its attachment to great values, such as honesty, justice [and] respect for life from conception until natural death" and noted that Argentina had defended the dignity of unborn human life at United Nations conferences. The pope continued: " is right to acknowledge the clear-sighted and human view of sovereign countries, like yours, which are an example of positions that are in consonance with natural law." [Zenit, 5 April ] Illinois's state senate has agreed not to force Catholic hospitals to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill to rape victims or to refer women to other doctors who would be willing to dispense the drug. Legislators had been considering a wider reaching bill, but a more limited measure was passed by 49 votes to eight which requires hospitals to offer information about the drug. The bill now moves to the state House. [AP, via STLtoday, 5 April ] The lower house of the Russian parliament has rejected a bill which included a prohibition on abortions for 10 years. The bill, which contained a variety of controversial measures to stem the fall in the size of Russia's population, had been presented by Vladimir Zhirinoski, leader of the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party. [Zenit, 5 April ] It has been estimated that 70 percent of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion, a rate which is second only in Europe, and possibly in the world, to Romania [see news digests for 25 January 2001 and 19 May 2000 ]. Fifteen women in the American state of Virginia are seeking more than $100 million in compensation from the city of Chesapeake after claiming that their unborn children died as a result of poisoned drinking and bathing water in the late 1990s. The women claim that they were exposed to water which contained trihalomethanes (THMs), and that the city authorities knew about the presence of THMs as well as its connection with miscarriages as early as the 1980s. [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4 April ] Federal court hearings into Ohio's ban on partial-birth abortions are continuing. Earlier this week, Judge Walter Rice asked the state to explain how partial-birth abortions (known as dilation and extraction) were crueller than other abortion techniques which are not covered by the ban, such as the dismemberment of an unborn child in utero (known as dilation and evacuation). Ohio's governor signed a ban on partial-birth abortions last May, although it has never taken effect. Legislators hoped that the ban would be seen as sufficiently well defined so as to pass the criteria for constitutionality set by the US Supreme Court when it threw out Nebraska's partial-birth abortion ban. [The Plain Dealer, 4 April ; etc.] British Columbia's privacy commissioner has criticised the provincial government for seeking to restrict information on abortion. Mr David Loukidelis described the measure in Bill 21 [see Wednesday's digest ] as "outmoded" and claimed that it constituted a "creeping repeal" of the Freedom of Information Act. Ujjal Dosanjh, British Columbia's premier, has defended the legislation and has publicly committed himself to the pro-abortion cause on a number of occasions. [LifeSite, 5 April ; etc.]

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