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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 27 February 2003

27 February 2003

27 February 2003 Official statistics for Denmark released yesterday revealed that 15,315 unborn babies were killed in registered abortions in 2001, although this is nearly 50 percent fewer than in 1975. Denmark legalised abortion in 1973, after which the number of abortions peaked at 27,884 in 1975. The head of the Danish association of obstetricians welcomed the steady reduction in abortions, but said that the aim was to reduce the total further to around 8,000 or 9,000 per year. [AFP, 26 February] In contrast to the Danish figures, the number of registered abortions in Britain increased from 139,702 in 1975 to 186,274 in 2001, a rise of 33 percent. The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a federal racketeering law cannot be used to prosecute pro-life campaigners who picket abortion clinics. The 8-1 ruling in the case of Scheidler v NOW [National Organisation of Women] was welcomed by pro-life groups and by the Catholic Church. Cathy Cleaver, director of planning and information at the Catholic bishops' pro-life secretariat, said: "The pro-abortion movement has been very successful in using the courts to make changes in the law. Thankfully, this time the Supreme Court refused NOW's strategy to re-define pro-life protesters as extortionists... it is frankly gratifying to see this radical group stopped in its tracks." [CNS and PR Newswire, 26 February ] The chairman of the US Catholic bishops' committee for pro-life activities has urged Congress to pass a comprehensive ban on human cloning and reject "deceptive substitute measures". Members of the US House of Representatives are due to debate two rival cloning bills today, one of which would ban all cloning while the other would ban cloning for reproductive purposes only. In a letter to congressmen, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia, cited a "growing national and international consensus" against cloning and observed that ethical adult stem cell technology had demonstrated greater therapeutic potential than the use of embryonic stem cells. The cardinal wrote: "Cloning dehumanises human procreation, treating new human life as a mere laboratory product made to specifications. Whether used to bring cloned human embryos to live birth... or to exploit them as sources of 'spare parts' for other humans... human cloning diminishes us all." [Reuters , CNS and Zenit , 26 February] A 28-year-old British woman who has undergone a liver transplant operation is risking her life for the sake of her unborn child. Liz Beaton, from Northumberland in the north east of England, had already suffered five miscarriages and two failed attempts at fertility treatment when she discovered that she was pregnant again just before New Year. However, in order to give her child the best chance of life and health, Mrs Beaton has stopped taking anti-rejection drugs with could lead to kidney failure or to her donated liver being rejected. [The Evening Chronicle, Newcastle, 26 February ] Researchers in Finland have warned that drugs used to treat epilepsy might cause "major congenital malformations" in some unborn children. Teams at the Helsinki University Central Hospital and the University of Helsinki followed 970 pregnant women with epilepsy who used a single maternity clinic over an 18-year period, around 80 percent of whom used anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). The researchers found that 3.8% of the babies exposed to AEDs suffered major developmental complications, compared to 0.8 percent of those not exposed to AEDs. [Discovery Health online, 27 February] 100 experts convened by the head of the US government's cancer agency concluded yesterday that there was no proven link between abortion and breast cancer. The epidemiologists, clinicians and scientists brought together by Dr Andrew von Eschenbach decided that the studies which have shown a link were fundamentally flawed and that strong evidence now existed to refute any link. However, Dr Joel Brind, an expert on the alleged association between abortion and breast cancer, was at the meeting and dissented from the majority view. He said: "Abortion is not a benign procedure. If I didn't think there was good, hard evidence, I wouldn't be making a pariah of myself." [Chicago Tribune, 26 February ]

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