News, 16 September 2002
16 September 2002
16 September 2002 The Life charity has asked Alan Milburn, the British health secretary, to explain what happens to the bodies of unborn babies killed by the RU-486 abortion drug regimen. Guidelines issued by the department of health in 1991 stipulated that babies born dead before the 24th week of pregnancy should be incinerated, but Life is asking Mr Milburn whether this applies to babies who are delivered dead as a result of RU-486. Life asks: "Are the mothers instructed to bring the corpses to the hospital or clinic which supplied the drug or will arrangements be made to collect the remains from private homes?" The RU-486 is used to kill an unborn child, after which another drug is taken to expel the child's body from the womb. In many cases, the mother will deliver the body at home. The government plans to make the RU-486 drug regimen more widely available at family planning clinics. [The Universe, 15 September; SPUC] An organisation based in Zurich which has been offering to assist in the suicide of foreign nationals for a 'membership fee' [see digest for 13 August ] is under investigation by the Swiss authorities. Dignitas, which has 1,625 members from many different countries, claims to have helped 120 people to die since it was founded four years ago. Assisted suicide is officially tolerated in Switzerland, but various conditions must be met. Zurich's public prosecutor has confirmed that he is investigating cases in which Dignitas has allegedly helped Austrian, Dutch, French and German nationals to kill themselves. [Reuters, via ABC News, 13 September ] The government of Jordan has issued a stern warning to doctors involved in illegal abortions. Officials have estimated that more than 500 illegal abortions have been carried out in Jordan so far this year, but Faleh Nasser, the country's health minister, has warned physicians that they risk their careers and freedom if they perform illegal abortions. Abortion is forbidden in Jordan under both national and Islamic Sharia law except to save the mother's life. Abortionists face between three and 10 years in prison. [The Jordan Times, 13 September ] PPL Therapeutics, the company which funded the creation of Dolly the first cloned mammal, is to close its stem cell research programme in Scotland. Geoff Cook, the company's chief executive, said that they would now be concentrating on more profitable areas instead. PPL Therapeutics works closely with the Roslin Institute, whose scientists created Dolly and have applied for permission to create and destroy cloned human embryos for research purposes. [Guardian, 16 September ; other sources] Infertile couples in India are being urged to consider adoption rather than in vitro fertilisation. Despite widespread poverty, there have been more IVF babies born in India than in any other country. Professor Sheila Rae of the University of Rajasthan is one of those urging recourse to adoption. She says that she cannot understand why adoption is rejected "when it can be emotionally satisfying, as well as a humble contribution to [the] nation's well-being". [CNS News, 12 September ] The IVF procedure takes a terrible toll on the lives of those unborn babies created by it, and only a tiny minority are born alive. A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Michigan for the killing of an unborn child during an attempted robbery. Frank Adams, aged 21, shot Tracy Kinsey, who was six months pregnant, in the stomach when she refused to give him any money. Her child was then delivered during emergency surgery but died an hour later. [Click on Detroit News, 12 September ] While the unlawful killing of an unborn child can result in heavy penalties, the US supreme court claims that women have a constitutional right to abortion up to birth.