News, 1 July 2002
1 July 2002
1 July 2002 The Scottish first minister has ordered health boards in Scotland to shelve any plans to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available in schools. It is reported that Jack McConnell, who leads the Scottish Executive, yesterday described proposals to allow school nurses to dispense the drug [see digest for 27 June ] as "stupid and irresponsible". Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, welcomed the move but challenged Mr McConnell to explain why the executive continued to support the provision of the morning-after pill to children in pharmacies. [Scottish Daily Mail, 1 July] The Irish government has confirmed that it has no intention of legislating on abortion. Michael McDowell, the justice minister, said that there was no appetite in the government for further abortion legislation after the defeat of its abortion referendum proposals in March. [The Irish Examiner, 1 July ] No abortions may take place in Ireland because unborn life is constitutionally protected from the moment of conception and the X-case judgement in 1992, which authorised abortion in cases of threatened suicide, has never been legislated for. The British government has pledged to make free abortions more readily available to schoolgirls. As part of the same initiative that will see school children under 16 receiving free contraceptives and morning-after pills at school in England and Wales [see digest for 28 June ], the department of health will encourage schools to provide confidential sex advice clinics and increase abortion provision on the National Health Service. [The Independent, 28 June ] The chief executive of Tesco, a British supermarket chain, has agreed to review his company's policy of providing the abortifacient morning-after pill free of charge to teenagers. Mrs Elizabeth Lewis, who works for the Life charity and is also a Tesco share-holder, attended Tesco's annual general meeting last month and secured a commitment from Mr Terry Leahy, the chief executive, to review the practice. Mr Leahy had previously refused to comment on the matter. [Catholic Times, 30 June; see news digest for 18 June ] Official statistics have revealed that more in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment cycles are undertaken in Germany than in any other European country, with France in second place and the UK in third. Denmark still comes first in terms of the number of IVF cycles per inhabitant. The number of IVF cycles undertaken in Europe rose by 24% between 1997 and 1999. In 1999 there were 249,624 IVF cycles undertaken across Europe, 60,723 of which were in Germany, 51,868 in France, and 30,868 in the UK. Spain, Ireland and Italy joined eastern European countries such as the Ukraine and Hungary at the top of the league of countries with the highest proportion of three of more embryos being transferred in each IVF cycle. [BBC News online, 1 July ] It is thought that only about 1.7 percent of conceptions generated by IVF treatment result in a live birth, meaning that the vast majority of unborn children die in the process.