News, 30 July 2002
30 July 2002
30 July 2002 A British government minister has claimed that the RU-486 abortion drug is less likely to cause psychological damage to women than a spontaneous miscarriage. In a parliamentary answer, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a health minister, highlighted "the negative psychological impact of miscarriage on a significant proportion of women" and observed that miscarriages at home could be a "distressing, frightening and lonely experience". Then, in a later answer, he claimed that "only a small minority" of women experienced adverse psychological effects as a result of so-called medical abortions, such as those performed using RU-486 (mifepristone) which causes a woman to miscarry her child at home. The British government recently announced that it would be promoting wider use of RU-486 in England and Wales. Margaret Cuthill of British Victims of Abortion, a pro-life post-abortion support group, commented: "While women do experience feelings of grief and even guilt after a natural miscarriage, the guilt and trauma after a deliberate miscarriage or abortion is far more difficult to bear. The minister's contradictory answers reveal an attempt to deceive women into believing that post-abortion trauma does not really exist, when even the manufacturers of RU-486 have said that the drug puts women through an appalling psychological ordeal." [House of Lords Hansard, 29 July ; BVA and SPUC] British researchers have claimed that genetic disorders could be treated in the womb as early as the 10th week of pregnancy by using an unborn child's own genetically modified stem cells. Professor Nicholas Fisk of Imperial College, London, explained that it might be possible to extract mesenchymal stem cells circulating in an unborn child's blood, replace the faulty genes, and then place the treated stem cells back into the foetus at an early enough stage of development that they would be taken up by the unborn child without being rejected. The research is published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. [BBC News online, 29 July ] Figures released by the British department of health have indicated that the number of girls under 16 (the legal age of consent) who are receiving either condoms or birth control pills from family planning clinics in England and Wales has risen by 235% since 1992. However, over the same period the number of registered abortions on underage girls has risen. In 1992, there were 3,000 registered abortions in England and Wales on girls under 16, but in 2000, the last year for which comprehensive data is available, this total had risen to 3,748. [Daily Mail, 30 July; Abortion Statistics for 1992 and 2000 , Office for National Statistics] American pro-lifers have expressed concern over the forthcoming vote in the US Senate on the Prescription Drug Bill. Some senators are hoping to attach the Contraceptive Mandate Bill to the legislation, which would require health insurance plans to cover abortifacient drugs and devices, including birth control implants, the morning-after pill and the IUD. Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, said: "Drug insurance companies should exist for the purpose of helping sick people get well by giving them access to necessary medicine, not for killing innocent human persons in their earliest stages of life." [US Newswire, 29 July; via Northern Light ] A team of researchers in California has succeeded in using stem cells from bone marrow to grow new blood vessels in the eyes of mice. The research team was led by Dr Martin Friedlander at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. The development could lead to effective treatment for a range of eye diseases which can cause blindness. [Washington Times, 29 July ] This provides yet more evidence of the fact that ethical adult stem cell technology constitutes a more promising alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning.