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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 April 2003

3 April 2003

3 April 2003 As expected, the English Court of Appeal reserved judgement at the completion of legal submissions yesterday in the so-called Hashmi designer baby case. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is appealing against a High Court ruling that it acted beyond its remit in authorising the use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to create and select a perfect bone marrow donor for four-year-old Zain Hashmi, who has a potentially fatal blood disorder. Lord Philips, the most senior of the three appeal court judges, gave no date for the judgement, but indicated that the court was "well aware" of the need for a speedy ruling. [Femail, 3 April ] A spokesman for SPUC was alarmed at the biased reporting of the case in the media, which ignored the fact that the use of IVF and PGD to save Zain Hashmi would almost certainly result in the sacrifice of many of his embryonic brothers and sisters. A headline for an opinion article in The Scotsman newspaper summed up the media slant: "The law is wrong if a couple can't use miracles to save their child." Catholics and Evangelicals in Germany are working together to promote a pro-life week beginning on 3 May. The German Catholic bishops' conference and the Council of Evangelical Churches are jointly organising the event, which will focus particularly on the ethical issues involved in so-called therapeutic cloning, prenatal diagnosis and assisted death. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the bishops' conference, observed that there was an "incontestable need for ethical guidance" in the face of highly complex advances in the areas of medicine, bioethics and the protection of life. [Zenit, 2 April ] Russia's deputy health minister has told parliament that the country's abortion rate has fallen sharply over the last five years - although it remains far higher than in many western European countries. Olga Sharapova announced yesterday that there were 1.3 abortions for every live birth in Russia last year, compared to three abortions for every live birth in 1997. Improvements to the healthcare system had also led to a significant fall in the number of [recorded spontaneous] miscarriages from around 21,000 in 1997 to 12,000 last year. However, the minister observed that 80% of Russian women suffered complications during pregnancy, and only a third of newborn babies could be described as "completely healthy". [AFP, 2 April; via Yahoo! News ] Dr Philip Nitschke, the prominent Australian campaigner for euthanasia, has arrived in New Zealand at the start of a nine-day tour. Dr Nitschke has a programme of workshops and meetings lined up, and also hopes to raise money for the legal defence of Lesley Martin, a woman from the district of Wanganui who has been charged with the attempted murder of her sick mother in 1999. The visit coincides with a debate in New Zealand's parliament next Wednesday on a private member's bill to hold a referendum on euthanasia [see digest for 11 March ]. Last month a spokesman for Helen Clark, the country's prime minister, said that she supported a change in the law. [The New Zealand Herald, 3 April ] Plans to erect a statue in Ottawa of the man responsible for legalising abortion in Canada have been criticised by pro-lifers. A government minister has announced that a statue of Elliott Trudeau will be placed on Parliament Hill to mark the fact that "his time in politics was a time of great vision for the country". However, LifeSite reports that Mr Trudeau, as minister of justice in 1967, "personally and on his own initiative introduced the government's proposal for legalising abortion, bypassing all public hearings". The measure was then included among 108 other items in an omnibus bill and passed in 1969 when Mr Trudeau was prime minister. [LifeSite, 2 April ] Abortion has been legally available without any restriction in Canada since the Supreme Court struck down the abortion law in 1988 - ironically on the grounds that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed the right to "life, liberty, and security of the person". Legislators in Virginia yesterday rejected amendments proposed by the pro-abortion state governor intended to lessen the effects of two abortion-related bills. Governor Mark R Warner was unable to veto measures to ban partial-birth abortion and to require parental consent for abortions on minors because they had each been passed by more than a two-thirds majority, but he did send the bills back to the General Assembly with suggested changes. However, lawmakers voted yesterday to approve both bills as originally passed, and they will now become law on 1 July. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Virginia condemned the votes and said that the laws might be subject to legal challenges. [Washington Post, 2 April ]

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