An unborn child (

Project Rachel, Australia

Unborn World Alliance

Walking with Love: alternatives and responses to abortion

Students For Life of America (USA)

Abortion Changes You project


Pope's Words at Prayer Vigil for Unborn Life
"Respect, Protect, Love and Serve Life, Every Human Life"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening in St. Peter's Basilica at the celebration of first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. This year the celebration was preceded by a prayer vigil for unborn life and by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this evening celebration the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new Liturgical Year, starting with its first season: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord.

In this Advent Season we shall be granted once again to experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and who cared for us to the point of deigning to become a man.

This great and fascinating mystery of the God-with-us, indeed, of the God who becomes one of us, is what we shall celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church which takes us by the hand and - in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her motherhood, enabling us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts look forward to the annual celebration of Christ's Birth, the Church's Liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord who will come in the splendour of glory. For this reason in every Eucharist we "announce his death, proclaim his Resurrection until he comes again", we watch in prayer. The Liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole of Sacred Scripture ends, on the last page of the Revelation to St John: "Come, Lord Jesus" (22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our gathering this evening for the beginning of the journey through Advent is enriched by another important reason: together with the whole Church we wish to celebrate a solemn prayer vigil for unborn life. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have accepted this invitation and to those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in its various situations of frailty, especially when it is newly conceived and in its early stages. Precisely, the beginning of the Liturgical Year helps us live anew the expectation of God who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself little, who becomes a child; it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is close, who chose to experience human life from the very beginning in order to save it totally, in its fullness. And so the mystery of Lord's Incarnation and the beginning of human life are closely and harmoniously connected and in tune with each other in the one saving plan of God, the Lord of the life of each and everyone.

The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in a surprising way, that every human life has a very lofty and incomparable dignity.

In comparison with all the other living beings that populate the earth man has an unmistakable originality. He is presented as the one unique being, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as consisting of material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in both the spiritual and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First Letter to the Thessalonians that has just been proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself", St Paul writes, "sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23).

We are therefore spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limitations of our material condition, while at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome him within us. We are active in earthly realities and through them we are able to perceive God's presence and to reach out to him, Truth, Goodness and absolute Beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and yearn for complete fulfilment.

God loves us deeply, totally and without making distinctions. He calls us to friendship with him, he makes us part of a reality beyond every imagination and every thought and word: his divine life itself. With feeling and gratitude, let us be aware of the value of every human person's incomparable dignity and of our great responsibility to all. "Christ, the final Adam", the Second Vatican Council states, "by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear… by his Incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man". (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means seeing man in a new way, with trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and right reason testify that the human being is capable of understanding and of wanting, conscious of himself and free, unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly realities, and who demands to be recognized as a value in himself and deserves always to be accepted with respect and love. He is entitled not to be treated as an object to be possessed or a thing to be manipulated at will, and not to be exploited as a means for the benefit of others and their interests.

The human person is a good in himself and his integral development must always be sought. Love for all, moreover, if it is sincere, tends spontaneously to become preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. This explains the Church's concern for the unborn, the frailest, those most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences. The Church continually reasserts what the Second Vatican Council declared against abortion and against every violation of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care" (ibid., n. 51). Cultural trends exist that seek to anaesthetize consciences with spurious arguments.

With regard to the embryo in the mother's womb, science itself highlights its autonomy, its capacity for interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. It is not an accumulation of biological material but rather of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is what Jesus was in Mary's womb; this is what we all were in our mother's womb. We may say with Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer: "the one who will be a man is one already" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception. Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to neglect, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence and exploitation. The many violations of their rights sorrowfully wound the conscience of every person of good will.

In the face of the sad view of injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make my own Pope John Paul II's passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: "respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!" (Encyclical Evangelium vitae, n. 5). I urge politicians, leaders of the economy and of social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture ever respectful of human life, to obtain favourable conditions and support networks for the acceptance and development of life.

Let us entrust our prayers and our commitment to unborn life to the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with her faith, with her maternal womb, with her attentive care, with her nurturing support, vibrant with love. Let us do so in the Liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - adoring the divine Eucharist in which we contemplate Christ's Body, that Body which took flesh from Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit, and was born of her in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


US Bishops on Freedom of Choice Act
"A Good State Protects the Lives of All"

BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 12, 2008 - Here is the statement Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. episcopal conference, published today at the end of the bishops' three-day fall assembly.

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"If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil." (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church's history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any "interference" in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected "watchman." (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.


Opening Address of US Bishops' Fall Meeting
"No Political Order Conforms Fully to the Kingdom of God"

BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 10, 2008 - Here is the address Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. episcopal conference, gave today upon opening the bishops' fall general assembly, being held in Baltimore through Thursday.

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Dear Brother Bishops:

At the opening session of the recently concluded Roman Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on Psalm 118, that magnificent chorus praising the law, the order, that unites us to God. "The Word of God," the Pope said," is solid, it is the true reality upon which to base one's life. Let us recall the words of Jesus: '...Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away'…It is words that create history, it is words that give form to thoughts…the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realists, we must truly count on this reality."

The Holy Father offered these reflections in the face of bank closures, the collapse of giant corporations, the uncertainty of political regimes, with full awareness of the insecurity and suffering of so many around the world. His words echoed what he had told us in our own country last April, when he constantly directed our thoughts and actions toward the Word of God made flesh, whom the Pope called "Our Hope."

The Pope invites us to place our hope in what lasts forever. We have recently finished a contest for the presidency in which both candidates invited us to hope in change. Perhaps that is the difference between a vision that looks at what is ultimate and one that, by the very nature of things, is most concerned with what is less than ultimate. No political order conforms fully to the Kingdom of God. Separation is built into our faith itself, yet we can hope and work and pray that things political and economic not impede or contest the things that are of God.

We come to this Assembly in the interim before a new presidential administration takes office in our country. Symbolically, this is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to elect an African American to the presidency. In this, I truly believe, we must all rejoice. We must also hope that President Obama succeed in his task, for the good of all. The odds against success are formidable. We are internally divided and, in a global order, we will be less the masters of our economic and political fate. Nevertheless, we can rejoice today with those who, following heroic figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were part of a movement to bring our country's civil rights, our legal order, into better accord with universal human rights, God's order. Among so many people of good will, dutiful priests and loving religious women, bishops and lay people of the Catholic Church who took our social doctrine to heart then can feel vindicated now. Their successors remain, especially among those who quietly give their lives to teaching and forming good and joyful children in Catholic schools in African American and other minority communities.

We can also be truly grateful that our country's social conscience has advanced to the point that Barack Obama was not asked to renounce his racial heritage in order to be president, as, effectively, John Kennedy was asked to promise that his Catholic faith would not influence his perspective and decisions as president a generation ago. Echoes of that debate remain in the words of those who reject universal moral propositions that have been espoused by the human race throughout history, with the excuse that they are part of Catholic moral teaching. We are, perhaps, at a moment when, with the grace of God, all races are safely within the American consensus. We are not at the point, however, when Catholics, especially in public life, can be considered full partners in the American experience unless they are willing to put aside some fundamental Catholic teachings on a just moral and political order. The hubris that has isolated our country politically and now economically is heard, but not usually recognized, in moral arguments based simply and solely on individual moral autonomy. This personal and social dilemma is not, of course, a matter of ultimate importance, for America is not the Kingdom of God; but it makes America herself far less than she claims to be in this world.

At our meeting last spring, we heard statisticians tell us that the Catholic Church is a laboratory for our society. What the Church looks like today, in her ethnic composition, her economic situation, her generational cohorts, the entire country will look like in twenty five to thirty years. This gives Catholics a perhaps prophetic perspective on our society's life and concerns. In Holy Scripture, a true prophet's life is always marked by suffering. What is of major importance to us, as bishops of the Church, is that the Church remain true to herself and her Lord in the years to come, for only in being authentically herself will the Church serve society and its members, in time and in eternity.

In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the poor both here and abroad, is another. But the Church comes also and always and everywhere with the memory, the conviction, that the Eternal Word of God became man, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nine months before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This truth is celebrated in our liturgy because it is branded into our spirit. The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. If the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people's property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.

This is the fiftieth year since the calling of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Pope looked at a divided world and hoped that the Church could act as Lumen Gentium calls us, as the "sacrament of the unity of the human race." Those who would weaken our internal unity render the Church's external mission to the world more difficult if not impossible. Jesus promised that the world would believe in him if we are one: one in faith and doctrine, one in prayer and sacrament, one in governance and shepherding. The Church and her life and teaching do not fit easily into the prior narratives that shape our public discussions. As bishops, we can only insist that those who would impose their own agenda on the Church, those who believe and act self-righteously, answerable only to themselves, whether ideologically on the left or the right, betray the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our episcopal conference is given us in the Church's canon law so that we might have an instrument for shaping spiritual unity, for creating the bonds of affection that help us to govern in communion with each other, especially in a divided world and in a Church that knows dissent from some of her teachings and dissatisfaction with aspects of her governance. As we all know, the Church was born without episcopal conferences, as she was born without parishes and without dioceses, although all these structures have been helpful pastorally throughout the centuries. The Church was born only with shepherds, with apostolic pastors, whose relationship to their people keeps them one with Christ, from whom comes authority to govern the Church. Strengthening people's relationship with Christ remains our primary concern and duty as bishops. We extend that pastoral concern, especially at the beginning of a new administration and a new Congress, to Catholics of either major party who serve others in government. We respect you and we love you, and we pray that the Catholic faith will shape your decisions so that our communion may be full.

We meet amidst enormous challenges to our Church, our country and our ministry, but that is, to some extent, always the case. Sometimes I've been tempted to think that bishops should be given, at their consecration, not crosiers but mops! What we are given before the crosier, if you recall, is the Word of God in written form, held above our head so that it may permeate our spirit. With you, I pray that all the topics we consider in our meeting now and all we do in the difficult days to come will be done together in the charity of Christ, who is the source of our unity and our strength. In so governing, in calling all to join us in listening to the incarnate Word of God from within his body, the Church, what we do now will have consequences for eternity; and we will be good shepherds to our people, good servants in our society and good disciples of Our Lord.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI


Supreme Knight's Letter to Biden
"Today, Children of All Races Are Denied Recognition as 'Persons'"

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 19, 2008 - Here is an open letter addressed to Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for vice president, from the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson.

It was published today as a full-page ad in various U.S. newspapers.

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Dear Senator Biden:

I write to you today as a fellow Catholic layman, on a subject that has become a major topic of concern in this year's presidential campaign.

The bishops who have taken public issue with your remarks on the Church's historical position on abortion are far from alone. Senator Obama stressed your Catholic identity repeatedly when he introduced you as his running mate, and so your statements carry considerable weight, whether they are correct or not. You now have a unique responsibility when you make public statements about Catholic teaching.

On NBC's Meet the Press, you appealed to the 13th Century writings of St. Thomas Aquinas to cast doubt on the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion.

There are several problems with this.

First, Aquinas obviously had only a medieval understanding of biology, and thus could only speculate about how an unborn child develops in the womb. I doubt that there is any other area of public policy where you would appeal to a 13th Century knowledge of biology as the basis for modern law.

Second, Aquinas' theological view is in any case entirely consistent with the long history of Catholic Church teaching in this area, holding that abortion is a grave sin to be avoided at any time during pregnancy.

This teaching dates all the way back to the Didache, written in the second century. It is found in the writings of Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas, and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which described abortion as "an unspeakable crime" and held that the right to life must be protected from the "moment of conception." This consistent teaching was restated most recently last month in the response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to remarks by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Statements that suggest that our Church has anything less than a consistent teaching on abortion are not merely incorrect; they may lead Catholic women facing crisis pregnancies to misunderstand the moral gravity of an abortion decision.

Neither should a discussion about a medieval understanding of the first few days or weeks of life be allowed to draw attention away from the remaining portion of an unborn child's life. In those months, even ancient and medieval doctors agreed that a child is developing in the womb.

And as you are well aware, Roe v. Wade allows for abortion at any point during a pregnancy. While you voted for the ban on partial birth abortions, your unconditional support for Roe is a de facto endorsement of permitting all other late term abortions, and thus calls into question your appeal to Aquinas.

I recognize that you struggle with your conscience on the issue, and have said that you accept the Church's teaching that life begins at conception - as a matter of faith. But modern medical science leaves no doubt about the fact that each person's life begins at conception. It is not a matter of personal religious belief, but of science.

Finally, your unwillingness to bring your Catholic moral views into the public policy arena on this issue alone is troubling.

There were several remarkable ironies in your first appearance as Senator Obama's running mate on the steps of the old state capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

His selection as the first black American to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States owes an incalculable debt to two movements that were led by people whose religious convictions motivated them to confront the moral evils of their day - the abolitionist movement of the 19th Century, and the civil rights movement of the 20th Century.

Your rally in Springfield took place just a mile or so from the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, who in April 1859 wrote these words in a letter to Henry Pierce:

"This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it."

Lincoln fought slavery in the name of "a just God" without embarrassment or apology. He confronted an America in which black Americans were not considered "persons" under the law, and were thus not entitled to fundamental Constitutional rights. Today, children of all races who are fully viable and only minutes from being born are also denied recognition as "persons" because of the Roe v. Wade regime that you so strongly support. Lincoln's reasoning regarding slavery applies with equal force to children who are minutes, hours or days away from birth.

The American founders began our great national quest for liberty by declaring that we are all "created equal." It took nearly a century to transform that bold statement into the letter of the law, and another century still to make it a reality. The founders believed that we are "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights," and that first among these is "life."

You have a choice: you can listen to your conscience and work to secure the rights of the unborn to share in the fruits of our hard-won liberty, or you can choose to turn your back on them.

On behalf of the 1.28 million members of the Knights of Columbus and their families in the United States, I appeal to you, as a Catholic who acknowledges that life begins at conception, to resolve to protect this unalienable right. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues personally with you in greater detail during the weeks between now and November 4.


Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight


History of Church Teaching on Abortion
US Bishops Issue Fact Sheet

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 4, 2008 - Here is a fact sheet issued by the U.S. episcopal conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, which clarifies the Church's constant teaching on abortion.

The fact sheet responds to a misrepresentation of Church teaching made in remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during an Aug. 24 interview on national TV.

* * *

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

In response to those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin, here are the facts:

-- From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils.

-- To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man -- the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown.

-- However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage. At the very least, early abortion was seen as attacking a being with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul (cf. Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).

-- In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine. He knew of theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into pregnancy. Because he used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, he also thought the ancient Israelites had imposed a more severe penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage if the fetus was “fully formed” (Exodus 21: 22-23), language not found in any known Hebrew version of this passage. But he also held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God.

-- In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy. But he also rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life.

-- During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law. Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after the stage when the human soul was thought to be present. However, abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil.

-- From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before “formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified. But these theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right.

-- In 1827, with the discovery of the human ovum, the mistaken biology of Aristotle was discredited. Scientists increasingly understood that the union of sperm and egg at conception produces a new living being that is distinct from both mother and father. Modern genetics demonstrated that this individual is, at the outset, distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to mature into a human fetus, infant, child and adult. From 1869 onward the obsolete distinction between the “ensouled” and “unensouled” fetus was permanently removed from canon law on abortion.

-- Secular laws against abortion were being reformed at the same time and in the same way, based on secular medical experts’ realization that “no other doctrine appears to be consonant with reason or physiology but that which admits the embryo to possess vitality from the very moment of conception” (American Medical Association, Report on Criminal Abortion, 1871).

-- Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.

-- Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.


Governor’s Veto Prompts Pastoral Action
by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

On the day of my return (Monday, April 21) from the exhilarating experience of participating in Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit to the United States, I learned that Governor Kathleen Sebelius had vetoed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act (HS SB 389), which had been passed by significant majorities in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature. Last week, an attempt to override the governor’s veto failed in the Senate by two votes.

Governor Sebelius in her veto message claimed: “For years, the people of Kansas have asked their elected officials to move beyond legislative debates on issues like abortion.”  From her veto message, I received the impression the governor considered it a waste of the Legislature’s time to pass a statute that attempts to protect some women by making certain they have the opportunity to be well-informed: 1) about the development of their unborn child; and 2) about abortion alternatives available to them. Evidently, the governor does not approve of legislators devoting energy to protecting children and women by making it possible to enforce existing Kansas laws regulating late-term abortions.

The governor’s veto message demonstrated a lack of respect to the members of the Kansas General Assembly who had carefully crafted and resoundingly passed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, as well as to the many Kansans who find it more than an embarrassment, in no small part due to several previous vetoes by Governor Sebelius of earlier legislative efforts to regulate abortion clinics, that Kansas has become infamous for being the late-term abortion center for the Midwest.

What makes the governor’s rhetoric and actions even more troubling has been her acceptance of campaign contributions from Wichita’s Dr. George Tiller, perhaps the most notorious late-term abortionist in the nation. In addition to Dr. Tiller’s direct donations to her campaign, the governor has benefited from the Political Action Committees funded by Dr. Tiller to support pro-abortion candidates in Kansas.

In her veto message, the governor took credit for lower abortion rates in Kansas, citing her support for “adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women, providing sex education and offering a variety of support services for families.” Indeed, the governor and her administration should be commended for supporting adoption incentives and health services for pregnant women.

However, the governor overreaches by assuming credit for declining abortion rates in Kansas. Actually, lower abortion rates are part of a national trend. Our neighboring state of Missouri has actually had a steeper and longer decline in its abortion rate.

Governor Sebelius’ inclusion of public school sex education programs as a factor in the abortion rate decline is absurd. Actually, valueless sex education programs in public schools have been around for years, coinciding with increased sexual activity among adolescents, as well as increases in teen pregnancy and abortion. On the other hand, the governor does not acknowledge the significant impact of mass media education programs, such as those sponsored by the Vitae Caring Foundation, or the remarkable practical assistance provided by Crisis Pregnancy Centers which are funded through the generosity of pro-life Kansans.

What makes the governor’s actions and advocacy for legalized abortion, throughout her public career, even more painful for me is that she is Catholic. Sadly, Governor Sebelius is not unique in being a Catholic politician supporting legalized abortion.

Since becoming archbishop, I have met with Governor Sebelius several times over many months to discuss with her the grave spiritual and moral consequences of her public actions by which she has cooperated in the procurement of abortions performed in Kansas. My concern has been, as a pastor, both for the spiritual well-being of the governor but also for those who have been misled (scandalized) by her very public support for legalized abortion.

It has been my hope that through this dialogue the governor would come to understand her obligation: 1) to take the difficult political step, but necessary moral step, of repudiating her past actions in support of legalized abortion; and 2) in the future would use her exceptional leadership abilities to develop public policies extending the maximum legal protection possible to the unborn children of Kansas.

Having made every effort to inform and to persuade Governor Sebelius and after consultation with Bishop Ron Gilmore (Dodge City), Bishop Paul Coakley (Salina) and Bishop Michael Jackels (Wichita), I wrote the governor last August requesting that she refrain from presenting herself for reception of the Eucharist until she had acknowledged the error of her past positions, made a worthy sacramental confession and taken the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.

Recently, it came to my attention that the governor had received holy Communion at one of our parishes. I have written to her again, asking her to respect my previous request and not require from me any additional pastoral actions.

The governor has spoken to me on more than one occasion about her obligation to uphold state and federal laws and court decisions. I have asked her to show a similar sense of obligation to honor divine law and the laws, teaching and legitimate authority within the church.

I have not made lightly this request of Governor Sebelius, but only after much prayer and reflection. The spiritually lethal message, communicated by our governor, as well as many other high profile Catholics in public life, has been in effect: “The church’s teaching on abortion is optional!”

I reissue my request of the faithful of the archdiocese to pray for Governor Sebelius. I hope that my request of the governor, not to present herself for holy Communion, will provoke her to reconsider the serious spiritual and moral consequences of her past and present actions. At the same time, I pray this pastoral action on my part will help alert other Catholics to the moral gravity of participating in and/or cooperating with the performance of abortions.

© The Leaven


Of 'Moral Ecology' and the Human Embryo 

by Father Thomas Berg    November 6, 2007

Our good friend Dr. Robert George delivered the annual Erasmus lecture for the Institute on Religion and Public Life at the Union League Club in New York City on October 29.  I was delighted to attend.  The lecture-presented to a standing room only crowd of over five hundred guests-was entitled "On the Purposes of Law and Government:  First Principles and Contemporary Challenges." You can read more about it on the Mirror of Justice blog, at a posting by Rick Garnett. Eventually, it will be published in First Things.

Dr. Robert GeorgeDr. George began by reminding us that "the obligations and justifying purposes of law and government are to protect public health, safety, and morals, and to advance the general welfare -including, preeminently, protecting people's fundamental rights and basic liberties."  Though public well-being requires that the role of government be limited, Dr. George emphasized that government has an inalienable responsibility to maintain "a reasonably healthy moral ecology."  Indeed, history has demonstrated over and over again that democracies can only flourishing in the fertile soil of a vibrant moral culture-or moral ecology.  A properly functioning-limited-government achieves this, he affirmed, by supporting "the work of the families, religious communities, and other institutions of civil society that shoulder the primary burden of forming upright and decent citizens, caring for those in need, encouraging people to meet their responsibilities to one another, and discouraging them from harming themselves or others."

He then went on to explore how our resolution of the two most fundamental moral questions of the day-our understanding of the nature of marriage, and our convictions regarding the moral status of the human embryo-will constitute a remarkable bellwether test of the vibrancy of American moral ecology.

Now, I think we can all agree that debate on these two great moral issues of the day is on-going, especially with regard to the latter. Debate over the status of the human embryo is, in fact, two-pronged. First there is the metaphysical question:  what is the human embryo. Dr. George-who will soon be publishing a new book on the human embryo-articulating a view held by millions of Americans, responds that the embryo is an individual human being, a member of the species homo sapiens.

The second is a moral question: what is the moral status-or worth-of the human embryo, especially when considered prior to implantation in the womb, a circumstance artificially contrived when embryos are created in the laboratory.
In answer to this question, again, millions of Americans share the conviction that, even in an embryonic state, human beings bear a moral worth which precludes any possibility of their being deliberately submitted to harm or destruction.

I find today that secular bioethicists more often than not will concede to our insistence on the metaphysical question. On the moral question, however, they quite consistently hold to the party line:  embryonic stem cell research is no more controversial than once was organ donation or the derivation of vaccines from aborted fetal tissue.  Science has often been controversial in the past, but was generally allowed to move ahead; today's controversial science-particularly embryonic stem cell research-should be treated no differently. And after all, this is about the pursuit of life-saving cures isn't it?

And with breathtaking matter-of-factness many of the most vocal proponents of embryo-destructive research address the debate over the moral status of the human embryo as if it were not on-going, as if millions of Americans did not happen to disagree with them, or as if the debate-if ever there really was one-has been since resolved in their favor.

But we know things could not be further from the truth. Embryo destructive research is not merely "controversial," and embryo-destructive research cannot be simply allowed to proceed on the grounds that "well, you can't please all the folks all the time, therefore..."

 Allegory of the Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos

I think a close collaborator and dear friend of ours, Dr. William Hurlbut, is quite right when he asserts, as I have heard him insist on a number of occasions, that a one-sided or "purely political solution [to this issue] will leave our country bitterly divided, eroding the social support and sense of noble purpose that is essential for the public funding of biomedical science."  Dr. Hurlbut sees a long-term benefit for all of us as a nation in striving patiently to achieve some kind of consensus.  As he cogently insists:

We're entering the age of developmental biology. The embryonic stem-cell conflict is just the beginning. It's the first symbolic argument between science and moral concerns (in a new era). We need to get this right. 

We need to get his one right, indeed. We have every reason to believe, in fact, that our resolution to the question of the metaphysical and moral status of the human embryo will mark either the latent vibrancy or proximate extinction of our American experiment in ordered freedom. 


Cardinal Pell's Response to Parliamentary Inquiry
"I Enjoy the Right to Comment on Proposed Laws"

SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 21, 2007 ( Here is a statement written by Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, in which he welcomes a report clearing him of contempt of Parliament.

Cardinal Pell was referred to the Privileges Committee of the New South Wales Legislative Council for comments he made during the debate on the Human Cloning Bill earlier this year.

Answering questions at a press conference June 5, Cardinal Pell pointed out that "Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realize that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church."

Cardinal Pell’s comments were referred to the Privileges Committee on June 6.

In its report to the state's upper house, the Privileges Committee has found there is no contempt of Parliament in Cardinal Pell's remarks, and has recommended that no further action be taken.

* * *


This response is written at the invitation of the Privileges Committee of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of New South Wales.

I understand that the Privileges Committee is to inquire and report on whether public comments made by me constitute a contempt of Parliament. The terms of reference of the Committee refer to comments by me contained in:

1. A written media statement issued by the Bishops of New South Wales on June 4, 2007 to which I was a signatory, and

2. Comments attributed to me in articles published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph on June 6, 2007.

