When legislators play doctor: a local response

On October 31, 2012, in Blog, by Miriam

 When legislators play doctor: a local response

Today we bring you an article from Anna from LifeChoice. This article is a response to Minkoff, H. & Ecker, J. 2012. When legislators play doctor: the ethics of mandatory preabortion ultrasound examinations. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 120:3, 647-649.

In a landmark ruling for pro-life activists February 2012 marked the month Virginia voted in favour of becoming the 8th state in the U.S to pass the revised ultrasound bill: a bill which requires women seeking abortion to undergo mandatory transabdominal ultrasounds prior to the procedure, as part of a fulfilment of informed consent.

Responding to an increase in favour for this bill in the U.S., a commentary was released in the September 2012 edition of the journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology by Howard Minkoff (MD) and Jeffrey Ecker (MD), arguing that

‘{…} Legislating imaging procedures inappropriately limits women’s autonomy and undermines the physician-patient relation.’

The article argues, and I agree, that the foundation of informed consent consists of a respect for autonomy, which supports the dual pillars of voluntariness and information.  However, our harmony in opinion stops at this definition.

Click here to continue reading this post.

 Eight questions you are unlikely to hear asked by the media

 If you have been following the US elections or the recent coverage of the UK debate around abortion gestational limits, you will notice that debate moderators generally love to ask pro-life candidates hard questions about abortion. Curiously, they don’t generally do the same for pro-choice/pro-abortion candidates.

Here are 8 questions you will rarely hear a pro-choice/pro-abortion candidate asked by the media:

1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?

2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?

3. In many regions (including New Zealand), a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?

4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?

5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?

6. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

7. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?

8. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?

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Why abortion controversy will always be with us

On October 25, 2012, in Blog, by The Radical Feminist

2837308758 Why abortion controversy will always be with us

From the American Presidential race, to pro-life protests in Southland, abortion continues to remain a contentious and hugely controversial issue (in fact, it is arguably the most controversial issue of our era).

And so it should, because, as any intellectually honest person knows (even if they aren’t willing to openly admit it, or aren’t willing to publicly speak out against abortion) abortion kills an innocent human being who did absolutely nothing to justify such a cruel and barbaric end.

Pro-choice activists might have become deft hands at dodging the important ethical questions that lie at the heart of the abortion debate, and while they may have also done their darndest to try and convince the rest of the populace that abortion is nothing more than a simple surgical procedure, the controversy still rages on.

There are three good reasons why things have played out the way they have, and why controversy over abortion will always be with us (until abortion has been abolished, that is):

Reason and conscience

When it comes to the ethics of abortion, and the issue of which side of this debate has more reasoned and logically sound arguments to back up their position, it’s all one way traffic, and it’s all in favor of the pro-life position.

To support abortion choice someone has to actually make a break from sound human reasoning and logic in the area of ethics, and instead turn a blind eye to the obvious and very grave ethical problem of killing an innocent human being.

This is why attempts to justify abortion using ‘bodily rights’ arguments have become more popular in recent times – because they try and justify abortion by simply ignoring the glaring reality that an innocent human being is killed in every abortion (too bad about their bodily rights aye?).

Most people (i.e. the vast majority, who are NOT rabid in their commitment to the pro-choice ideology) know what abortion really truly is, and what it actually does to innocent human beings – they simply choose to suppress this reality (maybe because of cultural peer pressure, or out of an unreasonable fear of seeming unfairly ‘judgmental’ about the abortion choices of others?).

The only problem is that there is only so long that such profound ethical realities and truths can be suppressed, and for most people, sooner or later their conscience awakens from its pro-choice slumber and begins to nag away at them about the unethical nature of abortion.

This ‘gnawing’ of the conscience may never result in a fully-fledged move away from the pro-choice position for many people (ingrained social conditioning is hard to break free of – especially if you also carry a whole lot of preconceived and false notions about pro-lifers being irrational lunatics and placard waving religos, etc.), but it never goes away either, and this creates  an ethical discontent that simmers away beneath our collective cultural skin.

Such ethical simmerings are the first step in a move away from social acceptance and cultural moral cowardice in the face of grave evil – the next step is a more vocialised discontent and questioning of the legitimacy of the evil (a phase that I believe we are now starting to move into as a culture). The final stage is a social rejection of the evil, and a cultural embrace of the opposite ethical truth.

