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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Irish government admits paying for overseas abortion

29 December 2006

The Irish government has confirmed that it paid for a teenager to have an abortion overseas. The Health Service Executive (HSE) said that a girl under 17 years old had been taken out of the country for an abortion. The HSE refused to discuss details of the case but it is likely that a court order was obtained and for this to have happened it is possible that the girl may have been the victim of rape or incest. [Irish Examiner, 28 December] Patrick Buckley of European Life Network told SPUC: "It is completely unacceptable that any organ of the Irish State should operate outside the Constitution and the Supreme Court. The State it appears is willing to go even further than the Supreme Court by taking pregnant minors in their care abroad for abortion. In 2003 the then Minister for Health and Children Micheal Martin said that the State would pay for foreign abortions for teenagers in care. 'We cannot stop parents [taking] their children abroad for abortions. [W]hy would we put an obstacle in the way of health boards who are acting in loco parentis?' he asked." [SPUC, 29 December]

Togo has legalised abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the child has a serious medical condition. Abortion was previously legal in Togo if the mother's life or health was in serious danger. The African country recently passed a law which ruled that "The voluntary interruption of pregnancy is only authorized when prescribed by a doctor and on request of the woman in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or of an incestuous relationship" or "if there is a strong risk that the unborn child will by affected by a particularly serious medical condition." [CNN, 28 December]

A Spanish hospital has used embryonic sex selection to screen out blind children. The Quir'n Hospital in Donostia-San Sebastian did the procedure for a woman who is a carrier of retinosis pigmentaria, an hereditary illness of the eye which causes severe visual impairment and often leads to blindness. Male children have a 50% chance of being born with the disease while females are born healthy but have a 50% chance of being carriers. In this case, sex selection was used to screen out male embryos who could have been born blind. [Medical News Today, 28 December]

Too much fish during pregnancy could damage unborn children according to a study by Taiwanese scientists. Researchers found that pregnant women who ate fish more than three times a week had high levels of mercury in their blood which can result in neuronal, kidney and brain damage in their unborn child. The researchers, whose study is to be published next month in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said: "When a woman consumes fish, it is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream. The trace elements of mercury, or methylmercury, the commonly found form of mercury in fish, passes through the placenta and then to the foetus." [Reuters, 28 December]

American scientists have found that two genes associated with metabolising choline are linked with the risk of contracting spina bifida but that this is unrelated to the mother's intake of choline in pregnancy. It was previously thought that pregnant mothers could decrease the risk of spina bifida in their child by eating foods such as beef liver, egg yolk, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cauliflower and soy, which all contain choline. Researchers from the Texas A&M University System Health Science Centre in Houston published a paper in the journal BMC Medicine which concluded: "The results indicate that dietary choline and choline metabolism genes may affect the risk of spina bifida independently or through some other unknown mechanisms." [Medical News Today, 28 December]

Expectant parents in Britain are being offered antenatal weekends in spa hotels by several new companies. The rise in luxury classes is seen by some as a response to the budget cuts in NHS antenatal education. Ms Gill Perks, a practising NHS midwife in Kent who set up GentleBirth to offer antenatal education, said: "In a culture of rising obstetric interventions and caesarean section rates, antenatal education is key." [The Guardian, 29 December]

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