It is important to note at the outset that I issued the Bishops' statement and participated in the press conference as a part of a public debate on the Human Cloning Bill then before the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Along with other citizens I enjoy the right to comment on proposed laws on my own behalf and on behalf of the community I represent. That is the essence of democracy. Therefore it seems to me to be an extraordinary step for the Legislative Council to require a citizen to justify his contribution to the debate or risk a finding of contempt. Before returning to this point however, a brief comment on the public debate which took place on the Human Cloning Bill may be useful.

Public debate on legislation before Parliament

On 6 June 2007 by the Honourable Richard Torbay MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, referred to my comments in the following terms:

High profile and eminent people often make comments on legislation before Parliament. That is the nature of a democratic society, which enables people of all persuasions to voice their views.

Public debate about legislation before the Parliament does not necessarily insult the House or its Members. Comments directed at Members could be construed as reflecting on the character or conduct of Members in Parliament. However, for such comments to be a breach of privilege they must have dire consequences for Members, such as impeding Members in their duties in the House.

I consider in this case that the comments made about the legislation before the House have been made as part of the public debate on a controversial issue and have not affected the rights of Members to express their views and vote as they deem appropriate.

The Speaker's words would be equally applicable to comments attributed to the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia also contained in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 June 2007:

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia said there would be electoral consequences for politicians who did not vote in support of research that could offer potential therapy for spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease, and juvenile diabetes.

'There are patients and their families who are also constituency members and will not vote for them when the next election comes along', said the advocacy group's convenor, Joanna Knott.

As I understand it no allegation of contempt has been made, nor is being contemplated, in relation to the comments by the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia.

Both my comments and those of the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia are properly seen as, adopting the words of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, "part of the public debate on a controversial issue [which do not affect] the rights of Members to express their views and vote as they deem appropriate".

I need hardly remind Members of the Committee that votes in the Parliament are almost always subject to party discipline. If a Member of Parliament votes against party policy, that Member is subject to sanctions which may be imposed by party officials outside the Parliament, including expulsion from the party itself.

Similarly, by way of example, a parliamentarian who supported a bill for capital punishment could hardly complain were his or her membership of anti-capital punishment organisations to be forfeited.

I am not aware that the customs and conventions of the Legislative Council have ever deemed such conduct by party officials or outside bodies to be contempt of Parliament.

On the much lesser "offence" of making a bona fide contribution to public debate, I do not believe that a citizen of this State has ever been charged with contempt for views he has expressed on a controversial bill. Nevertheless I will give Members of the Committee an account of my views so that they may better understand why I regard your requirements of me as both undesirable and unprecedented.

My comments on the Human Cloning Bill

My comments on the Human Cloning Bill were derived from the conviction that Parliamentarians who legislate for the destruction of human life (in any circumstances and especially in this case where no cures from human embryos have been effected during many years of research) are acting in a way that departs from the principles of both the natural law known through human reason alone and Christian teaching. The natural law principles and the teaching in question are that human life should be accorded the full protection of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of dependency or stage of development.[1]

I put forward this moral argument as a contribution to the public debate because it is rational, an argument open to acceptance by all people of no religion and any religion. I was not asserting some supernatural dogma beyond human reason and seeking to impose it on the general community. It would be a sad day for Australia if only members of the Christian majority accepted the unique dignity of the human person. But this is not the case. Defenders of human life -- from conception to natural birth -- come from every section of the Australian population.

As a Catholic archbishop I am also charged with ensuring that Catholics know the moral teaching of the Church. The Church's teaching on cloning states that the cloning of a human being is wrong and cannot be justified by any known or imagined effects. The Church also teaches that destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings -- cloned or otherwise -- is an intrinsically evil act, because experimentation involves their dismemberment and therefore mutilation and death.

In asking Catholic politicians -- and other Members of Parliament who are Christian or who respect human life -- to vote against this legislation, the New South Wales bishops were not calling for the "enforcement" of Catholic beliefs, but reminding legislators to fulfil the demands of justice and the common good that follow from the inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family.[2] This is exactly the basis on which the Church also calls on legislators to protect the poor or to oppose racial discrimination.

In the press conference on June 5, after reading the joint statement of the New South Wales Bishops, I faced repeated questions about the consequences for Catholic politicians who did not follow the natural law teaching of the Church on these matters, after being reminded in a written question that on May 9, Pope Benedict XVI had spoken about abortion in these terms: "It simply states in Canon Law that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with going to Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ".

In response, I pointed out factually that "Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church", while also pointing out that legislating for abortion is not the same act as performing an abortion, and supporting legislation for human cloning is somewhat different again.

The phrase "consequences for their place in the life of the Church" refers to the effect a seriously wrong decision has on the personal relationship between that individual and God, and that individual and the Church community to which he belongs. These consequences need not be imposed from outside by a third party such as a bishop or priest, but are intrinsic to the infraction itself and loosen the person's bonds to the Church.

No one is compelled to be or remain a Catholic. Obviously outsiders are not liable to Catholic discipline, and Catholics are able in our situation of religious freedom to ignore or reject any Church sanction.

My task as a Catholic Archbishop is to point out that God judges human conduct, as well as pointing out the importance of Catholics following Church teaching on matters of faith and morals. The vast majority of political matters are for the prudential judgment of each individual Catholic, but the Church is unambiguous that there are certain choices which are intrinsically evil and cannot in good conscience be condoned or promoted by faithful Catholics -- the evil being known through right reason itself, as well as through Catholic faith.

It is possible that some Catholic politicians have been misled by the theory of "primacy of conscience", allegedly an invention of the Second Vatican Council, although the phrase can be found nowhere in the documents of the Council.

It is difficult to know what this theory means, as everyone is obliged to act as he thinks proper. Unfortunately, as the Jesuit theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles writes, "the idea of conscience has been deformed by some modern thinkers . . . [who] often depict conscience as a supreme and infallible tribunal that dispenses us from considerations of law and truth, putting in their place purely subjective . . . criteria such as sincerity, authenticity and being at peace with oneself".[3] From this mistaken view some conclude that Church authorities, and by implication God himself, must accept every conscientious decision even when such a decision violates natural law, the Ten Commandments, and important Church moral teaching.

Jurisdiction to commit and punish for contempt

I will now turn to the question of the Legislative Council's jurisdiction with regard to contempt. I have taken legal advice which is reflected in what follows.

I note that the letter of 27 June 2007 from the Chair of the Privileges Committee of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Kayee Griffin MLC, identifies my public comments concerning the Human Cloning Bill as constituting the basis of an alleged contempt. I assume that the reference to the Committee is to enquire whether those public remarks come within the following description in Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (23rd ed., 2004 at 128):

Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its function, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results, may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.

However Erskine May does not deal with the law of contempt of Parliament as it applies to New South Wales. That statement of law is to be found in the judgements of the High Court and the Privy Council.

A recent High Court discussion of the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Parliament on contempt is to be found in Egan v Willis.[4] The history of the Parliament's powers was discussed at length by Justice McHugh who reviewed the various authoritative statements of the Privy Council and the High Court as to the limits of those powers. These authorities show that (leaving aside any statute that the Parliament itself might enact) the common law does allow the Parliament to do what is reasonably necessary for the proper exercise of its functions. What is "reasonably necessary" is to be understood "by reference to what, at the time in question, have come to be the conventional practices" of the Parliament.[5]

However the authorities reject any notion that the common law empowers either House to proceed against a citizen for statements made in the past and outside the House. Justice McHugh quotes Mr Baron Parke in the Privy Council who said: "The whole question is reduced to this -- whether by law, the power of committing for contempt, not in the presence of the Assembly, is incident to every local legislature."[6] In answer, the existence of such an "extraordinary power" was emphatically rejected by the Privy Council, and there is no reason to think that it has ever been a part of the practices of either House of the New South Wales Parliament. This conclusion is reinforced by other cases referred to by Justice McHugh.[7]

The reasoning which supports this conclusion depends upon the distinction between the powers of the Parliament at Westminster and the powers of colonial parliaments, including that of the colony of New South Wales from its establishment.

The power to commit and punish for contempt is a power of the Parliament at Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments. This power had its origins in that Parliament's prior status as a court, the High Court of Parliament. But it has been long established that other parliaments created elsewhere in the British Commonwealth do not automatically possess this same power, simply by virtue of being a parliament.

Parliaments established under British law outside the United Kingdom were established not as courts in any sense, but purely as legislative bodies, typically with circumscribed powers. The New South Wales Parliament had its origins as a colonial assembly and in these circumstances Australian law confines the privileges of a parliament to those expressly conferred by statute, or "necessarily incidental" to its status, existence, and "the reasonable and proper exercise of [its] functions."[8]

In Australia the parliaments in every state except New South Wales have enacted legislation to identify their powers and privileges, often equating them to those possessed by the Parliament at Westminster. Because the New South Wales Parliament has never enacted this sort of statute, its privileges are confined to those "necessarily incidental" to its status, existence, and "the reasonable and proper exercise of [its] functions". The power to commit and punish for contempt only accrues to the New South Wales Parliament if it meets this criterion.

In considering the powers of parliaments in relation to contempt the courts have repeatedly held that there is a distinction between the removal of an impediment to the performance of parliamentary functions, and the punishment of past actions alleged to have had such an effect. The former is a power the possession of which is "really necessary . . . to secure the free exercise of [a Parliament's] legislative functions", but the same is not true of the latter.[9] The distinction between defensive and punitive action has been applied in relation to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.[10]

In other words, the power to investigate, judge and punish alleged past misconduct is an "extraordinary" rather than a "necessarily incidental" power, and it is properly a judicial power belonging to a judicial body.[11] Because the Parliament of New South Wales was not established as a court (as was the Parliament of Westminster), and has not enacted legislation to grant itself the privileges of Westminster, this power does not fall within its competence.

The courts have thus defined the kind of obstruction which would constitute a contempt of Parliament as limited to an attempt made to impede Members of Parliament from carrying out their duties freely. But there is no evidence that any Member of the Parliament was impeded from performing their duties or was in any way intimidated by my public remarks about the duties of Catholic politicians in considering this legislation. Quite the contrary.

It is also clear that the Legislative Council believed there was no need to take "defensive" action against any of the participants outside the Parliament, myself included, at the time of the debate to prevent obstruction and to ensure a free and open vote on the legislation. Certainly the Legislative Assembly, through its Speaker, did not perceive the remarks as obstruction but rather as part of a vigorous public debate as befits a democracy.

Religious Freedom

In a democracy such as Australia any citizen should be free to argue publicly for certain policies on religious grounds; these arguments to be accepted or rejected by legislators or electors as they see fit.

It is my submission that it is essential that religious leaders, including myself, are free to express the position taken by their Church or religion on matters of public interest and debate. To prevent religious leaders from doing so has the effect of stifling religious freedom and hampers effective and open debate on matters of public interest.

One of Christianity's most important public services is to preserve and strengthen Australia as a decent, prosperous and stable democracy. It does this through its many works of practical service and care, but also from time to time by regular participation in public debate, usually by lay people, but sometimes through Church leaders.

So too legislators are free to use religious considerations in deciding their position on legislation. I might add that the same principle allows atheists, be they legislators or electors, to act on the basis of their atheistic convictions when it comes to the formation of legislation and public policy. If the right of legislators and electors who are religious believers to do the same were to be denied, then we would have informally mandated atheism as the unofficial state religion. This is hardly compatible with the principle and practice of religious liberty.

Freedom of religion is not to be reduced merely to the freedom to perform ceremonies on private property. As Professor James Hitchcock, the distinguished American historian of the United States Supreme Court, has observed, "if freedom of religion means anything, it surely includes the right of every church to determine who is a member in good standing". To deny that Christian churches and other faiths have the authority to make such a judgement "is to deny religious freedom in a fundamental way."[12]

This implies that for good reasons a Christian church, somewhat like a political party or even a sporting club, has the right to exclude a person or persons from membership, and to recommend that they abstain from receiving Holy Communion or even, in some instances, to refuse to give them Holy Communion.

One good reason for the high respect given to Parliaments in Australia is that parliamentarians do not regard themselves as being above the law of the land. For the same reason it would be incongruous for Catholic parliamentarians to declare that they are above basic Christian moral teachings, while still asserting their good standing in the Church.


In a democracy, any person can offer himself for public office. He may be affected or unaffected by religion, sympathetic or hostile to it. Our constitution imposes no religious test and excludes no candidate by reason of his attitude to religion. Public office is open to all. Things are no different when it comes to participation in public debate. Every citizen is entitled to take part. No one is excluded, including those who hold office within a religious community.

Although Australian life has been marred by sectarianism in the past, Catholics here never suffered the centuries of persecution that befell Catholics in Britain and Ireland, and nor have they been victims of the mob-violence and church-burning that anti-Catholicism occasionally produced in the United States. The idea that religion is irrational and must be excluded from public affairs is not a native Australian plant, and it would be regrettable if American or European frames of reference were imposed on the very different situation of religious life and public culture here in Australia.

Christians in Australia have long played an important part in ensuring that fundamental human rights are respected and will strive to continue this important work. My contribution to this public discussion on human cloning was made in this spirit and tradition.

20 August 2007

[1] Robert P. George, "Political Obligations, Moral Conscience, and Human Life", Voices 22:2 (Pentecost 2007), 15.
[2] Ibid. 16.

[3] Avery Dulles, S.J., "Truth as the Ground of Freedom: A Theme from John Paul II" (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 1995), 5.
[4] [1998] HCA 71.

[5] Ibid. at [50], per Gaudron, Gummow and Hayne JJ.
[6] Ibid. at [72].

[7] Ibid. at [76] & [77].
[8] Namoi Shire Council v Attorney-General of New South Wales [1980] 2NSWLR 639 at 643 (per McClelland J).

[9] Kielly v Carson (1842) 4 Moo PC 63 at 88-90; 13 ER 225 at 234-35.
[ 0] See Barton v Taylor 11 AC 197; Willis & Christie v Perry (1912) 13 CLR 592; Armstrong v Budd [1969] 1 NSWLR 649; and Gripps v McElhone (1881) 2 (LR) NSW 18.

[1 ] Kielly v Carson loc. cit.
[12] James Hitchcock, "Freedom of Religion at Political Crossroad", Women for Faith and Freedom, 10 June 2007.


Suffer the Children   September 4, 2007

Certain circumstances have me thinking a lot lately about the unborn.  I think of a married couple who are dear friends of mine. Chris and Rachel have five beautiful children-the oldest daughter, when out and about with her mom, is often mistaken for Dakota Fanning. Rachel, as it turns out, is again having a baby. I still recall the day only months ago when Chris proudly announced at a faculty meeting that "number six" was on the way.  But my friends received some hard news a couple of weeks ago.  In the course of a routine sonogram, the doctor told them that their baby-Malcolm-had some grave health issues.

 Malcolm suffers from hydranencephaly-a rare condition in which the brain's cerebral hemispheres fail to form and are replaced by sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid.  At just over five months of gestation, Malcolm has a brain stem, but little more. He also suffers other complications.

The hard news, however, was not all that Chris and Rachel received at the hospital.  They were also pressured to "terminate" the pregnancy-no less than three times in the very short interval between concluding the examination and leaving the hospital.  My friends are staunchly pro-life; they responded-three times-that abortion was simply not an option. Chris-a professor of philosophy and an astute diagnostician of contemporary culture-described the whole ordeal to me over the phone a few days ago. I am still pondering his closing words:  "It's very clear to me that we are not 'on our way' to the age of a new eugenics; we are already immersed in it!"

 Yes. We are now a eugenics culture. Most readers of this column have heard-or directly experienced-any number of stories similar to Chris and Rachel's. In the face of severe pre-natal defects, the current default option in the minds of most healthcare professionals it would seem-and tragically in the minds of more and more parents-is to abort. This was vividly evidenced recently when doctors at a Milan hospital mistakenlyaborted a healthy twin fetus instead of her sibling with Down syndrome; the latter was eventually aborted as well after they and the parents realized the mistake.

 As I was pondering this incident, someone else brought to my attention a story that stands as a living metaphor of the kind of maternal love that was so appallingly absent in the case of the Italian twins.  It was a story about the recent fires in Greece.  In the tiny village of Artemida, most of the villagers were caught by surprise.  Many of them attempted a final, desperate sprint up the surrounding hills where rescue workers later found at least 23 bodies. Among the dead were four children-ages 15 to 5-and their 35-year-old mother, Athanasia, her charred arms still wrapped around them-a heartrending testimony to her love, and to her final, heroic attempts to shield her children from a fiery death.

 Maybe we can think of Athanasia as a kind of symbol of that genuine love of parents who embrace the gift of human life-no matter what the stage of development and no matter how negative the judgments others might make about "quality of life."  Some might say it is compassion that moves parents to "terminate" a pregnancy when severe pre-natal defects are diagnosed, putatively to spare that child, themselves and their other children untold suffering.  But this, we know, is a terribly misguided sense of compassion. 

 Parents confronting the painful reality of bearing a child prenatally diagnosed with a trisomy disorder like DownSyndrome or other defects could be directed to a new resource I recently discovered. Mary Kellett is founder of PrenatalPartnersforLife, a non profit, non-denominational, pro-life support group for just such parents.  She formed the support group after her own son Peter was born with trisomy 18. Expected to live only a few hours after birth, Peter is today-as Mary describes him-"a giggling, smiling 2 1/2 -year-old who, though physically limited, brings joy to his family every day."  She is currently co-sponsoring a nation-wide billboard campaign with Prolife Across America to spread the good news about the gift each of these children is meant to be.  These are examples of the billboards that will appear in the campaign.



Women who suffer stress during pregnancy transmit their anxiety to their unborn child as early as 17 weeks, according to new British research. Professor Vivette Glover of Imperial College London and a colleague measured the stress hormone cortisol in the mother's blood and the amniotic fluid around the baby. She found that as the mother's stress rose, so did that of the baby, and the strength of the correlation became stronger with advancing gestational age.

The researchers urge pregnant women to "lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle", but that might be hard to achieve in an era of working mothers. A recent survey of 1000 mothers-to-be by a British baby charity found that pregnant women regularly felt stress at work. One in 10 said their employer was unsupportive when they announced their pregnancy and a quarter felt under pressure from employers who expected them to work just as they did before they became pregnant.

Professor Glover has previously shown a link between stress in pregnancy and the baby's IQ. Babies of stressed mothers were also more likely to be anxious and show signs of attention-deficit disorder. ~ London Times, May 31


Partial Birth

The U.S. Congress first passed a federal ban on the gruesome procedure known as partial birth abortion in 1996, and again in 1997. Both times the Act was vetoed by then-President Bill Clinton . In 2003, Congress passed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act for the third time. It was signed by President Bush, and immediately challenged by abortion advocates.

This particular Act was written to overcome the objections of the Supreme Court when, in 2000, it struck down (by 5-4) the Nebraska ban in Stenberg v. Carhart , for being overbroad (the statutory language describing the banned procedure could be interpreted as including more, common procedures) and lacking a health exception (where lower court findings indicated disagreement on the medical necessity of the procedure). The 2003 Act banned the following procedure:

an abortion in which the person performing the abortion (A) deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (B) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus.

On April 18, the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart held (5-4) that the Act banning the partial-birth abortion procedure described above is constitutional: the Act is not void for vagueness, does not impose an undue burden, and is not facially invalid.

In addressing the “void for vagueness” challenge, the Court held that the language describing the procedure was specific enough that an abortion provider would know exactly what was prohibited: it required delivery of a living fetus, to an “anatomical landmark” (head outside the mother's body, or baby's trunk past the navel outside the mother's body), an overt act to kill the child, which was intended by the abortion provider. Because the language was not overly broad, and could not be read to include other, common abortion procedures, the ban did not impose an undue burden on any woman seeking a late-term abortion (the presence of which would render the Act unconstitutional). Finally, the Court held that Act was not facially invalid, or considered “unconstitutional on its face,” because it did not impose a substantial obstacle to late-term, pre-viability abortions.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy made some noteworthy comments about the government's interest in protecting human life, and the devastating effects of abortion:

•  Court precedent included the premise “that the government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.

•  “The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman.”

•  “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child…While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained…Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

•  “Where it has a rational basis to act, and does not impose an undue burden, the State may use its regulatory power to bar certain procedures and substitute others, all in furtherance of its legitimate interests in regulating the medical profession in order to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn.”

The Congressional findings in the Act, which get deference in judicial proceedings, included the finding that partial birth abortions are never medically necessary. The American Medical Association said that Partial Birth Abortions were “not medically indicated,” and “not good medicine.” Therefore, while the Act contains a life of the mother exception “whose life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself,” the Act does not contain a “health” exception.

In the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence, the “health” exception is so broad, that it includes mental health and emotional well-being.

The Court held that the absence of the health exception did not render the Act unconstitutional: “Considerations of marginal safety, including the balance of risks, are within the legislative competence when the regulation is rational and in pursuit of legitimate ends…The Act is not invalid on its face where there is uncertainty over whether the barred procedure is ever necessary to preserve a woman's health, given the availability of other abortion procedures that are considered to be safe alternatives.”

Justice Ginsburg wrote a stinging dissent, which she read from the bench, and which focused on the absence of a “health” exception in the Act: “Today's decision is alarming…for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health.” But as the majority opinion pointed out, in light of the fact that safe abortion alternatives exist, “A zero tolerance policy would strike down legitimate abortion regulations, like the present one, if some part of the medical community were disinclined to follow the proscription. This is too exacting a standard to impose on the legislative power…to regulate the medical profession.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, abortion advocates in Congress are gathering cosponsors for the reintroduction of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which would codify Roe v. Wade , and bar the government at any level from enacting any restriction on abortion.


Baby survives mistaken abortion in Italy

Church authorities in Italy have slammed a doctor involved in a mistaken abortion attempt that left an Italian baby born at 22 weeks fighting for his life after an erroneous diagnosis of a birth defect.

Playfuls quotes Italian news service ANSA as saying that the mother decided to abort the fetus after it was mistakenly diagnosed with a birth defect.

LifeNews adds that doctors are working furiously to save the baby which survived the attempt.

However, the child subsequently suffered a brain hemorrhage and is not expected to survive.

Careggi University Hospital in Florence, which is still reeling from the discovery last month that three patients received organs from an HIV-positive donor, defended the attempted abortion.

Doctors at the hospital performed two ultrasounds on the boy and his mother and they said he had a defective esophagus.

However, during the abortion procedure it was discovered that the baby boy was healthy and doctors desperately tried to resuscitate him.

According to The Australian newspaper, the boy was transferred to the city's children's hospital because Careggi didn't have room for follow-up care in the intensive care unit.

Hospital officials said their physicians advised the mother to have further diagnostic tests but that she opted for the abortion after consulting with a private doctor.

Doctors later said the ultrasound tests did not completely show the baby's body and that an incomplete diagnostic test with an ultrasound happens in one percent of the cases.

Catholic lawmakers and pro-life groups are accusing the hospital of breaching Italy's abortion law, which allows late-term abortions only when the mother's health is at risk or the fetus is shown to have serious defects that constitute "a grave danger for the physical or mental health of the woman."

The Catholic Church is outraged by the abortion and the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said a human life had been "thrown away in the horrible bureaucracy of a culture that rejects diversity and disability."

It condemned the physician who suggested the abortion as "not only morally but also ethically censurable."

US Catholic newspaper tells readers not to vote for Guilani over abortion

In another story, US Catholic newspaper, The National Catholic Register is telling readers that Catholics should not support White House hopeful Rudy Giuliani because of his support for allowing women access to abortions, FoxNews says.

The National Catholic Register's editorial urges anti-abortion voters to choose another candidate other than Giuliani.

"A Republican party led by a pro-abortion politician would become a pro-abortion party," according to the editorial that appears on the Web site and is set to appear next week in the newspaper's print edition.

Giuliani stated in 1999 that he does not see himself changing his position on allowing women the right to a partial-birth abortion, which occurs in the late term of a pregnancy. Last month, he told Fox News that he would support a ban on partial-birth abortion if it contained an exception for getting one if giving birth would endanger the life of the mother.


Indian court recognizes fetus humanity in "landmark" ruling

In a ruling described by a Mumbai archdiocese representative as a "landmark", the Indian Maharashtra State Commission has recognised an unborn child as a consumer and therefore entitled to insurance coverage.

AsiaNews reports that the Commission which functions as a consumer court in the western Indian state decided in favour of a woman claiming compensation from her husband's insurance company for her unborn grandchild, a car accident victim.

The judges made the decision in favour of the plaintiff in the case of Kanta Mohanlal Kotecha v Branch Manager, United India Insurance. The former is widow of Mohanlal, who had taken a comprehensive insurance policy with the multinational before his death.

