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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 11 February 2003

11 February 2003

11 February 2003 Members of the European parliament are to have an opportunity after all to debate and amend the pro-abortion Sandbæk report after members of the parliament's budget committee raised concerns about some of the financial figures included in the report. Following votes by members of political groupings last night against sending the whole report back to the committee, it appears that the report remains on the agenda for debate on Wednesday evening and a vote on Thursday lunchtime. However, it is still possible that the report will be referred back to committee tomorrow if a political grouping so requests. Pro-life MEPs are hoping that this happens because it will provide an opportunity for funding to be reallocated away from abortion and birth control to authentic development needs. As things stand, however, the debate will now take place in Strasbourg tomorrow night, and MEPs will vote on amendments and the full report on Thursday lunchtime. Two amendments (numbers 49 and 53) re-tabled by José Ribeiro E Castro, a Portuguese MEP, on behalf of the UEN political grouping, affirm that "no support is to be given under this Regulation to sterilisation or abortion nor to the improper testing of contraception methods in developing countries" and that "abortion ... cannot be considered as a service which guarantees sexual and reproductive health". SPUC is advising MEPs to vote in favour of amendments 49 and 53 but against the whole report because, despite the amendments, it will still lead to EU funding of abortifacient methods of birth control. [SPUC, 11 February] A television documentary screened on British national television which showed a Chinese performance artist apparently eating a stillborn baby is to be used as evidence by the ProLife Alliance in the ongoing legal action regarding its party election broadcasts. The House of Lords is due to hear the BBC's appeal on 24 February against an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal that it had been wrong to censor a ProLife Alliance political broadcast which showed images of aborted foetuses. The BBC claimed that it censored the film "in the interests of good taste and decency", but the Pro-Life Alliance argues that Channel 4's decision to broadcast the controversial documentary highlights the "absolute hypocrisy" of the British broadcasting industry. This is the latest development in the legal battle over the ProLife Alliance's political broadcasts which has now been going on for five years. [Sunday Herald, 9 February ] 30 years after the enactment of the Mother and Child Health Act which legalised abortion in South Korea, Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists have mobilised to campaign for the repeal of the law. As part of the Catholic Church's 'Life 31' campaign, a special Mass to commemorate aborted children was celebrated in Myongdong Cathedral, after which Cardinal Kim Soo-hwan and a group of Buddhist monks led a candlelight march for the unborn. Meanwhile, a pro-life group called Solidarity, which is led by Protestant theologian Kim Il-su, is asking the government to tighten the law in accordance with the right to life in the constitution. [Joong Ang Daily, 10 February ] An unborn baby has been summoned to appear before a court in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In an unprecedented move, separate papers have been served on an expectant mother and her unborn child, ordering both of them to provide blood samples in a legal case to determine whether the woman's estranged partner is the father of the child. The court papers refer to Mairead Smylie's unborn child simply as 'Baby Smylie'. It is up to the court to decide how the samples are taken. [Irish News, 5 February] A Scottish member of the UK parliament is to introduce a bill to strengthen the rights of both men and women who undergo IVF treatment but who are not biologically related to their embryos. David Stewart, the Labour MP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, is bringing forward a private member's bill under the ten-minute rule in response to a case last year in which the frozen embryos assigned to Mrs Margaret Grant, one of his constituents, were destroyed after her ex-husband and the father of the embryos withdrew his consent for their continued storage. In the case in question, the embryos had been fertilised using eggs from a donor and were not biologically related to Mrs Grant. [BBC News online, 11 February ; David Stuart MP's website ] Researchers have found that a pregnant woman's stress and anxiety can affect the heart rate of her unborn child. A team at Columbia University in the US monitored the heart rates of 32 unborn babies as their mothers exercised and found that the foetal heart rate was related to the mother's overall state of stress but not to her elevated heart rate and blood pressure during exercise. The researchers concluded that the heart rate patterns of the unborn children had already been shaped by their mothers' mood over the previous months of pregnancy. It is thought that maternal stress during pregnancy can affect a baby's behaviour in later life. [Discovery Health, 11 February]

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