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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 31 December 2003

31 December 2003

31 December 2003 In his Christmas sermon the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury mentioned a current legal case concerning the abortion of a baby who had a cleft palate. Most Rev Rowan Williams spoke of how the media had seemed irritated by Rev Joanna Jepson, a curate who is challenging the West Mercia police, England, for not investigating the matter. Archbishop Williams said that religious commitment would inevitably question the world's assumptions and habits. [Telegraph, 26 December ] The Observer newspaper has described a shortage of midwives in Britain. It is reported that staff are being encouraged to move from small birthing units to large hospitals. Midwives' job-satisfaction is said to be eroded because they cannot attend to individual women throughout labour. The National Childbirth Trust claims that the profession has shrunk by 5,000 in 10 years. The government says that there are 700 more midwives than in 1997 and that it will increase numbers by 2,000 over the next three years. The Royal College of Midwives say that another 10,000 staff are needed. [Observer, 28 December ] A leading article in the newspaper said that midwives were as important as doctors. [Observer, 28 December ] A child was born on the landing of his parents' home after two hospitals in south Hertfordshire, England, could not accommodate him and his mother on Christmas day. Mr and Mrs Dave Dolling delivered their son after telephone calls to hospitals and the ambulance service. [Times, 26 December ] A member of parliament is to express her concern to the government at the high number of caesarian sections in Northern Ireland. Mrs Iris Robinson, Democratic Unionist MP for Strangford, will ask Ms Angela Smith MP, health minister, to conduct an assessment of why the procedure is used so widely. Mrs Robinson has cited a rise in the number of caesarian sections in Irish republic and says that electronic foetal monitoring can wrongly suggest that a baby is in distress. [Belfast Telegraph, 29 December ] Dr Marjorie Mowlam MP, a former cabinet minister, has been quoted as saying that Britain needs to "look at voluntary euthanasia". [Evening Gazette, 29 December ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "It is unsurprising that Dr Mowlam supports euthanasia, considering her endorsement of living wills. Living wills were invented in the late 1960s by the euthanasia movement in America, were introduced into Britain by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and form an integral part of the government's draft Mental Incapacity Bill, which would legalise euthanasia through legally-binding living wills aimed at forcing doctors to withdraw life-sustaining treatment." A former member of the Sinn Féin party's national executive has criticised its failure to condemn abortion. Mr Gerry McGeough told the Irish Catholic newspaper that he would not want Irish towns to have abortion clinics. [Guardian, 28 December ] Mrs Betty Gibson, chairman of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: "Gerry McGeough's attack on Sinn Féin's abortion policy highlights the party's failure to reflect the views of their grassroots on pro-life issues. Public opinion in Northern Ireland, across the religious and political divide, has always been firmly opposed to liberal abortion. Electoral support for Sinn Féin has increased since the IRA ceasefire but the party's leadership should be in no doubt that people here do not want to see the violence of the Troubles replaced by violence against women and unborn children." The Oklahoma state prosecutor intends to charge a woman with double murder after a pregnant woman was found shot dead with her unborn child of six months' gestation cut from her womb. Ms Effie Goodson, 37, is said to have taken a dead foetus to a hospital, claiming it was hers, but was found not to have given birth. The mutilated body of Ms Carolyn Simpson, 21, was found in a field. [Ananova, 29 December ] Australian pharmacists say they are not prepared for the introduction tomorrow of rules to allow the supply of morning-after pills without prescription. Mr Denis Leahy, of the profession's guild, is quoted as saying that pharmacists lacked the time to consider such ethical issues as the sale of pills to men, which will be permitted. The government says the profession has had months to think about the move and helped develop the guidelines. [The Australian, 31 December ] A New Hampshire law requiring abortion providers to notify at least one parent before a minor has an abortion has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The new law, supported by Governor Craig Benson, was due to take effect tomorrow. The attorney general is to decide whether to appeal. [AP in Nashua Telegraph, 30 December ] The British government has promised to spend £12 million on care for the terminally ill, working with organisations such as Age Concern and Help the Aged. [BBC, 26 December ] Both of the organisations mentioned belong to the Making Decisions Alliance which supports the draft Mental Incapacity Bill. This proposed legislation would allow euthanasia by neglect. Children are more likely to have emotional and developmental problems if their mothers had influenza during pregnancy, according to a study reported in the Telegraph newspaper. Researchers from Finland and the USA studied more than 6,000 Finnish children and found that fever in pregnancy made attention deficit hyperactivity disorder 30% more likely. Professor John Oxford of Queen Mary's medical school, London, is urging the British government to encourage expectant mothers to be vaccinated against influenza. Opinion is divided on whether unborn children are damaged by the heat of a fever and/or by the immune system chemicals with which the body fights fevers. [Telegraph, 28 December ] Improved understanding of how the gut develops before birth could lead to the treatment of a digestive disease which presently requires surgery. The UK's Medical Research Council has found that two molecules seem to regulate the migration of cells from the unborn child's brain to the gut. If the cells do not migrate, the gut may not be able to move food using the process of peristalsis. The condition is called Hirschprung's disease. [BBC, 29 December ] PPL Therapeutics of Edinburgh, Scotland, is today due to sell the rights to the technique which produced the first cloned sheep to Exeter Life Sciences of Rochester, New York. [Ample, 31 December ] The British government has awarded a knighthood to a pioneer of stem cell research. Professor Martin Evans is professor of mammalian genetics at Cardiff university. [BBC, 31 December ]

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