PM: No change in position on time limits
26 October 2006
The Prime Minister's official spokesman has said that he was not aware of any changes in the government's position on reducing upper time limits for abortion, noting that it is a matter of MPs' individual conscience. [Prime Minister's Morning Press Briefing 25 October.] SPUC issued a press release warning about a bill proposed by Nadine Dorries MP, which claims to aim at reducing the upper time limit for abortions. Anthony Ozimic noted that the bill would not apply to disabled unborn children, for whom there is no time limit, and that Mrs Dorries has said she "fully endorse[s] a woman's right to choose" on abortion. Mrs Dorries' bill contains a provision to fast-track abortions after final consent has been given. [SPUC Press Release 19 October]
The League of Polish Families, a part of Poland's ruling coalition government has proposed to remove the "rape exception" loophole for abortion, and is seeking an insertion into the constitution that would guarantee "the legal right to life from the moment of conception." The Polish law is among the strongest in Europe, but abortion is still not punished if it is done because the child was conceived in an act of rape or incest, and if the child has a disability. Mr Wojciech Wierzejski, Vice President of the League said "abortion on medical grounds cannot be used as a precedent to kill a human being." [LifeSiteNews 25 October]
Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon in Portugal has denied that he asked Catholics to abstain from voting in a proposed referendum on whether abortion on demand should be legal in the first ten weeks of pregnancy. He says that in fact he is urging them to vote "no." The Cardinal said "it is clear that respect for life is an exigency of Christian morality to oppose abortion. As it is a precept of Christian morality, it is a grave sin to violate it." [Zenit 24 October]
The Spanish Government's Committee on Assisted Reproduction has given provisional approval to eight applications for human leukocyte antigen testing. This would enable parents of children with incurable illnesses to conceive new embryos which would be tested. A so-called healthy embryo which is also a tissue match for the sick child would be selected, and once born the child would serve as a tissue donor for his or her sick sibling. [BreakingNews.IE 25 October]
New research by Dr Mary Croughan of the University of California in San Francisco has found that children born to couples who have undergone fertility treatment are four times more likely to have autism, and also more likely to have cancer, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. The higher chance of having an affected child is thought to be caused by medical problems in the parents, such as diabetes and hypertension, damaging the unborn child, but IVF and other fertility treatments may also play a role. The chance of more minor problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder rose by 40% and conditions affecting hearing and sight nearly doubled. The research also noted that infertile women had more complications in pregnancy. [Guardian 26 October]
Dr David Adamson, president elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has told a conference in New Orleans that British women who donate eggs to infertile couples should be financially rewarded to help deal with the chronic shortage of donors. The maximum British clinics can pay to egg donors is £250 plus travel and expenses, but American clinics typically pay up to $10,000 (£5,200). In Britain the number of egg donors has fallen by about a quarter in the last four years, a trend exacerbated by the removal last April of the right of donors to remain anonymous. [Daily Telegraph 26 October] [Times 26 October]
Members of the British House of Lords have rejected by 173 votes to 85 an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill which would have made personal, social and health education in schools a statutory part of the national curriculum. The change was backed by many children's charities. [Community Care 25 October]
A court in Rouen, Normandy, northern France has convicted 80 year old Mrs Leonie Crevel of killing her daughter Florence 42, who was partly paralysed, blind and unable to leave her bed. Mme Crevel was accused in July 2004 of tying a rope around her daughter's neck and pushing her off the bed. The court gave her a two year suspended sentence, and her defence lawyer said "once again law and justice prevailed." A psychologist claimed "she saw it as an act of love" but the prosecutor noted that Florence had the right to life despite her disability. [BreakingNews.IE 24 October] Alison Davis of SPUC's disability rights group No Less Human said: "This is the latest in a long line of cases where killers of disabled people get lesser, or no, punishment compared to those who kill non-disabled people. It sends out a strong message that the lives of disabled people are of lesser value, and that we are "better off dead" whether or not death has actually been requested."
Mr David March, who aided his wife Gillian, who had multiple sclerosis (MS), to commit suicide has been given a nine month jail sentence suspended for a year. He came home to find Mrs March, who had had MS for 20 years, in her wheelchair with a plastic bag over her head. She had also taken the tranquiliser Valium. He sat with her for half an hour until she died, and at one point tightened the string around her neck to ensure the suicide attempt was successful. He had prevented her suicide on two previous occasions. Mrs March wanted to die in part to allow her husband time to find a new partner, saying that his 20 years of caring for her had been "a life sentence." The Judge acknowledged that she had "felt she had become too much of a burden." [Telegraph 20 October] Alison Davis of No Less Human said "This case demonstrates the common view that disabled people are right to feel burdensome, and that killing themselves or getting someone else to end their life is entirely legitimate to spare the person caring from them a further "burden." This sends out a strong message that disabled people not only can, but should, seek to end their lives for the benefit of those caring for them."
A study by Dr Zsolt Peter Nagy of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, USA, has found that women who delay motherhood could be damaging the fertility of any daughters they go on to have. Dr Nagy speculated that the decline in quality of woman's eggs caused by ageing could be passed on and imprinted into the reproductive cells that eventually become her daughter's eggs. [Telegraph 25 October] [Guardian 25 October]
The Constitutional Tribunal of Chile has called for an investigative study into the abortifacient capacity of the morning after pill after deciding by a 6-4 vote to review a policy to permit minors over the age of 14 access to the pill free of charge and without parental consent. The policy was implemented by the Chilean Ministry of Health in September despite strong objections throughout the country. The investigation results will lead to a new ruling on whether to allow the morning after pill to be distributed to underage girls without their parents' knowledge or consent. The Alliance for Chile, a coalition of two conservative parties has said the policy violates the constitutional rights of the unborn child as well as parental rights." [LifeSiteNews 24 October]