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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Roy Hattersley lashes out at cardinals over abortion

26 June 2006

Lord Roy Hattersley, the peer and former Labour minister, has criticised the approach of Cardinals O'Brien and Murphy-O'Connor on abortion law reform in the Guardian. Lord Hattersley argues for a humanist morality based on respect for human life, applied logically. Abortion should only be allowed until a foetus is capable of 'independent life' he says. He said Cardinal Murphy O'Connor and Archbishop Peter Smith had failed to "set out the moral imperatives that should determine policy on the subject..." and added: "The date on which an unborn child can be destroyed is not a matter that can be decided by popular suffrage. It is a question of right and wrong." [The Guardian, 26 June]

The British Medical Association is being asked to support the removal of safeguards restricting access to abortion in the first trimester. Two branches of the BMA have submitted motions for the annual representative meeting which would recommend requiring only one doctor's signature instead of two for first trimester abortions. [Sunday Herald, 25 June] Lord Steel, who was responsible for introducing the Abortion Act in 1967, has backed a call from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the Catholic Church in England to re-open political debate on abortion laws. He says he is "open to persuasion" on reducing the legal limit for some abortions to 22 weeks. About 30 members of parliament have signed a House of Commons motion calling for the establishment of a select committee to re-examine the alleged 24 week limit on abortions. Dr Evan Harris, a member of the House of Commons science and technology select committee said "There is also a real need to see if access to early abortions can be made easier to reduce the number of late abortions." [The Scotsman 22 June]

Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese activist detained for his protests against forced abortions, and his lawyer Li Jinsong have recently received death threats. Li reported receiving death threats over the telephone, and also said that when he met his client for the first time since the latter's arrest three and a half months before, Chen described being threatened with death by interrogators if he did not co-operate with them.[Asia News, 24 June]

China's legislative body, the National People's Congress, has removed a measure forbidding sex-selective abortion from its draft revision of criminal legislation. Sex-selective abortion is common in China as parents try to ensure that their one permitted child is male. Official statistics currently record 119 males to 100 females in China, as opposed 105 males to 100 females worldwide. [Financial Times, 26 June]

Addressing the bishops of the Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Pope Benedict spoke of "the scourge of abortion and the demographic crisis" which exist alongside "exemplary family groups" in their countries. He urged the bishops to be "courageous defenders of life and the family". [Vatican Information Service, 23 June]

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, has said Amnesty International will be discredited as a human rights organisation if it drops its neutral stance on abortion and starts pushing countries to repeal laws against abortion. He noted that Amnesty would lose support from Catholics if it defined abortion as a human right. [Reuters 21 June]

Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, has pledged to give £20 billion of his £23 billion fortune to selected charities. The largest donation is to go to Bill Gates' Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett has previous supported Planned Parenthood and other pro- abortion groups. [Sky News, 26 June] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given billions of dollars to the world's leading promoters of abortion and population control. Mr Buffett also funds the falsely-named "Catholics For A Free Choice", which campaigns against the Catholic Church and its position on abortion. Pope Paul VI once commented: 'It is inadmissible that those who have control of the wealth and resources of mankind should try to resolve the problem of hunger by forbidding the poor to be born.' "

The Pakistani government has launched a plan whereby families who have only one child will have that child's education paid for by the government, in an attempt to try to reduce the country's rate of population growth. Pakistan is the world's sixth most populous country. Mr. Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, Minister for Population Welfare said "Definitely, incentives will increase the acceptance of family planning." [Gulf News 22 June]

Mr John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister has reportedly told members of parliament that the cabinet has resolved to reject the recommendations of an inquiry into cloning and stem cell laws. The inquiry had upheld the ban on reproductive cloning (where the embryo is implanted in the womb and allowed to continue to live), but recommended that so-called therapeutic cloning (where the embryo is destroyed in the process of harvesting cells to use for the benefit of someone else) go ahead. Mr. Howard's spokesman said the Australian "cabinet had a disposition not to make any changes" to the current law. [The Age 22 June] Research by Professor Robert Jansen, medical director of the Sydney IVF clinic in Australia suggests that improved diets and health have increased the proportion of identical twins being born, contrary to the view that the increase in twin pregnancies is due only to IVF treatment. He said "it's occurring naturally and out of our hands. It's a dilemma in that we are doing what we can to reduce dizygotic (non-identical) twining) but the better embryo culture gets, the bigger the increase in monozygotic (identical) twinning there will be." [Daily Telegraph 22 June]

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