News, 26 January 2009

President Obama has reversed President Bush's ban on US spending on abortion promotion overseas, and is expected to resume funding of the UN Population Fund. Planned Parenthood welcomed the move but National Right to Life pointed out that the president had said he wanted to reduce abortion. [BBC, 24 January] SPUC's leader writes: "The Obama phenomenon will affect political decision-making worldwide. All our lives will be affected. Pro-life people must organize and encourage powerful, peaceful resistance at every level in society. The right to life must be made the top priority issue at general elections in every country by all right-minded citizens. The great US election party is over. The first killings have been ordered by America's new abortion president - and we've all got a lot of work to get on with." [John Smeaton, 23 January] Mr Obama writes: "For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue ... [M]y Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground ... I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies." [White House, 24 January] More than 20 pro-life organisations called the move a bailout of the abortion industry, replacing real aid for the poor. [LifeSiteNews, 23 January] The Pontifical Academy for Life said rulers who thought they could decide between life and death were arrogant, and referred to a "slaughter of the innocents". [BBC, 25 January] John Smeaton praises the Vatican's comments and announces SPUC's UK general election campaign. [John Smeaton, 26 January] The Australian foreign minister is considering lifting a similar ban, which he can do without legislation, and which the present government inherited from Mr John Howard's administration. [WA Today, 25 January]

More than 100 Republican congressmen and congresswomen have urged Mr Obama not to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which would remove restrictions on abortion and permit it even if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Their letter warns the act would not reduce abortions. [CNA on EWTN, 23 January] Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, is urging his fellow-Catholics to sign a petition against the act. Protecting the unborn transcended party affiliation. [Catholic News Agency, 24 January]

A scientist who supports ethical stem cell research has commented on media coverage of recent US regulatory approval for the use of human embryos to produce therapies for paraplegia. Dr James L Sherley of Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Massachusetts, writes: "Reporters are mechanically penning reassurances from Geron [the research company] that they are working appropriately with the FDA to evaluate whether Geron's cells will injure patients. Geron's approved phase I trial will evaluate whether spinal injury patients, who volunteer for the trial, experience undue harm after injection of human embryonic stem cells. Of course, the whole trial is a complete ruse, since a greater harm already occurred with the deaths caused by making the embryonic stem cells." [John Smeaton, 25 January] The Catholic church in Scotland has criticised the imminent production of therapies for stroke using tissue from an aborted child. The church supports the use of adult stem cells but calls ReNeuron's proposed work immoral and unethical. [TotalCatholic, 19 January]

Repeat abortions on teenage girls in Britain have risen by nearly 70% since 1991. In 2007, almost 5,900 under-20-year-olds had an abortion which was not their first. Family and Youth Concern said the problem was caused by society's idolising sex. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service said it was good that abortion had become more acceptable. [Daily Mail, 24 January] Alcohol is fuelling teenage pregnancy according to the schools minister for England. One 14-year-old out of every five reportedly drinks at least once a week. [Telegraph, 24 January] A survey has found that a quarter of secondary schoolteachers are asked for advice about obtaining abortion. Most of the profession apparently believe schools should provide such information. [Telegraph, 24 January]

British television last night broadcast a dramatisation of Dr Anne Turner's 2006 suicide at Dignitas in Zurich. In the BBC's A short stay in Switzerland, Ms Julie Walters portrayed the physician in her 60s who had progressive supranuclear palsy. Mr David Belcher of the Herald newspaper says the programme, whose dramatic effect he praises, failed to portray reasonable objections to what Dignitas do. [Herald, 26 January] Care Not Killing said the play was shown yesterday to try to influence public debate. Today's House of Commons consideration of the Coroners and Justice Bill could include a vote on the law on assisted suicide. The BBC said it did not know this. [Telegraph, 24 January] Ms Sophie Pandit, Dr Turner's daughter who went with her to Dignitas, is lobbying MPs ahead of the debate. [Mirror, 26 January]

A man in Australia reportedly wants IVF embryos created with his now-deceased fiancée to be implanted in his sister. Mrs Gwen Bates, the mother of the late Ms Kay Stanley, says Mr Brett Vogel told her of the plan. Mrs Bates opposes the move and Mr Vogel will not comment. [Daily Mail, 24 January]

A study in England is seeking to find out if drinking coffee in pregnancy raises the risk of leukaemia in children. [Mirror, 26 January]

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