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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Abortion figures in Scotland hit record high

28 May 2008

The number of abortions in Scotland was the highest ever last year with more than 13,700 performed, nearly four percent more than in 2006. A quarter of abortions were repeats and terminations on under-16s rose. The Catholic church said the news was disheartening and the numbers "beyond the imagination". It blamed value-free sex education. [Daily Express, 28 May] Ian Murray of SPUC Scotland said: "Either our sexual health policies don't teach women anything about their fertility, or [human] life in Scotland has been reduced to a commodity that can be disposed [of] to suit the convenience of others. The reality is these statistics refer to human lives - both the babies lost and the women whose lives will be scarred by their decision forever." [Scotsman, 28 May]

China is reportedly waiving its one-child policy for families who have suffered in the recent earthquakes. Population-control authorities in Sichuan province say they will let couples reproduce again if their child was killed or seriously injured. [Independent, 27 May] Russia is to give awards to large families, recalling Soviet practices. The state says all women should have at least three children. Former President Vladimir Putin has said under-population was the country's biggest crisis; the population could halve by 2050. [Sunday Telegraph, 25 May]
The Christian Defense Coalition says Mr Barack Obama, a Democrat contender, would be the most radically pro-abortion president if elected. He would overturn states' pro-life laws and make legal abortion federal law. [LifeNews, 22 May] President Bush has signed a bill on genetic discrimination which pro-lifers, including the Catholic church, have welcomed. Insurers and employers would not be able to make decisions based on people's genetic attributes. [LifeNews, 22 May]

The Catholic church has changed its teaching on when human life starts, according to the head of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Professor Lisa Jardine, an historian, cites St Augustine of Hippo as teaching that humanity started when a child was first felt to be moving, and implies that other Christian and Abrahamic faiths draw the line at 14 days. She writes: "only 21st-century Catholicism has this problem" and hopes the church will change its policy. [Guardian, 28 May] Anthony Ozimic of SPUC said: "The Catholic church and its leading authorities, from the earliest times to today, have always forbidden the destruction of the fruits of conception. Differences of opinion among theologians before the mid-19th century related not to embryo destruction (which was always forbidden by the church), but at which stage of development the embryo possessed a soul and whether lighter or harsher penalties should be applied for embryo destruction before and after the soul's presence. Theologians of the Middle Ages could only use the science available to them at the time, derived from Aristotle, which suggested that the embryo was not sufficiently developed enough to possess a soul until some weeks after conception. It was only in the mid-19th century and advances in embryology that scientists could be sure about the physical evidence of how human life begins - at fertilisation. The Catholic church therefore changed, not its teaching on the wrongness of embryo destruction, but its penalties for embryo destruction, to be equal from fertilisation onwards."

An unborn child diagnosed in utero with brain malformation was born at 23 weeks and has been found not to have the condition. Ms Leeann Phelan of London refused the abortion which doctors offered her after they had suspected that Jayden, her son, had Dandy-Walker syndrome. Ms Phelan said: "They said I could always have more kids, but I said 'So what if I can have more? I'm not going to get rid of this one.'" [Mail on Sunday, 25 May]

More than half of pregnant women admit to drinking alcohol, according to UK government research. More than three-fifths of the over-35s surveyed drank. Our source suggests alcohol in pregnancy damages the unborn. [Telegraph, 23 May]

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