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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs table amendment proposing liberal abortion in Northern Ireland

23 July 2008

There is a proposal in the UK parliament to extend Britain's liberal abortion regime to Northern Ireland. Ms Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, England, and colleagues from other parties have tabled an amendment to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. All of the province's main parties oppose such a move, which may be debated in October. [BBC, 23 July] Mrs Betty Gibson, chairwoman of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: "This attempt to impose abortion on Northern Ireland is extremist, anti-democratic and arrogant. The leaders of all four major political parties and the four main Churches right across Northern Ireland's traditional divide have written to the government and all Westminster MPs calling on them to allow the issue of abortion law to be decided by the Province's devolved government." SPUC is offering free badges to people in Northern Ireland for them to wear to show their opposition to the proposal. [SPUC, 23 July]

There is also controversy in Northern Ireland over Mrs Iris Robinson MP's suggestion that government should uphold divine law. Mr Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister, said the remark could offend migrants. He asked which of various religions' deities needed to be respected. [Derry Journal, 22 July] Mrs Robinson's original remarks were in the context of abortion in the province.

A British national newspaper has published articles effectively celebrating the 30th anniversary of IVF. The Daily Telegraph describes the invention of IVF, the total number of children born by IVF, and how IVF has made genetic screening, donor conception, 'saviour siblings' and same-sex parenting possible. [Telegraph, 22 July] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "The Telegraph says only in passing that there are ethical questions posed by IVF. We hope that the Telegraph will be fairer in the coming days and will consider the number of embryonic children who have been destroyed following IVF and its other damaging effects."

The chairman of the US Catholic bishops' pro-life committee has said that abortion supporters should find that their so-called pro-choice views are consistent with respecting certain medics' conscientious objection to assisting with abortion. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has written to members of Congress after details were leaked of proposed government regulations to forbid discrimination based on beliefs. He effectively challenges abortion supporters to deny that they promote and impose "morally controversial procedures on those who conscientiously hold different views". [Catholic News Service, 22 July]

A member of the Scottish parliament claims she received many messages of support after she presented a television programme on assisted suicide. Ms Margo MacDonald, who has Parkinson's disease, says the balance of opinion in emails and letters suggested a majority in favour of being able to choose when to die. She could propose legislation if another MSP's failed bill is not re-introduced. [Evening News, 22 July] Ian Murray, director of SPUC Scotland, said: "The great majority of MSPs remain opposed to any change in the current law. An act of euthanasia, which includes assisted suicide would be regarded as deliberate killing of another person and would be dealt with in Scots law under the criminal law of homicide."
A baby created with 19-year-old sperm has been born. Mr and Mrs Emmanuel Iyoha of north-west England already had one IVF child from the same sperm two years ago. Mr Iyoha had the gametes stored before cancer treatment in 1989. [Daily Mail, 22 July] 19 years appears to be a record.

An Irish firm is developing an implant for permanently sterilising women. The device, which is fitted in the fallopian tubes, is to be tested by AltaScience on some 40 women in Ireland and the Netherlands early next year. [Sunday Business Post, 20 July]

A drug taken for epilepsy and migraine may damage unborn children, findings suggest. Topiramate may lead to children being born with cleft palate, cleft lips and genital abnormalities. [Guardian, 22 July]

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