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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 30 March to 5 April 2006

5 April 2006

The Pope has told parliamentarians from the European Popular Party that the first principle of all politicians should be "protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception to natural death." Speaking on 30 March in Rome, Benedict XVI named three principles that all politicians should uphold: protection of life, recognition of the family and parents rights to educate their children. He said, "These principles ... are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity." These issues were not negotiable, he said, because the dignity of the human person was at stake. [Zenit, 30 March]

Premature babies experience genuine pain, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers at University College London analysed brain scans of babies aged between 25 and 45 weeks from conception that were taken during blood tests. Professor Maria Fitzgerald, who led the research said: "We have shown for the first time that the information about pain reaches the brain in premature babies. Beforehand, although we could assume it, we did not know for sure that these babies could feel pain." [BBC News, 4 April] A spokesperson for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) commented: "If premature babies can feel pain, then so can unborn children, at least those of the same gestational age. It is extraordinary that anyone, let alone scientists, ever assumes that any human being cannot feel pain. The onus is on those who inflict injury, either in the name of therapy or in the case of abortion, to prove that in doing so they inflict no pain. Those who promote a right to abortion must confront the reality of what abortion does to unborn children."

An Indian doctor and his assistant have been jailed for offering to abort an unborn girl on the basis that she was female. Dr Anil Sabhani and his technician Katar Singh were captured on video telling a woman that her baby was a girl and saying that this could be "taken care of". The men were caught in a sting operation carried out by a team of government officials, who sent three pregnant women to his clinic in Fariabad on the edge of Delhi. The use of technology to determine the sex of an unborn child and abortion on the grounds of gender are illegal but continue to be widespread practice in India. This is the first time that doctors convicted of it have been given a jail sentence. [The Times, 30 March]

An Australian doctor who is campaigning for voluntary euthanasia has said that increasing numbers of people are coming to him for information about assisted suicide, although assisting suicide is currently illegal in Australia. Speaking to a meeting of 200 people in Queensland on 27 March, Dr Philip Nitschke admitted telling people how to kill themselves using drugs and where to purchase these drugs but claimed that his advice was non-directional. [Sunshine Coast Daily, 28 March]

A Chinese man who has been campaigning against abuses in the one-child policy has now been missing for more than 20 days. Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, had been collecting evidence of forced abortions and sterilisations in Shandong Province and had been planning a lawsuit against the Chinese government. He was arrested on 11 March and has not been heard of since. Two of his brothers, Chen Guangyu and Chen Guangjun have also been arrested but their families have been told where they are being held. The whereabouts of Chen Guangcheng is still unknown. The Chinese authorities have begun a campaign of intimidation in Guangcheng's home village, urging the villagers through a loudspeaker to "expose and denounce" Chen Guancheng and keeping a close surveillance on members of his family, especially his wife, Yuan Weijing. They have allegedly told his mother that he is being tortured. [The Epoch Times, 2 April]

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