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Irish abortion survey "effectively meaningless"

20 October 2006

Dr Berry Kiely of the Irish Pro-Life Campaign has criticised a study that claims 64 per cent of people aged 18 to 64 say that abortion is acceptable in at least some circumstances. The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, funded by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Health Department found that attitudes towards abortion have undergone major changes since the early 1980s. Dr Kiely said "Given the way the questions were framed the results are not at all surprising. The question dealing with abortion ... makes no distinction between ethical interventions ... to save the life of the mother and induced abortion where the life of the unborn child is directly targeted. By ignoring such crucial distinctions the survey is effectively meaningless ... Polls which take account of these distinctions consistently show pro-life majorities." [Evening Echo, 17 October]

Ms Lynsey Balmer, Head of Professional Ethics at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has commented in a letter on the Muslim pharmacist who refused to supply a patient with the morning after pill [Daily Telegraph, 14 October]. She noted that the Society's Code of Ethics and Standards does not compel a pharmacist to provide a service that is contrary to his or her religious or moral beliefs, but said "If a pharmacist's beliefs or personal convictions prevent him or her providing a particular service, the pharmacist must not criticise the patient, and either the pharmacist or a member of staff must advice the patient of an alternative source for the service requested." [Daily Telegraph, 18 October] SPUC comment: Ms Balmer's insistence that those asking for the morning-after pill should be assisted by pharmacists makes a mockery of "Professional Ethics". It is neither "professional" nor "ethical" for a pharmacist to ask an assistant to do something which he or she knows is wrong.

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, writing in the diocesan newspaper, Catholic New World, has told Catholic politicians that there should be no separation between their faith, their conscience and their votes. He said "The first and most essential principle of Catholic social teaching is the dignity of every human person and one's basic right to life from conception to natural death. Respect for human dignity is the basis for the fundamental right to life. This is a non-negotiable principle." He said that it is "intellectually dishonest" for Catholic politicians to support abortion by saying they do not want to "impose Catholic doctrine on others." [LifeSiteNews, 17 October]

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has defended his opposition to legalized abortion, reiterating his long-held position that nothing in the US Constitution guarantees a woman's "right" to abortion. Debating against Ms. Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Scalia said that un-elected judges have no authority to decide on issues that are not addressed by the Constitution, such as abortion, and added that the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 which made abortion a constitutional right was the "improper" action of liberal judges granting new political rights. Justice Scalia has consistently battled to overturn abortion laws since his appointment to the Supreme Court 20 years ago. [LifeSiteNews, 17 October]

Tentative evidence has emerged to suggest that low doses of caffeine, equivalent to only one or two cups of coffee per day, can affect the development of unborn babies. Mr. Joseph Nunez and his colleagues form Michigan State University presented the results of their study at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Atlanta, and they say that they came as a surprise. The researchers, who examined brain cells from newborn rats whose mothers had been given a low dose of caffeine, found that the baby rats showed no cognitive impairments, but were more active and less inhibited than the control group. Their advice to pregnant women would be to avoid all caffeine during pregnancy, but their findings may be too preliminary to prompt public health officials to change official advice to pregnant women. [Nature, 17 October]

Pregnant women who survived childhood cancers, particularly those treated with radiation to the pelvic area, are more likely to deliver earlier than 37 weeks according to data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Lisa B. Signorello from the International Epidemiology Institute and her associates also found that those given a high dose of radiation were more likely to have small babies with a low birth weight. The study did not analyse other pregnancy complications caused by cancer treatment, such as an increased risk of miscarriage and so-called medical terminations. [Reuters, 17 October]

Despite the threat of mercury and other contaminants, the health benefits of eating fish exceed the potential risks, according to a report by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and Eric B. Rimm, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The report notes that this is true even for women who are, or who may become, pregnant and nursing mothers with the exception of shark, swordfish, golden bass and king mackerel, which have high mercury levels. [Reuters Health, 17 October]

China is offering pensions to rural parents who have just one son or two daughters. Our source suggests that families in the countryside have more children because of a lack of social security. The annual payment would be of around $75, which is a fifth of average rural income. [BBC, 16 October]

A disabled three-year-old, who was the subject of court action to ensure she was cared for, is being offered for fostering. Charlotte Wyatt's parents, of Hampshire, England, have separated and say they cannot care for the girl, who has brain, kidney and lung problems. [Sky, 16 October] A high court judge last year lifted the ruling he had made the year before that doctors would not be acting unlawfully if they refused to ventilate Charlotte artificially. [BBC, 21 October 2005]

Scientists have used human stem cells to mitigate the effects of a neurological disease in rats. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, were working on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. Cell transplantation into the animals' spines prolonged life a little. [Medical News Today, 16 October] The source of the stem cells, whether from embryos or adult tissue, is unclear from the original story.

A supporter of abortion has addressed a bioethics class at a Catholic university. Dr Judith Arcana spoke to students at Loyola University in Illinois earlier this month at the invitation of the women's studies department. She was reportedly involved with the Chicago Women's Liberation Union which claims to have performed abortion before its legalisation in 1973. Her talk on the fifth of this month was entitled "ethics of human reproduction". The university's website links to Planned Parenthood. [LifeSite, 16 October]

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