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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 30 December to 8 January

8 January 2007

weekly update, 30 December to 8 January A review of 23 studies on the use of morning-after pills has concluded that, "[t]o date, no study has shown that increased access to this method reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates". Writing in this month's Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers nevertheless supported the availability of post-coital birth control, on the basis that it may increase the likelihood of women using more reliable means. In the US, the Plan B morning-after pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2006. Pro-life people have opposed the drug because of its potential to cause early abortion by disrupting implantation. The lead author was Elizabeth G Raymond; co-author James Trussel has been a leading proponent of the drug. [Washington Times, 8 January ] A bill pending in the Argentine congress, and which is expected to be passed this year, will make Argentina the fourth country in Latin America to authorise the free distribution of the morning-after pill (emergency contraception), joining Mexico, Peru and Chile. [Reuters, 8 January ] International Right to Life Federation (IRLF) leaders meeting in Manila, the Philippines, have issued a statement calling on "citizens throughout the world to study the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae", the Catholic church's teaching on the regulation of births published in 1968. Dr Jack Willke, IRLF president, said: "Worldwide, we are witnessing the sexualisation of our children - in particular, the sexual indoctrination of children with a view to subsequent provision of abortion and birth control drugs and devices to them without parental knowledge and consent, including in faith schools. We are also witnessing growing pressure from United Nations bodies on developing countries to legalise abortion." [SPUC, 8 December ] Stem cells which have advantages over embryonic stem cells have been extracted from amniotic fluid, according to researchers in North Carolina. The researchers claim to have found what they think are pluripotent stem cells in amniotic fluid, the liquid which surrounds babies in the womb. Pluripotent cells can give rise to many different tissue types. The amniotic fluid stem cells are easier to manipulate than embryo cells and don't form tumours. The team at Wake Forest University School of Medicine led by Dr Anthony Atala used fluid obtained when amniocentesis tests were done to check if the babies had disabilities. [Reuters, 8 January ] Amniocentesis is not without risks for the baby. Scientists who wish to create human-animal hybrid embryos have attacked the government and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for reportedly planning to stop such experiments. The Times gives prominent and entirely partisan coverage to those leading the campaign: Professor Chris Shaw, Stephen Minger and Dr Lyle Armstrong. In the Times' print edition, the front page lead, two feature articles and an opinion piece all give uncritical coverage and implicit support to the creation of human-animal hybrids by transferring human DNA to the egg of a rabbit or cow. [Times, 5 Jan ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "This hype is being generated by those with vested interests in money from the government's stem cell research fund. Yet again, patients with degenerative diseases are being given false hope and exploited by the profit-hungry biotech industry. Human embryos are full human beings from the moment of their creation, and nothing should be done to destroy human embryos or undermine human dignity." [SPUC, 5 January ] Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "This is creating an animal-human hybrid and that has to be acknowledged as something that does not meet with approval. We hope that the HFEA has found this is one hurdle too many and they are not prepared to jump over it." [BBC News, 5 January ] The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has begun to recommend that all pregnant women be offered screening tests for Down's syndrome, regardless of their age. Previously, the tests were only offered to women aged 35 and older because it was thought that older women were at a higher risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. The increase of risk is now considered to be so gradual that an age limit is too arbitrary. Dr. James Goldberg of San Francisco Perinatal Associates said: "It's clear there's no magic jump at 35. We've done away with age 35 because the screening tests have gotten much better." [CNN, 1 January ] The vast majority of babies in Western countries diagnosed with Down's Syndrome are aborted. 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 ] 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 ]

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