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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 27 June 2003

27 June 2003

27 June 2003 The UK government today published a Draft Mental Incapacity Bill, which it claims will effect in law the principle that adults have capacity to make their own decisions. [BBC, 27 June ] SPUC general secretary Paul Tully commented: "The government's draft Bill would establish a system in which unqualified, unaccountable appointees could force doctors deliberately to kill incapacitated patients by denying them food and fluids. This will apply not just in cases of PVS (persistent vegetative state) like Tony Bland but also in a wider range of cases in which the patient is incapacitated. The government has failed to define euthanasia properly, by restricting the word only to acts such as lethal injections and not including omissions such as denial of tube-feeding. The government also wants patients "best interests" to be decided according to vague and subjective ideas such as "past and present wishes and feelings" and the "views of other people" about such wishes and feelings." The draft Bill will now be considered by a parliamentary select committee, to be comprised of members of both houses of the British parliament and which is due to report by October. The Draft Bill will give statute force to advance directives and power over life and death medical decisions to unqualified attorneys and court appointed deputies. [SPUC source] A baby with a birth weight of just 12 ounces has become the smallest surviving baby in the UK. Aaliyah Hart was born in May three months premature, having grown too slowly in utero and doctors warned her parents that she had only a 10% chance of survival. Mrs Hart spoke of her determination to have the baby in spite of the predictions. "When we saw the scans, her heart rate was still going and I said to myself, 'I cannot terminate, I cannot terminate." Aaliyah is now off a ventilator but is still being tube-fed. The UK has the highest rate of premature birth in Europe. [BBC, 20 June ] A baby from the Hongze County, Jiangsu, China, was buried alive because her grandfather thought she had ugly lips, according to the South China Morning Post. He paid a man 50 Yuan and a packet of cigarettes to bury her but she was rescued when a passer-by heard her cries. The killing of baby girls is not uncommon as an effect of the one-child policy in many parts of China. [www.iol.co.za, 6 June ] Chinese scientists are removing live hearts from babies during abortions and keeping them alive in culture fluid, CWN reports. Dr Wang Tong of the procreation centre lab of the Shenyang Women and Infants' Hospital in Shenyang said that one heart had survived for thirteen days and another for nine. [CW News, 20 June ] A parliamentary panel in Peru has reopened an inquiry into the sterilisation of over 320,000 Peruvian women between 1995 and 2000, allegedly authorised by the then President Alberto Fujimori and funded by UNFPA. The Human Rights Commission states that the sterilisations were carried out to reduce poverty in Peru. Fujimori faces further charges such as corruption and authorising death squads but cannot be tried unless he is extradited from Japan, where he has been living since November 2000. [Zenit, 19 June ] A group of bishops from Southern Mexico have urged people to vote 'according to the Gospels and the moral principles that sprout from them' and for political candidates to 'take the side of life' in a joint statement. The bishops have been accused of violating the Mexican constitution which forbids political intervention by the Church and are being threatened with legal action by Mexico's attorney general. 6 bishops have already been sued for their statements and 2 priests punished on these grounds but the bishops' statement explains that "it is our duty as shepherds and our right as Mexican citizens to express our concerns and opinions on behalf of the family in our states." [CW News, 19 June ] A report has been published in Time magazine, describing the abuses Chinese doctors are forced to practise by the authorities, including widespread infanticide and the committal of political dissidents to mental hospitals. The article builds on the information disclosed by Dr Zhang Shuyun when she fled to England in the 1990s after exposing atrocities being carried out at the main Shanghai orphanage. Her information led to the 1996 Human Rights Watch report Death by Default. [Time, 16 June ] The Dutch abortion ship, which arrived in Poland last week amid a storm of protest, has left for international waters with a small group of Polish women. Demonstrators waved Polish flags, shouted 'murderers' at the crew and pelted the ship with red paint. The vessel has been fined $3000 for violating officials' orders and docking without permission and has had its store of abortion drugs sealed by Polish officials. The crew refused to divulge whether they intended to perform abortions aboard the ship. [Life News, 26 June, BBC 27 June, The Guardian, 23 June ] A candidate for the ProLife party has been charged with displaying offensive material under the Public Order Act and for disorderly behaviour, according to a local newspaper. Fiona Pinto, aged 23, displayed pictures of aborted babies during her election campaign and is to be tried in Abergavenny, Wales, on September 3. One of the police officers responsible claimed that the image was "one of the most gross, upsetting and totally despicable sights I have ever seen." However, Miss Pinto argued that if abortion was so shocking, it was a reason why it should not be legal. [This is Hertfordshire, 25 June ] A woman has had a baby through the new 'egg giving' programme promoted by some IVF clinics after her husband was wrongly diagnosed as infertile. The misdiagnosis brought their marriage to the brink of collapse and caused Mrs Sims to contemplate suicide, Eastbourne Today reports. When she discovered the mistake, she said 'I was disgusted. To think that we had gone through years of hell for nothing and that Tony had been told he was infertile was devastating.' The Sims resorted to the scheme, which involves women being given discounts on IVF treatment if they agree to donate some of their eggs to treat other infertile women. It has been condemned by Professor Lord Winston who claims that it exploits women, particularly those who cannot afford IVF. [Eastbourne Today, 27 June ] A government White Paper has proposed genetic screening for all newborn babies and the offer of Down's Syndrome testing for pregnant women regardless of age. Though the paper was welcomed by researchers, opponents have warned that the proposals could create a 'genetic underclass' who could be denied insurance, jobs and mortgages. Health secretary John Reid acknowledged the "very real ethical and social concerns" surrounding the proposals and promised safeguards such as making it a criminal offence to test a person's DNA without their consent. Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Party described the proposals as a blueprint for weeding out the genetically imperfect. [Financial Times, 25 June ]

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