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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 6 August 2002

6 August 2002

6 August 2002 Baroness Warnock has proposed the legalisation of euthanasia on the basis that the law already permits the abortion of handicapped unborn children. Lady Warnock, whose report in the 1980s led to the legal regulation of IVF and embryo experimentation in the UK, stirred controversy last month by giving her support to human cloning for the treatment of infertility [see digest for 25 July ]. Now, in an article for Counsel, the official magazine for barristers in England and Wales, she writes: "It seems irrational to deny death ... to someone who, unlike the foetus, is able to make her own judgement that her life is intolerable." Lady Warnock had previously been against euthanasia because it could lead to abuse by doctors and relatives, but she now believes that the case of Dianne Pretty has exposed the "irrationality" of the present law. [The Independent, 6 August ] President George W Bush yesterday signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act into US federal law. The legislation accords full legal rights to any baby who shows signs of life after being born at any stage of development, even during a botched abortion procedure. During the signing ceremony, President Bush observed that unborn children were also "members of the human family" and were "created in God's own image". He said that the supporters of the law were "affirming a culture of life" and quoted Pope John Paul II by name when he looked forward to "a hospitable, a welcoming culture" in America. [PR Newswire, 5 August ; Washington Times, 6 August ] Australian police have raided two homes of Dr Philip Nitschke, the prominent pro-euthanasia campaigner, as part of their investigation into the suicide of Nancy Crick. Ms Crick had been suffering from bowel cancer and killed herself last May, although a post-mortem reportedly indicated that she was free of cancer at the time of her death. Dr Nitschke was Nancy Crick's doctor and supported her campaign for the right to be helped to die, but he was not present at her death. Dr Nitschke has complained that the police operation could upset his plans to launch a suffocation bag to facilitate suicide later this month. [Reuters, 6 August ] A judge in Philadelphia has dissolved the temporary injunction issued by another judge last week preventing a 23-year-old woman from having an abortion [see digest for 31 July ]. The woman's ex-boyfriend had tried to gain legal custody of his child, but Judge Michael Conahan ruled yesterday that a woman's right to abortion could not be vetoed by her husband or partner, and that "neither an ex-boyfriend nor a foetus has standing to interfere with a woman's choice to terminate her pregnancy". [AP, 5 August; via Northern Light ] Mr John Howard, the Australian prime minister, has insisted that his proposed legislation to legalise destructive embryonic stem cell research does not entail the use of tissue from aborted foetuses. Mr Howard made his comments after Professor Alan Trounson said that he would use tissue from aborted unborn children to culture stem cells if the legislation went through [see yesterday's digest ]. Mr Howard's office added later that the legislation "did not prevent and did not facilitate" the use of aborted foetuses. John Anderson, the deputy prime minister, said that Professor Trounson's drift towards utilitarianism 'frightened the life out of him'. [The Mercury, 6 August ] The discovery of the body of an eight-month-old male foetus near the city of Chandigarh, India, has raised concerns that the country's Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test Act is being widely flouted in the villages and townships surrounding the city. The Act bans the use of ultrasound tests to determine the sex of unborn children and also the concealment of birth by secret disposal of a dead body, but it is thought that the law is widely ignored in rural areas, both by registered doctors and by unlicensed practitioners. Evidence suggests that the practice of sex-selective abortion and infanticide, particularly of girls, continues. [Express India, 6 August ; see digests for 5 May 2000 , 9 March 2001 and 8 May ]

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