News Roundup

Dispute delaying Holles Street abortion investigation goes to mediation

A mediator is to be appointed in a last-ditch effort to resolve disagreements that have delayed by seven months the investigation of an abortion carried out at the National Maternity Hospital last year.

The abortion was conducted on the basis of a diagnosis that the child was likely to die before or shortly after birth, but a subsequent test showed the baby had been perfectly healthy.

The couple have objected to the composition of the review panel proposed by the hospital and have argued the investigating team should comprise experts who have no previous professional links to hospital staff, such as consultants from continental Europe.

The hospital has rejected this proposal, though it has agreed that the couple be allowed to nominate additional experts to the review panel. There have also been disagreements over the provision of medical records in their entirety which have been complicated by difficulties providing printed and complete copies of the woman’s electronic health file.

The mediator, expected to be a prominent senior barrister, will begin work on the case shortly.


No right to physician-assisted suicide, but doctors can discuss it with patients, US Court rules

Terminally ill patients do not have a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, a court for the US State of Massachusetts has ruled, but their doctors may provide them advice and information about it.

The ruling comes in a civil case brought by Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired Cape Cod physician who has advanced prostate cancer, and Dr. Alan Steinbach, who treats terminally ill patients.

The court rejected arguments that the euphemistically called ‘medical aid in dying’ should not be considered manslaughter, while also concluding that sharing advice and information about it is permissible. States that allow assisted suicide include Oregon, California and Vermont. When Massachusetts voted on such an end-of-life measure in 2012, it narrowly lost, with 51% of voters against it and 49% in favour.


New Northern Ireland MP defends the right to life in House of Commons

A pro-life MP has used her maiden speech in the House of Commons this week to defend the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to step back from implementing an extreme pro-abortion law on Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart said she wished to highlight the anger, disappointment and frustration stemming from the law having been foisted upon the people.

“These changes came in the most roughshod way, with complete contempt for the devolved Administration and the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I want today to make the point to this House, on behalf of the many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who take a pro-life stance, that we want to repeal section 9 with immediate effect and allow for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue.”

She said that under the new law, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised up to the point at which a baby is “capable of being born alive”.

She concluded: “I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ‘No, mummy!’”


Quickie divorces scrapped in small print of new UK law meant to ‘liberalise’ marriage dissolution

“Quickie divorces” are to be abolished in the UK after a new law which states couples must wait at least six months before dissolving their marriage.

The Government has formally tabled legislation which introduces no-fault divorce for the first time, intended to make it easier for couples to end their marriages.

But lawyers accused ministers of a “hidden bombshell” by using the new law to impose stricter rules on how long it is necessary to wait before getting divorced.

Currently a divorce can in theory be granted within six weeks of an application, but once the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is passed it will take at least 26 weeks.

There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks before a conditional “decree nisi” is granted, then another six weeks before the “degree absolute”. Currently 40 per cent of all divorces see a decree nisi granted within three months, meaning a large number of cases will take significantly longer under the new regime.

Emily Brand, a partner at law firm Boodle Hatfield, said: “This is going to more than double the amount of time it takes to complete those divorces where one party really needs to complete the divorce quickly.


Jump in organ donations from euthanasia patients in Canada described as ‘horrifying’

Increasing numbers of people killed by euthanasia are supplying a “boon” for organ transplant surgeries in Canada, according to an Ottowa newspaper. But politicians and ethicists have said the practice was “rather horrifying” and raises questions of “coercion.”

From January until November of 2019, there were 18 organ and 95 tissue donations from patients who died by euthanasia in Ottawa, representing an increase of 14% over all of 2018, and 109% compared to all of 2017. In total, they accounted for 5% of the province’s overall number of organ and tissue donations, more than double their share of the 2017 figures.

In Ontario, the Trillium Gift of Life Network “proactively” solicits patients to discuss organ donation once they have elected to be killed. It is provincial law that Trillium be made aware once a person has been approved to end their life.

Dr. Moira McQueen, a moral theologian and the executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, told CNA said such practices appear “rather horrifying.”

McQueen cited the scenario of a patient who opts to begin the euthasia process at home and be transferred to a hospital for organ donation as one that sparks “even more ethical and legal problems.” In this case, a patient would essentially be sedated at home and then transported to a hospital for the final dose of lethal medication and then have their organs removed.

“That situation makes it clearer that the focus is truly on ‘harvesting’,” said McQueen. “The donor’s dignity is compromised and the ‘separation’ of teams that is supposed to be the warrant of independence of the teams is completely blurred.”


Pro-life journalist in Germany has car torched

Pro-abortion activists have set a German pro-life journalist’s car ablaze, after he encouraged readers to attend the German March for Life.

