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News, 18 March 2002

18 March 2002

18 March 2002 The final stage in Mrs Dianne Pretty's legal battle for assisted suicide will start tomorrow. Mrs Pretty's case that her husband should be allowed to help her to die was rejected last year by the House of Lords, England's highest court. She is now taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which is supporting Mrs Pretty's bid, has claimed that the British government misled the House of Lords in the hearing last year regarding assisted suicide laws in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Mrs Pretty is almost entirely paralysed and cannot commit suicide herself. [Ananova, 18 March ] A report prepared for a British Conservative member of parliament has suggested that wider availability of the abortifacient morning-after pill has led to a rise in the surgical abortion rate among girls under 16. Mr Andrew Turner, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight in southern England, said that the number of under-age abortions had risen by more than 20% in the last 10 years, just as the morning-after pill had become more easily available. Citing a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2000 which suggested that young people who were prescribed morning-after pills were more likely to have abortions, Mr Turner observed that his findings "must be of concern to all those who take an interest in child welfare". [The Observer, 17 March ] More information has emerged on the vote by Nepalese legislators to legalise abortion last week [see news digest for 15 March ]. LifeSite, a Canadian pro-life news service, reports that the House of Representatives, Nepal's lower house of parliament, voted by 147 to one in favour of the same measure it passed last year. Since the majority was over 50%, the vote to reject the bill in the Upper House was overturned. The law legalises abortion on demand up to the 12th week of pregnancy as long as the husband gives his consent, and up to the 18th week of pregnancy in cases of rape or incest. [LifeSite, 15 March ] A Pro-Life Alliance election broadcast featuring graphic images of aborted unborn children will be shown for the first time in Scotland in May of next year in the run-up to the Scottish parliamentary elections. Mr Bruno Quintavalle, leader of the Pro-Life Alliance, said that the film would be re-made for the Scottish elections after the court of appeal in London ruled that broadcasters had been wrong not to screen it before. The BBC has announced its intention to appeal the ruling to the House of Lords. [The Scotsman, 15 March ] A review of the provision of free pregnancy scans on the national health service (NHS) is underway in Scotland. At present, about half of NHS centres in Scotland offer two scans--a so-called booking scan 12 weeks into pregnancy to provide an estimated delivery date, and a second scan 20 weeks into pregnancy to test for developmental anomalies. The Health Technology Board for Scotland will decide whether women should routinely be offered only a booking scan, only an anomaly scan, or both. [Times online, 17 March ] Many women whose pregnancy scans indicate a developmental anomaly in their unborn child are put under great pressure to have an abortion. Legislators in Hawaii have voted to make abortifacient morning-after pills available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. The bill to reclassify the drug was passed by the state house and will now be considered by the senate. In written testimony, the American Civil Liberties Union told legislators that it was important to distinguish morning-after pills from the RU-486 abortion drug, since the former merely prevented implantation and was therefore "indeed a form of contraception". Pro-lifers point out that this distinction is false, and that morning-after pills do cause early abortions. [Honolulu Star-bulletin, 14 March ; SPUC]

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