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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 April 2002

18 April 2002

18 April 2002 The English high court has rejected SPUC's legal challenge to sales of the abortifacient morning-after pill from pharmacists. Mr Justice Munby handed down his judgement this morning, after which SPUC announced its intention to seek leave to appeal. The judgement ran to 398 paragraphs in total, but the judge's principal reason for rejecting SPUC's case was that the term "miscarriage" in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 should be understood according to what it means today rather than what it meant when the Act was passed. He asserted that the term miscarriage today "means the termination of an established pregnancy" after implantation. This is the first time that such a concept has been applied in English law. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, said: "It is a sorry day for justice when the courts fail to protect unborn life at its most vulnerable. One of our key objectives in bringing this case has been to stop the systematic deception of women who have been told that the morning-after pill is simply a contraceptive. What the government, the drug company and the pro-abortion lobby have not been able to deny is that the early developing human embryo is killed by this drug. We want to see today's judgement challenged in the Court of Appeal, and before the bar of public opinion. Our campaign to inform the public about the truth of how the morning-after pill works will continue." The issues of costs and leave to appeal will be dealt with in a further hearing at the high court next Thursday. [SPUC, 18 April] The BBC website features a poll on sales of the morning-after-pill from pharmacists. A US federal judge ruled yesterday that John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, acted beyond his powers when he attempted to invalidate Oregon's assisted suicide law. Mr Ashcroft issued a directive last November stating that assisted suicide was not a "legitimate medical purpose" for federally controlled drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. However, US District Judge Robert Jones ruled that the justice department could not use this federal law to overturn Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, which had been approved by voters in Oregon on two separate occasions. [AP, via CNN, 17 April ] An Irish study has indicated that women who continue to work through pregnancy are nearly five times more likely to develop pre-eclampsia than women who are not in employment. Pre-eclampsia, which is exhibited by extremely high blood pressure in pregnancy, is potentially life-threatening to both mother and unborn child. The study was carried out by doctors at University College in Cork and was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. [The Times, 18 April ] State legislators in Virginia have failed to override Governor Mark R Warner's recent veto of a new partial-birth abortion ban. Members of the House of Delegates voted by 71 to 28 in favour of overturning the veto, but the vote in the Senate was won by only 24 to 14, three votes less than the required two thirds majority. [AP, via Washington Post, 17 April ]

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