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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 10 February 2003

10 February 2003

10 February 2003 The government of Turkey has ordered doctors to try to save the life of an unborn child whose comatose mother is on a life support machine. Doctors at a hospital in Istanbul had intended to withdraw life support from Nina Typol on Friday, two days after she was shot in the head by her fiancé. However, this would first have required the abortion of her unborn child, and Turkish government officials intervened to prevent both the abortion and the withdrawal of the life support machine from going ahead. [BBC News online, 7 February ] The government's intervention to protect this unborn child might be considered surprising given the fact that, unusually among predominantly Muslim countries, Turkey has a very liberal abortion regime. A political party which campaigns for the abolition of legal abortion has announced that it will field candidates in the Scottish parliamentary elections in May. The Pro-Life Party Scotland - formerly the Scottish branch of the Pro-Life Alliance - is the latest party to enter the contest for seats in Scotland's parliament, even though power to legislate on abortion is reserved to the UK parliament in London. A spokesman for the National Abortion Campaign criticised the Pro-Life Party, saying that it was "sad that they feel a need to enforce their views on other people who should be allowed to choose to have an abortion". [Scotland on Sunday, 9 February ] It is reported that a breakthrough by embryonic stem cell researchers in the US might make it possible for stem cells from embryos to be used instead of genetically modified laboratory mice to test new medicines. A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison claims to have discovered how to manipulate the DNA in embryonic stem cells. This would open the door to the use of stem cells in a wider range of experiments, and allow researchers to insert so-called marker genes into individual cells. Marker genes allow scientists to track individual stem cells, or to guide them into particular locations, such as the heart or the brain. [The Scotsman, 10 February ] It is unclear whether the same technology could be applied to ethically derived adult stem cells. The White House has said that President Bush may veto the 2003 omnibus spending bill currently before the US congress unless it is amended to restrict taxpayer funding of abortion. The Senate has passed a version of the bill which omits the usual clauses prohibiting the funding of abortions through the federal health benefits programme and the federal prisons service. However, Mitchell Daniels, director of the office of management and budget at the White House, has written to congressmen to warn them that the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto of the whole bill unless House and Senate negotiators agree on the re-instatement of the clauses. [Washington Times and Washington Post, 6 February; via Pro-Life Infonet ] A pro-life campaign is taking hold in Romania, which has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, according to a Scottish newspaper report. 70 percent of all recorded pregnancies in Romania end in abortion. Romanian women have an average of five abortions during their sexually active years, and 20 percent of women are now thought to be infertile due to abortion. However, pro-life doctors are becoming more vociferous and are pointing out that abortion has claimed the lives of 8 million babies over the past 12 years - equivalent to a third of the present population. A tabloid newspaper in Bucharest has bemoaned the high abortion rate in its headline, while the director of the capital's Filantropia Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology appears to be at the forefront of a new pro-life campaign. [Sunday Herald, 9 February ] The European parliament is now scheduled to vote definitively on the pro-abortion Sandbæk report in Strasbourg on Wednesday betweeen 9 p.m. and midnight. On account of the large majority in favour of the report at committee stage [see digest for 21 January ], MEPs will not be allowed to debate or amend the report, which constitutes the parliament's contribution to a new regulation setting the European Union's overseas aid policy for the next five years. Pro-lifers are urging MEPs to reject the whole report because it would oblige all EU member states to fund abortions in the developing world. [SPUC, 10 February; final text of the Sandbæk report ]

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