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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 November 2001

16 November 2001

16 November 2001 SPUC is defying a regulator's ban on its advertising which describes morning-after pills as "abortion-inducing". John Smeaton, SPUC national director, has refused to sign an assurance that he would comply with an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and cease to use the term. Mr Smeaton told The Guardian newspaper: "The ASA has ignored a wealth of scientific evidence in making this decision and has failed even to explain why it has rejected our substantial defence." The ASA has pointed out that the British government does not consider morning-after pills as abortifacient. [Guardian, 14 November ] Following yesterday's defeat for the UK government on human cloning , the health ministry is to rush laws through parliament. The high court found that current law did not cover the creation of humans through cell nuclear replacement. A health minister is quoted as saying that "reproductive" cloning would be banned, implying that cloning for research and the production of therapies would be allowed. It has also been reported that the government might appeal against yesterday's decision. Professor Severino Antinori has announced his intention to travel to Britain in the hope that he might perform some cloning before the law is changed. [Times, 16 November ] The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have called on the government to ban all cloning. Archbishop Peter Smith, chairman of the bishops' conference's department for Christian responsibility and citizenship, said: "Human cloning even for therapeutic purposes involves the deliberate creation and destruction of new human lives." He pointed out that there were other sources of stem cells and that therapeutic cloning would lead to cloning to produce live births. [news release, Catholic Media Office , 16 November] A new prenatal test for Down's syndrome is being promoted as an alternative to amniocentesis which can cause miscarriage. Scientists in Britain found a link between Down's and the absence of a nasal bone at between 11 and 14 weeks. The study is reported in the Lancet. [BBC, 16 November ] While the new type of screening may be safer in terms of avoiding miscarriage caused by invasive testing, the detection of Down's is customarily followed by the offer of an abortion. The bishops of England and Wales have warned that legalising assisted suicide would erode vulnerable people's rights, and that no distinction may be reasonably made between assisted suicide and euthanasia. Archbishop Peter Smith, chairman of the bishops' conference's department for Christian responsibility and citizenship, made the remarks in his submission to the House of Lords concerning Mrs Dianne Pretty's request to be helped to die. While expressing sympathy for Mrs Pretty and citing the need to care for the vulnerable, Archbishop Smith described life as a divine gift over which mankind did not have dominion. [news release, Catholic Media Office , 16 November] American bishops have condemned all violence used to oppose abortion. The policy is part of a new version of the US Catholic episcopal conference's 26-year-old plan which describes a system of national, diocesan and parochial committees for pro-life work. The plan also includes sections on assisted suicide, embryo research, cloning and capital punishment. [Post-Gazette, 15 November ] Vietnam's National Committee for Population and Family Planning is drafting a law to stop abortion on the grounds of gender. There are six percent more males than females in Vietnam and oriental culture favours male children. [CNN, 16 November ] The ratio between working people and retired people in Britain will fall from 4.2 to 2.5 by 2040, according to the government's actuary. Birth rates are predicted to decline while longevity increases. Experts claim that a slight increase in fertility (from 1.74 children per woman to two) would affect the balance between old and young in the same way as the annual arrival in the UK of half a million immigrants. [Times, 15 November ] A consultant obstetrician writing in the British Medical Journal has called for a more positive attitude to conventional birth and increased commitment to foetal monitoring. The number of caesarian sections in England and Wales is nearly double the World Health Organisation's recommended level. The BMJ article is by Dr Richard Johanson. [Ananova, 16 November ]

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