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Defending life from the moment of conception

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4D pioneer: Cut time limit on 'social' abortions

4 October 2006

Professor Stuart Campbell of the Create Health Clinic, London, who pioneered the '4D' scanning technology which has produced vivid images of unborn babies moving in the womb, has said in an article written for the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he believes foetuses "who exhibit the signs of humanity these images portray" should not be aborted, and that the time limit on abortions for social reasons should be cut to 18 weeks. However Professor Campbell stated that he is "I am equally keen to protect a woman's right to choose. I've watched women die from the after-effects of backstreet abortions." [Daily Telegraph, 4 October]

Young pregnant teenagers sometimes smoke in order to reduce their baby's birth weight, in the hope that this will reduce labour pains, BBC Health reports. Nursing Standards magazine published comments made by Public Health minister Caroline Flint on the issue at a Labour Party conference fringe meeting. Smoking is strongly linked to birth complications, and studies show that low birth weight does not make labour any easier. Belinda Phipps, of the National Childbirth Trust, said "It is a real indictment of our education that teenagers are so fearful that they are prepared to do something that is enormously damaging to themselves and their babies because they think there might be an outside chance it might make their labour easier." [BBC Health, 4 October]

Articles published in the Journal of Medical Ethics have raised the issue of using patients in a so-called permanent vegetative state for medical experiments, including transplantations of animal organs. Dr Steven Curry, of the University of Melbourne, is quoted as arguing that "Those who are in a PVS ... have no continuing interest in their own survival ... these patients must also have a right to risk that life for the common good ... Also, no risk of withdrawal of consent exists." While acknowledging that ideally patients would give their consent by enrolling in a register prior to becoming non-responsive, he added that since few people were likely to do this, relatives should be allowed to consent on a patient's behalf "with reference to the person's values and stated preferences." [BioEdge, no 221, 3 October]

The wife of human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was forcibly questioned for nine hours while on her way to her parents' home to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. Yuan Weijing, who was accompanied by her year-old daughter, was told by policemen that "If you insist on going there [her parents' home], we may arrest you, and, just like Chen Guangcheng, you will bear the consequences of that decision. It won't be good for your parents, either". Chen Guangcheng has been sentenced to four years' and three month's imprisonment after he attempted to bring a lawsuit on behalf of women forced into abortions by population control officials. [Human Rights in China, 3 October]

A South Korean lawyers' association has published a report claiming that forced abortions are being practiced in North Korean prisons. The study, published by the Korean Bar Association, is based on interviews with 100 North Koreans who have defected to the South since 2000. The United Nations Human Rights Commission included forced abortion among the human rights violations listed in its 2005 report on North Korea. [LifeSite, 2 October]

Six members of the same family have petitioned the Indian president to allow them to end their lives. Bishani Devi and five of her children all suffer from a debilitating illness which leaves them crippled and which doctors have so far failed to diagnose. Although the state government has now promised help to the family, who live in poverty in Jaipur, they say they have lost all hope. Euthanasia is illegal in India, and a patient last year lost a court case appealing for it to be legalised. [BBC News, 3 October]

Speaking in the run-up to a referendum on abortion in his country, Cardinal Jose del a Cruz Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal, emphasized that "abortion is a question of fundamental ethics, of human rights" rather than exclusively a matter of religion. On the issue of illegal abortions, the Cardinal said that "you cannot solve one problem by creating another". [CNA, 4 October]

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