News, 22 January 2003
22 January 2003
22 January 2003 Today is the 30th anniversary of the Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton judgements by which the US supreme court declared a constitutional right to abortion, in most cases up to birth. In Roe v Wade, the justices declared that the constitutional right to privacy (which had only been declared eight years previously in the case of Griswold v Connecticut) extended to a right of access to abortion. In Doe v Bolton, the justices extended the definition of physical or mental health with respect to third trimester abortions so that an abortionist could use his discretion to carry out an abortion for virtually any reason at any stage of pregnancy. Neither of the women in the 1973 judgements had their abortions, and both have since become supporters of the pro-life movement. However, about 42 million unborn children have been killed by abortion in the US since 1973. [SPUC, 22 January] Dr Severino Antinori, the controversial Italian IVF specialist, has gone on hunger strike in protest at what he believes is persecution by the authorities on account of his human cloning projects. While he rejects the truth of Clonaid's claims to have produced live-birth cloned babies, Dr Antinori himself is involved in projects to produce cloned children and claimed last month that the birth of a cloned baby was imminent in Serbia. On Monday Italian police confirmed that they were investigating Dr Antinori to determine whether his fertility clinic in Rome was being used for cloning experiments. Dr Antinori has announced that his hunger strike will continue until the Italian prime minister meets him to guarantee that Italy "is still a free country for science". [BBC News online, 21 January ; previous digests] The police are to question the wife of Reginald Crew from England who died in an assisted suicide in Switzerland on Monday. After Wyn Crew has been interviewed, a file will be put together and passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. A spokesman for Merseyside police said: "Under British law we are obliged to investigate this matter. This decision is not a moral one, but a legal one." It is thought that the police will also investigate the involvement of a television team working for the 'Tonight with Trevor McDonald' programme. [The Guardian, 22 January ] Helping someone to commit suicide is a criminal offence in the UK under the Suicide Act 1961. Argentina's health minister has claimed that the country's economic depression has prompted a rise in the number of illegal abortions. Citing "the most recent estimates", Gines Gonzalez Garcia claimed that there were half a million illegal abortions each year (in a country with a population of only 33 million), while admitting that nobody knew what the real abortion total actually was. Argentinean health ministry statistics indicate that there were 78,894 hospitalisations for abortion complications in 2000 [although it is unclear whether these relate to both spontaneous and induced abortions]. In a bid to address the "scourge" of abortion, the minister announced plans to spend $14 million on free distribution of birth control drugs and devices, but these include the intra-uterine device (IUD) which causes early abortions. [Agencia EFE, via Northern Light , and LifeSite , 21 January] Argentina has a pro-life constitution, although the penal code allows for abortion in cases of rape as well as for physical and mental health reasons. Vague and unsubstantiated claims of high illegal abortion rates are a common ploy of pro-abortionists who argue that legalisation is necessary to protect women's health. Scientists in the US have found further proof that stem cells from adult bone marrow are able to travel to the brain and convert into fully functioning brain cells. A team at the US National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke examined brain tissue derived from post mortem examinations on women who had received bone marrow transplants from male donors. The researchers found that each patient had many brain cells containing the Y-chromosome which must have come from the male donor. The finding raises hopes that adult stem cells ethically derived from a patient's own bone marrow could be used to treat conditions such as Parkinson's disease and stroke. [BBC News online, 21 January ; Metro, 22 January] Adult stem cell technology provides an ethical and more promising alternative to the destructive use of embryonic stem cells and to so-called therapeutic cloning.