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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 15 August 2002

15 August 2002

15 August 2002 A British government minister has cited the "appalling symbolism" in the deaths of two unborn children in a terrorist bomb attack in Northern Ireland fours years ago. The bomb planted in Omagh by Republican terrorists killed 31 people, including two unborn children, although the unborn victims were not counted in the official death toll. Mr Des Browne, the UK government minister for criminal justice, victims and human rights in Northern Ireland, told a conference in Londonderry that the deaths of the two unborn children were particularly symbolic of the fact that the terrorists were trying "to destroy the future". [NI Office online, 15 August ; see digest for 20 September 2000 ] Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, but more than 500 unborn children are killed in legal abortions every day in the rest of the UK. A prominent member of Afghanistan's interim government has issued a stern warning to anyone such as Marie Stopes International (MSI) or the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) who may be intending to distribute morning-after pills or perform illegal surgical abortions inside Afghanistan. The warning referred explicitly to carrying or distributing morning-after pills in Afghanistan, which was said to be an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison. MSI opened its first clinic in Afghanistan last Saturday. While MSI and UNFPA have not said if they will be providing abortifacient methods of birth control or surgical abortions in the country, it is known that morning-after pills and late term surgical abortions were being provided in Afghan refugee camps inside Pakistan. [SPUC&PRI, 13 August] A woman in Kinshasa has given birth to the first born-alive baby to have been created by IVF treatment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC now becomes the third sub-Saharan country, behind South Africa and Cameroon, where IVF treatment has been carried out successfully. [BBC News online, 14 August ] Dominic Baster of SPUC commented: "The reality is that IVF treatment entails a hugely disproportionate risk to the lives of the unborn children created in the process. For this reason, the establishment of an IVF programme is not an advance for the Congolese people but, rather, a step backwards towards a society which commodifies human life and sacrifices its youngest members." A federal judge in America has ruled that the US Navy must pay for the late-term abortion of a severely handicapped unborn child whose father is a Navy worker. The baby has allegedly been diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition whereby all or most of the brain fails to develop. The Navy's health contractor had refused to pay for the abortion on the basis that a 1985 federal law prohibits the use of Department of Defense money for abortions unless the mother's life is endangered. However, a judge in Seattle ruled that the Navy's decision in this case was illegal because the unborn child could not even be considered a potential life. [Seattle Times, 13 August ] Anencephalic babies can survive for hours, days or even longer after being born. A couple who want to have the world's first cloned born-alive baby and the doctor who is helping them have defended their plans on CNN, an American television station. Dr Panayiotis Zavos acknowledged that the procedure was risky but insisted that the public would come round to the idea. Bill, the husband of Cathy who is seeking to be the first woman to give birth to a clone of herself, said on the programme: "We're on the cutting edge and the beginning of a brave new world.... But we're not going to give birth to a monster or an abnormal child. If there is a serious abnormality we will abort." [The Scotsman and Sydney Morning Herald , 14 August] The inspector general of the District of Columbia in the US has recommended that disciplinary action should be taken against an emergency medical services supervisor whose advice allegedly led three pregnant students to have abortions. Samanthia M Robinson is said to have told a class of trainee emergency medical technicians in March last year that they would be fired if they became pregnant. However, D.C. law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. The US Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Miss Robinson, citing a lack of evidence of criminal intent. [The Washington Times, 13 August ] The annual convention of the American Bar Association (ABA), the largest lawyers' group in the US, has passed a resolution opposing a legal ban on human cloning. The resolution was passed yesterday by a voice vote, and no member spoke against it. Cathleen Cleaver Esq., a spokesman for the American Catholic bishops' pro-life secretariat, said that the ABA, which has an official position in favour of abortion, had "once again positioned itself against life". [US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 14 August, via Pro-Life Infonet] The leader of the Orthodox Church in America, an independent church within the Eastern Orthodox communion, has condemned abortion as a violation of the biblical commandment against killing. Speaking in Alaska, Metropolitan Herman included the inadmissibility of abortion among those tenets which must be followed because they were established by Christ and his church. [Anchorage Daily News, 14 August ; other sources] The results of a large-scale American study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry have suggested that women are 63% more likely to receive mental health care within 90 days of an abortion than within 90 days of delivering a live baby. Researchers led by Dr Priscilla Coleman examined the medical records of 173,000 low-income women in California, excluding all women who had received any psychiatric care within a year prior to their "pregnancy outcome". [US Newswire, 15 August; via Northern Light ]

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