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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 14 September 2001

14 September 2001

14 September 2001 Revised ethical guidelines agreed by the Irish Medical Council on Wednesday have been welcomed by pro-lifers in Ireland. The council voted to accept new wording which allows the "termination of pregnancy" when there is "a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother". However, in so doing, the council adopted a submission from Ireland's Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as the basis for the way in which the wording would be interpreted. This submission notes that "therapeutic intervention" which entails the death of a immature unborn child as an unintended secondary effect is rare, and continues: "We consider that there is a fundamental difference between abortion carried out with the intention of taking the life of the baby ... and the unavoidable death of the baby resulting from essential treatment to protect the life of the mother." Dr Berry Kiely, a spokesman for the Irish Pro-Life Campaign, said: "The statement of the Institute represents the consensus position among the country's obstetricians and gynaecologists and has brought a greater degree of clarity to the debate." [Irish Independent and Pro-Life Campaign, 14 September] The new leader of Britain's Conservative party has a pro-life voting record on the issues of cloning and euthanasia, and is reported to be against abortion. Mr Iain Duncan Smith, who is Roman Catholic, beat Mr Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor of the exchequer, by 61 percent to 39 percent of votes cast by Conservative party members. [BBC News online, 13 September ; SPUC parliamentary voting records ] The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has recommended that a proposed bill of rights should enshrine a right to sexual and reproductive health care and information. The commission's consultation document, published this month, suggests the inclusion of the following clause: "Everyone has the right to have equal and free access to sexual and reproductive health care and to information and education relating to sexual and reproductive matters at all levels, free of coercion, discrimination and violence." While the document states that it would be inappropriate for the issue of abortion to be "resolved" by the bill of rights, so-called reproductive healthcare is often used as a euphemism for abortion and could feasibly be taken as such by the courts. [SPUC, London, 14 September] Researchers in Florida have claimed that tissue from aborted unborn children can safely be used to repair brain or spinal cord injuries. A team led by Dr Douglas K Anderson at the University of Florida in Gainesville has transplanted small amounts of foetal spinal cord tissue from aborted babies of between six and nine weeks' gestation into eight patients with syringomyelia [a disease of the spinal cord which results in impairment of sensation] since 1997. Dr Anderson reports that while there has been little noticeable improvement in the patients, neither have there been any adverse effects. [Reuters, via Yahoo! Health, 13 September ] The special session of the United Nations general assembly on children which was planned to take place from 19 to 21 September has been postponed on account of the terrorist atrocities on Tuesday. The general assembly will now decide on a new date for the conference. Some groups and delegations had hoped to insert pro-abortion language in the final document of the conference, although this was being fiercely resisted by others. [United Nations news service, 13 September]

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