News, 14 March 2003
14 March 2003
14 March 2003 The US Senate passed a ban on partial-birth abortions yesterday by 65 votes to 32. The legislation defines partial-birth abortion as the killing of a child of at least 20 weeks' gestation whose entire head is outside the mother's body. It includes an exception in cases when the procedure is considered necessary to save the mother's life, but not to preserve her health or fertility. President Bill Clinton twice vetoed partial-birth abortion bans, but President George W Bush welcomed the Senate vote as "an important step toward building a culture of life in America". Pro-life groups and the Catholic Church also welcomed the vote, while pro-abortionists condemned it and promised to mount a legal challenge. The US House of Representatives is now expected to debate and pass similar legislation, after which a House-Senate conference will iron out any differences before the president signs the bill into law. [CNN and BBC News online , 14 March] A national Catholic newspaper and the parish priest of a prestigious English Catholic church are among those to have supported SPUC's call for a boycott of today's 'Red Nose Day' - the high-profile fundraising event of the British charity Comic Relief. Despite the charity's assurances that it does not fund abortion, SPUC has revealed that Comic Relief has funded abortion providers in the past and gave thousands of pounds to Population Concern, an organisation which promotes abortion internationally, between July 2000 and June 2001. Father Guy Nicholls, parish priest of the Birmingham Oratory, has advised his congregation against supporting Comic Relief, and the Catholic Herald newspaper calls for a boycott in its editorial published today. [Birmingham Post, 13 March ; Catholic Herald, 14 March] Campaigners for doctor-assisted dying in the Channel Island of Guernsey are sending postcards to every household on the island seeking support for their cause. The States, Guernsey's parliament, decided last September to conduct an investigation into the possibility of legalising voluntary euthanasia, and the Guernsey 4 Doctor-Assisted Dying Action Group is now hoping that as many of the island's 58,000 residents as possible will sign and return the postcards to express their support. [Guernsey Press and Star, 12 March] Guernsey is technically an independent British protectorate under the crown but outside the jurisdiction of the UK parliament. Permission has been granted for the first time in Australia for two couples to create so-called designer babies to serve as tissue donors for sick older siblings. The state of Victoria's Infertility Treatment Authority gave preliminary authorisation last April for two couples to use in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to create and select an embryo who would be a perfect tissue match for an older sibling [see digest for 17 April 2002 ] and now the ethics committee of Melbourne's Epworth Hospital has given its final approval. [Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March ] PGD entails the rejection and usually the destruction of those embryos who do not meet the desired criteria. Official government statistics have revealed that 130,387 unborn babies died in registered abortions in Germany last year, 3.4% more than in 2001. The figures released by the German Statistics Office also indicate that the number of abortions carried out by way of the RU-486 abortion drug, also known as mifepristone, increased by 17% last year, following a 44% increase in the previous year. [Reuters, 13 March ] The official German abortion rate is considerably lower than in either Britain or the US. Recent remarks by the Kenyan health minister that a denial of abortion constituted a gross violation of women's human rights have provoked a united response from the leaders of various Christian denominations in the country. In addition to a firm rebuke by the Kenyan Catholic bishops [see digest for 6 March ], the Anglican [Episcopal] bishops of Nairobi, Mombassa and Eldoret have all issued statements firmly rejecting abortion, as has Archbishop Alfred Ng'ang'a of the Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa who said that the legalisation of abortion would be "ungodly and beastly". [East African Standard, 6 March ] The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) has drawn up an ethical code for biomedical researchers which obliges them to respect and safeguard human life from conception until natural death. Members of the PAL hope that researchers will sign the code and return it to the Vatican. The text of the code was published in the Vatican's official newspaper yesterday, and an English translation will be available by the end of the month. [CNS, 13 March ] The PAL is a consultative body of academics which reports to the Pope. Responsibility for the pro-life witness of the Catholic Church lies with the Pontifical Council for the Family, presided over by Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo.