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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs: Millenium Development Goals mean population control

11 December 2006

A British parliamentary group has concluded that the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are "difficult or impossible to meet" without curbing population growth. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health will publish a report later this month claiming that high birth rates result in poorer infant nutrition, higher risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth and less chance of receiving education, as well as impacting on the environment. Richard Ottaway, MP, the group's vice-chairman, recommended increased sexual education for women and easy access to birth control. He said: "No country has ever raised itself out of poverty without stabilising population growth. And the MDGs are going to be difficult or impossible to attain without a levelling out of population growth in developing countries...We have the solution; it's not that difficult. The question is, will we go for it?" [BBC News, 8 December]

British fertility clinics are failing to provide enough information for potential patients, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). According to a recent study carried out by the HFEA, half of clinics do not give sufficient advice, information and access to counseling. [BBC News, 7 December]

Unborn children who are exposed to the chlorpyrifos insecticide have poorer mental development and behaviour in childhood, according to a recent study carried out by American researchers. Scientists from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by Virginia Rauh, assessed the development of approximately 250 children from New York. [Medical News Today, 7 December]

Maternity wards in Epsom, Surrey and Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire may close after reviews of their services. A review of maternity departments has followed the deaths of ten women under the maternity unit at Northwick Park Hospital, Middlesex, in the triennium 2002-2005, blamed on inadequate consultant supervision and other factors. [icSurrey, 7 December , BBC, 6 December and Northwick Park NHS ]

The Pope has said that the defence of human life and values such as peace, justice and care for the environment are consistent and part of the Catholic Church's moral tradition. In contrast, he spoke of an "anti-morality" of freedom without any context. Speaking to a conference of Swiss bishops, Benedict XVI said that the Church must proclaim "the commitment to life from conception to death, that is, its defense against abortion, against euthanasia, against the manipulation and man's self-authorization in order to dispose of life" even if this is "often received controversially by politics." He said: "Only if human life from conception until death is respected, is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may nonviolence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice." [Zenit, 7 December]

Women who have babies after treatment for breast cancer have increased chances of surviving the disease, according to a recent study by Australian scientists. Researchers at the University of Western Australia identified 123 women aged between 15 and 44 who were diagnosed with breast cancer and had at least one pregnancy after their diagnosis. Overall, women who became pregnant had better outcomes compared to those who did not. Angela Ives, Research associate at the university, said: "While some women will choose not to become pregnant after their diagnosis, an increasing number are likely to want the option of having children. For women with localised disease, early conception after completion of their breast cancer management is unlikely to adversely affect their survival." [Life Style Extra, 8 December]

Five directors of the British stem cell company ReNeuron have purchased shares in their business, which has led to increased buying of shares and raised prices. Navid Malik, an analyst, said: "This share purchase is the strongest signal possible from the directors of their confidence in the company." Despite the recent gain, ReNeuron is still around a quarter the size of their American rival, StemCells. [The Times, 8 December] Last week ReNeuron announced plans to use cells from an aborted baby for stem cell treatment of Stroke.

A High Court judge has ruled that doctors may withhold life-sustaining care, including food and water, from a woman in the so-called persistent vegetative state (PVS). The patient in a British hospital was recently given the drug zolpidem, but her condition showed no improvement. [Guardian, 6 December] A spokesman for SPUC pointed out that PVS was not a terminal illness and says "It is precisely because this woman is not dying that the court has been asked to authorise her intentional killing - euthanasia by omission." [SPUC, 6 December]

The Australian parliament has passed a law lifting the restrictions on cloning human embryos for stem cell research. Both the prime minister John Howard and the leader of the Labour party, Kevin Rudd, opposed the bill. A former health minister, Kay Patterson, who drafted the bill, argued that Australia had to allow research that is being done elsewhere if it were to accept the resulting treatments. The House of Representatives voted 82 to 62 for Ms Patterson's bill, after the Senate backed it in November. [BBC, 6 December]

The US House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill that would require information about foetal pain being given to women who were having abortions in the sixth month and later, and pain-reducing drugs being offered for the unborn baby. However, it did not receive the 66% majority required for it to become law. [LifeSite, 7 December]

Jandira Feghali, a Brazilian legislator, has said that keeping an anencephalic baby alive was prolonging her mother's suffering. Ms Feghali has put forward a bill to legalise the abortion of babies with the condition, in which the brain fails to develop. Claudia Ferreira, who gave birth to baby Marcela de Jesus on 20 November, rejected the idea of abortion, and said "I am suffering, but she does not belong to me, she belongs to God and I am just caring for her here.... Each second of her life is precious to me." Doctors expressed surprise that the baby continued to survive a fortnight after birth. [Catholic News Agency, 5 December]

From April 2009, mothers in Britain will receive child benefit (a state allowance) from the 29th week of pregnancy, instead of from the baby's birth, as at present. The changes, worth up to £200, were announced by the chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) in his pre-budget report. The change is designed to encourage healthy eating . [BBC, 6 December]

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed four new members to the Pontifical Academy of Life. They are, John Haas, president of the US National Catholic Bioethics Center and of Philadelphia's International Institute for Culture, Bishop Daniel Mayi from Kinshasa, Professor Alejandro Merlo of Chile and Monica Barahona, a bioscience academic from Madrid. [Zenit, 6 December]

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