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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Dutch government lifts restrictions on Women on Waves

26 April 2007

The Dutch government has lifted restrictions on the Women on Waves abortion ship project and given it a new licence. The ship will be able to sail under a Dutch flag in international waters, pick up women from countries where abortion is illegal, and give them abortion-inducing pills. It is planned to target Ireland, Malta and Poland, European countries which still outlaw abortion, as well as South American states. Rebecca Gomperts, who runs the project, said they are seeking to have lifted remaining restrictions, such as a requirement to find a partner hospital in any region to which they travel, and only to perform abortions up to seven weeks of pregnancy. [Times, 24 April]

The body which regulates human embryology research in the UK has launched a public consultation on whether scientists should be allowed to create human-animal hybrids for research. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has produced a consultation paper explaining future possibilities in embryo research. There will be a public meeting in London in June, and an opinion poll and online questionnaire are planned. The HFEA will announce its recommendations in the autumn. [BBC, 25 April] SPUC is calling on its supporters to ask more than 200 UK charities to justify their support for such research. [SPUC, 26 April]

Two British couples with family histories of breast cancer are expected to be given approval by the HFEA for embryo screening for the gene which is associated with increased risk of developing the disease. The HFEA has already agreed in principle. In May last year the authority ruled it acceptable to screen embryos for genes which raise the risk of cancer in adulthood by between 60% and 80%. Previously it was restricted to genes that carried a 90% to 100% chance of causing a disease. [Times, 26 April] SPUC comment: Embryos found to carry genes associated with a risk of cancer will be discarded.

Research by a team of Chinese and American sociologists at the University of Carolina has found that China's one-child policy has been so effective as to create serious problems for the future. The study, published in the Population and Development Review, found that China's birth rate stands at 1.5 children per couple, remarkably close to the government's target of 1.47 children per couple. Professor Wang Feng, who led the study, said: "With the birth rate below replacement level, the country faces serious negative consequences in the long run if it fails to phase out the policy ... Despite what some say, the policy has not been 'relaxed' over the years. The system of exemptions resembles the American tax code in its complexity ... But this does not change the fact that the one-child policy applies without exception to a significant majority of Chinese couples". [LifeSite, 23 April]

The UK government has published its code of practice detailing how the Mental Capacity Act, which came partially into force this month and will be fully effective from October, is to be implemented. [Department for Constitutional Affairs, 23 April]

A decision on a proposed World Bank health strategy has been postponed because delegates from some European countries have objected to a change in wording suggested by the US delegate. Mr Whitney Debevoise proposed to insert the phrase "age appropriate access to sexual and reproductive healthcare" to replace "reproductive health services". The Europeans claimed that the change could restrict access to reproductive services by younger women. The World Bank has worked in population and reproductive health for more than three decades and has approved more than $3 billion in lending in those areas. [Reuters, 25 April]

The health minister for Guernsey, Deputy Janine Le Sauvage, has said that the Channel Island's government ought to offer financial help to couples seeking IVF treatment. Ms Le Sauvage hopes the measure would help to address the island's falling birthrate. [BBC, 24 April] In North Yorkshire, the NHS for the region has suspended IVF treatment for its waiting-list of 300 couples. IVF was among procedures suspended for all but the most exceptional cases as part of budget cuts in January, and, while some treatments have been resumed, IVF remains restricted. [The Press, York, 24 April]

Women in Northern Ireland suffering from chronic pelvic pain during and after pregnancy are being forced to travel to the Republic of Ireland to get help. Linda Bamford, one of the Ulster mothers who have experienced symphysis pubis dysfunction, or pelvic girdle pain, said that health professionals in her home country seemed unable to deal with the disease, which left her crippled for 14 months after giving birth, until she received treatment from a Dublin osteopath, who sees around 10 women from Northern Ireland with the condition per year. [Belfast Telegraph, 24 April]

Members of Kent County Council, England, have called for sex education in its schools to start earlier, in primary schools. Reference was made to Holland, where it is claimed sex education starts at six. [Kent Messenger, 25 April]

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