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Defending life from the moment of conception

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John Smeaton outlines challenges facing pro-lifers

4 September 2007

In the week before SPUC's annual conference near Leeds, England, John Smeaton, national director, has outlined the organisation's main challenges. He said: "The great task which faces SPUC today is to stand up and be counted for the most vulnerable human beings in Britain. These include spina bifida babies in the womb, 90% of whom are killed and never see the light of day, and Down's babies in the womb, 92% of whom are killed before they see the light of day. Also at grave risk are unborn children in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, whom parliamentarians, like Dr Evan Harris MP and Lord (David) Steel of Aikwood, want to see completely abandoned like the disabled, if they get support for tabling abortion amendments to the Human Tissue and Embryos draft bill soon to come before Parliament. We must also stand up and be counted for women and girls under pressure to have abortions, and for women and girls suffering after an abortion, including young girls at school, including faith schools, pressured to have an abortion without their parents' knowledge or consent. The unborn disabled, the unborn in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, post-abortion women and girls - these are the poorest of the poor in Britain and it's SPUC's job to take practical action and to speak out in their support." The conference begins on Friday.

According to media reports, the British government's plans to allow scientists to create human-animal hybrid embryos are expected to be approved by the fertility regulator. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) asserts that the majority of people are at ease with the idea of hybrids, as outlined in the proposed Human Tissue and Embryos bill. [PA on Channel 4, 4 September and Daily Mail, 4 September] A poll commissioned by the HFEA suggested that 61% agreed with the use of hybrid embryos in scientific research. Mr Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said: "It is heartening that the wider public agree with the scientific community that human-animal embryos offer the potential to better understand incurable illnesses such as Parkinson's and motor neuron disease." [Telegraph, 4 September] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary, said: "The supposed benefit of creating human-animal hybrid embryos and then killing them for their stem cells is being exaggerated. This hype is being generated those with vested interests in money from the government's stem cell research fund. Yet again, patients with degenerative diseases are being given false hope and exploited by the profit-hungry biotech industry. Extensive access to embryonic stem cells over nearly 10 years has so far yielded limited scientifically valuable information. Good alternative sources of disease-specific adult stem cells already exist."

Bishops in Colorado have issued a letter containing a set of guidelines for Catholics who are taking end-of-life decisions. These guidelines urge Catholics to take measures to ensure that they are cared for at the end of their lives according to the church's moral teachings. Archbishop Chaput of Denver wrote: "The Church has always remained steadfast in her foundational teaching that every human life is a gift from God and made in his image. This gift is the foundation for all his other gifts. Therefore, the Church offers moral principles to guide our decision-making process during times of serious illness and imminent death." This letter was partly in response to the death of Mrs Terry Schiavo in Florida in 2005, who starved to death two weeks after her feeding tube was removed. [Zenit, 3 September]

In Argentina a bishop has condemned a university's decision to offer the morning-after pill to students for free. Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Marino of La Plata told the National University of La Plata: "This program goes against a principle that is non-negotiable, which is the respect for life. The morning-after pill is abortifacient. We cannot allow this intrusion that would promote promiscuity." The university also gives out more than 20,000 condoms per year. [Catholic News Agency, 30 August] The bishop's condemnation of this policy was supported by the Pro-Vida group. Its president Dr Roberto Castellano said: "The free distribution of these drugs neither educates nor instructs, it simply favors the market interests of its manufacturers." [Catholic News Agency, 30 August]

A woman in Nebraska is suing Planned Parenthood following a mistake during an abortion that resulted in severe loss of blood and damage to her uterus. According to the woman's lawyer, she was told, "We can't stop" when she asked the doctor performing the abortion to stop after experiencing excruciating pain. A doctor treating her said: "Had she not received emergency care when she did, it is my professional opinion that the patient could have hemorrhaged to death." The woman is suing for $36,850. [LifeNews, 3 September] The case continues.

The Mexico Supreme Court is to determine whether Mexico City's liberalisation of abortion is constitutional. The national government argues that the new law, which allows abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, undermines the constitution's protection for unborn children. Justice Sergio Salvador Aguirre is leading an investigation, which, according to media reports, "attempts to illustrate, by analogy, that human dignity does not depend on health, age, dependent status, or the state of one's mental or physical capacities, but is above all these circumstances and deserves absolute respect and protection." [LifeNews, 3 September]

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