News, 17 December 2001
17 December 2001
17 December 2001 New research has suggested that emissions from motor vehicles are more dangerous for unborn children than had been previously thought. Researchers at the University of California found that unborn children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide were three times more likely to develop structural anomalies such as cleft palates and defective heart valves. It was found that exposure to levels of pollution even within the US government's recommended safe levels could cause deformities, premature births, stillbirths and infant deaths. The researchers said that babies were most at risk during the second month of pregnancy when most of their organs developed. [Metro, 17 December] Ireland's main opposition party has called on Mrs Mary McAleese, the president, to refer the bill needed to authorise a referendum on the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion to the country's supreme court. Mr Alan Shatter, Fine Gael's justice spokesman, said that it was "beyond belief" that the Referendum Bill was being "rammed through" parliament in just two days. He claimed that the government's intention was "to stifle debate and protect its deeply flawed abortion proposals from sustained public scrutiny". [Irish Times, 15 December ] A report has suggested that many women suffer from a condition which, in its most extreme form, might render them so terrified of giving birth that they may provoke the miscarriage of their unborn child. In a study to be published next year in the year book of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Kristina Hofberg found that tokophobia, an irrational but profound dread of childbirth, was more widespread than had previously been thought. Dr Hofberg explained: "It's a pathological terror that, in its most extreme form, can result in women taking steps to abort by behaving recklessly, abusing alcohol or drugs, or even punching their own abdomens." [The Observer, 16 December ] A federal court in Germany has thrown out a so-called wrongful birth suit. The parents of identical twin girls had sought financial damages from their gynaecologists who had failed to inform them that one of the twins would be born with missing or deformed limbs. The parents claimed that they would have had the affected twin aborted had they been aware of her condition. However, the judges at the federal court in Karlsruhe ruled that the abortion would have been illegal because the procedure may have harmed the other twin, and so refused the request for compensation. [British Medical Journal, 323: 1388, 15 December ] Paul Tully of SPUC commented: "While the decision was, of course, the right one, the reasoning behind it was deeply flawed." The health and human services minister of Tasmania has presented the amendments to the state's abortion law which she will ask legislators to approve next week. At present, no abortions are being performed by resident doctors in Tasmania after a medical student complained that they were illegal, as reported last Tuesday. Ms Judy Jackson's Criminal Code Amendment Bill (No 2) states [along the lines of the Britain's 1967 Abortion Act] that abortion is legally justified as long as the woman has given her informed consent and two doctors have certified that the continuance of pregnancy would involve greater risk to the woman's mental or physical health than if her unborn child were aborted. [The Mercury, 15 December ] Ms Jackson claimed that the law would not introduce abortion on demand, although the experience in Britain would suggest otherwise.