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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 25 September 2003

25 September 2003

SPUC has criticised Britain's third largest political party for proposing that compulsory school sex education should begin at the age of seven. Calling the Liberal Democrats' move "deplorable" and "politically stupid", John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said: "Decades of what amounts to pro-abortion and anti-abstinence sex education has not only failed to produce sexually responsible adults, but has gone hand-in-hand with a spiralling rise in sexually-transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies and registered abortions." Education about so-called contraception could mean indoctrination about abortion-inducing birth control such as morning-after pills. Parents had the responsibility for educating their children in human sexuality and were the proper judges of the age at which children should be protected from sexually-explicit material. At its national conference, the party voted against allowing parents to withdraw their children from the lessons. A party spokesman said that the measure had the approval of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. [SPUC and BBC, 24 September]

The Population Research Institute (PRI) says that $15 billion of American government funds which was allocated for combatting AIDS in developing countries has been redirected to an agency which supports population control and family planning. A senate bill significantly amended the president's policy on AIDS and switched money to the USAID Child Survival Account. The PRI suggests that family planning groups' work could actually cause the disease to spread and has called for the funds to go back to an AIDS coordinator. [, 24 September]

An Australian hospital is asking patients to complete a form on which they state whether life-prolonging treatment can be withheld from them and whether they are to be resuscitated. They can also use the form to send a final message to those who survive them. Dr Eric Fairbank of South West Healthcare, Warrnambool, Victoria, says that the forms are to do with palliative care, not euthanasia. [Warrnambool Standard, 24 September] A representative from the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, Adelaide, South Australia, said: "In the light of a recent case in Victoria, Australia, doctors may now regard artificially delivered food and fluids as medical treatment which may be withdrawn from a non-dying patient. Dr Fairbank's assurance that his forms are 'not about euthanasia' has to be measured against the judge-made law which seems to permit, in the state of Victoria, euthanasia by omission of life-sustaining measures such as food and fluids."

A study suggests that women are better birthing-partners than men. Toronto university researchers found that continuous support from a trained or experienced woman reduced the need for powerful pain relief or caesarian section. More than half of UK births involve some kind of intervention such as the use of forceps, and the number of caesarian sections is rising. Mothers are paying between £200 and £500 to hire female supporters who are known as doulas. [Cochrane Library on BBC, 24 September]

One fifth of British people would pay £1,250 to choose their baby's gender, according to research on 1,000 respondents by Geissen university, Germany. A similar study suggested that only one German in 17 would want sex-selection. UK law allows gender-selection through sperm-sorting but restricts the practice in conjunction with in vitro fertilisation. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is due to report on this matter to the government. [BBC, 25 September]

Ginseng, which is taken by a tenth of Asian women during pregnancy, has been found to cause developmental anomalies in rat embryos. Dr Louis Chan of Hong Kong's Chinese university is calling for additional research on the herb's effects on human pregnancy. Dr Chun-Su Yuan of Chicago university also wants more studies and suggests that high doses of ginseng could be a problem. [BBC, 25 September]

The Chinese government has removed criticism of its one-child policy and forced abortion from the Mandarin edition of Senator Hillary Clinton's autobiography. Mrs Clinton wants 200,000 copies recalled and replaced with a complete version. Her English-language publishers have put the deleted Chinese text on their website. [Times, 25 September] An SPUC spokesman said: "Mrs Clinton is right to attack the injustice of China's population policy but why is she not outraged at the damage done to women and unborn children by legal abortion in her own country?"

Further to our report yesterday on parthenogenesis in monkeys, there is a disagreement between researchers and the US government over the status of any of humans who might be created with this technique. The scientists say that the organisms created by this process would not be embryos but federal authorities refuse to fund such research on ethical grounds. [Wired, 23 September]

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