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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 8 December 2000

8 December 2000

8 December 2000 The leader of the House of Commons has come under sustained criticism from fellow MPs for the haste with which the government seems to be pushing ahead with legislation to permit human cloning research. During questions on the business of the House yesterday, Mrs Margaret Beckett refused to deny suggestions that the government was planning to hold a deferred vote [one that is separate from the debate, probably on a subsequent day] on its proposals rather than a full-day debate with a vote at the end of it. When pressed to clarify this point, Mrs Beckett replied: "I cannot and will not add anything to what I have already said about the matter." A number of MPs insisted that there had been insufficient debate on such an important issue, but Mrs Beckett claimed that members of parliament had been "flooded with information" and that the "sheer amount of time" that the government had made available for consideration of its proposals had been "a little unprecedented". She did acknowledge, however, that she had no idea how MPs of her own party felt about the issue. [Hansard, 7 December] A study published today suggests that the grief experienced by parents after a miscarriage is often underestimated, and that the experience can sometimes be more traumatic for the father than for the mother. The study was carried out by researchers at Macquairie University in Sydney, Australia, and published in today's British Journal of Medical Psychology. It found that nearly 90 percent of both women and men felt sad or very sad after a miscarriage and that, in many cases, grief lasted for up to five months. [The Times, 8 December ] A group which campaigns against euthanasia in Britain has launched a pamphlet which sets out the dangers of so-called living wills and advance directives. ALERT (Against Legalised Euthanasia - Research and Training) organised a meeting at the House of Commons yesterday, sponsored by Dr Brian Iddon MP, to draw attention to the issue. Professor Peter Millard, former president of the British Geriatrics Society, spoke about the ethical, practical and clinical reasons why advanced directives should not be legally binding in the UK. Mrs Neelu Berry also told the meeting how her five-month old niece had allegedly been denied medical treatment in hospital simply because she had been born with a disability. [ALERT media release and SPUC eye-witness, 7 December] An appeals court in Austin, Texas, has ruled that the state must fund abortions when doctors deem them medically necessary. The state had argued that it was legitimate to protect unborn life and promote birth over abortion by applying the same limits on state funding of abortion as exist at the federal level. Federal funding of abortion is limited in law to cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother. However, the court decided by a majority of two to one that such restrictions violated clauses against sexual discrimination in the Texas constitution. [Houston Chronicle, 7 December ] The two surgeons who operated on Siamese twins Jodie and Mary have spoken of how they performed the incision which would kill Mary in silence and with "great respect". Mr Dickson, who conducted the operation with Mr Bianchi, said: "We've worked together a lot over the past 12 years and shared difficult moments but I think this was probably the most meaningful and intense situation we had been in. And one does not do that kind of thing without having a lot of thought and a lot of heartache." [The Guardian, 8 December ] Researchers in Australia have suggested that having sex soon after in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment could increase the chances of an embryo's successful implantation in the womb. Scientists at Adelaide University, whose study was reported in New Scientist magazine, looked at 1,000 women who were having IVF treatment and who either had sex or abstained from sex during the time around the transfer of their embryos. They concluded that semen might affect the immune system in such a way that newly introduced embryos were less likely to be rejected. Nevertheless, Dr Simon Fishel of the Nottingham Fertility Centre in England advised couples against sex immediately after IVF treatment because of the small risk that sex might cause a new embryo to be expelled from the womb or result in multiple pregnancies. [BBC News Online, 7 December ] The majority of test-tube embryos transferred into women during IVF treatment are lost. In Europe, an average of only 22 percent of IVF treatment cycles result in a live birth. [See news digest for 28 June and SPUC's policy statement ]

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