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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Cameron will not support move to ban late-term abortions on disabled children

17 March 2008

Mr David Cameron MP, leader of the UK's opposition Conservative Party, has said that he will not support a move to ban late abortions of babies with disabilities as part of the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Mr Cameron has previously said he would support lowering the time limit on abortions of non-disabled babies from 24 to 20 weeks. [Daily Mail, 17 March] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, commented: "Most MPs will only consider a change in the 24-week line if abortion up to birth continues for disabled babies; and we can expect further conditions to be demanded before they allow restrictions on late-term social abortions. That's why SPUC considers it dangerous to introduce upper limit or any abortion amendments in the current Parliament. [SPUC director blog, 17 March]

Commenting on the some of the measures of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that "the problem is with our own inability as a society to know what to do with discoveries of science". Dr Williams also said: "We haven't as a society got a sufficiently clear notion of what constitutes a human organism. My own view is that an embryo is a human organism but that requires some argument, which isn't something that can be settled simply by science alone". [Telegraph, 16 March]

The UK's General Medical Council has issued new guidance on conscientious objection in the medical profession, which have caused concern among some doctors. The guidelines state that "You must be open with patients - both in person and in printed materials such as practice leaflets - about any treatments or procedures which you choose not to provide or arrange because of a conscientious objection, but which are not otherwise prohibited", and that "In such cases you must tell patients of their right to see another doctor". Although the guidelines are officially advisory only, doctors are also told "Serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your [medical] registration at risk". Professor David Jones, professor of bioethics at St Mary's University College, London, said that referring patients to other doctors for abortion might make a pro-life doctor feel like "an accessory to murder". [Times, 17 March] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, commented: "A peaceful resistance movement against abortion, euthanasia by neglect, in vitro fertilisation and embryo experimentation is an appropriate way forward for those who respect the inviolable right to life of the human person from conception till natural death in Britain's increasingly anti-life culture. SPUC is offering doctors posters and leaflets promoting awareness of the Hippocratic Oath [which prohibits abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia]." [SPUC director blog, 17 March]

A senior member of President Bush's administration has written in support of doctors' right to conscientious objection. Mr Mike Leavitt, the US Secretary for Health and Human Services, has written to the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concerning a new policy being considered by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which would oblige practitioners to refer women to abortion centres. Mr Leavitt said such a policy would "would force physicians to violate their conscience by referring patients for abortions or taking other objectionable actions, or risk losing their board certification" and asked for clarification that the Board would not rely on the ACOG's policy when considering registrations. [LifeNews, 15 March]

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has reportedly endorsed studies suggesting that abortion adversely affects women's mental health. They are also said to have recommended that women seeking abortion should be informed about such risks. [Secondhand Smoke, 16 March] British Victims of Abortion (BVA) commended the RCP's draft position statement and welcomed the recommendation for a review of the mental health risks associated with abortion. Margaret Cuthill, national co-ordinator of BVA, commented: "This latest evidence-based research confirms what post-abortion counsellors have been saying for years. Without exception, all the clients I've counselled over 20 years say they were given no indication of how they might be affected by physical, emotional, and psychological problems after abortion. [SPUC media release, 17 March]

Tibetan women have protested against coercive population control in Tibet. 36 Tibetan women held a demonstration at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, the Indian capital, demanding that China stop its one-child policy, including forced sterilisation. One of the protesters is reported as saying that 'the suffering of Tibetan women inside Tibet is unbelievable. The women are tortured both physically and mentally and the implementation of [the] one child policy by the Chinese government is a sign of genocide.' [Phayul, 12 March] The Independent Tibet Network, which has a neutral position on the issue of abortion, has launched an online petition to refute a claim made in a recent BBC programme that the one-child policy has never been applied to ethnic Tibetans [GoPetition, 13 March] SPUC has for many years helped to voice the opposition of Tibetans to coercive birth control in Tibet, and the complicity of the UK government in its imposition [SPUC director blog, 17 March]

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