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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Surrogate mum pregnant with EIGHTH baby

24 January 2008

In Britain, a surrogate mother who has already given birth seven times is now having an eighth baby. Miss Jill Hawkins, 43, said she wishes to continue providing the chance for families to have more children in spite of mental health problems that include depression, which she was diagnosed as having last year, and attempted suicide, for which she is still on medication. Miss Hawkins said: "A lot of my family and friends are not very happy with my decision. They believe that every additional pregnancy might cause me to become depressed. They think I am missing out on life, but I am not." [Telegraph, 21 January and Daily Mail, 21 January]

British scientists are asserting that the requirement over embryonic stem cell research is holding back research that could save lives. In a letter to The Times organised by Dr Evan Harris MP, a group of leading scientists wrote: "We urge the Government to accept this important improvement to the Bill, which will help to maintain the UK's reputation as the place of choice for this exciting and world-leading medical research." [21 January and 21 January] The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster has called for the House of Lords to set up a National Bio-ethics Commission, to reflect on advances in biotechnology. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor writing in The Times noted that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is primarily a regulator and not suited to ethical reflection. an ethics body. [Times, 21 January] Under proposed Government changes, women in a lesbian relationship would have joint parental rights, the Telegraph reports. Some pro-life campaigners are also putting pressure on the Lords to overturn legislation which permits abortion throughout pregnancy if the child is disabled. [Telegraph, 21 January]

On Friday the Vatican condemned in the strongest terms the practice of embryonic cloning. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called it the "worst type of exploitation of the human being", and said that it was unnecessary for research given the rise of alternative research that bypasses the use of embryos. [Reuters, 18 January] The German Government has confirmed that it has no plans to change its ban on therapeutic cloning in spite of recent US research which created cloned embryos using skin cells from adults. [Islamic Republic News, 19 January] US researchers claim that embryonic stem cell therapy helped cure mice with a common form of muscular dystrophy. The study was published by Dr Rita Perlingeiro of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Nature Medicine. [Reuters, 20 January]

The State of New York has given Cornell University and the Weill Cornell Medical College grants totalling almost $2 million towards stem cell research and embryo research, which the institutions conduct on human and animal subjects. The grants are part of a £600 million multi-year programme launched in 2007 - 08. [Bionity, 21 January]

President Bush declared Monday (20 January) "National Sanctity of Human Life" Day. In a proclamation, he declared: "Today, as our society searches for new ways to ease human suffering, we must pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects the sacred gift of life and upholds our moral values." President Bush has supported pro-life legislation throughout his time in office. [LifeSite, 20 January] The President of the Philippines has spoken against abortion following an incident in which a dead foetus was found in a hospital in Manila. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that this highlighted the need to "shun abortion as a health and moral hazard." [LifeSite, 18 January]

Use of morning-after pills among British teenage girls has rocketed since it became possible to buy them over the counter. In Portsmouth, Hampshire, alone, 343 consultations with girls and women took place in pharmacies between May and December last year. Julia Millington, political director of the Pro-Life Alliance in the south-east, said: "It's a tragedy that more young women are taking up the opportunity to have easier access to the morning-after pill." [The News, 19 January]

Lord Mitchell's Alcohol Labelling Bill has gained a second reading in the House of Lords. During the debate he pointed to the danger of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Lord McColl of Dulwich said: "As women aren't aware precisely when they are conceiving, all women of child-bearing age should avoid binge-drinking like the plague." [Nursing in Practice, 21 January]

A US study has shown an increased risk of blood clots among women using birth control skin patches. The Food and Drug Administration now plans to add this information to the drug's label to warn potential users of the risk involved. Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA's deputy commissioner for scientific and medical programs, said: "For women that choose to use contraceptives, it is important that they thoroughly discuss with their health care providers the risks and benefits involved." [AFX, 18 January]

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