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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 25 June 2001

25 June 2001

25 June 2001 British pro-lifers have called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to seek improvements in palliative care rather than the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. The calls were made after the husband of a terminally ill 42-year-old wrote to the prime minister urging him to allow doctors to help his wife to die. Mrs Diane Pretty of Luton, Bedfordshire, has motor neurone disease and has decided to refuse artificial ventilation. Alison Davis, co-ordinator of SPUC's handicap division, who herself has spina bifida, said: "Acceding to Mrs Petty's request would send out a very negative message to people like me who have severe disabilities and suffer a lot of pain ... Real compassion lies in caring for those in pain. It would only add to my own suffering and pain if I thought my carers were simultaneously wondering whether my life was really worth living." [Ananova, 22 June; SPUC media release, 23 June ] It is reported that the Irish government is planning to hold a referendum on abortion before the end of the year, with the aim of reversing the 1992 X-case judgement. A cabinet sub-committee has been considering the report of the Oireachtas all-party committee on abortion and is expected to present its findings to the government next month. A referendum could then be held as soon as October or November. However, one Irish newspaper claims that the divisions over abortion in the Irish Medical Council might delay proceedings. [Irish Independent and Irish Times , 25 June; , 24 June] A court in Argentina has upheld the right to life of an unborn child whom doctors believe to be "brain-dead". In refusing to sanction the abortion of an unborn child diagnosed with anencephaly at 28 weeks' gestation, the Buenos Aires provincial supreme court acknowledged that a brain-dead person was still alive. The consenting justices wrote: "Otherwise, for the sake of coherency, we would have to argue that any foetus suffering from anencephaly is not a human being but a corpse, a dead body, a thing." The Argentine constitution accords human rights to every unborn child from the moment of conception. [EFE via COMTEX, 23 June; via Northern Light ] A doctor is challenging the effective ban on imports of the RU-486 abortion drug into Australia. By making an official application to import the drug, Dr Adrienne Freeman, an obstetrician and gynaecologist in Brisbane, Queensland, will force the federal health minister to decide whether to allow the drug in. Under the Therapeutic Goods Amendment Act 1996, abortion drugs are designated as restricted goods and the written consent of the health minister is required before they are imported. The minister must also announce his decision to parliament. [The Age, 25 June ] The supreme court of Columbia has effectively decriminalised abortion in cases of rape and non-consensual artificial insemination. The two exceptions were introduced by the court last Wednesday in its ruling that women who procured illegal abortions could be sent to prison for up to three years. The Catholic bishops of Columbia condemned the ruling, which they stated was "in total and insurmountable contradiction to the inviolable right to life that is inherent in every human being". The bishops also described the ruling as "totally lacking in true legal validity". Alfredo Beltran, the supreme court chief justice, denied that abortion had been decriminalised at all but that it would no longer be punishable with imprisonment in the two particular cases. [EFE, via COMTEX, 22 June; via Northern Light ] US President Bush is reported to be leaning towards a ban on federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research, but Mr Tommy Thompson, the health and human services secretary, has been given more time to consider the issue. [New York Times, 22 June ] The floating abortion clinic which arrived in Dublin a week and a half ago docked in Cork on Friday. A spokesperson for the Women on the Waves foundation said that the Aurora would leave Cork today and would hopefully return to Ireland with a Dutch licence to carry out abortions before the end of the year. [Reuters, 24 June; via Pro-Life Infonet]

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