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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs to raise abortion/breast cancer link in House of Commons

10 October 2007

Two UK MPs intend to raise the question of a link between abortion and breast cancer in the House of Commons. Ms Claire Curtis-Thomas, member for Crosby, and Ms Geraldine Smith, member for Morecambe and Lunesdale, both of the governing Labour party, could bring up the issue in connection with the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill which is to be announced in the government's programme next month. Ms Smith said: "This needs to be investigated properly. It is just another example of the possible physical repercussions women face. Women sometimes enter into an abortion quite lightly and in some cases it is being used as a form of birth control. We know there are psychological repercussions and it is now being shown that there are physical repercussions." [Daily Mail, 8 October]

The Journal reports that the Human Tissue and Embryos bill will allow British scientists to carry out virtually any work they like, under licence from the regulating authority. The government's response to the parliamentary committee which studied the draft bill accepts the committee's proposals widening the scope of the regulators. Cytoplasmic embryos, true hybrids which carry both human and animal genes, and chimeras, which are made by mixing embryonic cells from different species and human transgenic embryos, which are human embryos modified with animal DNA may all be created. [Journal Live, 9 October]

A genetics researcher has been awarded the Nobel prize for Medicine for his work including work with animal embryo stem cells. Sir Martin Evans, professor of mammalian genetics at Cardiff University in Wales, is know as the chief architect of stem cell research. , which can be removed from mammalian tissue and can be used to grow other types of cells to be used in treating diseases. He shares the prize with his research colleagues, Mario Cappechi, from the University of Utah, and Oliver Smithies, from the University of North Carolina. [icWales, 9 October]

Scientists claim to have created a synthetic chromosome, paving the way to manufacturing life forms. Dr Craig Venter and his team in California built the chromosome out of chemicals and transplanted it into the cell of a bacterium. The resulting new bacterium will be dependent on the molecular machinery of the host cell for metabolism and self-replication. Dr Venter said "We are not afraid to take on things that are important just because they stimulate thinking... We are dealing in big ideas. We are trying to create a new value system for life. When dealing at this scale, you can't expect everybody to be happy". [Guardian, 6 October]

There is a shortage of midwives, according to a report published yesterday entitled 'Safer Childbirth: Minimum Standards for the Organisation and Delivery of Care in Labour' by four bodies of medical professionals in the UK. One of the recommendations for safer childbirth is that there should be a midwife for every woman in established labour; but a survey found that only a quarter of units could provide this level of staffing. An extra 5,000 midwives are needed. The document also recommends that a medic able to give basic neo-natal life support should be available for all births, wherever they take place. The report was issued by the Royal Colleges of Anaesthetists, of Midwives, of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and of Paediatrics and Child Health. [Guardian, 9 October] A group of gynaecologists have published an open letter to the UK government in light of the above report, calling on it to address alleged staffing problems in maternity care. The signatories to the letter highlighted the need for swift access to doctors and specialists even during low-risk midwife-led births.[Times, 8 October]

Ireland's Catholic bishops issued a statement yesterday to mark the Day for Life which they instituted. The bishops said: "From the Christian point of view, compassion in crisis pregnancy-counselling cares for both the mother and her unborn child. You cannot have a true Christian compassion if the right to life of the unborn child is not recognised as an absolute." [Irish Times, 8 October] Pro-life Americans marked National Life Chain Sunday yesterday. Demonstrators lined pavements in 1,300 cities and towns in the US and Canada holding pro-life posters. Mr Royce Dunn, the director of the campaign, described it as "a peaceful witness against a violent public enemy that has terrorized and killed probably well over 100 million preborn Americans and Canadians at surgical abortion clinics and through abortifacient birth control". [LifeSite, 5 October, and News-Herald, 8 October]

The Catholic Church's pregnancy counselling service in Ireland will refuse government funding if its pro-life principles are not respected. Rt Rev John Fleming, Bishop of Killala, has been instructed by the bishops' conference to negotiate a funding contract that would not involve compromising CURA's position on abortion. The bishops have said that, if this condition is not met, they will instead seek to fund CURA through parish collections. [Irish Independent, 8 October]

