Canadian pro-lifers stung by recent setbacks in Nova Scotia and British Columbia took some comfort in two positive international developments.
In Washington March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill banning a late term abortion procedure many have described as infanticide.
The bill was approved by a vote of 295-136. It would outlaw partial-birth abortion and impose fines and prison terms for physicians who commit the procedure. The margin of support for the bill is large enough to override a presidential veto.
Much of the pro-life debate in 1996 was focused on U.S. President Bill Clinton’s veto of a bill banning partial-birth abortion. The president argued that banning the procedure would put pregnant women’s health at risk. The veto drew harsh criticism from international pro-life forces and revealed in no uncertain terms the president’s extreme pro-abortion position.
Recent developments, including an admission by a prominent abortion activist that partial-birth abortion is commonly practiced, has kept the debate before the American public.
While the Washington bill may prove a positive development, pro-lifers in Australia welcomed news that the world’s first law allowing doctor-assisted suicide has been overturned.
The Senate of Australia voted March 25 to overturn a Northern Territories law which allowed doctors to accede to requests from terminally ill patients to end their lives. Four people ended their lives since the law came into effect in July, 1996.
The Australian Senate instead opted for laws which will improve pain-management.
According to an Associated Press report, Australia’s national Parliament has the right to strike down territorial and state legislation. The bill in question applied only in the Northern Territory. It allowed the terminally ill to obtain a doctor’s help to end their lives if they had clearance from three doctors, including a psychiatrist.
The senate will now forward the anti-euthanasia law to the Governor-General who is expected to sign it into law.
The vote was especially welcomed by Australia’s aboriginal groups who had been the most outspoken critics of the right-to-die law.
The developments may lift spirits of Canadian pro-lifers who witnessed the defeat of leading pro-family activist Roseanne Skoke in a nomination meeting March 22. In British Columbia, pro-lifers are reeling from efforts to disenfranchise them from health board involvement.