weekly update, 14 to 21 March
21 March 2007
weekly update, 14 to 21 March A bill that would have required a teenager's parents to be notified before she was given an abortion or contraceptive advice has been defeated in the House of Commons by 159 votes to 87. Such laws in the US have been shown to halve the number of teenage abortions. Mrs Angela Watkinson, the bill's sponsor, said that the government's current strategy was failing to curb the increase in teenage pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and that a new approach should be tried. Angela Watkinson's bill comes a year after Sue Axon lost her High Court battle against secret abortions for underage girls. Professor David Paton of Nottingham University has stated that there is no evidence that pregnant underage girls are driven to seek backstreet abortions. [BBC, 13 March ] [LifeNews, 14 March] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said that the attention of those Catholic politicians who voted against Mrs Watkinson's bill should be drawn to Pope Benedict XVI's latest statement, Sacramentum Caritatis, which speaks of "those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death [etc]. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature." The Pontifical Academy for Life has called upon the UN to amend the Declaration of Human Rights to include a right to conscientious objection, LifeNews reports. The statement was made as a result of increased pressure on doctors and medical personnel to participate in abortion, euthanasia and embryo research. The Academy asked that doctors be allowed to act "in faithful obedience to the judgements of the[ir] own moral conscience." [LifeNews.com, 19 March ] A Canadian nurse who was fined $15,000 and suspended for demonstrating outside a Planned Parenthood facility is being defended by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on the grounds that his freedom of expression was breached. The CCLA does not support Bill Whatcott's pro-life position but is fighting the case on the grounds that: "It is fundamental to democracy that individuals be able to comment on the morality of others' behaviour. Indeed, norms of behaviour must generally be debatable. Through such democratic processes, people are assisted in reaching their own conclusions as to what behaviours should be permitted, encouraged, discouraged, or forbidden." [LifeSiteNews, 19 March ] A French doctor convicted of poisoning a terminally-ill patient has been given a one-year suspended sentence and permitted to continue medical practice. Dr Laurence Tramois faced a possible 30-year jail sentence, the BBC reported, after the hospital authorities reported the lethal injection administered in 2003. Dr Tramois claimed that Mme Paulette Druais who was suffering from pancreatic cancer, told her she did not want to die "in filth". Dr Tramois' decision had the support of the patient's family. More than 2,000 health professionals signed a petition in support of the doctor, calling for a change in the law to allow active euthanasia. [BBC, 16 March] People suffering from a rare genetic eye disorder have been successfully treated using adult stem cells. Doctors at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England, are transplanting adult stem cells from dead donors, living relatives or the patients themselves onto the cornea of patients who were born without an iris. Four have reported improved comfort and vision. [NetDoctor, 16 March] The United Nations Population Division predicts that by 2050 the world population will be more than nine billion, and that nearly 25% will be over 60. The growth will be mainly in the developing world, while the population of the rich nations will remain much the same, with migration compensating for falling birth-rates. The figures assume provision of anti-retroviral drugs treatment for HIV-Aids. Hania Zlotnik, director of UNPD, says that population aging is the result of the success of humanity in controlling its number, and "The only thing we can hope is that the aging continues and that society can adapt itself to the important social changes." [BBC, 16 March] An article in the New York Times reports on the work of perinatal hospices in the US. At least 40 such hospices have been started during the last ten years, offering help to families who learn that their unborn baby has a fatal condition. An increasing number of families are using these services, which include preparing the family for the very short life of their baby, and instructions for care if the baby lives longer than a few days. [Medical News Today, 15 March] The Catholic bishops of Mexico have issued a statement condemning abortion and infanticide as abominable crimes. The statement coincides with a debate in the Mexico City legislature about an initiative to allow abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The bishops re-iterated that the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that the right to life of all innocent human beings is inviolable and begins at conception, stressing that it is the task of a just society to care for life from the moment of conception. [Catholic News Agency, 15 March] A number of Catholic groups are urging the Connecticut legislature not to pass a bill that would force the state's four Catholic hospitals to administer the morning after pill to all rape victims. At present the protocol in these hospitals is that Plan-B will only be given if the woman has not ovulated. The proposed bill would require that a patient be referred to others to obtain the drug if the Catholic hospital did not provide it for her. "These institutions should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs, especially those concerning the human dignity of every person, no matter at what stage of life," the Connecticut Catholic Conference said in a statement. [Catholic News Agency, 15 March] The Catholic Bishops of Portugal have condemned a new law passed by the Portuguese parliament legalising abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Speaking for the bishops' conference, Bishop Azevedo commended pro-life advocates in parliament for trying to mitigate the statute and winning some concessions. "We face women who have abortions with a look of mercy and forgiveness but our Christian conscience forces us not to collaborate with any attempt to [deny] the dignity of the human being," he told the news service. Among European countries, Ireland, Poland and Malta retain substantial legal protection for the unborn. [Catholic News Agency, 15 March] Legislators in Mexico City are debating a bill that would legalise first trimester abortions, where current law only permits abortion in cases of rape or danger to the mother's life. Opponents hope to block the bill on the grounds that it violates articles of the constitution protecting life. Proponents claim that it will prevent backstreet abortions. [The Guardian, 15 March] The Chinese lawyer who publicised reports of forced abortions to enforce China's one-child policy, has been saluted for defending free speech in a ceremony held by the Index on Censorship in London, UK. Of five categories of Freedom of Expression Awards, Mr Chen Guangcheng received the whistleblower award. The Index on Censorship aims to highlight "stories that are under-reported and that we would like to bring to mainstream attention," says its chief, Mr Henderson Mullin. [BBC, 14 March ] The number of people using Oregon's assisted suicide law has risen from 16 in 1998 to 46 in 2006, according to reports from the Department of Human Services. Most had cancer. Miss Diane Coleman, president of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, said that Oregon's law was making disabled people feel an obligation to commit suicide. [LifeNews, 14 March] More than 1000 Catholics attended a rally in New York to express their opposition to a bill that would spend $2.1 billion of taxpayers' money on embryonic stem cell research. Addressing the rally, Cardinal Egan said that legislators should first look at forms of stem cell research that are more effective and morally acceptable. Mr Richard Barnes, director of the New York Catholic Conference, pointed out that with other economic needs not being met, the bill was fiscally irresponsible. [LifeNews, 14 March] Statistics Canada has released data that show the country's birth-rate has fallen to 1.5 children per woman, where 2.1 is necessary to maintain a steady population. An editorial in the National Post suggests the solution is to "start making babies" and that the state should provide incentives as in France. Canada's high economic growth is due exclusively to unprecedented levels of immigration, and the article predicts that in the future "there will be no one to pay the bills when the current crop of middle-aged Canadians retire." [LifeSite, 14 March] Medical specialists meeting in Spain have issued an urgent call for greater care for women who are at risk of having an abortion. The three-day international conference "women and the Reality of Abortion" was organized by the Spanish Forum for the Family, and discussed government policies which claim to reduce the number of abortions. The reality is that "each year thousands of women find themselves helpless and without support from society, which can lead them to have recourse to abortion." said the press release. [Catholic News Agency, 14 March] An apology to our readers: Due to staff absences, we were unable to provide you with an update last week. We hope to resume a normal service soon.