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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 22 January 2002

22 January 2002

22 January 2002 Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Catholic bishops' conference, and Manfred Kock, president of Germany's Council of Evangelical Churches, have written a joint letter to all members of the German federal legislature in defence of the early human embryo. The leaders insisted that all human beings had "a right to life and to unconditional protection from the moment of conception" and that, therefore, any premise which "only guarantees partial protection to the embryo in the first stage bases itself only on unstable terrain". [Zenit, 18 January ] A new Irish pro-life group has announced its intention to take the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) to court unless it reverses its decision to authorise the abortifacient morning-after pill within three days. Ireland for Life, which has been founded by Mrs Mary Thornton, former chairwoman of Galway for Life, intends to seek a judicial review of the IMB's decision to reclassify the Levonelle morning-after pill as a contraceptive. A letter presented to the IMB in Dublin yesterday by the group's solicitor stated that the morning-after pill caused early abortions of pre-implantation embryos and therefore contravened both the Irish constitution and sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Mrs Thornton warned that this could be the last time such an action was possible in Ireland because "if the forthcoming abortion referendum is passed, there will be no law vindicating the right to life of the pre-implantation embryo." [The Irish Times, 22 January ] The proposed constitutional amendment would define abortion as the intentional destruction of human life only after implantation and repeal sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Act. Today is the 29th anniversary of the US Supreme Court judgements in the cases of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton. Roe v Wade declared a constitutional right to abortion, while Doe v Bolton extended this right to all nine months of pregnancy. According to the judgements, there can be no restriction at all on abortions performed in the first trimester. States may pass laws to regulate abortion in the second trimester, but only to ensure a woman's safety and not to restrict access. States can restrict abortion in the third trimester, but not in cases where an abortion is considered necessary to protect a woman's health. In effect, the judgements have led to abortion virtually on demand throughout pregnancy across the United States. [SPUC, 22 January; with further information from the Pro-Life Action League ] US President George Bush proclaimed Sunday 20 January the National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and issued a statement which affirmed the inalienable right to life of all human beings. The president wrote: "Life is an inalienable right, understood as given to each of us by Our Creator ... we should peacefully commit ourselves to seeking a society that values life--from its very beginnings to its natural end. Unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law." [Zenit, 20 January ] A newly published study is the latest to suggest a link between abortion and depression. The study, published in this week's British Medical Journal and conducted by the Elliot Institute, Illinois, found that, eight years after an abortion, married women were 138% more likely to be at high risk of clinical depression than women who had carried their unintended first pregnancies to term. Dr David Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute, said that the results were based on a re-analysis of figures used by Nancy Russo, a feminist psychologist, who had suggested that women's self-esteem was not overly affected by an abortion experience. Dr Reardon added that other studies had also linked abortion with higher rates of suicide and substance abuse. [CNS, 22 January ] A committee of medical, legal and religious experts has recommended the legalisation of passive euthanasia in Israel. The 58 experts, who had been deliberating for two years, presented a set of recommendations to Israel's health minister, including the use of legally binding so-called living wills, respirators with timers which turn themselves off, and a database in which individuals could record their preferences for end-of-life care. Active euthanasia would be forbidden. Nissim Dahan, the health minister, praised the committee's report, which will now be considered by the Knesset, Israel's parliament. [The Jerusalem Post, 18 January ] The medical student who complained to police last month that abortions were being performed illegally in Tasmania has claimed that abortion practitioners could still face prosecution despite the passing of a new law to legalise the procedure. Armin Tadj's complaint last month led to a temporary suspension of abortions in Tasmania and the passing of emergency legislation to ensure that abortions could be performed within the law. However, Mr Tadj claims that abortion practitioners are continuing to practise abortion on demand while falsely stating on official forms that the abortions are justified on medical grounds. [CNS, 21 January; via Pro-Life Infonet ]

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