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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 October 2000

3 October 2000

3 October 2000 A British government spokesman has confirmed that the United Kingdom's department for international development provided 40 million pounds in aid for so-called reproductive health and family planning in 1999. Replying to a question in the House of Lords, Baroness Amos also confirmed that the figures for 1996, 1997 and 1998 had been 35 million, 38 million and 42 million respectively. [Hansard, 2 October] The Italian government has decided to authorise sales of the abortifacient morning-after pill, reportedly as soon as next week. The health ministry described the drug as emergency contraception, but Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and director of the Bioethics Institute at Rome's Sacred Heart University, said that this was "just a linguistic trick". He observed: "The authorisation of this drug ushers in chemical abortion, which is morally identical to surgical abortion." [Times of India, 2 October; link from LifeSite Daily News] A baby boy named Adam has been born in the United States after being selected to act as a bone marrow donor for his sister. Molly Nash, a six-year-old girl, has Fanconi's anaemia, an inherited blood disorder. Doctors at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Illinois generated six embryos through in vitro fertilisation using sperm and eggs from Molly's parents and then selected Adam from among them using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. The selection ensured that Adam himself had not inherited the ailment, and that he was a good match for the transplant. Cells were then taken from his umbilical cord and doctors in Chicago now await the results of the transplant procedure. It is thought to be the first time that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis has been used for this purpose. [Reuters, from Yahoo! News, 2 October] The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has described pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and the subsequent rejection of embryos for whatever reason as "fatal discrimination which should not be tolerated in any civilised society". It has been reported that the World Health Organisation [a United Nations body] is conducting a worldwide campaign to promote the morning-after pill. In Canada the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is leading a publicity drive with a number of other groups, which includes sending literature to the country's 20,000 family physicians and alerting women to the pill's availability. Bonnie Johnson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, said: "Every fertile woman in Canada should have it in her purse." [LifeSite Daily News and The Leader-Post (Regina), 29 September] A judge in the United States has decided that the guardian of a man considered by doctors to be in a so-called persistent vegetative state should be his wife, who wants his feeding tubes withdrawn, rather than his mother, who has been fighting to keep him alive. Steven G Becker, 28, is said to have been unresponsive since a brain operation last March, although he still breathes unaided. Michelle Steger of ADAPT, an advocacy group for handicapped people, attended the hearing and commented: "This isn't about a wife or a mother. This is about Steve. He simply cannot communicate in an effective way. If Steve is allowed to die, who is next?" The Catholic hospital in which Mr Becker is being cared for said that it had not yet decided whether to comply with his wife's request. The local archbishop signalled his oppostion to the removal of feeding tubes last June. [St.Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 September; from Pro-Life Infonet] Most health insurers in the United States have reportedly agreed to cover the RU-486 abortion pill. The pill will be marketed by Danco Laboratories Inc. under the brand name of Mifeprex and is expected to cost about 700 US dollars, about the same as a surgical abortion. [AP, from AOL News, 2 October]

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