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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 July 2003

30 July 2003

30 July 2003 US researchers have made a major breakthrough in the battle against premature birth, The Scotsman reports. The study, led by Dr Carole Mendelson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, delayed birth in mice by up to two days using trichostatin to control contractions. Dr Mendelson explained, "the way mice and humans work in this respect is, we believe, identical, so we have no reason to believe this won't work in humans. Ultimately, this could lead to us controlling labour and eradicating premature births." In 2000-2001, 7% of UK babies were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. [The Scotsman, 30 July ] The Spanish Episcopal Conference's executive committee has proposed allowing leftover IVF embryos to unfreeze and "die in peace", Zenit reports. The statement, arguing that this would be a "lesser evil", comes after the Spanish government approved plans to use the spare embryos for research purposes. It was argued that "to keep frozen human embryos is an abusive situation against those lives, which can be compared to therapeutic cruelty." [Zenit, 30 July ] The professor of religious studies at the Jesuit-run John Carroll University has argued that the ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research should go beyond the human status of the embryo, according to Paul Lauritzen, who does not believe that the early embryo is a person and supports embryo research, claims that the focus of the debate on the humanity of the embryo "tends to drive people to the extremes." [, 28 July ] The Russian Health Ministry has proposed restricting legal abortion to 12 weeks gestation, Kaisernetwork reports. During the Soviet era, the abortion rate was very high but has been in decline in recent years. The decline has been attributed to both increased contraceptive use and changes in attitude. "I would say that certainly the majority are no longer choosing abortion," said Tatyana Lobova, who runs a Moscow family planning clinic. [, 28 July ] The US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities has praised the decision by the House of Representatives to refuse to provide federal funds to grant a patent covering a human organism. "That policy is the only one consistent with common sense," said Gail Quinn, executive director of USCCB, "whatever one's views about prenatal human life, we should all agree that no member of the human species is an 'invention' or mere property to be licensed, bought or sold." [USCCB, 23 July ] Two Irish women who had their wombs removed unnecessarily have spoken on Irish radio about their experiences. Dr Michael Neary was struck off the medical register after claims by more than 60 women that he had subjected them to needless hysterectomies. Health minister Michael Martin is now under pressure from the Medical Council to mount an inquiry into the obstetric unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where Dr Neary worked. [The Scotsman, 30 July ] The recorded abortion rate among Norwegian teenagers last year was 2,200, down from 2,450 in 2001, Aftenposten reports. The current abortion rate in Norway is the lowest since abortion was legalised in 1979. [Aftenposten, 30 July ]

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