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Muted government response to Cameron's abortion comments

27 February 2008

The UK government has reacted neutrally to the comments by Mr David Cameron about late abortion. Mr David Cameron MP, leader of the Conservative opposition party, said that he would vote to reduce the 24 time-limit on some abortions. [Epolitix on Yahoo, 25 February] In his blog, John Smeaton, SPUC national director, notes that such amendments would be distraction from the bill itself, which contains a plethora of measures that will lead to increased abuse, manipulation and destruction of embryonic human lives. [SPUC director's blog, 25 February]

The Pope has called for greater solidarity with those approaching death, as loneliness in this situation increases the pressure for euthanasia, which is condemned by the church. Benedict XVI decried the tendency particularly in large cities for people to be alone as they near death. He was addressing Close by the Incurably Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects, a meeting run by the Pontifical Academy for Life. [Vatican Information Service, 25 February] He also proposed that people should be given time off work to care for relatives who were terminally ill. [News24, 25 February]

The European Court of Justice has ruled that a woman undergoing IVF is not pregnant until the embryos are transferred to her womb. Ms Sabine Mayr, of Salzburg, Austria, sued for unfair dismissal under Austrian laws protecting pregnant women. Ms Mayr argued that she should be regarded as pregnant from the date her ova were fertilised. The court's ruling suggested that cases like Ms Mayr's could be brought under EU laws against sexual discrimination since only a woman can undergo IVF treatment. [Times, 26 February]

A meeting organised by SPUC's Muslim division in Northampton, UK, heard how a woman patient at Northampton General Hospital had her feeding tube removed against her family's wishes, and died five days later. Mr Pervez Akhter, marking the first anniversary of his mother's death, said that the family were hoping to take her home when her care regime was changed. He accused the hospital of assuming a "licence to kill". The hospital said that an investigation had found no evidence of malpractice. [Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 25 February]

A surgeon in California has been charged by public prosecutors with hastening a patient's death to harvest organs for transplantation. Dr Hootan C Roozrokh, a transplant surgeon at a hospital in San Luis Obispo, allegedly administered life-shortening doses of drugs to Mr Ruben Navarro after his ventilator had been removed, hoping that the organs could be removed while viable. Mr Navarro, 25, was severely disabled and had been placed on a ventilator after suffering cardiac arrest. His mother, Ms Rosa Navarro, agreed to organ donation after being told that her son would not recover and that his ventilator would be removed. She said "He didn't deserve to be like that, to go that way... He died without dignity and sympathy and without respect". Dr Roozrokh faces up to eight years in jail if convicted. [New York Times, 27 February]

A review of how sex and relationship education (SRE) is delivered in British schools has been announced by Mr Jim Knight, the schools minister, and Mrs Beverley Hughes, the minister for children and young people. The review will look at how to deliver "good" SRE to children whichever school they attend. Among the reviewers are people from Brook Advisory, Family Planning Association, Sex Education Forum, as well as Oonagh Stannard of the Catholic Education Service, and Shaila Sheikh to represent Muslim views. [Department for Children, Schools and Families, 25 February and BBC, 25 February] The review will consider when to start teaching key messages and what should be taught at each stage. Critics warn that SRE could become compulsory in all primary schools. Mr Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said that parents must retain the freedom to withdraw their children from sex education lessons which they deem harmful. [Daily Mail, 25 February]

The newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops' conference has criticised a statement from the national medical association supporting Italy's current permissive abortion law, saying that it had not been put to an individual vote by delegates. Political parties will not now be able to avoid the issue of abortion during the campaign for elections on 13 and 14 April, says Reuters. [Reuters, 25 February]

The Daily Mail has published an updated version of the story of the Northern Ireland couple, Cora and Mark Regan, and their Down's daughter Charlotte. Charlotte's condition was not spotted by sonographers performing an 18-week scan. The Healthcare Commission says that 39% of hospitals fail to do all 11 recommended checks during scans, and only 11% of hospitals offer the most accurate tests, combining scans and blood tests. The story cites Jane Fisher of pro-abortion group Ante-natal Results and Choices, Jean Carter of the UK Association of Sonographers, and fetal medicine expert David Penman. [Daily Mail, 20 February] A research team for the British Journal of General Practice found that 95% of women with early confirmation of pregnancy did not receive blood tests for sickle cell and thalassaemia by the target date of 10 weeks. The recommended timetable for the screening programme allows for early abortion. [Midirs, 25 February]

A new assisted reproduction technique is to be piloted at a fertility clinic in England. In vivo development has been tested in other European countries, and involves inserting embryos into the womb immediately after fertilisation in the laboratory. Pioneers of the technique hope that it will produce "better quality embryos". Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of the Care group, Nottingham, said "We have never been able to work out 100% which nutrients, hormones and other chemicals are secreted in the reproductive tract, and we don't know if the culture media we use are optimal. It must be right to use the womb if you can: what happens inside the body is as a matter of fact normal and routine" [Guardian, 27 February, and Times, 27 February]

Mr Barack Obama, a potential Democrat candidate for the US presidency, said in a debate yesterday that he regretted voting for a law which attempted to save the life of the patient in a controversial euthanasia case. The law, which passed the senate unanimously, sought to allow the parents of Mrs Terri Schiavo to take their case to the federal courts. Mrs Schiavo's husband demanded that her food and fluids be withdrawn. Mr Obama previously described his vote then as his "biggest mistake" and said that the law in question "allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn't have". Mrs Schiavo died from starvation. [LifeNews, 26 February]

A French woman suffering from a rare facial disease has made a public appeal for euthanasia . Ms Chantal Sebire was diagnosed with a rare malignant tumour in her nasal cavity in 2002. She told a French television station that prior to this, she lost her sense of taste and smell, and in 2007 she lost her sight to the condition, called esthesioneuroblastoma. In the past 20 years there have been only 200 cases worldwide of the condition, which also causes bouts of severe pain. Ms Sebire asked President Nicolas Sarkozy to allow her to die by euthanasia, which is illegal in France. [Telegraph (Australia), 27 February] Our source includes an image of Ms Sebire's unusual facial condition; it also states that euthanasia is legal in Switzerland, which is not correct, although assisted suicide is legally tolerated there.

The Catholic University of St Paul in Arequipa, Peru, has responded to a regional government protocol justifying 'therapeutic abortion'. The statement from the university's law faculty and Institute for Marriage and the Family explained the distinction between necessary treatment of the mother which results in the undesired death of the unborn child, and deliberate abortion. The term 'therapeutic abortion' is described as "erroneous" since "abortion is never in any circumstances a therapy, even when the intention is to save the life of the mother". [Zenit, 26 February] John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, welcomed the statement in his blog.

Planned Parenthood has included images of Dr Martin Luther King Jr on its website, in a section celebrating black history month. Ms Alveda King, the civil rights leader's niece, said that, when her uncle accepted an award from Planned Parenthood in 1966, its agenda of death had not become apparent, and that he would not want to be associated with an organisation largely responsible for the deaths of 45 million American babies, one-third of them African-American. [LifeNews, 25 February]

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