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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Acadamics call for looser abortion regulations

17 October 2008

More than 80 academics have signed a letter calling for abortion to be available in Britain without the present requirement for two doctors' permission. The lawyers and ethicists cite increasing patient autonomy and write: "[W]hile achieving fewer and earlier abortions is a goal shared by all, there is no evidence that this is best achieved by placing obstacles in the path of a woman wishing to end her pregnancy." Signatories include Dr Sheila McLean, professor of law and ethics in medicine at Glasgow University and a member of the British Medical Association's medical ethics committee. [Times, 17 October] An amendment to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill would effectively abolish doctors' consent and only require a family doctor to confirm that a woman was less than 25 weeks' pregnant. [BBC, 17 October] The bill is to be debated in the House of Commons on Wednesday. [Leader of the House of Commons, 16 October] Consideration of amendments is at the discretion of the speaker (chairman).

Women in Spain are to be offered abortions on a Dutch ship in international waters. The vessel, owned by Women on Waves, was moored in the Mediterranean off Valencia and there have been demonstrations for and against its presence. Spain allows abortion in some cases but the government wants to liberalise the law. The ship has also been to Ireland, Poland and Portugal. [Breitbart, 16 October]

A British man aged 23 committed suicide last month with the help of the Dignitas organisation in Switzerland. Mr Dan James was injured when playing rugby and his parents, who accompanied him, are under police investigation. [Telegraph, 17 October] SPUC's Anthony Ozimic said: "The availability of assisted suicide creates pressure, either real or perceived, upon the vulnerable, such as young accident victims, to conclude that their lives are no longer worth living and they are better off dead. Allowing suicide does nothing to heal injuries, cure disease or treat depression. The death-for-disability lobby are a lethal threat to vulnerable individuals, like this late rugby player, who could have been made to value his own life." [SPUC, 17 October]

An England-based abortion provider yesterday opened a round-the-clock telephone advice line for women in Ireland. Marie Stopes International also says it is cutting its prices for women to travel from there to Britain for the procedure. The organisation says the service is impartial and is aimed at those who have had an abortion as well as those considering it. [Irish Independent, 17 October]

Doctors in eastern England did not revive a 26-year-old woman who fatally poisoned herself with anti-freeze because she had written a letter refusing treatment. Staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital complied with Ms Kerrie Wooltorton's wishes, though she was reportedly emotionally unstable and had been treated for mental illness. She had apparently attempted suicide several times before and was helped medically then. A senior doctor conceded that he could have treated her forcibly. Ms Wooltorton's letter also said that, if she called an ambulance, it was so she would have company while dying and not because she wanted treatment. [Eastern Daily Press, 17 October]

European Union lawyers are looking at ways of persuading the Irish people to accept a treaty which they rejected in a referendum in June. The French government, which presently leads the union, says it will have a proposal in December. Mr Brian Cowen, Irish prime minister, referred to how there had been two plebiscites in his country on a previous treaty, though he would not say if he was considering a second vote on the current agreement. [Yahoo, 17 October] It has been suggested that the so-called Lisbon treaty could place Irish abortion law within the scope of European human rights legislation.

British organisations will next month begin a consultation on abuse of the elderly. Action on Elder Abuse, Mind and Voice UK will work together under the auspices of the Making Decisions Alliance which supported the 2005 Mental Capacity Act. [Community Care, 17 October]

Teenagers in Fife, Scotland, allegedly attacked a pregnant woman. Ms Stephanie Muir's unborn baby survived but was diagnosed as having suffered stress after his or her mother was kicked in the abdomen a week ago. [Courier, 17 October]

Music soothes expectant mothers, according to Taiwanese researchers who found that 30 minutes of listening relieved stress. [Reuters, 16 October]

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