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Defending life
from conception to natural death


New embryology act signed into law

14 November 2008

The British government's new embryology law has been formally approved by Queen Elizabeth II. The new Act does not come into force immediately, but will be brought into force, over the coming year. [Department of Health, 13 November] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allows more procedures that will harm or kill embryos created in the laboratory, it extends how embryos can be artificially created and manipulated, and it makes it easier to change the law to extend procedures like cloning.

The president of Uruguay has vetoed a law to liberalise abortion. Mr Tabaré Vázquez, a physician, blocked the bill which would have allowed the procedure up to 12 weeks' gestation. There are reportedly not enough supporters of the measure in the congress to overturn the veto. Abortion is presently allowed for rape or when the woman's life is in danger. [BBC, 14 November]

The British prime minister remains determined to change the law so that people's consent to organ donation is presumed, even though an advisory group he appointed presently opposes such a move. The health minister, the government's chief medical officer, the British Medical Association, and the surgeons' and pathologists' organisations support the idea, which is being promoted as potentially saving lives. The Observer (sister newspaper to the Guardian) is running a campaign in support of such a change. [Guardian, 14 November] An Australian doctor recently claimed that organs were regularly being taken from living patients. The concept of brain death has also been questioned.

An appeals court in Italy has decided that a hospital can withdraw food and fluid from a 37-year-old non-responsive woman. Miss Eluana Englaro was in a vehicle accident in 1992 and Mr Beppino Englaro, her father, has pursued litigation for 10 years to bring about her death. The Catholic church reportedly said the ruling gave de facto justification for euthanasia. A Union of Christian Democrats spokesman called it murder by the state. Miss Englaro reportedly said before the accident that she would not want to be kept alive in such circumstances. [Telegraph, 13 November] (Our source has a misleading postscript referring to the Hannah Jones case.)

The US congress could resume America's $40m annual funding for the United Nations population fund (UNFPA). Ms Carolyn Maloney, Democrat congresswoman for part of New York City, says president-elect Obama need do nothing and can just let the measure pass. National Right to Life points out that the Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law prohibits the funding of groups involved in forced abortion, such as UNFPA. [LifeNews, 13 November] As expected, the country's Catholic bishops have severely criticised Senator Obama's declared intent to sign an act ending all restrictions on abortion. Cardinal Francis George, president of the episcopal conference, said the Freedom of Choice Act would make things worse than Roe v. Wade, force Americans to support abortion through their taxes and threaten health workers' consciences. [Zenit on EWTN, 12 November] Voters who supported the winning candidate have been urged by a Catholic priest to repent. Fr Jay Scott Newman of St Mary's, Greenville, South Carolina, said they were under divine judgment because of Mr Obama's policy on abortion. [USA Today, 14 November] The senator is expected to appoint liberal judges to federal courts and the supreme court, as vacancies occur. [Reuters, 14 November]

The minister responsible for Northern Ireland has said that the government will not extend British abortion law to that part of the UK. Mr Shaun Woodward MP said the province's legislative assembly was where the law should be examined, though it could not presently decide upon it. Ms Diane Abbott, an MP for an English constituency, says she will propose a private bill to effect the change. Ms Bernie Smyth of Precious Life said: "My message to Diane Abbott is [keep] out of Northern Ireland and stop interfering in our protection of our unborn children." [Belfast Telegraph, 14 November]

More than 40 Australian MPs lent support to a proposal to pay for women to have second trimester abortions on disabled children. The Australian Parliamentary Group on Population and Development suggested the idea to a parliamentary committee considering abortion. They say it will save state money otherwise spent on caring for the disabled. Senator Ron Boswell of Queensland called the idea eugenicist and Nazi-like. An indirect source says 7 MPs have since withdrawn their support. Our source suggests 95% of babies in western countries who are found to have Down's syndrome are aborted. [LifeSiteNews, 13 November]

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