Science and technology

I don’t think that it is any coincidence that abortion enjoyed such strong support at a period of human history when science and technology offered lay people very little in the way of a window into the womb, and fetal development, etc.

This has changed dramatically in the decades since, however, with ultrasound now even being routinely carried out in 4D – a technology which confronts us with the stark reality of what exactly this thing we call a ‘fetus’ actually is (yep, there’s no doubting that it really is a vulnerable human being in need of our nurture and care – as opposed to the age-old pro-choice lie that it was nothing more than a ‘blob of tissue’ or ‘clump of cells’).

I once heard someone suggest that if a woman’s belly became translucent during every pregnancy almost no abortions would ever take place – and I believe there is a profound truth to this idea. It is always easier to endorse the killing of a human being you never see up close and never have to personalize (if you doubt this fact, just do some reading up about the difference between being a soldier on the ground – who had to see and witness the death of the enemy firsthand – as opposed to the bomber pilots and crew who only ever witnessed the devastation from afar during World War 2).

More and more though, the reality of the unborn child is becoming harder and harder to escape and deny, because modern technology and information availability (thanks Mr. Google!) is giving us an evermore translucent womb.

The reality of abortion in the lives of women

The acolytes of the pro-choice ideology might be content to spout unreasoned nonsense about abortion being just another surgical procedure, but the fact is that the majority of women who have been through it know that abortion is far from ‘just another surgical procedure’.

It has always struck me as rather illogical that certain so-called ‘feminists’ would harbor such a militant commitment to abortion that they would even attempt to attack and write-off the serious harm done to their fellow females who have been hurt in some way because of an abortion.

Instead of actually owning up to the fact that many of their sisters (to borrow a popular term from 70′s era feminism), who have had abortions, have been hurt and damaged by the experience, these ‘feminists’ would rather make their wounded sisters out to be liars or deluded fools.

How else is a woman who has experienced abortion meant to feel when she hears someone like Margaret Sparrow, and other defenders of abortion choice, vehemently engaging in public denials of the fact that there is even such a thing as post-abortion trauma?

I can only imagine it would make their grief all the more painful, only serving to isolate them further.

As British feminist Germaine Greer once said: “The crowning insult is that this ordeal [of abortion] is represented to her as some kind of a privilege. Her sad and onerous duty is garbed in the rhetoric of a civil right.”

Surely never a more true statement was made about the commitment of the pro-choice ideology to abortion – a commitment that doesn’t seem to waver even in the face of woman being harmed by abortion.

Sooner or later, however, much like other ‘denier’ movements, the truth becomes too overwhelming to ignore.

When that happens a wave of reality will break open the deception and lies that have been perpetrated by those who have elevated support for abortion, with a religious-like fervor, above concern for the harm that it is doing to the women in our communities.

So there you have it – the three main factors that I think will eventually lead to an end to the toleration of abortion, and the three main reasons why abortion has never been able to achieve the mainstream normalization that pro-choice militants like ALRANZ, etc. had hoped to see secured by now.

In fact, truth be told, I think that ALRANZ is well aware that the writing is on the wall for the toleration of abortion, and that it isn’t a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ we will come to our senses as a culture and cease turning a blind eye to the killing of thousands of our fellow kiwis every year.

 BBC’s twisted use of Paralympics to push eugenics agenda


Today we feature a special guest post from Rachael, a human rights lawyer based in Auckland NZ…
Sunday 9 September marked the end of the 2012 Paralympics. Every four years this international event showcases the determination and exceptional sporting ability of disabled athletes from all over the world, a true testament to the human spirit and the ability to achieve the incredible against all odds. That the New Zealand media gave these games so little coverage is disappointing and raises questions as to why this was the case.Better no coverage, however, than the twisted and bizarre move by the BBC to use the 2012 Paralympics as a platform to promote eugenics. Eugenics is an ideology advocating practices aimed at increasing superior characteristics and decreasing inferior ones in order to “improve” the genetic quality of the human race. Hitler employed this ideology in his attempt to create a “master race” by exterminating those he deemed “undesirables” or “life unworthy of life”.

On the eve of the Paralympics, BBC Newsnight ran a segment called ‘Eugenics, Helping or Eradicating Disability?’ The show began with the question “is it a noble aim to rid the world of mental and physical disability”? As if for the sake of completeness, the piece then described how “the most heinous crimes of the 20th century, the holocaust, the mass murder of the disabled, the enforced sterilisation of anyone considered inferior, all took place in the name of eugenics”. It continued: “Many of the Paralympians we’ll be celebrating in London have the same disabilities as those whose rights have been violated. But does this mean we should write off eugenics in its totality?…Should the prospect of designer babies be ignored just because of its associations with Nazism?”

