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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 25 March 2002

25 March 2002

25 March 2002 The Family Planning Association's legal challenge to Northern Ireland's abortion practice concluded on Friday at the high court in Belfast. The Family Planning Association (FPA) claimed that the law concerning abortion in Northern Ireland was unclear and therefore required clarification in the form of ministerial guidance. However, Mr Richard Gordon QC, representing SPUC, rejected this argument. He said that the law was clear but that, even if this were not the case, guidance could not constitute an authoritative interpretation of the law and would, therefore, only add to any lack of clarity that existed. Mr Justice Kerr will give his judgement after Easter. [SPUC, 25 March] Mr Justice Rory O'Hanlon, a former Irish high court judge and a well-respected pro-lifer, has died at the age of 79. He never wavered in his pro-life stance, and was dismissed from office by Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach, in 1992 when he said that Ireland should leave the European Union if continued membership would lead to the introduction of abortion in Ireland. Mr O'Hanlon advocated a 'no' vote in the recent abortion referendum and wrote in the Irish Times: "...I look forward to seeing it collapse when its full significance dawns on the Irish people." [Irish Times, 25 March , and SPUC news digest for 18 October 2001 ] The researcher whose study was widely reported in the media last week as disproving the success of adult stem cell technology has insisted that the implications of his study were distorted. The study by Naohiro Terada and colleagues at the University of Florida was interpreted in the media as demonstrating that adult stem cells were less useful that stem cells extracted from human embryos. However, Dr Terada gave the following comments to LifeSite, a Canadian pro-life news service: "I'm really afraid that our message was somehow distorted by media people. [W]e never said adult stem cells are no longer hopeful, nor dangerous. If someone took our message that way, that is a misinterpretation." [EWTN News, 22 March ] Today is being marked in several Latin American countries as the annual Day of the Unborn. The day was first established at the civil level by Argentina in 1998, and today's celebration is also being officially recognised in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. [Zenit, 24 March ] The day coincides with the usual date of the solemnity of the Annunciation, although this year Catholics will celebrate the Annunciation on 8 April instead because today falls within Holy Week. Pope John Paul II has reiterated the principle that it may be wrong to use extreme measures to preserve a patient's life at all costs. Addressing an international delegation of doctors in Rome, the Pope said: "Certainly one cannot forget that man is a limited and mortal being. It is thus necessary to approach the ill with the healthy realism which avoids generating in those who suffer the illusion of medicine's omnipotence." The Pope is firmly against euthanasia, and an editorial in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, reaffirmed last weekend that euthanasia was "a crime against life". Certain sections of the British media suggested that the Pope had backed the "right of the sick to die", but this is certainly not the case. [The Observer and BBC News online , 24 March] A committee of legislators in Arizona has narrowly rejected a measure which would have required abortionists to give notice to women that their unborn babies may experience pain during the abortion procedure. Members of the House Retirement and Government Operations Committee were tied four to four on whether to accept the amendment, which meant that it failed. [The Arizona Republic, 22 March] A paper written by Dr Peter McCullagh and published by the UK parliament's all-party pro-life group concluded that the structures needed to sense and feel pain are present and working in the unborn child before 10 weeks' gestation. [A way of life, SPUC, 2002]

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