News, 29 April 2002
29 April 2002
29 April 2002 The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that there is no right to assisted suicide under the European Convention on Human Rights. A panel of seven judges in Strasbourg ruled unanimously this morning that Mrs Dianne Pretty, who has motor-neurone disease (MND), has no right to be helped to die by her husband. The coalition of pro-life groups which had been involved in the case warmly welcomed the judgement. The coalition had serious concerns that the case could undermine the lives of vulnerable people and lead to the practice of euthanasia. [SPUC and BBC News online , 29 April] Switzerland's Christian Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected government plans to legalise abortion. Delegates at a meeting of the centre-right political party voted by 201 to 73 against the government's proposals, which will be put to the Swiss people in a referendum on 2 June. Under a law passed in 1942, abortion is illegal in Switzerland unless the mother's life is at risk. However, it is widely tolerated and there are thought to be about 13,000 abortions performed each year. The government's referendum proposals would legalise abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, and an opinion poll has indicated that 64% of voters are minded to support the plan. [Swissinfo, 29 April ] Legislators in Germany have given final approval to the importation of stem cells extracted from human embryos. The lower house of the German parliament voted on Thursday by 369 to 190 in favour of a law which upholds a ban on the extraction of stem cells from embryos in Germany but authorises the importation of embryonic stem cells produced abroad prior to 1 January 2002. The measure, which was approved in principle last January, received the support of Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor, but was opposed by President Johannes Rau and Church leaders. [AP, via Yahoo! News, 25 April ] Thousands of people participated in pro-life chains organised by SPUC throughout England, Wales and Scotland on Saturday to mark the 34th anniversary of the day on which the British Abortion Act came into effect. Since 27 April 1968, more than five and a half million unborn children have been aborted under the terms of the Act. Catherine Butchers, a 26-year-old trainee lawyer, was among the hundreds of people who took part in the central London chain. She said: "I wanted to participate in this event to show that I care about the unborn and because it is so important to bear witness to the fact that every abortion is an assault against the fundamental dignity of human life. Legal abortion undermines the very foundation of civilised society." [SPUC, 29 April] Professor Ian Wilmut, the co-creator of Dolly the first cloned sheep, has revealed that every one of the world's cloned animals is genetically and physically defective. Dr Wilmut conducted a review of all cloned animals around the world and found that they were beset by a wide range of anomalies, including excessive size of certain organs, heart defects, obesity, lung problems and malfunctioning immune systems. Dolly the sheep has developed arthritis at a far younger age than expected. Professor Wilmut concluded: "There is abundant evidence that cloning can and does go wrong and no justification for believing that this will not happen with humans." [The Times, 29 April] Dana Rosemary Scallon, the pro-life member of the European parliament for Ulster and Connaught, has announced her intention to seek election to Ireland's national parliament. Mrs Scallon officially launched her campaign over the weekend ahead of the general election on 17 May. At the launch she said that her core message was that life should be respected at all stages of development. Mrs Scallon, who is standing in the Galway West constituency, came second in the last Irish presidential election. [Irish Independent, 29 April ] Pro-lifers have expressed concern that "reproductive care" is on the agenda for discussion at the United Nations Special Session on Children, which is going on in New York this week and next week. Among the UN's stated aims for the summit is ensuring that "all individuals of appropriate age, especially women and adolescent girls, have full access to affordable, quality reproductive care". Wendy Wright, spokesman for Concerned Women for America, warned that pro-abortionists had no concern for women's health but were following a political agenda. [CNSNews, 29 April ] ACTION: Members of the European parliament will vote definitively on the European Union's research budget for the next five years on 14 May. During the first reading of this budget report (known as the Caudron report), MEPs backed funding for research which involves the use of so-called supernumerary in vitro fertilisation embryos and existing embryonic stem cell stocks. Ahead of the definitive vote, if you are a citizen of an EU member country we ask you to sign a "declaration on human genetics and other new technologies in medicine" on the Euro-Fam website. It can be viewed and signed here .