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RCOG to suggest scrapping birth certificates for "pre-viable" babies

23 October 2006

The UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is expected to suggest that babies born before 22 weeks should not get birth-certificates, even if they draw breath. The college will reportedly use "pre-viable" to describe such children. It is suggested that the college believes that registering such births distresses mothers who wanted an abortion. Dr Paul Clarke, consultant neonatologist at Norfolk and Norwich University hospital, said: "To pretend that any foetus was born dead when it was actually born with signs of life, no matter how small or immature, would be a grave deception." Each year some 300 children are born in the UK before 22 weeks, up to 50 after failed abortion. [Sunday Times, 22 October]

SPUC is calling on its supporters to lobby members of the European Parliament to stop funding for coercive population control. Three amendments to the European Union budget should stop EU funds going to organisations, governments or programmes that are implicated in so-called 'family planning' programmes where coercion has been used in contravention of human rights. The amendments are supported by Ms Kathy Sinnott, MEP for Ireland south.

An Australian bishop has told his country's parliament that Catholic hospitals will not use therapies developed from embryonic stem cells. Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, auxiliary in Sydney, said on Friday that the church could not co-operate with the use of cures based on "parts taken from very early human beings that had been killed to get those cells". The church maintains more than 8,000 hospital beds in Australia. [LifeSite, 20 October] The director of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Pennsylvania, has pointed out that the church supports adult and umbilical stem cell research, while opposing embryo research. Fr Tadeusz Pacholczyk said that, while adult cell therapies were already curing people, the potential of embryo-based therapies had been exaggerated. [CNA on EWTN, 19 October]

The Portuguese parliament has approved the Socialist government's proposal to hold a referendum on freely allowing abortion up to 10 weeks' gestation. The vote may be held in January and, for it to be valid, half of registered electors must take part. Portugal allows abortion up to 12 weeks in cases of rape, disability and danger to maternal health. [LifeSite, 20 October]

Research suggests that women in their 50s who bear IVF children created with donated eggs can cope as well as younger IVF mothers. The University of Southern California study involved mothers' answering written questions about their stress-levels. All respondents had had IVF and 49 of them had given birth aged over 50. [Daily Telegraph, 23 October] The UK has no age-limit for IVF but state funding is only for under-40s.

It is claimed that Palestinian women in labour have been stopped from getting to hospital by the Israeli authorities. The Palestinian health ministry says that nearly 70 such women have given birth at checkpoints, with 34 miscarriages and four maternal deaths. [Middle East Online, 21 October]

A policy group whose trustees include members of the UK parliament has suggested that 10-year-olds should be taught about birth-control at school. The Institute for Public Policy Research pointed out that a quarter of under-16s were sexually active. A spokeswoman said: "Our education system must ... start teaching children about the risks involved in sex before they even consider taking those risks." [BBC, 23 October] A spokesman for the NASUWT teachers' union said that the subject should only start to be taught at secondary (11-plus) school. [icWales, 23 October]

A leading midwife in Scotland has called for an end to routine monitoring of the foetal heart, saying that doing so would lead to less use of forceps during childbirth and fewer caesarean sections. Ms Gillian Smith of the Royal College of Midwives suggested that women who were constrained by monitors needed more interventions. Almost all expectant mothers in Scotland have a cardiotocograph. Dr David Farquharson of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary defended the practice. [Scotsman, 23 October]

Lack of resource reportedly forced a central London, England, hospital to turn away more than 500 ill premature babies last year. Five cots are unstaffed for want of funds for nursing. The British Association for Perinatal Medicine said that the difficulties at St George's were part of a national problem. Some mothers and children have to travel long distances for care. [Observer, 22 October]

Human embryo stem cells injected into rats' brains have appeared to start to form tumours. Researchers at the University of Rochester, New York, said that some rats were helped by the therapy. The findings question the wisdom of treating people with Parkinson's with embryo cells. The team reportedly said that similar experiments on humans "would have to be done very cautiously." [Nature Medicine via Reuters in The Scotsman, 22 October] As well as perhaps being dangerous, embryo cell treatment is unethical because embryos are killed.

A member of the UK's upper chamber has rejected the idea that there are widespread calls from the terminally ill for assisted suicide. Lord McColl of Dulwich writes in a letter to today's Daily Telegraph newspaper: "[British law] provides a safeguard for tens of thousands of terminally ill people who might otherwise feel pressured to opt for such a course against their deeper feelings in order to spare their families a personal care or financial burden." [Daily Telegraph, 23 October]

Stress in pregnancy reportedly impedes foetal development. The University of Miami found that unborn children of such mothers were smaller in mid-pregnancy. Dr Miguel Diego of the research team suggested that stressed women who were expecting should seek treatment. [Reuters, 20 October]

A news story describing how Charlotte Wyatt, who is disabled, had turned three chose also to say how much her care was costing the British state health system. The BBC webpage says that it has cost nearly £50,000 to look after her since February. [BBC, 21 October]

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