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Defending life from the moment of conception

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MPs argue over maternal death figures

4 March 2008

MPs have claimed that worldwide maternal deaths greatly exceed published figures. The House of Commons international development committee reported that there was a lack of data from developing countries, a tendency to under-estimate maternal death, and a lack of political will to address the problem. The report called on the government to work with lobby groups to put pressure on countries that restrict abortion. Committee chairman Malcolm Bruce MP accused opponents of abortion of condemning women to death. He said "Those who deny women access to contraception and safe abortion services, whether through negligence or active policy, are effectively condemning millions of women a year to death or disability." A UN target to cut such deaths by 75% by 2015 was unlikely to be met. [BBC, 2 March] [Parliament 2 March] Comment: It has long been the stock-in-trade of pro-abortion groups to promote unfounded guess-timates of the number of maternal deaths due to illegal abortion. The committee received evidence from bodies like UNFPA, Marie Stopes, IPPF and Save the Children, but few groups if any that are impartial or critical of abortion.

The Times Educational Supplement has again conducted a poll which it claims shows teachers' support compulsory sex education. It is not clear who conducted the survey or how respondents were selected, or what questions were posed. It claims that 60% of secondary school teachers thought sex and relationship education should begin in the latter years of primary school, but only 35% of primary school teachers supported this. [TES (teaser) 29 Feb, Sun, 29 February] Local government officials in Staffordshire have been told that more sex-education is needed to stop teen-pregnancy. Ms Lesley Gerhardt, head of sexual health commissioning and Staffordshire teen pregnancy, was addressing a Tamworth borough committee. [Tamworth Herald, 1 March]

A woman with breast-cancer interrupted a course of an oestrogen receptor modulator drug for her unborn baby's sake. Ms Clare McVerry, 40, of the English west midlands, stopped taking tamoxifen and gave birth to a son whom she thought might have died in utero. [Birmingham Mail, 29 February]

The Wisconsin state assembly has voted to ban partial-birth abortion but our source seems to suggest that the senate will defeat the proposal. A federal court undid a 1998 ban in 2001. [Journal Times, 29 February] A bill to ban forced abortion is making progress in Idaho. [Coeur d'Alene Press, 28 February]

A survey of Irish women suggests that half of them drink alcohol in pregnancy and that one in 20 consumes more than 100ml (10 units) a week. [Irish Independent, 29 February]

A man has been jailed for three years after he put abortion-drugs in his wife's food. Mr Gil Magira of London gave two doses of drugs he had bought over the internet to Ms Anat Abraham last February. The attempt failed, and the baby survivied, but Magira was prosecuted for administering a poison with intent to cause miscarriage. The offence came to light after he confessed his action to a psychologist. Ms Abraham said: "He tried to terminate our baby, end his child's life before it had even begun and that's the cruellest thing imaginable." [Daily Mail, 29 February, and Mirror, 1 March]

A German politician has suggested that freely available abortion in the former (east) German Democratic Republic led to a lack of respect for human life and was linked to a higher murder rate of children who had been born than in the western part of the now-unified country. Mr Wolfgang Böhmer, who practised gynaecology in the former GDR, and is now prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt, has been accused of criminalising mothers. [Observer, 2 March]

A woman in Kentucky who is 73 cm (28½ inches) tall refused an abortion and gave birth to a child 46 cm (18 inches) long. [LifeNews, 29 February]

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