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Government may block pro-abortion amendments to HFE Bill

21 October 2008

The British government could prevent amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill concerning abortion from being debated in parliament tomorrow. Dr Evan Harris MP, Liberal Democrat, said it would be disgraceful if it happened. [Daily Mail, 21 October, and Guardian, 21 October] John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said: "It is deplorable that [MPs] should be complaining about abortion-related amendments [not being debated] while Britain's abortion regime continues to operate. More than 500 innocent unborn children will lose their lives in Britain today, and the amendments which those two MPs support will almost certainly increase the death toll if they are passed." [SPUC, 21 October] Another media source suggests that parliament might debate abortion next year instead. [Telegraph, 20 October] There was a pro-life rally in Belfast on Saturday at which Mr Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA said that, as a minister, he would not implement the extension of British abortion law to the province. Such an extension is among amendments to the embryology bill. [John Smeaton, 20 October]

SPUC called for prayers for the prime minister and for the House of Commons' speaker (chairman). [John Smeaton, 19 October] Ms Ruth Kelly MP, a former minister who may have resigned from the government over the embryology bill, could also defy her party's leadership and vote against it. Friends say she will not abstain and they mention her Catholic faith as a likely factor in any decision she makes. [Telegraph, 20 October] A proposed amendment would allow 12-year-olds to get drugs for home abortions without parental involvement. [Mail on Sunday, 19 October] Another amendment would allow the removal of tissue from mentally ill people without their consent. [Sunday Telegraph, 19 October]

Mrs Sarah Palin, Republican presidential running mate, says that Senator Barack Obama is trying to obscure his pro-abortion voting record. She said the Democrat presidential candidate was extreme and had tried to "pretty-up some of his policies". Mrs Palin added: "American voters have got to realize his opposition to parental consent, his opposition to a ban on partial birth abortion and most troubling his opposition to the child born alive act." [LifeNews, 20 October] A Catholic bishop has told citizens to consider their eternal judgement when they vote in next month's election. Rt Rev Robert Herman, administrator of the Archdiocese of St Louis, Missouri, said that the election would measure voters' values, adding: "My desire for a good economy ... [and/or] my desire to end the war in Iraq cannot justify my voting to remove all current restrictions on abortion." [Catholic News Agency on EWTN, 18 October] Most Rev Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, described Mr Obama as the most pro-abortion US presidential candidate for decades. He also reportedly said that Catholic groups that were sympathetic to the Democrat party did the church a disservice. [Breaking News, 19 October] Mr Obama was a speaker at an event hosted by Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, with Senator John McCain, Republican candidate, also speaking. [Catholic Culture, 17 October]

Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, has lamented the apparently self-inflicted death of a 23-year-old British man at Dignitas in Switzerland. Mr Edward Turner, a trustee, writes: "The opponents of assisted dying for the terminally ill will trumpet [the case of Mr Dan James] as evidence that assisted dying inevitably leads to assisted suicide on demand for anyone who doesn't want to live, or for those whom society can't be bothered to keep." Religious believers needed to stop trying to control other people. [Independent on Sunday, 19 October] Mr James's mother has defended his actions. Mrs Julie James, who has reportedly been questioned by British police, says no-one should judge him and that his life was "filled with terror, discomfort and indignity". [Herald, 20 October] Baroness Warnock, the British moral philosopher, said that society was obliged to take seriously individuals' decisions about their lives. Ms Debbie Purdy, who wants her husband not to be prosecuted if he takes her to Dignitas, lamented the fact that Mr and Mrs James had been approached by police. [Telegraph, 20 October] Mr James's case is being examined by prosecutors. [BBC, 20 October]

The Pope has said that the incurably ill should not be abandoned. He told the Italian Surgical Society that there should be unconditional respect for every person regardless of their condition. Technically sophisticated medicine needed to be counterbalanced by human concern; patients should be listened to. [Catholic News Agency, 20 October]
Scientists in southern England will conduct research on 180 pregnant women to see if giving them vitamin D prevents osteoporosis in their offspring when they grow up. The team in Hampshire have already found that a maternal deficiency in the substance produces infants with weaker bones. [Medical Research Council, 20 October]

Death caused by anaesthesia in childbirth are rare, according to a Colorado University analysis of published US data between 1997 and 2002. The chance was one such death per million live births, the American Society of Anesthesiologists was told. [Reuters, 20 October]

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