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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 25 March 2003

25 March 2003

25 March 2003 The United Nations body responsible for monitoring relief needs and providing humanitarian support services in Ethiopia has suggested that an aggressive population control programme (rather than food aid) is what is needed to solve the country's problems. The Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, a project of the UN Development Programme, has recommended that "all appropriate means should be explored to stop the ongoing population explosion" in Ethiopia, including a "reward and punishment" system to restrict family size. [allAfrica.com, 20 March ; LifeSite, 24 March ] Aggressive population control policies often mean that women are put under pressure to have abortions. They can also lead on to coercive abortion schemes, such as that operated in China with the assistance of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The Clonaid company has published a photograph of one of the five cloned babies it claims to have produced. The company says that the baby, who is photographed in an incubator allegedly in Japan, is the third of five clones born between December and February. There has still been no independent confirmation that the five babies are really clones or even exist at all, but Brigitte Boisselier, Clonaid's director and a bishop in the Raelian cult, promised to produce evidence within the next few days. [BBC News online, 25 March ] Researchers in Italy have warned that exposure to cannabis in the womb might cause learning difficulties and hyperactivity. A team at the University of Cagliari injected a group of pregnant rats with a quantity of cannabinoid equivalent to a low to moderate daily dose of cannabis in humans, and compared the offspring to those of rats who had not been injected with the drug. They found that the offspring of the injected rats were significantly more hyperactive in infancy, and scored lower on learning tests throughout their lives. It is thought that exposure to cannabis in the womb disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses between brain cells. [BBC News online, 25 March ] The abortion-related death of a student in Fiji has led to calls for a clarification of the law on abortion. A prominent doctor in under police custody in the capital Suva after one of his patients apparently died as a result of complications following an abortion and the fact that she was left unattended overnight. Reports suggest that abortion has become quite common among university students in Fiji, despite the fact that Fiji's abortion laws are officially quite restrictive. The Fiji Women's Rights Movement has called for abortion to be allowed on demand. [Fijilive, 25 March: report 1 and report 2 ] Under Fiji's penal code, abortion is forbidden with the exception of when it is considered necessary to save the mother's life. However, the supreme court ruled in 1976 that this exception extended to a woman's mental and physical health, a which can be interpreted to justify virtually any abortion. A number of countries in Latin America, as well as pro-lifers across the world, are marking the annual Day of the Unborn. The date coincides with the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the Roman Catholic calendar, the day on which Catholics celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a tiny embryo in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Argentina, Nicaragua and Guatemala are among the countries to have officially declared 25 March the Day of the Unborn, while the Knights of St Columbus, a Catholic lay group, are promoting the occasion in the US. [SPUC, 25 March] It is reported that so-called informed consent laws to restrict access to abortion have been, or are, before the legislatures of 23 American states this year. Previously passed informed consent laws are also being challenged in the courts in at least three other states. All the measures ensure that women who request an abortion are offered information related to the procedure, such as foetal development and the alternatives to abortion, during a waiting period of about 24 hours before the abortion can go ahead. Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said that the measures were highly effective because "when a woman sees there is a 'better way', many times she will choose it". [CNS, 21 March ]

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