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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pro-lifers deliver petition with over 45,000 signatures to Parliament

12 May 2008

SPUC has delivered a 45,400-signature petition to parliament opposing the British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill which the House of Commons is debating today. The document says: "The Petitioners ... request that the House of Commons vote against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and urge the Government to change its policy towards endorsing the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos in the laboratory; the widening of the scope for experiments on human embryos, and the creation of human embryos for other purposes without regard for the welfare and status of such embryos." Mr David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, was due to present the petition to the House of Commons. [SPUC, 12 May]

Northern Ireland's four main political parties are opposing the extension of British abortion law to the province, which has been suggested in the context of the HFE bill. Leaders of the Democratic Unionists, Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionists are co-signatories to a letter to MPs. [BBC, 11 May] Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland writes: "On 22 October 2007 Assembly members from the four major political parties gave overwhelming support to a motion rejecting 'any attempt to make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.' The letter from party leaders reflects that overwhelming view of the Assembly. The people of Northern Ireland recognise the right to life of the unborn child - a right affirmed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are also increasingly concerned by the evidence of the harm abortion does to women. It is vitally important that people write to the Prime Minister asking him not to allow the House of Commons to impose the Abortion Act on the Province but let this matter be decided by our elected representatives in the Assembly."

The head of the Anglican communion has compared issues raised by the HFE bill with those of rape and torture. Most Rev Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said that people needed to be treated as ends in themselves, "not a tool for someone else's agenda". [Telegraph, 11 May] Most Rev Peter Smith, chairman of the English and Welsh Catholic bishops' department for Christian responsibility and citizenship, says that society needs more time to consider issues raised by the bill, including hybrids and saviour siblings, before legislation is passed by Parliament. [Times, 10 May] The vice-president of the Parkinson's Disease Society welcomes the bill. Ms Geraldine Peacock writes: "No research that offers the chance of release from this tyrant of an illness should be stopped, especially when it could bring the chance of a better quality of life for all." [Guardian, 12 May] A poll suggests most MPs support the government on the bill. [Daily Mail, 12 May]

The number of repeat abortions is higher than ever, according to the British government. In 2006, nearly 60,000 women had their second or subsequent termination, five percent up on 2004. [Telegraph, 10 May]

The British midwives' organisation says that a shortage of people in the profession means that mothers are not getting enough help with abstaining from smoking in pregnancy or with breastfeeding. [Telegraph, 7 May]

Treatment can usually prevent the transmission of HIV to the unborn, according to University College London, England, research on more than 5,100 pregnancies. Increased detection of HIV in expectant mothers and anti-retroviral drugs in pregnancy have helped reduce transmission almost completely. [BBC, 6 May]

Cravings for unusual things to eat in pregnancy are on the increase. Sheffield University found that, while 30% of expectant mothers had such feelings some 50 years ago, three-quarters do so now. The increase could be caused by a wider range of available food than in the 1950s, though some women develop an appetite for coal or soap. [BBC, 28 April]

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