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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 October 2001

3 October 2001

3 October 2001 SPUC has reacted with shock and deep concern at the news that the Irish government plans to liberalise abortion law by removing legal protection for the youngest human embryos. Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, yesterday unveiled the text of a bill which would pave the way for a referendum to amend the republic's constitution. Mr John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, was deeply concerned at the fact that the bill defined abortion as the destruction of human life only "after implantation", a definition which will lead to the legitimisation of various forms of killing pre-implantation embryos such as the morning-after pill and IUD. He pointed out that the bill's definition of abortion was completely at odds with scientific evidence, definitions in the world's most respected scientific and medical dictionaries, and the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (Ireland's predominant faith). Mr Smeaton insisted: "Compromise on this issue in the hope of achieving public support for the protection of human life is both illusory and misplaced." Mr Smeaton has written to all the Irish Catholic bishops and many other pro-life contacts in Ireland, the UK and throughout the world, urging action to protect human life in Ireland. [SPUC, 3 October] Every pregnant white woman in the United States is to be offered a test for the gene mutation that causes cystic fibrosis under new guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The test will also be offered to every couple who are considering having a baby if at least one of the partners is white. One in every 29 white Americans carries the gene for cystic fibrosis. If both the man and woman in a relationship test positive for the mutation before conceiving a child, they can be offered in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to screen out and kill those embryos affected. If the woman is already pregnant, the child can be aborted. [AP, 1 October; via Northern Light] Last year the British government contributed 13,000 US dollars specifically for the provision of abortifacient drugs in Africa. In its financial statements for 2000, the International Planned Parenthood Federation records the contribution for "emergency contraception [in the] Africa region". [IPPF Financial Statements 2000, p.35 ] Statistics released by the South African department of health have indicated that 40% of abortions in the country are performed in Gauteng province. Since abortion was legalised five years ago, 188,061 unborn babies have been killed under the terms of the law. 76,000 of these have been aborted in Gauteng. The next highest number was in Free State, where 18,620 unborn babies were aborted. [The Sowetan, etc. via Northern Light, 2 October] A team of American scientists have produced a mouse which has been genetically modified to grow large numbers of new blood capillaries in its skin. The researchers at the University of California in San Francisco claim that the technique could enable doctors to grow new blood vessels in heart patients and diabetics. The development could provide another ethical alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning to produce new body tissue. [BBC News online, 30 September] Researchers in the United States have discovered that the children of soldiers who fought in the 1990-91 Gulf war are more than twice as likely than other babies to be born with psychological and physical disabilities. The research, which was sponsored by the Environmental Epidemiology Service and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, surveyed 30,000 parents in the US armed forces. There have been claims that the children of British Gulf war veterans have also been more likely to suffer from developmental anomalies, including Down's syndrome, allegedly as a result of the drugs given to soldiers in the Gulf. The reports do not mention if any unborn babies have been aborted on the basis of developmental anomalies possibly linked to the conflict. [BBC News online, 3 October]

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