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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 1 November 2001

1 November 2001

1 November 2001 Mrs Dianne Pretty, whose bid to be given a right to die was rejected by the English high court last month, has been given permission to take her case to the House of Lords. The high court had refused Mrs Pretty leave to appeal, but the appellate committee of the House of Lords, England's highest court, agreed today to hear her case anyway. A coalition of British pro-life groups, including SPUC, will seek to intervene in the appeal. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, said: "Those backing Mrs Pretty are determined to undermine the right to life of severely disabled people in order to promote the cause of medical killing. It is vital that this case is seen in the wider context of the pressures which might be brought to bear on handicapped people to opt for death." [SPUC, 1 November ] American women who take the Accutane drug to counter acne will now be required to take a pregnancy test every month under new rules announced yesterday. Accutane has been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of severe acne, but it can also cause unborn children to die or develop severe birth defects. Of the 2,181 women known to have become pregnant while taking the drug between 1982 and June 2001, the US Food and Drug Administration reports that 1,310 had elective abortions. Only 192 unaffected babies were born, while 166 were born with congenital anomalies and 242 were miscarried. [Reuters, via Yahoo! news, 31 October ] President Alfonso Portillo of Guatemala last week signed into law his country's first reproductive health policy. The Catholic Church had urged the president to veto the Social Development and Population Law on the basis that it could be manipulated to promote abortion. The law will allow state funds to be used to provide contraceptives [some of which may be potentially abortifacient]. Abortion is illegal in Guatemala. [Christian Science Monitor, via Northern Light, 25 October ] Researchers on the Greek island of Crete claim to have discovered a fundamental mechanism that controls the implantation of a newly conceived embryo in his or her mother's womb. Scientists at the University of Crete have reported that the presence or absence of a specific hormone determines whether an embryo will successfully implant and survive until birth. Reports suggest that the discovery could be used to help millions of women avoid miscarriages, but Professor Achilleas Gravanis of the University of Crete medical school said that the discovery could also be used to develop better chemical abortifacients. [Xinhua news agency, via Northern Light, 31 October ] US President George Bush has signalled his intention to veto a bill currently before congress if its final version includes language supporting destructive research on human embryos. An amendment proposed by Senator Arlen Specter to the labor, health, human services and education appropriations bill would authorise the president to waive the protection for human embryos provided by the long-standing Dickey-Wicker amendment. A statement released by the president's administration affirmed: "The President strongly believes that the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which for years has ensured that the federal government observes important ethical boundaries... should not be altered. The administration therefore strongly opposes the Senate version of the bill which... would signal a weakening of the federal government's commitment to protecting human embryos." [Pro-Life Infonet , 31 October]

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