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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Government's failing teenage pregnancy strategy comes under fire

4 January 2008

As underage pregnancies in Britain continue to rise, the government has been criticised for its focus on sex education and easy access to birth control. Professor David Paton, an economist at the Nottingham University Business School, said: "The underlying social deprivation of an area, family breakdown rates and religion seems to have a greater effect on teenage pregnancy rates than more obvious policies such as sex education or providing access to family planning. There has been a tendency for the Government's teenage pregnancy strategy to focus on creating schemes where teenagers can get the morning after pill or other forms of family planning at school or clinics. The danger with this sort of approach is that it can lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviour amongst some young people. There is now overwhelming evidence that such schemes are simply not effective in cutting teenage pregnancy rates." [Telegraph, 3 January]

The leader of Germany's evangelical church has declared support for continuing embryonic stem cell research. According to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, Dr Wolfgang Huber, council president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, said in a statement that embryonic stem cell research was necessary for developing therapeutic advances and that he would support postponing the cut-off date for embryonic stem cell research if currently available stem cell lines were insufficient. Dr Huber emphasised that he was not advocating the destruction of human embryos for research, which is banned in Germany, but rather the use of imported stem cells from human embryos that have already been destroyed. He said: "[R]esearch using embryonic stem cells is ethically a dangerous balancing act. Embryos we may not understand as things." [LifeSite, 3 January]

Rich people in China are flouting the country's one-child policy, according to the Beijing Morning Post. Family planning officials are reportedly unable to enforce payment of fines for people who have more than one child, many of whom are slow to provide the money. In order to have another child, some people also remarry, and keep a second wife in the house or fake a divorce. [Guardian, 2 January] John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said: "The implication of the story is that poor people don't get away with breaking the law so easily. UK taxpayers are paying to support this inhuman policy. With all the threats on human life in the UK today - not least through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently before Parliament - we must never forget some of the poorest families on earth which are being persecuted by our Government and by the European Union."

A British surrogate mother is refusing to abort one of the triplets she is carrying, although it means her health may be at risk. Miss Carole Horlock, 41, who has had nine surrogate pregnancies, is carrying two girls and a boy for a Greek couple. She was told by doctors that there was a 2.5% chance that there could be a problem with the pregnancy because of her age but she refused to have an abortion because the removal of one child results in a 12% risk of losing all three. She said: "It's not a risk I was prepared to take. I'm not against abortion but I think, if you intentionally start a life, then you have no right to end it." [The Comet, 2 January]

The Korean stem cell scientist whose licence to practice was revoked after his research turned out to be fabricated has applied for a new licence to work with human embryonic stem cells. Dr Hwang Woo Suk is still on trial on charges of fraud, embezzlement and violation of bioethics laws. The country's science ministry is expected to decide on the application by April. [Nature News, 2 January]

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