News Articles

LIFE DIGEST: Baby euthanasia near in the Netherlands; British father supports death for embryos; study backs parental laws

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Netherlands will soon become the first country to legalize euthanasia for infants.

A Dutch committee will begin regulating the active taking of infant life in the next few weeks, according to a March 5 report in the online version of the British newspaper The Times. While there have been reports from the Netherlands of baby euthanasia for several years, this development will mark a new step forward in legitimizing the practice.

The committee will follow the guidelines of the Groningen Protocol in regulating euthanasia in the crib. The protocol –- named after a university medical center where the guidelines were established and where infants have been euthanized in recent years -– says there must be “unbearable” suffering by the child with no hope for healing or relief, and the parents and an “independent doctor” must provide approval.

“That standard assumes that physicians are infallible, our current medical knowledge is complete, and human beings are omniscient,” said Colleen Carroll Campbell, a fellow at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, in a March 13 column for National Review Online. “We can know a child suffers; we can know a disease has no known cure. But we cannot pronounce with certainty that another person has no hope or that his suffering has rendered his life worthless.

“Discouraged doctors, distraught parents and distant bureaucrats will make mistakes. And even when their deadly decisions conform perfectly to the protocol, they will commit grave evil by destroying innocent human life in a futile quest to destroy suffering itself.”

Americans should refrain from assuming such a regime would never occur in their country, Campbell wrote.

“[S]upport for infant and child euthanasia has a long history in the United States, stretching from the founding days of the Euthanasia Society of America in 1938 to the recent pronouncements of Peter Singer, a prominent Princeton ethicist who favors a parent’s right to kill disabled newborns,” she said. “The chilling reality is that although our depraved indifference to the sanctity of human life may not be as advanced as Holland’s, we are moving in that direction.”

KILL THE KIDS, DAD SAYS –- It appears six human embryos will be destroyed in October, unless the British man who fathered them changes his mind.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled March 7 Howard Johnston had the support of British law in refusing to allow the embryos, created by in vitro fertilization, to be implanted in his former fiancee’s womb. Under British law, the embryos are scheduled to be destroyed in October because they will have been in storage for five years.

“It seems that common sense has prevailed,” Johnston said after the ruling, according to BBC News. “The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when, and if, I would start a family.”

A British pro-life leader said Johnston already had made that decision.

Johnston “became a father” when the embryos were created, said Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, BBC News reported. The court’s ruling was “an inevitable judgment but a very sad one,” she said.

Under the law, both parents must consent before the embryos are implanted, according to the report.

Natallie Evans, 34, Johnston’s former fiancée, began IVF treatment with Johnston in 2001, but he refused to permit implantation of the embryos after their engagement ended, BBC News reported. Evans was infertile from cancer treatment.

Evans argued the British law violated her human rights, but the European court ruled in a 5-2 decision her right to a family life did not trump Johnston’s right to rescind his consent. She plans to appeal to the Grand Jury of the European Court, according to the report.

She appealed to the European court after her arguments were rejected by two British courts, BBC news reported.

“I’m still as determined to do whatever it takes to have a child of my own,” Evans said, according to BBC News. “Howard may feel it’s too late for him to change his mind, but it’s not.”

In its opinion, the seven-member European court ruled unanimously the embryos had no independent right to life, BBC News reported.

TAKE THAT, NYT -– A new study on a parental involvement law found a noticeable decrease in abortions among underage girls, contradicting a report in The New York Times only three days earlier.

The March 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported abortion rates for girls 15 to 18 fell after a Texas parental notification law took effect in 2000, according to the Associated Press. The decline for 18 year olds occurred even though they were not affected by the law.

The study, which covered the two years prior to the law and the three years after it, showed the following results for the abortion rate:

— A decline in 18 year olds from 27.7 abortions per 1,000 girls before the law to 25.8;

— A decline in 17 year olds from 18.7 to 14.5;

— A decline in 16 year olds from 12.1 to 9.0;

— A decline in 15 year olds from 6.5 to 5.4.

“The law has definite behavioral effects,” said Ted Joyce, lead researcher for a team from Baruch College at City University of New York, according to AP.

In a March 6 analysis of Texas and five other states, The New York Times said parental involvement laws had not produced a noticeable reduction in minors’ abortions. The Times based its report on an analysis of statistics in Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as Texas. All six have approved parental involvement laws in the last 10 years.

Michael New, assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Alabama, disputed The Times’ analysis after its release, saying it was flawed and limited, in addition to relying on statistics from state health departments, which normally are not as dependable as those from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alan Guttmacher Institute. New also said The Times ignored other academic studies and the results from Mississippi, Minnesota and Nebraska, states that enacted parental involvement laws in the early 1990s.

His research showed significant declines in three of the states The Times studied, including a 25 percent fall in Texas’ teen abortion rate.

According to AP, Joyce, the Baruch College researcher, said The Times came up with different results because two of the states it studied had small populations and two others were near states where abortions can be easily procured without parental notification or consent.

Though Texas originally had a parental notice measure, it since has enacted a parental consent law.