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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 June 2003

3 June 2003

3 June 2003 A study conducted by the Family Planning Association of Northern Ireland (FPANI) claims that up to 12,000 women a year may be travelling to Britain for abortions from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, double the number reported by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). The reason given for the difference in the two figures is that the FPANI survey included Irish women who give English addresses. The director of FPANI, Ms Audrey Simpson said that the taboo nature of abortion in Ireland caused many women to give false addresses in England. [The Irish Examiner, June 03 ] However, a spokesman for SPUC warned; 'Family Planning Associations throughout the world frequently use inflated figures to justify the legalisation of abortion. We call upon FPANI to produce evidence to substantiate the figures cited in this study.' Scientists from around the world have met in London to discuss international collaboration on stem cell research. The UK's Medical Research Council convened the meeting to discuss possible ways in which they could share information and resources, particularly through the establishment of a website that would keep researchers up-to-date on a range of issues from the latest techniques to the ethical regulations of various countries. The Chief Executive of MRC, George Radda said, 'there is an awful lot going on in each of these countries, and the key is to get co-ordination going at an early stage. We have to look at the practical aspects of how to do this work and compare different groups with each other. Hopefully, it may eventually lead to an international standard.' [The Scientist, June 02 ] Nearly half of Americans believe that life begins at conception, a survey carried out by Newsweek has reported. 46% believe that life begins at conception, whilst a further 12% cite implantation as the beginning of life, compared with 24% who believe life begins when the unborn child is viable outside the womb and 11% who believe that human life begins at birth. Regarding the question of criminal penalties for killing an unborn child, the majority appear to believe that the unborn child should be treated as a human life. In answer to the question of whether separate murder charges should be brought against a person who kills an unborn child, 56% said that this should be the case in all circumstances where a pregnant woman is murdered, whilst 28% would only bring charges if the unborn child were considered viable. However, approximately 49% considered it acceptable for IVF clinics to destroy human embryos with the consent of the parent. [New York Post and LifeSite , June 02] Some parents are opting to save the umbilical cords of their babies in case of future illness, a Texas newspaper has reported. The story covers the decision by a couple to pay for the private storage of their newborn son's umbilical cord so as to have a supply of stem cells available if the child or another family member were to develop a serious illness later on in life. Umbilical cords as a source for stem cells offer an ethical alternative to the use of human embryos, but only a tiny number of parents currently opt to store umbilical cords and it remains an expensive procedure. 'People who store their cord blood for themselves are ensuring their family will have a chance for stem cells if they need them,' said Rita Kennen, communications co-ordinator for Cord Blood Registry, a company in Calfornia that stores cord blood. However, reservations have been expressed about the potential commercial interests involved in private storage. The necessity for this practice has also been questioned, unless the child or a family member is already suffering from a serious illness. [Valley Morning Star, May 31 ] Lesley Close, whose brother was recently helped to die at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, has called for the legalisation of assisted dying. 'As human beings we should have the right to die at a time and place of our own choosing provided we have made things all right with all the relevant authorities,' she said. However, the anti-euthanasia group ALERT (Against Legalised Euthanasia Research and Teaching) condemned the work of Dignitas. Vice Chairman Dr Michael Howitt-Wilson argued that euthanasia is 'entirely the wrong approach. It totally contradicts the use of medicine. Dignitas should be caring for them until they die naturally.' [The Bucks Free Press, June 03 ] Next week, the BBC is due to screen the video diary of a right-to-die campaigner, as part of their 'Kill or Cure' series. The diary shows the last days of Phil Such, a thirty-eight-year-old Motor Neurone Disease sufferer who describes his plight and his desire to end his life. [, June 03 ] A couple whose unborn baby girl died as a result of a series of medical errors, are threatening to sue the hospital concerned. Mrs Tracie Reynolds claims that staff at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton refused to listen to her when she voiced concerns about the baby during labour. 'In the morning, I knew something was wrong. It was different from my other children.' A caesarean section was eventually performed, but Mrs Reynolds' placenta had ruptured three hours earlier and the baby was starved of oxygen, dying nine minutes before delivery. The hospital then failed to offer the mother counselling, though it was offered to the staff who had been present at the birth. The hospital has since apologised to the family and ordered an internal inquiry. [Femail, June 03 ]

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