The insensitivity of this pitch is mind-boggling. But could such a question be asked here?

Of course it could. Implicitly it already has been. For many years pregnant mothers have been routinely offered tests to detect conditions such as Down syndrome and spina bifida with a view to abortion. Two years ago this screening programme was beefed up with the object of eliminating more disabled children. Saving Downs, an organised group of parents of children with Down’s Syndrome, has lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court on the basis that such programs are eugenic and an affront to the Down’s Syndrome community. The fanatics are already suggesting that not only are there the means to do away with the disabled but a duty to do so – a duty to design.

Both here and in the UK this trend is being driven not by latter-day Hitlers but by sober professors. The BBC programme in question put bioethicist John Harris up against two non-academics who had personal interests in disability issues. As it happens, Harris’ case for eugenics was fatally undermined when one of his opponents, Ian Birrell (a columnist and foreign correspondent in the UK with a disabled daughter), pointed out that the professor also supports infanticide.

What was striking about the programme was the evident bias of the BBC. Music, images, rhetoric, the prior briefing of Dr Harris — all were designed to make the audience see “the promise of eugenics”. And this was not an isolated case: a few weeks earlier the BBC showed a short segment called “Nature vs. Nurture” which looked at the dominance of black athletes at the Olympics. The piece implied that genetic cleansing is positive and that the Nazis merely distorted it. When referring to the victims of the Nazis’ eugenics policies, the extermination of hundreds of thousands of disabled people was completely ignored.

What of the broadcaster’s ethical duties in this case? Surely it has a responsibility to engage in balanced reporting and not manipulate its audience to accept one view only. Impartiality is all the more important when the issue concerns such basic questions as the right to life and the equal dignity of all human beings.

To reflect on the horrors of Nazi eugenics policies and to then advocate, under the pretext of scientific reporting, “a new eugenics, enlightened by empathy, leavened by liberty” with an identical aim of ridding the world of disabled people, is not only highly offensive to disabled people everywhere but is frankly quite frightening. Has it been so long since the Holocaust that we have already forgotten its lessons?

Disabilities are obviously not something we hope for and it may well be a “noble aim” to eradicate disability. But there is nothing noble about trying to eradicate disabled people whether before birth, after birth or by sending them to the fringes of society by failing to afford them the same rights and dignity as those who are not disabled.

As Ian Birrell quite rightly pointed out, the presumption behind this “new eugenics” as with that propagated by the Nazis, is that disabled people are inferior and that we should do all we can to eliminate them. This is not only a grotesque view but it encourages negative attitudes towards disabled people in society.

The New Zealand media too should examine themselves on their attitude to disabled persons. If the lack of coverage of the Paralympics is disappointing, the lack of investigative and balanced reporting on practices such as prenatal screening, pre- implantation diagnosis and the moves towards designer babies in trendsetting countries is ominous. Are we going to blindly follow them back to the fascism of the 1930s? As the saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

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Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less Of A Lefty

On October 22, 2012, in Blog, by Alisdair

Screen shot 2012 10 21 at 6.02.29 PM Being Pro Life Doesnt Make Me Any Less Of A Lefty


Cross-posted from Medhi Hasan, political director of The Huffington Post UK.

Listening to fellow pundits on the left react with rage and disbelief to the support by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for halving the abortion time limit to 12 weeks, I was reminded of the late Christopher Hitchens. “[A]nyone who has ever seen a sonogram or has spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that emotions are not the deciding factor [in abortions],” wrote the Hitch in his column for the Nation magazine in April 1989. “In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain . . . break some bones and rupture some organs.”

It is often assumed that the great contrarian’s break with the liberal left came over Iraq in 2003. His self-professed pro-life position, however, had provoked howls of anguish in progressive circles 14 years earlier. It has long been taken as axiomatic that in order to be left-wing you must be pro-choice. Yet Hitchens’s reasoning was not just solid but solidly left-wing. It was a pity, he noted, that the “majority of feminists and their allies have stuck to the dead ground of ‘Me Decade’ possessive individualism, an ideology that has more in common than it admits with the prehistoric right, which it claims to oppose but has in fact encouraged”.

Blob of protoplasm

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.

“My body, my life, my choice.” Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed. Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?

Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body. The 24-week-old foetus can’t be compared with an appendix, a kidney or a set of tonsils; it makes no sense to dismiss it as a “clump of cells” or a “blob of protoplasm”. However, my motive for writing this column is not merely to revisit ancient arguments, or kick off a philosophical debate on the distinctions between socialism (with its emphasis on equality, solidarity and community) and liberalism (with its focus on individual freedom, autonomy and choice), but to make three points to my friends on the pro-choice left.

First, you do realise that the UK is the exception, not the rule? Jeremy Hunt’s position is the norm across western Europe: 12 weeks is the limit in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium. Then there’s how 91 per cent of British abortions are carried out in the first 13 weeks. You may disagree with a 12-week cut-off but to pretend it is somehow arbitrary, or extreme, or even unique is a little disingenuous.

Second, you can’t keep smearing those of us who happen to be pro-life as “anti-women” or “sexist”. For a start, 49 per cent of women, compared to 24 per cent of men, support a reduction in the abortion limit, according to a YouGov poll conducted this year. “Polls consistently show . . . that women are more likely than men to support a reduction,” says You – Gov’s Anthony Wells.

Then there is the history you gloss over: some of the earliest advocates of women’s rights, such Mary Wollstonecraft, were anti-abortion, as were pioneers of US feminism such as Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the latter referred to abortion as “infanticide”. In recent years, some feminists have recognised the sheer injustice of asking a woman to abort her child in order to participate fully in society; in the words of the New Zealand feminist author Daphne de Jong: “If women must submit to abortion to preserve their lifestyle or career, their economic or social status, they are pandering to a system devised and run by men for male convenience.”

Third, please don’t throw faith in my face. Hitchens, remember, was one of the world’s best-known atheists. You might assume that my own anti-abortion views are a product of my Muslim beliefs. They aren’t. (And the reality is that different schools of Islamic law have differing opinions on abortion time limits. The Iranian ayatollah Yousef Saanei, for instance, has issued a fatwa permitting termination of a pregnancy in the first trimester.)


To be honest, I would be opposed to abortion even if I were to lose my faith. I sat and watched in quiet awe as my two daughters stretched and slept in their mother’s womb during the 20-week ultrasound scans. I don’t need God or a holy book to tell me what is or isn’t a “person”. (Nor, for that matter, do I take kindly to some feminists questioning my right to have an opinion on this issue on account of my Y-chromosome.)

Nevertheless, I’m not calling for a ban on abortion; mine is a minority position in this country. I’m not expecting most readers of the Huffington Post to agree with me, either. What I would like is for my fellow lefties and liberals to try to understand and respect the views of those of us who are pro-life, rather than demonise us as right-wing reactionaries or medieval misogynists.

One of the biggest problems with the abortion debate is that it’s asymmetric: the two sides are talking at cross-purposes. The pro-lifers speak about the right to life of the unborn baby; the pro-choicers speak about a woman’s right to choose. The moral arguments, as the Scottish philosopher Alasdair Macintyre has said, are “incommensurable”.

Another problem is that the debate forces people to choose sides: right against left, religious against secular. Some of us, however, refuse to be sliced and diced in such a simplistic and divisive manner. I consider abortion to be wrong because of, not in spite of, my progressive principles. That I am pro-life does not make me any less of a lefty.

There are few issues that unite Jeremy Hunt, Christopher Hitchens and me. I’m not ashamed to say that abortion is one of them.


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witch hunt11 Its time for the pro choice lobby to end the witch hunt and either put up or shut up

The Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to
follow wherever the accusing finger points!’”

The Crucible, By Arthur Miller (Act 2, Scene 3)

Harsh title for a blog post right?

Unfortunately it has become necessary though, because over the last couple of days all sorts of ridiculous and totally unproven accusations have been publicly made by pro-choice pressure groups and their allies in Parliament.

These accusations originated earlier this week with pro-abortion lobby group ALRANZ, and then yesterday they managed to convince their allies in the Green Party and Labour to issue press releases accusing peaceful pro-lifers in Southland of intimidation and violence.

Late yesterday ALRANZ had another bite at the cherry by publicly claiming that they had been sent a SOLITARY and anonymous threatening email (strangely though, they never published the email and they never went to the police).

Now today, pro-choice National MP Paul Hutchison has joined in the mud-slinging, along with a reporter from the Bay of Plenty Times, who decided to add the totally unsubstantiated claim that: “Pro-life protesters have sent threatening messages this week to staff at a Southland abortion clinic” at the end of a totally unrelated article about increased contraceptive availability.

