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Children and Families

Abortion for Fetal Abnormality?

Abortion remains a crime for most Australians. Laws are inconsistent between states. In contrast, long ago the UK Abortion Act 1967 repealed and replaced its antiquated legal statutes on which much of Australian abortion law is still based.

The government in the state of Victoria asked the Law Reform Commission to provide legislative options to decriminalize abortion. Law reform is expected later this year.

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Preventing Polka-Dot Problems: Should Measles Vaccination be Compulsory?

Jim Todd reports about his measles experience at BBC News. A number of years back such a report about how a case of adult measles feels would have been absurd, since so many had suffered it. A few years back it would have been absurd because measles was rare thanks to vaccination. But now, due to a reduction in vaccinations, the risk of measles is rising. Health chiefs in London are stepping up the vaccination program to try to stave off the rising number of cases. The key problem is that in many areas of London only 62% of toddlers
have been immunised, compared to the 95% that is needed to achieve herd immunity.
Vaccinated people act as firebreaks: if enough people are immune to a
disease long chains of infection become improbable, and epidemics do
not occur. Given this, should measles vaccination be compulsory?

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Saviour Siblings Saved!

Two attempts to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill’s provision to allow ‘saviour siblings’ failed in the House of Commons yesterday. The first attempt was to block the practice and failed 342 to 163. The second attempt was to limit the provision to life-threatening cases. It was defeated 318 to 149. As it stands the Bill allows embryo testing and hence selection for ‘saviour siblings’ provided that “there is a significant risk that a person [the sibling ‘to be saved’] … will have or develop a serious physical or mental disability, serious illness or any other serious medical condition.”

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Viability and the abortion debate – what really matters?

MPs in the House of Commons will debate tomorrow whether the cut-off for legal abortions in the UK should be reduced. Currently abortions are permitted up to the 24th week of a pregnancy, and some MPs have argued that this should be reduced to 20 weeks or below. Advocates and opponents of the change have pointed to scientific evidence about the viability of infants born extremely prematurely at 22, 23 and 24 weeks. They seem to believe that if we can answer the scientific question of whether such infants are viable, that will resolve the question about whether or not abortion is permissible at that stage.
That might be the case if there were a consensus on what viability means, and why it is important in questions about abortion time-limits. But, as this article will highlight, there is no such consensus, and it is not straightforward why viability should matter. So far in this public debate there has been little or no mention of the important questions – what is viability, and why is it important in abortion law?

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The Ethics of ‘Human Admixed Embryos’: Concerns and Responses

By Loane Skene, Professor of Law, University of Melbourne and Julian Savulescu,  Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics and Director Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Bill, currently before the UK Parliament, will, if passed, permit HFEA to license the creation for research of embryos that combine human and animal genetic material (called, in the Bill, ‘human admixed embryos’). These embryos include cybrids which are formed by inserting the nucleus of a human body cell into an animal egg that has had its nucleus removed. Cybrids would produce embryonic stem cells that are 99.9% human. The Bill would also permit other types of embryos to be formed from human and animal genetic material that would be up to half animal. This post explains why scientists want to create human admixed embryos. It then outlines some ethical concerns about the creation of these embryos and responses that may be made to those concerns.

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Lesbians and male role models

In Britain, the Conservative Party has challenged the government to block lesbian couples from receiving IVF treatment unless they can provide a ‘male role model’ for their child. This is part of a proposed amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill which is currently before the parliament. Such a change would be a very bad idea.

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The viability of fetuses and the abortion debate

A paper has been published online in the British medical journal today
suggesting that survival of extremely premature infants (less than 24
weeks gestation) has not improved in the last decade. This comes less
than a week before a debate in the House of Commons on the Human
Fertilisation and Embryo Authority bill. It has been claimed that this
paper “completely blows out of the water” the arguments of
anti-abortion MPs who hope next week to push for a reduction in the
cut-off for legal abortion (currently 24 weeks).

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