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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 5 April 2002

5 April 2002

5 April 2002 The leaders of Australia's states and territories have agreed a national policy on stem cell research broadly in line with Prime Minister John Howard's proposals [see yesterday's digest ]. Mr Howard announced that the leaders had slightly modified his recommendations by agreeing that embryo donors should only have to give their consent once, and they had also raised concerns about the proposed ban on research involving embryos created after today. However, this ban would be reviewed within 12 months and expire in three years. Mr Howard said of the agreement: "It provides certainty, it provides opportunity, it provides hope. It balances the ethical considerations with the need for medical research." Peter Beattie, the premier of Queensland, even described the outcome as "frankly a great day for Australia". Dominic Baster, SPUC's international secretary, disagreed and said: "Destructive experimentation on human embryos, each of whom is an individual person with an inalienable right to life, is absolutely wrong. The fact that so-called surplus embryos are generated and dispensed with in the course of in vitro fertilisation is scandalous in itself, but to use these human beings in experiments as if they were nothing more than chemical ingredients is an outrageous assault on the dignity of human life." [Sydney Morning Herald and SPUC, 5 April] SPUC is demanding that Mr Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, clarify his position on a semi-official document attacking the Holy See's pro-life stance. A statement prepared by the group which calls itself Catholics For a Free Choice (CFFC) has been distributed to delegates at the UN Commission meeting on population and development, something which requires the secretary-general's approval. The Holy See is recognised as a non-member state with permanent observer status at the UN. Peter Smith, chief administrative officer for SPUC at the UN, described the CFFC document as a "vicious attack against the Holy See". [SPUC, 5 April] The Governor of Virginia yesterday vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortions which was passed by state legislators earlier this year. Governor Mark R Warner said that he had blocked the measure because it lacked sufficient exceptions for women who encountered problems late in pregnancy. The final majority in favour of the ban in Virginia's senate was one less than would have been needed to override the governor's veto. [AP, via Northern Light, 4 April ; also see news digest for 12 March ] It has been confirmed that student doctors on four-year obstetrics and gynaecology residency programmes in New York City will be routinely trained to perform abortions from July. Dr Van Dunn, senior vice president for medical and professional affairs at the city's hospital agency, said that the training would be mandatory for all residents except those who opted out for moral or religious reasons. The initiative has the full backing of Michael Bloomberg, the pro-abortion mayor of New York, but has been condemned by New York State's Right to Life Committee. About 6,500 unborn children are killed by abortion in New York City's 11 public hospitals each year. [AP, 4 April; via Northern Light ]

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