Here’s the problem: ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE has been presented to support the claims that are being publicly made against these pro-lifers in Southland.

So now is the time for the pro-choice movement and their political allies to put up or shut up.

If they’re going to keep making public accusations against pro-lifers in Southland then they actually have an obligation to make any evidence they have to back up their claims publicly available as well.

Otherwise this is nothing more than a rabid Salem style witch hunt built on baseless scaremongering – a case of unsubstantiated intimidation and harassment of Southland pro-lifers by pro-choice pressure groups.

For all we know these threats are actually being perpetrated by misguided PRO-CHOICE supporters of ALRANZ who are looking to manufacture controversy for the sake of publicity by sending fake emails and threats, etc.

So come on ALRANZ, the Bay of Plenty Times, Greens, Maryan Street and Paul Hutchison – let’s see the evidence to back up the serious accusations you are making about your fellow Kiwis, so far all we’ve heard are unsubstantiated allegations (“I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!” anyone?)

If you are truly the ethically-minded citizens you claim to be, it’s time to put up or shut up.

The very real violence and intimidation of the pro-CHOICE movement in NZ

On October 18, 2012, in Blog, by The Radical Feminist

Ken The very real violence and intimidation of the pro CHOICE movement in NZ

Earlier this week the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) ignited a firestorm of controversy against a group of Southland pro-lifers when they suggested that they were planning to intimidate and do violence to abortion clinic workers down in Southland.

And today ALRANZ have tried to reignite their spurious dirty tactics campaign (which, ironically, is actually starting to look a lot like intimidation intended to silence the pro-life people in Southland) by making a MASSIVE deal out of a SOLITARY and anonymous email which they claim is threatening violence against them, even convincing a couple of their political allies to get involved.

(Interestingly they haven’t actually made the alleged email publicly available – not even on their blog post about this matter. Is this because the email, when seen in context, isn’t actually that threatening? Or is it because the anonymous email could well have come from an ALRANZ supporter in a misguided attempt to generate more publicity for their attack on the Southland pro-lifers? These questions will remain unanswered until ALRANZ actually publishes, in full, a scanned copy of the email they claim to have been sent.)

ALRANZ and the pro-choice movement have absolutely ZERO credibility regarding this issue.


Because of the video below.

It was made and posted on YouTube only 4 years ago by a member of the New Zealand pro-choice movement (i.e. someone who almost certainly supports ALRANZ and who probably moves in their circles) named ‘prochoicenz’.

It contains NOTHING BUT intimidation and threats of violence against a prominent New Zealand pro-lifer.

These threats of violence include a photograph of this New Zealand pro-lifer (Mr. Ken Orr, from Right To Life NZ) with a gun pointed at his head, while the Twisted Sister song ‘We’re not gonna take it‘ plays in the background.

The video is basically one long series of images of people giving the finger – all directed at Orr – set to the aforementioned Twisted Sister song.

The video also includes written statements such as:

“F**k off”

“You stupid c*nt”

“Kiss my ar*e”

“We’ll fight, you’ll see”

“We’re not gonna take it anymore”

“Mind your own f**ken business”

“Just you try and make us”

“You’re all worthless and weak”

As far as I can remember, there was very little, if any, public outcry from ALRANZ at the time this video was released, and yet is contains very clear, very serious and very real threats of violence and intimidation against a NZ pro-lifer.

In fact, this video (as you can clearly see) is still available on YouTube today, and ALRANZ don’t seem to have any problem at all with it being on YouTube – how else can we explain their silence regarding this threatening video, made by a member of the NZ pro-choice movement, remaining online?

As far as I am concerned, ALRANZ simply can’t be taken seriously over anything going on in Southland until they actually speak out just as vocally and strongly against this video – which, unlike what is happening in Southland, is a VERY serious death threat.

But of course they won’t, because this video comes from the PRO-CHOICE movement, and ALRANZ would never want to admit that their very own movement has a long history of irrational and intimidatory threats and behavior (in fact, I seem to also remember something about a pro-life placard holder who had oil thrown over them, outside the Epsom abortion clinic some years ago, by a PRO-CHOICER who then tried to set that pro-life placard holder on fire – if anyone could shed some light on that incident I think it would be most timely).

A Nobel Prize for ethics?

