News, 8 July 2002
8 July 2002
8 July 2002 The British government is to make the RU-486 abortion drug more widely available in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The drug, also known as mifepristone, will be made available free on the National Health Services at family planning centres to women of all ages - including to under-age girls without the consent of their parents - in a bid to make abortion easier and cheaper. Mifepristone, which separates an unborn child from the lining of his or her mother's womb, is taken in conjunction with misoprostol, which causes the child to be expelled from the womb amid much bleeding. A spokesman for the department of health said: "This is about making sure everyone has access to the same choices. It is about equality." However, pro-life groups and the Conservative party, Britain's official opposition, have condemned the plans. Michael Ancram, deputy Conservative leader, said that "anything that makes abortion easier and simpler, in the end, is harmful to people". Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said: "The bottom line is a dead baby, and that is no easier to come to terms with for the woman who has thought about it for a fortnight and taken a drug, than if she has prepared herself for six weeks and had an operation." [BBC News online , Daily Telegraph, Metro and SPUC , 8 July] A white woman, whose partner is also white, has given birth to twins with black skin after an apparent mix-up at an IVF clinic. A court hearing has now been scheduled for October to resolve the mecical and legal issues arising from the apparent error, such as deciding who the legitimate parents are. [BBC News online, 8 July ] IVF is now used by about 27,000 couples in the UK every year, although it entails a hugely disproportionate risk to the lives of the unborn children conceived in the process. The Catholic bishops of Slovakia have condemned the pro-abortion Van Lancker report which was passed by the European parliament last week. The report recommends the legalisation of abortion and easy access to the morning-after pill in all European Union members states and candidate countries, including Slovakia. Marian Gavenda, a representative of the Slovakian bishops' conference, said that the adoption of the report "leaves us perplexed, disappointed, and shows the distance that exists between our expectations and reality". She continued: "In the agenda of the European union [we] find increasing space given to ideas and interests that are in open opposition to the culture of life. We, peoples of Eastern Europe, who have suffered Communism... do not want to give up our values to enter the European Union." [Zenit, 5 July ] The US government has approved the first federally funded research project involving the use of stem cells extracted from the bodies of aborted unborn children. The National Institutes of Health quietly announced on 20 May that a team of researchers led by John Gearhart at John Hopkins University School of Medicine would receive $150,000 for work on unborn children aborted up to eight weeks after conception. Although President Bush announced last year that no federal funding would be provided for research which involved or benefited from the deaths of any more embryos, it is reported that a law passed in 1993 meant that he could not extend the scope of this regulation to include research on aborted foetuses. [Chicago Tribune, 7 July ] Singapore may be set to become the second country after the UK to authorise the creation and destruction of cloned human embryos for research purposes. The country's Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) has recommended that research into so-called therapeutic cloning should be legalised, although a new statutory board which has been set up to assume the BAC's responsibilities will have a chance to scrutinise the proposal. [Straits Times, 6 July; via Hoover's online ] A delegate to China's parliamentary assembly has warned of sexual turmoil in the years ahead because so many men would be unable to find wives as a result of the unbalanced male to female ratio caused by the one-child family policy. Ren Yuling, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, observed that there were now 106.7 males to 100 females in the population of 1.3 billion. She said that among the under-five age group, the ratio was now 120 males to 100 females and, in Guangxi province, it was as high as 140 males to 100 females. [Sunday Times, 7 July] China's one-child family policy, together with the cultural preference for male children, has led to high rates of sex-selective abortion and infanticide of baby girls.