Kanta, the policy beneficiary, brought the case against the insurance company, who had agreed to pay the stipulated sum for the death of her husband, her son and his wife - who was seven months pregnant at the time - but not that of the unborn child.

At an earlier hearing, Yavatmal district judges, had found in favour of the insurance company.

Once called into consider her appeal, the Maharashtra State Commission declared its intention to consider US law under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act 2004 whereby personhood was granted to a human fetus. The law "is not static but an instrument of socio-economic change", the court observed.

In its decision, the commission held that the unborn child in the womb was living and therefore is considered a victim and the family entitled to compensation.

Commenting on the ruling, Dr Pascoal, from the Mumbai Diocesan Human Life Committee said that the "landmark ruling is to be hailed as a defence of life.

He says the decision which recognises the value of unborn human life "is a great victory for life".


Born too soon       By Carlo Bellieni  
Wednesday, 03 January 2007

Increasing numbers of babies are born very premature or below weight. Should we try to save them all?

Medical groups in Britain are calling for a debate about the treatment and care of very premature babies, especially those born before 25 weeks. Most of these babies currently do not survive to leave hospital, and survival before 22 weeks is very rare. However, the number born at these very low gestations is increasing. This raises difficult issues: pain for the babies if they are treated; futility of treatment when death is likely anyway; emotional suffering for the parents; possible court cases; and costs to the health system.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that infant euthanasia should be legalised. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics opposes active euthanasia but proposes: a) all babies born before 22 weeks should be given palliative care only -- that is, they should be allowed to die; b) babies born between 22 and 23 week should only be given intensive care if the parents request it after thorough discussion of the risks and if the doctors agree; c) for babies born between 24 and 25 weeks parents should have the final say about intensive care. The British Medical Association, however, opposes any rule tied to the number of weeks gestation, saying every case must be judged on its merits.
To get another ethical perspective MercatorNet asked Italian neonatologist Dr Carlo Bellieni, who has a special interest in infantile pain, for his views on the treatment of these babies.
MercatorNet: It must be very difficult to decide whether or not to treat very premature babies. What principles do you use? Do you think it is a good idea to set down a rule that all babies born before, say, 22 weeks should be allowed to die?
Carlo Bellieni: It is not difficult: we resuscitate babies on the basis of their actual possibility of surviving. It becomes difficult if you decide to resuscitate only those who will not have severe brain damage. But is that ethical? At birth you cannot be sure of the prognosis. So you finish up resuscitating only “normal” babies and only on the basis of an hypothesis.
Last month we organised a congress in Bologna, Italy, with more than 500 neonatologists and neonatal nurses. The title was, Deciding in Neonatology. From this congress it emerged that we cannot make decisions about a very premature baby without seeing him/her -- without assessing, through a rapid but accurate investigation, his/her actual gestational age (GA) and his/her response to resuscitation. We know that before 23 weeks GA the possibilities of surviving are few, but errors can be present in assessing age before birth.
MercatorNet: What light does your research on infantile pain throw on the case of a very premature baby needing resuscitation and intensive care for a chance of survival?
Dr Bellieni: My research shows that even in premature babies pain should be considered and overcome. Moreover, we know that premature babies are social beings and they need to be soothed and cared for; they need the presence of parents. We studied a type of nonpharmacological pain relief based on distraction and reassurance of these babies and it is absolutely effective. We treat them as what they are: persons. Anyway, we have such effective analgesic drugs and treatments that believing that pain is a reason to let babies die is anachronistic.

MercatorNet: The issue of pain in premature babies -- which is recognised by the Nuffield Council -- raises the question of pain in babies whose lives are terminated, especially in Britain where the law allows induced abortion at any time during pregnancy if a fetus is at "substantial risk of serious handicap". Some scientists deny that the fetus feels pain; would they also have to deny the need for palliative care for a baby born alive at 22 weeks?
        (Picture below: Dr Carlo Bellieni)
Dr Bellieni: In order to deny fetal pain, some philosophers say pain is impossible without self-awareness, and as awareness begins when the baby is one year old, they affirm that infants do not actually feel pain! But physiological and embryological studies show that there is no evidence to deny fetal pain, at least from 20 weeks of GA.

Sunny Anand, the pioneer of neonatal pain, devoted to this problem an issue of the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain in June 2006, to reaffirm that pain perception begins in the second trimester of gestation. Anyway prejudice and resistance against the recognition of fetal and neonatal pain are still present and they are big foes to effective treatment.
MercatorNet: Are there circumstances in which you would recommend palliative care only? Should the possibility of long-term disability be considered when deciding whether to treat a newborn?
Dr Bellieni: I recommend palliative care when all therapies are useless and the baby is dying. But, pay attention: someone may say that a therapy is futile and should be avoided if its result is the survival of a handicapped baby. This is why some call the period between 23 and 25 weeks of GA a “grey zone”. Babies born in this period have a significant rate of survival, but also a significant rate of handicap. I believe that a disabled life is worth living: most families of disabled persons agree. But our fear of disability, which I call handiphobia, dictates that “death is better than a life with handicap”. This attitude accepts the sacrifice of all babies born before a certain GA because they have a high risk of handicap. The Bologna congress declared that this is unacceptable.
A recent Swedish study published in the US journal Pediatrics  shows that in hospitals where a selective resuscitation of babies aged 23-25 weeks of GA is performed, there is a higher rate of handicap among the survivors, when compared with those hospitals where all babies of the same GA receive intensive care. This is also due to the fact that we have no sure prognostic tool at birth. So, we have moral reasons to not abandon extremely premature babies, but the evident absence of a reliable instrument to make a sure prognosis means that such abandonment is wrong even from the clinical point of view: all premature babies who can have a chance to survive -- that is, who have a lung development which permits the resuscitation -- should be cared for.
MercatorNet: Who should have the final say in a particular case -- the doctors? parents? courts?
Dr Bellieni: Parents are in a very difficult position. Doctors spend years to learn what cerebral palsy is, and we assume parents can learn it in few minutes; we urge them to decide while we ignore the prognosis; we want them to be rational when they are stressed and weary: it is absurd. Resuscitation must be decided on the basis of objective data which only physicians can correctly analyse. Parents must anyway be informed step by step about the evolution of the clinical state of the baby, but they cannot have the last word. If a baby is dying we can do nothing except give him/her comfort. If a baby is not dying, but we have a high risk of disability, what should we decide? There is nothing to decide: we must care and cure -- unless we believe that disabled lives should disappear, through eugenic selection.
MercatorNet: Should cost to the health system be a factor in deciding on the fate of babies born under 25 weeks?
Dr Bellieni: A 25 week old baby is costly, though less expensive than a few years ago: “Between 1994 and 1996, the median treatment cost per infant with birth weight 501 to 1500 g at the 6 project NICUs ... decreased from $57 606 to $46 674; at the 4 chronic lung disease hospitals, for infants with birth weights 501 to 1000 g, it decreased from $85 959 to $77 250.”

However, a 2003 study found neonatal hospital costs averaged US$202,700 for a delivery at 25 weeks, and US$224,400 for a newborn at 500-700 g. And there is also the cost of caring for a disabled person throughout his/her life. Will this be ignored when politicians decide about the right to life of these babies?
I hope that economics will never be the starting point for deciding on neonatal resuscitation. Nor should it be, any more than when we decide on a strategy against AIDS or leukaemia. Human life cannot be measured with money.
MercatorNet: Is it true that the number of these births is increasing, and if so, what's behind this trend? Does IVF have much to do with it?
Dr Bellieni: Prematurity is increasing, and the risk of being born prematurely is greater with IVF. The trend towards later childbearing also plays its part. Women are led to believe they can bear a child whenever they decide to, but this is not correct. Of course, most babies conceived in-vitro are well and healthy, but the percentage of them with some health problems is greater than among the general population. All scientific literature agrees with this warning.
Dr Carlo V. Bellieni is a neonatologist, professor of neonatal therapy at the Pediatrics school of the University of Siena, Italy. He is member of the scientific board of the European Pain School. He has written several books about the fetus as a person, which have been translated into Spanish and French. His research on infantile pain has been reported by The Times (UK), El Mundo (Spain), CNN, ABC, and many other media.

Abortion and Catholic Social Teaching
Interview With Father Thomas D. Williams

ROME, SEPT. 15, 2006 ( Abortion should occupy a key place in the social doctrine of the Church, even though it is explicitly mentioned few times in the "social encyclicals," says a theologian.

That is the view of Father Thomas D. Williams, dean of the theology school at Rome's Regina Apostolorum university.

Father Williams was invited to present a paper on the relationship between the abortion issue and Catholic social doctrine at an academic conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with the International Association for Catholic Social Teaching.

The two-day conference, entitled "The Defense of Life: A Mission for Catholic Social Teaching," opens today. ZENIT interviewed Father Williams on the subject.

Q: Why is this conference necessary?

Father Williams: In his invitation letter, Cardinal Renato Martino noted with great frankness that "the social doctrine of the Church, to date, has not placed due emphasis on the defense of life from conception to its natural end."

One of the most frequent questions I get, when people find out I teach Catholic social doctrine in Rome, is whether or not I include the question of abortion and specifically the encyclical "The Gospel of Life" in my course.

People want to know what Catholic social doctrine has to say about life issues, and especially about abortion.

Q: Does the abortion issue properly belong to the area of Catholic social teaching? Isn't it a question for bioethics?

Father Williams: Traditionally abortion has not been included in the sphere of Catholic social doctrine.

Remember that this area of study -- Catholic social ethics -- takes as its fundamental point of reference a body of magisterial texts often called the "social encyclicals," formally beginning with Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," and extending, for the moment, to Pope John Paul's 1991 encyclical "Centesimus Annus."

In the informal canon of "social encyclicals," the word abortion appears a mere four times, and the topic is never addressed in any depth. For this reason, it is usually excluded from courses of social doctrine, and considered a topic for other disciplines.

Q: But being such an important social issue, why has abortion been neglected in the social encyclicals?

Father Williams: Historically, the social encyclicals, and Catholic social doctrine itself up to a point, grew out of a single encyclical letter: Leo's "Rerum Novarum."

The other social encyclicals have sought explicitly to maintain a close link with "Rerum Novarum" and were often written to commemorate important anniversaries of Leo's text.

Both Pope Pius XI and Pope John XXIII called "Rerum Novarum" the "Magna Charta" of the Church's social thought, and Pope John Paul II said that it "created a lasting paradigm for the Church."

Because of the importance of "Rerum Novarum," later social encyclicals have updated the ethical analysis of the social question in the light of new realities, but generally following the categories set out by "Rerum Novarum." Therefore the initial focus on the economic question has never relinquished center stage in Catholic social thought.

Whereas "Rerum Novarum" ably addressed the worker problem, analyzing the Socialist solution and reaffirming the Catholic belief in a natural right to private property, it did not deal with a host of other essential questions of social justice.

Leo had no intention of penning a comprehensive treatise on Christian social ethics. "Rerum Novarum" was a thoughtful response to a pressing pastoral concern, but to expect to find in it the pattern for Church teaching on every social issue is to ask more from the document than it can possibly give.

Q: Have efforts been made to fill in this gap?

Father Williams: First of all I must hasten to mention that the papal magisterium has been anything but silent or neglectful of the abortion problem.

On numerous occasions Pope John Paul II spoke out forcefully on the question and his 1995 encyclical "The Gospel of Life" addresses the matter of abortion in great length.

In that very same encyclical Pope John Paul explicitly tied the abortion question to Catholic social thought. He draws a comparison between abortion as a matter of social injustice and the worker question, addressed by Leo in 1891.

These are John Paul's words, in No. 5 of the encyclical: "Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice."

Q: So the Church does regard abortion as a matter of social justice?

Father Williams: Absolutely. The guiding principle for the entire field of Catholic social thought is the virtue of social justice, with its articulating principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good.

The common good requires a social organization that provides for and defends human rights, the first and most basic of which is the right to life.

Or let's take the Church's preferential option for the poor, which enjoins Christians to pay special attention to those most in need.

Just as a mother or father dedicate a disproportionate amount of time and energy to a child who is sick, without for that reason loving the other children any less, Christians are called to focus their efforts preferentially toward the most needy and defenseless among us.

Applying this principle to contemporary society, the social injustice that most cries out to Christian conscience is the deliberate and massive attack on the most vulnerable members of society, the unborn.

Q: But is abortion objectively any graver than other social injustices, to which the Church also pays attention? Doesn't a consistent ethic of life go beyond abortion?

Father Williams: The Church's defense of social justice embraces any number of key life issues, and attention to one does not lessen the importance of the others. Abortion, however, stands out among them as a unique case meriting singular attention.

To quickly enumerate the reasons for this singularity, we must look first at the simple magnitude of the problem: some 46 million legal abortions performed every year in the world, which in and of itself makes abortion a social problem of staggering proportions.

Second, it involves the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable members of society.

Third, it perpetrates this evil systemically and legally, thus giving abortion a veneer of moral legitimacy. Since the law informs people's consciences, the legality of abortion perpetuates an anti-life mentality and separates it from other crimes against life such as terrorism, serial killing, human trafficking, and so forth.

Fourth, abortion repeats the historical error of taking an entire class of human beings and devaluing them to a second-class status, deprived of basic human dignity and the rights that flow from it.

Q: What does Catholic social thought offer to the debate on abortion that bioethics doesn't? What is its specific contribution?

Father Williams: Since Catholic social teaching contributes so much to this discussion, it is impossible for me to do this question justice here. In its analysis of the socio-cultural, political, familial and economic dimensions of human action, the Church's social teaching offers invaluable points of reference for a public discussion of abortion.

As I mentioned earlier, the Church's teaching on the content and requirements of the "common good" sheds important light on respect and reverence for human life as a pillar of the just society.

Moreover, the principle of equality, based on the equal dignity of all human beings, not only grounds our democratic system but also demands that we deprive no one of this essential dignity.

Historically the greatest social evils perpetrated on humanity -- genocide, racism, abortion, slavery -- have always violated the principle of equality, relegating an entire sector of the human family to an inferior status, with a dignity lower than the rest. Since human rights flow from human dignity, once the latter is called into question, rights fall at the same time.

As a legal "right," abortion brings forth countless social issues requiring a reasoned response: questions of conscientious objection, the rule of law in a democracy, the pedagogical function of law, and the role of moral truth in a democratic system, to name but a few.

And as regards politics, abortion again raises numerous moral questions: the correctness of single-issue politics versus a "seamless garment" approach, the possibility of being personally opposed while publicly supporting abortion legislation, the reception of the sacraments for publicly pro-abortion Catholic politicians, cooperation in evil by voters and politicians alike, support for "imperfect" laws regarding life, etc.

Q: Where do we go from here? How can abortion occupy its rightful place in Catholic social thought?

Father Williams: The first and simplest step to take is to treat Pope John Paul's great encyclical on life issues, "The Gospel of Life," as a social encyclical and to include it in courses and symposiums on Catholic social thought.

John Paul practically invited us to do this by comparing abortion to the worker question of "Rerum Novarum." This single measure would be an enormous step in the right direction.


The Australian Federal Parliament is facing a conscience vote
               on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. (September 2006)

With the tabling of the Lockhart report and pressure from the scientific community to shift policy on this matter it may help to get the issue down to some basic points.

First, using embryonic stem cells for medical research is not a scientific question, but a moral one.

Science is good at telling us how to do things. It can tell us how to achieve certain ends and provide the means to do so. However, the decision as to whether those ends are good ends or whether the means to achieve them are ethical is not a scientific question.

Indeed, scientists have no special training in ethics and, as with anyone, their perspective on these issues can be tainted by a variety of factors: vainglory, pride, prospects of commercial gain. For example, scientists were good at telling us how to build nuclear weapons, but whether to use them or not is a moral, not a scientific, question. In the stem-cell debate is it easy to be dazzled by scientific claims and possibilities. These can never be the determiner of the debate.

Second, the key issue is and always will be the moral status of the embryo.

This is an issue on which the Lockhart report spent considerable time and effort. Yet here again science cannot determine an answer. Science is good at mapping various stages in the development of the embryo. But determining the moral status of the embryo cannot be separated from philosophical and metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality. Scientists often operate with quite primitive philosophical assumptions and, again, have no special training in this area.

Nonetheless, the scientific evidence they provide on the stages of development may be important for determining moral status. For example, there is some appreciation that the point of embryo development where its cells begin to separate to become the foetus and placenta is significant, but how significant is still an open question. And where such questions remain open moral caution may be called for.

Third, just because religious people hold a position does not make the position religious. Religious people hold to many things, for example, the value of marriage and the immorality of slavery. Most people hold these positions; they are not exclusive to religious people.

Many religious people hold to the position that an embryo has a claim to the status of a human being. However, this is not necessarily a religious position. The Bible says nothing about the moral status of the embryo. Neither do the other great teachings of the Christian tradition. Nonetheless, Christians do generally hold that embryos deserve the rights associated with human beings.

It has been in Christian societies that democracy and concern for human rights have emerged. Christian societies led the way in the abolition of slavery. It is not without aberrations, but in general the Judaeo-Christian heritage of the West has served it well as a moral guide in promoting positions we now take for granted.

Fourth, given there is no middle ground between respecting the rights of the embryo and not respecting them, the debate will not go away.

As with the abortion debate, it will be difficult to find any middle ground in this area. Either an embryo has the moral status of a human being or it does not. Clearly at some stage in its development we all accept that it does. The question, then, is when? If one accepts that the moral status begins at conception, then the use of embryos for experimentation, no matter how good the final goal, can never be justified.

Such a matter can never be just the subject of private opinion because we are talking about an issue of social policy. Attempts to make these moral issues a question of private morality are as spurious as claiming that slavery could be a private matter.

The Lockhart report claims that "in the face of moral diversity, it is unjustifiable to ban embryo research and therapeutic cloning". One might equally conclude that in the face of moral diversity extra caution is required before proceeding. Alternative possibilities exist, using adult stem cells.

The Federal Parliament was cautious in 2002 in establishing the present limitations on stem-cell research. Nothing substantial has changed since then.

Professor Neil Ormerod is director of the Institute of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at the Australian Catholic University.


"ethical" embryonic stem cells?

History or hype? This was the question swirling about the widely publicised announcement by a Massachusetts company that it had mastered a technique for creating "ethical" embryonic stem cells which could break the logjam in America's stem cell politics. Nature rushed its article into an on-line express edition. "We have demonstrated, for the first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without interfering with the embryo's potential for life," said lead author Robert Lanza.

The CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, William Caldwell, delivered the same message: "we do not destroy the embryo. That's the whole purpose of what we perceive to be a major scientific breakthrough." Ronald Green, a bioethicist at Dartmouth who heads ACT's Ethics Advisory Board, gave it his imprimatur. "This technique overcomes this [ethical] hurdle and has the potential to play a critical role in the advancement of regenerative medicine."

However, after Richard Doerflinger, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, dissected the Nature article it became painfully evident that the company's own press release -- to say nothing of media coverage around the world - was completely wrong. None of the embryos described in the paper had survived. Nature hastily corrected the wording of its own press release.

What Lanza's team had done was to biopsy an eight-cell human embryo and gently remove a single cell -- a standard technique nowadays in IVF. With this cell he created a stem cell line while the embryo continued to develop normally. At least that was what he intended. In fact, although 16 embryos were dismembered into 91 separate cells, Lanza produced only two stem cell lines. "It was a very disruptive, very wasteful, very inefficient procedure, and it left all the old embryos dead, just like the old method did," said Doerflinger. He also claimed that it was deceitful to post a picture of a mature healthy embryo which had survived the removal of a single cell.

Criticism. Dr Robert LanzaIn a rare moment of consensus on the controversial issue of embryonic stem cells, even supporters of therapeutic cloning dismissed Lanza's work. "A pitiful attempt to look morally acceptable, rather than do valuable science," sneered Glenn McGee, editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. Some critics compared Lanza's economy with the truth to the prevarications of disgraced Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk. Although this seems unfair, there is no doubt that the episode shows how credulous the media -- even leading scientific journals -- can be about therapeutic cloning. Lanza's work represented a small technical advance, but it hardly passed muster as a "breakthrough".

Media coverage. The media has a short memory. Only last year the ethics of this experiment had been thoroughly analysed in a major  but quickly buried -- white paper by the President's Council for Bioethics. It was criticised then for potentially harming the embryo. The Council also pointed out that the biopsied cell might be totipotent and could therefore be an embryo itself, raising further ethical problems.

Furthermore, Advanced Cell Technology has a track record as a publicity hound. A listed company which is perpetually in the red, it burst onto the front page back in 2001 claiming that it had cloned a human embryo and initiated a stem cell line. Nothing came of that extraordinary wave of publicity, but it no doubt put ACT scientists in the rolodexes of journalists across the world.

Significant advance. A development reported in BioEdge earlier this month was far more significant, even though it has been totally ignored by the media. Japanese scientists reported in another major journal, Cell, that they had reprogrammed an adult mouse cell and converted it into something closely resembling an embryonic stem cell. Scientists from the Harvard Stem Cell group grudgingly acknowledged in a commentary that it was a "significant step" "unencumbered by neither the logistical constraints nor the societal concerns presented by somatic cell nuclear transfer [ie, cloning]." If this success can be replicated with human cells, it might indeed transform America's stem cell politics.


Prenatal testing:

Powerful tools raise serious concerns

Making Sense 
Out of Bioethics 

Fr. Tad 

Each year, more and more prenatal technologies become available to pregnant women that allow them to test whether their children will be affected by certain diseases.

Approximately 450 conditions can currently be diagnosed in utero by testing fetal cells, often through chorionic villus sampling (early in the pregnancy) or through amniocentesis (later in the pregnancy). Based on some pending technologies, this number may soon skyrocket to nearly 6,000 diseases.

Such powerful medical tools raise some serious concerns: are prenatal testing results rapidly becoming the equivalent of death sentences for children in the womb? Prenatal testing does have its valid uses and applications, but the temptation to misuse it is a serious one, so the decision to carry out such testing must be made very carefully, and within a limited set of circumstances.

'Conspiracy of eugenics'

Kaiser Permanente, a large managed health care organization, offered a disturbing statistic regarding prenatal testing in a 2004 New York Times article. When their members in northern California tested their unborn children for cystic fibrosis, some of them tested positive. Of those parents who received a positive test result, a full 95 percent terminated their pregnancies.

When couples learn they have a child affected by Down's Syndrome, the figure is comparable. One argument made in favor of testing for various genetic defects is that the couple can then mentally prepare themselves better for what lies ahead once their child is born. But these sobering statistics indicate that, at least for some diseases, few children can run the gauntlet successfully.

Thus, while prenatal screening may seem to give couples more power, it often actually takes choices away. Society's demand for physical perfection places enormous pressure on couples to "conform to the norm" by aborting less-than-perfect children. When medical professionals advocate prenatal testing, the profession subtly communicates a message that there may be certain lives that are not worth living.

This quiet "conspiracy of eugenics" is beginning to reach to all levels of society, affecting even Catholics and others of a strongly pro-life persuasion. As Dr. John Larsen of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center put it in the same Times article: "People will come into my office in tears and say they've been against abortion their whole lives, but they'll make an exception for themselves [when their baby is affected]."

Moral guidelines

Against the backdrop of this widespread and growing societal pressure, how can we decide whether we should have prenatal testing done or not? Some basic moral guidelines can be of assistance:

First, if prenatal testing is done with the intention of having an abortion when a defect is discovered, such prenatal testing itself would constitute a gravely immoral kind of action. Even if no anomalies were found, but a mother and father carried out prenatal testing with the firm intention of aborting a defective child, they would be culpable for a seriously sinful decision, and, if they were Catholics, they would need to bring the matter to confession. The intention to commit a serious evil, even if not ultimately acted upon because of circumstances, constitutes grave sin.

Second, prenatal testing is permissible, indeed desirable, when done with the intention of providing early medical intervention to the child. For example, the life-threatening disease known as Krabbe's leukodystrophy can be successfully treated by a bone marrow transplant shortly after birth. If a diagnosis of the disease is made by prenatal testing, the family can initiate the search for a matched bone marrow sample even before the child is born. That way, valuable time can be saved, and the early intervention improves the likelihood of a good outcome.

Certain other diseases like spina bifida can be treated by doing microsurgery on the baby while still inside the womb. Prenatal testing which aims to provide diagnostic information to assist in the treatment of an in utero patient represents a morally praiseworthy use of this powerful technology.

Serene acceptance

Third, prenatal testing to help parents come to a more serene acceptance of a child with a permanent disability would also represent a morally legitimate use of this technology, provided the testing itself would pose minimal risk to the unborn child.

When a couple discovers they are pregnant, they should explicitly discuss the possibility that their child might have a disability. Such discussions, together with prenatal test results, can go a long way in helping them prepare for their child's birth.

