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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Abortion counselling bill to go before Parliament

14 May 2007

A Private Member's Bill is to be introduced into Parliament next month that would require women considering abortion to undergo counselling and would introduce a 'cooling off' period to prevent pregnant women being rushed into abortion. Ann Winterton of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group stated: "It is really important that people are not bounced into having an abortion because they are in a state of panic without considering the alternatives and without alerting them to possible consequences to their physical and mental health." [Daily Mail, 14 May]

Amnesty International has admitted to changing its policy on abortion and will begin lobbying globally in favour of abortion. The new policy will involve campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion and promoting abortion in cases such as rape. A senior policy director denied that the policy change had been kept secret, even though it was kept on a members-only webpage with instructions that the change was not to be made public. [LifeSiteNews, 11 May]

Doctors at a Catholic hospital in London are threatening to reject a new code of ethics that will put an end to abortion referrals and the provision of contraception and IVF. Dr Martin Scurr, chairman of the St John and St Elizabeth hospital advisory committee, expected Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor to resign if the new code is rejected and said in a letter: "The hospital will continue as a non-Catholic hospital, with a Catholic heritage, and a new ethics committee will subsequently be formed which must evolve a code of ethics which is acceptable to the secular cadre of clinicians of the hospital, in alignment with the jurisdiction of the General Medical Council." Restituta, a group campaigning for the hospital to retain its Catholic identity, may take legal action if the hospital refuses to accept the new code of ethics. [Daily Telegraph, 12 May]

A pro-life group that campaigned against the Mental Capacity Act has warned that patients who sign living wills may not be aware that refusing treatment includes the withdrawal of food and fluids. Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert said: "This is euthanasia and it is not clear enough to people who might be involved. People do not realise that they are condemning themselves to die of thirst." The Act also allows patients to appoint a person with powers of attorney to decide what treatment they should and should not receive, including the provision of nutrition and hydration, should they become incapacitated. [Daily Mail, 14 May] Anthony Ozimic of SPUC said: "Transferring autonomy from the mentally incapacitated, who are powerless, to medically unqualified third parties potentially with vested interests in the patient's death, will inevitably lead to the intentional killing of the innocent. No one should have the power of life and death over an innocent person. Unless the law returns to a focus upon the patient's best medical interests, which includes the preservation of life, every adult in this country potentially is in danger of euthanasia, as no one is immune from becoming mentally incapacitated through illness or accident. English hospitals are no longer a safe place."

A private medical group is to offer pregnant women a range of screening tests via the internet. The various tests include blood test kits which will be sent to the woman's GP, and ultrasound scans at a private clinic. The British Medical Association's ethics committee has expressed serious concerns about the new Genio service on the grounds that women may receive negative information about their unborn child by post, but the service claims that GPs will be alerted to negative results before the patient hears. [Daily Telegraph, 12 May]

A woman has been convicted of killing her child in utero or newborn, BBC reports. Maisha Ahmed Mohammed claimed at her 34-week check that the baby had been stillborn and she had thrown away its body, which has never been found. Det Insp Brian King said that the case had been extremely distressing and that "Maisha has consistently lied about what happened to her baby and has shown little remorse for what she did." [BBC, 12 May] Mrs Mohammed has been convicted of committing "child destruction" in 2005. Police are investigating the possibility that Mrs Mohammed may have visited an illegal abortion facility or may have acted alone. It is also possible that the baby may have been born alive and then killed. Mrs Mohammed is reported to have had a "legitimate" abortion earlier in 2005. [Manchester Evening News, 12 May] Note: The crime of child destruction is defined under the 1929 Infant Life Preservation Act which applies to children capable of being born alive, whether in utero, during or after birth.

The Irish teenager, known only as Miss D, who has been given "permission" to abort her disabled baby in England, has said that she will bring the baby's body home for burial. It is also reported that she expressed a wish to see the abortion laws changed in the Irish Republic. [Belfast Telegraph, 14 May]

The auction house Christie's has been criticised for putting the preserved body of a 100-year-old unborn baby up for auction. The body has been cut in half to reveal its internal organs and is preserved in a glass container. Paul Tully of SPUC commented: "For a commercial organisation to profit from the sale of a dead child is incredible. I would call in the strongest possible terms for Christie's to withdraw the lots immediately." [Daily Mail, 11 May]

Poland's minister of education has told the World Congress of Families that his government would promote the sanctity of human life and would teach students that abortion was a crime and a great evil. SPUC's John Smeaton, at the meeting in Warsaw, said: "Pro-life and pro-family people throughout Europe and the rest of the world will welcome Mr Roman Giertych's statements. Let us hope that other nations will follow Poland's lead so that the unborn and other vulnerable people will be protected from the threats of abortion, embryo research and euthanasia."

SPUC has commented on the case (reported on by us on Tuesday) of a Northern Ireland midwife who is alleged to have taken part in illegal abortions. Liam Gibson, SPUC's development officer for the province, said: "The most worrying aspect of this case is that, even after the midwife had publicly stated that she had been involved in unlawful abortions, the health department invited her to help draw up its recently-published draft guidelines on abortion. For far too long the government has turned a blind eye to deliberate killing of disabled children before birth. It is now up to Northern Ireland's new health minister to ensure that the medical profession respects the legal rights of all unborn children and puts a end to the practice of eugenic abortion."

In his first speech during his visit to Brazil, the Pope encouraged the bishops to continue to defend the sanctity of human life. He said that support for abortion legislation demonstrated doubts about Church doctrine on the value of life, and was therefore incompatible with receiving Holy Communion. "Selfishness and fear are at the root of abortion legislation," he said. The Brazilian government is considering holding a referendum on abortion. President Lula da Silva favours relaxing the restrictions on the grounds that women die from clandestine abortions. [Times, 10 May and Reuters, 10 May] Earlier, the Pope had endorsed the de facto excommunication of legislators who voted to legalise abortion in Mexico City, and of medical staff who perform abortions. [Guardian, 9 May]

The Health Service Executive of Ireland has accepted the high court's decision to allow Miss D, aged 17 and in care, to travel to England to abort her severely disabled baby. Pro-abortion groups have welcomed the decision, while deploring the stress and delay caused by the court-case and calling for the legalisation of abortion in Ireland. The Pro-Life Campaign group has called for greater support for pregnant women "so that no woman feels abortion is the only option open to her". [Irish Times, 9 May]

A British man has been found guilty of murder for killing his wife after a failed suicide attempt. Mrs Patricia Lund, 65, of New Brighton, Merseyside, was not terminally ill, but suffered from severe depression and had attempted suicide five times. Mr Frank Lund promised to help her choose the day of her death and, when she started vomiting after taking a large overdose of paracetamol, which he had bought for her, he smothered her. He will be sentenced on 24 May. [Telegraph, 10 May] Previous convictions for killings in similar circumstances have resulted in desultory sentences.

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