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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 July 2000

3 July 2000

3 July 2000 The highest court in France has halted the distribution of morning-after pills to schoolgirls. Following campaigns by Catholic groups, the State Council ruled that Ségolène Royal, the former Education Minister, had been wrong to make the NorLevo morning-after pill freely available in secondary schools because legislation stipulated that hormonal contraceptives should only be made available on prescription. The government responded by saying that it would ensure distribution of the pills could continue. [The Times, 3 July] Morning-after pills cannot be accurately described as contraceptives. They work either by preventing or delaying ovulation, or by stopping the successful implantation of the embryo by affecting the lining of the womb. Very few women will know precisely when they ovulate so, if they take the morning-after pill, they will not know whether it has prevented conception or caused an abortion. [From SPUC's information sheet on the morning-after pill. Available from SPUC, London] A British couple are to be the first to take advantage of a new cloning technique which involves splitting an embryo into several parts, each of which is capable of developing into a distinct, though identical, baby. At least one of the clones will be implanted in the woman, while the rest will be frozen and stored for future use. The couple, in their 30s and from east London, will have the treatment in Rome because the technique is banned in the UK. [Metro, 3 July] A contributor to The Times newspaper in the UK has acknowledged that eugenics could follow on from the deciphering of the human genome, but has described this as "the defining advance of the new century". Jasper Gerard defined eugenics as "the science of improving the population by controlled breeding for desired inherited characteristics" and wrote: "Eugenics is not necessarily bad ... if it were possible to rid cancer not just from one foetus, but from all future children of that foetus, that would surely be a moral good. And if it were possible to increase the intelligence or reduce the predisposition to violence of future generations, then how could that be a moral regression?" [The Times, 3 July] A number of organisations have urged the United States Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill available over the counter from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. The calls came from various lobbying groups, including Family Health International, the Population Council and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, during public hearings into the subject. Dr Jack E Stover, chief operating and financial officer of Gynetics, which manufactures morning-after pills, remarked: "Emergency contraceptives could be [a] 100 million dollar product in the US with the proper support and advertising." [Reuters, from Fox News, 30 June] [In the UK, a six-week public consultation process concerning proposals to make morning-after pills available from pharmacists without prescription ended last week.] The Vatican's representative in Mexico has condemned abortion and population control during the run-up to the country's presidential elections. Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Apostolic Nuncio, said: "Behind the population explosion is hidden an imperialism that is far from solidarity." He condemned abortion as a means of limiting births, and stressed that it is the man and woman who must decide how many children they wish to have. He added that the Church defends the first human right, the right to life, especially of those who cannot defend themselves. [Zenit news agency, Mexico City, 30 June] It has been revealed that a prominent American doctor who admitted performing abortions has been appointed as chairman of the United Nations Population Fund's US committee. Dr Henry Foster, who was nominated for the job of Surgeon General by President Clinton, has admitted to performing a number of surgical and chemical abortions, and he was also involved in the sterilisation of retarded women in the 1970s. The United Nations Population Fund, or UNPFA, promotes abortion around the world. The US committee, though not officially an arm of UNPFA, is based in its New York City office building. [EWTN News, 30 June]

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