There are various resources and Web sites devoted to offering hope, encouragement, and support to parents of children with special needs - especially those whose children are diagnosed with genetic conditions before birth.

A nonprofit organization called Prenatal Partners for Life ( was founded as a result of one mother's personal experience when she learned her child had a disability similar to Down's syndrome. She organized a network of compassionate, nurturing parents and medical professionals who offer emotional and practical support to parents who have learned that their child will have special needs. Such resources can be of great comfort and assistance to parents who receive an adverse diagnosis from prenatal testing.

Prenatal technologies are indeed powerful tools that must be used with great discernment and circumspection. When used appropriately, these technologies can be a real source of assistance to growing families. Those families that manifest an openness and receptivity to every child God sends them, regardless of their imperfections and ailments, provide a compelling and vitally important witness in our troubled times. Children with special needs certainly bring difficulties and challenges, but they also bring great graces, opening our eyes to deep and important truths about life and the meaning of unconditional love.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., and serves as the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa.


Vatican Criticizes New Stem Cell Procedure
It's Still Manipulation, Says Bishop Sgreccia

ROME, AUG. 28, 2006 ( A new procedure in embryonic stem cell research that does not destroy the human embryo is drawing criticisms from the Vatican and Catholic bioethicists.

The scientific review "Nature" reported last week the results of an experiment carried out by Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology Inc. in Alameda, California, in which stem cells were derived from a single-cell biopsy technique that left the human embryo intact. Earlier techniques destroyed the embryo.

Called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, this process is already used by in-vitro fertilization clinics to assess the genetic health of preimplantation embryos.

Tests were made on the extracted cells, and stable embryonic stem cells were developed, similar to those obtained from intact embryos which are destroyed in the process.

The Lanza group carried out the experiment, after testing it on mice, and on "spare" in vitro fertilization human embryos.

Artificial manipulation

Nevertheless, the new technique has yet to address the issue of manipulation that concerns Catholic bioethicists.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Sunday on Vatican Radio that "the announced experimentations continue to be in the terrain of in-vitro procreation, in the production of embryos in-vitro, or of cloning, or of artificial fertilization."

"That, from a point of view that is not only Catholic, but from a point of view of bioethical reasons, is a negative factor," he said.

"If the result expected -- to reproduce cells, not embryos, namely, only embryonic cells -- is the fruit of manipulation, of a process that otherwise would result in an embryo, the objection of an ethical standing remains entirely," Bishop Sgreccia said.

He said this because "such a result is obtained not by a biologically evolutionary process, but by an artificially produced process, so that it would be a question of 'artificiality upon artificiality.'"

Advanced Cell's method "doesn't solve the ethical problems" of manipulation, Sgreccia said.

The bishop also warned that such a "biopsy can also harm the embryo."

"Before being able to exclude all this, it is necessary to carry out appropriate experimentation on animals," he said.

Adult stem cells?

Bishop Sgreccia questioned the need to use human embryonic stem cells "when we already know that stem cells for therapeutic use can be obtained through normal stem cells of an adult individual, which we find in the umbilical cord or in different parts of the human body."

He continued: "A great race is on to undertake these experimentations on the human embryo, also because of the funds that are allocated, the obtaining of which makes the experimentation pass as exempt from ethical objections, even when there is no certainty of the scientific result.

"Nor can objections of an ethical character proper to this type of procedure be excluded."

Roberto Colombo, director of the laboratory of molecular biology and human genetics of the Catholic University of Milan, said that the "study does not state that the embryonic biopsy is a highly risky technique, as shown by all the reservations with which the preimplantational diagnosis is received," reported the Italian daily Avvenire.

"So the principle of the correct assessment of risks-benefits would be violated," he added.

The Italian newspaper observed, moreover, that no mention is made about the ultimate fate of the "spare embryos" used in the experiment.

"The fact that their fate is not that of being implanted in the uterus does not authorize anyone to consider them 'class B' citizens," Colombo said, "and, therefore, 'material' for experimentation."


Defending the "Holy Grail of Life"
Interview With Dr. Josep Simón, President of FIAMC

BARCELONA, Spain, AUG. 22, 2006 ( The International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations is helping to organize a world congress at the Vatican on the topic of stem cells.

The Sept. 14-16 congress, entitled "Stem Cells, What Therapeutic Future? Scientific Aspects and Bioethical Problems," will be held in conjunction with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

In this interview with ZENIT, Dr. Josep Simón Castellví, a surgeon and the president of the federation of medical associations (FIAMC), explained why research with embryonic stem cells is not ethical and discussed the therapeutic possibilities that exist with adult stem cells.

Q: What is the congress's objective on stem cells?

Simón: The congress, fruit of the work of my predecessor, Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli, is being held jointly with the Pontifical Academy for Life and seeks to shed light so that scientists and believers in general may acquire an exact idea of what has been called "the Holy Grail of life."

The human being is called to complete the world with his work, to fill the planet with other human beings with whom he lives harmoniously. However, the human being cannot and must not imitate God. This is always very dear. And it is money, along with scientific arrogance and at times a false sensation of doing good to humanity, that research is carried out with human embryos.

Q: In what cases are therapeutic applications with stem cells morally acceptable?

Simón: Embryonic stem cells exist to configure the embryo. Adult stem cells exist precisely to regenerate tissues. If we confuse this, we will develop bad science.

And, at present, only adult cells give results -- for example, in the treatment of some leukemias, heart attacks, etc. Other stem cells, such as those of the umbilical cord, have positive prospects though they are still to be seen.

Q: Apart from the "no" to therapies that use embryonic stem cells, are there other ethically worrying cases?

Simón: Science must not be apocalyptic, in the sense of always seeing the risks of scientific advances. However, it must be realistic and accept only what is acceptable.

Because the obtaining of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of the embryo, that is why we cannot accept either its use or its research. Moreover, these cells are coordinated by a very complex mechanism that, if not well controlled, gives place to aberrant growths, tumors, etc. This is the reality.

Q: You have been elected recently president of FIAMC. What are the priorities the federation will have in the forthcoming years?

Simón: My priorities are those of the Church, of the Pope, and some are my own priorities, which are Africa and the preferential option for mothers -- neither exclusive nor excluding, but preferential.

Thousands upon thousands of mothers die every year in childbirth for lack of medical care. And thousands and thousands of families suffer because of the sufferings of mothers before, during or after childbirth.


Aborting the British: Calls Mount for a Change to 1967 Law

LONDON, JULY 29, 2006 ( Official data for 2005 show a slight increase in abortion for England and Wales. The total number of abortions on women resident in the two areas was 186,416, compared with 185,700 a year earlier, a rise of 0.4%, according to information published July 4 by the Department of Health.

In addition, last year there were 7,937 abortions for non-residents of England and Wales, mostly women from Ireland, which takes the overall total for the year to 194,353. The great majority of abortions, 89%, were carried out before 13 weeks gestation; 67% were before 10 weeks. There were 137 abortions carried out for pregnancies beyond the 24th week.

Overall, the abortion rate was 17.8 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44. In terms of age distribution the abortion rate was highest, at 32.0 per 1,000, for women in the 20-24 age group.

The government, through the National Health Service, paid for 84% of abortions carried out in 2005. The majority, 79%, were carried out on single women, a proportion that has been on the rise since 1995, when it was at about two-thirds.

"The high percentage of abortions -- 66% -- within the first nine weeks of pregnancy is clear evidence, if any were needed, that abortion is provided on demand in the UK," said Julia Millington of the ProLife Alliance. "And the marked increase in the number of early abortions make[s] it difficult to regard this as anything other than abortion being treated as a method of contraception," she added in her reaction to the data in a press release July 4.

Another concern raised over the figures regards abortions carried out on young girls. In 2005 there were 1,083 abortions performed on girls under age 15. The Department of Health grouped together the statistics for the last three years regarding abortions on girls under age 14. In 2003-2005, there were 33 abortions performed on girls under age 13, and 409 abortions on girls aged 13.

"It is shameful that the government should promote secret abortions for girls under the age of consent and insist that their parents aren't told," said John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection for Unborn Children (SPUC).

Smeaton decried the pressure on doctors to maintain strict secrecy regarding abortions for young girls. In a SPUC press release dated July 5, Smeaton stated: "The Department of Health wrongly claims that health professionals are required by law and by their professional code of conduct to provide children under the age of 16 the same confidentiality as people over the age of 16."

Eugenic motive

The official figures also revealed that 1,900 abortions were under "ground E" of the law, which permits abortion if there is a risk that the child would be born handicapped. The Department of Health revealed that chromosomal abnormalities were reported for about 39% of cases under ground E, and congenital malformations in about 45%.

Down syndrome represented 22% of all ground-E cases and was the most commonly reported chromosomal abnormality. Some of the data for ground-E cases was not released on an annual basis, due to the small numbers involved. In the years 2003-2005, there were 11 abortions with a principal medical condition of the congenital malformations cleft lip and/or cleft palate.

The issue of abortions in the case of cleft palates received widespread attention in 2004, when Anglican cleric Joanna Jepson took the police to court in an unsuccessful effort to bring to justice doctors responsible for the abortion of a 28-week-old unborn baby with the condition.

Another notable item detailed in the statistics was the level of women who have more than one abortion. In each year of the 2003-2005 period, 32% of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous abortions. This proportion has risen from about 28% since 1995.

Increase in Scotland

Statistics recently released also show abortion on the rise in Scotland. A total of 12,603 abortions were carried out in 2005, the BBC reported May 24. This was 142 more than the previous year, and is the highest level since abortion was legalized in 1967. Some 3,304 abortions were carried out on women and girls under 20, and of these 341 were for girls under 16.

Commenting on the data in the Sunday Times on May 28, Katie Grant observed that abortion continues to increase despite all the millions of pounds spent on sex education programs, and despite contraception being freely available. Abortion, she noted, "is no longer being used as a last resort but is increasingly treated as just another form of contraception."

The official reaction to abortion does not help the situation, added Grant. All the government does is to promote more and more explicit sex education and to hand out ever greater numbers of condoms, she commented. This ignores the emotional scars of abortion on young girls. "Indeed," Grant observed, "it could be argued that encouraging a girl under 16 to have an abortion is a particular type of abuse."

In the face of high levels of abortion, calls have been made for a change in the law. In June, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor did just that when he met with the secretary of state for health, Patricia Hewitt. The archbishop of Westminster told Hewitt that it was time for Parliament to review the 1967 Abortion Act amid mounting concerns at the frequency and number of abortions, according to an archdiocesan press release dated June 21.

During the meeting the cardinal cited opinion polls showing that most women in Britain want the law tightened to make it harder to terminate a pregnancy.

"This is not primarily a religious issue," stated Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. "It is a human issue. Abortion is the wrong answer to fear and insecurity. As a society we need to look at ways of supporting women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.

"People know, perhaps instinctively, that the goodness of a society is known not by its wealth but by the way which it treats the most vulnerable of human beings, the ones with little or no claim on public attention."

Blair troubled

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would support a debate on the law on abortion because he is "troubled" by the current legislation, the Sunday Times reported June 18. Blair's view on the issue came after a private meeting held Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

Nevertheless, "The government has no plans to change the law on abortion," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, according to a June 21 report by the BBC.

On July 3 the BBC reported that more than 60 British members of Parliament have signed a Commons motion backing a review of the abortion law, given the scientific and medical changes since it was drawn up in 1967. Phil Willis, chair of the science and technology committee in the Commons, said the issue should be looked at again, warning it was unwise to ignore changing circumstances.

In the meantime, efforts by activists to use some of the more graphic tactics common in other countries to protest abortion have run into legal obstacles. Edward Atkinson, a 74-year-old pro-life campaigner was jailed for four weeks after sending "offensive" pictures of mutilated fetuses through the mail, reported the Independent newspaper on May 8. The photos showed severed limbs and a fetus without its head.

The target of the photos, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, also punished Atkinson, by removing him from a waiting list for a hip replacement. Showing people the graphic results of laws that allow the killing of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies is, it seems, too much for British sensibilities.


Gustav Nossal: Cures, not clones, will flow from medical technologies

On the eve of tomorrow's COAG meeting, Gustav Nossal suggests that the door should not be closed on the next step in stem cell science.   July 13, 2006

In the four years since the commonwealth legislated to allow embryonic stem cell research, Australian scientists have taken a huge leap forward and are at the forefront of this global endeavour. Knowledge in fields such as diabetes and diseases of the blood, heart, lung and breast has advanced, and the legislation has allowed improvements in in-vitro fertilisation technology, resulting in higher success rates.

Embryonic stem cell research is rich in promise. It has already demonstrated its potential in the study of disease causation, in development of new diagnostic methods and in basic research. In the longer term, the possibility of new therapies for serious diseases is real, though this will be the work of decades rather than of years.

Australia's prominence in the field was the result of a conscience vote in the federal parliament in 2002. How can we ensure that our scientists stay in their leadership position? Stem cell science has advanced to the point where it is pushing against the boundaries of the existing legislation. It is time for the next step. This involves a marvellous new tool, validated in experimental animals, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which has become controversial because the first steps resemble those involved in cloning (for example, the sheep Dolly). No responsible scientist would contemplate cloning a human being, so why do we want SCNT?

In this technique, a single cell, for example a skin cell, is taken from a person, say a patient with a particular disease. A second cell, namely an egg cell, is obtained from an unrelated woman, usually as a spare egg from an IVF program. The egg's nucleus is removed and the nucleus of the skin cell inserted in its stead.

Then the egg is coaxed to divide and eventually embryonic stem cells genetically similar to the skin cell donor are developed. The first application of these methods would be to study the genesis of the disease in question and to test new pharmaceuticals as possible treatments.

When research has advanced to the stage where curing a disease by a stem cell transplant is possible (and I stress this is well into the future), SCNT could be used to ensure that the transplanted cells, genetically matched to the patient in question, would not be rejected by the immune system, thus removing a formidable obstacle.

Recognising that embryo research was a sensitive area, the commonwealth Government appointed former Federal Court judge John Lockhart to conduct a review and to make recommendations. His committee received more than 1000 submissions, met people of every shade of opinion on the science and ethics of human embryo research, and gave due consideration to societal values and the public good. Lockhart's committee consisted of distinguished and highly qualified Australians from the fields of science, law and ethics, including a Nobel laureate. Sadly, Lockhart died soon after his report was handed down. The report put forward 54 recommendations, including one permitting SCNT under strict conditions.

To the considerable surprise of the scientific community, this key element of the report appears to have been initially rejected by the federal cabinet, although Prime Minister John Howard has kept the door ajar by agreeing to an informed discussion in the Coalition partyroom next month. Tomorrow, the Lockhart report will be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Lockhart is not alone in his views. SCNT is allowed in 10 countries and the report's proposals closely mirror existing British legislation. The biggest concern of SCNT opponents is that scientists may use it for reproductive purposes. In fact, Australian scientists fundamentally oppose reproductive cloning. Moreover, the matter can and should be clearly and firmly addressed, with precise legislation and a rigorous licensing system.

Reproductive cloning is abhorrent and must be banned outright.

The situation has some similarities to the debate in the 1970s on IVF, again a field in which Australia was a pivotally important leader in research. In 2006, IVF is an accepted part of our lives, and this previous example demonstrates the virtue of an acceptable legislative framework to support emerging scientific technologies.

As a Catholic, I deeply value my nine years at a Jesuit school, and my career as a medical scientist has further deepened my respect and reverence for human life. Embedded in this value is the belief that everyone should be given the opportunity to live as free from serious illness as medical science can ensure.

I do not know whether or when stem cell science will provide the breakthroughs we so earnestly hope for. I do know that the history of science shows that significant discoveries assiduously followed sooner or later provide practical benefits.

I am proud of Australia's achievements in medical research. Our scientists would bring to the study of SCNT cell lines the imagination and resourcefulness so characteristic of Australia's medical research. Australian legislators must now decide whether our scientists will be allowed to keep pace with the world's best or whether they will gradually fall behind. Here's hoping for a change of heart at the highest political level in the land.

Gustav Nossal, Australian of the Year in 2000, is professor emeritus in the department of pathology at the University of Melbourne.


THE VATICAN has condemned the European Parliament for voting to publicly finance embryonic stem cell experiments, calling the decision “thick-headed secularism in violation of human dignity”.

By a narrow 35-vote margin, the Strasbourg-based body on 15 June approved a 50 billion euro budget for scientific research during the period 2007 to 2013, known as the “Seventh Framework Programme”.

The vote – 284 in favour, 249 against, and 32 abstentions – came after heated debate over whether the European Union should finance stem cell research, only one of 10 research fields – including health, energy and the environment – covered by the programme. The budget needs to gain political approval from national ministers in the European Council before the end of the year, after which it will return to the Parliament for a second reading.

Catholic groups across Europe – including the Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Union (Comece) – united with the Vatican in denouncing the parliamentary decision.

In the first of two scathing editorials, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the vote reflected a “blind secularism” in Europe that denied “the religious convictions of the majority” of citizens and “the very principles inscribed in human nature”.
Robert Mickens at the Vatican


Cardinal Seeks Review of Britain's Abortion Law
Tells Health Secretary It's a "Human Issue"

LONDON, JUNE 21, 2006 ( Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor met with the British health secretary to discuss abortion reform and the way bioethical decisions are reached in the United Kingdom.

The archbishop of Westminster told Patricia Hewitt in the private meeting today that it was time for Parliament to review the 1967 Abortion Act in the face of mounting concern in the country at the frequency and number of abortions.

"This is not primarily a religious issue. It is a human issue," the cardinal said. "Abortion is the wrong answer to fear and insecurity. As a society we need to look at ways of supporting women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy."

According to a statement released by his press office, the cardinal believes that the abortion legislation needs re-examining by Parliament, as was recommended last year in a report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

The cardinal's meeting with the health secretary follows polls showing that most women in Britain want the law tightened to make it harder to end a pregnancy.

"There are now 190,000 abortions each year -- more than 20% of all pregnancies in the UK," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said. "There is substantial and growing disquiet in Britain at the numbers of abortions. Our laws should reflect this disquiet."

Bioethics commission

The cardinal also urged Health Secretary Hewitt to back his call for a national bioethics commission, of the sort that exists in most Western European countries, as well as Australia and the United States.

The cardinal believes that the current mechanisms are inadequate for dealing with ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies such as embryonic stem-cell research and genetic screening of embryos used in in-vitro fertilization.

Currently, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority and other regulatory bodies give out licenses after deliberating on ethical questions behind closed doors.

"There is public disquiet at the lack of openness and consultation over important ethical issues affecting the future of society," the cardinal said.

The cardinal believes that a single statutory body is needed to provide authoritative guidance to Parliament and the government, and to help raise awareness in the media and in society at large of the complex issues involved.

"Science is speeding ahead of our capacity for reflection," he said. "We need a far broader public debate about these vital questions, which touch on the very origin and sanctity of life."


Abortion cruel, law should change: British poll

Most British people believe that too many abortions are being carried out and want the toll reduced, according to a poll commissioned by a British pro-life group.

Independent Catholic News reports that another key finding is that women overwhelmingly want Government money spent on charities offering alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.

The poll, carried out by CommunicateResearch for the campaigning group Choose Life, found that 85 per cent want to see more help given to women who want to keep their baby rather than further moves to make abortion easier.

The poll suggests that women will not be satisfied with a simple reduction in the upper time limit of 24 weeks if that simply results in an increase in early abortions. Most want to see fewer terminations overall and wider availability of alternatives to abortion.

Seventy-eight per cent of women want a compulsory cooling-off period between diagnosis of pregnancy and any abortion. 96 per cent of women want a right to be fully informed of the medical risks associated with abortion.

Tory leader David Cameron and his predecessor Michael Howard have both backed calls for a lower limit and the leader of the UK Church Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is to meet Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt next week to press for a tightening of the law.

Meanwhile, a Vatican foreign affairs official has called on members of the United Nations' new Human Rights Council to demonstrate their commitment to upholding human dignity by defending the right to life and religious freedom.

Catholic News Service reports that Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo was representing the Vatican at the inaugural meeting starting this week of the new 47-member council charged with monitoring the human rights situation around the world.

Archbishop Lajolo told the Council that recognition of the dignity and value of each human being is at the basis of all human rights and of all peaceful social orders.

The first human right, he said, is "the right to life from the first moment of human existence, that is, from the moment of conception."

Human beings have value, dignity and rights simply because they exist, he said. Their value and rights are not based on what they produce or the relationships they have.

After the right to life, Archbishop Lajolo said, the right to freedom of religion and conscience is the next important because it concerns the most intimate part of a person's being and expresses his or her relationship to God.

The Archbishop also called on wealthy nations to respect the human rights of every person living in their country, "including immigrants."


Renowned neonatologist claims fetuses feel pain

Fetuses do feel pain, according to Professor KJS Anand, a renowned neonatologist from the University of Kansas, who proved during the 1980s that newborns feel pain.

In his latest study reported in the June 2006 issue of "Pain Clinical Updates," official review of the International Association for the Study of Pain, Professor Anand reports that fetuses also feel pain as well, possibly even before late pregnancy.

Zenit reports that Professor Anand's conclusions are supported by Professor Carlo Bellieni, neonatologist of Intensive Neonatal Therapy at Sienna's Le Scotte University Polyclinic, who commented that the "scientific evidence on the fetal pain" found in the study comes from "the highest world authority" on the topic.

According to Anand, the study was carried out because "fetal pain has so many implications that it requires a scientific appraisal independent of the heated controversies regarding abortion, women's rights, or the beginnings of human life."

"In a careful analysis of fetal behavior that relies upon memory and learning as the highest-order evidence for psychological function in utero," it can be "concluded that conscious sensory perception does occur in the fetus," he said.

"Abortion," the article states, "or fetal surgery provoke robust behavioral and physiological responses not unlike the fetal responses to other aversive stimuli."

Anand is also critical of work that casts doubt on prenatal pain based on the peculiarity of the fetus' nervous system.


Myths and Realities of the Abortion Pill
Neither Safe Nor Sure, Argues a New Book

ROME, JUNE 10, 2006 ( One of the first acts of Italy's new government was to announce the go-ahead for trials using abortion pills. The pills go under a variety of names, including mifespristone, Mifeprex and RU-486. Health Minister Livia Turco announced that a number of hospitals would be able to import the pills for experimentation, reported the daily Corriere della Sera on May 23.

The decision reverses the previous government's prohibition of the trials, following a debate over the issue last year.

The announcement drew immediate protests. Francesco D'Agostino, president of the National Bioethics Committee, while not going so far as to completely condemn the use of the abortion pill, noted that contrary to first appearances the pill is not all that safe for women and that its use involves objective risks.

A May 24 editorial in the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, declared that the decision adds another weapon to the anti-life arsenal. It also criticized the haste with which the decision was taken, and the lack of any effort to listen to contrasting opinions on such a contentious issue.

Italy's decision comes as concerns over RU-486 are growing in the United States. The pill has been linked to four deaths in California and one in Canada. The deaths were the result of bacterial infections, facilitated, according to a number of experts, by the use of the pill.

On May 11 scientists gathered to discuss what role the abortion pill might have played in the deaths, reported the Associated Press that day. Opinions were divided, according to the report, with some holding that the use of RU-486 enabled the spread of the bacteria, and others calling for more research before being able to make a decision.

Higher risk of death

James McGregor, an obstetrics professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, said the risk of death from medical abortions such as those caused by the pill is 1 in 80,000. This is significantly higher than the 1 in 1 million risk from surgical abortions. "I recommend we reduce or eliminate mifespristone, or at least consider that," McGregor was quoted as saying by the AP.

In Congress, the House subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources also heard evidence regarding the dangers involved with the pill, the Washington Post reported May 17.

"Considering the evidence we have of deaths and serious side effects, the maker of this drug should have taken it off the market long ago," said Michelle Gress, counsel to the subcommittee and spokeswoman for its chairman, Mark Souder.

Souder is one of 83 co-sponsors of a bill that would force the drug off the market. The bill goes under the name of "Holly's Law," after Holly Patterson, an 18-year-old Californian who died of an infection after using the pill.

According to a briefing paper prepared by the House subcommittee's staff, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "has acknowledged the deaths of eight women associated with the drug, nine life-threatening incidents, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infection." The briefing paper noted that these and other cases add up to a total of 950 adverse event reports as of March 31.

Concern over RU-486 even came from an unlikely source: a New York Times editorial. The reports of women's deaths, the April 10 editorial commented, "are making the regimen based on RU-486 look a lot less attractive than once thought."

Australia and UK approval

In spite of mounting evidence of the pill's dangerous side effects, plans are under way for the importation of RU-486 into Australia. Earlier this year the federal Parliament took away the health minister's power to block imports of the pill, handing it over to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian equivalent of the FDA.

