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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 24 January 2002

24 January 2002

24 January 2002 The European Court of Human Rights has announced that it will prioritise Mrs Dianne Pretty's request for a right to die. Mrs Pretty's bid to be granted a right to be helped to die by her husband was rejected by both the High Court and the House of Lords, England's highest court, last year. Mrs Pretty, who suffers from motor-neurone disease, is now asking the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to rule that the refusal by the English courts to grant her request contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which is supporting Mrs Pretty's action, said it was delighted by the news. [BBC News online and Ananova, 23 January] Finland has become the latest European country to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. The national agency for medicines announced that pharmacists would be able to provide the drug to women and girls over the age of 15, probably from May. [LifeSite, 23 January ] American researchers claim to have discovered stem cells in adult bone marrow which may have as much potential to convert into other types of body cell as embryonic stem cells are thought to have. The cells, known as multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs), were found by Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota. She claims that the cells have been shown to grow indefinitely in culture, keeping their characteristics while showing no signs of ageing. Experts were divided on whether the cells had simply been found in the bone marrow, or whether Ms Verfaillie's team had discovered a way of creating the MAPCs. The discovery could provide an ethical alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning. [The Times and BBC News online , 24 January; New Scientist online, 23 January ] The first advertisement in Britain for the abortion-inducing morning-after pill has been condemned by pro-life and religious groups. The advertisement for the Levonelle morning-after pill, which is now available throughout the UK from pharmacists for £20, will appear in young women's magazines next month. It reads: "Split condom. Oops. Emergency contraception!!! Quick. Pharmacy. Buy Levonelle ... Phew!" A spokesman for the Church of England pointed out that morning-after pills were not contraceptives because they worked after conception. [Daily Telegraph, 24 January ] SPUC is currently pursuing a legal action against sales of the morning-after pill from pharmacists on the basis that they cause abortions. A coroner in the Australian state of Victoria has said that she does not have jurisdiction to investigate the abortion of a 32-week old unborn child two years ago because the child was stillborn. The child was aborted at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne in February 2000 after being diagnosed with dwarfism, a non-lethal anomaly. Abortion is technically illegal in Victoria unless a doctor believes it necessary to prevent a serious threat to the mother's life or mental health. In this case, doctors say that they believed such a threat did exist because the child's 40-year-old mother had threatened to commit suicide unless the abortion went ahead. [The Age, 24 January ]

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