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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 July 2002

18 July 2002

18 July 2002 Members of the UK parliament have been told that the government's strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy rates, including easy access to the morning-after pill, has failed. Between 1992 and 2000, the number of under-16s attending family planning clinics in England and Wales rose by 143.6%. During the same period, prescriptions for the morning-after pill to under-16s rose by 284.8%, and by 321.5% among 16 to 19-year-olds. However, the official teenage conception rate remained almost static [and the registered abortion rate rose]. Meanwhile, between 1995 and 2000, cases of sexually transmitted diseases among 16 to 19-year-old girls rose by 58.3%. The figures were presented yesterday by Dr David Paton, an economist at Nottingham University, to the all-party parliamentary pro-life group. [The Scotsman, 17 July ; Mirror, 18 July ] Taiwan has accused China of forcing pregnant women with Taiwanese husbands to have abortions as part of its one-child family policy. The government in Taipei has urged the Chinese authorities not to apply its population control policy to Chinese women with Taiwanese husbands because their children can live in Taiwan. [ABC News, via Go Asia Pacific, 18 July ] A discovery by British researchers could lead to the development of new potentially abortifacient methods of birth control and improve the efficiency of human cloning. A team led by Professor Tony Lai at the University of Wales College of Medicine has found a gene in sperm which produces a protein called PLC-zeta when the sperm has penetrated the egg. This protein then causes a wave of calcium to surge through the newly fertilised zygote, causing cell division to begin. It is reported that the discovery could lead to the development of male birth control drugs which would block the working of this gene, thereby preventing cell division after conception. Conversely, the gene could also be used to make it easier to create embryos for experimental purposes. [BBC and Ananova , 17 July] As expected, a committee of the British House of Commons has heavily criticised the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [see digest for 16 July ]. A report published today by the House of Commons science and technology select committee states that "democracy is not served by unelected quangos taking decisions on behalf of parliament". Dr Ian Gibson, the committee's chairman, said this morning: "We have to start rethinking what the word 'life' really means." [BBC, 18 July ] It has emerged that the pro-abortion group calling itself Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) received more than $10 million dollars from a variety of prominent pro-abortion foundations between 1996 and 2000. US tax forms submitted by CFFC show that it received substantial donations from the Ford Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Turner Foundation, among others. All five of CFFC's biggest backers have also supported Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, while none of them have supported any officially recognised Catholic organisations. At the end of 2000, CFFC had assets of more than $8 million. [Insight, 15 July ; LifeSite, 17 July ] The winner of the Miss Oregon beauty pageant last Saturday used her speech to highlight the link between abortion and breast cancer. Brita Stream, who will represent her state in the Miss America pageant in September, defended her actions by saying: "I think the word 'abortion ' often ruffles people's feathers. This is a health issue not a political one." [LifeSite, 17 July ]

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