According to a report in Tuesday's Courier Mail, a newspaper in the state of Queensland, local women will be the first in the country to have access to RU-486. Caroline de Costa, an obstetrician based in the town of Cairns, declared she has received approval to make the pill available from next month. De Costa plans to import supplies of RU-486 from New Zealand.

Meanwhile, in Britain, figures revealed that the pills accounted for 10,000 abortions in 2005. The data came from BPAS (formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service), the country's largest abortion provider, the Times newspaper reported May 29. The pills accounted for nearly a third of the 32,000 abortions BPAS provided last year to women in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

BPAS Chief Executive Ann Furedi replied to criticisms over the widespread use of the abortion pill. Quoted in an article published Monday on the Web site "Spiked," Furedi declared the drug to be a "safe, reliable, effective method of medical abortion."


Not so, says a book published this week in Italy: "La favola dell'aborto facile: Miti e realt? della pillola RU486" (The Fable of Easy Abortion: Myths and Realities of the RU-486 Pill).

The well-documented book highlights an interesting phenomenon in Italy: a growing alliance between feminists and pro-lifers. Co-author Eugenia Roccella comes from a strongly left-wing, non-religious background. She was also a key figure in the women's liberation movement in Italy in the 1970s. The other co-author, Assuntina Morresi, is a pro-life Catholic.

The two united forces to publish the book, which brings together the latest information on the dangers posed by use of the abortion pill, both physical and psychological.

A key objective of the book is to dispel the notion that using the abortion pill is some sort of easy solution. Some pro-lifers fear that the pill makes abortion too convenient. And those in favor of abortion defend it as an easier alternative to a surgical procedure.

In fact, Roccella and Morresi explain, abortions procured by chemical means are more drawn out, difficult and uncertain than the surgical alternative. Using the abortion pill requires repeated visits to a clinic. And only in 3% of cases does the abortion take place within 48 hours of taking the first pill, according to FDA data.

The pill also normally causes symptoms such as abdominal pains and cramps, nausea, hemorrhages, headaches and vomiting. The most painful part of the process, when the fetus is finally expelled from the mother's body, can last for hours.

According to the authors, a conservative estimate of the number of deaths worldwide due to chemical abortions reached 13 (as of late March). The real number could be higher, the book notes, since in general the media have preferred to turn a blind eye to reporting the deaths and other problems due to the pill.

The side effects of the pill are more than physical. Many women, 56% according to a study cited in the book, actually see the corpse of the aborted fetus. This traumatic experience can trigger nightmares and flashbacks in women. If the pill doesn't prove fatal first.


Human Embryos Not Objects, Say Europe's Bishops
Destructive Research Does Not Respect Life

BRUSSELS, JUNE 2, 2006 ( Research that requires the destruction of human embryos is "not compatible with human dignity," say the bishops of Europe.

The bishops made this statement following the adoption of the budget for research and technology development for 2007-2013 by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Union, which allows for funding for research on embryonic stem cells.

The budget, which forms part of the report on the Seventh Framework Program, will be submitted for a final vote during the next plenary session in Strasbourg, on June 14th.

"We reiterate our objection to EU-funding of research implying the destruction of human embryos," said the communiqué of the Executive Committee of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community.

"Such research raises fundamental ethical and anthropological concerns," the bishops said.

The statement continues: "Treating the human embryo as an object for research is not compatible with human dignity.

"The EU should concentrate its joint research efforts on the many other promising areas of research, also in other kinds of stem cell research, which offer promise.

"By taking such a decision the EU would show that it respects the fundamental values and grounds upon which some member states prohibit or restrict this research out of respect for the inviolability of human life and its dignity."

The communiqué is signed by the following prelates:

Bishop Adrianus van Luyn
Bishop of Rotterdam

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin

Bishop Piotr Jarecki
Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw


 Mommy, what did you do during the war?
By Daniel Mansueto  
Tuesday, 30 May 2006

A war is being waged in Asia against unborn girls. Why aren't more people enlisting to fight for them?

“Daddy, what did you do during the war?” is the challenge in question form that the baby boomer generation rhetorically put to its fathers. When raised by an adult who has never known war, the question comes off as a smug accusation. Yet it serves the salutary function of reminding us that we can expect to be asked one day to render an account, and to be judged on how we acted when confronted with the great life and death issues of our day.

With the question in mind of what should be done during a war, let us consider the untraditional but very bloody war that is being waged today in Asia against unborn girls. The introduction of sonogram technology in Asia has resulted in the practice of aborting girls there en masse. In China, for example, recent statistics indicate that for every 100 girls that were born, 117 boys were born1. It is said that if this disparity continues, by 2020 -- only 14 years from now -- there will be 40 million more men than women in China (which correlates to millions more girls than boys killed)2.

India has a similar problem. One study that includes a survey of the literature notes that Indian demographers have found a “stark shift towards excessively masculine sex ratios at birth between 1981 and 1991 from near normal” to as high as 124 boys per 100 girls in urban areas3. Why is this happening? The study reports that in India “[l]ocal studies and surveys show that the use of new techniques to detect the sex of the foetus followed by the termination of a female pregnancy has become common among educated and less educated, rich and poor and in rural and urban areas.” This same study reports that “[d]emographic studies in China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam since the mid-1980s have uniformly shown an increasing rise in the proportion of male births and confirmed that access to sex identification and abortion facilities is widespread and permits new forms of intervention before birth.”4

One should not imagine that these millions of unborn Asian girls are being aborted in the first trimester of pregnancy. Nearly all the abortions that are done to “weed out” girls in Asia are gruesome late term abortions of viable or nearly viable babies. We know this because generally a sonogram exam cannot determine the sex of an unborn child before the 16th week of pregnancy and in some cases cannot do so until the 20th week or later.

The practice of aborting only girls focuses thought on the victims of abortion and gives those victims an identity. They are not just “foetuses,” they are girls. Few would deny that the use of abortion in the service of search and destroy missions aimed at girls subjects girls to a terrible injustice. But what is the injustice? Is it the discrimination or is it the abortion? Even a moment's reflection leads to the inescapable conclusion that the real injustice is not that girls are selected but abortion itself. What is worse, wanting a boy or killing a girl? The only way to preserve both the "right to an abortion" and sex equality is to kill more unborn baby boys. This of course would not save a single girl but, rather, would only increase the killing of boys to even the score.

One would think that feminists would have something to say about sex selection abortion given that its victims are almost exclusively female. However, while there have been women who have spoken out about the matter, the war on unborn girls is on the far, far back burner of the agendas of activist women on the left -- if it is on those agendas at all.

Hillary Clinton’s remarks to the plenary session of the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women are an example of how the issue is not on the radar screen of American left-leaning activist women when it comes to international feminist concerns. In those remarks Ms. Clinton said “it is time to break our silence” and speak out about wrongs directed specifically at women, such as infanticide, the sale of women into prostitution, violence directed at women whose dowries are deemed too small, the rape of women as a tactic of war, domestic violence, and coerced abortion5. While alluding to a “history of silence” concerning these problems, Ms Clinton choose to remain silent herself about the use of sex selection abortion to effect the slaughter of millions of unborn girls6.

But what can feminists like Ms Clinton say about sex selection abortion given their commitment to the so-called “right to an abortion”? Some feminists on the left say, not very loudly, that sex selection abortion is wrong, and is permissible to outlaw, because it discriminates based on sex. However, they cannot vigorously assert this argument without jeopardising the “right to an abortion” because the logic of the argument completely undermines that so-called “right.” If an unborn girl has the right not to be discriminated against, she necessarily also has the more fundamental right to life. And if unborn girls have the right to life, it necessarily follows that all unborn children, whether male or female, have the same right.

Others have also noted the silence that surrounds the practice of sex selection abortion and the reason for that silence. A paper published by the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics states that the practice is “a particularly pernicious form of sex discrimination” but notes “with some sadness” that “almost thirty years of progress on the matter of sexual inequality has not led to any firm public policy proposals to put an end to sex control in the United States or abroad.”7 According to this source, the reason for this is that “it was widely argued by many feminist-oriented scholars as well as other liberal thinkers that any legal or policy actions taken against abortion for sex control would put the abortion right itself at risk.” 8

Given the renowned commitment of pro-choice feminists to abortion and the far- reaching pro-life implications of any argument against sex selection abortion, it is sadly predictable that pro-choice feminists raise no loud protest against the extermination of the female gender in Asia. Men and women bear equal responsibility for ending this extermination (and all other abortion). But if feminism means anything it means protecting interests that are unique to the female gender. And what greater interest does the female gender uniquely have than that of being defended against systematic extermination? Incredible as it may seem, pro-choice feminists believe there is a greater interest and that that greater interest is abortion -- the very means by which the war of extermination against the female gender is being conducted. What other conclusion can be drawn from their silence concerning sex selection abortion? The practice of aborting girls in Asia supplements an older tradition of infanticide that for millennia was practiced against girls and disabled children. It is beyond ironic that there are feminists who aggressively support a means of extending and perpetuating this barbaric ancient tradition on a mass scale.

The silence about what is happening in Asia is not consistent with any ideology that seeks to protect the female gender but it is entirely consistent with the “it’s all about me” ethos that underlies the ideology of abortion. So that an American woman can be sure that a child will never impinge on her “lifestyle” or career plans, nothing must be said of the slaughter of countless millions of girls in India, China and elsewhere in the world. And so it is that when faced with a genocidal war on girls -- not a figurative war, but a real war where real, live eighteen and twenty week old girls are being singled out and killed in very large numbers solely for the sin of being female -- pro-choice feminists are AWOL.

Mommy, what did you do during the war?

Daniel Mansueto is an attorney and the President of the Board of Directors of the East Los Angeles Pregnancy Center.


(1) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics, discussed at 1/03 meeting.
(2) Laurel Bossen, Forty Million Missing Girls: Land, Population Controls and Sex Imbalance In Rural China, ZNET (October 7, 2005). Martin Walker, "The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration", Foreign Policy (March/April 2006), p. 61.
(3) Elisabeth J. Croll, Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women, Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2001), p. 228.
(4) Croll, "Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women".
(5) First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks For The United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women.
(6) Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks For The United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women".
(7) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.
(8) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.


Moms as Genetic Outlaws
Some Women Resist Pressure to Abort the Less-Than-Perfect

PARRAMATTA, Australia, MAY 27, 2006 ( Society increasingly demands perfection, and babies diagnosed with problems are aborted more often than not. Some women, however, resist the pressure and bear children who suffer disabilities.

The stories of a number of these women are brought together by Australian researcher and activist Melinda Tankard Reist in a book titled, "Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics" (Spinifex Press). First-person testimonies comprise the bulk of the book.

In her opening essay Tankard Reist, founding director of Women's Forum Australia, gives an overview of the women who confront a society fearful of disability and who decide to have babies without the genetic stamp of approval. "They are, in a sense, genetic outlaws," she states.

The experience of some of the women also raises doubts over the medical profession. Some received grave diagnoses regarding their unborn children. Later, these children were born, either without any problems, or with handicaps that were much less serious than predicted. Some doctors even refused to help women who refused to abort children who were diagnosed with disabilities.

In fact, with increasing frequency women's desires are ignored. Tankard Reist recounts the case of one woman who didn't wish to be informed of any possible problems before she underwent an ultrasound procedure. On taking the image home she found on the image, nevertheless, a series of annotations of possible abnormalities. The baby was later born free of any of the conditions mentioned.

The upshot, the researcher states, is that prenatal screening, instead of giving women more power -- part of the rhetoric of the "right to choose" -- in practice puts pressure on them to conform to social prejudices against the handicapped.

The a-word

Also looming is another, more insidious, danger with genetic testing. Screening and abortion become merely a part of the routine prenatal program, Tankard Reist argues. Prior to prenatal testing the possibility of abortion might not even be mentioned and when problems are detected a full explanation of the options available might not be given.

Such was the case of Natalie Withers. Her fourth baby was diagnosed with heart problems and other conditions. She told Tankard Reist that the term "abortion" was not even mentioned; there was merely talk of "inducing birth" -- at 20 weeks gestation. Only when Withers was in labor was she informed that the baby might either be stillborn or die immediately. Not until after it was all over -- the baby didn't survive -- did Withers discover that children born with her daughter's condition can survive and do well if they receive the right care.

Women, then, can become victims after innocently going along with the attitude of "doctor knows best." Only too late do they discover that their own interests and preferences are passed over in favor of the conventional wisdom of perfect children, says Tankard Reist. And once they wake up to what is going on, even well-educated women can find the going difficult if they choose to go against the preferences of medical experts.

Often the information given to women is slanted in such a way as to encourage abortion. In many cases parents are not directed to groups that would help them to understand better the nature of the disabilities involved. That in turn makes it difficult for them to know how their child might fare or what support is available.

Other difficulties involve coping with the trauma and anxiety of test results that show possible problems. Tankard Reist cites a number of studies showing that many woman who are told their children suffer from defects suffer from serious shock, distress and panic. These psychological pressures can even affect the mother's well-being, and that of the unborn child.

The dangers involve physical risks too. Some observers question, for example, the frequent use of ultrasound machines without an adequate evaluation of the negative consequences. And amniocentesis, in which a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken from the mother's womb for analysis, can lead to the loss of the baby in 1 in 125 pregnancies, according to one meta-analysis cited in the book. Another study showed that this procedure caused up to four healthy babies to be miscarried for every abnormality detected.

Sometimes the tests are simply wrong. A study of 300 fetal autopsies found that the prenatal hypothesis concerning problems was confirmed in only 39% of the cases.


The eugenic mentality behind the practice of aborting handicapped children is sometimes more blatant. One survey of obstetricians in England and Wales, for example, found that a third of them require a woman, even before she undergoes prenatal diagnosis, to agree to abort a pregnancy if the child were found to have a problem.

Behind such a practice lurks the belief that allowing these children to be born would burden them with second-rate lives and bring misery into the world. This gives rise to a form of new eugenics masquerading under the appearance of health concerns, Tankard Reist warns. People who follow such a line of reasoning, she adds, might end up acquiescing to the selection and elimination of less-than-perfect children, a sort of infanticide.

Such a mentality mirrors the increased desire for perfection in today's society. Other manifestations of this trend include excessive dieting and the ever-spreading use of cosmetic surgery. A number of prominent geneticists and ethicists, including figures such as James Watson and Peter Singer, openly favor the use of genetic techniques to design more perfect babies.

Ever-higher health costs also contribute to the pressure on mothers to abort the handicapped. Parents who decide not to abort imperfect children are sometimes made to feel irresponsible for "burdening" society.

Tankard Reist cites Australian geneticist Grant Sutherland, who reckoned that preventing the birth of a child with Down syndrome saves the community a million dollars or more. He has urged governments to set up public clinics to screen pregnant women.

This financial pressure extends to other areas, such as the increasing difficulties faced by people with genetic defects in obtaining life insurance, or permission to adopt children.

Healthy Harrison

A report in last Sunday's London-based Telegraph newspaper highlighted the relevance of the problems raised in "Defiant Birth." Lisa Green was 35 weeks pregnant when her baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and she was offered an abortion by doctors.

The doctor, recounted Green, only disclosed the negative aspects of giving birth to the child. She rejected the advice, and two weeks later gave birth to a baby, named Harrison, now 2 years old. He is, said the newspaper, a "happy and healthy" child, according to the mother.

In an editorial published the same day, the Telegraph referred to the practice of aborting babies in a very late stage of pregnancy. "It is very difficult," it said, "if not impossible, to explain what makes these 'terminations' different from the killing of children." Such killings will continue, so long as the new eugenics mentality prevails.

* * *

[As part of a worldwide promotion, Melinda Tankard Reist's book "Defiant Birth" will be presented in Rome on June 1 at 5:45 p.m. in the Art Museum of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Via Acciaioli 2]


 When lives are expendable       
By Matthew Mehan  
Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Leading American journalist Ramesh Ponnuru analyses the current state of the right to life in politics, universities, the courts, and the press in this exclusive interview.

The abortion issue has been the elephant in the living room for the last 30 years of public discourse in the United States.  In his riveting new book released this week, "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life", Ramesh Ponnuru deals with right to life issues that have kicked up blinding ethical clouds in the press, including Terri Schiavo, stem cell research, freedom of conscience for politicians, Supreme Court nominee battles, and especially the abortion debate. Mr Ponnuru is a senior editor for the journal National Review and often appears on US current affairs programs.

MercatorNet: For a start, "The Party of Death"?  What or who makes up this party?
Ramesh PonnuruPonnuru: The "party of death" refers to those forces in our politics and culture that seek to undermine the right to life. The phrase is adapted from Ronald Dworkin, the liberal legal philosopher. He starts his book in defence of abortion and euthanasia by acknowledging straightforwardly that they are "choices for death. "

The core members of the party of death are those who, like Dworkin, explicitly deny that all human beings are equal in having a right to life and who propose the creation of a category of "human non-persons" who can be treated as expendable. The party's vanguard consists of people such as Princeton professor Peter Singer, who thinks that infants belong in that category. The party of death also has unwitting allies. They support parts of its agenda without realising that they are helping to devalue human life across the board.

MercatorNet: Why write this book now?

Ponnuru: There hasn't been a pro-life book for a general audience in more than 20 years. A lot has happened since then. Stem cells have become a topic of debate, for example. American politics has become more polarised around abortion. End-of-life issues have become more prominent. Under the circumstances, I thought it was worth trying to explain why these issues are connected and how they have become more and more central to our politics.
MercatorNet: If this is a "pro-life book" then do you agree with the terms for political debate in the US?  Are "pro-life" and "pro-choice" the proper terms?

Ponnuru: These terms are imperfect, especially "pro-choice" — nobody would ever describe the National Rifle Association as "pro-choice on guns" — but they are where you have to start in making an argument.

MercatorNet: The first part of your book is a deconstruction of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which held women had a right to privacy that thus permitted abortion.  Some argue that this case is no longer the central concern in the abortion debate in the US.  So why showcase Roe v. Wade if you are trying to address today's debate with stem cells and euthanasia and the like?

ImagePonnuru: Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the central political issue when it comes to abortion. The courts are the principal obstacle to an abortion policy that is more just, more protective of life, and more democratic. And by enshrining an extreme form of "abortion rights" as a supposedly fundamental principle of our Constitution, the Supreme Court did a great deal to distort our understanding of stem cells and euthanasia. If not for Roe, I doubt the US would have ended up a country that cannot even bring itself to restrict cloning.

MercatorNet: How so?

Ponnuru: Without Roe, some states might have decided to allow abortion on the theory that abortion, while bad, was in some cases the least bad outcome of a problematic pregnancy, but, as a nation, we would not have taken the view that human beings in the earliest stages of life had no moral or legal standing and that we had a right to do with them whatever we wanted. That premise pops up again and again in debates over embryo-killing research, restrictions on which are sometimes said to be unconstitutional.

MercatorNet: In the chapter "The Politics of Personhood", you write that the central issue for the party of death is not the rights of women over their bodies.   Was this never the issue for the party of death?  If not, then what is?

Ponnuru: Let's imagine someone who takes the view that the human embryo is a living human being with rights, but that women have a right to control their own bodies that justifies their ability to abort that embryo. You would expect that person to oppose embryo-destructive research since no woman's body is involved in that question. But almost nobody actually takes that view. They support abortion because they do not believe embryonic and foetal lives have moral worth, not because they place a high value on women's bodily autonomy. Indeed, they think that it's an issue of women's bodily autonomy because they have already decided that the foetus does not have the same right to life that you and I do.

MercatorNet: "Moral worth"?  Is that the same as the "sanctity of life"?  Why aren't these ruled out as religious arguments?

ImagePonnuru: A five-year-old has the same right to life that a six-year-old does. To make that argument, I don't need to invoke any religious authority: I just need to be able to explain why the five-year-old and the six-year-old do not differ in any way that could rationally justify recognising the right to life of one but not the other. I argue, in the book, that human beings in the embryonic stage of development don't differ from five and six-year-olds in any way that could justify their killing. (Neither do people in a persistent vegetative state.) That argument doesn't depend on religious premises either.

MercatorNet: Changing tack, you seem to make the case that the abortion debate has not been a forthright one. Why do you think that is and how has this lack of honesty changed the debate?

Ponnuru: Before Roe was decided, supporters of abortion dissembled about the frequency of illegal abortions, the frequency of maternal deaths from illegal abortions, and the history of abortion law. Since Roe, they have dissembled about how far-reaching the Supreme Court's decisions have really been, about the frequency and reasons for partial-birth abortion, and many other matters. It is possible to make an honest defence of abortion. But in our country, the social and political success of the movement to defend abortion has depended on lies.

MercatorNet: Do you think the pro-choice movement would have failed if the party of death had been honest in the courts?

Ponnuru: The notion that the Constitution protects abortion can be seen as a kind of higher lie itself. A certain amount of deception and self-deception was necessary even in the courts.
MercatorNet: Obviously this book will cause a stir in pro-choice circles.  You mention in thanks at the close of the book a number of pro-life organisations and leaders, saying that they may not agree with everything in "The Party of Death".  Do you think this book will cause any controversy or disagreement in pro-life circles?

ImagePonnuru: Some pro-lifers will disagree with aspects of the book. There has been a long-running debate among pro-lifers about the wisdom of trying to move forward incrementally. I'm firmly in the incrementalist camp, and that will probably be the biggest concern for some pro-lifers. But I hope that those pro-lifers will find most of the book to be valuable.

MercatorNet: Speaking of those with whom one disagrees, in your book, the Democratic party is shown to have been taken over by the party of death, which has caused great harm to the party's popularity, not to mention moral standing with respect to abortion.   Besides your stated goal to have more just laws that protect life, do I detect a desire on your part to revitalise the two-party system by freeing the Democrats from the party of death?  Is this book designed to foment a purge in the Democratic party?

Ponnuru: One of the arguments I make in the book is that the Democratic Party has made a terrible mistake, even from the standpoint of self-interest, by letting itself be so thoroughly dominated by the party of death. I am not calling for the Democrats to purge pro-choicers; it would be hard for the party to purge a majority of its members. I do think it should be more open to pro-lifers, accept some restrictions on abortion, and be willing to submit to a democratic resolution of the issue.

MercatorNet: Where in the future do you see the most opposition to the pro-life cause?  Will it be the courts? The universities? Abortion advocacy groups themselves? Law journals and legal scholars such as Ronald Dworkin?

Ponnuru: The opposition comes from all of the institutions you mention, but it's the courts and the legal culture that are the biggest problems. Pro-choice academics and feminists can be beaten democratically, if we get the chance.

MercatorNet: Finally, where do you see the most encouraging sign of the turning of the tide, as one of your chapters calls it?

Ponnuru: One of the most heartening developments in the abortion issue has been the increasingly pro-life stance that young people are taking.

Matthew Mehan is US Editor of MercatorNet.


Defending Humans From the Start

Interview With Vice President of Academy for Life

ROME, MARCH 26, 2006 ( Life cannot be defended if one is not aware of its beauty, says the new vice president if the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Monsignor Jean Laffitte, formerly undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, speaks in this interview with ZENIT about how to defend life in the contemporary world.

Q: The Pope has given you a new mission: vice president of the Academy for Life. Your task, among others, is to sensitize our contemporaries to the gift of life. In your opinion, what are the great challenges in the realm of defense of life?

Monsignor Laffitte: In my opinion, the great problem at present is the loss of the sense of the beauty of life. Life cannot be defended if its beauty is not perceived.

Life today has been transformed into a place for ideological struggle. It was not always like this. Life is from the beginning a concrete reality, which exists. The people around us exist. We are in relationship with them. They represent in the world an objective wealth.

From the beginning, life calls for an essential attitude of acceptance and love. Human life is never neutral. When one loses sight of the character of immediate goodness of what exists and lives before our eyes -- the beauty of the people who surround us and of those to whom we are united by bonds of love and solidarity -- life is turned into a place of ideological struggle.

How does this occur? To begin with, by a trivialization of human life. It loses its specific character and one ends up by assimilating it to any other manifestation of life, of any living being.

One no longer sees that, behind each human face, behind each person, there is a singularity, a unique wealth in which believers recognize an intention of God, a plan of love. Life is the gift of God's love to all men.

The first task is to try to give back, to the one who has lost it, the notion of a real good that precedes us, that we have not chosen and, in any case, that we have not chosen thanks to ourselves.

No one has ever decided to live. We are before a reality that invites us to this gaze of love and acceptance. One cannot have a neutral attitude to life. Life is not simply a biological phenomenon. A human person cannot be considered simply under the aspect of his biological, anatomical or cellular characteristics.

It is possible to do so, in the context of applied science, but when one wishes to explain the truth of a man's life, one is obliged to consider it in all that constitutes it, namely, his organism -- he is a living being subjected to physical and biological laws -- but also in what constitutes his specificity, his quality of rational creature, gifted with intelligence and will, gifted with the capacity to love and to enter into a relationship of communion with other men.

