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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 April 2003

30 April 2003

30 April 2003 British nurses are calling for tighter regulations on how the abortifacient morning-after pill is handed out by pharmacists. The drug became available from pharmacists throughout the UK without the need for a doctor's prescription on 1 January 2001, but participants in a debate at the Royal College of Nursing's annual conference today will warn that women are not receiving adequate medical checks or being warned about potential side-effects. It is reported that a motion calling for regulation of the way in which a pharmacist should assess a request for the morning-after pill will receive widespread support. [This is London, 30 April ] Hungary's constitutional court has ruled that cases of so-called mercy killing should continue to be treated as manslaughter. Patients in Hungary can already refuse life prolonging treatments under a law passed in 1997, but the court had been asked to apply the law more liberally so that cases of euthanasia would not result in a prison sentence. The president of the court said that the judges had considered the fact that euthanasia was presently legal only in Belgium, the Netherlands and one American state [Oregon], and had concluded that the application of the law in Hungary was constitutional. Two out of three Hungarians are said to support the legalisation of euthanasia. [AFP, 28 April; via Yahoo! News ] The government of Slovakia is preparing a new law to prohibit all human cloning. A proposed amendment to the country's criminal law, agreed by the justice minister Daniel Lipsic and other cabinet colleagues, would mean that anyone who carried out steps directed towards the creation of a cloned human being at any stage of development would face up to eight years in prison. [Slovak Spectator International Weekly, 28 April] The regional bodies responsible for collating the number of legal cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands have announced that last year's national total showed a decline. The euthanasia control commissions said that 1,882 people were killed under the country's euthanasia law last year, compared to 2,054 in 2001 and 2,123 in 2000. Most of those who died were suffering from cancer, and legal investigations are underway into five cases in which the legal criteria may not have been respected. [AFP, 29 April] Earlier this year it was claimed that Dutch doctors were performing euthanasia illegally on thousands of patients because they regarded the legal reporting requirements as too bothersome [see digest for 3 March]. The US Supreme Court has refused to take up a challenge to a lower court ruling which upheld state regulations for abortion clinics in South Carolina. The decision, which was announced without explanation, does not set a precedent but allows the state regulations, passed in 1995, to come into force. It is reported that the regulations in question include requirements for a patient's medical records to be made available to state officials and for members of the clergy to be informed before an abortion takes place so that they are immediately available should the abortionist wish to refer a patient to them. [UPI, 28 April] Four women have appeared in court in Samoa charged with performing or aiding illegal abortions. One defendant is a registered nurse at a hospital in Apia, the capital of the independent Pacific island nation, who has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of performing illegal abortions. Another woman has been charged with aiding and inciting her to procure a miscarriage, while the remaining two co-defendants have been accused of supplying instruments to be used for abortions. [Radio Australia News, 28 April] Abortion is illegal in Samoa except to save the mother's life under laws passed in 1961 and 1969, which appear to be based on the UK's Offences Against the Person Act 1861. However, abortions are also allowed to preserve a woman's physical and mental health following the English 'Rex v Bourne' judgement of 1938. Dominic Baster, SPUC's international secretary, said: "Despite its geographical isolation, the international pro-abortion movement is present in Samoa in the guise of the Samoa Family Health Association which is affiliated to IPPF. We welcome the fact that the Samoan authorities appear to be enforcing their restrictive abortion law, and we urge the Samoan people to provide an example to other countries by ensuring respect for the right to life of their unborn citizens."

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