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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 November 2002

20 November 2002

20 November 2002 Abortion was likened to murder in the Welsh national assembly yesterday. During a debate in the assembly's health committee on technical changes to regulations governing abortion notification forms, David Davies, a Conservative frontbencher, said: "I have never understood the argument that says while it is a serious criminal offence to kill a child while it is outside its mother's womb, the state is prepared to condone the killing of a child which lies within the womb. It is a tragedy that thousands of lives are deliberately terminated in this fashion each year. It is particularly sad for the mothers involved and for the medical staff who have to carry through these unpleasant procedures." Mr Davies was then rebuked by the committee chairman for his "emotional" comments. [The Western Mail, 20 November ; SPUC] Responsibility for the law on abortion practice is reserved to the UK parliament in Westminster. The Birmingham Health Authority in central England is planning to hand out abortifacient morning-after pills in youth clubs used by children as young as nine. Sarah Farmer, the health authority's teenage pregnancy co-ordinator, claimed that the service was needed due to rising demand for so-called emergency contraception among young people. The morning-after pill is already available to youngsters at a walk-in facility located in the city centre's Boot's store, but from next Spring family planning nurses will also be able to provide the abortion-inducing drug at youth centres and information shops for young people. Birmingham's Catholic archbishop Vincent Nichols said that he was appalled to learn of the plan. [Birmingham Evening Mail, 19 November ] Representatives of all three primary decision-making bodies of the European Union will meet on Friday in an attempt to reach agreement on the new regulation to govern EU overseas aid policy. As reported yesterday, the present text of the Sandbaek report, which constitutes the blueprint of the new regulation, would force EU member states to fund abortions in the poorest countries. In a bid to pass the regulation by a fast-track procedure and avoid the need for a second reading in the parliament, representatives of the European Commission, the European Council of Ministers and the European parliament's development committee will meet on Friday to try to resolve differences. However, the meeting follows on from another one last week which broke up without agreement, and agreement is unlikely on Friday because pro-life MEPs cannot accept any provision for abortion funding. The development committee is now due to vote on the Sandbaek report on 2 December, and a vote in the full parliament is scheduled in January. [SPUC, 20 November] The United Nations general assembly yesterday adopted a resolution which effectively rubber-stamped the decision of its legal committee to delay the drafting of a proposed convention against human cloning until next October. The committee had been charged by the general assembly last year with the task of drafting a convention to "prevent practices which are contrary to human dignity", but the US, Spain and other countries argued against a Franco-German proposal for a partial cloning ban which would distinguish between cloning for reproductive and so-called therapeutic purposes. The US representative told the general assembly yesterday that support for a comprehensive cloning ban was growing, while the French and Germans issued a statement regretting the failure to reach agreement and urging "a non-dogmatic" approach. [Guardian, 20 November] A prominent American biomedical ethicist has said that society would be better off if pre-natal genetic screening and abortion were used to prevent the birth of blind and severely disabled babies. In a lecture at the University of Rhode Island, Dan W Brock said that the self-assessment of disabled people who claimed to enjoy a high quality of life was misleading because they had to adapt to their circumstances. He said: "They do suffer real disadvantages. Our notion of how good a person's life is is not fully determined by their own subjective self-assessment." Dr Brock, who is a former philosophy professor at Brown University and now works for the US National Institutes of Health in Maryland, continued: "Preventing a severe disability is not for the sake of the child who will have it. Rather, it is for the sake of less suffering and loss of opportunity in the world." [Narragansett Times, 20 November ] A spokesman for SPUC commented: "Here is another example of twisted thinking to justify the killing of unborn children." All five Democrat members of the US Congress from Oregon have filed a brief with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in favour of the state's assisted suicide law. Senator Ron Wyden together with four members of the House of Representatives argued that the federal justice department had acted beyond its powers when it attempted to interfere in the working of the state law by ruling that assisted suicide was not a 'legitimate medical purpose' for federally controlled drugs. Senator Wyden has also pledged to do all he can to scupper proposed federal legislation to block assisted suicide. [EWTN News, 14 November ]

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