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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Italian government seeks to save semi-conscious woman from euthanasia

9 February 2009

The Italian government is seeking to have tube-feeding restored to a semi-conscious woman. Mr Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, will present a law to the parliament which would require that Ms Eluana Englaro, 38, is given sustenance again after it was withdrawn on Friday (the sixth). Ms Englaro was in a vehicle accident in 1992 and her father has fought for 10 years to have her killed. The high court approved her starvation at a clinic in Friuli, Mr Berlusconi last week tried to stop it by decree, but President Giorgio Napolitano vetoed that measure. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, papal secretary of state, welcomed the prime minister's move. While Ms Englaro may take two weeks to die, withdrawal of food and drink could damage her irreparably sooner. The matter is reportedly causing constitutional tension between the government, head of state and courts. [Reuters, 8 February] The parliament's two chambers could vote on the prime minister's law tomorrow and Wednesday. [BBC, 9 February]

Increasing numbers of state hospitals in England are refusing to admit women in labour. Almost half of respondents to research by the opposition Conservative party said they had last year sent mothers elsewhere because wards were full. The Royal College of Midwives said women were being let down. The National Childbirth Trust called for more funding. The government said it was spending more money than ever on maternity services, including on midwife recruitment. [BBC, 8 February]

The UK embryology regulator has warned about the dangers of going to other countries for fertility treatment. Professor Lisa Jardine, head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, says women may be going abroad because they think they will have more choices. However, the implantation of multiple embryos and resultant multiple births threatened mothers' and children's health. Women were returning to Britain with several unborn babies which the state health service then had to help them deliver. [Sunday Times, 8 February] Authorities in California are investigating an unidentified fertility specialist who enabled a woman to have 14 children, including octuplets. Ms Nadya Suleman, 33, is divorced, single and unemployed, and had multiple embryos implanted. [Mail on Sunday, 8 February] Her mother says she is struggling to look after the octuplets' six elder siblings, and criticised her daughter's actions. [Wales Online, 9 February] However many babies are born after an IVF cycle, the process almost always involves the destruction of many more embryos.

A proposed law on women's rights in the Philippines could threaten the unborn. The measure includes: "The State shall keep abreast with and be guided by progressive developments in human rights of women under international law and design of policies, laws and other measures to promote the objectives of this act." Pro-life workers are concerned that such so-called developments could include liberalising abortion law. Colombia reportedly used such arguments to relax its laws on the unborn. [Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, 6 February]
Endometriosis doubles the risk of premature birth, say Monash University, Australia, scientists who studied 6,750 births and have published their results in the Fertility and Sterility journal. Early diagnosis was important, the researchers said. [MediLexicon, 8 February] Eclampsia and premature birth are more likely among obese women having their first baby. King's College London, England, studied nearly 400 such women. [BBC, 9 February]

Pregnancy does not diminish women's intelligence and could even increase it permanently. The Australian National University studied 2,500 women for 10 years. Popular wisdom suggests having a baby somehow affects women's brains adversely. A Richmond University, Virginia, study suggested childbirth somehow equipped women's minds for child rearing. [Mail on Sunday, 8 February]

A woman in south-west England who smoked in pregnancy is urging other mothers not to do so. Ms Michelle Lindsey of Plymouth, Devon, is supporting a state-run campaign. [Herald, 8 February]

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