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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 January 2001

30 January 2001

30 January 2001 An attempt in the British House of Lords to block the provision of abortifacient morning-after pills from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription was defeated last night. Baroness Young's motion, which would have blocked sales of Levonelle-2 from pharmacists immediately, was defeated by 177 votes to 95. Lady Young, who argued that pharmacists were too busy to offer adequate medical advice before providing the morning-after pill, and that girls under the age of 16 were obtaining the drug, expressed particular disappointment that two of the three Anglican bishops present in the chamber had opposed her motion. Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, bishop of St Albans, observed that every week in Britain surgical abortions wiped out "the equivalent of a large village or small market town filled with children". He also conceded that increased availability of the morning-after pill would lead to more cases of sexually transmitted diseases. However, he concluded: "Better this form of contraception than a steady rise in abortion". An SPUC spokesman commented: "It is not accurate to describe morning-after pills as contraception, since they are intended to prevent implantation of a newly conceived human. Neither is it accurate to suggest that their availability reduces surgical abortion rates, because there is absolutely no evidence to support this." [BBC News online and House of Lords Hansard , 29 January; Metro, 30 January] A British pro-life group has been given permission to bring a judicial review of the decision by parliament to allow destructive research on cloned human embryos. The ProLife Alliance had argued that cloned embryos were not covered by the definition of "embryo" in the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act [the primary legislation upon which the statutory instrument to authorise destructive cloning research was based]. The British government requested more time to prepare its defence and Mr Justice Sullivan ruled accordingly that the case would not come before the High Court until 15 June. In the meantime, no licences will be issued under the regulations. [The Times, 27 January ; Ananova, 26 January ] Superdrug, the British chain of highstreet chemists, is to become the first retailer to sell the morning-after pill through its website. The product will be available to customers in the London area, and can be delivered within four hours for an extra charge. After registering on the website, prospective customers will be telephoned by a Superdrug pharmacist who will ask a series of questions and try to ensure that the customer is over 16. It emerged last week that two underage boys had obtained the Levonelle-2 morning-after pill from a chemist's shop. [Guardian Unlimited, 27 January ] A three-dimensional ultrasound scanner for use on pregnant women has been developed by Siemens in the United States. The equipment provides detailed images of an unborn child. The manufacturers expressed the hope that it would enable parents to develop closer bonds with their unborn child. The technology will also make it easier for doctors to diagnose and treat certain foetal health problems, and to detect anomalies such as cleft lips or palates. [BBC News online, 30 January ] Cleft lips have been taken as grounds for abortion up to birth in the UK. The Catholic bishops of Guatemala have expressed concern over a so-called reproductive healthcare programme which includes sex education for children. In a document published at the end of their plenary assembly last week, the bishops suggested the establishment of a committee to ensure that school education remained "in keeping with the plan of God". [Zenit, 29 January] US Senator Hillary Clinton has criticised President Bush for reinstating the ban on federal funding of international groups which provide or promote abortion. The so-called Mexico City Policy was introduced by President Reagan in 1984 and lifted by President Clinton in 1993. Senator Clinton, the former first lady, also spoke in support of the RU-486 abortion drug. [EWTN News, 26 January ] An Italian fertility doctor has said that he intends to clone a human being [for the purpose of reproduction] within the next year. Dr Severino Antinori from Rome made his announcement in Lexington, Kentucky. He revealed that he already had 10 infertile couples as candidates and said: "The goal to be a father, to be a mother, is a human right. An absolute human right." David Magnus, an ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, observed: "I suspect that we will never hear about the first human clone because the first, maybe the first 10, will be quite deformed ... and probably will be aborted." [Lexington Herald-Leader, 26 January ]

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