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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs mark 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act by threatening Northern Ireland

11 June 2007

A cross-party coalition of MPs is to push for changes to current abortion legislation to mark the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act in Britain. Moves to increase access to abortion include removing the need for two doctors to sign an abortion referral and the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Church leaders and politicians in Northern Ireland have condemned proposals by Westminster to impose abortion on Northern Ireland and are expected to resist any change in the law. Fr Tim Bartlett, the secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Commission on Social Affairs in Northern Ireland, said: "We are opposed to these measures on two grounds. Firstly, there is the ethical opposition to abortion and our support for the right to life for the unborn child. Secondly, that the views of the democratically elected representatives of Northern Ireland be taken into account." [Observer, 10 June] Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland said: "The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland and their elected representatives are opposed to any liberalisation of their abortion laws. Despite this there is a very real threat that the pro-abortion lobby in Britain could succeed in having the Abortion Act imposed upon the Province. It is therefore vitally important that everyone, in Britain as well as in Northern Ireland, should write to their MPs and ask them to urge the government not to support any attempt to extend the Abortion Act but instead respect the position of the Northern Ireland Assembly on this issue. It would be an appalling tragedy if the violence of the Troubles was replaced by the violence of abortion."

Lord Steel of Aikwood, the architect of Britain's Abortion Act, has criticised Cardinal Keith O'Brien's condemnation of abortion, claiming that the Act had saved women's lives. Lord Steel said that he took "strong exception" to the cardinal's criticisms of the Act, which the cardinal said was founded on "a pack of lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth". [Herald, 11 June]

A woman in Britain has complained after a Muslim pharmacist allegedly refused to sell her the morning-after pill and she was required to wait 15 minutes for another pharmacist to come on duty. A spokesman for Sainsbury's confirmed that pharmacists had the right to refuse to sell morning-after pills for moral or religious reasons. [Evening Post, Nottingham, 9 June]

The lower house of the New South Wales parliament has voted to lift a ban on human cloning. Cardinal Pell defended his public stance against human cloning, particularly his warning to Catholic politicians about their obligations. He said: "In a pluralist democracy bishops are free to explain Catholic doctrines and discipline, while all individuals and legislators are free to accept or reject what is proposed. But actions have consequences, some of which follow naturally, some of which are imposed and just as members of a political party who cross the floor on critical issues don't expect to be rewarded and might be penalized, so it is in the Church." He was supported by Mr John Howard, Australia's prime minister. [LifeSite, 8 June]

A study at Guy's Hospital, London, has found that women who have one embryo transferred to the womb during IVF have the same success rate as those who have multiple embryos transferred. 40% of IVF babies are twins and the HFEA is currently considering proposals to penalise clinics where more than 10% of pregnancies produce multiple births because of fears about the increased risk of neonatal death associated with multiple birth. [Times, 11 June]

Professor Lord Winston has announced at the Cheltenham Science Festival that research is being carried out into developing a pill that could delay the onset of the menopause. Lord Winston said that research is still in its early stages but that a protein may have been identified that could keep older women's eggs healthy. David Hodgson, medical director of the London Fertility Centre, warned that such a drug would need to be carefully and laboriously tested as the full health implications for both the woman and possible children are not yet clear. [Daily Mail, 11 June]

Jack Kervorkian, the US euthanasia campaigner who was jailed eight years ago for second degree murder, has been released from prison. Kervorkian was convicted of the murder of Thomas Youk by lethal injection and claimed to have helped 130 people to die. He has said that he will not carry out any more assisted suicides but remains unrepentant and hopes to resume his campaigning work. [BBC, 9 June]

83,000 pregnancy test kits used by hospitals and medical professionals have been recalled by the manufacturer after a small number were found to be faulty. Some 50 hospitals are now trying to contact women who may have received a false negative result and may unwittingly be exposing their unborn child to smoke, alcohol or X-rays. Unipath, the manufacturer of Clearview HCG, has been criticised for refusing to name the hospitals involved. [Telegraph, 9 June]

The South Korean stem cell scientist who fraudulently claimed to have successfully cloned a human embryo has allegedly been in talks with an international consortium on embryonic stem cells based in Thailand. Hwang Woo-suk, who faces charges of fraud and embezzlement which could result in a jail sentence, may join the group after his licence to obtain human eggs was revoked in South Korea. [Reuters, 11 June]

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