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US internet poll reveals divided society on abortion

6 January 2009

Around a tenth of Americans would ban all abortion and a similar proportion would allow it in all cases, according to an internet-based survey last month of more than 2,300 adults. Just under two fifths wanted it limited to rape, incest and mortal danger to the mother. Three quarters support medical staff being able to refuse to perform unethical procedures, and a similar number thought parents should be involved if under-age girls seek abortion. Most did not want the state to pay for abortion and most object to partial birth abortion. The research was commissioned by the US Catholic bishops. [Catholic News Agency, 5 January] President-elect Obama and the new congress are likely to over-ride states' restrictions on abortion, to resume funding for abortion overseas and to revoke President Bush's conscience rule which comes into effect just before power is handed over later this month.

A survey of research on hormonal birth control pills supports the view that they can kill newly conceived embryos. It is also suggested the pills can cause cancer. The 100-page document is published by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Dr Pedro José María Simón Castellví, federation president, has written about it in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. Dr Simón points out that the pills' abortifacient effects are not widely known about even though scientists are aware of them. Of the embryo, he writes: "even in its early days, [it] is something other than an egg or female germ cell." The federation's report has 300 citations, many from medical journals. A World Health Organisation agency acknowledges that some substances in some birth control pills are carcinogenic. [LifeSiteNews, 5 January]

Senator Obama has reportedly nominated a Democrat party chairman whose position on abortion is at least ambiguous. National Right to Life has noted that Governor Timothy Kaine of Virginia has changed his stated view on the issue. He was once quoted as opposing parental consent for abortion on minors. Opponents say he claims religious objection to abortion but uses language which signals support. [LifeNews, 5 January] One of the candidates for Republican party chairman wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Mr Ken Blackwell says he has worked with National Right to Life and expects the supreme court soon to address the 1973 ruling which permits abortion. Our source suggests other candidates are pro-life too. [LifeNews, 5 January] The leader of the National Black Pro-Life Union doubts that Mr Obama will deliver on his campaign promise to reduce abortions but prays that he will have a change of heart. Ms Day Gardner pointed out that abortion was the principal killer of black people, with 17 million black children killed since 1973. More than a third of abortions were on black women and there were many abortion clinics in ethnic minority areas. [LifeNews, 5 January]

An MP in England is writing to schools in his constituency to express his concern about the supply of morning-after pills to schoolgirls. Mr John Gummer, Conservative member for Suffolk Coastal, said the pills were dangerous and should not be used as contraception. He wants to know the schools' sex education policies. Local health and local government authorities said they gave out good advice as well as pills, and that there was considerable evidence that such advice meant young people made "the responsible choice". The Family Education Trust said supply of the pills did not affect unintended pregnancy or abortion, or could make matters worse. [EADT, 6 January]

Prenatal chorionic villus sampling could cause limb defects and/or infantile hemangioma, a tumor of the blood vessels, in children. The conclusion comes from a review of research in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. The journal's editor wrote that the dangers were outweighed by the benefits of detecting diseases like Down's syndrome. [Reuters, 5 January] In at least some countries, most children who are diagnosed with Down's are aborted.

Rutgers University, New Jersey, is monitoring women who are eating an egg a day from the middle of their pregnancies to see if it benefits their babies. Eggs contain some of the nutrients which are supposed to help prenatal development. Advice for expectant mothers includes the need to cook eggs well. [Mail, 6 January]

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