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US Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion ban

19 April 2007

The US Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional a federal law banning partial birth abortions. The law was passed and signed by President Bush in 2003, but had not come into effect because of a legal challenge that it was unconstitutional in not having a health exception. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion that the opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases." This is the first restriction on abortions since 1973, and suggests that the supreme court under Chief Justice Roberts, appointed by President Bush, may be willing to re-visit the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. [CNN, 18 April] Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the US Catholic bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities has welcomed the ruling, particularly in its recognition that abortion is the taking of a human life, and that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting life at every stage. While the law does not affect the vast majority of abortions, "it provides reasons for renewed hope and renewed effort on the part of pro-life Americans." [Zenit, 18 April]

A terminally ill woman has withdrawn her legal bid to force doctors to give her a lethal dose of morphine. Kelly Taylor's case was due to be heard in the British High Court next week, but she asked for a postponement so that she could investigate alternative treatments to alleviate her pain, as she is allergic to the drugs usually used for her condition. Her request was rejected, so she had to withdraw it altogether. [This is London, 19 April, and Independent, 19 April]

A study at a British university into why women have late abortions (after 13 weeks) has found that many women did not know that they were pregnant. Other common reasons given were taking time to come to a decision, and delaying 2 or 3 weeks between requesting and having an abortion. [BBC, 19 April]

Patients in British hospitals who need help with eating, particularly the elderly, are in danger of malnutrition because of a lack of nursing staff with time to supervise their meals, according to a survey held among members of the Royal College of Nursing. [Times, 19 April]

A lack of provision in many areas of Britain is leaving mothers who suffer from post-natal depression without the necessary care. Delegates to the annual conference of the Royal College of Nursing have called on the government to ensure that every area has a mother and baby unit in their mental health provision. Judith Ring of the mental health group also said that a shortage of health visitors visiting mothers in their homes meant that minor problems were not being picked up and could become more serious. [BBC, 18 April]

A British man who posted a message on the internet offering to help people commit suicide has been found not guilty after a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence against him. In a message on the internet, Gary Howes, 44, reportedly said that he was "only too happy to help" anyone kill themselves and offered a method involving drugs and asphyxiation to a depressed woman who contacted him. The court was told that he volunteered to be present at the death. Mr Howes was arrested after an undercover reporter posed as a depressed teenage girl and a bullied schoolboy and was offered a "quick and painless method" in which he would help them to commit suicide. Judge Slinger ruled that there was not enough evidence that Mr Howes had attempted to assist in a suicide by some act which was more than merely preparatory. [Times, 13 April]

A new fertility test is now on sale in Britain that can tell whether a woman is too old to have children. The Plan Ahead test measures the woman's hormone levels in her blood and results reveal whether she has a low or normal Ovarian Reserve, which can indicate how much time the woman has left in which she can have a child. [Daily Mail, 11 April]

Staff at Hamilton University in Canada have refused to work because a meeting of a pro-life student group made them "feel unsafe." Workers claimed that a presentation called Silent No More, in which women who had undergone abortions spoke about their own experiences, was "intimidating" and "aggressive". They have been supported by the executive of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Jonathon Kay from the National Post wrote: "Given that the very livelihoods of the members of CUPE... are based on the unfettered pursuit of knowledge enshrined in Canadian academic culture, why are members permitting their union executive to encourage a work stoppage in the name of ideologically-based censorship?" [LifeSite, 11 April]

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