weekly update, 2 November
2 November 2007
weekly update, 2 November 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 [which applies only to abortions for the weakest grounds] 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 ] 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 ] 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." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Rowan Williams, recently wrote an article in The Observer newspaper suggesting that the intentions of the 1967 Abortion Act, to permit abortion in exceptional cases, have been lost as the assumption that abortion is "profoundly undesirable" has altered. Archbishop Williams highlights the "tension" in the fact that: "The pregnant woman who smokes or drinks heavily is widely regarded as guilty of infringing the rights of her unborn child; yet at the same time, with no apparent sense of incongruity, there is discussion of the possibility of the liberty of the pregnant woman herself to perform the actions that will terminate a pregnancy". He concludes: "This is not an argument for unalterable prohibitions in law against abortion in every circumstance... But it is an argument for keeping our eyes open for the unintended consequences." [The Observer, 21 October ] Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of England and Wales's Catholics, recently wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph calling for various approaches to reduce the numbers of abortions, including "achievable and incremental" amendments to the law.[Telegraph, 29th October ] John Smeaton of SPUC expressed caution, noting the danger that attempts to reform the upper limit could backfire and make the law worse. [Telegraph, 29 October ] The Daily Telegraph reported on a poll of members of the UK parliament regarding abortion legislation. More than 100 MPs responded. The questions were not cited, nor was there any reference to a professional polling agency. The Telegraph claimed that two-thirds of MPs responding would vote to reduce the current 24-week threshold applying to some abortions. The study also found that just over half of MPs opposed permitting nurses to perform abortions. Changes to the law could be made by the government's Human Tissue and Embryos bill if it is passed. [Telegraph, 29 October ] Current legislation allows abortion up to 24 weeks for general health considerations, and up to birth for disability in the baby or 'serious risk' to the mother's physical or mental health. There are no current proposals to impose any time limit on these later abortions. Pro-life protestors held a series of events around Westminster on Saturday (the 27th) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act. [BBC, 27 October ] An image with "6.7 million" on it had been projected on to the parliament building to highlight the number of abortions in England and Wales since legalisation. [Sky, 27 October ] Some protestors reportedly called for a government review of the law. [Christian Today, 28 October ] The demonstrations included a "Silent No More Campaign" act of witness - in which people affected by abortion described their difficult experiences and explained the help available to others.