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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 19 September 2002

19 September 2002

19 September 2002 Two women have begun a legal challenge in the English high court to a law which states that both the father and mother of an IVF embryo must consent to the use or continued storage of their child. Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley both want to use their frozen IVF babies in an attempt to become pregnant, but their former partners have refused consent and want the embryos destroyed instead. Lawyers for the women are arguing that the requirement for the consent of both parents contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 contravenes human rights. The case will be heard by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the high court's family division. It is expected that preliminary issues will be dealt with today, after which a date will be set for the full hearing. [Evening Standard, 18 September ; Daily Telegraph, 19 September] A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Britain's largest private abortion provider, has affirmed that "abortion can be a moral and responsible alternative to teenage motherhood". The spokesperson was reacting to news that Wales had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the UK. BPAS claims to have performed 9,952 abortions on teenagers from the British Isles last year, and is "working with the government and other agencies to help ensure that our services are made more easily available to teenagers for free." [epolitix, 18 September ] A private member's bill to legalise euthanasia has been introduced in the state parliament of West Australia. The bill has been tabled by Robin Chapple, a member of the Green party in the upper house. Dr Geoff Gallup, the state's premier, commented that there were "lots of moral and ethical issues concerned" and added that he had not yet made up his mind how to vote. The bill is not expected to be debated before next year. [ABC News, 19 September ] A county judge has thrown out an abortion 'right-to-know' law in Florida, only a few days after a US appeals court re-instated a similar law in Indiana [see digest for 17 September ]. So-called right-to-know or informed consent laws require women to be offered information on abortion and its alternatives before giving final consent to the operation. Judge Ronald Alvarez ruled that Florida's law was unconstitutional because it infringed on a woman's right "to receive her physician's opinion as to what is best for her considering her particular circumstances". Also this week, six abortion facilities in Alabama filed a federal lawsuit against that state's informed consent law, while pro-abortionists in Indiana are considering whether to take their battle over the law to the US Supreme Court. [Palm Beach Post, 17 September ; Courier-Journal, 18 September ; Herald Tribune, 19 September ] A young woman in South Australia sobbed after a coroner declared that her apparently stillborn son was not legally a person and so had no rights. Theresa Osbourne, aged 24, had sought an inquest into her son's death to determine whether medical staff had been negligent. However, Assistant Coroner Tony Schapel ruled that no investigation could take place because it could not be proved that the child had been alive after birth. The coroner explained that, under common law, the child was not a person but rather "some other living entity, in this case, an unborn foetus". [The Mercury, 19 September ]

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