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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 25 August 2000

25 August 2000

25 August 2000 The morning-after pill is to be made available to women over the counter from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription in southern Derbyshire, UK. The Southern Derbyshire health authority announced today that initially seven pharmacies in the Amber Valley area will participate in the trial, although the authority hopes to extend the scheme at the end of September. Similar trials are already underway in Manchester and south London, and the British government is currently considering a recommendation from the Medicines Control Agency that the drug should be made available over the counter from pharmacists nationwide. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, accused the Southern Derbyshire health authority of cynically misleading the public over suggestions that the scheme will address unwanted teenage pregnancy. He pointed out that evidence suggests it will lead to greater levels both of teenage pregnancy and abortion. He expressed concern at the fact that the drug will be given to girls under the age of 16 if the pharmacist considers them to be "competent", and asked the Southern Derbyshire health authority to explain the legal basis for this. He also stressed that the morning-after pill is not a contraceptive but an abortifacient and suggested that to make it more easily available without making known its true nature is an insult to women. [Media releases from the Southern Derbyshire Health Authority&SPUC, London, 25 August] A British member of parliament and practising medical doctor who disclosed during a House of Commons debate that he had withdrawn treatment from a two-year-old leukaemia patient has been cleared of any criminal offence by the police. Dr Peter Brand, a Liberal Democrat MP, had made the admission during a debate on the failed Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) bill last January. He had said that he would become a "multiple murderer under the terms of the bill" , which would have made it illegal for doctors to withdraw food, water and medical treatment from patients with the intention of ending their lives. A spokesman for the charity Life said: "It is preposterous that it has not been put before the courts. It hasn't even gone as far as the Crown Prosecution Service." [Daily Telegraph, 25 August] The Vatican has condemned research on stem cells taken from human embryos, a day after President Clinton announced federal funding for such research in the US. A document issued by the Pontifical Academy for Life described it as "gravely immoral" because it entails the killing of an unborn child. The document also stressed the potential of research on adult stem cells, which it called "the more reasonable and humane step". [AP, 23 August; from Pro-Life Infonet] A pro-abortion research team in the United States has acknowledged that some women experience so-called post-abortion syndrome (PAS). The team, led by Dr Brenda Major, published their findings in the August edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Though focusing on the proportion of women who did not suffer problems, the report conceded that 1.4 per cent of a sample group of women who had had abortions more than two years previously developed full-blown PAS. A further 16 percent had suffered severe distress warranting psychiatric attention. 17 percent had experienced physical problems such as bleeding or infections. Experts have pointed out flaws in the survey, but Dr Vincent Rue, who first proposed the existence of PAS in 1981, observed that even if only 1.4 percent of women suffer PAS after abortions, this figure still equates to 560,000 women in the United States alone since 1972. [Elliot Institute, 23 August; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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