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Defending life from the moment of conception

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10 November 2004

10 November 2004

10 November 2004 A workshop organised by the Kenya Medical Association, involving politicians, religious leaders and NGOs has called for a change in Kenya's abortion law. The pro-abortion workshop concluded: "Abortion is a complex problem. No woman contemplates it lightly, neither is it justifiable to condemn and criminalise women who do it. Judgement is better left to the creator who alone searches the secret corners of our hearts and minds and understands us." Catholic and pro-life campaigners plan a demonstration against abortion. [All Africa, 8 November ] A spokeswoman for SPUC commented: "The views expressed by the KMA's workshop make no ethical or legal sense. If these people really believe that 'judgement is better left to the creator', they presumably advocate ending any system of law, because no human judge knows what is going on in the hearts of men accused of murder or rape for that matter." [SPUC source] A report describing China's one-child policy as 'a huge success' has examined the social consequences for a country which has a growing generation of only children nicknamed 'little emperors.' The focus of the report is on the intense pressure being placed on Chinese children to succeed, particularly academically, with children reportedly working up to 16 hours a day to get top grades. One child interviewed stated that "everything is focused on your grades, every aspect of expectation is focused on your grades. If you don't have good grades, you aren't a good child." [The Guardian, 9 November ] Jack Kervorkian's attorney has appealed for his release from prison on medical grounds, The Guardian reports. Mr Kevorkian, a euthanasia advocate, was convicted of poisoning Thomas Youk after the video of his death was broadcast on national television. Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said: "We have plenty of prisoners that have cataracts and arthritis, but that doesn't mean they should be granted a commutation. They're only granted for offenders that have little chance of surviving very much longer." [The Guardian, 8 November ] A study conducted at the University of North Carolina has indicated that women who take multivitamins prior to a pregnancy are less likely to give birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Multivitamins contain folic acid, which previous studies have suggested may help the placental environment. [Reuters, 5 November ] The growing problem of teenage pregnancy in India was discussed at a conference of gynaecologists and obstetricians last week. The problem was blamed on changing cultural attitudes to sexual conduct which is leading to increasing numbers of sexually active teenagers, whilst in some areas, girls are still marrying very young. The majority of delegates favoured more sex education and contraception to tackle the problem, with one dissenting voice, T Rabani of Aligarh Muslim University, opposing such measures. [New Kerala, 9 November ] Health officials have responded to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, which suggested that the teenage pregnancy rate in McHenry county rose by 0.52% in two years due to a policy change. The county is thought to be the only one in the US to have refused federal money for 'reproductive healthcare' that would have obliged them to provide birth control to underage girls without parental consent. The policy was adopted after a teacher pleaded guilty to child sex abuse against a 14-year-old girl who was being given injectible contraceptives from the health department without her parents' knowledge. The study has been criticised for being conducted over too short a period of time and using a flawed experimental model. [NorthWest Herald, 9 November ] In an advance version of the UN Human Rights Committee's observations on Poland, the Committee has called on the Polish Government to 'liberalise its legislation and practice on abortion'. The Committee claimed that Poland's pro-life law 'may incite women to seek unsafe, illegal abortions, with attendant risks to their life and health.' It also called for free access to birth control and sex education in schools. [UN Human Rights Committee, 5 November] Cezary Mizejewski, the Polish secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry said: "These regulations have to be changed but that needs serious discussion", using a supposedly thriving backstreet abortion industry as evidence that the law should be changed. However, Anna Sobecka, an opposition parliamentarian, said: "Abortion should be completely outlawed... Abortion is manslaughter, it's murder. What is a baby, even one created by rape, guilty of that we commit him to death?" [Reuters, 9 November ] Lech Kowalewski of Human Life International Poland said: "There is no evidence to suggest that hundreds of thousands of women are undergoing backstreet abortions; if the numbers were statistically significant they would be recorded in the government's own medical statistics. Since the law was changed to prohibit abortion for social reasons, there has been just one death from illegal abortion, meaning that pro-life Poland has fewer abortion deaths than countries such as Lithuania where abortion is legal." The Swiss Bishops' Conference has expressed 'ethical reservations' over a forthcoming referendum on embryonic stem cell research. The proposed law would ban the creation of cloned embryos and the patenting and commercial exploitation of embryonic stem cell lines, but would permit research on 'spare' IVF embryos. [Zenit, 8 November ] The Brook Advisory Service, the biggest promoter of sex education and contraception among young people in the UK, has launched a scheme to reach young people by text message. Jan Barlow, chief executive of Brook, claimed that sex education "combined with easy access to free and confidential sexual health services, is absolutely key to bringing down rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections." [icWales, 10 November ] A spokesman for SPUC said: "What has Brook achieved in 40 years? Thanks to the relentless promotion of explicit sex education and contraception, teenage pregnancy and abortion rates continue to climb and the UK is facing an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections." An Institute of Regenerative Medicine has been set up on Barbados by Ukrainian stem cell researchers, with the aid of US investment and the Caribbean tourist industry. The aim is to carry out research and treatment using stem cells from aborted babies, with patients be charged $25,000 for therapy. Valentin Grishchenko of the Institute of Cryobiology in the Ukraine claimed that the stem cell therapy was safe. [FT.com, 10 November ] Dr Philip Nitschke, the euthanasia advocate, plans to hold a workshop in Australia to manufacture suicide pills for the delegates to take home with them. The plan is thought to anticipate new legislation that would ban providing people with information on how to commit suicide. A spokesman for the Right to Life Association Queensland said that adolescents would use the information to end their lives. [The Guardian, 10 November ] The leader of the Conservative Party has spoken in favour of embryonic stem cell research. Michael Howard said in a speech to the Conservative National Women's Committee: "I know many people are concerned about stem cell research. They are fearful of meddling in what they see as the stuff of souls. I respect those concerns. But I also believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses". He also said that it was necessary to "have the courage to do what we know to be morally right." [Ekklesia, 9 November ] In a press release, Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary said: "Lethal experiments upon human beings - whether embryos, children or adults - are prohibited by the Geneva Declaration of the World Medical Association, and have never shown any significant benefits." He added: "Embryonic stem cell research, which involves killing embryos, is morally wrong. Mr Howard should learn from John Kerry's experience that promoting the killing of embryos won't help him win elections." The Archbishop of Melbourne has welcomed the growing abortion debate, Cathnews reports. In a statement, Archbishop Denis Hart described the 100,000 abortions in Australia every year as 'huge suffering', reiterating the Catholic Church's defence of human life. [Cathnews.com, 9 November ] Scientists at a US conference have said that cardiac patients could be treated with stem cells from their own organs, Net Doctor reports. The therapy, which has already been used on 23 patients being treated for heart failure, may prove more successful than the use of bone marrow cells and could eventually reduce the need for heart transplants. [Net Doctor, 9 November ]

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