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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Over 1,000 teenagers had repeat abortions last year

21 December 2006

Department of Health statistics for abortions in 2005 indicate a total 186,416 babies were aborted in England and Wales. More than 1,000 teenagers had repeat abortions. 1,316 girls under 18 had an abortion for a second time, and 90 went through a third. The figures also showed that by the end of last year 44 women had had eight or more abortions, 20 of these women being under 30. Simon Blake, chief executive of the youth abortion and contraception advice service Brook blamed the situation on the education and health systems. [Independent, 21 December]

The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has been severely criticised by a prominent stem-cell researcher. The license to enlist women not undergoing fertility treatment to donate eggs for research has been granted to the Centre for Life in Newcastle. The HFEA has yet to publish its response to a recent public consultation on the issue. Dr Stephen Minger, of King's College London, said "Although I support this research, I am flabbergasted that the licence was given before the consultation process was completed. It seems very improper. It begs the question - what is the point in having a consultation? Why should women undergo this procedure to donate material for something where we have no idea yet how efficient therapeutic cloning with human eggs is?". The authority said that the granting of the licence would not affect the outcome of the consultation. [BBC, 21 December]

The parents of an eight-year-old girl with cancer have been told they may not have the legal right to refuse treatment on her behalf. Leah-Beth Richards is said not to want to continue radiotherapy treatment for her third attack of the disease, but when her parents informed the hospital, in Cardiff, Wales, of this, they were told that "that is why they had child protection services", according to the girl's mother. Mrs Richards also said "We would rather she had some special months than painful years". Dr Colin Powell, the consultant paediatrician at the hospital, said "We put our patients' best interests and medical needs first...We recommend treatments that help our patients to recover or manage their illness as best as possible and we have a responsibility to carry out this treatment for our patients...We also want to reassure everyone that we only carry out treatment where we have been given consent... we are continuing to support Leah-Beth and her parents, and to discuss the appropriate care with them directly". [Daily Telegraph, 21 December]

A Chicago hospital has developed a policy protecting healthcare workers from dismissal if they refuse to participate in a medical procedure on moral grounds. The policy was instituted after a nurse, Mary Bauer, refused to participate in the abortion of a child with Down's Syndrome on her first day at work. The nurse then investigated Illinois state law and found that the right of healthcare professionals to conscientious objection is protected by statute. [LifeSite, 19 December]

The number of pregnant women in Scotland abusing drugs has doubled in the last five years, according to official statistics. The Information Services Division (ISD Scotland) found that 493 expectant mothers were taking illegal drugs in 2004-5, while in 2000-1 the figure was 237. Concerns have been raised about the lack of support for children born into environments where there is drug abuse. [The Herald, 20 December]

An inquest into the death of a newborn baby at Leeds General Infirmary have found that her death was probably caused by a shortage of beds and staff in the delivery suite at the hospital. Caitlin Rose Simpson died 20 minutes after birth of congenital pneumonia contracted through a uterine infection, after her mother, Janine Howarth, had waited 72 hours after her waters broke to be induced. The coroner at the inquest concluded that the long delay had increased the risk of infection and reduced Caitlin's chances of survival. Leeds General Infirmary has recently been undergoing cuts in staffing and facilities. [Daily Mail, 19 December]

A terminally-ill Italian man has lodged an appeal against a court ruling that doctors may not turn off the respirator which is keeping him alive. (SPUC News summary, 18 December) Piergiorgio Welby suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy, and is bedridden but fully conscious. Pro-euthanasia organisations have voiced their support for Welby, but the text of his appeal says that "this is not about facilitating the patient's right to die, but about a conscious choice to avoid further, pointless suffering". [Peninsula, 20 December]

Two Missouri legislators have begun a campaign to challenge a recent amendment to the State's constitution which allows human cloning for research purposes. State Senator Matt Bartle and State Representative Jim Lembke are proposing a resolution which if passed by both houses would allow Missouri citizens to vote again on the issue in 2008. [News-Leader, 20 December]

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