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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 September 2001

28 September 2001

28 September 2001 Official abortion statistics released today indicate that there were 1.2% more abortions performed under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act in England and Wales last year than in 1999. The official report on abortion published by the Office for National Statistics , updating provisional figures released in May, states that there were 185,375 legal abortions carried out in England and Wales during 2000, compared to 183,250 in 1999. The total for 2000 is the third highest ever (the highest having been in 1998), and corresponds to a rate of 16.94 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, 0.9 percent higher than in 1999. [Office for National Statistics media release, 28 September ] A new genetic screening service for unborn babies has been hailed as a success by researchers writing in the Lancet medical journal. The unit at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital in London uses a procedure known as quantitative fluorescence polymerase chain reaction (QF-PCR) to detect 80% of foetal anomalies within two days of the test. Previously, pregnant women had to wait two weeks for the results of screening tests. Pro-lifers reacted with concern to suggestions that the provision of QF-PCR could now be extended to other units across the UK. SPUC observed that genetic screening of unborn children often resulted in the abortion of those found to have Down's syndrome or other anomalies. Paul Danon, a spokesman for SPUC, also warned that a fast-track screening procedure would lead to greater use of amniocentesis tests which carry a risk of miscarriage of between one and 1.5%. [Discovery Health , Ananova and SPUC, 28 September] A prominent member of the Pakistan Medical Association has urged doctors not to abort unborn girls on the basis of their sex. Speaking in Karachi yesterday, professor Yasmin Rashid observed that many ultrasound clinics were involved in the "dirty business" of pre-natal sex determination. However, Professor Rashid said that Pakistan was at the forefront of advanced prenatal testing for genetic anomalies. [Dawn, 28 September ] Researchers in the United States have discovered that a protein found in the uterus might explain why a woman's immune system does not treat her unborn child as a foreign body and attack it. Gary Clark and colleagues at the Eastern Virginia Medical School have suggested that a protein which multiplies during pregnancy could play a role in protecting a developing embryo. The same types of mechanism may also be employed in the HIV virus and especially aggressive tumour cells which trick the immune system into ignoring them. However, Joan Hunt of the University of Kansas school of medicine pointed out that there were "literally dozens of [biological] mechanisms protecting the embryo". [Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 26 September; via Pro-Life Infonet ] The Roman Catholic and Romanian Orthodox Churches have come together in the defence of life and the institution of marriage at a conference in Bucharest. The meeting, held under the patronage of the Romanian President Ion Iliescu, was addressed by Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Patriarch Teoctist, leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church. [Zenit, 27 September ] SPUC's national director, general secretary and national vice-chairman are among those taking part in a sponsored walk today and tomorrow from Liverpool to Manchester in the north west of England. The walk is to raise money for SPUC's forthcoming judicial review of the British government's decision to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available from pharmacists to women over 16 without a doctor's prescription. [SPUC, 28 September]

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