In an online post, the extremist group Feministische Autonome Zelle were unapologetic about their violent tactics saying: “Every year he heavily promotes the March for Life…We torched his SUV today.” The group also revealed the journalist’s home location stating that he “lives there with his children.”

Responding to the attack, Michael Robinson, SPUC Director of Communications said: “The pro-life movement continues to make progress across Europe. However, as the pro-life movement advances, so do attacks on pro-life people. We will not be bullied into silence.”

He added: “We will not be intimidated as we continue our entirely peaceful work as we seek to restore a culture of life.”

Acts of aggression aimed at pro-life people across the country during the past year have been recorded in Manchester, Cardiff, Nottingham and London.

Mr Robinson said: “Over the past year, we have seen a rise in hostility against pro-life people by pro-abortion extremists. These attacks arise from their fear of a pro-life movement which is strong and is unmistakably advancing.”


Health Minister ‘should focus on health crisis, not exclusion zones’

Students For Life Ireland, a pro-life student group, have hit out at the Health Minister, Simon Harris, over what they’ve labelled his “obsession” with the abortion issue to the detriment of other health concerns like the trolley crisis. Speaking in response the Health Minister’s recent remarks on exclusion zones, spokesperson for the group, Luke Silke also criticised the Minister’s use of the term ‘safe access zones’, describing it as “deliberately inflammatory”.

“It implies that pro-life people are a dangerous threat, which is an incredibly unfair way to depict a sizeable chunk of the voting public. There is nothing ‘safe’ about abortion, it is the only procedure performed by a doctor which is deemed a failure if the baby survives, and a success if the baby’s life is ended”.

He added: “Students For Life Ireland have always been of the view that sensitivity is warranted during vigils outside abortion-providing clinics or hospitals, and that no woman should ever face harassment. We share the Garda Commissioner’s view, however, that the existing legislation around harassment is sufficient and we believe that an introduction of ‘exclusion zones’ would be unconstitutional and undemocratic. Last year the government voted against some very humane amendments to the abortion bill, which were tabled by pro-life politicians. An amendment seeking to ensure that the unborn be granted pain relief prior to late term abortion was defeated. These zones are not ‘safe zones’ for the human beings, no different to us but in size, whose lives are being ended within the zones”, concluded Mr Silke.


Nigeria named as key Christian persecution hotspot

Nigeria has been named as a key country of concern for 2020 by Christian persecution watchdog Release International.

‘Tens of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes by the ongoing persecution in Nigeria,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘While the death toll is rising, the world simply watches. Nigeria’s government appears to lack the will or the power to prevent the killings.’

Christians in Nigeria are being targeted by three Islamist terror groups: Boko Haram, its offshoot ISWAP, and heavily armed Fulani militia who are killing thousands and taking over their villages.

Release International’s Nigeria partner, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, says: ‘Across the north, the mainly Muslim Fulani have been taking land from predominantly Christian farmers by force and occupying their villages.’

‘They attack, typically, in the middle of the night while people are sleeping. They shoot in the air and create panic to drive the villagers out. When the people flee from their houses into the darkness, the Fulani lie in wait with their machetes and cut them down. Again and again. And the government seems powerless to stop them.’

Writing in a recent book, Neither Bomb Nor Bullet (Lion Hudson 2019), Archbishop Kwashi warns: ‘Nigeria has become the largest killing ground for Christians in the world today.’


NI law changes to protect same-sex marriage dissenters from prosecution

The Northern Ireland Office will introduce a raft of changes to protect critics of same sex marriage from prosecution.

The Christian Institute had raised concerns only last week about free speech and religious liberty after marriage is redefined in law.

Public law specialist Ivan Hare QC found the threshold for prosecution for incitement to hatred was “substantially lower” in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales.

The Institute’s deputy director Simon Calvert said he expects many churches to preach in support of traditional marriage and doesn’t want the police using public order law to punish ministers for preaching the bible and arrest them for what they say from the pulpit.

The Secretary of State Julian Smith has now said that legislation is being amended to underline that mere criticism of same-sex marriage will not be an offence, and to ensure religious bodies cannot be sued for declining to support same-sex weddings.

The changes will also protect religious groups that dismiss staff who enter a same-sex marriage.


China imposes harsh new rules governing religious groups in 2020

China announced it will soon implement harsh new measures requiring all religious personnel to support and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party, sparking concern among Chinese Christians.

Asia News reports that the new administrative measures will be put in place for Chinese religious groups starting Feb. 1. The measures complete the “Regulations on religious affairs” revised two years ago and implemented on Feb. 1, 2018.

Under the new rules, every aspect of the life of religious communities — from formation, gatherings to annual and daily projects — is subject to approval by the government’s religious affairs department.

Additionally, all religious personnel are required to support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party among all members of their communities.