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Defending life from the moment of conception

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RCOG refuses to meet disability campaigner because she's in a wheelchair

13 June 2007

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has today refused to let a wheelchair-user present a petition on the infanticide of disabled babies. Officials told Alison Davis, leader of the No Less Human disability rights group, that she could not come in because she would need someone to push her wheelchair, and the RCOG would only let one person into its London headquarters. Alison Davis said: "It would be comical if it weren't also tragic that the RCOG, which has asked for a debate on the killing of babies with disabilities such as spina bifida, won't let me, a disabled person, hand over our petition which has some 28,000 signatures. Neither I nor my carer is a threat to anyone." Ms Davis has spina bifida. No Less Human has decided that, because of the RCOG's refusal to admit Ms Davis, the petition will not be presented today. The group is determined that Ms Davis should nevertheless present the petition to the RCOG in person. [SPUC, 13 June]

An MP has opposed calls for Britain's abortion laws to be extended to Northern Ireland. Mr Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member for Lagan Valley, criticised Dr Evan Harris MP, a Liberal Democrat with an English constituency, who has called for the liberalising and extending of the UK's abortion laws. Mr Donaldson said: "Evan Harris needs to understand that there is widespread opposition to any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide, not a matter for Dr Harris who has no mandate here. The DUP will vigorously oppose any move to liberalise the laws in this part of the UK and it is difficult to see how there would be any changes without our support." [Belfast Telegraph, 12 June]

Midwives in the UK are under considerable pressure, according to claims by the Conservative party. Mr Andrew Lansley MP, shadow health secretary, said midwives were delivering 25% more babies per year than was recommended by the Royal College of Midwives because the Government had underestimated the number of live births in Britain. He said: "Labour's plans for maternity services are in chaos. Their flagship policy to offer choices to expectant mothers over where and how they give birth is underpinned by assumptions about the number of births which are wide of the mark. Labour are trying to pursue a policy for which they do not have the staff. We are 3,600 midwives short and yet the number of midwives is going down and newly trained midwives can't find jobs." Dame Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We have seen too many service cuts, too many midwives lost, and too many mothers and babies getting a service that should shame the fourth richest country in the world. Action is needed, and needed now, to put the resources and effort needed into maternity services." A spokesman for the Department of Health denied the allegations and accused the Conservative party of "irresponsible scaremongering". [BBC, 12 June]

Increasing numbers of British couples are travelling to Spain to receive donated eggs for IVF. They are taking advantage of Spain's fertility laws, which allow eggs to be donated anonymously, unlike Britain where, once children are 18, they can find their genetic parents. An unidentified British woman said: "Hopefully the treatment we've had will be successful. That will mean a special bond with Spain for us and the child. But we're not going to tell the child where their genetic roots have come from." [BBC, 12 June]
Maternity staff at a London hospital have been found guilty of neglect over the death of a baby boy in 2005. St Pancras Coroner's Court heard that Riley Croft died 35 minutes after being born at the Royal Free Hospital, having been starved of oxygen during labour. Two midwives missed signs that the baby was distressed and refused the parents' pleas for him to be seen by a doctor. The baby's mother, Heather Paterson, was given twice the recommended amount of labour-inducing gel, causing a particularly painful labour. Riley's father, Iain Croft, has resolved to sue the hospital. He said: "They have taken away the most precious thing in the world. One error is a mistake. A series of fatal errors by three individuals is indicative of systemic failure." The hospital has apologised "unreservedly" and has promised to implement changes in procedure, clinical practice and communications. [Daily Mail, 12 June]

A candidate for Labour's deputy leadership has said she fears there is a concerted campaign in the British Parliament to restrict abortion access. Speaking at hustings, Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and party chair, referred to the recent bill presented by Conservative MP Ann Winterton, which sought to introduce compulsory abortion counselling and a week-long "cooling off" period. She said: "This is the third time [since October] that these issues have come up on abortion... It is not an accident that this keeps being raised." [Guardian, 12 June]

Legislators in New Jersey have passed a bill preventing pharmacists from refusing to provide drugs such as the abortifacient morning-after pill on moral grounds. The bill, which was passed by 56 votes to 18, requires pharmacists to fill all prescriptions regardless of moral beliefs. The text of the bill states: "A pharmacy practice site has a duty to properly fill lawful prescriptions for prescription drugs or devices that it carries for customers, without undue delay, despite any conflicts of employees to filling a prescription and dispensing a particular prescription drug or device due to sincerely held moral, philosophical or religious beliefs." Marie Tasy, the legislative affairs director for New Jersey Right to Life, criticised the bill on grounds of equality. She said: "It discriminates against pharmacists. It says if you have religious beliefs, you need not apply." [LifeSite, 12 June]

An American woman has given birth to sextuplets after she and her husband refused doctors' recommendations to abort all but two of them. Ryan and Brianna Morrison from Minnesota used the Follistim fertility drug to help them conceive, resulting in the conception of six babies. Doctors advised "selective reduction" of four of the children. The couple wrote: "However, we knew right away that this is not an option for us. We understand that the risk is high, but we also understand that these little ones are much more than six foetuses. Each one of them is a miracle given to us by God. He knows each one of them by name and we will trust Him absolutely for their lives and health." The babies were born prematurely at 22 weeks and are in a critical condition in hospital. [CNA on EWTN, 12 June]

British researchers are surveying public opinion on the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. A team from the University of Aberdeen have questioned patients with Parkinson's disease and type-one diabetes, as well as fertility patients who donate surplus embryos for stem cell research. They intend also to question people who are not currently potential beneficiaries of the research. [Herald, 13 June]

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