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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 22 September 2000

22 September 2000

22 September 2000 The English Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of separating Jodie and Mary, the Siamese twins, against the wishes of their parents. Any such operation would lead to the certain death of Mary. Lord Justice Alan Ward told reporters on his way into court that the decision had been "excruciatingly difficult". He added: "50 percent of the population will agree with the decision, 50 percent will think we have gone potty." If the parents lose their appeal, they are likely to take the case to the House of Lords. [BBC News online, 22 September] The head of a research team in Scotland has called for the mifepristone abortion pill to be marketed as a 'contraceptive' following trials carried out on 90 women in Edinburgh and Shanghai. Professor David Baird of the department of reproductive and developmental sciences at Edinburgh University is reported as saying that the drug [otherwise known as RU-486] had been shown to be 'largely successful' in preventing ovulation and 100% successful in 'preventing pregnancy'. Professor Baird said that the drug could be used as an alternative to the conventional contraceptive pill because it did not contain oestrogen, a hormone which can lead to various side-effects. In the four-month trial involving daily use of mifepristone, no serious side-effects were reported. Professor Baird is now trying to persuade a major drugs manufacturer to undertake larger scale trials, with a view to making the drug available commercially for birth control. [The drug is already prescribed in the UK to cause abortions.] Fr Danny McLoughlin of the Catholic Church in Scotland objected to the description of mifepristone as a contraceptive, saying: "If it does not stop ovulation in all cases and actually stops an embryo from growing to full term then it causes an abortion." Professor Jack Scarisbrick of the Life charity observed: "Women are told so many lies about what they are doing to their bodies." [The Daily Telegraph, 22 September] Authorities in Britain are considering plans to authorise the selective destruction of human embryos generated by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment to enable deaf parents to have only deaf children. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates IVF treatment in the UK, has published a policy document on so-called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. James Yeandel, a spokesman for the HFEA, confirmed that allowing the selection of deaf babies was on the agenda, although he said that no decision had yet been made. He added that there were no plans to allow the selection of babies on grounds such as intelligence or height. Rachel Fox, a spokesperson for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said: "This is a hypothetical situation, but where you have a deaf couple, who have undergone IVF treatment and they made a choice to have a deaf child, then that is their choice - we would support them in that choice." [Daily Express, 22 September] The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed by 250 votes to 170 a non-binding resolution in support of a measure to ban federal funding for the distribution of morning-after pills in schools. The resolution was designed to send a message to the House-Senate conference committee which will reconcile differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate with regard to the current spending bill. The Senate had previously adopted the ban, but it was later eliminated during a closed-door meeting. [EWTN News, 21 September] An internal memo issued by the executive director of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's fund, has revealed the organisation's aim of ensuring access to so-called reproductive health services by children as young as 10. The memo, issued by Kul Gautam and intended for senior UNICEF staff around the world, reports on preparations for next year's special session of the United Nations General Assembly on children. The memo insists that "the gap between children's legal rights and their rights in practice must be closed" and affirms that adolescents should have "full access to information on responsible sexual behaviour, equitable gender roles and to reproductive and sexual health services". [EWTN News, 21 September] The United Nations defines adolescence as beginning at the age of 10, and includes access to abortion in its definition of reproductive health.

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