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RCOG moots infanticide for disabled children

6 November 2006

The UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has raised the possibility of infanticide for disabled babies. The college's submission to a bioethical enquiry is quoted as saying: "A very disabled child can mean a disabled family ... If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." [Sunday Times, 5 November] No Less Human, SPUC's disability rights group, expressed distress at the suggestion. Alison Davis said: "Disabled people, particularly those with conditions regarded as 'severe' will be both appalled and afraid by the RCOG's call. Already we are aware that disabled babies are killed up to birth because of 'severe disability'. Once it is established that killing is acceptable on grounds of disability it is inevitable that it will spread to encompass increasing numbers of victims. Deliberate killing on grounds of disability is always wrong regardless of the age or status of the victim." No Less Human plans to demonstrate outside the college. [SPUC, 5 November] The British Council of disabled people said it was wrong to suggest that disabled babies' lives were less valuable than others'.

The Catholic Archbishop of Bangkok has attacked calls by some non-governmental organisations to legalise abortion in Thailand. Cardinal Michai Kitbunchu said it was "ironically tragic" that a mother should "want the death of her child when she should protect him as best she can," in an interview with AsiaNews. The proposal to legalise abortion came at a conference came at a conference sponsored by Thammasat University's Faculty of Social Administration which brought together Thai NGOs to discuss abortion, "not as a moral issue, but one of human rights, an issue involving women." A senior Buddhist also spoke out against the plans backed by the, Labour leader Chitra Kochadej. Thailand is 95 per cent Buddhist, 4 per cent Muslim and 1 per cent Christian, including 300,000 Catholics. [LifeSite.net, 31 October ]

The US and the Vatican are hampering attempts to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and improve reproductive health according to a report for the World Heath Organisation (WHO) by Professor Anna Glasier and others. [Medical News Today, 1 November] The report suggests that 80 million women have and "unintended" pregnancy each year, and 19 million undergo unsafe abortions resulting in 70,000 [maternal] deaths. Dr Richard Horton, editor of the medical journal The Lancet, comments: "For largely political reasons, the US has blocked programmes to save the lives of women from unwanted pregnancy." [The Times Online, 1 November] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "The WHO is trying to have its cake and eat it. On the one hand, the WHO has admitted that promiscuity is the catalyst for poor sexual and reproductive health, and that the best way to save lives from AIDS is sexual fidelity. On the other hand, the WHO condemns the Catholic Church for promoting sexual fidelity and opposing abortion, policies which save lives. The Lancet, by publishing and endorsing the WHO/Glasier report, is contradicting a study which it itself published on 29 January 2000, 'Condoms and seat belts: the parallels and the lessons'. That study stated: "Increased condom use will increase the number of [HIV/AIDS] transmissions that result from condom failure" and "a vigorous condom promotion policy could increase rather than decrease unprotected sexual exposure if it has the unintended effect of encouraging a greater overall level of sexual activity." The WHO, the Lancet and the UK government condemn the pro-life/pro-family ethic as "conservative", yet it is they who are standing in the way of progress by obstinately refusing to abandon their failed ideology of ever more abortion and population control."

A private clinic in Barcelona is carrying out late-term abortions on women from Denmark, Germany and Britain, who are too far gone in their pregnancies to obtain a legal abortion in their own country, a Danish television documentary has revealed. A hidden camera operated by a pregnant reporter from the DR broadcaster captured a physician at the clinic offering to perform an abortion at eight months. Another woman on the documentary said she paid the clinic 35,000 kroner (US$6,000) to perform an abortion at seven months. Spain's abortion laws have a 24-week restriction but, in reality, terminations are readily available and the abortion rate has soared by 72 per cent in the last 10 years. [LifeSite, 31 October ]
Nearly three-quarters of Chileans oppose abortion under any circumstances, a new poll has revealed. The poll by the Catholic University and Adimark also found that the vast majority of the population understand marriage to be a life-long commitment. [Catholic News Agency, 1 November]

Opinion polls show varying results as Portugal moves towards a referendum to liberalise abortion. One survey found 63 per cent of the country's electorate would back an abortion referendum likely to be announced soon by conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva. The measure would legalise social abortions in Portugal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Another survey found only 34 per cent in favour of abortion on request. Currently, abortion is permitted until the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, threat to the life of the mother, or when the unborn child has a severe physical or mental disability. The Catholic Church is urging voters to oppose the referendum, despite news reports that the Church wanted Catholics to abstain. [LifeNews, 31 October]

Poland's government said it would keep the status quo on its restrictive abortion laws, despite an attempt by the League of Polish Families to eliminate exceptions for cases of rape or threat to the health of the mother. Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the President and Prime Minister of Poland, who are brothers, indicated they would not considering reopening the issue of abortion. President Lech Kaczynski said: "The compromise reached on abortion 13 years ago is good." The two brothers head the strongly conservative government in coalition with the League. So far, Poland has managed to resist repeated pressure from the European Union to liberalise its abortion laws. [Lifesite.net, 1 November]

An amendment to the abortion law in Taiwan has been proposed by the executive branch of the county's government. It would stipulate a 3-day 'think it over' period for women seeking an abortion and would also force girls under the age of 18 to get permission from their parents or guardians before undergoing an abortion. But the new law would allow women to merely inform their spouse of their abortion, whereas, under current law, they have to prove they have got permission from their spouse before they can go ahead with a termination. The proposal was announced in an attempt to lower the number of abortions in Taiwan. According the past studies, nearly half of all women in the country have had an abortion. [LifeSite.net, 1 November]

Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has attacked therapeutic cloning as philosophically unsustainable. He said it puts scientific or commercial curiosity ahead of human life. The comment comes just one week ahead of a debate in the Senate on a private member's bill which could lift the country's ban on cloning. Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, said: "We pray that parliament will make a decision based on universal ethics, not on populist rhetoric." Doctors opposing the move towards cloning have planned a $100,000 advertising campaign. [The Australian, 2 November]

A young woman has offered her eggs for sale on an American website to pay off £15,000 of debts. Alexandra Saunders, aged 26, of High Wycombe, Bucks, posted her details on an American website after reading in a magazine about the huge amount of money that can be made. Whilst prohibited in the UK, egg selling is big business in the US where childless couples pay up to £20,000 in exchange for the eggs of a young healthy woman. [Daily Mail, 2 November]

Iron supplements may improve pregnancy rates in women with a history of infertility, a report in the current issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology has said. A study conducted on premenopausal women found those who reported using iron supplements were 40 percent less likely to have ovulation-related infertility. [Reuters, 31 October] Meanwhile, mums-to-be who eat a low glycemic index diet may have healthier babies, a study from Australia suggests. [Reuters, 31 October]

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