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Defending life
from conception to natural death


update, February

28 February 2007

update, February SPUC has condemned a decision by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to allow women to be paid £250 in "expenses" for donating their eggs for use in embryo experimentation. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "For poorer women, this amount will be an incentive to donate their eggs, and it is unethical, dangerous and unnecessary. It is unethical because it is aimed at creating even more human lives in the laboratory, many of whom are killed outright or in dubious experiments. It is dangerous because the risks associated with the drugs given to stimulate the ovaries and the egg harvesting process include renal failure, infertility, cancer and even death. It is unnecessary because successful ethical alternatives to embryo destruction exist." [SPUC, 21 February ] The regulator of medicines in Britain is to hold discussions to consider whether the hormonal birth control pill should be made available without a prescription. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) hopes the discussions will lead to the pill and other sexual health products being classified as pharmacy medicines, available with the agreement of a pharmacist but not requiring a doctor's prescription. [Guardian, 5 February ] Such a reclassification of the pill as a pharmacy medicine would mirror the reclassification of the morning-after pill in 2001, which has led to cases of girls under the age of consent being able to obtain the potentially abortifacient drug with few or no questions asked. The prime minister of Portugal, Jose Socrates, has said that he will use parliament to liberalise Portugal's abortion laws, despite the failure of a recent referendum. Although 60% of voters were in favour of the changes, with 40% against, the turnout did not reach the required 50% of qualified voters, nullifying the referendum's result. However, Mr Socrates said that "Portugal will now tackle abortion in the same way as most other developed European countries". The Social Democratic Party, the main opposition party, has said that it will not oppose the proposed legislation. Currently, abortion is allowed only in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, for cases of rape, foetal deformity, and danger to the mother's health. [CNN, 12 February Doctors treating four women with a family history of breast cancer are applying to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for permission to create embryos through IVF and discard those found to be carrying the cancer gene. None of the women has fertility problems. Joan Nicholson of the genetics committee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who carries the cancer gene, said: "Had this test been available a number of years ago, I would definitely have had it. But one of my cousins believes it is completely wrong. She says that if screening had been available I would not exist." [Sunday Times, 25 February ] Ireland's Catholic pregnancy advice service, Cura, is being threatened with the withdrawal of its government funding because it has stopped distributing a 'Positive Options' leaflet, which contains information on abortion referral services. The state's Crisis Pregnancy Agency has said that Cura, will lose 650,000 euros in funding if it does not resume distribution. Four Cura counsellors from Donegal remain suspended from the organisation after they wrote to the press objecting to distributing the leaflet two years ago. [The Sunday Business Post, 25 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 ]

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