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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Fertility clinics have lost hundreds of embryos

19 February 2008

The British Government has admitted that hundreds of human embryos have been lost due to accidents at fertility clinics. 500 such incidents have been reported since 2003, with 224 occurring in 2006-7 alone. Accidents included staff dropping dishes containing embryos, eggs or sperm, dishes being thrown away by mistake, and the failure of vital equipment due to power cuts. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said of the figures: "We have brought in many systems to reduce the risks but it is impossible to totally prevent human error." [Sunday Telegraph, 10 February]

Moves are afoot to legalise abortion in Jamaica. The health minister, Mr Ruddy Spencer, has tabled a report in the Caribbean island's parliament calling for a committee to be established to conduct an enquiry and take evidence from those of all views. Mr Spencer said: "I had some discussion with the anti-abortion groups and I advised them that I wouldn't be taking a bill to Parliament before there was widespread public discussions." [Radio Jamaica, 8 February]

President Bush has said that the issue of abortion will be crucial in the US presidential election. Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he pointed out that the Republican Party was far more pro-life: "On the rights of the unborn -- the most vulnerable among us -- one side supports abortion on demand. You and I believe in the worth of every human being, the matchless joy of adoption, and the right to life." [LifeNews, 8 February] Mr Bush also defended his decision to oppose destructive embryonic research, and applauded efforts to find other research methods: "I authorized research on existing stem cell lines, and stood against any effort to use federal tax dollars to support the destruction of human life." [LifeNews, 8 February] Mr Mike Huckabee, a Republican candidate known for his pro-family and anti-abortion views, has vowed to stay in the race for the White House despite trailing far behind Senator John McCain. [Reuters, 9 February]

The US Congress is currently considering a proposal to cut support, established under previous administrations, for abstinence-until-marriage programmes, with its anit-HIV/AIDS scheme. Funds from the $50 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief scheme would be re-directed to groups that promote abortion and birth control, which have lost out on government funding because The move has been welcomed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who are urging members to oppose amendments that would reinstate some funding for abstinence programmes. [Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, 7 February]

The Sun reports on a Onepoll survey that says 25% of teenagers has had sex before the age of 16 - the legal age of consent for girls. Onepoll is an internet polling company. [Sun, 9 February] A 33-year-old man who made an underage girl pregnant has been jailed for three years. Andrew Flatters of Sleaford admitted the offence at Lincoln Crown Court. [Lincolnshire Echo, 9 February]

Surrey Primary Care Trust has made emergency contraception available in high street pharmacies in east Surrey for girls under 21. Previously it was only available from clinics. [Redhill Life, 9 February] Ms Sandra Gidley MP has called for more sex education in schools to combat the rising figures of unwanted teenage pregnancies in her Romsey, Hampshire, constituency. [Daily Echo, 11 February]

According to a recent report of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health, in one year in England 66 babies who survived abortions were left to die. Reports exist of babies surviving over an hour after abortion by induced labour, and in one case, 10 hours. [Mail on Sunday, 3 February]

The Catholic Church in Scotland is urging MPs not to support the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill which will legalize the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos. In a letter to Scottish parishes, Archbishop Mario Conti described the proposal as a "monstrous act against human dignity." [Scotland on Sunday, 3 February] The British government is going to back down over its proposed changes to make stem cell research consent laws stricter following pressure from scientists. The Department of Health issued a statement saying that such laws would be "a significant burden" on research. [Telegraph, 3 February] Dr Evan Harris, a leading opponent to the stricter consent laws, claimed a victory last night, saying: "Plaudits to the scientists for speaking out and the Government for listening." [Times, 2 February]

In Britain, NHS proposals to pay surrogate mothers to give birth to babies for infertile or lesbain couples has been criticised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Paul Tully, the organisation's general secretary, said: "The whole human process [is] going in the Brave New World direction. The embryo becomes a product as if those who are pursuing the new reproductive technologies are looking for different ways of using their new product." [LifeSite, 1 February]

An American woman in a coma has been at the centre of a legal battle between her parents about whether or not to keep her alive. Lauren Richardson, who went into a coma following a drugs overdose in August 2006, has been diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state. Her mother Ms Edith Towers claims that Lauren would have wanted her nutrition to be stopped, although no proof of this has been produced. Her father Mr Randy Richardson is fighting to save her life. He said: "She's committed no crime and doesn't deserve to have this death imposed on her. We just want to give her a chance." Ms Towers is currently winning the legal battle, though Mr Richardson has made an appeal. [LifeNews, 1 February]

In Britain, the Conservative party have said that they would aim to provide a system of maternity care in which a maternity nurse would be able to visit a new mother for up to six hours a day for the first week. David Cameron said that he was impressed with this idea taken from the Dutch system, where trained nurses teach mothers how to feed and bathe their babies, and look after the house and any other children. [Observer, 3 February] Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, supports the move. He said: "Just when families have so much to celebrate, they come under the greatest pressure. That's why a government which wants to make us a truly family-friendly country has to act." [Observer, 2 February] In an statement announced unusually on a Sunday, the Royal College of Midwives have criticised the proposal as expensive and unrealistic. Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "This plan is a distraction from the real issue, which is the chronic shortage of midwives." [Royal College of Midwives, 3 February]

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