On October 17, 2012, in Blog, by Fleur

Two stem cell researchers have shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2012, an elderly Briton, Sir John B. Gurdon, and a younger Japanese, Shinya Yamanaka. By a serendipitous coincidence, Sir John made his discovery in 1962 — the year of Yamanaka’s birth.

In his classic experiment at the University of Cambridge, Sir John discovered that cell development is reversible. The conventional wisdom was that cells could never change once they had specialized as nerve, skin, or muscle cells. He proved that this was wrong by replacing the nucleus of a frog egg cell with a nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified cell developed into a normal tadpole.

This astonishing development eventually led to the cloning of the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1996. But while the technique worked, no one really understood cell development. The obvious target for research was the embryo. From this ball of undifferentiated cells come each of the body’s specialized cells — more than 200 of them in humans. Surely the answer must lie there. In 1998 an American scientist, James Thomson, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, isolated and cultivated human embryonic stem cells.

But a one-eyed focus on embryos left stem cell science hostage to ethics. Despite scientists’ bravado, everyone had some qualms about destroying embryos for their stem cells. Even Thomson admitted to the New York Times that “if human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough”.

Still, it seemed the only way forward. But in 2006 there came astonishing news from the University of Kyoto. An orthopaedic surgeon turned stem cell scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, had discovered that skin cells from mature mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells.

Yamanaka found that by introducing only a few genes, specialized skin cells could become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that can develop into all types of cells in the body. Until then, creating pluripotent cells without resorting to cloning seemed unlikely. Like Gurdon, Yamanaka had skittled the conventional wisdom.

This was electrifying news for biologists. It was as if commuters on the pot-holed, terrorist-infested road from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone could suddenly detour down a six-lane autobahn at 200km. Many famous scientists dropped human embryonic stem cells and began work on what Yamanaka had termed “induced pluripotent stem cells”. A year later, in November 2007, both he and James Thomson, in separate papers, confirmed that human cells could also be reprogrammed.

The rest is history.

What turned Yamanaka away from the group-think which goaded his colleagues into the swamp of human embryonic stem cell research? Perhaps his ethics. Even Julian Savulescu, the director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, who has no objections to embryo research, recognises this. “Yamanaka has taken people’s ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all. He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics.”

In an interview with the New York Times in 2007, Yamanaka remembered one day years before when he paid a social visit to a friend’s IVF clinic. There, he peered through a microscope. “When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,” said the father of two. “I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.”

Cross posted from BioEdge.

 A Nobel Prize for ethics?


Edge of reason podcast1 Edge of Reason: Parents have a moral obligation to use eugenics to breed the best child possible

On Tuesday evening in Australia, the Insight TV show featured a panel discussion on the topic of eugenics, designer babies etc. Today’s edition of The Edge of Reason Podcast explores the frightening ideas that were proposed, and seemed to find widespread support on the Insight TV show.

These ideas ranged from an Australian ethicist stating that parents have a moral obligation to create the best child possible and that laws banning sex-selection were “profoundly immoral”, to audience members proposing that weeding out unborn human beings based on their level of intelligence or physical abilities was an acceptable thing to do.

The Edge of Reason aims to bring insightful commentary on important issues without taking up too much of your time in the process – each episode of the Edge of Reason is literally only 5 – 10 minutes long.

Listen to today’s edition of the Edge of Reason podcast by clicking play below…

The Insight TV program that is mentioned in this edition of the podcast can be viewed here

Marie Stopes opens illegal abortion facility in Belfast

On October 13, 2012, in Blog, by Alisdair

 Marie Stopes opens illegal abortion facility in Belfast

This morning the New Zealand Herald is featuring a story from the Independent on the opening of an aborition clinic in Belfast by global abortion provider Marie Stopes International. This article from LifeSiteNews provides some valuable background information on the legality of the abortion clinic and what commentators from Ireland believe Marie Stopes are actually trying to achieve by opening the facility.

Pro-life people in Northern Ireland and around the world were shocked today at the announcement that international abortion giant Marie Stopes will open an abortion facility in Belfast, despite abortion remaining a criminal act in the province. In a surprise move, Marie Stopes revealed that on October 18th their Belfast outlet will begin offering early-term “medical” or chemical abortions as well as other “family planning” services like contraceptives. Pro-life advocates have called the move illegal and said it is nothing more than a political dodge intended to circumvent and ultimately overturn the law through the courts.