The church in Argentina has criticised support for abortion in a report to the pope by Latin American bishops on the situation of the Church in their respective countries. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, said: "Although people say 'we aren't in agreement with the death penalty', in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death. The most mentioned word in the [report to the pope] is 'life', because the Church is very conscious of the fact that the cheapest thing in Latin America, the thing with the lowest price, is life." The document links abortion with other widespread forms of the mistreatment of children, such as child prostitution and lack of education. [LifeSite, 5 October]

The Guardian newspaper claims that a law in Nicaragua banning all abortions has led to 82 maternal deaths since November 2006. In a feature article Rory Carroll claims that "advocacy groups" have documented the deaths, and cites other pro-abortion groups claiming that the 82 are only the tip of the iceberg.. The story includes a photograph of pro-abortion protesters fighting worshippers during a mass in Managua's cathedral. The article claims that "to terminate an ectopic pregnancy is legal, it turns out, because since the foetus is not in the womb the procedure would not be an abortion. But such is the climate of fear and confusion that the protocols are widely ignored and misunderstood." Carroll claims that the legislative changes in 2006 were the result of a deal between the Catholic church and president Daniel Ortega. [Guardian, 8 October] Unsubstantiated claims of abortion-linked maternal deaths have been the stock-in-trade of abortion campaigners for many decades. The UN demographic yearbook recorded about 120 maternal deaths per year in Nicaragua up to 2003.

Police opened an investigation into a suspected case of euthanasia after a woman drove to a police station with a dead body in the back of her car. The driver was arrested at Tavistock police station, Devon, UK, and is being held on suspicion of murder. The police would not say how the victim had died, but did say that she was ill or infirm. [Telegraph, 9 October]

A pro-life pressure group has warned of the dangers of the Mental Capacity Act whose provisions include the making of legally-binding 'living wills' by which people can refuse treatment - including hydration and nutrition - if they become incapacitated. Mrs Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert said: "People sign living wills thinking they will die a little bit earlier ... but what this law does not say, and most people do not know, is that they will be condemning themselves to die terribly of thirst". [Christian Today, 6 October]

A mother has requested a hysterectomy for her 15-year-old daughter, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy, because the latter would allegedly not be able to cope with puberty. Ms Alison Thorpe, having ruled out the contraceptive pill because of its health risks to her daughter Katie, wants the hysterectomy to spare the girl the "pain, discomfort and indignity" of menstruation. Legal issues are raised due to Katie's inability to consent. Simone Aspis of the United Kingdom's Disabled People's Council said: "Katie, like any other nondisabled teenager, has the right to grow up with her body intact, and where she can have the same choice as anyone else to give birth to her own children... This is nothing more than eugenics and abuse of Katie's human rights". [Times, 8 October]

A television documentary has drawn attention to some of the effects of China's one-child policy. The programme on Britain's Channel 4, entitled China's Stolen Children, reported that around 70,000 children, mostly boys, are snatched every year, and sold through brokers. On the other hand, 40 million girls have been aborted, causing a shortage of marriageable women and another opportunity for human trafficking. Selling a child is also a last resort for women who do not want to abort their babies, but cannot afford the fine for bearing a child without a licence. [Telegraph, 9 October]

A 72-year-old man from London, UK, is to donate his sperm for his son and daughter-in-law's IVF treatment. The couple, who have previously failed to conceive using IVF, are said to want the child's genetic identity to be close to their own. Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in male fertility at the University of Sheffield, said: "I would say it's not the most desirable of situations ... [because] the genetic quality of the sperm from a 72-year-old is not as good as from a 30-year-old". The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have said that the case does require a special ruling by it. [Yorkshire Post, 7 October]

A woman is on trial in Missouri, USA, for allegedly stealing an unborn child. Ms Lisa Montgomery, who had previously miscarried, is accused of cutting open the womb of Mrs Bobbie Jo Stinnett, leaving her dead, and making off with her daughter of eight months' gestation in December 2004. The premature baby was found alive three days later in Ms Montgomery's home. The case continues. [Telegraph, 5 October]

A politician who has been prominently involved in life-related issues is to retire as a member of the UK parliament. Miss Ann Widdecombe will step down as MP for Maidstone and the Weald at the next general election. [Guardian, 8 October]

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