Q: Today, in a world in which science virtually enables us to order a child a la carte, life becomes an object of consumption. What does Benedict XVI propose to us in his first encyclical?

Monsignor Laffitte: If one perceives human life as a wealth, one does not need to ask the origin of this wealth that precedes us. Therefore, we address a complementary aspect very much connected to the topic of the encyclical: the relationship between a human life and the author of human life. God, who is the Creator of every life, is at the same time the source of all charity and love.

There is also a very close nexus between life and love; in principle, because life itself is a consequence of God's love; it is a gift, but also because human life acquires all its meaning in a perspective of love.

Man is made to love the One who created him. He is made to love others, his neighbor; he develops in love, he realizes all his potential in love and considers with admiration the whole of creation, exercising on it a type of lordship, subordinated of course to the divine Lordship.

But all this cannot be done except in respect for nature and in a spirit of service to one's fellow men, which assumes that he is animated by love.
This encyclical invites us to be aware that God is really love; the life that comes from him is a direct consequence of that love. This totally changes our outlook on human existence and its end, on the end of life, on what animates us, on our profound intentions and on the way in which we exercise our activity.

The encyclical draws our attention to the fact that life is within God, life is communion, it is love. In God, life and love coincide because divine love makes one exist; it is a love that leads to the existence of beings that did not exist before.

It is not only an act of material causality. It is, formally, an act of love that makes others exist.

Q: How can the sense of the beauty of life be rediscovered when it has been lost?

Monsignor Laffitte: We must identify the reasons that lead to the alteration or loss of meaning.

At times there are reasons linked to the gravity of personal moral choices that, wounding the soul, darken one's outlook on life and no longer allow one to recognize its precious character.

Here a moral analysis could be made of this de facto state. More generally, there are also obvious reasons connected to suffering, trial, or injustice suffered.

There are circumstances in people's lives in which, without responsibility on their part, they must face an objective difficulty to perceive the beauty of life.

To understand them, we must admit that these situations exist. Moreover, this experience of opacity of the beauty of life can come to every one.

Every one might have to face in a moment of his life either the sickness of a loved one, the death of a close person; the effects of the sickness can hide from their eyes the beauty of life.

In these situations, the perception of the beauty of life takes place through a process similar to that of faith. We believe and adhere to the beauty of life, in the same way that believers adhere to the beauty of God without seeing it. We do not see God but we know that his beauty is real.

It is very rare for a person never to have reflected on the beauty of life. But there are situations in which the difficult and painful manifestations of certain ailments, of very serious sicknesses, of men's injustice, or of any other circumstance, can rob from existence what gives it its attraction in normal life.

The problem must not be considered in an isolated way. No one can face a personal misery, an illness, a profound sorrow, in solitude. Man is not a monad. He is in constant relationship with many other people, who are more or less close.

Without pretending that the love of life perceived in others by a person who is suffering make the latter's life immediately easier, at least this gives him a vision of existence that is not reduced to the precariousness of his own situation.

Obviously, this is not an effort to ask of the person who is suffering, but a call to the people who are happier. Respect for the life of those who are suffering is a necessary condition so that the latter will perceive something of the beauty of life.

When a tested person receives help, loving attention, he will no longer identity life with his suffering because, in his life, he will not simply have suffering, but will also have the act of love he has received.

It is necessary to consider that, in the area of life, questions never present themselves in an abstract way, but concretely: Every person is involved in relations or situations in which he can exercise this charity with his neighbor to which the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" invites us.

From it one gleans what is at the center of all human existence, those fundamental needs profoundly engraved in man's heart; among them, in the first place, the desire to love and to be loved.

There are also other essential desires, such as that of being useful. However, the desire to be loved seems to be the most deeply rooted.

One of the original and important contributions of the encyclical is to show the primordial importance of being able to receive love. Love is not only the unilateral movement of someone who gives and gives himself. It is also the movement of someone who, giving himself, is able to receive another love that sometimes precedes it.

In relation to God, on the other hand, this occurs always. We are always preceded in our love by God, by the love we receive from him.

Present in the encyclical is the intention to show this double movement of love, a unified movement that establishes a true communion between the two terms.

The encyclical honors this dimension often forgotten in the arbitrary focuses or very partial approaches of charity, or partial and often spiritualist focuses, where it is imagined that love is simply the fact of giving.

Love, in its full and perfect _expression, is also reception and much virtue is necessary to know how to receive and appreciate love from others because it is a gift of God, a gift of the grace of God.


Why Abortion Bans May Not Be the Answer Now
Clarke Forsythe on Judicial Strategies

CHICAGO, MARCH 14, 2006 ( A pro-life legal expert who has long battled abortion is warning against sweeping bans prematurely.

In fact, Clarke Forsythe believes such bans even might be counterproductive in prudently pursuing the pro-life agenda.

Forsythe is an attorney, director of the Project in Law & Bioethics at Americans United for Life and co-author of "The Tragic Failure of Roe v. Wade: Why Abortion Should be Returned to the States," in the fall 2005 issue of Texas Review of Law & Politics.

The evangelical Christian shared with ZENIT how he thinks a step-by-step strategy and incremental legislation will save the most unborn children now -- and pave the way for an eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Q: Should pro-life political efforts focus on piecemeal legislation or sweeping bans such as the one in South Dakota? What sorts of laws can withstand constitutional scrutiny in the current landscape?

Forsythe: Over the past 33 years, an incremental, step-by-step strategy has proven to be the most effective.

Despite repeated attempts, sweeping bans haven't worked and can be counterproductive. Given the pro-abortion majority on the Supreme Court, abortion prohibitions before 2009 are premature.

An incremental strategy has been most effective because it simply recognizes that that's how the American Framers made the legal and political system. The constitutional structure of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances means that change only comes incrementally.

The Supreme Court is still dominated by a majority of at least five pro-Roe justices: Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens and Souter.

We know that only two -- Scalia and Thomas -- have publicly stated that Roe should be overturned, though even Scalia and Thomas are of the view that the abortion issue is a state matter because the Constitution is silent on the issue.

We don't know about Roberts or Alito. And we don't know if President Bush will have another nomination before the 2008 elections.

Given those obstacles and uncertainties, pro-life legislative efforts should focus on legislation that can put fences around Roe, reduce abortions, protect unborn children, protect women from the risks of abortion, encourage alternatives, and educate the public.

Essentially, legislative strategy should ask three questions: What will effectively limit the number of abortions? What will raise public consciousness? What will help reverse Roe?

Given current obstacles, state or federal abortion prohibitions at any point before the 2008 elections will be premature.
A prohibition in the near future -- given the current composition of the court -- will have a virtually certain outcome: It will never go into effect, it will be struck down by the lower federal district courts, which will be affirmed on appeal, the Supreme Court will deny review, and the state will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees to the abortion clinics' attorneys.

There are several types of laws that can be enforced and make a positive difference now -- such as parental notice, informed consent and clinic regulations -- and states should focus on those types of laws, until the legal and political obstacles change.

In addition, fetal homicide, or unborn-victims-of-violence, laws, like the Lacey Peterson law in California, can protect the unborn child from (the moment of )conception; they are enforced in 33 states today, and many of those protect the child from the time of conception.

Q: Shouldn't anti-abortion statutes be repeatedly pursued and defended in the courts to keep the pressure on judges and win the public relations battle by demonstrating the radical nature of current abortion jurisprudence?

Forsythe: The right kind of abortion legislation should be pursued -- legislation that seeks to achieve one of the goals outlined above and can actually be enforced and make a positive impact.

Unless there is some compelling reason related to the three questions outlined above, legislation that has no chance of being upheld and no chance of going into effect should be discouraged at this time. The simple fact is that time and resources are limited.

The notion that the court can be "forced" to re-examine Roe in a particular case is a myth.

It is also a persistent myth that the justices simply haven't been "shown the right facts" and that "if they only saw the facts of fetal development, they'd see the light." In the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart case, the justices were presented with graphic testimony about fetal development and about the impact of partial birth abortion on the unborn child, and the majority proceeded to strike down the partial-birth abortion laws of 30 states.

To put it another way, the problem with the pro-abortion justices is not a defect in the intellect but a defect in the will.

As for the "demonstrating the radical nature of current abortion jurisprudence," nothing has done that more clearly than the Nebraska partial-birth abortion case in 2000; and hopefully the new case that the court agreed to hear on Feb. 21, Gonzales v. Carhart, involving the federal partial-birth abortion law, will amplify that public education.

Q: Has pro-life legislation actually saved lives -- or are the various, limited laws that have been passed by Congress and the states more symbolic?

Forsythe: Incremental, prudential legislation definitely saves lives.

Michael New's studies, published by the Heritage Foundation, provide specific evidence that the drop of 17% to 19% in abortions during the 1990s was largely attributable to state legislation establishing fences around the abortion license. As restricted as it has been by judicial obstacles, pro-life legislation has achieved both those goals and more.

Within the very real and harsh and unconstitutional constraints imposed by the Supreme Court, pro-life laws have protected important principles to the extent possible, reduced abortions, kept the issue alive in the states, kept pro-life Americans energized and mobilized in the political and legislative arenas, recorded real votes of legislators on real bills, and demonstrated that the Court has made a mess of the issue, to say the least.

We have seen significant reductions in the number of abortions since the high point of 1.6 million in the early 1990s.

Q: Do you think that the presence of five Catholics on the Supreme Court will change the landscape of the abortion battle?

Forsythe: Maybe, but Justice Brennan was a Catholic and he gave us both a constitutional right to contraception by minors and a constitutional right to abortion.

Obviously, being Catholic doesn't guarantee that a justice will be competent or prudent in expounding the principles of the American constitution.

Whether we're looking for a brain surgeon, a dentist or a judge, the first question we should ask is whether they are competent, not whether they have a certain religious label.

As jurists expounding American constitutional principles, Catholic justices will base their legal judgments on principles based in the text and history of the U.S. Constitution, because that's what the American people ratified and preserved.

As Princeton professor Robert George has said, "The questions of whether to vest courts with the power of constitutional review at all, and, if so, what the scope of that power should be, are in important ways underdetermined by reason. As such, [they] are matters to be resolved prudently by the type of authoritative choice among morally acceptable options -- what Aquinas called 'determinatio' and distinguished from matters that can be resolved 'by a process akin to deduction; from the natural law itself.'"

Q: Given the current state of the Supreme Court on the question of abortion, would it be more prudent to shift pro-life resources into life-care centers and other such initiatives that directly aid women in crisis pregnancies and help foster a "culture of life"?

Forsythe: No. It's not either/or. Crisis pregnancy centers save lives -- but so does policy. We must have both.

For example, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has tried to use law to shut down CPCs. We must have the legal and policy work to protect CPCs and build fences around the abortion license.

Public policy and direct services to women considering abortion are crucial elements in a comprehensive cultural, educational, political and legal strategy.
All those aspects contribute to the abortion problem, and all have to be addressed with creative solutions.

Q: What sorts of changes are needed before federal courts will be more hospitable to abortion regulations and restrictions?

Forsythe: We need to stop judicial activism. We need judges who will faithfully interpret the law instead of devising their own social policy.

It's a legal, political and cultural problem within a mass democracy where political power is widely diffused by virtue of our constitutional system, our federal system, and the separation of powers.

Since Roe, and perhaps before, the judicial class -- and the legal academy, which produces judges -- have been among the elements of American society most hostile to the humanity of the unborn child. Most legal progress over the past 30 years has come through legislatures, not the judiciary.

State and federal judges have to be changed. More pro-life public officials -- who appoint judges -- need to be elected to office.

Public opinion needs to be strengthened in respecting fetal life and realizing the negative impact of abortion on women. Again, it's not either/or. Every effort has to be done to move the entire democratic society.


Down Syndrome and the Pressure to Abort
Elizabeth Schiltz on Change in Attitudes

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, MARCH 9, 2006 ( Many prospective parents are waiting for years to adopt children with Down syndrome, according to a recent article in the Associated Press.

So why is there an extended wait for kids with special needs, who are usually more difficult to place with families? The reason might be: the growing acceptance of aborting babies with Down syndrome.

Elizabeth Schiltz, law professor at the University of St. Thomas and contributor to "The Cost of 'Choice': Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion" (Encounter Books), shared with ZENIT how aborting children with Down syndrome has not only become justified, but is almost considered a duty.

Schiltz also relayed her experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for her son.

Q: Why do you think it has become socially acceptable to abort a child with Down syndrome?

Schiltz: Because, unfortunately, it has become socially acceptable to abort any baby who disappoints the expectations of the baby's parents for any reason, as the increasingly common practice of sex-selection abortion indicates.

Down syndrome just happens to be a disability that is easily identified through prenatal testing.

Not only have many come to accept that a woman faced with such news is justified in aborting her child, some now go further and insist that she has a duty to abort.

Bob Edwards, the scientist who created Great Britain's first in vitro fertilization baby, gave a speech a couple of years ago at an international fertility conference in which he said, "Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children."

This is frightening. It signals an erosion of societal consensus about our collective responsibility for vulnerable people.

Society will increasingly believe that a mother who forgoes an easy abortion and chooses instead to give birth to a disabled child should not look to the community for help. After all, it was her "choice."

Q: Has prenatal testing contributed to the problem?

Schiltz: Prenatal testing has made the population of children with Down syndrome more vulnerable to abortion, because it's so easy to identify them. But the real problem isn't the testing.

The real problem is using the results of these tests as part of a crude "cost-benefit" analysis -- of balancing the "benefit" of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome against the "cost" to the mother and the broader society.

Obviously, such a cost-benefit analysis ignores the fundamental truth that every human is created in the image and likeness of God.

And, even on its own utilitarian terms, this analysis is often faulty because it rarely involves adequate information about the realities of living with Down syndrome -- either for the baby or the baby's family.

Brian Skotko, a Harvard Medical School student, published a pair of studies in the medical journals Pediatrics and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology just last year, concluding that few mothers were satisfied with the manner in which their doctors delivered pre- or post-natal diagnoses of Down syndrome, or the information provided by their doctors when they gave these diagnoses.

I applaud efforts like the bill introduced in Congress last year by Senators Brownback and Kennedy, called the Prenatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act, that would require healthcare providers to provide up-to-date, scientific information about prenatally diagnosed conditions and referrals to support services.

I'd like them to amend the bill to add information about the waiting lists for adoption of kids with Down syndrome.

Q: The Associated Press recently reported that many families are choosing to adopt children with Down syndrome and sometimes have to wait years. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Schiltz: I am thrilled that this has finally caught the attention of the mainstream press. The newsletters and Internet listservs of Down syndrome support groups have been talking about this for years.

In fact, I know a woman who runs an adoption agency, Huminska's Anioly, that specializes in placing children from Polish orphanages in homes in the United States.

When she heard about the waiting lists at American adoption agencies for children with Down syndrome a couple of years ago, she started a special program for children in Polish orphanages with Down syndrome.

In the States, there's another resource: the Adoption Awareness Program -- Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.

Q: What was your experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for your child?

Schiltz: I think my experience of receiving the prenatal diagnosis for my son was somewhat atypical, because my doctors knew that abortion was not an option for me. Even so, three things about the process were really striking.

First, there is a phenomenal amount of pressure to make decisions quickly, because the whole system is geared to result in earlier and therefore "safer" abortions. The pressure to act quickly in these situations not only increases risk to the baby, but I think it must often prevent parents from thinking through realistic alternatives to abortion.

Second, I was struck by how little positive information about life with Down syndrome the doctors and genetic counselors were able to provide me. Although my doctor was very supportive of my decision, neither she nor our genetic counselor had any helpful information to share about life with Down syndrome.

Third, even though I was pro-life, and even though I spent my whole life loving my mentally retarded older brother, getting the actual diagnosis was extremely traumatic.

For days afterward, I hesitated to put my hands on my belly. I felt as though a stranger had moved in, and he frightened me. For weeks afterward, I felt as though I had lost my entire identity.

I had never perceived of myself as a person with a child with a disability. I had always perceived of myself as a person with "perfect" children. I didn't know how I could continue with the life I had always planned for myself.

But, gradually, I started to love that little "stranger" just as strongly as I loved the old vision of what he would be. And, gradually, I realized that my old self was still there, it just had some new things to learn.

Personally, I'm glad that I was able to go through that trauma before my child was born. But it's important to be sensitive to how devastating this kind of news can be to any parent.

Q: How are people with Down syndrome an important and special part of our society?

Schiltz: In her book, "The Child Who Never Grew," Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck wrote this about her mentally retarded daughter: "[B]y this most sorrowful way I was compelled to tread, I learned respect for reverence for every human mind.

"It was my child who taught me to understand so clearly that all people are equal in their humanity and that all have the same human rights. None is to be considered less, as a human being, than any other, and each must be given his place and his safety in the world.

"I might never have learned this in any other way. I might have gone on in the arrogance of my own intolerance for those less able than myself. My child taught me humanity."

In addition to teaching me about humanity, I also think that my son has taught me something about divinity. I think my love for him sometimes provides a hint of what God's love for us must be like.

Like my love for my son, God's love for us doesn't depend on our intellect, our accomplishments or our proximity to what society defines as "success."

People with Down syndrome wear their vulnerability on their faces. They are a visible reminder that the image of God reflected in humanity includes people of all sorts of intellectual capacities.

It would be an impoverished society indeed that succeeded in eliminating such powerful teachers of both humanity and divinity.


On Vaccines Made From Cells of Aborted Fetuses
"It is a Grave Responsibility to Use Alternative Vaccines"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2005 ( Here is a letter sent by Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, to Mrs. Debra Vinnedge, executive director, Children of God for Life.

The letter presents the following study conducted by the academy entitled "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses."

* * *

Vatican City, June 9, 2005

Mrs. Debra Vinnedge
Executive Director, Children of God for Life
United States

Dear Mrs. Debra Vinnedge,

On June 4, 2003, you wrote to His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with a copy of this letter forwarded to me, asking to the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith a clarification about the liceity of vaccinating children with vaccines prepared using cell lines derived from aborted human fetuses. Your question regarded in particular the right of the parents of these children to oppose such a vaccination when made at school, mandated by law.

As there were no formal guidelines by the magisterium concerning that topic, you said that catholic parents were often challenged by state courts, health officials and school administrators when they filed religious exemptions for their children to this type of vaccination

This Pontifical Academy for Life, carrying out the commission entrusted to us by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in answer to your request, has proceeded to a careful examination of the question of these "tainted" vaccines, and has produced as a result a study -- in Italian -- that has been realized with the help of a group of experts.

This study has been approved as such by the congregation and we send you, here enclosed, an English translation of a synthesis of this study. This synthesis can be brought to the knowledge of the interested officials and organisms.

A documented paper on the topic will be published in the journal "Medicina e Morale," edited by the Center of Bioethics of the Catholic University in Rome.

The study, its synthesis, and the translation of this material took some time. We apologize for the delay.

With my best regards,

Sincerely yours,

Bishop Elio Sgreccia

* * *
Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Stem Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses

The matter in question regards the lawfulness of production, distribution and use of certain vaccines whose production is connected with acts of procured abortion. It concerns vaccines containing live viruses which have been prepared from human cell lines of fetal origin, using tissues from aborted human fetuses as a source of such cells.

The best known, and perhaps the most important due to its vast distribution and its use on an almost universal level, is the vaccine against Rubella -- German measles.

Rubella and its vaccine

Rubella -- German measles -- [1] is a viral illness caused by a Togavirus of the genus Rubivirus and is characterized by a maculopapular rash. It consists of an infection which is common in infancy and has no clinical manifestations in one case out of two, is self-limiting and usually benign. Nonetheless, the German measles virus is one of the most pathological infective agents for the embryo and fetus.

When a woman catches the infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, the risk of fetal infection is very high -- approximately 95%. The virus replicates itself in the placenta and infects the fetus, causing the constellation of abnormalities denoted by the name of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. For example, the severe epidemic of German measles which affected a huge part of the United States in 1964 thus caused 20,000 cases of congenital rubella [2], resulting in 11,250 abortions -- spontaneous or surgical -- 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation. It was this epidemic that pushed for the development and introduction on the market of an effective vaccine against rubella, thus permitting an effective prophylaxis against this infection.

The severity of congenital rubella and the handicaps which it causes justify systematic vaccination against such a sickness. It is very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to avoid the infection of a pregnant woman, even if the rubella infection of a person in contact with this woman is diagnosed from the first day of the eruption of the rash. Therefore, one tries to prevent transmission by suppressing the reservoir of infection among children who have not been vaccinated, by means of early immunization of all children -- universal vaccination.

Universal vaccination has resulted in a considerable fall in the incidence of congenital rubella, with a general incidence reduced to less than 5 cases per 100,000 live births. Nevertheless, this progress remains fragile.

In the United States, for example, after an overwhelming reduction in the number of cases of congenital rubella to only a few cases annually, i.e. less than 0.1 per 100,000 live births, a new epidemic wave came on in 1991, with an incidence that rose to 0.8/100,000. Such waves of resurgence of German measles were also seen in 1997 and in the year 2000.

These periodic episodes of resurgence make it evident that there is a persistent circulation of the virus among young adults, which is the consequence of insufficient vaccination coverage. The latter situation allows a significant proportion of vulnerable subjects to persist, who are a source of periodic epidemics which put women in the fertile age group who have not been immunized at risk.

Therefore, the reduction to the point of eliminating congenital rubella is considered a priority in public health care.

Vaccines currently produced using cell aborted fetuses

To date, there are two human diploid cell lines which were originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses -- in 1964 and 1970 -- and are used for the preparation of vaccines based on live attenuated virus.

The first one is the WI-38 line (Winstar Institute 38), with human diploid lung fibroblasts, coming from a female fetus that was aborted because the family felt they had too many children. It was prepared and developed by Leonard Hayflick in 1964 [3] and bears the ATCC number CCL-75. WI-38 has been used for the preparation of the historical vaccine RA 27/3 against rubella [4].

The second human cell line is MRC-5 (Medical Research Council 5) -- human, lung, embryonic -- (ATCC number CCL-171), with human lung fibroblasts coming from a 14 week male fetus aborted for "psychiatric reasons" from a 27 year old woman in the UK. MRC-5 was prepared and developed by J.P. Jacobs in 1966 [5]. Other human cell lines have been developed for pharmaceutical needs, but are not involved in the vaccines actually available [6].

The vaccines that are incriminated today as using human cell lines from aborted fetuses, WI-38 and MRC-5, are the following: [7]

A) Live vaccines against rubella [8]

-- Monovalent vaccines against rubella Meruvax® (Merck, United States), Rudivax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Ervevax® (RA 27/3) (GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium)

-- Combined vaccine MR against rubella and measles, commercialized with the name of M-R-VAX® (Merck, United States) and Rudi-Rouvax® (AVP, France)

-- Combined vaccine against rubella and mumps marketed under the name of Biavax® (Merck, United States)

-- Combined vaccine MMR -- measles, mumps, rubella -- marketed under the name of M-M-R® II (Merck, United States), R.O.R.®, Trimovax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Priorix® (GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium)

B) Other vaccines, also prepared using human cell lines from aborted fetuses

-- Two vaccines against hepatitis A, one produced by Merck (VAQTA), the other one produced by GlaxoSmithKline (HAVRIX), both of them being prepared using MRC-5

-- One vaccine against chicken pox, Varivax®, produced by Merck using WI-38 and MRC-5

-- One vaccine against poliomyelitis, the inactivated polio virus vaccine Poliovax® (Aventis-Pasteur, France) using MRC-5

-- One vaccine against rabies, Imovax®, produced by Aventis Pasteur, harvested from infected human diploid cells, MRC-5 strain

-- One vaccine against smallpox, AC AM 1000, prepared by Acambis using MRC-5, still on trial.

The position of the ethical problem related to these vaccines

From the point of view of prevention of viral diseases such as German measles, mumps, measles, chicken pox and hepatitis A, it is clear that the making of effective vaccines against diseases such as these, as well as their use in the fight against these infections, up to the point of eradication, by means of an obligatory vaccination of all the population at risk, undoubtedly represents a "milestone" in the secular fight of man against infective and contagious diseases.

However, as the same vaccines are prepared from viruses taken from the tissues of fetuses that had been infected and voluntarily aborted, and the viruses were subsequently attenuated and cultivated from human cell lines which come likewise from procured abortions, they do not cease to pose ethical problems.

The need to articulate a moral reflection on the matter in question arises mainly from the connection which exists between the vaccines mentioned above and the procured abortions from which biological material necessary for their preparation was obtained.

If someone rejects every form of voluntary abortion of human fetuses, would such a person not contradict himself by allowing the use of these vaccines of live attenuated viruses on their children?

