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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 5 December 2001

5 December 2001

5 December 2001 The British government has welcomed the conclusions of an advisory committee that children under 16 should be offered easier access to surgical and chemical abortion. The first report of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy, which was set up last year as part of the government's strategy to cut the UK's teenage pregnancy rate, recommends that girls in secondary schools should have easy access to abortion, abortifacient morning-after pills and contraceptives without their parents' knowledge. Jacqui Smith, a government health minister, described the report as a "valuable" contribution which would be given a full response in the spring. [The Independent, 1 December ] A new opinion poll has suggested that two thirds of people in Great Britain now agree with the statement that a woman should not have to continue with a pregnancy if she wants an abortion. The poll, which was carried out by MORI and commissioned by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's largest private abortion provider, indicated that 65% agreed with the statement, although only 19% agreed with it "strongly". However, the findings of the poll were contradictory because, when asked under which circumstances abortion should be allowed, only 50% agreed that it should be permitted "where a woman does not wish to have a child". This contrasts with 42% in 1997. 70% of respondents supported the abortion of unborn children with physical disabilities, compared with 66% in 1997. [MORI, 5 December ] The high court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, gave permission this morning to SPUC and other pro-life groups to submit oral evidence in the judicial review being brought by the pro-abortion Family Planning Association (FPA). The FPA's case, which focuses on whether government ministers should issue guidance on when abortions can be carried out legally, is seen by pro-life groups as an attempt to remove legal protection for unborn children in Northern Ireland. The full hearing has now been scheduled for March. [SPUC, 5 December] 120 young people representing the nations of eastern and western Europe have adopted a declaration affirming the "inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all, including the inviolable right to life, as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in Europe". The Bratislava Youth Declaration was adopted at a conference organised by the European Youth Alliance last weekend in the capital of Slovakia. Among other things, the declaration stated: "Our shared European identity is based upon a recognition of the fundamental dignity of the human person, which is possessed by all and must always be respected, from conception until natural death." A number of prominent European politicians and diplomats addressed the conference, including the Slovak foreign minister. [EYA, 4 December] Queen Elizabeth II yesterday gave assent to the UK's Human Reproductive Cloning Bill, thereby making it an act. The law, which was passed by both houses of parliament last week, prohibits "the placing in a woman of a human embryo which has been created otherwise than by fertilisation", but does not touch upon the creation of cloned human embryos for the purposes of destructive experimentation. [AP, 4 December] The law is poorly drafted in many respects. It does not ban the placing of cloned human embryos in animals or artificial wombs. It does nothing to prevent women going abroad to have cloned embryos implanted, and does not prohibit the creation of animal-human hybrids. The Irish high court has granted a temporary order preventing the deportation of a pregnant Nigerian woman because of the constitutional rights of her unborn child. The woman's lawyer argued that the deportation would interfere with the unborn child's right to life and right to achieve his or her birthright. The court heard that the woman's unborn baby was being discriminated against by comparison with a born person. The case is due back in court later this month. [RTE News, 30 November ] Widely reported claims that an American company had created the first cloned human embryo last month may have been mistaken. A researcher who works for Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts told a medical conference last week that the attempts to clone a human embryo had probably been unsuccessful. Tanja Diminko suggested that there might be something unique about primates which made it impossible to clone them successfully. She added that attempts to clone monkeys had been unsuccessful because the cloned cells did not seem to divide normally but looked more like cancer cells. [AP and Reuters, via Pro-Life Infonet , 4 December]

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