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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 October 2002

3 October 2002

3 October 2002 The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has reacted critically to a report on ethical standards for the genetic screening and destruction of human embryos. SPUC general secretary Paul Tully commented: "Although the report issued by the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, Genetics and human behaviour: the ethical context, seems to come down against selecting or destroying human embryos for their genetic traits, the report denies the biological reality of early human life. The report says that the screening of early human embryos outside the womb, 'is, in effect, used to choose which life to start'. The reality is clearly different. A human embryo is fully human from the moment of his or her conception." Mr Tully also commented: "The report also says that abortion on 'social' grounds such as gender or predicted intelligence or behaviour is ethically and morally wrong, yet the report explicitly says that it 'set[s] aside the contested issue of the ethics of abortion on social grounds'. This totally illogical position ignores the fact that fatal discrimination through eugenic abortion is already widely practised against those considered less than "perfect" or socially unacceptable because they are unwanted'." [SPUC, 2 October , Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2 October ] Indian feminists have denounced the use of injectable abortifacients in the Indian government's repressive and punitive population control policy. A study has found serious violations of informed consent among women administered the drugs. The study, conducted by Indian non-governmental organisation SAMA, followed 52 women who had been injected with Depo Provera between October 1999 and June 2000, and found that most of the women studied had not been told about possible side-effects or screened for health risks prior to the drug's injection. Dr. C. Sathyamala, reputed to be a leading world authority on injectables, was reported as commenting that "[p]harmaceutical lobbies, international funding agencies and development banks have made population control a condition for loans and grants to Third World governments." Many Indian states punish couples with more than one or two children by denying political rights or employment prospects, while some threaten to withdraw food subsidies, welfare or education. [Inter Press Service, September 30, 2002]. Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among teenagers in south London are higher than previously thought, including among pregnant teenagers. A study of teenagers visiting a south London sexual health clinic over two months in 1998, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, found that two-thirds of girls who visited the clinic had an STI, almost one in five of the girls were pregnant, and most of the girls had been pregnant at least once. The study's authors from Camden Primary Care Trust concluded that the high incidence of STIs was due to the failure of teenagers to use contraception effectively. However, other experts in the field have found that the provision of so-called sexual health services, including easy access to abortifacient birth control, aids rather than inhibits promiscuity. [Discovery Health news, 3 October ]

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