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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 December 2002

18 December 2002

18 December 2002 The United States has been overwhelmingly defeated in its bid to have pro-abortion language omitted from the plan of action adopted yesterday at the UN-sponsored Asian and Pacific population conference in Bangkok. The text of the plan includes "reproductive health services" among those "human rights" which must be protected, although the US pointed out that this phrase is widely understood to entail access to abortion. United Nations meetings usually adopt declarations by consensus but, faced with deadlock, a vote was taken on the two sections in the action plan dealing with "reproductive rights and reproductive health" and "adolescent reproductive health". The US lost the votes by 31-1 and 32-1 respectively. Following these defeats, the US delegation agreed on the adoption of the plan, but registered its concerns in a separate attachment. [US Newswire and Guardian Unlimited, 17 December; Boston Globe, 18 December ] A spokesman for SPUC observed that this pro-life defeat is mitigated by the facts that the meeting did not have the status of a UN world conference and, in any case, did not reach consensus. The European parliament's development committee has postponed its vote on the Sandbaek report for a fourth time in the face of pro-life lobbying and the firm stand adopted by pro-life members against accepting any provision for abortion funding. The vote had been scheduled for yesterday, but the committee has now postponed the vote until 20 January. Pro-lifers are urging members of the committee, as well as national ambassadors and government ministers, to ensure that the final text of the regulation does not authorise the use of EU money to fund abortions in developing countries. Meanwhile, MEPs will vote definitively at the second reading tomorrow on the EU's total budget for the year ahead. At the first reading, MEPs approved a 200% increase in the budget line for overseas 'population control'. [Euro-Fam , 13 and 17 December] The Irish prime minister has told parliament that no discussions have taken place on what action should be taken following the defeat of the government's abortion referendum in March. Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern agreed with the Labour party's health spokesman that medical problems identified at the time of the referendum would have to be dealt with through legislation, but said that no consultations on the issue had yet been undertaken. [RTE News, 17 December ] The defeat of the Irish government's referendum proposal ensured that human life remained constitutionally protected from the moment of conception. However, a supreme court ruling in 1992 allowed for abortions when the mother was considered at risk of suicide, and this has never been legislated for. The Scottish secretary of the British Medical Association (BMA) has said that all schoolgirls in Scotland should be given the abortifacient morning-after pill without the need for their parents' consent. Dr Bill O'Neill urged the Scottish Executive to give greater powers to school nurses to dispense the drug, and it is reported that the BMA will lobby political parties to include the plan in their manifestos ahead of the Scottish parliamentary elections next May. However, Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell is against the plan, and spokesmen for the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party reacted negatively to the idea. [Evening Times, Glasgow, 18 December] A US study has suggested that over a third of Americans would use IVF techniques to select their baby's sex if they were widely available. The review of research by the Presidential Council on Bioethics said that 35% would favour sex selection for so-called family balancing. Suzi Leather, chairman of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which is currently conducting a public consultation on whether "family balancing" should be allowed in Britain, said she was surprised by how many Americans supported it. The UK consultation will end next month. [BBC News online, 17 December ]

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