International Round-up

Mother fights birth-control law

BEIJING – A 28-year-old Chinese mother is taking a courageous stand in challenging her country’s birth-control policies through the court system. Sun Lili lost her job in 1996 because managers of the government-owned Workers Family Hotel, where she was employed as a maid, declared the timing of her pregnancy to be “inconvenient,” and ordered her to get an abortion. When she refused, they penalized her with heavy fines and eventual dismissal.

“They told me that I had two options: one, have an abortion, or two, resign from my post,” said Sun. Guo Jianmei, executive director of the Centre for Women’s Law Studies and Legal Services at Beijing University (which has taken on Sun’s cause), said the case is the first related to family planning that has progressed so far through China’s judicial system.

Previous court decisions have gone against Sun. The case will now go before the judicial body that supervises the country’s courts, to decide whether a lower court should be ordered to reconsider the case.

Australian bill calls for waiting period

CANBERRA, Australia – The legislative assembly of the Australian Capital Territory has passed a bill that requires women seeking abortions to wait out a 72-hour cooling period. However, the bill is a watered-down version of independent member Paul Osborne’s original proposal to outlaw all abortions, except in cases of severe medical or psychological danger to the mother.

Margaret Tighe, chair of Right to Life Australia, said she was “reservedly pleased,” but realized that the bill was only a small step, and there was still a long way to go before the unborn are protected. “Some babies will live and their mothers will be thankful. This legislation is forcing people to be reminded of what is involved in an abortion,” she said.

The passage of the bill drew a predictable hue and cry from Australia’s abortion industry, which charged that the bill was a scandal and the first step toward outlawing abortion.

Cuban pro-life doctor suffers attacks

HAVANA – One of Cuba’s foremost pro-life activists has over the past several months been the victim of frequent attacks thought to have been perpetrated by vandals associated with Cuba’s secret police. Because of the attacks, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez sent his wife and son to live with an elderly woman in Havana. However, on Halloween night, a gang of ruffians smashed windows, destroyed locks with acid and spraypainted the woman’s house with graffiti, including a message saying, “Traitor.”

Gonzalez, who is the founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, was described by a local underground newspaper as the victim of “another indirect act of hostility by the secret police.”

Court calls for stricter abortion law

BUDAPEST – Hungary’s constitutional court has ruled that the country’s parliament must pass stricter legislation on abortion, since the wording of the current law is too loose. The court said the six-year-old law now in effect allows abortion on demand, without obliging mothers to provide any evidence of a need for an abortion, and this must be changed by the year 2000.

“It is not unconstitutional that the law allows the termination of pregnancy if the expectant mother is in a serious crisis situation,” the court said. “But the same law must define what a serious crisis situation is, and when the definition can be applied.” vOf more than 64,000 abortions carried out in Hungary in 1997, 97.5 per cent were listed as being due to a serious crisis situation in the life of the expectant mother. However, it is believed that a state family protection network for the most part rubber stamps approvals after interviewing the mothers.

PP meets in Prague

PRAGUE – During a three-day conference in the capital of the Czech Republic last month, the International Planned Parenthood Federation not surprisingly concluded that there is “a gross neglect of women in family planning” worldwide. “It is a basic human right for people to be able to plan the number and spacing of the children they want to have,” asserted IPPF president Attiya Inayatullah, spouting a familiar line.

The meeting, the first of its kind in post-Communist Eastern Europe, was last held in the Philippines in 1995. This time around, attendees discussed topics including the securing of access to abortions and “family planning services,” violence against women and the access of young people to sexual information.

The repeal of legalized abortion was a major area of consternation to the conferees. “Poland is an area of darkness,” huffed Barbro Leneer-Axelson, IPPF’s European director.

Court rules abortion is a ‘right’

ROME – Italy’s supreme appeal court has ruled that a mother who opts to undergo an abortion is the sole judge of her own decision-making and that husbands cannot seek damages for the violation of “paternity rights.”

In so ruling, the court threw out a claim by a Venice man who has been fighting a legal battle since 1984 against his wife for not bearing him a child when she had an abortion. The court said that the husband, who cited his rights as a father, as well as the right to life of a conceived child, could not claim damages under the Italian constitution or under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Group mobilizes against homosexuality

KUALA LUMPUR – A new Malaysian organization called the People’s Voluntary Anti-Homosexual Movement is calling for severe penalties against homosexual sex and the closing of homosexual nightclubs.

In Costa Rica, protesters used tires and wood to block a tour bus carrying 300 homosexuals from reaching the Blue Bay Village Papagayo resort. The bus went through later after police cleared the road.

In Spain’s Catalonia region, a new “registered partnership” law passed in October grants co-habiting homosexual and heterosexual couples many of the rights of marriage, except for adoption rights for homosexuals.

And in Estonia, the former chair of the Estonian Lesbian Union has been fined $1,500 for failing to file paperwork and pay her groups taxes. The former chair, Lilian Kotter, is reputed to be the only open lesbian in Estonia.

Doctors admit letting thousands die

LONDON – A new study suggests as many as 27,000 people may have been helped to die, apparently at their request, by British doctors who withheld treatment or prescribed lethal doses of drugs. The findings suggest euthanasia may be more widespread than even supporters of the practice have previously claimed.

Three hundred doctors submitted confidential replies to the study, and one in seven of them admitted he or she broke the law by helping their patients die. On average, each general practitioner admitted to five assisted deaths. One doctor acknowledged he helped 10 patients die, while another recalled the administration of a lethal dose of the painkiller diamorphine to a dying patient as a defining moment in his medical career. It was the “most delightful and delicious way to die,” he said.

Dr. Peggy Norris, the secretary of the anti-euthanasia group Alert, said she was shocked by the study’s findings. “Doctors are developing a lax moral attitude towards the sanctity of life. This means all deaths will have to be examined more carefully and doctors questioned,” she said.

Ultrasound to provide clearer pictures

EDINBURGH – New, three-dimensional images of babies in their mothers’ wombs will, for the first time, reveal what a baby’s face looks like. New ultrasound scanning techniques, shown to obstetricians in this Scottish city at a conference last month, will, with further refinement, allow doctors to perform “keyhole” fetal surgery, instead of potentially more dangerous invasive surgery.

Professor Stuart Campbell, of St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London, England, said it would allow parents to bond with their unborn children. Ominously, however, the technique will also improve diagnosis of fetal abnormalities.

Doreen McLellan, of the pro-life group Life, welcomed the new technology, but stressed that the pro-life cause would be helped more if doctors allowed women who were about to undergo an abortion to see their babies. “The medical authorities do not let them see these pictures and we believe they should because they need to know what they are doing and what they are getting rid of,” she said.

Australian woman wins compensation

MELBOURNE – An Australian woman, identified only as “Ellen” to protect her privacy, has, in an out-of-court settlement, won undisclosed compensation from the Royal Women’s Hospital and a gynecologist for their failure to warn her of the harm abortion could cause to her mental health. Ellen’s lawyer, Charles Francis, said the case may encourage hundreds of other women to sue over the poor counselling they received prior to their abortions.

Ellen said she and her husband were under the strain of caring for a sick child when she underwent the abortion a few years ago. A senior gynecologist told her she didn’t need the baby, and a social worker said abortion had no long-term psychological effects.