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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 January 2001

16 January 2001

16 January 2001 In the run-up to the debate next Monday in the House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, on the government's legislation to authorise destructive research on cloned human embryos, the leaders of 11 different denominations and faiths in Britain have joined forces to urge further debate. In an unprecedented move, the leaders jointly signed a letter to all members of the House of Lords urging them to refer the matter to a select committee and to consider "the philosophical and ethical implications". Those who signed the letter were the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Roman Catholic archbishops of Westminster and Glasgow, the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, the general secretary of the Baptist Union, the moderator of the Free Churches Organisation, the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, the president of the Muslim College, the Chief Rabbi and the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations. Lord Alton, a prominent pro-life parliamentarian, has tabled an amendment to the motion which would have the effect of referring the statutory instrument to a select committee for further consideration, thus postponing any definitive vote. The text of the statutory instrument itself, which was passed by the House of Commons last month, cannot be amended. [Daily Telegraph, 15 January; SPUC, 16 January] Legislators in Belgium have moved a step closer to the legalisation of euthanasia. The Belgian senate has been debating the issue for a year and a half and the senate's commission of justice and social affairs has now approved the third article of a draft law setting out the conditions which doctors would have to meet before taking the lives of patients. The draft law includes provisions that any request for euthanasia must be voluntary, in writing or in the presence of a witness, and capable of withdrawal at any time. Doctors would also have to inform patients of the possibilities of palliative care. [Zenit news agency, 15 January] Thailand's medical council has recommended the implementation of immediate measures enabling doctors to perform abortions without any legal repercussions. In the meantime its panel will consider the liberalisation of abortion laws allegedly to protect women's [general] health. The council has already recommended the legalisation of abortion for disabled babies. Abortion is officially illegal in Thailand except in cases of rape or when the continuation of a pregnancy would threaten the mother's physical health. [Bangkok Post, 12 January ; also CRLP data] Dr Philip Nitschke, the Australian euthanasia campaigner, was granted permission yesterday to open a clinic in Western Australia. While Dr Nitschke denied that his clinics encouraged people to commit suicide, he admitted that "we do let them know what their options are". The news comes at the same time as a decision by the state's director of public prosecutions to pursue murder charges against three people accused of euthanasia last year. It was reported that the two developments have made euthanasia an election issue in the state. [Sydney Morning Herald, 16 January ] Officials in Russia have said that [human] cloning is legal, although the head of the country's human reproduction centre has insisted that experiments involving human cloning are dangerous and irresponsible. Professor Andrei Akopyan said that cloning humans would pose dangers to any new humans created. [AFP, 12 January; via Pro-Life E-News] Bishop Thomas J Welsh of Arlington, USA, has suggested that the Catholic Church should be prepared to give up its tax-exempt status in order to speak more freely about political issues and abortion in particular. He lamented the fact that many Catholics voted for pro-abortionists in the November elections, and that politicians who claimed to be Catholic espoused views which the Catholic Church taught to be wrong. He said: "If you say the Church is wrong about one serious issue like the pro-life stance, then you're undermining the whole nature of the Church ... We are saying [abortion] is intrinsically evil. There's no time for anybody at any place to have an abortion and say, 'This is right.' It's always, always wrong." [LifeSite Daily News, 15 January ]

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