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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Chinese one-child policy 'very unlikely to be relaxed'

21 September 2007

China's one-child policy is very unlikely to be relaxed to allow people to have more children, Chinese officials have declared. Calls for the policy to be changed have followed reports that it has caused widespread demographic problems such as an ageing population and a gender imbalance of boys to girls. Claims that the government are also using forced abortions and sterilisations to implement this policy have also been ignored. Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said that there was not the "slightest doubt" that the one-child policy needed to continue. [BBC, 19 September]

The Chinese government is to increase fines for couples who violate the one-child policy according to their income. The National Population and Family Planning Commission released a joint statement with other ministries and bureaus ordering local authorities to check incomes and financial statements before issuing fines. The statement also urged public figures to "set a good example" by following the law. It said: "It should be a key factor in deciding whether a person is qualified to be a delegate to the party congress at all levels or as a deputy to the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Any public figure who deliberately violates the policy will be publicly denounced and severely punished according to the law." [Medical News Today, 20 September]

China's one child policy has resulted in a generation of children who are under increased pressure to be perfect, according to a report by the BBC. The article, written by Michael Bristow, explores how children have almost no free time and how their parents expect them to grow up to be educated, successful and wealthy. Vanessa Fong, an anthropologist from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said: "This was the generation that was supposed to be the perfect children." [BBC, 20 September]

A leading American actress has said that the worst moment of her life was when she had an abortion. Speaking in a radio interview, Ellen Burstyn, who is an Academy Award winner, said of her abortion: "You know that was really an extremely painful experience...At the time I was just young and dumb, I didn't really want to have a baby then. It was the wrong thing to do and I really didn't understand that till later." [LifeSite, 20 September]

An American Catholic bishop has urged priests to pray outside abortion clinics during the Forty Days for Life. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, who has committed himself to one hour of prayer outside a clinic, wrote in a letter to his priests: "As your bishop, I ask you to sign up for an hour of prayerful vigil, as well. Tell your parishioners when that hour will be and challenge them to meet or exceed your example. Even if only two parishioners join you in your hour of prayer at the abortion facility, lives will be changed and some - those of the unseen unborn - may be saved." The Forty Days for Life will last from 26 September until 4 November and will be marked by prayer and fasting. [Catholic News Agency, 20 September]

A British couple are undergoing IVF treatment with the sole aim of eliminating the risk of their baby developing inherited Alzheimer's - a rare form of the disease. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has granted a licence to screen for the condition, which runs in the de Beer family. Mr de Beer said: "My family has been dealing with Alzheimer's for 15 years. I am not prepared to run the risk of passing this on and my wife has the same view." The Telegraph's medical editor, Rebecca Smith says the technique is controversial because unaffected embryos may be discarded. Dr Alan Thornhill, the scientific director of the IVF clinic involved defended the technique. Early onset Alzheimer's could mean the sufferer "has only half a live (sic) worth living", he said. [Telegraph, 20 September] SPUC's objection to the technique is not primarily because unaffected embryos are vulnerable - that is an objection to all IVF procedures - but because it seeks to discriminates against those who are perceived to be worth less than others.

The pro-abortion organisation Marie Stopes has reported that more and more British women are choosing to be sterilised. Sterilisation is increasingly becoming a popular form of contraception, with the NHS providing sterilisations for over 40, 000 women each year. [Daily Mail, 20 September]

Fertility experts at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK, are running a course on how to get pregnant. Caroline Owens, matron for gynaecology, said: "Couples do need a course about how to get pregnant. What we've discovered is that women know very little about their menstrual cycle and the biological mechanics of conception." The course will aim to help couples who are experiencing problems in conceiving. [Bicester Advertiser, 20 September]

American scientists have claimed that men could have a source of stem cells in their testicles to help them fight diseases. Dr Shahin Rafii, who led the research, has listed such diseases as including diabetes and Alzheimer's. The research into adult stem cells comes from the controversy over using embryo stem cells for research. Dr Rafii said: "For male patients, it could someday mean a readily available source of stem cells that gets around ethical issues linked to embryonic stem cells." [BBC, 20 September]

Mr Alan Johnson, the British Health Secretary, is promoting proposals for people have to opt out if they don't want to donate their organs after death, rather than the present system of opting in to become organ donors. A task force has been set up to suggest how to achieve higher organ donation rates. Scotland's chief medical office, Harry Burns, rejected a such a presumed consent scheme for Scotland. According to the BBC, some European countries with presumed consent have more organ donations than the UK but Sweden has fewer. [BBC, 20 September]

A British pro-life activist has said that free pregnancy tests are being offered at school so that teenage mothers can be pressured into having abortions without their parents' knowledge. Dr Tom Rogers, a member of the Lincoln branch of SPUC, sent a letter to Lincolnshire Echo in which he wrote: "This constitutes a seek-and-destroy mission against human life at its most innocent and vulnerable and will burden many teenagers with a life-time of guilt and regret." [Lincolnshire Echo, 18 September]

Cells grown from embryonic stem cells have reportedly been successfully implanted into the lungs of mice, according to British researchers. Sile Lane, of Imperial College, London, who led the research, warned that the treatment was a long way from being ready to use on humans. She said: "Our study shows that embryonic stem cells really do have the capacity to recolonise damaged lungs. Stem cells are controversial and they haven't yet been proved safe, so we don't yet know what might happen if we put them into people." [Mirror, 18 September] British scientists have developed a new method for growing stem cells in conditions similar to the human body. The new process, which has now been patented by Durham University and its company ReInnervate, involves growing the cells on a small polystyrene scaffold rather than on a Petri dish. The researchers hope that the new technology will increase the success rate of drugs tests. [BBC, 19 September]

A bill to prevent teenage girls from obtaining abortions without their family's knowledge is being proposed in California. The title of Sarah's Law - the Teen Safety and Stop Predators Act refers to a girl who had a secret abortion and died after her cervix was torn during the procedure. It is hoped that the law will stop young girls being secretly pressured into abortions by the men who impregnate them. [Catholic News Agency on EWTN, 17 September]

The European Union's (EU) plans to hold a day against the death penalty have been scrapped after objections by Poland on the grounds that such a day should also condemn abortion and euthanasia. Mr Andrzej Duda, deputy justice minister, said that the EU "should approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life." He said: "The death penalty is only one element of the debate; there are more - for example, abortion and euthanasia." [BBC, 18 September]

The Pope has urged Slovakia to ratify a treaty that includes a clause allowing citizens to refuse to act contrary to Catholic teaching. It is thought that this would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. Speaking to Jozef Dravecky, the new Slovakian ambassador to the Holy See, Benedict XVI said that he commends "the republic's reassurance that it is committed to finalizing the basic accord concerning conscientious objection." [Medical News Today, 19 September]

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