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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 2 August 2000

2 August 2000

2 August 2000 The Republican party's national convention in Philadelphia yesterday approved the policy statement, or platform, which includes calls for a total ban on abortion and a pro-life amendment to the US constitution. It had been thought that opponents of the platform might force a public debate on the abortion issue, but this did not happen. Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-abortion Republicans turned out for a Planned Parenthood reception at which Dr Leroy Carhart, the Nebraskan abortionist, was a star attraction. It was his action which led in June to the US Supreme Court striking down Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions. [The Florida Times-Union, 2 August; CBS News online, 2 August] A study published in The Lancet medical journal has suggested that coeliac disease may be a significant factor in spontaneous abortions. 15 percent of all pregnancies end in a spontaneous [as opposed to an induced] abortion. In 40 percent of such cases the underlying cause remains unknown. Researchers found that a significantly higher proportion of women in control groups with a history of recurrent spontaneous abortions (RSA) or intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) tested positive for coeliac disease than those in a control group of women with no such problems. Coeliac disease means that wheat gluten cannot properly be absorbed in the gut, though research has not yet confirmed whether a gluten-free diet would prevent RSA or IUGR. [Yahoo! health news, 31 July] Scientists in Florida, USA, have disclosed that adult stem cells found in bone marrow can be converted into immature nerve cells. The study, carried out by the University of South Florida's College of Medicine and published in the Experimental Neurology journal, suggests that eventually cells could be taken from a patient's bone marrow and converted into neurone s to treat Parkinson's disease, stroke and other brain conditions. [USF press release, 1 August; from Pro-Life Infonet] It was reported in this digest on 20 July that British scientists had discovered that stem cells in bone marrow could convert into liver cells. Such developments highlight the potential of ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and so-called therapeutic cloning. A judge in Ohio, USA, has given a two-and-a-half-year-old child the right to sue for damages for a car accident which happened while she was unborn. Judge Christopher Collier ruled that Sarah Nicole Leinweber, whose mother was injured by a car when she was seven months pregnant, had been "capable of existing independently" at the time and so was characterised under the law as a person for the purposes of homicide and wrongful death. Sarah was born healthy 10 weeks later, but the injuries to her mother denied her normal maternal care. The family's attorney said the ruling was unprecedented in Ohio and could have far-reaching implications for the rights of unborn children. [APBnews, Yahoo!, 31 July] The government of British Columbia, Canada, now plans to go ahead with an initiative to make morning-after pills available without a doctor's prescription after legal problems were resolved. A spokeswoman for the ministry of health in the province confirmed that a "massive pilot programme" would commence in September with the potentially abortifacient drugs being distributed through pharmacies. [LifeSite Daily News, 1 August] An initiative in the American state of Louisiana to provide pro-life car licence plates has been challenged in a federal court. It had been planned that money raised from the selling of the plates, which carry the words "Choose Life", would go to pro-life organisations which counsel pregnant women. Opponents argued that the measure may represent an unconstitutional attempt to break down barriers between church and state. [Metro Networks, Digital City, 1 August]

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