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  Parliamentary References on Reproductive Health
February 2001

Fetal tissue research

Fetuses retained for research

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government how many fetuses are held for research purposes by hospitals and clinics through the United Kingdom; what form of consent was obtained from their parents; whether any fetal tissue has been used for work involving stem cells or germ live gene therapy; what ovarian tissue from aborted or miscarried fetuses has been the subject of research licences and whether they will list the details.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Minister for Health) replied that information on the number of fetuses held for research is not available. However, the recent Census of Organs and Tissues Retained by Pathology Services in England shows an estimated 2,900 "stillborn babies and fetuses" retained at the end of 1999 from post-mortems carried out between 1970 and 1999; and a further 2,700 retained from before 1970. The census did not distinguish between stillbirths and aborted fetuses or specify why the fetuses were retained. The use of fetuses in research falls under the Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment, which states that the written consent of the mother should be obtained. There is no licensing system for fetal research. Consequently, data to answer the questions about ovarian tissue and the origins of fetal stem cells used in research are not available.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Suppliers of fetal tissue

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government what fetal tissue is supplied to the Medical Research Council fetal tissue banks at Hammersmith Hospital by the Marie Stopes Ealing abortion clinic; what commercial arrangements exist between these institutions; to what use this fetal tissue been put; what consent has been obtained from parents; what other links exist in the United Kingdom between the National Health Service facilities and abortion clinics and whether they will list them.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath replied that the clinic supplies fetuses from terminations of pregnancy to the tissue bank. There are no commercial arrangements between the two institutions and the fetal material is provided free of charge. The tissue bank is an intermediary body set up in accordance with the Polkinghorne recommendations and does not itself carry out research. The tissue is put to a variety of uses from applied research on diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease. Down's syndrome, leprosy and AIDS/HIV to underpinning research on basic cell and tissue culture techniques and work on normal human development. Written consent is obtained from women in accordance with Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment. The only other independent sector clinic with permission to supply tissue to the National Health Service is the Calthorpe Clinic, which supplies material to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Judicial review

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government whether, in the light of the decision of the High Court to permit a judicial review of the Government's response to the Donaldson Committee report into the use of human embryos for research into stem cell techniques, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will not issue licences permitting the use of human embryos until after the court has deliberated in June.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath replied that on Friday 26th January the High Court ordered that the question of whether permission should be granted for the Pro-Life Alliance to bring a judicial review should be adjourned and considered at a full hearing to be held on or after 15 June. At the full hearing, the court will decide whether the application should proceed. If this is permitted, the court will then go on to consider the substantive issues.

The application concerns the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001, and the definition of "embryo" in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. It is for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to decide whether or not to issue licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the recent Research Purposes Regulations. The authority has decided not to issue any licences for research involving cell nuclear replacement until the outcome of the judicial review is known, although it will consider any applications it receives. The authority has not, however, received any applications for such research.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Misoprostol

Trials of misoprostol

Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Health) asked the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the hospitals which (a) have been, (b) are and (c) plan to be involved in trials of misoprostol; what evidence he has collated concerning the drug's effects during the first stages of labour; what representations have been made to the Government on the subject of misoprostol; if he will review the Government's policy on the use of misoprostol; and if he will make a statement.

Gisela Stuart (Minister of State for Health) replied that misoprostol is not currently licensed for the induction of labour. The Department has asked the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to provide clinical guidelines on the induction of labour and their report is expected this summer. Our view is that until such time as the NICE guidelines are issued, use of misoprostol for the induction of labour should only be administered under properly managed clinical trials where the risks and benefits of the drug are fully explained and understood by women.

Since March 1998, the Medicines Control Agency has received and approved 22 notifications for clinical trials of misoprostol in the United Kingdom from Consultant Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. These notifications have been made under the provisions of the Doctors and Dentists Exemption Scheme. Details of clinical trials, including data collated during trials, are not normally released, without the consent of the parties concerned, as there are legitimate commercial and other confidential interests which cannot be disclosed. Such interests are recognised in the current administrative Code of Practice on Access to Government Information and also in the freedom of information legislation. Written answer 27 Feb 2001

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception and staff liability

Graham Brady MP asked the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what guidance he has given to schools regarding the potential liability of (a) governors and (b) staff when emergency contraception is given to girls under the age of 16 by school staff or on school premises without the consent of parents; (2) what guidance he has given schools regarding the potential liability of (a) school governors, (b) teachers, (c) head teachers and (d) other school staff in the event of emergency contraception being provided to girls under the age of sixteen by school staff or on school premises without the consent of parents.

