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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Mencap criticises suggestion of 'blanket ban' on treating 22-week babies

23 November 2006

The head of campaigns and policy at the UK charity Mencap has criticised the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report, which suggests that there should be a blanket ban on treating babies born at 22 weeks' gestation or under. He said: "We urge all decision-makers to value the lives of all our children, including disabled children, and continue to act in their best interests." [Independent 22 November] Alison Davis, national coordinator of No Less Human, SPUC's disability rights group, said: "This statement comes as a refreshing change in direction for Mencap, which has a long history of support for pre-natal testing and abortion of babies with learning disabilities." The head of the Nuffield working party has spoken about how she came to make the recommendations. Professor Margaret Brazier recounted heart-rending stories she had heard. Because the procedures are invasive and painful and keep the babies isolated, when the chances of survival are said to be very small, she thinks it is kinder to leave them to die. [Sunday Times, 19 November]

A woman in a so-called persistent vegetative state will be given a drug that could improve her condition, against the wishes of her family. The treatment has been approved in the family division of the English High Court, at the request of the Official Solicitor who believes that every effort should be made to save a life. [BBC, 20 November] SPUC reported on the zolpidem discovery in September.

A survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in the USA, which was named after the founder of the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, claims that about half of all American women who had abortions in 2002 had undergone at least one previous abortion. Women who had repeat abortions tended to be over 30 years old and 60% had at least one born child already. Most were using contraception at the time of the abortion. [Reuters 21 November]

A German nurse has been found guilty of illegal euthanasia, murder or manslaughter of 28 of his patients. Most of the victims were elderly, but some were in their forties. Not all were seriously ill. [BBC, 20 November]

Charges have been dropped against journalist Maureen Messent of Birmingham, England, who claimed in an article that she gave a fatal overdose of morphine to her aunt Eileen O'Sullivan in Devon. Inquiries showed that Ms Messent was nowhere near Ms O'Sullivan at the time of her death, which was from natural causes. Ms Messent was charged with wasting police time, but the charges have now been withdrawn. [BBC 22 November]

More than a year after the Scottish Executive launched a multi-million pound sexual health strategy, sexually transmitted infections are up by seven percent to more than 20,000, while teenage pregnancy rates remain high. Andy Kerr, the Scottish health minister insisted nevertheless that in the long term the strategy will change attitudes through more services and education initiatives. [Scotsman 22 November]

A study, published in the British Medical Journal, of a new sex education programme suggests that it is no more effective in cutting rates of teenage pregnancy and abortions than traditional lessons. The programme, called Share, was developed by doctors and includes interactive videos and role play. [Guardian, 21 November]

Responding to a private bill that calls for a relaxation in Monaco's anti-abortion law, the Archbishop of Monaco has warned that legalizing abortion in certain cases would inevitably lead to abortion on demand, as has happened in other countries. In a letter to every church in his diocese, Archbishop Barsi, stressed that civil law must respect natural law by protecting the integrity of the human person at all stages of life. He called for greater solidarity with women and families, and for courage to build a society "where life at its very beginning is always respected." [LifeSite, 20 November]

Portugal's constitutional court has accepted the question proposed by the government for a referendum on abortion. It reads: "Do you agree with the decriminalization of voluntary termination of pregnancy if it takes place, at the woman's request, within the first ten weeks of pregnancy in a legally authorized medical facility?" Current Portuguese law allows abortion in the first 12 weeks in cases of rape, of foetal disability or to save the mother's life. [LifeSite, 20 November]

The British Standards Institution has published an information guide for those involved at all stages of development of cell-based therapies, including stem cells. The Publicly Available Specification document explains the regulations and standards that must be adhered to at all stages of development, from tissue procurement to commercialisation. It is expected that cell-based therapeutics will not only provide treatments for many diseases, but also benefit the British economy. [BSI, 17 November]

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