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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Sex-selective abortion widely practised in India

24 June 2008

Sex-selective abortion is widely practised in India with ultrasound scans routinely used to determine the sex of the child. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health heard in London yesterday that there were an estimated 35 million missing girls in India. On average there are just 800 girls for every 1000 boys, with the number as low as 300 in Punjab, according to ActionAid's report to the committee. [ActionAid, 20 June] SPUC's John Smeaton points out that the same group seems unconcerned about women in Britain who are pressured into abortion. He writes: "Ms Christine McCafferty MP [group chairman] has tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill that would remove the requirement for two doctors to sign an abortion authorisation, meaning that more women will be rushed through the abortion process and more women, particularly young girls whose pregnancies are regarded as 'mistakes', will be pressured into seeking abortion." [SPUC director's blog, 24 June]

SPUC in Lincolnshire, England, has called for abstinence education in schools after statistics suggested that pregnant teenagers in the county were the most likely in England to have an abortion. Dr Tom Rogers, Lincoln branch chairman, said: "There needs to be a complete change of mind-set. These abortion rates are a tragedy because thousands of innocent human lives have been lost and those who have abortions will have to live with the psychological impact for the rest of their lives." Lincolnshire's total abortions rose by nine percent between 2006 and last year. [Lincolnshire Echo, 21 June]

The Alive and Kicking campaign is against the proposed abolition of the requirement for two doctors' consent for abortion. Ms Julia Millington was commenting after the government reported that England and Wales abortions were the highest ever last year. The group also opposes nurses and midwives doing abortions. Women were using abortion as contraception and the government's birth control campaign was futile. [LifeNews, 20 June] Amendments on these matters have been proposed for the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which is likely to be considered again by the House of Commons early next month.

Birth control pills are being sold online with payment by credit or debit card. A website will rely on people's honesty when they confirm they are aged 18 or over. Some 14-year-olds have debit cards. Our source suggests that the service will initially be limited to women who have been prescribed the pill but it is unclear how the website will check this, or how it will verify medical details applicants provide. SPUC was quoted as being concerned that contraception encouraged sexual activity which spread infections. [South Wales Argus, 23 June, and Daily Mail, 23 June] British pharmacists' professional body is cautious about the proposal. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society says women should have health checks and get sexual health advice before taking the drugs. The body nevertheless says it can see the scheme's potential benefits. [Digital News Agency, 23 June] The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also wants there to be blood-pressure checks. [BBC, 23 June]

A UK abortion provider is lobbying for chemically-induced miscarriage to be allowed at home. BPAS will put the plan to doctors, lawyers and MPs this week. The proposal presumably concerns the administration of the second pill in chemical abortion which is customarily done early in pregnancy. Ms Anne Furedi, chief executive, described abortion as a fact of life. [Telegraph, 23 June] BPAS also claims that pro-life campaigners actually remind women that abortion is available. [Sunday Telegraph, 22 June] John Smeaton, leader of SPUC, said: "One is entitled to be very sceptical of claims made about pro-life campaigners by a body carrying out, largely at the expense of the taxpayers, government policy in providing abortions virtually on demand." [SPUC director's blog, 23 June]

A survey suggests that most people in Ireland who voted against the Lisbon treaty had concerns about the document's possible effect on the country's abortion law. Nearly three fifths of "no" voters told the Red C polling company that it would make a liberalisation of the law more likely. [Sunday Business Post, 22 June] The European Centre for Law and Justice has pointed out in a legal analysis, that this would not necessarily be enough to protect the Irish Constitution from a court decision establishing abortion as a human right. [SPUC director's blog, 23 June]

An 11-year-old girl in Romania who was allegedly raped by an uncle has been denied an abortion because of the baby's stage of development. The country's law allows abortion before 14 weeks, or if the mother's life is threatened or for foetal disability. Doctors reportedly tried hard to find a reason for a termination. [AFP on Yahoo!, 20 June] Margaret Cuthill, a highly experienced post-abortion counsellor with British Victims of Abortion, said: "If indeed the young girl has been raped, then performing an abortion on her would be akin to a further assault on her young body. It seems she has not had any say in what has been happening to her at all, and that the adults in her life are making all the decisions for her. In my experience those who have had late abortions in their teenage years are the most psychologically damaged." [SPUC director's blog, 23 June]

Unborn babies in the Welsh capital have been put on a register of children at risk. In recent years, Cardiff social workers have identified almost 150 children whose parents' lifestyles they considered a threat. Being on the register does not necessarily mean that the child is taken into state care at birth. Parental drug addiction is one reason for registration. [Wales Online, 23 June]

Smokers seeking IVF in England and Wales are being denied treatment by around a third of state healthcare providers. The Fertility UK organisation called it rationing. Smoking reportedly does not affect the outcome of IVF, though it is generally regarded as bad for the unborn in utero. [Mail on Sunday, 22 June]

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