Jacqui Smith MP (Minister of State for Education) replied that the Learning and Skills Act makes it clear that governing bodies must have regard to our Sex and Relationship Education Guidance when developing sex and relationship education policies. The guidance, published last July, clearly states that governing bodies and head teachers should consult parents in developing their sex and relationship education policy to ensure that they develop policies which reflect parents' wishes and the culture of the community they serve. Trained staff in secondary schools should be able to give young people full information about different types of contraception, including emergency contraception and their effectiveness. Outside the teaching situation, health professionals such as school nurses can give one-to-one advice or information to a pupil on a health-related matter including contraception.

We would not normally expect school nurses to issue contraception or emergency contraception. In the few cases where school nurses are dispensing contraception, this should be made clear in school's sex and relationship education policy, which has to be agreed with parents. These arrangements should not proceed until parents have been consulted
Written answer 6 February 2001

Emergency contraception and staff liability

Graham Brady MP asked the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2001, Official Report, column 484W, what guidance he has given to schools regarding the potential liability of school staff who dispense emergency contraception to girls under the age of 16 years in the event of medical complications arising as a result of the emergency contraception.

Yvette Cooper MP (Minister of State for Health) replied that emergency contraception in schools can be provided only by school nurses with a family planning background and specialised training to work under patient group directions. School nurses in maintained schools are employed by the National Health Service. Potential liability is covered by the arrangements of the NHS body concerned.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Teenage girls

Desmond Swayne MP asked the Secretary of State for Health what research has been commissioned of the safety of post-coital contraception with respect to girls aged (a) 12 years to 14 years and (b) 14 years to 16 years; and if he will make a statement.

Yvette Cooper MP replied that once a young woman becomes fertile, the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care advise that there are no physiological reasons why emergency contraception should not be used if she is at risk of pregnancy because she has had unprotected sex. The safety profile of EHC is believed to be similar in those under 16 years of age to those over 16. Emergency contraception has been used worldwide, including by women aged under 16, since the 1980s, and no major safety concerns have arisen. Clinical trials for new drugs are not routinely conducted on young people under 16 unless there is a specific indication such as childhood leukaemia.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Emergency contraception and teenage girls

Desmond Swayne MP
asked the Secretary of State for Health if Levonorgestrel is licensed for use by girls between the ages of 11 and 15.

Gisela Stuart replied that levonorgestrel is available as a prescription-only medicine, without an age limit. It may therefore be prescribed to women aged under 16 years. When given for the purposes of emergency contraception, prescribers are expected to satisfy themselves, in accordance with guidelines, that the young person understands the advice and it is in their best interests to receive the treatment.
From 1 January 2001, pharmacists have been permitted to supply Levonorgestrel 0.75 mg to women aged 16 years and over for use as an emergency contraceptive.
Written answer 13 February 2001

Clinical trials on emergency contraception for teenage girls

Desmond Swayne MP asked the Secretary of State for Health what clinical trials involving girls between the ages of 11 and 15 years have been conducted with respect to Levonorgestrel.

Gisela Stuart MP replied that no clinical trials specific to this age group have been undertaken in the United Kingdom. The marketing authorisation granted in 1999 for Levonorgestrel 0.75 mg tablets as a prescription-only medicine was supported by evidence from two large randomised controlled studies, one conducted by the World Health Organisation, and published data from uncontrolled studies.
Most women in the clinical trials were aged between 16 and 48, but a few girls aged 14 and 15 were included. There were no data available for girls between aged 11 and 14 years. Age analysis of efficacy and safety in the randomised studies did not identify any population that responded differently to treatment.
Written answer 13 February 2001

Teenage Pregnancy

Support for teenagers

Karen Buck MP
asked the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department has undertaken into the relationship between levels of support for parents of young children and levels of teenage pregnancy.

