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Defending life from the moment of conception

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"Shameful" rise in abortions on underage girls

5 July 2006

SPUC has commented on government statistics on abortions performed last year in England and Wales, and has accused the government of threatening doctors with punitive action if they do not make access to abortion easy. John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said: "The number of abortions on girls under 15 who were resident in England and Wales rose by nearly five percent from 1,034 in 2004 to 1,083 last year. It is shameful that the government should promote secret abortions for girls under the age of consent and insist that their parents aren't told. The government is exposing under-age children to being abused. There is massive government pressure to promote easy access to abortion and much pressure on doctors to comply." Further to our report yesterday, the total of 186,400 which we gave was for women resident in England and Wales. The total including non-residents was 194,353, slightly fewer than the corresponding total for 2004.

The number of Irish women seeking abortions in the UK has fallen for the fifth year running. Figures show that last year 5,585 Irish addresses were given by women who attended abortion clinics in Britain. This is a decrease from 6,217 in 2004. The number of teenagers providing Irish addresses fell from 903 in 2001 to 655 in 2005. Critics of the statistics say that it is possible that some Irish women provide the addresses of British relatives or friends. [Breaking News, 5 July] The government-funded Crisis Pregnancy Agency has claimed that it has caused this decline. Patrick Buckley of European Life Network in Dublin said: "We welcome any reduction in the number of surgical abortions carried out on Irish women. However, this does not take account of abortions carried out elsewhere or the use of abortifacient birth control. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency has continually failed to fulfil its mandate and its methods lead to more promiscuity and more abortion. They are part of the problem, not the solution."

The Family Planning Association has said that the continued increase in abortions in England and Wales is due to insufficient birth control services. [Telegraph, 5 July]

A dying mother in Britain who was told by doctors to abort her baby because it was too risky to continue the pregnancy has given birth to a daughter. Sam Jackson 36, who has advanced lung cancer, was told that her chemotherapy treatment would leave the baby open to infection and that it was better to have an abortion. However, the baby, Zoë, survived and was delivered at 28 weeks by caesarean section. Ms Jackson said, "Words can't describe how it feels to see my little girl alive and well. I couldn't settle until I'd seen her. And she's beautiful." [The Mirror, 5 July]

An Irish woman who is prosecuting her husband over the use of their three frozen embryos has said that they have a right to life. Giving evidence in the High Court in Dublin, the 41-year-old said, "They are our children. They are our children's brothers and sisters, just in the beginning of their life. The right place for them is to be back inside their mother who's me." The woman and her husband separated after the creation of the embryos by IVF treatment in 2001. The case continues. [Evening Echo, 4 July]

A new member of the UK's upper legislative chamber has mentioned life-related issues in her first speech. Baroness Paisley of St George's, from Northern Ireland, said that she wanted to look at: "life and death issues like euthanasia and abortion". [Belfast Telegraph, 4 July] Mrs Betty Gibson, chairman of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: "Baroness Paisley's going to the House of Lords gives me a lot of hope. Other peers may also want to address such issues, but it's particularly encouraging that Lady Paisley chose to mention them." Baroness Paisley is the wife of the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, which attracts much of its support from loyalist Protestant voters in Northern Ireland, though she will sit with non-aligned peers.

Abortions are routinely carried out after multiple conceptions through IVF according to an American report. The study published in the Virginian-Pilot examined the problems associated with multiple births caused by IVF and showed how "excess" babies are usually recommended for abortions by fertility clinics under the name of "selective reduction." Elizabeth Simpson, author of the report, wrote: "In a world where debate storms on legislative floors over stem cell research and abortion, embryos are culled with quiet regularity from the wombs of women for whom fertility procedures were too effective." [Life Site, 4 July]

New research is being published on the case of a man who recovered after 19 years in a coma. Terry Wallis, who was brain damaged in a car crash in 1984 at the age of 19, spent years in a minimally conscious state and was considered a hopeless case. His sudden recovery in 2003 baffled doctors, although some have said that the constant visits of his family, who often took him out, may have stimulated his brain. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicates that Mr Wallis's brain gradually grew tiny new nerve connections to create a new nerve network. His father Jerry said, "He now seems exactly like his old self. He very often tells us how glad he is to be alive." His case has been contrasted to that of Mrs Terri Schiavo who was dehydrated to death by court order in March of last year. [Life Site, 4 July]

The current chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to be the next chair of the Charity Commission. Dame Suzi Leather has been the chairwoman of the HFEA since 2002 but will step down from the post following her appointment as the new Chief Charity Commissioner by the Cabinet Office. [eGov, 16 June] A member of the HFEA has been appointed as Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. Baroness Hayman, 57, who is also the chair of the Human Tissue Authority, must give up all external interests, including her HFEA membership, before taking on the post. [Times, 5 July]

A vote on embryonic stem cell research is to take place in the American Senate next month. Majority Leader Mr Bill Frist has announced that he will schedule debates on three bills related to human embryonic stem cell research, including one to allow federal funding for such research. Mr Frist claimed that he is personally pro-life but that the issue "isn't just about faith; it's a matter of science". He said, "Today marks an important step forward in our work to open the door to stem cell research." [Medical News Today, 4 July]

Unborn children who are exposed to the DDT pesticide suffer from development problems, according to an American study. Although DDT is banned in the US and the UK, it is used in some countries to kill mosquitoes that carry malaria. Researchers from the University of California Berkeley found that children who had been exposed to the pesticide had a slower mental and physical development rate. [BBC News, 5 July]

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