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Defending life from the moment of conception

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House of Commons approves Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

22 October 2008

The British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is now close to becoming law after the House of Commons approved it this evening by 355 votes to 129. SPUC called the result of the bill's third reading a tragedy. John Smeaton, national director, described the law as "extending the lethal abuse of the most vulnerable members of ... society." Future generations would regard the bill as devaluing human life. SPUC would raise the issues at the next general election. Mr Smeaton paid tribute to those who had opposed the bill, including Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, and other religious leaders. Pro-life groups had cooperated in the campaign, while scientific, medical and ethical experts had also made valuable contributions. [SPUC, 22 October]

The government succeeded in scheduling discussion of amendments so that there was not enough time to discuss abortion-related issues, including the extension of British abortion law to Northern Ireland. Mr Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA said that issue should be decided upon by the province's legislative assembly. [BBC, 22 October] Mrs Betty Gibson, chairwoman of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: "The leaders of the four major parties in Northern Ireland wrote to every MP opposing the extension of the Act and many members of the Assembly made it clear that they would not implement the law if it was imposed. In the face of such opposition the prime minister has realised that, if pro-abortion MPs outside Northern Ireland ignored the Assembly, it would have created a constitutional dilemma which he would have had to deal with." [SPUC, 22 October]

MPs and others wrote to The Times newspaper to express their concern that the extension of British abortion law to Northern Ireland might not be debated. Ms Diane Abbott and others complained that current law discriminates against poorer women. [Times, 22 October] People from Northern Ireland yesterday delivered a petition, opposing the extension of British abortion law, at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official home in London. The petition was coordinated by Ms Bernadette Smyth who organised a rally on the matter in Belfast on Saturday. [BBC, 22 October]

Support for pregnant women is, on its own, an insufficient response to abortion, according to American Catholic bishops. Cardinal Justin Rigali, the bishops' pro-life committee chairman, and Rt Rev William Murphy, head of the domestic justice and human development committee, say that abortion on demand must also be opposed. They point out that merely overturning the 1973 Roe v Wade supreme court decision would not guarantee a right to life for the unborn. The prelates warn against unofficial attempts to interpret Catholic teaching on the matter. [Catholic News Service, 21 October] Rt Rev Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, likened Senator Barack Obama, Democrat candidate, to Herod Antipas, the first century ruler of Galilee who ordered an execution in order to keep a promise. Mr Obama has pledged to sign a law which would remove all restrictions on abortion and over-ride medics' conscientious objection to the procedure. [LifeSiteNews, 21 October] Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat running mate, has suggested that there has been continuous debate in the Catholic church about whether abortion is always wrong. Mr Biden describes himself as a practising Catholic. He was previously rebuked by the hierarchy when he suggested that when human life began was a private matter. [LifeNews, 21 October]

A Muslim charity is due to work with the United Nations on so-called reproductive health. Islamic Relief was expected on Monday to sign an agreement with the UN's population fund. Our source mentions maternal mortality as part of the project. [Reuters, 20 October] SPUC's Muslim Division is trying to contact Islamic Relief and is alerting Muslims to the UN's activities. These include complicity in population control aimed at Muslims in Xinjiang, China, and work among Iraqi refugees. [John Smeaton, 21 October] Programmes of reproductive health can contain an element of promotion of abortion.

Most organ donors are still alive when their body parts are removed, according to a paediatrician writing in the Journal of Law and Medicine. Dr James Tibballs of Melbourne, Australia, claims that doctors in his country customarily wait just two minutes after the heart has stopped. The law forbids harvesting while there is still brain and circulatory activity, yet two minutes is too soon, Dr Tibballs says, to be certain that circulation cannot be resumed. [LifeSiteNews, 21 October]

A pro-life pharmacy has opened in Virginia. The shop, supported by the Divine Mercy Care organisation, will not provide birth control which the group's director described as "not good health care" but "a lifestyle choice." The Catholic Bishop of Arlington has blessed the pharmacy. [Catholic News Agency, 21 October] Some birth control can cause abortion.
Severe maternal depression in pregnancy makes miscarriage twice as likely, according to a California survey of some 800 women. Research by Kaiser Permanente reported on in Human Reproduction suggests that a woman's mood could affect how the placenta works. [Mail, 22 October]

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