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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 12 February 2002

12 February 2002

12 February 2002 SPUC's judicial review of the government's decision to make the morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a prescription starts this morning in the High Court in London. Speaking on national radio this morning, John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said that the presentation of the morning-after pill as emergency contraception was a "cynical deception of women". He continued: "We think it is deliberately promoted as contraception because... if you talk directly about abortion, women do not like it. What we have is almost entirely unsupervised abortion by pill." Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's largest private abortion provider, said that a victory for SPUC would be "disastrous". The hearing is expected to conclude tomorrow, although the judgement may be deferred. [SPUC and BBC News online , 12 February] The Irish Catholic bishops appear to have grown more cautious in their backing for a "yes" vote in the abortion referendum on the sixth of next month. Meeting at the Marian shrine of Knock, the bishops claimed that the proposal was "essentially an anti-abortion measure" and stated: "Catholic voters should feel free in conscience to support this measure, even if it is viewed as less than might have been desired." The Irish government has been accused of scaremongering after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warned that a "no" vote in the referendum would "open the floodgates to liberalised abortion". Tony O'Brien, chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, observed: "Ireland has lived with the X case judgement for 10 years now. The liberal abortion regime which the Taoiseach is predicting if the referendum is lost has not happened in that time." [Irish Independent, 12 February ; Nando Times, 7 February ] Pro-life groups such as SPUC and Ireland for Life are opposing the proposals because they would worsen the situation for all unborn children and remove legal protection from the youngest and most vulnerable pre-implantation embryos. An unspecified number of unborn children have been killed in the course of experiments to create artificial wombs. Scientists in the US have created prototype wombs made from cells extracted from women's bodies and have successfully implanted human embryos in the wombs, although the "experiments had to be terminated" [i.e. the babies were killed] after a few days to comply with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) regulations. Dr Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University's Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility explained: "...we took embryos left over from IVF programmes and put these into our laboratory engineered tissue. The embryos attached themselves to the walls of our prototype wombs and began to settle there." The experiments were halted after six days, but Dr Liu now intends to keep the embryos alive for up to 14 days to "see if the embryos put down roots and veins into our artificial wombs' walls, and see if their cells differentiate into primitive organs and develop a primitive placenta." [The Observer, 10 February ] Pope John Paul II has warned against abuses of biotechnology in his Lenten message. While stressing that the Church was open to scientific advances which were at the service of humanity, the Pope insisted that the dignity of the human person could not be infringed. Referring specifically to the early human embryo, the Pope writes: "The beginning of life and its marvellous development: this is a gift. And because it is a gift, life can never be regarded as a possession or as private property, even if the capabilities we now have to improve the quality of life can lead us to think that man is the 'master' of life." [LifeSite, 6 February ] Research in South Australia suggests that pregnant teenagers are now more likely to have abortions than to give birth because the option of offering their unplanned child for adoption is no longer generally considered viable. Figures for 2000 published by the state's department of human services indicate that 1,093 girls aged between 15 and 19 had abortions, compared to 802 who gave birth. Kaisu Vartto, chief executive of the SHine SA family planning group, commented: "In the 1970s, women were either choosing adoption, abortion or birth, [but] the rate for adoption has dramatically declined." [The Advertiser, South Australia, 11 February]

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