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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pro-life groups condemn assisted suicide 'DIY guide'

23 February 2006

Pro-life campaigners, the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland have condemned a booklet that guides people through the process of obtaining assisted suicide at the Swiss clinic run by Dignitas. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "Groups and material like this clearly do encourage people to consider taking their own life. Voluntary euthanasia, as this would be styled, can very easily become involuntary when the climate in a society changes sufficiently that it becomes expected of people." [Christian Today, 20 February]

Scientists at Glasgow University are to carry out a study to determine whether giving pregnant women the hormone progesterone reduces the risk of premature birth. Some 50,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year and are at increased risk of disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness. Professor Jane Norman, who is leading the research, said: "In normal labour, white blood cells are activated in the bloodstream and migrate to the womb during the birthing process. Sometimes this can happen too soon and we believe that these cells might play a key role in triggering pre-term labour." [BBC, 20 February]

The acting director of the US Food and Drug Administration, Andrew Von Eschenbach, has denied that the decision to delay approval of over-the-counter distribution of the abortifacient morning after pill is political. The reason given by the FDA for the delay in coming to a decision is the request by the maker of the drug, Barr Labs, to allow only women over the age of 16 to buy the drug over-the-counter. [LifeNews.com, 17 February]

Research from Pampers (the disposable nappy makers) has confirmed previous studies that unborn babies recognise and react to stimuli such as taste, touch and noise, particularly the mother's voice. [Evening Echo, Ireland, 20 February]

Researchers at Cornell University, USA, have discovered a drug which may help to treat Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is caused by a baby's mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Experiments with mice have shown that injections of nicotinamide counter the effects of alcohol, although it is not yet certain that the treatment would work on humans. Medical experts in Britain have warned that, even if nicotinamide is effective, the existence of the treatment should not be seen as an excuse to drink alcohol during pregnancy. [BBC Health, 21 February]

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine claim to have discovered a method of keeping human embryonic stem cells alive and undifferentiated, allowing them to be used in therapy. Peter Donovan and Leslie Lock treated embryonic stem cells with molecules known as neurotrophins and claim to have found that the survival rate increased 36-fold. Donovan and Lock claim their research may solve the tendency of embryonic stem cells to form tumours if transplanted into patients. [Medical News Today, 20 February]

The Catholic bishop of Paterson diocese, New Jersey, has asked Catholic priests to protest against the inclusion of a pro-abortion group, National Organisation of Women (NOW), in a St Patrick's Day parade in Morristown. The bishop wrote that NOW's advocacy of "abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women ... stands against the teachings of the Church and the Catholic values that St Patrick in his life as a missionary and bishop worked tirelessly to promote". The parade organisers say the event is "nonsectarian" and "nonpolitical" and that NOW has never violated rules forbidding political advocacy at the parade. [The Star Ledger, 23 February]

The state legislature of South Dakota has passed a law which outlaws all abortions except in cases where the unborn child dies in an attempt to save the mother's life. The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Michael Rounds, who is said to be unlikely to veto it. Proponents of the new law say it is designed to challenge Roe v Wade and provoke a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, which they hope will overturn the 1973 ruling recognizing a 'right' to abortion. South Dakota's law concludes, based on medical advances over the last 30 years, that life begins at conception. [Yahoo News, 23 February]

An American woman has given birth at 62, becoming the fourth oldest woman to do so. Janise Wulf, already a great-grandmother, conceived the child, her twelfth, through IVF and gave birth by caesarean section three weeks prematurely. Mrs Wulf said, "I believe personally that age is just a number... I think I'm a much better parent now than when I was younger." The baby, Adam Charles is being kept in hospital for monitoring because he has underdeveloped lungs. [The Guardian, 23 February]

Dr Cornelius Lambalk and fellow researchers at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, have published a study claiming that older women are more likely to conceive non-identical twins because of rising concentrations of follicle stimulation hormone (FSH), which prompts ovulation. An increase in FSH makes older woman more likely to experience double ovulation. [Reuters.co.uk, 23 February, BBC Health, 23 February]

Legislators in Connecticut, USA are drafting a bill which would require all hospitals in the state to provide the morning-after pill, which can cause early abortions. The Connecticut Catholic Conference voiced concerns over the implications of such legislation, saying that Catholic hospitals "should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs, especially those concerning the human dignity of every person, no matter at what stage of life". Rev. John Gatzak, Communications Director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, said that the archdiocese would oppose the bill. [LifeNews.com, 22 February]

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