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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Former BPAS director admits law is being routinely flouted by 'social abortions'

15 October 2007

A former director of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's largest abortion provider, has supported a lowering of the time limit for 'social abortions' where the woman's health is not seriously at risk. Dr Vincent Argent said the grounds of serious handicap of the baby were being misinterpreted to include non-serious conditions. Recognising that many doctors flouted the requirement of two signatures, he recommended that this be scrapped for abortions up to 13 weeks, and suggested that nurses should be able to make referrals. [Daily Mail, 11 October] John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, commented: "The Argent proposal is very dangerous. An analysis of recent votes in the House of Commons indicates that the pro-abortion lobby has a substantial majority. They will not vote for a lower limit without making exceptions, as pro-abortion leaders have made perfectly clear, and the British abortion law will be made even worse. What's more, Argent wants more widely available abortion in the early months of pregnancy - leading to even greater pressures on mothers-to-be to abort, and the smallest of unborn children will be treated with the greatest of contempt."

A parliamentary inquiry into abortion legislation in Britain has been advised that chemical abortions are safe to carry out at home. Abortion-inducing drugs are given in two doses with an interval of two days. Current law requires that both should be administered in a clinic or hospital, but the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV testified that it was safe for the second stage to be carried out at home. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned that more research was needed before the law was changed. [Telegraph, 12 October, and Times, 12 October] Note: The "Independent Advisory Group" is chaired by veteran pro-abortion campaigner, Baroness Gould (who also chairs the All-Party pro-choice group) and also includes people from the Family Planning Association, Brook and the Sex Education Forum, as well as abortion practitioners, besides a number of AIDS/HIV experts.

A study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that 90% of women globally will have had an abortion by the age of 45, and that 20% of pregnancies are aborted. It estimated that 20 million "unsafe" abortions occurred in 2003, and that 97% of these were in developing regions or areas where the procedure is banned. Mr Paul Van Look, director of WHO's department of reproductive health and research, claimed that 70,000 women die each year as result of unsafe abortions. The report also claims that international abortion totals have dropped from 46 million in 1995 to under 42 million in 2003. [ITN, 12 October]

The Population Research Institute has questioned figures cited by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which calls itself the research arm of Planned Parenthood. Mr Stephen Mosher, institute president, claims that it is impossible to know how many abortions are performed worldwide each year because only countries with socialised healthcare keep reliable statistics. Mr Mosher was told by the vice minister for health of Colombia that, since the legalization of abortion in that country in May last year, government clinics had performed about 50 abortions, whereas it had been claimed that 450,000 illegal abortions had been taking place each year. Mr Mosher suggests that abortion figures for the developing world "are simply bogus" and are used in an attempt to show that legalising abortions saves lives. [LifeSite, 11 October]

A second study from the WHO and World Bank claimed that pregnancy-related deaths were falling by less than 1% per year. This was below the pace needed to meet the target set by the UN's Millennium Development Goals. The lowest maternal death rate is in Ireland at one death per 100,000 live births. The highest is in Sierra Leone at 2,100 deaths per 100,000 births. [Reuters, 12 October] Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, commented: "The assertion that 19.4 million abortions (i.e. 97% of 20m) happen in poor countries is highly dubious. Few if any developing countries collect abortion statistics - so the figures are largely 'guesstimates'. Equally the hard data to support global figures of 46 or 42 million are simply not there. Regarding Sierra Leone, The UN Statistics Division does not currently quote a figure for births there later than 1986, and the latest figure it offers for maternal deaths in the country was in 2000, when it estimated between 510 and 3800 mothers died - a seven-fold margin of error."

The Pope has appealed to scientists to stop using human embryos. Speaking to the ambassador of South Korea, where there are moves to lift a ban on human embryo research and cloning, Benedict XVI said that scientific research should follow ethical principles, and that a human being may never be manipulated or used as an object of research. [Guardian, 12 October, and CNA on EWTN, 11 October]

An American Cardinal has highlighted the need for more forceful preaching about abortion, but said he prefers to persuade pro-abortion politicians rather than denying them communion. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, said that, in order to be an authentic Catholic, it was necessary to be pro-life, but also to support other rights, such as family rights, the right to education, the right to take care of the poor, and the rights of migrants. [AP on International Herald Tribune, 11 October]

A campaign providing contraceptives to teenagers has failed to curb the rate of teenage pregnancies in Lothian, which has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Scotland. Figures show that teenage pregnancies were highest in most deprived areas. The Conservative health spokesperson said that the current policy was not working, and suggested that the girls might be choosing to become pregnant. A spokesman for the Catholic Church called for a change of direction in tackling the problem. [Evening News, 11 October]

After a two-day debate, the parliament of Queensland, Australia, has voted 48 to 34 in favour of amendments to the law that will allow human embryos to be cloned for medical research. Both sides of the house allowed a conscience vote. [ABC, 11 October] The Australian Stem Cell Centre based at the University of Queensland is planning to set up research using embryonic stem cells to screen for toxins in drugs, and to produce blood products for leukaemia patients following recent legal amendments. Health Minister Stephen Robertson said that the recent laws would lead, he hoped, to new discoveries and better quality of life for everyone. [ABC, 12 October]

An institute has been set up to examine the social and ethical consequences of science and technology. The Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, UK, will investigate issues such as the genetic selection of human embryos and the conflicts of interest between parents, the unborn child, social groups and society, as well as the genetic manipulation of humans and animals, including hybrids. Sir John Sulston, a Nobel laureate who researched the human genome, will be chairman and Professor John Harris will be research director. [Guardian, 11 October]

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