Marie Stopes is claiming that it will be acting within the law, which allows abortion in cases where it is “necessary to preserve the life of the woman or there is a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent”. They said they will offer chemical abortions to women up to the ninth week of pregnancy, as well as abortifacient “emergency contraceptives”.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots said, “This condition applies no less strongly before nine weeks than longer into the pregnancy.”

The situation is being described by other pro-life observers as “critical” since Northern Ireland, together with the Republic of Ireland in the south, is one of the few places left in the Western world to hold out against full legalisation of abortion. As such the island has long been a target of some of the heaviest pressure from international pro-abortion campaigners and lobbyists. Several recent attempts have failed in Northern Ireland to bring in legalisation through the “back door” of medical guidelines and regulations.

Bernadette Smyth, the head of the province’s leading pro-life group Precious Life, told LifeSiteNews.com on the telephone that Marie Stopes claim that abortion is legal in N. Ireland up to the ninth week is “nonsense”. She was clear on one point, the facility will be acting illegally: “It will be an illegal abortion clinic.”

“These people just came in and set up a clinic,” Smyth said. “They’ve been working on this plan for apparently two years.”

Precious Life is “seeking legal advice” and has contacted the police and the Department of Public Prosecutions. They will be presenting evidence that Marie Stopes knows they are acting outside the law. Smyth related that Precious Life has proof that one of Marie Stopes’ African officials admitted at a conference in London that they commit illegal abortions in African countries that outlaw the procedure.

Asked if she thought that the Belfast facility is a political ploy to do an end run around the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland, she agreed.

“That’s what we’re worried about,” Smyth said, “that if we take an injunction against them, we won’t have any further arguments against them because the police will protect them.”

Although the facility’s location has been kept a secret, Smyth revealed that today pro-life activists have learned where it is. Smyth said, however, that public protests are not planned for the moment and Precious Life and other groups are focusing their efforts on contacting legal and parliamentary authorities.

She said the situation is “very similar” to that of the work of abortion pioneer Dr. Henry Morgentaler who in the late 1970s and early 80s forced the issue into Canada by openly operating illegal abortion facilities in Toronto while the procedure was still outlawed. By arresting Morgentaler and pursuing the case, prosecutors eventually played into the abortion movement’s hands, bringing the case into the courts that finally overturned the law without a democratic mandate.

Smyth said that her group has found support from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, who is arguing on behalf of the Department of Health that the purpose of the law in Northern Ireland law “is to protect unborn children” not to give abortionists excuses to introduce early-term chemical abortions.

She denied claims that Marie Stopes is acting on behalf of women who need abortion in extreme medical circumstances. “There is no way that an abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy can possibly address any of the long term medical concerns for the mother”.

Marie Stopes is arguing that offering early-term chemical abortions before nine weeks falls within the letter of the law in Northern Ireland. But Smyth said that medical experts have advised her group that the only life-threatening situation early in pregnancy that normally results in the un-intended death of the unborn child is an ectopic pregnancy. This medical situation, however, is not possible to “treat” using chemical abortion techniques, or even surgical abortion techniques. The only treatment that will save the life of the mother is the surgical removal of the fallopian tube, which is not an abortion, and cannot be conducted in an abortion facility.

Recently, a meeting of obstetricians and other medical experts issued a statement saying that there is no “medical necessity” for abortion, as its proponents often claim.

LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Jim Hughes, the head of Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, who was involved in the battles in the 1980s with Henry Morgentaler. Hughes, who also serves as the vice president of the International Pro-life Committee, said that Marie Stopes is clearly using the Morgentaler technique in Belfast.

“Break the law in order to change it,” he said. For decades, abortion campaigners tried to break Canada’s laws, but it was not until Morgentaler simply defied it, and was arrested and taken through the court system, that they finally won, and Canada’s law was thrown out.

“They are obviously doing an end run around the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland. I’m appalled to hear it,” Hughes said. He added that if it succeeds in Northern Ireland, it will show a way forward for activists in other countries. Ireland, he said, is a “key situation” for the pro-life movement around the world.

But Hughes said that he does not anticipate the ploy will succeed as it did in Canada. “I’m most encouraged by the actions of the people of Northern Ireland to keep abortion out,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Multiple polls have shown that the public in the province has no interest in bringing in the full provisions of the UK’s Abortion Act 1967. Demand for travel to the UK for abortion has fallen 36 per cent in the last 15 years in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

Hughes said, “I fully expect that the politicians would have the courage to ensure the law is enforced.”