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Defending life from the moment of conception

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First Reading for Embryo Bill in House of Lords

9 November 2007

The UK government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill was introduced in the House of Lords last night. It would amend the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and the 1985 Surrogacy Arrangements Act. The introduction was a formality and there was no debate. [Official Report, 8 November] Ms Nadine Dorries MP, a former nurse and a Conservative, has said that she and a Labour colleague plan to table amendments to the 24-week abortion rule. Other members of the elected chamber are expected to propose amendments which would widen access to abortion. [Telegraph, 9 November] The bill will be debated by the Lords on Monday-week (the 19th).

Around 350 young people were at a pro-life conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this week. The Medical Students' Meeting on Human Life was due to be addressed by Dr Joel Brind, professor of biology and endocrinology at City University, New York, NY, Professor Vincent Rue, the American co-author of Post-Abortion Syndrome a Growing Health Problem, Dr Jerónima Teixeira, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Universidade Nova, Lisbon, and of Imperial College, London, and John Smeaton, SPUC's national director. [John Smeaton, 8 November]

Mr Pat Robertson, a prominent Christian leader and social conservative, is to endorse Republican US presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who favours the so-called right to abortion. [Guardian, 7 November] Kansas senator Mr Sam Brownback has endorsed Senator John McCain. Mr Brownback has built up a network of conservative Christian groups based on his "rock-solid opposition to abortion...". [CNA on EWTN, 7 November] Mr Fred Thompson, another Republican contender, has said he favours overturning the Roe v. Wade supreme court decision which legalised abortion nationally, but that he does not favour criminalising abortion at the state level. He also declared his belief that life began at conception. [CNA on EWTN, 6 November]

A Swiss assisted-suicide charity is offering its services in car-parks (public parking lots) in Zurich. Two men reportedly died in their cars from an overdose of barbiturates supplied to them in a suburban car-park by Dignitas. Authorities refused to renew the organisation's lease on a flat (apartment) after complaints from residents. [Telegraph, 9 November]

A US district judge has issued an injunction saying that pharmacists who refuse to sell morning-after pills on grounds of conscience are protected in doing so if they refer the patient on to a local source of the drug. A group of pharmacists challenging Washington state's requirement that they do not refuse to supply the drugs petitioned for a ruling while their lawsuit is in progress. [AP on Guardian, 9 November]

The Catholic bishops of Uruguay are discussing options to prevent a bill legalising abortion in the first three months of pregnancy from becoming law. If the house of deputies passes the law as the senate did on Tuesday, measures such as a citizens' petition and a referendum may be possible. President Tabaré Vázquez said on taking office in 2005 that he would veto pro-abortion legislation. Uruguay currently allows abortion only in cases of rape or threat to the mother's life. [Zenit, 8 November]

The president of the Catholic bishops' conference of France has commented on the importance of human dignity with regard to laws on bioethics. The recently elected Archbishop André Vingt-Trois told a television interviewer: "We must be on the alert. I think that with regards to respect for human dignity, we must be very aware of the way in which men and women are treated." [CNA on EWTN, 8 November]

A couple are suing their local Health Service Executive in the Irish high court for damages for what they regard as the "wrongful death" of their baby Ethan, who was stillborn in July 2003. Ms Lavinia Doyle and Mr Luca Chiussi claim their right to seek damages must be interpreted in accordance with the constitution, which provides for the right to life of the unborn. Ms Doyle experienced an early separation of the placenta from the uterus wall and claims she asked to have the baby delivered by caesarean section, but was told this was not necessary. The executive denies it is guilty of any negligence or breach of duty. The case continues. [Irish Independent, 8 November]

The UK Sudden Death Brain and Tissue Bank, which was set up two years ago with the aim of reversing the serious shortage of normal brains for research, has found that 96% of the 111 families it approached agreed to donate tissue. Only 20% agreed to allow the whole brain to be used. The research, published in the Journal of Pathology by Professor Jeanne Bell, noted that the 2004 Human Tissue Act prohibited the removal, storage or use of human tissue without consent, following widely publicised scandals involving the taking of human organs without relatives' consent. [BBC, 7 November] The article makes no reference to whether the deceased themselves had given consent to use of their organs. It is also unclear whether brain tissue was actually taken from those at stake in the study, or if it was simply assessing the views of relatives.

Fundación Vida, a Mexican pro-life group, has claimed that the health secretary of Mexico City, Mr Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, falsified data provided by pro-abortion organisations in order to convince the legislative assembly that abortion should be legalised because of high maternal mortality. [Catholic News Agency, 5 November]

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