Would it not be a matter of true -- and illicit -- cooperation in evil, even though this evil was carried out forty years ago?

Before proceeding to consider this specific case, we need to recall briefly the principles assumed in classical moral doctrine with regard to the problem of cooperation in evil [9], a problem which arises every time that a moral agent perceives the existence of a link between his own acts and a morally evil action carried out by others.

The principle of licit cooperation in evil

The first fundamental distinction to be made is that between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing in the intention, it is a case of material cooperation.

Material cooperation can be further divided into categories of immediate -- direct -- and mediate -- indirect -- depending on whether the cooperation is in the execution of the sinful action per se, or whether the agent acts by fulfilling the conditions -- either by providing instruments or products -- which make it possible to commit the immoral act.

Furthermore, forms of proximate cooperation and remote cooperation can be distinguished, in relation to the "distance" -- be it in terms of temporal space or material connection -- between the act of cooperation and the sinful act committed by someone else. Immediate material cooperation is always proximate, while mediate material cooperation can be either proximate or remote.

Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because it represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful action of another person [10]. Material cooperation can sometimes be illicit -- depending on the conditions of the "double effect" or "indirect voluntary" action -- but when immediate material cooperation concerns grave attacks on human life, it is always to be considered illicit, given the precious nature of the value in question [11].

A further distinction made in classical morality is that between active -- or positive -- cooperation in evil and passive -- or negative -- cooperation in evil, the former referring to the performance of an act of cooperation in a sinful action that is carried out by another person, while the latter refers to the omission of an act of denunciation or impediment of a sinful action carried out by another person, insomuch as there was a moral duty to do that which was omitted [12].

Passive cooperation can also be formal or material, immediate or mediate, proximate or remote. Obviously, every type of formal passive cooperation is to be considered illicit, but even passive material cooperation should generally be avoided, although it is admitted, by many authors, that there is not a rigorous obligation to avoid it in a case in which it would be greatly difficult to do so.

Application to vaccines prepared from cells of aborted fetuses

In the specific case under examination, there are three categories of people who are involved in the cooperation in evil, evil which is obviously represented by the action of a voluntary abortion performed by others: a) those who prepare the vaccines using human cell lines coming from voluntary abortions; b) those who participate in the mass marketing of such vaccines; c) those who need to use them for health reasons.

Firstly, one must consider morally illicit every form of formal cooperation -- sharing the evil intention -- in the action of those who have performed a voluntary abortion, which in turn has allowed the retrieval of fetal tissues, required for the preparation of vaccines. Therefore, whoever -- regardless of the category to which he belongs -- cooperates in some way, sharing its intention, to the performance of a voluntary abortion with the aim of producing the above-mentioned vaccines, participates, in actuality, in the same moral evil as the person who has performed that abortion.

Such participation would also take place in the case where someone, sharing the intention of the abortion, refrains from denouncing or criticizing this illicit action, although having the moral duty to do so -- passive formal cooperation.

In a case where there is no such formal sharing of the immoral intention of the person who has performed the abortion, any form of cooperation would be material, with the following specifications.

As regards the preparation, distribution and marketing of vaccines produced as a result of the use of biological material whose origin is connected with cells coming from fetuses voluntarily aborted, such a process is stated, as a matter of principle, morally illicit, because it could contribute in encouraging the performance of other voluntary abortions, with the purpose of the production of such vaccines.

Nevertheless, it should be recognized that, within the chain of production-distribution-marketing, the various cooperating agents can have different moral responsibilities.

However, there is another aspect to be considered, and that is the form of passive material cooperation which would be carried out by the producers of these vaccines, if they do not denounce and reject publicly the original immoral act -- the voluntary abortion -- and if they do not dedicate themselves together to research and promote alternative ways, exempt from moral evil, for the production of vaccines for the same infections. Such passive material cooperation, if it should occur, is equally illicit.

As regards those who need to use such vaccines for reasons of health, it must be emphasized that, apart from every form of formal cooperation, in general, doctors or parents who resort to the use of these vaccines for their children, in spite of knowing their origin -- voluntary abortion -- carry out a form of very remote mediate material cooperation, and thus very mild, in the performance of the original act of abortion, and a mediate material cooperation, with regard to the marketing of cells coming from abortions, and immediate, with regard to the marketing of vaccines produced with such cells.

The cooperation is therefore more intense on the part of the authorities and national health systems that accept the use of the vaccines.

However, in this situation, the aspect of passive cooperation is that which stands out most. It is up to the faithful and citizens of upright conscience -- parents, doctors, etc. -- to oppose, even by making an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against life and the "culture of death" which underlies them.

From this point of view, the use of vaccines whose production is connected with procured abortion constitutes at least a mediate remote passive material cooperation to the abortion, and an immediate passive material cooperation with regard to their marketing. Furthermore, on a cultural level, the use of such vaccines contributes in the creation of a generalized social consensus to the operation of the pharmaceutical industries which produce them in an immoral way.

Therefore, doctors and parents have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines [13] -- if they exist -- putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection [14] with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human fetal origin.

Equally, they should oppose by all means -- in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc. -- the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human fetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers.

As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health.

However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis.

The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favoring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles [15].

In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.

However, the burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the population -- especially with regard to pregnant women.


To summarize, it must be confirmed that there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems.

As regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one's own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole -- especially for pregnant women

The lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an "extrema ratio" due to the necessity to provide for the good of one's children and of the people who come in contact with the children -- pregnant women.

Such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.


[1] J. E. Banatvala, D.W.G. Brown. "Rubella," The Lancet, April 3, 2004, vol. 363, No. 9415, pp. 1127-1137.

[2] S.A. Plotkin. "Virologic Assistance in the Management of German Measles in Pregnancy," JAMA, Oct. 26, 1964, vol.190, pp. 265-268.

"Rubella , Morbidity and Mortality," Weekly Report, 1964, vol. 13, p. 93.

[3] L. Hayflick. "The Limited In-Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains," Experimental Cell Research, March 1965, vol.37, no. 3, pp. 614-636.

G. Sven, S. Plotkin, K. McCarthy. "Gamma Globulin Prophylaxis; Inactivated
Rubella Virus; Production and Biological Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines," American journal of Diseases of Children, August 1969, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 372-381.

[4] S. A. Plotkin, D. Cornfeld, Th.H. Ingalls. "Studies of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus, Trials in Children With a Strain Coming From an Aborted Fetus," American Journal of Diseases in children, October 1965, vol. 110, no. 4, pp. 381-389.

[5] J.P. Jacobs, C.M. Jones, J.P. Bailie. "Characteristics of a Human Diploid Cell Designated MRC-5," Nature, 11th July 1970, vol.277, pp. 168-170.

[6] Two other human cell lines, that are permanent, HEK 293 aborted fetal cell line, from primary human embryonic kidney cells transformed by sheared adenovirus type 5. The fetal kidney material was obtained from an aborted fetus, in 1972 probably, and PER.C6, a fetal cell line created using retinal tissue from an 18 week gestation aborted baby, have been developed for the pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors --for gene therapy.

They have not been involved in the making of any of the attenuated live virus vaccines presently in use because of their capacity to develop tumorigenic cells in the recipient. However some vaccines, still at the developmental stage, against Ebola virus (Crucell N.V. and the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institutes of Health's Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID), HIV (Merck), influenza (Medlmmune, Sanofi pasteur), Japanese encephalitis (Crucell N.V. and Rhein Biotech N.V.) are prepared using PER.C6® cell line (Crucell N.V., Leiden, The Netherlands).

[7] Against these various infectious diseases, there are some alternative vaccines that are prepared using animals' cells or tissues, and are therefore ethically acceptable. Their availability depends on the country in question.

Concerning the particular case of the United States, there are no options for the time being in that country for the vaccination against rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A, other than the vaccines proposed by Merck, prepared using the human cell lines WI-38 and MRC-5.

There is a vaccine against smallpox prepared with the Vero cell line -- derived from the kidney of an African green monkey -- ACAM2000 (Acambis-Baxter), a second-generation smallpox vaccine, stockpiled, not approved in the US, which offers, therefore, an alternative to the Acambis 1000.

There are alternative vaccines against mumps (Mumpsvax, Merck, measles (Attenuvax, Merck), rabies (RabAvert, Chiron therapeutics) -- prepared from chicken embryos, however serious allergies have occurred with such vaccines -- poliomyelitis (IPOL, Aventis-Pasteur, prepared with monkey kidney cells) and smallpox (a third-generation smallpox vaccine MVA, Modified Vaccinia Ankara,

In Europe and in Japan, there are other vaccines available against rubella and hepatitis A, produced using non-human cell lines. The Kitasato Institute produce four vaccines against rubella, called Takahashi, TO-336 and Matuba, prepared with cells from rabbit kidney, and one (Matuura) prepared with cells from a quail embryo.

The Chemo-sero-therapeutic Research Institute Kaketsuken produce one another vaccine against hepatitis A, called Ainmugen, prepared with cells from monkey kidney. The only remaining problem is with the vaccine Varivax® against chicken pox, for which there is no alternative.

[8] The vaccine against rubella using the strain Wistar RA27/3 of live attenuated rubella virus, adapted and propagated in WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts is at the center of the present controversy regarding the morality of the use of vaccines prepared with the help of human cell lines coming from aborted fetuses.

[9] D.M. Prummer O. Pr. "De cooperatione ad malum," in Manuale Theologiae
Moralis secundum Principia S. Thomae Aquinatis, Tomus I, Friburgi
Brisgoviae, Herder & Co., 1923, Pars I, Trat. IX, Caput III, no.2, pp. 429-434.

K.H. Peschke. "Cooperation in the sins of others," Christian Ethics: Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II, vol.1, General Moral Theology, C. Goodliffe Neale Ltd., Arden Forest Industrial Estate, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 6Er, revised edition, 1986, pp. 320-324.

[10] A. Fisher. "Cooperation in Evil," Catholic Medical Quarterly, 1994, pp. 15-22.

D. Tettamanzi. "Cooperazione," in Dizionario di Bioetica, S. Leone, S. Privitera ed., Istituto Siciliano di Bioetica, EDB-ISB, 1994, pp. 194-198.

L. Melina. "La cooperazione con azioni moralmente cattive contra la vita umana, in Commentario Interdisciplinare alia 'Evangelium Vitae,'" E. Sgreccia, Ramon Luca Lucas ed., Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997, pp. 467-490.

E. Sgreccia, "Manuale di Bioetica," vol. I, Reprint of the third edition, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1999, pp. 362-363.

[11] Pope John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," no. 74.

[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1868.

[13] The alternative vaccines in question are those that are prepared by means of cell lines which are not of human origin, for example, the Vero cell line -- from monkeys -- the kidney cells of rabbits or monkeys, or the cells of chicken embryos.

However, it should be noted that grave forms of allergy have occurred with some of the vaccines prepared in this way. The use of recombinant DNA technology could lead to the development of new vaccines in the near future which will no longer require the use of cultures of human diploid cells for the attenuation of the virus and its growth, for such vaccines will not be prepared from a basis of attenuated virus, but from the genome of the virus and from the antigens thus developed.

Some experimental studies have already been done using vaccines developed from DNA that has been derived from the genome of the German measles virus.

Moreover, some Asiatic researchers are trying to use the Varicella virus as a vector for the insertion of genes which codify the viral antigens of Rubella.

These studies are still at a preliminary phase and the refinement of vaccine preparations which can be used in clinical practice will require a lengthy period of time and will be at high costs.

D. Vinnedge. "The Smallpox Vaccine," The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Spring, 2000, vol.2, no. 1, p. 12.

G.C. Woodrow. "An Overview of Biotechnology as Applied to Vaccine Development," in New Generation Vaccines, G.C. Woodrow, M.M. Levine eds., Marcel Dekker Inc., New York and Basel, 1990, see pp. 32-37.

W.M. McDonnell, F.K. Askari, "Immunization," JAMA, Dec. 10, 1997, vol. 278, no. 22, pp. 2000-2007, see pp. 2005-2006.

[14] Such a duty may lead, as a consequence, to taking recourse to "objection of conscience" when the action recognized as illicit is an act permitted or even encouraged by the laws of the country and poses a threat to human life. The encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" underlined this "obligation to oppose" the laws which permit abortion or euthanasia "by conscientious objection" (no. 73)

[15] This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles, because of the danger of congenital rubella syndrome. This could occur, causing grave congenital malformations in the fetus, when a pregnant woman enters into contact, even if it is brief, with children who have not been immunized and are carriers of the virus. In this case, the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed. 


Abortion and Depression
Interview With Theresa Burke of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries  (4th March, 2006)

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania. - A woman goes through psychological stages in her relation with her unborn child as a pregnancy progresses -- a factor often overlooked in the abortion debate.

So says Theresa Burke, the founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, a ministry of weekend retreats for healing after abortion.

In this interview with ZENIT, Burke discusses the relationship between a woman and her unborn child, and the link between abortion and depression.

Q: What is the nature of the psychological relationship between a woman and the unborn child as it develops during the pregnancy?

Burke: Pregnancy is not a disease or an illness. It is a natural event that has been going on for thousands of years, in every generation.

Women's bodies are instinctually programmed to nurture and sustain life. The psychological relationship between the mother and her unborn child is triggered by physical and hormonal changes, but also by the woman's support system and culture.

For most women the first trimester is a time of anticipation and excitement about the pregnancy, or anger and fear that an unplanned pregnancy has occurred.

Ambivalent feelings are common: The mother marvels at the mysterious fact that her body is capable of producing life; yet she may also feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for another human being.

As the pregnancy progresses, the mother may have both positive and negative feelings about the changes in the shape of her body. The third trimester may include anxiety about the birth; concerns about the health of her baby; worries about how her partner will adjust to the new member of the family as well as financial concerns.

At the same time, the woman feels excitement and anticipation about the forthcoming birth of her baby and the beginning of a completely new phase in her life.

By the moment of birth, when the child is placed in a mother's arms, the mystery, the wonder, the excitement all culminate in a powerful bonding process as the mother joyfully welcomes a precious new life into the world.

We could say that women also require the full nine months of pregnancy to embark upon the emotional and psychological process that accompanies motherhood. Together, both mother and child are going through a dramatic and rapid developmental transformation.

Q: What roles do other factors, particularly the pressures from family and boyfriends, plus economic problems, place on a woman's decision to abort?
Burke: When we look behind the rhetoric of choice, we can more honestly ask, "Whose choice is it?"

Recent research indicates that in 95% of all cases the male partner plays a central role in the abortion decision.

Other studies, such as a July 2005 report in the Elliot Institute's Post Abortion Review, reveal that up to 80% of women would give birth if given support.

A former abortion-clinic security guard testified in Massachusetts that women are routinely threatened or abused by the men who took them to clinics.

Too often, abortion is the choice of someone else in her life and we hear most women say they had no choice but abortion.

In fact, murder is the No. 1 cause of death among pregnant women. Men who have been convicted of the murder of their pregnant partners cite not wanting to pay child support as the primary motive.

Such disturbing national statistics clearly indicate that there is a high level of coercion driving women into unwanted abortions.

Without the consistent support of the baby's father or her own family, many mothers fear they will not have the resources to provide for the child. Given the poverty rates among single parents and the challenges they face, this is a real problem.

In far too many cases, behind every woman having an abortion you will find a host of persons that are very much involved in her "choice" and often in manipulative in their persuasion.

This can be a younger woman's parents who threaten her with a withdrawal of love or even eviction if she does not abort; the school/mental health or health care professional who use the power of their position to make abortion seem the rational, mature and only decision that makes sense given her circumstances.

This is especially problematic when there is a hint of any health problems with the unborn child. In these cases the pressure is often quite strong to abort.

For women who are faced with severe fetal deformities, 95% of women who are offered perinatal hospice will choose this form of support as the more humane and emotionally desirable event. This avoids the complicated grief brought on by late-term abortions, which is a horrific experience for both mother and baby.

Q: What happens to the psychological relationship when a woman aborts? And is there a difference between the effects of a spontaneous miscarriage?

Burke: When a mother is abruptly and violently disconnected from her child there is a natural trauma. She has undergone an unnatural death event.

In many cases, she has violated her moral ethics and natural instincts. There has been a crushing blow to her image of "mother" who nurtures, protects and sustains life.

I have counseled thousands of women whose lives have been shattered by the trauma of abortion, which they experience as a cruel and degrading procedure. There is grief, sadness, heartache, guilt, shame and anger.

They have learned to numb themselves with alcohol and drugs, or master their trauma through repetitions of it. Some re-enact their abortion pain through promiscuity and repeat abortions, trapped in traumatic cycles of abandonment and rejection.

Others stuff their feelings through eating disorders, panic attacks, mental depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Some have suffered permanent physical and reproductive damage that rendered them unable to have children in the future.

Abortion is a death experience. It is the demise of human potential, relationship, responsibility, maternal attachment, connectedness and innocence. Such a loss is rarely experienced without conflict and ambivalence.

It would be simple-minded to think that getting over it could be free from complication. In my book "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion," with David C. Reardon, we invite the reader into the intimate heart of human experiences, a place where the abortion debate infrequently penetrates.

When the polemics, the marches, the politics of freedom and rights are over, there are emotional aspects of abortion which defy words.

The psychological and spiritual agony of abortion is silenced by society, ignored by the media, rebuffed by mental heath professionals, and scorned by the women's movement.

Post-abortion trauma is a serious and devastating illness which has no celebrity spokeswoman, no made-for-television movie, and no platform for the talk show confessional.

Abortion touches on three central issues of a woman's self-concept: her sexuality, morality and maternal identity. It also involves the loss of a child, or at least the loss of an opportunity to have a child. In either case, this loss must be confronted, processed and grieved.

In a miscarriage, the mother has also suffered the loss of a child. The difference is in the level of guilt and shame that post-aborted women experience because of a deliberate and conscious decision to terminate life; versus a miscarriage, which occurs due to natural causes.

With abortion, her loss is a secret. There is no social support or consolation from friends or family.

It's important to note that there is also a high increase in miscarriages following abortion. When a woman loses a wanted child after an abortion experience, women frequently report complex grief and depression because they believe the miscarriage is "God's punishment."

Q: What are the risks of depression stemming from the guilt of an abortion?

Burke: Because abortion is legal, it is presumed to be safe. Indeed, it is commonly identified as a woman's "right."

This right, or privilege, is supposed to liberate women from the burden of unwanted pregnancies. It is supposed to provide them with relief -- not grief and depression.

One of the big problems is that when women are assaulted by their own natural reactions to their loss, they don't understand what is wrong with them.

Many women go into treatment for depression, anxiety, or addictions, but simply don't understand the roots of their illness. In many cases they are drugged and diagnosed but never led on a path to healing and recovery.

Unresolved memories and feelings about the abortion become sources of pressure that may erupt years later in unexpected ways. Unresolved emotions will demand one's attention sooner or later, often through the development of subsequent emotional or behavioral disturbances.

Professor David Fergusson, a researcher at Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand, wanted to prove that abortion doesn't have any psychological consequences.

He was surprised to find that women who have had abortions were one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer mental illness, and two to three times more likely to abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

Fergusson followed 500 women from birth to age 25. "Those having an abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems, including depression (46% increase), anxiety, suicidal behaviors and substance use disorders," reads the research published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology.

Abortion is in fact responsible for a profound array of problems:

-- a 160% increase in rates of suicide in the U.S., according to the Archives of Women's Mental Health, in 2001;

-- a 225% increase in rates of suicide in Britain, according to the British Medical Journal, in 1997;

-- a 546% increase in rates of suicide in Finland, according to the Acta Obstetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica, in 1997.

In total, the average boosted suicide risk of these three studies is 310%!

This high suicide rate following abortion clearly disproves the myth that termination of a pregnancy is safer than childbirth.

The best record-based study linking psychiatric admission rates following abortion reveals that in the four years following pregnancy outcome, women who abort are two to four times more likely to be admitted for psychiatric hospitalization than women who carry to term.

Another record-based study reveals that even four years after abortion the psychiatric admission rate remained 67% higher than for those women who did not have abortions.
Aborting women were more likely to be diagnosed with adjustment reactions, depressive psychosis and neurotic and bipolar disorders, according to the Archives of Women's Mental Health, in 2001.

The risk for postpartum depression and psychosis during later wanted births is also linked to previous abortion.

An average of eight years after their abortions, married women were 138% more likely to be at high risk of clinical depression compared to similar women who carried their unintended first pregnancies to term. This is according to the British Medical Journal of January 19, 2002.

In the category of drug and alcohol abuse, we see many women trying to cope with their inner conflict and grief through a 4.5 times higher risk of substance abuse following abortion.

And this is only based on those who are reporting substance abuse. Think of all those who think that drinking eight glasses of wine each night is simply a way to "unwind." This aspect was reported in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, in 2000.

The results of the first international long-term, follow-up study led by Dr. Vincent Rue reveals overwhelming evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Statistics collected in America reveal the following:

-- 55% of those who had abortions report nightmares and preoccupation with abortion;

-- 73% describe flashbacks;

-- 58% of women report suicidal thoughts which they relate directly to their abortions;
-- 68% reveal that they feel badly about themselves;

-- 79% report guilt, with an inability to forgive themselves;

-- 63% have fears regarding future pregnancies and parenting;

-- 49% have problems being near babies;

-- 67% describe themselves as "emotionally numb."

An exhaustive review of many other studies and certainly clinical experience indicates that for many women, the onset of sexual dysfunctions and eating disorders, increased smoking, panic and anxiety disorders, and an addiction to abusive relationships became the souvenir coping styles which followed their experience with abortion.

Q: Is there a scientific or political reason for not wanting to study a possible link abortion with depression, which has kept the research from taking place?

Burke: As a society, we know how to debate about abortion as a political issue but we don't know how to talk about it on an intimate and personal level.
There is no social norm for dealing with an abortion. Instead, we all try to ignore it.

One of the reasons we don't want to talk about the grief of women and men who have had abortions is that we, as a society, are deeply troubled by the abortion issue. While the vast majority believes that abortion should be legally available in some circumstances, most are also morally troubled by it.

According to one major poll, 77% of the public believes abortion is the taking of a human life, with 49% equating it with murder.

Only 16% claimed to believe that abortion is only "a surgical procedure for removing human tissue."

Even one-third of those who describe themselves as most strongly pro-choice will still admit to believing that abortion is the taking of a human life. This is reported by James Davison Hunter in his 1994 book "Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America's Cultural War."

These findings suggest that most Americans put their own moral beliefs about abortion "on hold" for the sake of respecting a "woman's right to choose."

As a society we have chosen to tolerate the deaths of unborn children for the purpose of improving the lives of women.

This moral compromise, however, is disturbed when women complain about their broken hearts after an abortion. They make their listeners uncomfortable and confused.

Depression over a past abortion forces us to look not only at the pain of an individual, but the angst of our society. It is a deeply complex and troubling issue. Most of us don't want to look too deeply.

Pro-choice advocates are often hesitant to recognize the reality of post-abortion grief because they fear this may somehow undermine the political argument for legal abortion.

Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, most abortion counselors will tell women that psychological reactions to abortion are rare or even nonexistent. Anything that might arouse discomfort or uneasiness is avoided.

Such facts, they fear, might "persuade her to withhold her consent to the abortion."

In essence, the choice is made for her as they protect her from any information that might dissuade her opinion.

The collusion of ignorance and denial perpetrates abuse and negligence against women, facilitating the potential for deep and scarring trauma.

Q: Do you think this will be a deterrent for women considering abortion to know the possibility of depression lies beyond the abortion?

Burke: I hope so. Women have a right to know the risks they face when making an elective decision for abortion.

Any drug or medical procedure we "choose" to take is required by law to have informed consent. This means that we know what is involved, what the procedure is, and what the short- and long-term risks are. This is critical information.

In light of the disturbing statistics regarding mental health risks, the increased risk in breast cancer, etc., it is obvious that restraints and regulations are necessary for the protection of women's reproductive and psychological health.

More importantly, I believe that women and men who have suffered the loss of a child through abortion need to know that there is hope and healing. They need to know that they are not alone.

In 1989, a panel of experts assembled by the American Psychological Association concluded unanimously that legal abortion "does not create psychological hazards for most women undergoing the procedure."

The panel noted that if severe emotional reactions were common there would be an epidemic of women seeking psychological treatment. The panel stated that there is no evidence of such an epidemic. Since 1989, there has been no significant change in this point of view.

It seems obvious they have not been following the growth of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries!

In 2006 our organization will provide 450 weekend retreats for healing after abortion. Each retreat will have between 12 and 25 participants.

That means that between 5,400 and 11,250 people will be coming forward for treatment in the upcoming year.
Our ministry is growing at a 40% rate each year. In just the past seven years, thousands of men and women have come for help as Rachel's Vineyard has spread to Africa, Taiwan, Russia, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, South America, Canada and throughout the United States.

