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SPUC intervenes in European Court of Human Rights abortion case

18 November 2008

SPUC is intervening in a case in the European Court of Human Rights where three unidentified women are arguing that Ireland's law on abortion violates human rights. SPUC has submitted observations along with the European Centre for Law and Justice on behalf of Ms Kathy Sinnott, MEP for south Ireland, and the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of the Family Research Council, Washington DC. The groups ask the court: "to recognise the primacy of the right to life and the authority that people in the Member States have to extend it to unborn children. Ireland's laws legitimately and reasonably protect both the unborn and women without violating [European Convention on Human Rights] rights." [John Smeaton, 18 November] SPUC has warned that British abortion law could still be imposed on Northern Ireland. An MP could propose a private bill. In addition the matter of Northern Ireland's abortion law could be pursued in the courts. There is pressure for change from the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations. [John Smeaton, 17 November]

Nuns at a hospice in Italy are defying a court order to stop giving food and fluid to a woman who has been comatose for 14 years. The Misericordine sisters say they are prepared to continue to care for Ms Eluana Englaro after an appeal court upheld her father's wish for her to be dehydrated and starved. Human Life International say the nuns could apply to be her guardian. The Movement for Life has asked President Giorgio Napolitano to intervene to keep the 37-year-old alive. The justice minister wants to change the law to prevent similar rulings. [LifeSiteNews, 17 November]

As expected, a committee advising the British government has come out against presuming patients' consent to having their organs removed for transplant. The UK Organ Donation Taskforce, which gathered evidence from abroad, doubts the change would increase the number of available body parts. The committee says there is a risk of undermining trust in doctors, though it claimed that organs were never taken from living patients. Our source suggests 1,000 people in the UK die annually awaiting a transplant. The government is to spend £4.5m on promoting organ donation. [BBC, 17 November] Despite the taskforce's recommendations, the prime minister may still move to change the law on consent to donation if the promotional campaign is not successful. The Patients Association wants Mr Gordon Brown to accept the panel's recommendation. [Times, 18 November, and Daily Mail, 18 November] The Scottish government will also encourage more donation and the health minister says the matter of presumed consent will not be forgotten. [Scottish executive, 17 November] The Welsh health minister also wants the matter to remain under review while a member of the Conservative opposition pointed out that presumed consent in Spain had not improved things. [Evening Post, 17 November] A member of the taskforce confirmed the Spanish evidence, and writes that fears that organs are taken from living patients are misplaced. [Times, 18 November] The British Medical Association supports presumed consent as does the UK government's chief medical adviser. [Healthcare Republic, 17 November, and Telegraph, 17 November]

Girls of 13 in Britain are to be offered hormonal birth-control injections and implants, some of which can cause sterilisation for three years. Critics warn of increased promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections, and that the substances are too strong for teenagers' bodies. The Family Planning Association said the methods were very effective. The government felt it necessary to announce that administration of such birth control would not be compulsory. Birth control injections reportedly have side effects in adults. [Daily Mail, 17 November] It is not clear from our source whether parents' consent will be sought for the provision of injections or implants to girls under 16. SPUC has called the statement about compulsion outrageous and is not reassured by it. [John Smeaton, 17 November]

A member of the Scottish parliament has proposed a bill intended to require state healthcare providers to offer palliative care throughout the country. Ms Roseanna Cunningham, nationalist member for Perth, says very few people with diseases other than cancer receive such therapy. Her measure would include care at home, and requires more than a plan published by the government last month. [Herald, 18 November]

More than 700 people from Britain are reportedly registered with Dignitas, the suicide facility in Switzerland. Applicants pay to be able to make an appointment to take poison there. More than 100 people from Britain have already done so, with no prosecutions of those assisting them. The English state prosecutor is investigating the case of Mr Daniel James, 23, who used the service last month. [BBC, 17 November]

An opinion poll suggests that the Irish people could now approve the Lisbon Treaty which, some say, would bring the country's abortion law under European Union jurisdiction. The survey asked about support for the treaty in the context of reassurances for Ireland on issues including abortion. [Irish Times, 17 November]

The result of the recent election is one of the worst ever blows to American civilisation, according to the President of Human Life International. Fr Thomas Euteneuer called Senator Barack Obama: "the most extreme, pro-abortion candidate America has ever had the misfortune of occupying the highest office of our land." He wrote that mankind had been warned of its "institutionalisation of evil" through disease, terrorism, natural disasters and, most recently, the financial crisis. It was time for repentance. [LifeSiteNews, 14 November]

Authorities in China are reportedly trying to force a woman to abort her baby of six months' gestation. Officials are said to be threatening Ms Arzigul Tursun with confiscation of her family's home and land if she gives birth to her third child. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey has protested to the Chinese ambassador to America, pointing out that the national government is supposed to disapprove of such practices. [LifeNews, 14 November]

Patients' bone marrow cells can heal torn cartilage between the upper and lower leg. Bristol University, England, scientists used the tissue to make a sort of bandage which caused damaged meniscal cartilage to mend itself. [Sunday Telegraph, 16 November]

IVF raises the risk of prenatal developmental anomalies, according to research on single births by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described in Human Reproduction. IVF children who are not part of multiple pregnancies reportedly have higher likelihood of a hole in the heart, cleft lip and gastrointestinal defects. [Reuters, 17 November]

A broadcaster appointed by the British government to speak for old people has reportedly said that people with dementia should "be allowed to die once their identity [had] faded away." Dame Joan Bakewell, 75, has made a living will and wants renewed parliamentary debate of Lord Joffe's bill on assisted dying which would allow doctors to kill patients with drugs. [Telegraph, 17 November]

People should be allowed to make wrong decisions about abortion, according to the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Ms Ann Furedi writes: "the embryo is a human life of sorts" but the ethical issue is when such life starts to matter. Only the mother of the unborn child should be allowed to decide his or her fate. [Independent, 17 November]

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