Pro-lifers call upon NI health minister to scrap "seriously flawed" abortion guidelines
22 October 2007
The pro-life movement has renewed calls for the Northern Ireland health minister to scrap his department's draft guidelines on abortion after members of the Province's Assembly debated a motion rejecting any attempt to make abortion more widely available. Critics of the draft guidelines, which were issued by the Department of Health Social Security and Public Safety (DHSSPS) earlier this year, say they are seriously flawed and could lead to an increase in the number of abortions in the Province. Betty Gibson, chairwoman of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland, said that the DHSSPS had failed to recognise the full protection for the unborn child in Northern Ireland's law as well as ignoring the effects of abortion on women. [SPUC, 22 October]
Abortion-provider Marie Stopes International has conducted a survey which it claims found that 40% of family doctors in Britain supported a reduction in the time limit for social abortions to between 20 and 23 weeks, while 25% wanted further reduction. Half of the doctors reportedly favoured removing the need for a second doctor's signature when performing first-trimester abortions. The reports say that among the 20% of the doctors who were anti-abortion attitude had hardened, and the remainder were "broadly pro-choice". [Telegraph, 17 October and PA on Channel 4, 17 October] Note: It appears that MSI conducted the survey itself, limiting its reliability. 1,000 doctors were questioned, but it is not clear how many replied.
The Evangelical Alliance in the UK has expressed concern that the parliamentary committee on science and technology has said that it will only consider scientific arguments with respect to changes in abortion law, and not ethical ones. Dr Justin Thacker, the alliance's head of theology and a physician, said: "This statement sets the dangerous precedent that it is acceptable to undertake scientific enquiry in the absence of ethical considerations. The history of the 20th century has demonstrated the disastrous consequences of following that path." [Inspire, 17 October]
Fertility experts have warned that women should not have their eggs frozen to delay motherhood. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said that the procedure was experimental and that success rates were low. Egg-freezing has been used mainly for cancer patients and for those using IVF who have ethical objections to freezing embryos. [Telegraph, 17 October]
American scientists are working on a contraceptive drug that would not have the adverse physical and emotional side-effects of existing drugs. The new drug being developed at Harvard Medical School would work by turning off a gene in the developing ovum, rendering it impenetrable by sperm. Dr Zev Williams, presenting the research at the conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said that the principle had been shown to work in mice, but that its application for humans was a decade away. [Independent, 17 October, and Guardian, 17 October]