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Defending life from the moment of conception

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South Dakota tightens law on abortion

7 March 2006

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, has today ruled that a woman may not have frozen IVF embryos implanted after her partner withdrew his consent to the procedure. Ms Natallie Evans and Mr Howard Johnston had IVF treatment when she contracted cancer, but their relationship ended. The court held that UK law denying embryos any independent right to life were not in breach of the right to life in the European Convention on Human Rights, noting that in English law "a foetus prior to the moment of birth, much less so an embryo, had no independent rights or interests." Mr Johnston says common sense has prevailed. Ms Evans hopes to appeal to the European Court's grand jury. [BBC, 7 March]

South Dakota has tightened its law on abortion, though it is unclear whether the procedure is still allowed in cases of rape and/or incest. Mr Michael Rounds, the governor, signed the law yesterday (Monday). He said: "In the history of the world, the true test of a civilisation is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society." The move could bring about a challenge to Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling which permitted abortion nationally. [BBC, 7 March] Mr Bradley Mattes, executive director of the Life Issues Institute, Ohio, said: "Protecting unborn children and their parents from abortion requires bold leadership like South Dakota's governor and legislature. We must build on the momentum this victory is producing. While at a meeting of governors in Washington, DC, last week, Governor Rounds was surprised by the number of fellow governors who encouraged him to sign the bill and indicated they too would pursue such protection for babies in their states. Mississippi and Ohio are working on this type of bill now."

A British woman who was left paralysed after a riding accident is seeking embryo stem cell therapy abroad in the hope of improving her condition. Sally Wilson, 51, was a racehorse trainer until the accident in 2004 left her wheelchair bound. Her husband, John, said, "There is a lot of uproar about stem cell treatment ... they are so worried about cloning and the moral arguments. But the people who say this are not in wheelchairs. Everyone wants the treatment if they have the technology to do it." [Grimsby Telegraph, 3 March] Alison Davis of No Less Human commented: "He is wrong. I am only one of many disabled people who oppose cloning and stem cell research using human embryos. I use a wheelchair, and so do many other disabled people who oppose these treatments. We would not accept these treatments for ourselves because they are unethical. Instead, we support the use of ethical sources of stem cells, which are already providing promising treatments for a variety of disabling conditions including paralysis."

Professor Ian Craft, one of Britain's leading IVF practitioners, has been called before the medical regulatory authority accused of professional misconduct. It is alleged that Professor Craft charged inflated fees for unnecessary IVF treatments, and failed to inform an egg donor of possible risks involved in donating. Professor Craft pioneered the practice, since banned, of offering a free IVF cycle to women who donated their eggs, and has reportedly amassed a personal fortune of £15 million. If found guilty by the General Medical Council, he could be struck off the medical register. [The Times, 4 March]

The Cambodian government has deported an American euthanasia campaigner for promoting the country as a place to commit suicide. Roger Graham, originally of Paradise, California, ran a website from his residence in Kampot encouraging people to travel to Cambodia to end their lives. Mr Graham said he believes in "a person's right to choose the time, place and manner of their death", but denies having assisted the suicide of a British woman in Kampot last year. [The Guardian, 4 March]

A US Appeals Court has upheld a preliminary injunction banning the enforcement of an Ohio state law regulating the use of the Mifeprex abortion drug, although it has not ruled it unconstitutional. The law would forbid doctors from administering the drug after seven weeks' gestation, and would also require a full medical examination to be performed before prescribing mifepristone (RU486) and misoprostol, and close monitoring of patients afterwards. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in 2004 claiming that the law provided no exception to protect the health or lives of pregnant women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Planned Parenthood. The case now returns to the District Court, which will decide whether to allow the law to operate with a health exception. [Medical News Today, 2 March]

The Catholic bishop of Springfield diocese, Massachusetts, has refused to present an award at a St Patrick's day parade in his diocese after learning that the selected recipient was pro-abortion. The St Patrick's Day Parade Committee for Holyoke has decided to confer the John F Kennedy Award, for distinguished achievement in a person of Irish heritage, on Thomas J Ridge who served as chief of homeland security between 2001 and 2005. [The Republican, 3 March]. In Arlington, Virginia, Bishop William Loverde urged pro-lifers to imitate Mary during a sermon at a Respect Life Mass, saying: "The Blessed Mother gave witness to Christian charity as she cared for Elizabeth during her pregnancy. Our pro-life witness must not only affirm in clear and unambiguous terms that life must be respected and protected from its first moment of conception onward, but our pro-life witness must also support pregnant women who are at risk and assist those women who have had abortions and now bitterly regret that tragic mistake." [Arlington Catholic Herald, 23 February]

The Welsh Language Board has launched an initiative involving unborn children. Under the scheme, health visitors and midwives will introduce pregnant mothers to Welsh nursery rhymes, and give them literature outlining the benefits of encouraging their children to be bilingual. [icWales, 3 March]

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