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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 11 July 2003

11 July 2003

11 July 2003 The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Slovak parliament have said that they will not sign a bill passed last week allowing abortion up to 24 weeks "in cases of genetic defects." Slovak President Rudolf Schuster has said that he will not sign the bill without their signatures. Slovak media reports that the Health Ministry has established the right to abortion but one of the four ruling parties, the Christian Democrat KDH is challenging this in the Constitutional Court. [, 10 July ] The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a law requiring parental notification 48 hours prior to an under-18 obtaining an abortion, on the grounds that it violates privacy rights. Abortion advocates applauded the decision. "The court recognised the harms that such laws impose on young women, including possible physical and emotional abuse, lack of access to confidential medical care, forced teen motherhood and delay in obtaining medical care," said Bebe Anderson, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. However, President Bush said, in reaction to the ruling: "It's hard to imagine we live in a society where parents wouldn't be notified of an abortion." [, 10 July ] A study of 63 women's ovarian cycles by Canadian researchers suggests that women could ovulate up to 3 times a month, rather than once a month as traditionally thought. The finding could have widespread implications for fertility treatment, hormonal contraception and certain types of natural family planning, but the study has been greeted with scepticism from some scientists. Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: "We have long known that a very small number of women ovulate more than once a month - this is how we get multiple births such as twins and triplets. However, the majority of women release just one egg a month, and natural family planning, or 'fertility awareness' as it's sometimes called, remains an effective method of planning or avoiding a pregnancy." Allan Templeton, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Aberdeen, stated that whereas eggs were sometimes produced more often, the conditions necessary to achieve fertilisation only occurred once a month. "I doubt [this study] is of any practical significance," he said. [The Scotsman, 11 July ] In an article published in The Guardian newspaper, the Chinese writer and radio journalist Xinran addresses the gender imbalance in China caused by the one-child policy. She records a conversation with a friend employed by the Chinese government, who reassures her of the success of the population control program and blames the traditional preference for boys for the problem. Though accepting the existence of the gender imbalance, the government official argues: "better to have young men with problems finding a wife then leaving future generations of women with nothing with which to feed or clothe their children." [The Guardian, 11 July ] An antenatal day care unit to help pregnant women at high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth was officially opened in Warrington hospital in the UK, yesterday. The unit, which first opened in March, offers daily care, support and monitoring for high-risk women such as those who have suffered multiple miscarriages in the past or have given birth to a stillborn child. "This means we can provide greater continuity of care on a daily basis," explained Sue Benson, the unit's manager. [Warrington Guardian News, 10 July ] A teenage boy who was repeatedly indecently assaulted by a woman in her thirties, has spoken about the effect that the experience has had on his life, particularly her decision to abort a baby he believes was his. "I don't think it was fair - the kid deserved a life," he said. "I wake up and say 'hello' and 'goodbye' to it every night - it's called Junior so whether it's a boy or girl doesn't matter." Amanda Jane James was convicted of indecent assault and placed on the sex offenders' register after a 3-day trial at Dorchester Crown Court. [This is Bournemouth, 10 July] The world's first case of embryo screening for deafness took place in Melbourne, The Age reports. The couple are carriers of a genetic cause of deafness and had the seven embryos produced in their first IVF cycle screened after authorisation from Victoria's Infertility Treatment Authority last September. One was destroyed and the others, both unaffected embryos and carriers (embryos that might pass the deafness gene on to their own children but are not affected themselves) were transferred to the womb but did not survive. The British Deaf Association opposes genetic screening for deafness. "Deaf people understand only too well the historical links between genetics and eugenics," it said. "We will oppose any uses of genetic technologies that seek to eliminate deafness from society." [The Age, 11 July ] Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has urged the House of Representatives to approve the Smith/Oberstar/Hyde Amendment that would continue to prevent US funding of organisations that support or participate in coercive abortion and sterilisation. The Cardinal noted the evidence presented to Congress of UNFPA's involvement with violently coercive population control in China and warned: "American taxpayers must not be forced to fund organisations that support, condone or defend such violations of human rights." [US Catholic Bishops Conference, 10 July ] A committee, comprising members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, has been set up to consider and report on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill by the end of October/November 2003. Their first meeting is planned for Tuesday 15 July. The members of the committee are: Baroness Barker, John Bercow MP, Angela Browning MP, Paul Burstow MP, Jim Dowd MP, Baroness Fookes of Plymouth, Stephen Hesford MP, Joan Humble MP, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Baroness Knight of Collingtree, Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, Laura Moffatt MP, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Lord Rix and Baroness Wilkins. The committee will be chaired by Lord Carter. [House of Lords, 11 July]

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