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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 31 January 2002

31 January 2002

31 January 2002 The German parliament yesterday voted to authorise imports of embryonic stem cells. 340 (55%) of the 618 deputies voted for a motion authorising the import of stem cells extracted from human embryos killed abroad, although a motion to allow unrestricted imports was rejected. The destruction of human embryos in Germany remains illegal. The move had the support of Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, and Edelgard Bulmahn, the minister for research. [BBC News online, 30 January ] Mexico's supreme court of justice has upheld legislation passed in 2000 which legalised the abortion of unborn children with serious genetic anomalies. The supreme court justices voted by seven to four in favour of a provision in the so-called Robles Law which authorised abortion when "genetic defects are detected that could endanger the infant's life". The justices postponed consideration of the second part of the law which authorised the abortion of unborn children conceived through rape or unauthorised artificial insemination. [Agencia EFE, 30 January; via Northern Light ] Ministers in the Irish Republic have decided to delay a decision on the timing of the abortion referendum until the high court has ruled on a legal challenge to the poll. The Irish high court is due to announce its ruling tomorrow in the case against the referendum brought by two law students in Dublin, but the case could then be appealed to the supreme court. [Irish Independent, 31 January ] A Scottish medical ethics committee has warned that the abortifacient morning-after pill has not been adequately tested and could lead to long-term health problems in users. A report by the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics for members of the Scottish parliament and executive warns that easy availability of the drug from pharmacists encourages potentially dangerous repeated use. The report observes: "A look at the evidence base for the prescription of the morning-after pill reveals that little is known or understood about it. In a culture that rightly places considerable value on empirical research evidence as the basis of effective public policy, there is an alarming scarcity of rigorous independent research on the morning-after pill." [Sunday Herald, 20 January] SPUC has condemned the failure of the British foreign office to recognise the gross human rights abuses of China's coercive population control policy. Speaking after last night's evidence session of the foreign affairs committee in parliament, Mr Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary, said: "Amnesty International and the US State Department have frequently documented China's system of forced abortions and infanticide, yet the foreign office has ignored this irrefutable evidence. Tonight, foreign office minister Peter Hain said that 'the right to life is the most basic human right' yet the British government continues to act as an apologist for bodies complicit in China's coercive population control programme, such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)." [SPUC media release, 30 January] The European Court of Human Rights has announced that it will hear the appeal brought by Mrs Dianne Pretty on 19 March. Mrs Pretty, who is suffering from motor neurone disease, is claiming a right to be helped to die by her husband. Her case was rejected last year by the English courts. A spokesman for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society said that Mrs Pretty hoped to attend the appeal hearing in person. [Ananova, 30 January ] The head of a French pro-life organisation has asked us to clarify a misleading report of a vote in the lower house of the French parliament. The vote sought to overturn a ruling by the country's highest court that disabled people can be compensated for not having been aborted [see news digest for 10 January ]. François Pascal, director of Transvie , said: "The French government has presented its bill as a way of stopping wrongful birth cases, but this is far from the case. Although individuals cannot now be compensated for not having been aborted, under the proposed law their parents have a statutory right to compensation if they missed the opportunity to abort a handicapped child due to lack of information from the doctor. In other words, in order to benefit from financial compensation, parents will have to declare that they would have aborted their child. Those who wanted to keep their child will not benefit from this financial compensation. Up to now, people were allowed to abort handicapped children, but this law (if it is adopted in second reading) is completely different: for the first time, the state directly encourages abortion of handicapped children." The legislation now has to be submited to the Senate and then back to the National Assembly for a second reading. [SPUC and Transvie ] Marie Stopes International (MSI), an international abortion provider based in London, may soon begin to offer abortions in Afghanistan. Mr Peter Lawton, a regional advisor for MSI, made his comments on a visit to Afghan health clinics, where he distributed birth control pills and the controversial Depo-Provera drug. He said that MSI could begin operating in Afghanistan three months from now, and observed: "[In Afghanistan] menstrual regulation, which uses the plastic syringe, would be the best way to go. You would enable them to have a very easy termination, or menstrual regulation, which just requires about a 10-minute procedure with a local anaesthetic." MSI receives funding from the British government, the European Union and the United Nations. [Bangkok Post, 30 January; via World News ]

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