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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 13 September 2002

13 September 2002

13 September 2002 Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain's parliamentary opposition, has condemned the provision of morning-after pills to schoolchildren in a speech to mark the first anniversary of his election as leader of the Conservative party. Mr Duncan Smith supported a campaign by Eileen Wojciechowska against a contraception clinic in her daughter's school where children as young as 11 could obtain the morning-after pill without the knowledge of their parents. Mr Duncan Smith observed: "But clinics like these do not have to pick up the pieces when this policy goes wrong." [Guardian, 13 September ] The head of MaterCare International (MCI), a Catholic group of pro-life obstetricians and gynaecologists who care for women in the developing world, has claimed that Canadian international aid is tied to abortion. Dr Richard Walley, a pro-life gynaecologist originally from the UK, claims that the Canadian International Development Agency has refused to fund MCI's new trauma centre in Ghana because it does not perform abortions. Dr Walley has also complained that MCI's activities in East Timor were opposed by the United Nations because MCI would not offer abortions or provide the morning-after pill. [C-Fam Friday Fax, 13 September ] A Belgian doctor who is offering couples the chance to select the sex of their IVF baby for €6,300 [about £3,960] has defended his scheme in the face of plans to outlaw the practice. Dr Frank Comhaire, a professor in fertility at the University of Ghent, uses sperm sorting to ensure that only sperm with the desired sex chromosomes can fertilise an egg during the IVF procedure. While Belgian legislators are preparing a law to ban sex selection for the purpose of 'family balancing', Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority remains undecided on the issue and is preparing a nationwide consultation on it. [News.com.au, 11 September ; Guardian, 8 September ] While sperm sorting does not in itself entail the destruction of unborn lives, the IVF procedure does because the vast majority of babies generated through IVF die in the laboratory or before birth. One of the experts who created Dolly the first cloned mammal has lamented the difficulty in raising money for his research in Singapore. Dr Alan Colman moved from the UK to Singapore to run a project aimed at extracting stem cells from embryos [see digest for 8 March ]. Dr Colman praised the Singaporean authorities for modelling new cloning guidelines on those adopted in Britain, but complained that a shortage of funds was hampering his work. [Reuters, 12 September ] A businessman and his wife in eastern China have received the biggest fine yet for breaking China's population control policy. The couple were fined $93,660 for having a third child. Under China's new family planning law, a couple can be fined up to six times their annual income for having unauthorised children. Clearly, this puts couples under considerable pressure to avoid a fine by having an abortion. Forced abortions are also a well-documented component of China's population control programme. [News.com.au, 9 September ; SPUC] The results of a study conducted in Canada have suggested that initiatives to fortify food with folic acid and educate women about the benefits of taking Vitamin B during the late 1990s led to a reduction in the number of abortions of babies with neural tube defects. Between 1986 and 1995, the number of unborn babies aborted on account of neural tube defects such as spina bifida nearly doubled. However, this number had decreased by 43% by 1999. [ABC News, via Reuters, 9 September ]

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