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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 15 March 2001

15 March 2001

15 March 2001 The parliament of Switzerland yesterday voted to legalise abortion. Abortion has technically been illegal in Switzerland since a law passed in 1942, but several cantons [Swiss provinces] have introduced more liberal provisions and the national legislation is intended to provide a uniform legal standard. The law allows abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy following a written request to a doctor setting out the reason for the procedure. If opponents can collect 50,000 signatures, the measure will require approval by the Swiss people in a referendum before it is implemented. [Xinhua news agency, 14 March; via Northern Light ] Nine Catholic bishops in Mexico have warned that the culture of death is advancing in their country. In a Lenten message, the bishops of Veracruz state linked abortion and euthanasia with other assaults on human dignity such as kidnapping, rape, drug addiction and terrorism. They concluded: "We are certain that, despite difficulties and uncertainties, with the light of reason and even more so with the help of faith, every man sincerely open to truth and goodness can succeed in discovering in the natural law inscribed in his heart, the sacred value of human life from its conception to its natural end..." [Zenit/EWTN News, 14 March ] A British government minister has told the House of Lords that there are currently 12 schemes established by health action zones and health authorities in the UK under which girls as young as 12 can access the abortifacient morning-after pill. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, parliamentary under-secretary of state in the department of health, insisted that the effects on girls and the consequent incidences of sexually transmitted diseases would be monitored. The minister rejected the idea that promotion of sexual abstinence led to a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates. [House of Lords Hansard, 8 March ] The Canadian federal health minister has said that legislation to regulate human cloning technology will soon be introduced, probably by late spring. A royal commission into human cloning was established in Canada as long ago as 1989, at a cost of $28 million. It is reported that, despite this foresight on the part of Mr Brian Mulroney, prime minister at the time, Canada now lags behind other developed countries in setting statutory limits on the technology. [Toronto Star, 14 March ] The Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations has criticised the move towards legalised euthanasia in certain developed countries. Addressing the preparatory committee for the second World Assembly on Ageing, which will be held next year, Archbishop Renato Martino contrasted the reverence for old age in developing countries with the way in which many elderly were abandoned and regarded as a burden in the developed world. He said that it was "horrible to think that just as the world begins to make great advances in prolonging the lives of individuals ... the taking of life has become, in some places, an acceptable alternative." [Zenit news agency , 14 March] The Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa has refused to stop providing information on abortion services, despite the fact that this will mean losing out on US federal aid amounting to about a quarter of their annual budget. The Mexico City policy, re-introduced by President George W Bush, blocks American funding for any organisation which either promotes or provides abortions. Organisations have to decide whether to stop advocating abortions or lose US aid, and the Bush administration has claimed that most of them have decided on the former. [The Baltimore Sun, via Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March ] Legislators in four American states are pushing for legislation to protect pharmacists who refuse to dispense abortifacient drugs. Bills have been proposed in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky along the lines of a 1998 law passed in South Dakota. A case will come before the courts in May in which a pharmacist formerly employed by the Kmart retail company will claim that she was wrongly dismissed in 1996 for refusing to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill. Karen Brauer claims that the dismissal violated an Ohio law which allows pharmacists to refuse to participate in medical procedures that result in an abortion, although Kmart have countered that dispensing drugs does not amount to a medical procedure. [Fox News, 14 March ]

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