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News, 21 July 2000

21 July 2000

21 July 2000 In written parliamentary answers to a series of questions about the so-called morning-after pill, Yvette Cooper, the British minister for public health, has confirmed her government's support for the drug. She wrote: "Emergency contraception is a safe and effective method of preventing pregnancy when a woman has had unprotected sex... we therefore want to ensure the best possible access..." When asked by Mr John Gummer what measures are in place to ensure a woman's medical history is known before she is prescribed the pill, and what follow-up care is available, the minister revealed that "established pregnancy is the sole contraindication" for its use. Asked whether the government defines the morning-after pill as an abortifacient, Yvette Cooper replied that it did not because "emergency contraceptive pills work before implantation and so before a pregnancy has been established." [Hansard, 19 July] Medical risks associated with the morning-after pill include ectopic pregnancies and vomiting. When asked to name three established scientists who accepted that pregnancy begins at implantation rather than at conception, the British Department of Health could not do so. [SPUC's information briefing on the morning-after pill - available by e-mail from spucinfo@cwcom.net ] Figures cited by the British government in answer to a written parliamentary question have indicated that in England in 1999 there were 536,800 prescriptions dispensed in the community for the Schering PC4 morning-after pill, compared with 122,700 in 1989. The total number of prescriptions for 'hormonal emergency contraceptives' dispensed at National Health Service family planning clinics in 1998 was 209,900 - compared with 36,900 in 1989. In 1998-99, nearly 40 percent of morning-after pills prescribed in NHS family planning clinics were to women aged 16 to 19. [Hansard, 19 July, from the Department of Health statistics division] The gynaecologist who was yesterday found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of the General Medical Council in Britain on 34 charges of medical negligence had practised as an abortionist in Canada. Dr Richard Neale worked in Canada for 20 years before being struck off in 1985. It has been reported that three Canadian women died in his care, and at least one of these deaths was the result of a botched abortion. In a letter which he wrote to a Canadian newspaper during the 1980s he reported an "endless stream of young girls who come seeking the termination of their pregnancies". [LifeSite Daily News, 20 July; Metro, 21 July] The government of British Columbia, Canada, is giving 250,000 dollars of tax-payers' money to abortion facilities to improve security measures. The doctors will then decide how to use the money after consulting police and security experts. The move follows the recent stabbing of Dr Garson Romalis, an abortion practitioner in Vancouver. [CP, Canoe, 19 July] The US House of Representatives has begun considering a bill which would afford legal protection to babies born alive after botched abortions. Known as HR 4292, or the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2000, the legislation would define all infants born alive at any stage of development as human beings with full rights to medical care. Charles Canady, the Republican congressman who introduced the bill, said that the recent Supreme Court ruling against Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions extended a mother's right to abortion to children who were just inches from birth, and warned that its logical implications left infants who had been marked for abortion but who were born alive without any rights. One such infant was accidentally born alive at 22 weeks gestation last year in Cincinnati after only the first step of an attempted partial-birth abortion had been completed. Dubbed 'Baby Hope' by hospital workers, the child was not put in an incubator and died after three hours. [Cybercast News Service, 20 July; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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