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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pro-life fears over new Health Secretary Alan Johnson

28 June 2007

SPUC fears that Mr Alan Johnson MP, the new UK health secretary, will support wider provision of abortion and other anti-life practices. Soon after becoming a member of parliament in 1997, Mr Johnson signed two parliamentary motions, one defending an alleged "woman's right to choose" abortion and another condemning "restrictive abortion laws". In 2000, Mr Johnson voted in favour of destructive stem cell research on cloned embryonic children. In 2004, Mr Johnson voted against pro-life amendments to the Mental Capacity Act, which enshrined in statute law euthanasia by omission. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "We fear that, if abortion is introduced into the debate when the government's draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill comes before parliament, the government will give at least tacit support to amendments to extend abortion provision. Whether or not the government grants a free vote to backbench MPs, past parliamentary experience proves that signals of the government's opinion heavily influences the way backbench MPs vote. Pro-life parliamentarians should therefore not attempt to open up the abortion law on the floor of Parliament whilst a government-backed pro-abortion majority holds sway, lest there be a repeat of the 1990 defeat of the pro-life lobby." [SPUC, 28 June]

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands has said that the European Union may only give future aid to Nicaragua if the country changes its ban on abortion. Speaking at the Dutch Platform of Millennium Goals, Mr Bert Koenders said: "Even if an abortion is medically necessary, it still remains illegal in Nicaragua, which results in the death of women. We should emphasize that this is completely unacceptable. I do not want to immediately cancel our aid to Nicaragua, but we certainly will weigh the matter." Last year Nicaragua implemented a law limiting abortion which aims to protect unborn children. [Catholic News Agency, 27 June]

The Pope has said that scientific research should be supported and promoted as long as it respects the dignity of human beings from the moment of conception. Benedict XVI made the statement at a general audience yesterday at which there were participants from an international congress on adult stem cells organised by the La Sapienza University of Rome. He said: "On this matter the position of the Church, supported by reason and by science, is clear: scientific research must be encouraged and promoted, so long as it does not harm other human beings, whose dignity is inviolable from the very first stages of existence." [VIS on EWTN, 27 June]

British scientists have claimed to have found a link between mouse and human embryonic stem cells which they say could accelerate the development of treatments. Teams of researchers from Oxford and Cambridge universities used mouse embryos to derive a type of cell similar to a human embryonic stem cell. Sir Richard Gardner who led the Oxford team said: "The fact that both studies made this discovery almost simultaneously is a clear sign of the momentum picking up in stem cell research. We are reaching a critical mass of understanding about these cells, which should enable us to make the most of them in coming years." [Financial Times, 28 June]

Lawmakers in Louisiana have passed legislation banning partial-birth abortion. The bill was passed by 104 votes to 0 in the House of Representatives and by 36 to 0 in the Senate. Senator Ben Nevers, the primary sponsor of the bill, said: "Many of us know that partial-birth abortion is one of the most gruesome procedures ever allowed in this country. It should be a crime in this state and every state. This places a statute in law that gives Louisiana the right to prosecute and not wait on a federal prosecutor." The bill would punish doctors who performed partial-birth abortions with fines between $1,000 and $100,000 and jail of between one and 10 years. [LifeSite, 26 June]

The New Zealand High Court has ruled that an unwanted pregnancy is an injury to a woman's body. The ruling followed a lawsuit involving a woman who became pregnant unexpectedly with her fifth child after a failed sterilisation attempt. Judge Jillian Moore referred to stretch marks, nausea, vomiting and other signs of pregnancy as injuries, saying: "if these kinds of changes and resulting effects were suffered by some other impact upon the body ... there would be little difficulty in calling them harm." [LifeSite, 27 June]

An Indian Catholic bishop has called sex-selective abortion a crime against humanity. Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, the president of India's episcopal conference, said that he aims to raise political awareness among Catholics and to encourage people all faiths to value life. Speaking to the charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishop said: "I am optimistic that in India too, we can exercise an influence on society." [Zenit on EWTN, 26 June]

Catholic bishops in Kenya have criticised two pro-abortion groups in the country which held a mock trial ridiculing the pro-life position and demanding unrestricted access to abortion. The Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance held a mock tribunal "to publicize the negative consequences of the criminalization of abortion in Kenya." They were challenged at the event by pro-life witnesses who demanded representation of unborn children and asserted that the right to life must be considered before all other rights. In a statement the bishops said: "A state which legalizes abortion most definitely abdicates a very basic reason for its own existence. It is important, very important indeed, to note that abortion has never put an end to women's social distress, but that it simply adds a personal tragedy. There is no reason or motive that can ever objectively confer the right to dispose of another's life. Abortion, whether legal or not, kills babies, damages women, harms families, degrades the medical profession, weakens nations and destroys churches." [LifeSite, 27 June]

The originator of the source of our story yesterday about the jailing in Germany of Pastor Johannes Lerle has said that he was not, in fact, convicted of holocaust denial because he had compared abortion with the holocaust, but was convicted of holocaust denial alone. [LifeSite, dated 26 June]

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