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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 31 May to 6 June

6 June 2007

weekly update, 31 May to 6 June The British Medical Association (BMA) has said that women should be able to get abortion on demand and that it should be carried out by midwives and nurses. The BMA's ethics committee published a briefing paper supporting changes to the Abortion Act to speed up treatment for women who are less than three months pregnant. Under the proposals, a woman seeking an abortion could refer herself to an abortionist without going through a doctor. Tim Street, the Scottish director for the Family Planning Association, welcomed the proposals. He said: "We would welcome anything that makes it easier for women to get through the process once they have made a decision." Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: "The changes they are proposing would probably make little difference in reality since we do have de facto abortion on demand in this country. The medical profession have failed quite abysmally to uphold the current legislation. Our view remains very clear on this, and that is that abortion is morally wrong and is not the answer to unwanted pregnancies." [The Scotsman, 6 June ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "It is understandable that doctors are sick of abortion. It grates on their consciences and demeans them. Killing unborn babies is not what doctors become doctors for. But the BMA's call for others to take on this role is deplorable because it amounts to doctors dumping work on nurses - the gruesome work of killing unborn children. Nurses are already over-stretched and in short supply, and nursing is about caring, not killing. This would be a damaging blow to nursing." [SPUC, 6 June ] A bill to make counselling compulsory for women seeking abortion has been rejected by 75 votes by British MPs. The proposals, which were sponsored by Conservative Ann Winterton, also included a mandatory "cooling off" period of a week and would have ensured that women were warned about the possible physical and mental ill-effects of abortion. The bill was defeated by 182 votes to 107. Mrs Winterton said: "I am saddened that the House of Commons apparently does not put women's health at the top of its agenda. Young people need time to think about things to make the right decision for them. [A woman] should be armed with the facts about the possible dis-benefits for her in later life. It's not patronising, it's actually being kind to the young woman." Opponents of the bill described it as "an attack on women's [re]productive rights." [Guardian, 5 June ] Anthony Ozimic of SPUC commented: "We will be analysing the voting list very carefully, as it provides useful evidence for assessing the relative strengths of the pro-life and pro-abortion lobbies in Parliament. We remain concerned about any amendments on abortion that may be inserted into the government's draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill. Given the continuing predominance of the pro-abortion lobby in Parliament, any abortion amendments passed by Parliament are likely to make the situation on abortion worse." Before the vote, two doctors told MPs that abortion could be a serious risk to women's mental health. Dr Trevor Stammers, a tutor in general practice at St George's University of London, said: "The most recent research has shown very clearly that abortion presents a serious risk to the long-term mental health of women and why it is therefore important to know which women are being offered abortion on mental health grounds." Dr Robert Balfour, a consultant gynaecologist, cited a Finnish study of 5,000 women between 1987 and 2000, which found that women who had an abortion were six times more likely to commit suicide than those who had given birth in the past year. He said: "We are now at a crossroads. In recognition of this mounting and overwhelming evidence it is essential that women are made aware of these risks. It is important that they receive adequate, informed counselling." [Channel 4, 4 June ] The Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, has referred to the millions of registered abortions in Britain since 1967 as an "unspeakable crime" and "wanton killing of innocents". Cardinal Keith O'Brien's sermon, which marked 40 years since the passage of the Abortion Act, also reportedly implied that Catholic politicians who supported abortion were excluded from the church. Mr Jeremy Purvis MSP, Liberal Democrat, said: "It is not right that we would be seen to be put under pressure, or indeed some members threatened, by a religious leader on what is a very sensitive issue". Mr Michael Matheson MSP of the Scottish National Party said: "I think it is perfectly reasonable. If you had a situation where politicians who were voting in favour of abortion were then expected to be able to participate fully within a Catholic Mass then the church itself would be [neglecting] its responsibility to uphold its own teachings". [BBC, 31 May ] In a letter to the Herald newspaper, Donna Nicholson of SPUC Scotland wrote: "The consistent year-on-year increase in Scotland's abortion figures is indicative of an abortive society that is failing women... Furthermore, the rate of abortion in areas of high deprivation is almost double that of the rates in the least deprived areas of Scotland... It seems the poorest women in our society are carrying the burden of abortion [Herald, 31 May ] A senior Swiss prosecutor is leading investigations into so-called death tourism after it emerged that some clinics may be helping people to commit suicide who are temporarily suffering from depression rather than being terminally ill. Dignitas and Exit International arrange for foreigners to commit suicide at their clinics but it is alleged that some clients are prescribed lethal drugs just hours after arrival, making proper medical and psychological assessments impossible. Mr Andreas Brunner stated that he is not pushing for a ban on assisted suicide but is calling for stricter controls to ensure that clients are not rushed into suicide without proper assessment and consultation. [Sunday Telegraph, 3 June ]

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