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ECHR to hear challenge to Irish abortion law

28 July 2008

The European Court of Human Rights is to hear a challenge to Ireland's restrictive abortion law. Three anonymous Irish women claim their health and wellbeing are undermined because they would need to travel abroad for abortion. They cite the European Convention on Human Rights, including its prohibition of degrading treatment and discrimination. The Irish Family Planning Association supports the case which it says could help change the law. The court already ruled that Poland should give access to abortion. [Irish Times, 28 July]

Some family doctors in England do not provide good sexual health care, according to a government-funded report. The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV found increases in sexually transmitted disease and abortion, and the group calls for more birth control. [BBC, 28 July] Calling for compulsory sex-education, Baroness Gould, group chairman, said: "We must have consensus that good sex and relationships education is essential if we want our young people to live free from disease, have reduced pregnancy and abortion rates, and experience fulfilled sexual lives as adults." [Telegraph, 28 July] SPUC's national director today points out that Lady Gould is president of fpa (formerly the Family Planning Association) and chair of the All Party Pro Choice Group. He calls for organised resistance by parents to compulsory sex education. [John Smeaton, 28 July]

Some Scottish hospitals have reportedly been turning away pregnant women whose babies need special postnatal care. A report tells of more than 100 instances of women last year being refused admission or being taken by ambulance between maternity units. There is an alleged shortage of 200 neonatal nurses. The report, published yesterday, is by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland. [Herald, 28 July]

A lesbian couple have unsuccessfully sued a Canberra, Australia, IVF practitioner for providing them with twins instead of the single baby they wanted. The un-named pair alleged medical negligence and sought payment for the entire upbringing and private education of one of the children. [PA on Channel 4, 28 July] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, commented: "Children are a gift, not a commodity, and this story is another tragic illustration of the way in which IVF commodifies human life. It's vital that the pro-life movement promotes Naprotechnology, which is more effective than IVF, and which provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system."

SPUC has lamented the increasing number of abortions in north-west England. State-funded abortions in central Lancashire during the 12 months to March were nearly a third up on the previous equivalent period. Tony Mullett, branch development officer at SPUC Preston, said: "It is regrettable that so many women are having abortions. It is not about the right to choose. It is about putting pressure on women to bin their babies." [Lancashire Evening Post, 26 July]

Women's own immune systems could trigger pre-eclampsia, which affects five percent of pregnancies. Experiments in Texas reported in Nature Medicine involved injecting mice with antibodies from women suffering from the condition. In Britain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for more evidence. [BBC, 27 July]

Lifestyle change could prolong fertility, according to a new book. The Fertility Diet asserts that smoking and the consumption of certain drinks and food are contraceptive. Ms Sarah Dobbyn, the volume's author, has researched academic studies and proposes a diet for both men and women which involves initially excluding alcohol and caffeine, and later avoiding meat. A Sheffield University expert disagrees with the book's main messages. [Daily Mail, 28 July] Having children later in life could cause the increase in the number of caesarean sections. Cambridge University, England, research suggests that the ability of uterine muscle to contract declines with age, making labour slower. [PLoS Medicine on Reuters, 25 July]

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