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Council of Europe rushes through pro-abortion report

18 April 2008

The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly has approved a report from its equal opportunities committee which calls on 47 European states to allow unrestricted access to legal abortion and to make sex education for young people compulsory. SPUC's Patrick Buckley said: "This report, which is in favour of even more killing of unborn children, was rushed through. It represents an attack on the sovereignty of member states, by attempting to impose a policy on abortion, something for which the assembly has no legal or legitimate justification. Permissive abortion regimes do not protect the health of women. Countries where abortion is not permitted actually show substantially better healthcare for mothers and children." Mr Nigel Dodds, MP and MLA for Belfast North, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a minister in the Northern Ireland executive, said: "It's a sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on." [SPUC, 16 April] The vote will lead to pressure on Ireland to liberalise its abortion-law, with the assembly singling out that country, Malta and Poland for criticism. The European Court of Human Rights takes account of such resolutions as the one recently passed. [Irish Independent, 17 April] Malta's Catholic bishops have said that abortion is the negation of a right. [Times of Malta, 15 April]

Mr Tony Blair's office has sent an unhelpful reply to SPUC's letter asking Mr Blair if he now repudiates his anti-life record in parliament and government, in the light of his recent reception into the Catholic church. The letter misleadingly implies that John Smeaton, SPUC national director, had addressed his concerns to Mr Blair's Faith Foundation rather than directly to Mr Blair. John Smeaton points out that he raised questions about Mr Blair's personal commitment to pro-abortion policies, and his government's pursuit of anti-life agendas, which the letter from his foundation fails to address. [SPUC director's blog, 14 April]

The British government has reportedly decided that its Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill will allow parents to choose to have a deaf baby through embryo-selection during IVF. In the current draft of the bill, this is prohibited. The bill could still forbid the creation of embryos with other serious conditions, but the health ministry is said to have agreed to remove deafness from that category. [Telegraph, 14 April] The Telegraph suggests, misleadingly, that deafness is mentioned in the body of the bill: it is not.

A Catholic MP has suggested that he might support the HFE bill if his constituents want him to. Mr Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, will hold a public meeting and is reportedly prepared to vote contrary to his religious view. [BBC, 13 April]

An Irish Catholic prelate has called on the European Union (EU) to be based on ethical values. Cardinal Séan Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, wants the EU to respect Catholic teaching on issues such as euthanasia. The Irish people are to have a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and our source suggests that Cardinal Brady's speech, given in Rome, indicates his qualified support for it. [Irish Independent, 14 April]

Economists have published a report which shows that, contrary to a previous assertion, abortion does not cut crime. Professor Leo Kahane of California State University, Professor David Paton of Nottingham University Business School and Dr Rob Simmons of Lancaster University dispute the conclusion of Donohue and Levett's 2001 The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime. Using British data on abortion and several types of crime, the latest study, published on the VoxEU web site, found no link between abortion and crime. An earlier Maryland university project suggested that US crime had actually increased since abortion was legalised because there had been more single-parent homes since Roe v Wade. [LifeNews, 10 April]

Priests for Life has published videos on the internet in which Fr Frank Pavone, national director, describes abortion using models of unborn children and surgical instruments. The films are about dismemberment and suction abortion. [LifeNews, 15 April]

A video has reportedly been posted on the internet which shows the first stage of making a suicide pill. Dr Philip Nitschke's Exit International group plans also to publish films of the other seven steps. Right to Life Australia called the video (and Dr Nitschke's euthanasia workshops) dangerous. [Thaindian News, 15 April] A member of the Scottish parliament, who was reported as wanting euthanasia, is said to be considering suicide abroad. Ms Margo MacDonald, 64, independent MSP for the Lothians, has Parkinson's disease. [BBC, 13 April]

More doubt has been cast on a claim by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in America about the use of induced pluripotent stem cells, derived from adults, not embryos, in cloning. Dr Robert Lanza of ACT claimed that use of the adult-derived cells made cloning easier than the somatic cell transfer technique. Dr David Prentice of the Family Research Council looked at relevant research on mice and says: "it's no easier to clone mice using tetraploids than it is using somatic cell nuclear transfer." The technique was long-established but inefficient, and it involved destroying embryos. [LifeNews, 15 April]

The German parliament's lower house has voted to allow more imports of human embryo cells. The Bundestag agreed to let scientists use foreign-sourced tissue created before 1 May last year, instead of just cells made before the start of 2002. Bills to ban such research and to remove any time-limits were defeated. Parties allowed members a free vote because of the conscientious issues involved. [ddp on redOrbit, 12 April] Embryo research and manipulation has been a controversial issue in Germany because of sensitivity to echoes of the Nazi régime.

Parents of a child with a rare inherited disorder, septo-optic dysplasia, are hoping to retrieve umbilical cord blood from the sick child's sibling, due to be born in a few weeks. Megan Traynor, aged five years, of Northern Ireland would be taken to China for therapy. [Belfast Telegraph, 15 April] Adult mesenchymal stem cells could produce therapies, Professor Cay Kielty of Manchester University, told a recent UK National Stem Cell Network meeting. EnglandsNorthWest says that Professor Kielty has found how to use the cells to mend damaged tissue. [England's North West, 15 April]

Mothers who drink in pregnancy could be a factor in subsequent violent public behaviour by their children, Scotland's chief medical officer has told the country's parliamentarians. "I would bet the incidence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is very high in young men being violent," he said. [Herald, 17 April]

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