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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 March 2001

16 March 2001

16 March 2001 Hopes that the legalisation of euthanasia might still be avoided in the Netherlands have been raised by the murder conviction of a doctor who hastened the death of a terminally ill patient. When the lower house of the Dutch parliament voted to legalise euthanasia last November [see news digest for 29 November 2000 ], the Senate's approval was considered a formality. However, the conviction of Wilfred van Oijen for killing an 84-year-old woman in 1997 has re-ignited the debate. A court decided that the death was not covered by the Netherlands' current provisions which allow doctors to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients because the patient had neither requested it nor had another doctor been consulted. Ron Jonquiere, managing director of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said: "Our concern is that at the last moment, too many members of the Senate will reconsider their decisions..." The final vote will take place next month. [Reuters, via FindLaw Legal News, 16 March ] It has been reported that American taxpayers are funding the development of a possibly abortifacient birth control vaccine to be used in China. Research is being carried out by Dr John Herr at the University of Virginia on "recombinant gamete contraceptive vaccinogens" with a grant from the US National Institutes of Health. Steve W Mosher of the Population Research Institute, who was critical of the vaccine, explained that it was intended to work in a contraceptive rather than an abortifacient way by causing a woman's immune system to destroy sperm which entered the fallopian tubes. However, he pointed out that other vaccines already used in India and elsewhere worked in an abortifacient way by causing the immune system to attack a hormone which facilitates the growth of an early human embryo and his or her implantation into the uterine wall. Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America claimed that Dr Herr's vaccine was intended to abort newly conceived humans, and lamented the premise that pregnancy was in some sense a disease to be vaccinated against. [LifeSite, 14 March ; PRI Weekly Briefing, 2 March; AgapePress, 15 March ] Yesterday marked the deadline for applications for US federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research. Many groups have put their names to letters urging President Bush to block federal funding of such research. One letter sent to the president by the Catholic Leadership Conference had been signed by more than 100 organisations. It stresses the potential of alternative ethical sources of stem cells, such as umbilical cords and adult bone marrow, and affirms that human life from conception until natural death should be accorded unconditional respect. [LifeSite, 15 March ] A nurse has been convicted in Massachusetts of performing acts of euthanasia on four patients reportedly to impress her boyfriend. A federal jury convicted Kristen Gilbert on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. The nurse's lawyers had argued that all the patients were already seriously ill and could have died of natural causes. [AP, 15 March; via Pro-Life Infonet] The premier of British Columbia, Canada, has re-affirmed his administration's support for abortion in the text of the speech with which the lieutenant governor opened the new session of parliament. The speech from the throne, written by Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, included commitments to protect "a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body and about abortion", to ensure better access to the abortifacient morning-after pill, and to expand the provision of abortion services throughout the province. [LifeSite, 15 March ; speech from the throne text, Legislative Assembly of BC website, 14 March ] A former Swedish tennis champion has called on Europeans to have more babies. Bjorn Borg, who was Wimbledon champion five times, said: "We have a bit of a delicate problem here in the Western world: there aren't enough babies being born. If nothing drastic happens soon, there won't be anyone who can work and put up for our pensions." [Ananova, 9 March ] An 84-year-old childless Australian man is asking to be allowed to clone himself a family. The man said that he was fit, active and had a good income to support children, but had been unable to father children with his late wife and now felt a failure. He commented: "I think it's very unfair that women are being helped with reproductive technology and men are getting nothing." [BBC News online, 15 March ]

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