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News, 15 December 2000

15 December 2000

15 December 2000 A health authority in the north of England is to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available free of charge from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription over the Christmas season. The Wigan and Bolton health authority has said that the reason for its initiative is that many people are less responsible about using contraception at Christmas. Brenda O'Driscoll, the authority's director of service strategy, said: "We all know that inhibitions sometimes dissolve in alcohol over the festive season." The initiative will take effect a week in advance of the British government's planned nationwide reclassification of the morning-after pill as a drug available from pharmacists. Two other English health authorities in Manchester and Lambeth have already made the morning-after pill available from pharmacists. In the Manchester trial, nearly 7,000 women have made use of the scheme since it started last Christmas. [Daily Express, 15 December ] A Canadian pro-life news service has drawn attention to the fact that "well over 70,000 human embryos were created, implanted and died" in the course of in vitro fertilisation treatment in the UK during the year 1998/99. This figure contrasts to only 8,300 live births resulting from all forms of IVF treatment. LifeSite drew out the statistic from figures released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, reported in Wednesday's news digest . [LifeSite Daily News, 14 December ] Thousands of human beings created during IVF treatment die even before transfer or implantation. One expert has estimated that only 1.7 percent of IVF conceptions actually result in a live birth. [Dr E L Billings, 1999] British government figures have indicated that cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the UK have hit a 10-year high. Statistics released by the Public Health Laboratory Service have revealed that the number of people visiting genitourinary medicine clinics has doubled in the last decade. Furthermore, since 1995 diagnoses of genital chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and genital warts have increased by 77 percent, 57 percent, 56 percent and 22 percent respectively. [BBC News online, 15 December ] These figures have been released as the British government pushes through its legislation to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription, a move which SPUC and others have said will lead to greater incidence of STDs. The inquest conducted into the death of Mary, the conjoined twin who was killed by surgeons in England during an operation to separate her from Jodie, has recorded a rarely-used narrative verdict instead of any of the more usual options. Manchester coroner Leonard Gorodkin took the unusual step of only describing the events surrounding Mary's case, judging that it was inappropriate for an inquest to consider the legal or ethical aspects of the death which had been permitted by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. [BBC News online, 15 December ] Pope John Paul II has specifically condemned human cloning and the use of embryos in research. In his message released in advance of the World Day of Peace on the first of next month, the pope said: "A civilisation based on love and peace must oppose these experiments, which are unworthy of man." The pope also insisted that there could be no peace with abortion, and included abortion and euthanasia among the human tragedies which constituted a "tragic spiral of death". He observed: "Human life cannot be seen as an object to do with as we please ... It is not possible to invoke peace and despise life." [LifeSite Daily News, 14 December ] Members of the British House of Commons will vote next Tuesday on whether research on cloned human embryos should be authorised for so-called therapeutic purposes. Members of the Scottish parliament have tabled a motion criticising the British government for its plans to authorise research on cloned human embryos. Seven MSPs signed the motion which noted the opposition to cloning research in the European parliament and also the potential of ethical alternatives to the use of embryonic stem cells. The motion called for the legislation to be withdrawn until the matter had been more fully debated. [The Scottish Parliament business bulletin, 11 December] Responsibility for embryology throughout the UK has been retained by the national parliament in Westminster. An American woman accused of running an illegal abortion clinic in Nicaragua has been told to leave the country. Jose Marenco, the country's interior minister, ordered Dorothy Granada, a 70-year-old nurse from California, to go home or face criminal charges. The Women's Empowerment Network, described as a feminist group based in California, said that the nurse was "a saint, not an enemy of the state". [LifeSite Daily News, 14 December ]

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