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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 11 to 17 July

17 July 2007

weekly update, 11 to 17 July Proposals to merge the British fertility and embryology regulators have met with criticism from doctors and scientists. The merger between the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority was proposed by the Department of Health in 2004 in order to cut costs. The plan to replace the two authorities with a new Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (Rate) has recently been criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Pathologists, the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal College of Nursing. The BMA said: "The problem is that the body that is responsible for making decisions will not have expertise in the areas it is regulating. As a result, there is a very real risk that Rate will lack credibility and the confidence of those regulated, the public and Parliament ... It will be difficult for Rate to reject the advice of expert groups and so it is likely to be seen as simply 'rubber-stamping' their decisions." [Times, 13 July ] Campaigners in Britain have voiced concern that provision of the abortifacient morning-after pill to young girls is likely to encourage teenagers to have sex. Responding to news that girls as young as 11 can now be given the pill without their parents' knowledge, Mr Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: "Making contraception and the morning-after pill available to under-16s sends out the message that there is nothing wrong with underage sex and undermines the law on the age of consent. It inevitably results in young men putting pressure on vulnerable girls to have sex by telling them that, if they are worried about getting pregnant, they can always go to the school nurse and get the morning-after pill without anyone needing to know. Most schools which are giving out the morning-after pill to pupils in the belief that it will reduce teenage pregnancy rates are unaware of the fact that they are flying in the face of international research evidence. No [fewer] than 23 studies from 10 countries have found that increased access to the morning-after pill has made not the slightest difference to unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. In fact, there is evidence that making it available to underage girls in strict confidence may be making matters worse by encouraging some girls to become sexually active when they might not otherwise have done so." [EADT, 13 July ] Catholic pregnancy counselling charities in Ireland may lose their state financial support as they have not yet signed a new contract with the government funding agency. By signing the contract with the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA), CURA and Life would be forced to give women leaflets containing the names and addresses of other agencies that would provide them with information about abortion clinics abroad. The chief executive of the CPA, Caroline Spillane, said that no exemptions would be granted from the terms of the contract but that negotiations were going on. [Irish Independent, 12 July ] Patrick Buckley of European Life Network, Dublin, said: "This is clearly a new attempt by the crisis pregnancy agency to attach unconstitutional provisions to government funding of pro-life counselling agencies. Cura and Life are right and they should continue to reject the contracts until they are satisfactorily amended. No amount of funding is worth one single life." A British fertility expert has said that parents undergoing IVF should be allowed to choose their baby's sex. Speaking to MPs and peers who are examining the government's Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, Gillian Lockwood, medical director of Midland Fertility Services, said that the restrictions on sex selection should be lifted and that this would reduce the number of sex-selective abortions which are reportedly carried out in Britain. [icBirmingham, 12 July ]

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