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Defending life from the moment of conception

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South Africa to further weaken abortion laws

11 February 2008

The South African government is planning a further relaxation of the country's abortion laws. Under new proposals, 24-hour abortion facilities will be made available, pre-approval procedures are to be scrapped, and all nurses are to be allowed to perform abortions. Critics have said that the South African abortion law - which allows girls as young as 12 to obtain an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy - is already too lax. The proposals were unanimously passed in parliament's upper house and have been referred to President Thabo Mbeki. [Reuters, 7 February]

The Pope is backing the Brazilian bishops' annual Fraternity Campaign which this year has taken the pro-life theme of "Fraternity and defence of life." In a message to the bishops, Benedict XVI said that "all threats to life must certainly be resisted", and that he hoped that "the various institutions of civil society will show their solidarity with the popular will." The campaign aims to counteract the Brazilian government's drive for the acceptance of abortion and the availability of condoms and morning-after pills. [Catholic World News, 7 February and Vatican Information Service on EWTN, 7 February]

Italy's outgoing health minister has reportedly changed her position on the treatment of babies who have survived abortions. Previously, Ms Livia Turco had said that trying to save the life of an abortion survivor was unacceptable because of the "unreasonable cruelty against the will of the mother." She now is said to favour medical assistance for babies who have survived abortion after 22 weeks' gestation. [Catholic World News, 7 February]

An influential American Christian leader has said that he could not support Mr John McCain for president due to his lack of support for pro-life issues. Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said: "The Republican party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, [and] voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings." [LifeSite, 7 February] Dr Dobson has announced his support for Mr Mike Huckabee. [Guardian, 8 February]

The highest court in France has ruled that the parents of miscarried or stillborn babies have the right to register the name of their deceased children. The ruling, which does not discriminate between stages of foetal development, is expected to fuel a further debate on France's abortion and embryo research laws. Ms Chantal Birman, deputy president of ANCIC, a pro-abortion and contraception group, said that the decision "will help a rollback (on abortion rights) that has been taking place in Europe for the last few months." [APF on Yahoo, 7 February]

In England, a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend 10 years ago now faces a murder charge and a charge of child destruction. Mr Richard Grey is accused of strangling Miss Virginia Sivil as she was in labour. Both she and her unborn child died. Michael Mather-Lees, crown prosecutor, stated his intention to "make an application when appropriate to reinstate the two-count indictment." [Gazette and Herald, 7 February and BBC, 7 February]

According to a recent report 140,000 patients leave hospital in England malnourished. Mike Lean, professor of human nutrition at Glasgow University, said: "The diagnosis has been missed and I think that is negligence. I find it surprising there have not been more legal cases." He cited the hospital caterers' lack of "validated training in nutrition" as a possible reason for the findings of the report. A government spokesman said: "We recognise that nutrition is important for all patients and consider it a priority issue." [Telegraph, 8 February]

According to a recent study in the British Medical Journal, having acupuncture can increase your chances of conceiving through IVF treatment by up to 65%. Researchers have said that this would be a very cost effective way of increasing the chances of pregnancy. However, Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine, was sceptical of the reality of the treatment's effectiveness. He said: "I would, be very cautious as much of the observed effect could be due to a placebo response." [Sky, 8 February and Telegraph, 8 February]

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