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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Girl guides to be taught about abortion

3 January 2007

British girl guides are to have lessons about birth control and abortion. As part of the new programme, titled Get Wise, which will involve guides in the junior section, aged 10-14, as well as older girls, 450 guides are to be trained as "peer educators" to run sessions covering sex, contraception, abortion and abuse. Denise King, chief executive of Girlguiding UK, defended the initiative among Britain's 600,000 guides. The programme asserts that guide leaders should not automatically intervene if they become aware of cases of illegal under-age sex. "If the girl is happy and healthy in this it is not your place to intrude" Get Wise warns. The programme is being chaired by Vicki Willis. [Times, 3 January]

Thirteen Norfolk schools are reported to be offering teenagers contraceptives through confidential in-school clinics. The Norwich Evening News reports that parents, pupils, teachers and Governors have been consulted in each school. At least two of the schools, Earlham High and Hewett School, both in Norwich city, offer pupils the morning after pill. Mark Osborn, Norfolk's Teenage Pregnancy Coordinator, claims that schools benefit from the service. [Evening News 24, 1 January]

A majority of Maltese citizens support a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine the unborn child's right to life in law, according to a recent poll. 300 households were asked the question: "Do you agree with the proposed Constitutional amendment to provide the unborn child with the right to life and, therefore, protect Malta further from the possibility of abortion being legalized in the future?" 84% of those questioned agreed, while only 8% disagreed and 7.7% said they were unsure. Gift of Life, the organization that commissioned the poll, said in a press release: "These extremely positive research results clearly show that the proposal has the full backing of the Maltese population."[Life Site, 2 January]

A Scottish man who has been blind for 23 years is to have stem cell treatment in Holland in an attempt to help him regain his sight. James Logan, 44, who suffers from a rare hereditary condition called Leber's optic atrophy, is to visit Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT) clinic in Rotterdam where he will pay £14,500 for treatment. [The Scotsman, 2 January] It is unclear from our source whether the cells are embryonic.

The granddaughters of an American woman, Madeline Neumann, suffering from Alzheimer's disease whose do-not-resuscitate request was not observed, are suing her nursing home and doctor. Mrs Neumann died in 1995. The case is expected to go to court in early 2007. It accuses Dr Jaimy Bensimon and staff of the Joseph L Morse home in West Palm Beach, Florida, of committing battery when she collapsed one night. Dr Bensimon, who was not present, told staff to summon emergency treatment. Mrs Neumann had previously had seizures, for which she did want to be treated. She died a week later when life support measures were withdrawn. [USA Today, 19 Dec 06]

An American prospective presidential candidate seems to have changed his views on abortion. Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney previously supported abortion, saying in his election campaign for the US Senate in1994: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country," and "I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, we should sustain and support it." He claimed that his views were changed when he studied human embryonic stem cell research and realised that "that 'the sanctity of life had been cheapened'" by the Roe decision, which barred state abortion bans in America. He has reportedly said that he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. [Medical News Today, 2 January]

A Spanish woman has become the world's oldest mother, giving birth to twins at the age of 67. The woman, who has not been named, became pregnant after fertility treatment in Latin America and subsequently gave birth by caesarean section at the Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona, which specialises in difficult births. A spokesman for the hospital said that mother and babies were doing well. [BBC News, 30 December]

Danish scientists claim to have developed a form of IVF treatment which is "better than nature". The method, which involves harvesting immature eggs and growing them outside the body, reduces the need to give women large injections of potentially harmful hormones. It is thought to cut the risk of side-effects for the mother and reduce the drug bill. Svend Lindenberg, professor at the Nordic Fertility Centre in Copenhagen, which is testing the method, said: "The doctor now has a tool ... which can minimise the risks involved in IVF. We now have a more comfortable treatment for women and we haven't seen any problems in any of the babies who have been born as a result. For women who were eligible for the treatment the success rate is better than what you can expect naturally." [The Guardian, 30 December]

The lawyers of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist currently in prison for his work in campaigning against abuses in the country's one-child policy, have reportedly been attacked on their way to work on his case. Li Jinsong and Li Fangping are said to have been beaten up on their way to Linyi in Shandong province. A woman has also accused Li Jinsong of sexually harassing her, but his friend and AIDS activist Hu Jia said that the accusation was totally groundless. [HRIC News Brief, 28 December]

The Chinese province of Henan has banned the sale of abortion drugs in an attempt to reduce sex selective abortions. This policy is, according to the China Daily newspaper, part of Henan's efforts to "keep gender balance among newborns". Those who break the regulations will be fined up to 20,000 yuan. [BBC News, 3 January]

The Pope has said that human beings must be treated with dignity if world peace is ever to be achieved. Speaking in a homily at St Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI said: "It is because every human individual, without distinction of race, culture or religion, is created in the image and likeness of God, that he is filled with the same dignity of person. That is why the human person must be respected. No reason can ever justify doing with him whatever one pleases, as if he is an object." He also said that human rights require "a stable base, not one that is relative or a matter of opinion." [Ekklesia, 1 January]

Tony Abbott, the Australian minister for health, is supporting a Catholic counselling agency in a new abortion helpline. Centacare, the Catholic Church's health and welfare arm in Australia, is opposed by some who say that religious groups should have no involvement in abortion counselling. Mr Abbott said: "Centacare have been more than capable for decades of delivering professional services to people in trouble, regardless of the perspective of the people who need the help and regardless of any particular values ... the church might have." [The Australian, 2 January]

The number of women aged over 45 giving birth in Britain has doubled in the last ten years. It is thought to be due both to women wanting a career before starting a family and to fertility treatment. 1,091 women gave birth over the age of 45 in 2001, compared to 540 in 1995. Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of the Midland Fertility Service, said: "I think it is vital that women recognise - even though in their late thirties and forties they look and feel so young - that their ovaries may be past their sell-by date." [Daily Mail, 31 December]

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