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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 November 2002

26 November 2002

26 November 2002 It is reported that Peru has refused to accept a grant from the UK government's department for international development because it was intended for projects which may have included the promotion of abortion. An extremely biased report by the pro-abortion Center for Health and Gender Equality in the US claims that Fernando Carbone, the Peruvian health minister, turned down a five-year $24 million bilateral development assistance grant from the UK because it was intended to develop so-called reproductive health services - usually understood to include abortion and abortifacient methods of birth control. The Peruvian health ministry reportedly rejected a grant from the Spanish Agency for International Development last month for the same reason. [Center for Health and Gender Equality, 21 November ] The UK government has announced a substantial increase in funding for the official body which regulates IVF fertility treatment and embryo research. Health minister Hazel Blears announced a further £1 million in government funding for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in this financial year, and a further rise next year. It is reported that the increases will take the total level of funding from a little over £2 million per year to £5.5 million per year. In addition, the HFEA will be allowed to raise its licence fee income to £4 million in 2003/04. The funding increase comes in response to a House of Commons report, and will be tied to a range of new measures to bolster the body's regulatory procedures. In announcing the increase, Ms Blears observed that "Britain is well placed to be a world leader in human genetics and embryology research." [DoH press release, 25 November ; Independent, 26 November ] Doctors and other medical staff have received long prison sentences in Italy for their involvement in illegal abortions. Two doctors each received 20-year sentences for performing the abortions, while a obstetrician received a sentence of 14 years and an anaesthetist and a secretary each received sentences of 12 years. Two others received minor sentences, and four were acquitted. A total of 67 people have been charged with involvement in 12 abortions performed at a clinic in Rome between 1995 and 1997, with the remaining 56 defendants facing trial in March. [AFP, 25 November; via Pro-Life E-News] Abortion is legal on request in Italy up to 90 days after conception, and is allowed later in pregnancy in cases of foetal anomaly or to save the mother's life. A traditional healer will appear in court in Botswana tomorrow in connection with the discovery of 26 foetuses found in shallow graves. The healer is expected to be charged with supplying instruments and drugs to procure abortion. Two women have already been sentenced to eight months in prison for having abortions with the healer's help. [AllAfrica. com, 25 November; via Northern Light ] The section on abortion in Botswana's penal code is based on the UK's Offences Against the Person Act 1861, although a number of statutory exceptions were added in 1991 and the country's abortion law is now said to be one of the most liberal in sub-Saharan Africa. [UN Population Division, 2002] Mr Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman in a series of films before being paralysed in an accident in 1995, is continuing his campaign to promote destructive embryonic stem cell research. Mr Reeve testified before a New Jersey state senate committee yesterday in favour of a proposed law which would promote embryonic stem cell research in direct contradiction of the US federal government's policy. California is the only state to have passed a law to promote stem cell research on embryos, but legislators in Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, as well as in New Jersey, are considering similar measures. [New Jersey News, 26 November ] The teenage pregnancy rate in Uganda has dropped from 45% in 1995 to 31% this year, according to a report prepared by the Ugandan health ministry. The decrease has happened without the promotion of abortion, which remains illegal in most cases. The news appears to contradict the views of a number of South African MPs who urged Uganda last week to legalise abortion because of high rates of sexual abuse and moral degeneration in the country. [Xinhua news agency, 26 November, via Northern Light ; see digest for 21 November ]

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