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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 4 July 2001

4 July 2001

4 July 2001 The British government has reiterated its determination to implement proposals which would allow euthanasia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The government's intention was re-stated in a written parliamentary answer from Ms Rosie Winterton MP, a parliamentary secretary at the lord chancellor's department. [column 144W, House of Commons Hansard, 3 July ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary, said: ""It may well be that the government has now disposed of any doubts it may have had about legislating for euthanasia by starvation and dehydration. It is vital that concerned people convince their MPs that the government's proposals would force medical staff by law to allow the killing of vulnerable patients. The pretence that Making Decisions [the lord chancellor's 1999 proposals for making decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitated adults] is not proposing euthanasia should be exploded." The Irish medical council is to be challenged in the high court over its refusal to allow discussion of abortion at a meeting last week. The council's president wants the matter discussed in September but seven of the 25 members are going to court to force a special meeting before then. Last month the council relaxed its guidelines on abortion. [Irish Times, 2 July ] The annual representative meeting of the British Medical Association wants morning-after pills to be provided free of charge by pharmacists. Although some members argued that pregnant teenagers needed advice which only doctors could give, the meeting approved a motion for such provision. [BBC, 2 July ] A prolife video sent to 350,000 homes has caused argument in the Israeli parliament's committee on women's status. Many female members complained that the Efrat organisation's film used scare-tactics and invaded privacy. The video includes pictures of children being aborted and interviews with gynaecologists. [Ha'aretz news ] Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, who have developed a technique for screening embryos for Down's syndrome and cystic fibrosis, claim it will reduce abortions and improve fertility treatment. [The Times, 3 July ] Alison Davis, National Coordinator of the SPUC Handicap Division said: "This new double test will only prevent abortions in the sense that it will facilitate the destruction of disabled individuals at a younger age. It ignores the infinite value of every human being and treats human embryos as commodities--to be discarded if not deemed perfect. I have spina bifida and use a wheelchair. If such diagnosis had been available when I was still an embryo, my human value would have been judged solely on my disability, and thrown away as so much rubbish. The researchers suggest that it is tragic when a couple who have aborted previous babies because they had cystic fibrosis end up with a child with Down's syndrome. The real tragedy is that human beings are being judged as worthless because they have a disability." The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided to allow embryos created through in vitro fertilisation to be screened for chromosome defects. [The Mail on Sunday, 1 July] Alison Davis, National Coordinator of the SPUC Handicap Division said: "The HFEA claims that embryo screening is safe and effective, but the truth is that it is certainly not safe for the embryos concerned. They will be biopsied (in itself a risky procedure) and those found to have a disability will be thrown away. It is ironic that this procedure is promoted as reducing the risk of miscarriage since, if you kill all disabled embryos, they obviously will not die later. It is yet another example of eugenics at work, and the philosophy that disability is prevented if the disabled individual is killed at the earliest possible moment." Americans' support for legal abortion is at its lowest since 1995, according to an opinion poll by ABC and Beliefnet. Those supporting legal abortion in all or most cases declined from 59% in January to 52% last month. While 63% of white evangelicals opposed abortion, more than half of Catholics surveyed supported it. [Reuters on iWon, 2 July ] European Catholic bishops have expressed concern at proposals to legalise euthanasia in Belgium and have called for palliative care for the terminally ill. A statement from the episcopal conferences' meeting in Germany last month affirmed that life had a meaning in every situation. [EWTN, 29 June ] Mothers' diet has an important role in determining whether their children will suffer from conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Professor David Barker of Southampton University, UK, told a conference on human reproduction in Switzerland that improvements in maternal diet could halve coronary disease in men. [BBC, 2 July ] Belgian researchers are suggesting that implanting single IVF embryos might be almost as successful as implanting two or three at a time. The work was done at Middelheim Hospital, Antwerp. [BBC, 2 July ] Although implanting single embryos might reduce the number of children dying after implantation, IVF embryos who are not implanted will still be discarded. Human sperm extracted from testicles has a greater likelihood of producing foetuses with genetic anomalies, according to French study. [BBC, 3 July ] The new president of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has warned that some doctors' behaviour threatens the future of fertility treatment. Professor Hans Evers cited the case of the 62-year-old Frenchwoman who gave birth to her nephew and intentions expressed by doctors that they will clone humans. He feared governments would introduce strict laws on reproductive issues. [BBC, 3 July ] British couples receive less fertility-treatment than most other Europeans, and almost all of those who do will pay for it. In 1998 the UK had 595 treatments per million couples. The European average is 700 and Scandinavian couples are above average. [BBC, 3 July ] Ten percent more morning-after pills have been supplied since the UK government allowed them to be sold by pharmacists without prescription. At the current rate, one million doses will be provided by the end of this year. Government figures show that more than one tenth of unsterilised women aged 16 to 50 used morning-after pills in 1999. The statistics do not include use of the pills by under-16s. [Daily Mail, 30 June] Medical researchers say they can add women's genetic material to other women's eggs. If such eggs were fertilised, each child would have three parents. Dr Takumi Takeuchi of Cornell University, New York, described the technique to a conference on human reproduction in Lausanne, Switzerland. [Daily Mail, 3 July] Guernsey's health board is to consider promoting the legalisation of euthanasia. Mr Peter Roffey, president of the board and reportedly a supporter of euthanasia, said that a decision would need a public consultation on the matter. [Guernsey Evening Post, 28 June] The head of developmental genetics of the UK Medical Research Council has accused scientists who oppose so-called therapeutic cloning of having hidden religious objections and vested interests in adult stem cell research. Dr Robin Lovell-Badge made the allegations when giving evidence to a parliamentary committee on such research. [SPUC eye-witness]. Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "Dr Lovell-Badge has lowered the reputation of the scientific community by casting such a slur on those scientists who have a conscientious objection to the unethical exploitation of human beings. The Medical Research Council is the one with the vested interest, since it is actively seeking funding and staff for so-called therapeutic cloning." The French supreme court has ruled that foetuses are not persons. The decision was made in the case of an unborn child of six months' gestation who died as a result of injuries received in a road accident. The driver who caused the accident has had a sentence for involuntary homicide overturned. The court ruled that one could only speak in terms of a person if "a being has come into the world". [Zenit, 2 July ]

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