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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Amnesty reveals plan to export abortion to developing countries

18 October 2007

Amnesty International and other agencies based in the Western world have revealed their plans to exploit international human rights law to force developing countries to allow abortion. At the Women Deliver conference being held in London, Stephanie Schlitt of Amnesty International told delegates that states had "obligations beyond borders" to defend and promote "sexual and reproductive health" - a term commonly used to include abortion on demand. John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, commented: "Amnesty International, which was founded to protect the right to life, is now undermining the protection given to unborn children found in international human rights instruments. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the need for special protection for children both before and after birth." [SPUC, 18 October] The Women Deliver conference deals with maternal and child mortality and SPUC's Pat Buckley said: "Increasing access to abortion does not reduce maternal deaths. Ireland, which has always had a complete ban on abortion, has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. It is a fact that, in countries such as Great Britain and the United States, where abortion has been widely available for decades, maternal mortality is significantly higher." [SPUC, 17 October]

A number of sources report on the House of Commons select committee on science and technology which began conducting hearings on Monday last as part of its inquiry into abortion practice. The BBC reports that The British Medical Association has rejected calls to lower the limit from 24 weeks to 20, on the grounds that very few babies born at that age survive. Professor Stuart Campbell, who pioneered three-dimensional images of babies in the womb, supports the reduction of the time limit. As professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at King's College, London, he performed abortions up to 20 weeks. Lord (David) Steel of Aikwood, whose private bill led to the 1967 Abortion Act, supports the present limit. [BBC, 15 October] Dr Evan Harris MP, a member of the committee, accused the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) of jeopardising the inquiry. It was implied that several supporters or members of CMF who submitted evidence were not transparent about their affiliation or were not expert in their field. The allegation were rejected as ludicrous. [Guardian, 15 October] Professor John Wyatt told the committee that hundreds of premature babies born in Britain die without any attempt to save them. In some hospitals the survival rate at 23 weeks is 42% whereas the national average is around 10%. Centres of excellence in other countries report survival figures of between 30 and 60%. [Sunday Times, 14 October] The Royal College of Nursing told the committee that nurses and midwives should be trained and authorised to perform first-trimester abortions and to prescribe abortion pills. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supports the proposal, as they say the number of doctors willing to do abortions is declining. [Observer, 14 October]

The body that regulates IVF in Britain will reportedly next month require that only single embryos are implanted. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority claims that this will reduce health risks for both mothers and babies, as there are complications associated with twin births. At present, two embryos are normally implanted, to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. [Sunday Times, 14 October]

A biotechnology firm in California is encouraging couples to have stem-cells harvested from spare IVF embryos. StemLifeLine is offering to store the stem cells in the hope that they might in future be useful to other family members. [Telegraph, 16 October] Lord Winston, a fertility expert in Britain, criticised the scheme for exploiting parents' fears as there was no evidence that the cells would actually be of use in the future. Professor Stephen Minger of King's College, London, said it was too early to start banking stem cells for use in the future. [Scotsman, 16 October, and Times, 16 October] Comment: It is not surprising to see leading proponents of embryo stem-cell research in the UK criticising such far-fetched proposals. Their objections are not based on objections to cannibalising the embryos - which the UK embryo research lobby is fully prepared to do, but on the speculativeness of the proposal.

The owner of the Dutch abortion ship was met with protests in the Maltese capital. Dr Rebecca Gomperts, director of Women on Waves, gave a closed press conference to promote the RU486 abortion pill which she offers to women on her converted tug in international waters. Pro-life protestors held a silent candle-lit protest outside. Malta remains overwhelmingly pro-life. [LifeSite, 15 October]

An official for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has criticised a recent study by the Allan Guttmacher Institute on global abortion rates. Ms Deirdre McQuade argued that the report's definition of safe abortion made it the same as legal abortion, whatever the outcome for the woman. She pointed out that claims that denying funds to organisations that promoted abortion made the global situation worse were contradicted by the study. The study claimed to show a drop in global abortions during the years the US has pursued this policy. Ms McQuade concluded with an appeal for better healthcare for all women and their children. [CNA on EWTN, 15 October]

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