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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Independent newspaper wages war on conscientious objection

16 April 2007

A campaigning front-page story for the Independent misleadingly asserts that The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said that so many doctors are refusing to do abortions that it threatens to plunge the abortion service into chaos and a crisis. The claims of a "crisis" belong to Ann Furedi of abortion-provider BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service). Mrs Furedi said "Unless we can address the problem and motivate doctors to train in abortion, we may well face a situation in five years' time in which women's access to abortion is severely restricted. It is our biggest headache." [Independent, 16 April] The RCOG has responded to the story with a guarded pro-abortion statement saying there is a "slow but growing problem of trainees opting out." [RCOG, 16 April] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, said: "We are pleased to hear that an increasing number of medical staff are refusing to perform abortions, but this situation is being talked up by those who want nurses or other non-doctors to perform abortion. Doctors with a conscientious objection are still under immense pressure to refer women and girls to colleagues who will perform terminations. Teachers and school nurses can be involved in referring for abortion. We need a coalition of people who will have no part in carrying out abortions or in facilitating access to them. Those people's consciences need to be respected whatever profession they are in." [SPUC, 16 April]

A prestigious London Catholic hospital is to ban abortion-referral and the provision of contraception and IVF after a campaign to restore its Catholic identity. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor ordered the ethical code of the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth to be revised after it emerged that doctors were providing the morning after pill and referring women for abortions. The new code is expected to be agreed by the hospital board next month and has been welcomed by the Restituta Group who campaigned to put an end to practices that contravene Church teaching. [Daily Mail, 16 April]

The Polish coalition government has been unable to secure a two-thirds majority vote for pro-life amendments to the constitution that would have offered protection to the unborn 'from the moment of conception'. Polish law currently allows abortion in the first three months in cases of disability, threat to the life of the mother and rape or incest. [International Herald Tribune, 13 April]

A letter by the Catholic bishops of Scotland has been read out in 500 parishes, encouraging people to question election candidates about their views on moral issues including abortion, euthanasia and embryo research. [BBC, 15 April] The letter stated: "We invite you to look beyond the superficially attractive and fashionable to recognize those policies and values which are most in tune with the dignity of the human person and with the common good of our society." [Zenit, 15 April]

Two US groups are suing the Food and Drug Administration over its decision to approve over-the-counter sales of the morning after pill. The Family Research Council and Concerned Women of America claim that the FDA violated the law and does not have the authority to make a decision of this nature. [Reuters, 14 April]

President Bush has spoken at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, reiterating his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. "We must continue to work for a culture of life where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our creator,'' he said. [The Guardian, 13 April]

IVF is keeping the birth rate up in Denmark, according to an analysis by the Population Association of America. Denmark has a birth rate of around 1.9 children per woman, close to replacement levels of 2.1, which is relatively high compared to most of Europe and America. IVF is heavily subsidised and readily available in Denmark and was reportedly responsible for 4.2% of births in the country in 2002, compared to 1.4% in the UK in the same year. [Medical News Today, 8 April]

The number of Caesarean births in Ireland has more than doubled since the early 1990s, according to research by Cuidiu, the Irish Childbirth Trust. Researchers report that almost a quarter of births are now carried about by Caesarean section, compared to around 12% in 1991. [Sunday Business Post, 8 April]

A British city council is planning to create crèches at schools for the children of teenage mothers. Peterborough council was advised to do this by a teenage pregnancy strategy group, which reportedly consulted young mothers, teachers and health professionals. Councillor Brian Rush said: "One of the things which came across was when a teenager has a child they often have to stay at home to look after it, meaning they have to effectively leave school. This affects their education and their whole life." The council's cabinet member for education, Geoff Ridgway, said: "This idea needs a lot of thought. I can see the thinking behind it, but, at the same time, we don't want to encourage teenagers to think that having a child is easy." [Evening Telegraph, 5 April]

There has been an increase in Scottish women paying for a doula during childbirth. The Scottish Doula Network claims there are now 31 doulas in Scotland - women who are not medically trained, but who offer practical and emotional support leading up to and during childbirth and for a short term afterwards. They are paid £300 to £600 per birth. The article also points to contrasting views and concerns about the NHS midwifery service in Scotland. [Scotland on Sunday, 8 April]

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