Morning-after pill access doesn't reduce unintended pregnancy or abortion

8 January 2007

A review of 23 studies on the use of morning-after pills has concluded that, "[t]o date, no study has shown that increased access to this method reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates". Writing in this month's Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers nevertheless supported the availability of post-coital birth control, on the basis that it may increase the likelihood of women using more reliable means. In the US, the Plan B morning-after pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2006. Pro-life people have opposed the drug because of its potential to cause early abortion by disrupting implantation. The lead author was Elizabeth G Raymond; co-author James Trussel has been a leading proponent of the drug. [Washington Times, 8 January] A bill pending in the Argentine congress, and which is expected to be passed this year, will make Argentina the fourth country in Latin America to authorise the free distribution of the morning-after pill (emergency contraception), joining Mexico, Peru and Chile. [Reuters, 8 January]

International Right to Life Federation (IRLF) leaders meeting in Manila, the Philippines, have issued a statement calling on "citizens throughout the world to study the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae", the Catholic church's teaching on the regulation of births published in 1968. Dr Jack Willke, IRLF president, said: "Worldwide, we are witnessing the sexualisation of our children - in particular, the sexual indoctrination of children with a view to subsequent provision of abortion and birth control drugs and devices to them without parental knowledge and consent, including in faith schools. We are also witnessing growing pressure from United Nations bodies on developing countries to legalise abortion." [SPUC, 8 December]

Stem cells which have advantages over embryonic stem cells have been extracted from amniotic fluid, according to researchers in North Carolina. The researchers claim to have found what they think are pluripotent stem cells in amniotic fluid, the liquid which surrounds babies in the womb. Pluripotent cells can give rise to many different tissue types. The amniotic fluid stem cells are easier to manipulate than embryo cells and don't form tumours. The team at Wake Forest University School of Medicine led by Dr Anthony Atala used fluid obtained when amniocentesis tests were done to check if the babies had disabilities. [Reuters, 8 January] Amniocentesis is not without risks for the baby.

Two independent research groups have shown that stem cells can trigger cancers. Comparing the way stem cells from cancerous and healthy tissues behave, reveals the former continue multiplying as primitive stem cells as a result of a chemical process. Detection of this process could be used to identify potentially cancerous cells and for early diagnosis of cancer. [New Scientist, 7 January ]

While Democratic leaders in the US have declared they will legalise federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, a White House spokesman has stated that the Bush administration already funds such research - on embryos that had previously been destroyed. President Bush's restriction on embryo stem cell research was designed only to stop federal funding of embryos destroyed subsequently. [LifeSite, 5 January]

The British prime minister, Mr Tony Blair, has suggested that the law will be amended to allow for the creation of human embryos with an animal component. The statement came after five scientists attacked the government for rumours that it would ban on the practice. Mr Blair said: "We are not dead set against it, in fact the opposite. If there's research that's going to help people then we want to see it go forward." [Ananova, 5 January] [see SPUC news summary 5 January]. One of the scientists, Ian Wilmut, who helped clone Dolly the sheep, has said that, if Britain bans the creation of hybrids, research into incurable diseases will shift to the far east, particularly China. [Sunday Times, 7 January]

Rich people in China can reportedly find ways to defy the one-child policy by paying the large fine, registering as "overseas Chinese", or going abroad to give birth. For the poor there is no escaping the harsh methods used to enforce the policy. United Nations figures indicate that China's population will begin to decline after 2025, and that by 2050 there will be twice as many people over 50 as under 20. [Sunday Times, 7 January]

The New York Times Magazine has published a correction to its article claiming that a woman had been imprisoned for 30 years for procuring an abortion in El Salvador. After an investigation by its ombudsman, and wide publicity in both countries of the paper's pro-abortion stance, a note from the editor appeared on Sunday in the corrections column, admitting that the claims of the article had not been checked and that: "Ms Climaco was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a case that was initially thought to be an abortion but was later ruled to be a homicide; she was not given 30 years in prison for an abortion that was ruled a homicide." [LifeSite, 8 January]