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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs' report calls for further weakening of abortion regulation

1 November 2007

A report by UK MPs recommends that the requirement for two doctors to authorise an abortion should be abolished, while the 24-week upper time limit should not be reduced. The committee for science and technology also advocates that nurses and midwives should be allowed to perform early abortions. [BBC, 31 October] Two members of the committee, Dr Bob Spink and Ms Nadine Dorries, a former gynaecological nurse, will table a minority report based on evidence the committee reportedly ignored. Their report will call for a number of measures to tighten the present law. [Telegraph, 31 October] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, criticised the majority report on several grounds and called on pro-life MPs to vote against the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill. [SPUC, 31 October] A number of pro-life doctors who gave evidence to the committee were asked to declare their affiliations to campaigning groups. A committee member suggested that their initial failure to do so indicated an attempt to skew the evidence, while another accused doctors of giving evidence on areas outside their own expertise. [Guardian, 30 October] A letter to the Times claimed that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists gave selective evidence on foetal pain to the committee. In their letter, the seven signatories, including three consultant obstetricians, pointed out that the RCOG failed to take into account the work of Professor Anand, a world authority on the management of neonatal pain. [Times, 30 October] Ms Donna Nicholson, spokeswoman for SPUC Scotland, has written an article defending the rights of the unborn, and pointing out that access to abortion has not improved the lot of women as promised. [Scotsman, 30 October]

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned of an impending crisis of gender imbalance in Asian countries, owing to the pre-natal sex-selection of sons. China and India have outlawed sex-selective abortions because of the critical gender imbalance, and the agency reports that Nepal and Vietnam are going the same way. Ms Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the fund's executive director, said the continued sex ratio imbalances would lead to sexual violence and the trafficking of women. The UNFPA still gives funds to enforcing China's one-child policy. [view London, 29 October] Paul Tully of SPUC commented: "UNFPA's statements are hypocritical and misleading. By promoting abortion on demand in cultures where 'son-preference' is so dominant an influence, the abortion lobby is directly contributing to the inhuman and anti-woman practices that they are affecting to deplore."

Patient nutrition and feeding will form part of nurses' training in future, as part of the UK government's plan to improve the nutrition of elderly patients in hospitals and care homes. A recent report stated that a third of patients were malnourished. [Daily Mail, 30 October, and Department of Health, 30 October]

The number of pregnancies among women aged 13 to 19 in Scotland continues to rise, reaching 56.7 per thousand in 2005, despite a multi-million pound campaign to reduce teenage pregnancies. The Government of Scotland's target aims to reduce pregnancies among 13-15 year olds in deprived areas to 8.4 per thousand is unlikely to be achieved. The Government's message to under-16s is "delay until you are ready, but be safe when you are active." [Herald, 31 October]

There has been a rise in the reported number of children born in China with birth impairments. This may be due to better data collection, less reluctance to report disabilities in rural areas or pollution due to rapid industrialisation. Figures for disabilities are reported as highest in coal-rich areas despoiled and polluted due to mining. [Times, 30 October]

Pope Benedict has said that pharmacists have a right to use conscientious objection to avoid dispensing abortifacient or euthanasia-inducing drugs. Speaking to participants at the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists in Rome, he told them they should inform patients of the ethical implications of using these drugs. [Independent, 30 October, and Guardian, 29 October]

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