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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pro-life activist's lawyers arrested by Chinese state police before his trial

18 August 2006

Lawyers acting for Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist campaigning against the country's one-child policy, have been detained on the eve of his trial. Chen, who has been arrested and imprisoned numerous times since researching forced abortions and sterilisations in the Shandong province, has been charged with illegal assembly and intent to damage public property. His trial is due to start today. His legal advisor, Xu Zhiyong, was detained on Thursday on charges of stealing a wallet and two of his defence lawyers were detained for two hours on suspicion of being accomplices. Zhang Lihui, one of the lawyers who were detained said, "This was designed to disrupt our ability to represent our client. It's very obvious." [CNN, 18 August]

China's one child policy is continuing to increase the country's gender imbalance, according to researchers. A recent study by Qu Jian Ding of the Institute of Population Studies at Zhejiang University and Therese Hesketh of London's Institute of Child Health found that the male population increasingly outnumbers the female population, having risen from a ratio of 1.11 to 1 in 1980-89 to 1.23 to 1 in 1996-2001. The authors of the study have recommended a relaxation of the one-child policy. They said, "It is unlikely that a baby boom would result, and such a change in policy might help to correct the abnormal sex ratio." [Yahoo News, 18 August]

An abortionist in Florida has had his licence suspended and his five clinics blocked from performing abortions after he performed two illegal late-term abortions. The Health Department filed an emergency licence suspension order against Dr James Pendergraft after he was accused of a number of illegal actions including failing to obtain a second opinion before performing a third trimester abortion, prescribing drugs for two abortions without the required authorisation and performing a late-term abortion outside hospital. He is not allowed to practise medicine until his case has been reviewed by the state medical board. [The Guardian, 18 August]

Pro-life groups in America are opposing President Bush's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration after he said that the FDA would consider allowing non-prescription sales of the birth control drug Plan B. Dr Andrew von Eschenbach is facing criticism not only from the pro-life lobby but also the pro-abortion lobby, who are angry that there has been a three-year delay in allowing the sale of Plan B over the counter. Pro-life groups have said that Dr von Eschenbach will endanger the health of women if he relaxes sales restrictions of the drug. Paul Chaim Schenck, director of the National Pro-Life Action Centre, said, "If the president pushes for this nominee, he is only going to undercut the support his own party needs in the elections." [The Guardian, 18 August]

A journalist writing in a British newspaper has said that the euthanasia lobby does not understand that being vulnerable and dependent on others is an important part of being human. Mary Kenny, who is a Catholic, wrote in an opinion piece in the Times that "to care for the sick and old and dying through the last days of their journey through life is the very mark of civilisation itself." She wrote, "Our interdependence is part of our humanity, and indeed, our civilisation. ... . We are all burdens upon each other at various cycles of our lives; but we grow in bearing one another's burdens and draw enlightenment and wisdom from the experience." [The Times, 18 August]

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