Cabinet split over embryology bill
6 March 2008
The press are speculating that three British cabinet ministers could defy an instruction from their party to support their government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. Ms Ruth Kelly and Messrs Des Browne and Paul Murphy, all Catholic MPs, are said to be contemplating a rebellion. The government calls the bill "vital". [Telegraph, 6 March] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, commented: "Of course it's right that politicians should demand the freedom to vote according to their consciences, without being penalized by their party, on a bill which, if passed, will cost the lives of countless human beings. However, we must not confuse the issues. Whatever their party leaders may threaten, politicians have a moral duty to vote against the bill. No punishment meted out by Gordon Brown on cabinet ministers or backbench politicians, however dreadful, absolves them of their moral responsibility to vote against such a bill."
A woman who was among the first in Britain to have a legal abortion 40 years ago regrets it to this day. Remorse struck Ms Jo Woodgate, 62, of Devon as she held her niece's newborn baby. She writes: "I was wrong in thinking abortion was the easy way out of what, at the time, felt like an intolerable situation. With hindsight and maturity, I now know that I could have coped and, with each year that has passed, I've only felt a growing sense of guilt and regret over my actions." [Daily Mail, 5 March]
Concerned Women for America has protested at a UN decision to exclude non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the drafting of the document which will result from the current session in New York of the Commission on the Status of Women. Dr Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America said: "The ruling has caused NGOs to think that the UN is railroading pet programs through the sessions." Such exclusion may stop pro-life bodies from helping smaller countries to resist larger nations' pro-abortion programme. Dr Crouse also pointed out how NGOs helped provide continuity, while national delegates tended not to attend many meetings. [LifeSite, 3 March]
The Amnesty for Babies campaign has a new website at www.amnestyforbabies.com. Launched in 2006, the campaign promotes unborn children's rights through a legislators' petition to the international community.
The Catholics for a Free Choice organisation is not Catholic, according to Brazilian bishops. The episcopal conference described the group, founded in that country in 1993, as feminist, and cited condemnations of its pro-abortion stance by US church leaders. [Catholic News Agency, 5 March]
A Brazilian supreme court judge has asked for more time to decide whether to allow human embryo research. During a five-hour hearing, the Catholic church argued for embryos' humanity and opposed such research. The delay could be up to 30 days. [AP on San Luis Obispo, 5 March]
A proponent of euthanasia says that Australian police have raided the homes of two seriously ill people who said they were going to kill themselves. Dr Philip Nitschke claims that houses belonging to Mr Don Flounders, 78, and Ms Angie Belecciu, 54, of Victoria state were entered and that items were taken. Mr Flounders said on television that he had bought pentobarbital in Mexico for himself and Ms Belecciu. [News.com.au, 5 March]
The new president of the Spanish bishops' conference is being described as very pro-life. Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, has criticised government policy on abortion. The media sees the cardinal's election as an act of defiance. [LifeSite, 4 March]
The first minister of Northern Ireland is to step down from that job and as leader of his Democratic Unionist Party in May. [Telegraph, 5 March] Rev Dr Ian Paisley is an outspoken opponent of liberal abortion and takes a pro-life stance on several issues. He will continue as a member of the Northern Ireland assembly and as a Westminster (national) MP where he is expected to speak out in opposition to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, has commented on the retirement in his blog.
A supreme court associate justice has said that the US constitution does not mention abortion according to a Columbia Tribune report relayed by LifeNews. Speaking at the University of Central Missouri, Mr Antonin Scalia said that the abortion issue influenced how senators voted on judicial confirmations. He reportedly said: "If you want the right to an abortion, persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. If you feel the other way, repeal the law." The supreme court was not bound by precedent, such as Roe v. Wade. [LifeNews, 5 March]
A professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is continuing to make speeches opposing abortion. Speaking at Tufts University, Massachusetts, Dr James Sherley, MIT's professor of biomedical engineering, said that the US declaration of independence described life is one of the rights endowed to all. Senator John McCain, likely Republican presidential candidate, was avoiding responsibility by wanting states to decide individually on abortion. [Tufts Daily, 5 March] Dr Sherley has addressed SPUC's national conference.
Commercial surrogacy takes place in India, according to a newspaper feature. The practice appears to be increasing. The overall cost for US couples, including trips to India, is estimated at $25,000 which is around a third of the cost in the US. India legalized the practice in 2002, and guidelines have been issued by the Indian Medical Council. Gamete donors, surrogates and foster-parents are prevented from meeting. In Anand, Gujarat state, more than 50 surrogate mothers are currently carrying children. [International Herald Tribune, 4 March]