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Amnesty International UK to vote on pro-abortion resolution

13 April 2006

The Board of Amnesty International UK (AIUK) has submitted a resolution to its 2007 international conference to include abortion in its policy on sexual and reproductive rights. The resolution states that AIUK supports research and action to achieve the, "decriminalisation of abortion," "access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion" and "legal, safe and accessible abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest and risk to a woman's life." The decision to submit the resolution was made at AIUK's AGM held at the University of Warwick, despite the efforts of pro-life members to persuade delegates to vote for a neutral policy on abortion. [Michael Hill, SPUC, 13 April]

A British woman who killed her newborn son after giving birth to him in secret was set free yesterday. Beverly West, 21, from Buckie, Banffshire, had agreed with her boyfriend that she would have an abortion but found that her pregnancy was too far advanced. She admitted to smothering the baby as soon as he was born. Ms West was not given the prison sentence usual in the case of culpable homicide, as the judge at Edinburgh High Court said that personality disorders caused her to react abnormally to the situation. Lord Hodge said she had "violated the sanctity of human life." She was given a community service order and required to receive psychiatric treatment. [Daily Record, 13 April]

Congenital disabilities caused by the rubella virus have been almost eradicated in the US, according to a statement published in the American journal, Birth Defects Research Part A. A Rubella epidemic caused the deaths of 11,000 unborn children in America in the 1960s and resulted in 20,000 babies being born with conditions such as blindness, deafness and congenital heart disease. A vaccine, introduced in the 1970s, has since helped practically to eliminate the spread of the disease in America. [Medical News Today, 12 April] Comment: Rubella vaccine has sparked controversy in some countries as tissue derived from aborted infants has been used to develop and produce some strains of vaccine.

A British newspaper has defended a competition which gave free IVF treatment to the winning couple. The Birmingham Post launched a competition in January last year in which couples were examined by fertility experts and four were chosen to receive free treatment. Former acting editor of the newspaper, Tony Lennox, said that the competition was not about getting more readers and claims that it was intended to be "an awareness campaign." [Online Press Gazette, 13 April] Josephine Quintavalle, director of the pressure group, Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said the paper was turning IVF into a lottery. She said, "I think the creation of life in this way is worrying when it becomes a media game and a way to sell newspapers." [Online Press Gazette, 27 January]

Medical authorities in Ireland are investigating a doctors' surgery, which is said to have carried out unlicensed stem cell therapy on a multiple sclerosis patient. Mark Westwell, 45, has had multiple sclerosis since 1987 but claimed that he has been free of pain since receiving the treatment at a GP's surgery in Cork last week. The Irish Medical Board is continuing its investigation. [The Scotsman, 13 April]

A British woman who nearly died during surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy has given birth naturally to a baby girl. Julia Smith from West Sussex suffered a life-threatening cornual ectopic pregnancy and had an operation to remove the embryo at East Surrey Hospital. 12 weeks later her obstetrician, Sherif Girgis, found she was pregnant again. She gave birth to a healthy daughter, Katie. [BBC News, 12 April]

The New York Times magazine has published an 8,000 word article by Jack Hitt, attacking El Salvador's law prohibiting abortion. The 9th April cover story claims that the tightening of restrictions in 1998 is causing increasing numbers of women to have "back-street" abortions. Doctors are said to be under legal obligation to report every instance of suspected illegal abortion, but Hitt reports that El Salvador officials investigated 93 people for abortion-related crimes in 2004 - a drop from 111 in 2003. He claims that "it's easy in El Salvador to find plenty of evidence" of illegal abortion, but although he quotes eight or so pro-abortion campaigners and doctors, he interviewed only two women who had allegedly had illegal abortions. [New York times, 9 April]

A nurse in Northern Ireland has received an international award for her work in palliative care. Marissa McFarlane, who works at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, was given the UK Palliative Care Nurse of the Year 2006 by the International Journal of Palliative Nursing and Macmillan Cancer Care for her work in developing a palliative care service for children and their families in Northern Ireland. [Belfast Telegraph, 12 April]

A British city which has one of the highest pregnancy rates among teenagers in the country is to increase the numbers of nurses in schools to deal with pregnant teenagers. Dr Danny Ruta, who is working with other health and education officials in Newcastle said that they plan to "enhance the provision of school health advisers, formerly called school nurses, in hotspot areas so they can have more sessions with young people...They can also signpost young people to health services that can provide a full contraceptive and sexual health service if required." [Evening Chronicle, 12 April] Government guidance encourages school nurses refer teenagers for medical and surgical abortions on a strictly confidential basis, with no requirement to inform parents.

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