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Defending life from the moment of conception

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US presidential candidates clarify abortion stances

11 September 2008

Senator John McCain, the Republican party's candidate for US president, has reiterated his opposition to the 1973 supreme court ruling in the Roe v Wade case, which declared abortion to be a constitutional right. Mr McCain told Glamour magazine that he would seek to have the decision reversed. Mr McCain has also stated on previous occasions that individual American states should decide the abortion issue and that he is opposed to judge-made law. [LifeNews, 10 September]

Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, has sought to clarify comments he made about unborn children's rights. Mr Obama admitted that his comments to a Christian forum had probably been too flippant. Mr Obama had said that the question of unborn children's rights was "above his pay grade". [Christian Today, 9 September] Ms Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democratic politician, has agreed to meet Most Rev George Niederauer, Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, to discuss her comments interpreting the Catholic church's teachings on life issues. [LifeNews, 8 September] Three Catholic bishops have sought to correct Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic party's candidate for vice-president, following his remarks about abortion. Mr Biden said he agreed with church teaching that life began at conception but categorised that teaching as a "personal and private" matter of religious faith. Justin Cardinal Rigali and Bishop William Lori said: "The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact." [Christian Today, 11 September] Archbishop Charles Chaput said: "[R]esistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion, and the senator knows very well as a lawmaker that all law involves the imposition of some people's convictions on everyone else ... Abortion is a foundational issue; it is not an issue like housing policy or the price of foreign oil." [Irish Times, 10 September] Mr Biden has also contrasted the opposition of Sarah Palin, the Republican party's vice-presidential candidate, to embryo research with her promise to support for special needs children. Ms Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women's group, commented: "Biden outrageously implied that Americans who refuse to sacrifice innocent human life in the name of unproven, desperate attempts to cure our nation's ills through embryo-destructive research somehow don't really care about children ... Compassion can never be built upon callous disregard for human life. History has shown this has led to the near elimination of entire classes of human beings." [LifeNews, 9 September]

The first scheme combining collection of umbilical cord blood and research using cord blood stem cells has been launched in Nottingham, England. The Anthony Nolan Trust Cord Blood Bank predicts 50,000 donations of cord blood by 2013. Dr Steve McEwen, the trust's chief executive, said: "The beauty of this programme will not only be to save the lives of hundreds more patients but also provide researchers the opportunity to develop innovative new treatments." [BBC, 11 September]

An increasing number of women are giving birth without medical assistance at home, according to the Royal College of Midwives. The college claims that women opting for so-called freebirths because the government has failed to provide a sufficient choice of adequate midwifery services. Dame Karlene Davis, college general secretary, warned of the dangers of freebirthing, saying: "Childbirth is never an exact science." [Daily Telegraph, 10 September]

The parliament of the Australian state of Victoria has rejected a bill which would have allowed terminally ill patients to end their lives with the help of a doctor. The Physician Assisted Dying Bill was rejected by the parliament's upper house by 25 votes to 13. A parliamentary committee will now consider the bill further. [ABC, 10 September]

The head of the Catholic church's doctrinal office has opposed a proposed new pro-abortion law in Spain. Cardinal Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that "the plan saddens me because ...the precious dignity of each person that begins at conception ... is not at the heart of this plan". The law will be drafted by a government-appointed committee of experts. [Catholic News Agency, 8 September]

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