There are hundreds of other post-abortion ministries popping up everywhere. So regardless of what the APA thinks, those of us who are in ministry know the truth. There is an epidemic that has gone disgracefully ignored, misdiagnosed and untreated.

Abortion: A Law Unto Itself

Even Legal Parameters Are Being Ignored

NEW YORK, FEB. 19, 2005 ( Legalizing abortion was supposed to improve the lot of women, according to its proponents. Recent data, however, increasingly reveal the perturbing trends in the way abortion is being used.

One trend is the disproportionate number of abortions among blacks in the United States. A case in point is the information posted recently by the Web site, run by the Northeast branch of Life Education And Resource Network (LEARN).

This group, headed by Baptist pastor Clenard Howard Childress Jr., highlighted the problem to coincide with the events marking "Black History Month." Between 1882 and 1968, the site reckons, 3,446 blacks were lynched in the United States. That number is now surpassed in less than three days by abortion.

Every day no fewer than 1,452 black children die as a result of abortion, and overall, 3 out of 5 pregnant African-American women will abort their child. Since the 1973 legalization of abortion in the United States, more than 13 million black children have died as a result. In fact, black women account for about 36% of abortions, though they only constitute about 26% of the female population (ages 15-44), the group says.

LEARN also affirms that the largest abortion provider in the United States, Planned Parenthood, has situated 78% of its clinics in zones populated by minority communities. The group observes that Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, was well known for her racist views. "Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated," LEARN quotes Sanger as saying. The group asks: "Is her vision being fulfilled today?"

The group compares abortion to the practice of slavery. Just as in 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court declared blacks to be an inferior class of beings, so too in 1973 the high court denied unborn children the status of personhood, information on the LEARN site contends.

Commenting on the slogan "pro-choice," Pastor Childress argues: "This carefully devised phrase was contrived to provoke our inward zeal for freedom and the civil right to make choices freely." He continues: "I am all for freedom of choice, except when it comes at the expense of innocent lives. Women who have been deceived into wrong choices and children who were never given any choice at all are the victims of pro-choice America."


Across the Atlantic, disturbing data on abortion also emerged. Earlier this month a study published in Spain showed that 27.3% of women who aborted in 2003 had previously undergone an abortion. And research carried out by the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas demonstrated that this practice is on the increase, the newspaper ABC reported Feb. 10. In 1991 the number of women who underwent repeat abortions was 20%.

Repeated use of abortion is most common in the older age groups. In 2001, no less than 30% of the women ages 30-39 who aborted were second-timers. But even among adolescents who aborted that year, 10% were also second-timers.

According to the study, abortion is more common among women who are working, and those who are single. This latter category accounted for 54.4% of abortions in 2001, and this group's incidence of abortion is rising fastest.

According to a report on the study in the publication El Semanal Digital, dated Feb. 10, abortion has increased sharply in Spain. In 1990 there were 37,231 abortions. By 2003 the number had rocketed to 79,788.

The newspaper El País reported last Dec. 28 that 15.3% of pregnancies in Spain in 2003 were ended by abortion. An interesting side note on the continued rise in abortion -- the level in 2003 was 3.45% higher than in 2002 -- is that this occurred at the same time the "morning-after pill" was being widely distributed. In 2003 more than 300,000 doses of the pill were distributed, El País reported.

Repeat abortions are also a problem in Italy. A report presented in Parliament revealed that there were almost 133,000 abortions in the country in 2003, the Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported last Oct. 6.

Although that number represented a 1% decline compared with the previous year, a quarter of the procedures took place among women who had already aborted. Moreover, there is concern over the disproportionate number of abortions among the immigrant population. Almost a quarter, 22.4%, of abortions took place among non-Italian women, even though immigrants officially comprise only 4.5% of the population. Official data show a rate of 32 abortions for every 1,000 women immigrants aged 15 to 49, compared with 8.2 per thousand for Italian women.

Never too late?

Procedures in Spain also came in for attention last October when the British newspaper Telegraph published a series of articles revealing how women were traveling to that country for late-term abortions. An Oct. 10 article explained how the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the country's largest abortion provider, was recommending hundreds of women to a clinic in Spain once they passed the 24th week of pregnancy. At that stage, abortions in the United Kingdom are not allowed.

Late-term abortions are also illegal in Spain, yet it seems that the Clínica Ginemedex in Barcelona regularly carries out such operations. The clinic's staff members told undercover journalists that they had aborted fetuses up to 30 weeks old. Under Spanish law, abortion is illegal after the 22nd week unless there is grave danger to the mother's health.

A subsequent report by the Telegraph on the issue, Nov. 21, revealed the case of a British doctor, Saroj Adlakha, who admitted arranging an abortion for a healthy patient who was 31 weeks pregnant. The same doctor also said that she was prepared to help arrange an abortion for an undercover journalist, who claimed to have a daughter with a 29-week healthy pregnancy.

On the other side of the world, late-term abortion also came to light in the state of South Australia. The local Advertiser newspaper last Oct. 28 reported that from 1998 to 2002 there were 377 abortions carried out on women who had passed the 20th week of pregnancy. More than half of these involved healthy babies. The mother's "mental state" was the most common reason given for justifying the abortions.

Dr. John James, vice president of Right to Life Australia, said the figures "confirmed what we have always suspected." He told the Advertiser: "The proponents of late-term abortion always insist the majority of late-term abortions are done almost entirely for severe congenital abnormalities. We have always maintained it is not the case and these figures show that it is not the case."

Unspeakable crime

John Paul II dealt with the tragedy of abortion his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae." "Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable," the Pope noted in No. 58. "The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an 'unspeakable crime.'"

The encyclical stated that the acceptance of abortion in today's culture, and in the law itself, reveals a crisis in morality, "which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake." The data continue to bear that out.


Babies Left to Die

Debate Over Abortion Is Rekindled in Britain

LONDON, JULY 17, 2004 ( Abortion laws are at the center of a controversy in Britain after the Sunday Times published a series of articles on late-term abortions. The newspaper reported June 20 on a number of cases where babies had been left to die unattended after having survived abortions.

The article quoted an unnamed midwife who claimed that her hospital had an unwritten rule of not aiding babies who survived abortions. Another case involved a baby who survived for three days. The infant received nourishment, but no medical help. British law allows abortion up to 24 weeks, but permits them right up to the end of pregnancy in cases of handicaps.

On June 27 the Sunday Times reported on the case of a healthy baby born after 25 weeks of pregnancy. The baby was only hours away from being aborted, but the mother gave birth prematurely. The baby survived.

Shortly after these revelations the British Medical Association held its annual conference. According to information presented at the meeting by Dr. Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA ethics committee, 114 pregnancies were terminated after 24 weeks in 2002, the Telegraph reported July 2. Other data from 2002, published by the Sunday Times on July 4, revealed that 1,354 babies of 22 weeks or more gestation, who may have been capable of surviving, were aborted.

The conference subsequently debated a resolution calling for babies surviving abortions to be given "the same full neonatal care as that available to other babies." The motion was approved by 65.3% of the doctors.

A July 4 editorial in the Sunday Times said there were nearly 185,000 abortions in Britain in 2002, the latest year for which data are available. This means that nearly a quarter of conceptions ended in abortion. This is one of the highest levels in Europe, and the number of abortions is rising.

Even the Sunday Times editorial, which argued in favor of maintaining legal abortion, admitted that matters have gotten out of hand. It cited an investigation by one pro-life activist, who asked schoolgirls what they would do if they found they were pregnant just before a skiing holiday. "The answer was that they would have an abortion and go on holiday."

"This was not what the drafters of the 1967 act had in mind when specifying the conditions for abortion," noted the editorial. The 1967 law allowed abortions when a baby would "harm the woman's physical or mental health," or if it would harm other children the woman already had.

Change proposed to time limit

David Steel, who introduced the bill into the House of Commons that led to the 1967 abortion law, stepped into the debate with an opinion article in the Guardian newspaper of July 6. He explained that originally the law's time limit for abortions was set at 28 weeks. Following medical improvements on the viability of premature births, in 1990 this was reduced to 24 weeks.

Steel still defends abortions, and even late abortions in the case of handicaps. But he admitted the need to rethink the question of later-term abortions, saying he tended toward the idea of lowering the limit to 22 weeks and of generally trying to restrict abortions to the first 12 weeks.

Questioned in Parliament, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the matter of the time limit on abortions could be reviewed, BBC reported July 7. But the prime minister's office explained that there was no formal government plan to change the law.

Pro-life groups have had mixed reactions to the idea of lowering the time limit for abortions. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children opposed Steel's proposal. In a July 5 press release, Anthony Ozimic of SPUC commented: "Lord Steel's proposal is not aimed at reducing the numbers of abortions, as his call for a general ban on abortions after 12 weeks was accompanied with a promotion of abortion on demand before 12 weeks."

In contrast, the organization Life, according to the Times of July 8, said: "Of course we welcome any measure which reduces the amount of destruction of unborn children."

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, said he welcomed Blair's support for a review of the law, according to a July 8 press release from the offices of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

And Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff noted: "Advances in fetal medicine reveal more and more clearly the humanity of the unborn child. Faced with this evidence, it is not surprising that so many people now call for a change in the abortion law." He added: "Tragically, our present law has been used to sanction killing the unborn on a massive scale. I hope that people of all faiths and none will mobilize the political will to curb the practice of abortion which undermines the very foundation of a civilized society."

Womb walking

Two other recent events have contributed to the rethinking of abortion in Britain. On June 28, BBC reported on new ultrasound scans that produce vivid pictures of unborn children. The scans are being used by Stuart Campbell at London's Create Health Clinic. He showed pictures of a 12-week-old fetus seemingly walking in the womb, as well as images of unborn babies appearing to smile.

Campbell has developed a way to show three-dimensional images of the unborn, as well as fetal movement. The scans have revealed, for example, that from 12 weeks unborn babies can stretch, kick and leap around the womb -- well before the mother can feel movement. Campbell said this shows that the unborn baby engages in complex behavior from an early stage of its development.

The scans have led Campbell to rethink his own position on abortion, the Guardian reported June 29. He is now opposed to aborting babies after the 14th week of pregnancy. "The more I study fetuses the more I find it quite distressing to terminate babies who are so advanced in terms of human behavior," he said.

Another event causing widespread debate over abortion was the television broadcast of a film depicting an abortion. The Telegraph on April 5 said it was the first time that an abortion had been televised in Britain. The woman undergoing the abortion was 4 weeks pregnant. The program also included pictures of fetuses aborted at 10, 11 and 21 weeks.

The program, "My Fetus," was made by Julia Black, whose father founded an abortion clinic in London. She admitted having had an abortion herself when she was 21. Even though she declared her support for abortion, Black told the Telegraph: "I think the pro-choice movement can no longer rely on just arguing abortion is a woman's right. They have to start engaging with the reality."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, commenting in the Telegraph on April 11, admitted the provocative nature of the film, but hoped the event would cause people to think seriously about what abortion means. "Many, perhaps for the first time, will realize that abortion involves the deliberate destruction of human life," he said.

It may be too optimistic to expect any immediate changes to abortion laws in Britain. But recent events are forcing people to seriously reflect about the humanity of the unborn.


Aborting the Anencephalic Could Lead to Eugenics, Warns Expert

Interview With Humberto Vieira Over Brazilian Court Decision

BRASILIA, Brazil, JULY 12, 2004 ( The decision by the Brazilian federal Supreme Court to allow the abortion of anencephalic fetuses -- those missing part or all of the brain -- could lead to even worse developments, warns a pro-lifer.

Humberto Vieira, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and president of Brazil's Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, analyzed the potential impact of the July 1 court decision, in this interview with ZENIT.

Q: The CNBB [Brazilian bishops' conference] has published a statement expressing surprise at the decision of Minister Marco Aurelio of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court, to authorize abortion in cases of fetal anencephaly. Pro-life associations have also been surprised. What do you think of the government minister's decision?

Vieira: Not only the CNBB, but all of us have been surprised. I have followed the whole process with Dr. Paulo Leao, president of the Association of Catholic Jurists of Rio de Janeiro.

The question was on the agenda of the meeting of the STF [Supreme Court] on the first day, and had been scheduled for 1 p.m. We prepared for this meeting and also wrote a memorandum to give to the STF ministers.

When we were going to the headquarters of the court, we were told that the meeting had been brought forward to 10 a.m., and that the issue of anencephaly had not been addressed.

We were surprised immediately after by the news that abortion in these cases has been authorized. I imagine that the minister-relator made the decision to allow abortion in cases of anencephaly in virtue of the arguments presented during the process. We know, however, that they are unfounded and we have demonstrated this in the memorandum.

Q: Does the minister's decision mean that other types of abortion will have to be addressed in the future?

Vieira: Eugenic abortion is defended by those who want the improvement of the human race and [who] invest millions of dollars, also in Brazil, to achieve their objectives.

This is a dangerous precedent, because it opens the way to other types of abortion, for example, of the physically or mentally disabled, and even healthy human beings who, however, do not fit the criteria approved by eugenic groups.

The poor, the mutilated, and blacks, according to these groups, are "sub-races" and must not prosper, for which sterilization and compulsory abortion are instruments to contain these fringes of the population.

"After Hitler, eugenics has not disappeared. It has been renewed," said Edwin Black in his recently published book "The War Against the Weak -- Eugenics and the North American Campaign to Create a Superior Race."

Q: What consequences can abortion have for a woman, even in the case of the gestation of a child with a serious illness, such as anencephaly?

Vieira: The abortion of anencephalic offspring, as any other kind of abortion, has very serious consequences for a woman. A woman is not exempt from the consequences of abortion by the mere fact that she bears an anencephalic fetus.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who fought to have abortion made legal in the United States and who admits that he carried out 5,000 abortions, is today a defender of life and says that among the physical consequences of abortion is the laceration of the neck of the womb, caused by the use of dilators, the perforation of the uterus, uterine hemorrhages, post-abortion endometritis, incomplete evacuation of the uterine cavity, insufficiency or incapacity of the uterine neck, increase in the level of Caesarean sections.

Among the psychological consequences associated with abortion are those relating to the post-abortion syndrome: fall in self-esteem by the fact of having eliminated one's own child; frigidity; hostility toward one's husband or partner; guilt feelings or frustration of the maternal instinct; nervous problems; insomnia; neuroses of various kinds; psychosomatic illnesses; depressions; etc.

Many women who abort become desperate and attempt suicide, not forgiving themselves for having killed their own child. These consequences are far more serious than those of gestating an anencephalic fetus.

Q: Why are the Church and pro-life associations against abortion in the case of anencephaly, a type of congenital anomaly for which at present there is no treatment?

Vieira: The Church and pro-life associations defend human life from fertilization until natural death. Every human being is loved by God, regardless of the fact he is the bearer of anomalies.

Science states that from the fusion of the spermatozoid with the ovum a new being originates. "At the beginning of the being there is a message that contains life and is life. And if this message is human, this life is human," said professor Jérôme Lejeune, the geneticist who discovered Down syndrome.

The Church, like all of us who are for life, bases itself on the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."

Q: What can society and pro-life associations do to try to modify the situation of free abortion of anencephalic fetuses?

Vieira: The decision of the distinguished Minister Marco Aurelio, the relator who has given permission for the freedom of abortion in case of anencephaly, must be submitted to the STF's plenary, which will decide if it will be maintained.

The National Association of Catholic Jurists of Rio de Janeiro and the Pro-Life and Pro-Family National Association will present to the distinguished ministers of the STF a memorandum founded on scientific bases that are opposed to the false arguments presented for the granting of the permission.

Other organizations that defend human life will also present their own arguments. We are certain that the distinguished members of the STF will make the right decision once the question is clearer.

Q: What risks are implied for a woman gestating an anencephalic fetus?

Vieira: No other risk than those of a pregnancy with a fetus without anomalies. This is what gynecologists, medical associations, and experts affirm. All abortions, instead, imply physical and psychological consequences for a woman.


        The hidden wonder of new life

The Tablet Interview with Professor Stuart Campbell

 A pioneer of pregnancy scans has published extraordinary pictures of human beings in the womb. Professor Stuart Campbell told Mian Ridge how they have changed his view of early life – and of abortion

My brain has begun to grow very quickly now ... I’m awake more often, and when I am I can hear conversations, loud noises and music. I may even wake up if my mother taps on her abdomen …

These are the thoughts of a baby, 22 weeks in the womb, as imagined by Professor Stuart Campbell, Britain’s leading doctor in the field of obstetrical and gynaecological ultrasound. In his new book, Watch Me …Grow! Professor Campbell has written a week-by-week, first-person narrative of a foetus’s life from conception to birth, alongside a precise and factual account of its physical and behavioural growth. The book is intended to educate parents about foetal development, but it is also quite clearly the expression of a doctor’s joy in the life of the unborn baby, dotted as it is with quotes from the romantic poets and Shakespeare.

But the real wonder of the book is in the photographs. Professor Campbell is Britain’s pioneer of sophisticated 3-D ultrasound scans; these use the same ultrasound waves as traditional scans but collect the reflected sound waves in volumes that can be displayed in three dimensions. It was the power of the images that he shows to pregnant women every day that inspired him to write the book, which shows photographs for each of the 38 weeks of pregnancy.

Their clarity and detail is extraordinary: at nine weeks (“I think I’m beginning to look more like a baby!”) you can see the knee and elbow joints; a week later, the eyes and nose are clearly visible. At week 11, the baby can be seen swallowing, yawning and sucking. By the third trimester (25 weeks onwards) it is shown, variously, with a beatific smile, a wide grin, a rather bored yawn and – at 38 weeks, facing downwards, ready for birth – a very grumpy frown that seems to express frustration with its growing lack of space.

When the book’s pictures were released last week, they were published in most newspapers, and splashed across the front page of at least two tabloids. In almost all cases the pictures were linked to the abortion debate, despite the fact that not once do the words “abortion” or “termination” appear in the book.

“People tell me I was naive,’’ Professor Campbell explains at his private fertility clinic in Devonshire Place, central London. “But I only meant the book to be a celebration of life in the uterus as shown by these exciting new scanning techniques. I really did not mean it to be hijacked by the abortion debate.”

Campbell, a charming, mild-mannered Scot, knew already how that felt. In the course of his career the former head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at King’s College Hospital, London, has been held up as the enemy by both the pro-life and pro-choice camps.

An early specialist in ultrasound scanning, it was Professor Campbell who introduced the routine pregnancy scan and the early diagnosis of foetal abnormalities – earning him, naturally enough, the ire of those who are strongly opposed to abortion. But now Campbell has become a target of the pro-choice lobby. “It is reprehensible and morally repugnant to use these distorted images to influence women who are making such an important decision on whether or not to go ahead with a pregnancy,” Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, told one newspaper.

Weyman’s anger can have only grown when she heard what Professor Campbell did next. In interviews following the publication of his book, he said the legal limit for abortions, which currently stands at 24 weeks in Britain, should be reduced. “I stand by what I said,” he says. “I believe the abortion limit should be cut, to 20 weeks – immediately – and then we could work towards bringing it down lower, perhaps to 16 weeks. It offends me that a baby of 23, 24, even 22, weeks can be aborted. If the limit was cut to 20 weeks that would at least make us semi-civilised.”

Professor Campbell remains pro-choice in the sense that he does not believe in banning early abortions. But what makes him interesting is how his view of abortion has changed. He believes that it would make sense to challenge the 24-week limit on the grounds that the age of viability – the age that a baby can survive outside the womb, by which the 24-week limit was set – has now dropped to about 22 weeks thanks to medical advances. But it is what he has seen on the scans in his clinic that has really caused him to rethink his position.

Above all, it is the technique known as 4-D scanning, which updates the image of the foetus three or four times a second, which has changed the way he sees life in the womb. The technology means that the foetus’s movements can be seen clearly.

“My views on abortion have certainly been coloured by 3-D and 4-D scans,” he says. “When you see these images you realise that between 18 and 24 weeks the baby is so advanced neurologically, at such an advanced stage of development, that abortion at 24 weeks is just unacceptable.”

Professor Campbell is clear about what he has seen. “Even a foetus lying there dead doesn’t convey the horror that one experiences seeing a baby moving its arms and legs, opening its mouth, sucking its thumb, and then thinking, gosh, somebody wants to, you know… It looks so vital,” he says, adding: “It has changed my view. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

Professor Campbell, a cultural Christian – he was brought up in the Church of Scotland and says he sometimes attends services – describes himself as a “weak believer” in God. He is, in other words, like most people whose position on abortion does not start from absolute principles. How many other people could also change their mind when they see what he has seen?

Until he left NHS practice two years ago, Professor Campbell regularly performed abortions. I asked how distressing he had found it.

“I think you’re programmed into just doing it as a job,” he explained. “The doctor is not around to see the baby being expelled. My job was to inject the foetus’s heart. You’ve got a hundred other things to do that day so you just go ahead and do it. But with the traditional 2-D scanning I think you are less connected with the reality of what you’re doing than you would be with these new techniques.”

His view has also been affected by watching parents’ reactions to the new ultrasound images.

The normal 2-D scan is “certainly important”, he says, for it helps to cement the bond between mother and baby. “You see mothers carrying around a crumpled Polaroid picture of a 2-D image and sometimes you can barely see what it is, it’s just a blur, but it’s very precious to them.” But the reaction of parents when they see the 4-D images is totally different, he says.

“They are overwhelmed. Husbands kiss their wives’ abdomens. They actually start talking to the baby for the first time. They can recognise the features, see who the baby looks like, but it’s not just that, it’s also the baby’s behaviour: you see eyelids opening, opening its mouth, sucking its thumb, doing baby-like things.”

He says the strength of parents’ reactions is partly down to most people’s ignorance of the life of a foetus in the womb. “Parents come to me and they are so astonished by what they see,” he says. “Most of them have no idea about the life inside the uterus, what the placenta does, what the yolk sac is for, about the growth and development of the baby. When you look at the pregnancy books, they tell you about lifestyle, smoking, what to eat, what not to eat, sex, all that stuff, but not so much about the foetus. In this book I’ve tried to be realistic about that.”

One of the things, he says, that strikes the parents who come to his clinic –- one of the few places in Britain that uses such advanced ultrasound scans – is that life in the womb is so clearly a preparation for life outside it. “Many of the things that the baby does once it’s born it has already been doing inside the uterus,” he says, adding: “That’s so exciting to see.”

The pace and complexity of a foetus’s development – the “baby-like behaviour of a foetus”, as he puts it – and the general ignorance about life inside the womb all form a large part of the case that the pro-life lobby has been making for years. But whereas the pro-life lobby would use these images to argue for a total ban on abortions, Professor Campbell takes a more pragmatic line.

“My view has changed but I’m realistic,” he says. This is partly, he thinks, because back-street abortions would reappear if abortions were made illegal again, but also because “when women are clearly the victim of some terrible circumstance, there has to be some leeway. There’s a lot of terrible social deprivation out there, women terribly abused. If you hear that side of the story as I do; if, as a doctor, you listen to these women, you feel tremendous sympathy for them as well, so you have to be compassionate.”

He does believe, however, that compassion to the mother should be held in check by other ethical considerations. For some years now he has been calling for tighter guidelines over late-term abortions of babies with disabilities. The law allows abortion up to the day of birth in the case of foetal “handicap” and it is left to the doctor to decide what constitutes such a condition, as was shown recently by the much publicised case of a baby aborted at 28 weeks because it had a cleft palate.

In 1999 Campbell wrote a paper for the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in which he said that “third trimester abortion should be restricted to pregnancies complicated by foetal abnormalities in which either death or absence of cognitive developmental capacity is certain or near-certain. Only in these cases should compassion for the pregnant woman be decisive. In all other cases, integrity requires that doctors refuse requests for third trimester abortion.”

Campbell, therefore, believes babies with conditions such as Down’s should not be aborted after the normal legal limit. But surely, I ask, 4-D scanning will increase doctors’ abilities to diagnose abnormalities, leading to more abortions?

“Actually, it will lead to fewer late abortions,” he says. “I think you will be able to diagnose abnormalities earlier on. When I started it was a triumph to diagnose an abnormality at 20 weeks, but now we are diagnosing most abnormalities before that. I think that’s where this 4-D scanning will really score – in the prevention of late abortions.”

Which means, presumably, a greater number of early terminations rather than a lowering of the overall number of abortions. Here, again, Professor Campbell is being pragmatic. Many pro-life lobbyists, who believe that life should be preserved and protected from conception, may find his position abhorrent. But in bringing to the public’s attention the reality of life in the womb, and in speaking of it with such lyrical enthusiasm, Professor Campbell may well do more to change the law, and protect unborn babies, than the clash of absolutes.