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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 March 2003

26 March 2003

26 March 2003 The results of a survey released today by the official statistics agency in England and Wales indicates that 7% of female respondents aged 16-49 had used the abortifacient morning pill in the preceding 12 months. The results, contained in a report issued by the Office for National Statistics and based on a survey conducted by the Department of Health in 2001/02, also indicated that 21% of women aged 18-19 had used the drug. In 2001/02, 43% of all women who used the morning-after pill obtained it from their own general practitioner or practice nurse, while 31% obtained it from a family planning clinic and 20% from a pharmacy. [ONS, 26 March ] About a million packs of the abortifacient morning-after pill are now provided each year in the UK, resulting in tens of thousands of early abortions. It is reported that China has banned sex-selective abortion. A regulation issued jointly by the State Commission for Population and Family Planning, the Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of ultrasound scans to determine an unborn child's sex and bans doctors who carry our routine tests from divulging an unborn child's sex to the parents. While broad guidelines prohibiting sex selection already exist in China, the new regulation is thought to be the first attempt to ban the practice by law. [South China Morning Post, 25 March] China's one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys have led to widespread sex-selective abortion and infanticide across China, resulting in a seriously unbalanced male to female ratio. The Australian federal government is planning to amend a regulation banning the export of human embryos to allow women to take their own IVF embryos out of the country. Faced with the possibility that the Senate might throw out the entire regulation, the customs minister acknowledged that "unexpected and complex issues" had been raised and said that the government was considering amendments to allow couples to export their own embryos for purposes connected with IVF treatment, such as finding a suitable surrogate mother overseas. The regulation, which came into force last month, decreed that exports of human embryos were "prohibited absolutely", but critics claimed that such a blanket ban was too restrictive and could even prevent pregnant women from leaving the country. [Sydney Morning Herald, 26 March ] Pro-life legislation forms a major plank of a comprehensive legislative programme recommended by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops' proposals for the 108th Congress are divided into seven categories, one of which is dedicated to pro-life legislation and includes measures to reclassify certain "contraceptives" as abortifacients, ban partial-birth abortion and human cloning for all purposes, maintain bans on federal funding of abortion providers and embryo research, and improve palliative care for the terminally ill. While the proposals are limited to what is feasible at the moment, the preamble to the pro-life section of the bishops' document declares that the Church still seeks to eliminate all legalised abortion, ultimately through a constitutional amendment. [USCCB, 24 March: Introduction &pro-life proposals ] A committee of state senators in Maryland has thrown out a bill to allow the sale of morning-after pills from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. The Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee rejected the measure by 6 votes to 5 after the House of Delegates had approved it. [The Baltimore Sun, 26 March ] Meanwhile, on another life-related matter, the governor of Arkansas has signed a comprehensive ban on human cloning into law after it received the overwhelming support of both houses of the state's legislature. [LifeSite, 25 March ]

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