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Government "may abandon" plans to outlaw human-animal hybrids

27 February 2007

The British Government may abandon plans to outlaw the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos after protests by scientists, according to The Times. In a letter to The Times last month, 45 scientists expressed support for the research, which is said to have the backing of Tony Blair. The HFEA has announced a public consultation on the subject. [The Times, 27 February]

The number of caesarean sections performed in Britain has risen by 50% in 12 years, the Daily Mail reports. One quarter of all births are now caesareans, which a report from the Office of Health Economics (OHE) attributes in part to obstetricians fearing litigation. The rising age of child-bearing is another cited factor, as well as an increase in multiple births through IVF. Emma Hawe, the author of the study, also warned that the birth rate remains below replacement level. [Daily Mail, 27 February] Citing the same OHE report, the Independent says that for the first time, births among 30-34 year-old women have outnumbered those to any other age-group. The birth rate is falling in every younger age category. According to the head of policy at the National Childbirth Trust, Mary Newburn, this is partly due to rising house prices and career prospects for women. The report also notes that births in Britain in 2005 numbered 722,000, up from an all-time low of 669,000 in 2002. [The Independent, 27 February]

Hospices in Wales have said that a shortage of funding will force them to cut services and turn terminally ill patients away, BBC reports. Andy Richards, chief executive of Hospice of the Valleys said that his hospice alone saves the NHS £150,000 every year. The BBC reports that Mr Richards and others are calling for the government or the NHS to provide at least core funding to the hospices. [BBC, 27 February]

A feature article in The Scotsman has highlighted the trauma faced by women who undergo abortion, focusing particularly on the case of a woman who underwent a late-term abortion just six days after discovering that she was pregnant and was later driven to alcohol abuse. 'Sarah' [not her real name] said that her partner insisted that she would have to 'get rid of it' and that she would not be alive herself if she had not received help from a pregnancy crisis organisation. [Scotsman, 26 February]

Sweden is considering legislation that could open abortion facilities to foreign women, LifeSite reports. Christian leaders have described the bill as 'abortion tourism' and have said that they may be forced to campaign against the re-election of the Christian Democrat party whose social affairs minister is backing the bill. In a letter to Sweden's health minister, the International Right to Life Federation wrote: "It is an affront to other nations to kill their citizens on your soil, even if the Swedish government does not recognise those foreign citizens as persons, if they are considered such by foreign nations, you should at least respect their sovereignty regarding determination of personhood and citizenship." [LifeSiteNews, 26 February]

An appeals court in California has upheld the legality of a massive funding programme for stem cell research which includes embryo research. Opponents, including the California Family Bioethics Council, have said that they will appeal to the California Supreme Court against the $3 billion programme, which has the backing of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. [Reuters, 27 February]

The Cypriot government's proposal to give women £24,000 when they have a third child is allegedly causing women to consider abortion so that they can have their third child when the legislation is in place and claim the money. The Greek population of Cyprus is said to have the lowest birth rate in the EU, and the Turkish Cypriot minority which is growing may soon overtake it. However, according to Maria Kyriacou MP, the proposal has been handled badly and many do not understand how it will apply. [The Guardian, 26 February]

A bill that would allow assisted suicide in California could force Catholic nursing homes to close, a bioethicist has warned. Wesley J. Smith, an author and lawyer, warned that under the law, Catholic nursing homes will face the choice of shutting down or permitting assisted suicide on site, as the only loophole in the proposed law is for acute care hospitals. [LifeSiteNews, 26 February]

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