weekly update, 23 to 29 August
29 August 2006
Weekly Update, 23 to 29 August Wording to counter euthanasia and assisted suicide has been included in a draft UN convention on disabled people's rights, thanks to pro-life lobbying.
Activists had feared the convention could remove disabled people's right to life by creating "rights" to abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The final session of the General Assembly committee met for 12 days finishing on Friday (the 25th) to discuss the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
23 nations initially opposed the use of "sexual and reproductive health services" but pro-abortion nations and the UN population fund (UNFPA) later reinserted the phrase during informal negotiations.
In the end "services" was replaced with "care". "Reproductive health" has never been defined, though many countries said the phrase should not include abortion.
The General Assembly will next consider the draft, which also now contains pro-family wording.
[SPUC eye-witness] If passed, the convention would take effect in 2008 or 2009 and would require nations to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.
It is suggested that up to 650 million people may benefit if it is ratified by countries.
[RTE News, 26 August ] A birth control scheme which involves giving out the abortifacient morning after pill outside school gates is to be used as an example.
The Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Partnership, run by Gateshead council in the north of England, made news headlines last September, when it was revealed that Angela Star, one of the workers, had given a girl a hormonal birth control injection in a McDonald's lavatory.
The council has now claimed that the scheme has been "highly successful" and is to be used more widely in the UK.
[The Independent, 23 August ] An American biotech company claims to have developed a method to produce human embryonic stem cells without deliberately destroying embryos in the process.
The process that has been proposed involves removing a single cell from a three-day old embryo, which has been created by IVF, and using it to produce embryonic stem cells.
The embryo is supposedly unharmed by this procedure. Advanced Cell Technology said that this method would remove ethical objections to embryonic stem cell research.
Dr Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute said: "The notion that it solves some kind of a scientific, social or ethical dilemma -- I can't say that it does."
Rev Nicanor Austriaco, a Dominican friar and molecular biologist at Providence College, Rhode Island, expressed concerns that the single cell which is removed could itself develop into an embryo, as has been found to happen in other mammals.
He said: "This raises the concern that the blastomeres isolated by [Advanced Cell Technology] in order to create a stem-cell line are in fact bona fide embryos that are destroyed in the process of creating the stem-cell lines."
Mr Richard Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "The new research ... raises more ethical questions than answers ... Some embryos do not survive the process, and some survivors may have long-term effects later in life."
[The Seattle Times, 24 August ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "Regardless of the spurious claim that this allegedly new technique avoids a so-called ethical dilemma, the embryonic children used in the study were created through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which is in itself ethically unacceptable. The creation of human life in the laboratory is contrary to human dignity, not least because unknown numbers of embryonic children die in the test-tube or petri dish in which they were created, prior to any degrading procedures such as biopsy, freezing or experimentation."
A prominent Chinese opponent of forced abortion has been jailed for four years. Chen Guangcheng was convicted of damaging property and disrupting traffic, charges which Mr Guangcheng's supporters believe were trumped up.
Mr Guangcheng, who is blind, was tried without his lawyers present and his family was not notified of the verdict. Xu Zhiyong, Mr Guangcheng's advocate, said: "We'll certainly appeal against the sentence. Chen Guangcheng is adamant that he's innocent...The trial was absurd, and now to have such a heavy sentence delivered this way is just unacceptable".
[The Epoch Times, 24 August ] The first legal abortion has been undertaken in Colombia.
The Colombian government passed a law in May allowing abortion in three circumstances: danger of death to the mother, serious foetal disability, or pregnancy as a result of rape.
This case involved an 11-year-old girl who allegedly had been raped by a close relative, and even though such a circumstance is included in the recently passed law, the case was sent to the highest court in Colombia.
The Catholic Church has condemned this abortion, and the passing of the pro-abortion law. [BBC, 25 August ]