Yvette Cooper MP replied that development of the cross-departmental teenage pregnancy strategy drew on a full analysis of United Kingdom and international research in the area. There is no direct evidence to suggest any relationship between levels of teenage conceptions and material or financial support for teenage parents. Research does, however, suggest that support offered by a young woman's parents may impact on her decision whether to continue with a pregnancy. Further information on this will become available as the impact of the strategy is evaluated.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Financial and service support and teenage pregnancy

Karen Buck MP
asked the Secretary of State for Health what evidence he has assessed on the nature of the connection between levels of financial or other service support for parents of young children and levels of teenage pregnancy (a) in the UK and (b) in other European countries.

Yvette Cooper MP replied that development of the cross-departmental teenage pregnancy strategy drew on a full analysis of United Kingdom and international research in this area. Research conducted to inform the Social Exclusion Unit's report on teenage pregnancy found little relationship between a country's allocation of its funds to family related benefits and teenage birth rates.

Research in the UK does, however, suggest that support offered by a young woman's parents may impact on her decision whether to continue with a pregnancy. Further information on this will become available as the impact of the strategy is evaluated.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Sexual advice to young people

Lord Hylton
asked Her Majesty's Government whether they will issue guidance to health professionals advising them to commend sexual abstinence for young people under 16 for the sake of their health and personal development.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath replied that best practice guidance on the provision of effective contraception and advice services for young people was sent to all local teenage pregnancy co-ordinators and posted on the Department of Health's teenage pregnancy website in December.

The guidance highlights the importance of services having staffed trained in counselling skills and providing sufficient time and support to allow young people to make informed choices about their relationships.
A national media campaign aimed at young people began in October. The central messages of the campaign are about encouraging young people to take control of their lives, personal responsibility and not to be pressurised into having sex. The design of the campaign was informed by a major piece of research into what media messages and advertising campaigns work best with young people.
Written answer 12 February 2001

Sexual Health Strategy

Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Strategy

Laura Moffatt MP asked the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress with his sexual health and HIV/AIDS strategy.

Yvette Cooper MP replied that the merger of the sexual health and HIV strategies inevitably led to slippage in the timetable. However, considerable progress has been made with producing an integrated strategy that will set a programme of action on sexual health and HIV for England. We plan to issue the strategy for consultation shortly.
Written answer 6 February 2001

International family planning

Abortion and sterilisation

Ann Winterton MP asked the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to review her policy on the provision of public funding to overseas aid organisations involved in compulsory abortion and sterilisation in the third world and China; and if she will make a statement.

Clare Short MP (Secretary of State for International Development) replied that her Department does not fund organisations involved in compulsory abortion and sterilisation. DFID makes annual contributions towards the work of the United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation in over 150 countries. These organisations have programmes in China aimed at promoting international standards of freedom of choice reproductive health. DIFD strongly support these efforts.
Written answer 5 February 2001

Abortion

Ann Winterton MP
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will request from his counterpart in the US Administration the background information that formed the basis of their decision to withhold US Government funding from organisations providing abortion in the Third World and China; and
(2) if he intends to support the United States President's recently announced policy concerning US Government funding for organisations providing abortion in the Third World and China during his forthcoming visit to the US.

John Battle MP (Minister of State for International Development) replied that the question of US funding of organisations whose programme includes the provision of abortion services and advice is a matter for the US Government to determine.
Written answer 7 February 2001

International family planning aid

Jenny Tonge MP asked the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the impact of President Bush's reinstatement of restrictions on US international family planning aid.

Chris Mullin MP (Minister of State for International Development) replied that implications of the decision by the new US Administration to block funding to international non-governmental organisations that offer abortion and abortion counselling will become clearer over the coming weeks as guidance is issued from USAID.

The Administration's decision is a matter for the US Government; it will make no difference to the commitment of this Government to help poor people access good quality family planning and reproductive health services.
Written answer 13 February 2001

EDM 248
UNITED STATES FUNDING FOR INTERNATIONAL FAMILY PLANNING AGENCIES
24.01.01
48 signatures

Chris McCafferty

Ms Diane Abbott
Mr Richard Allan
Ms Candy Atherton

Jackie Ballard
Mr Harry Barnes
Dr Peter Brand

Mr Russell Brown
Dr Vincent Cable
Mr Ronnie Campbell

Ann Clwyd
Mr Jeremy Corbyn
Mrs Ann Cryer

Valerie Davey
Maria Fyfe
Mr Andrew George

Mrs Linda Gilroy
Dr Norman A Godman
Mr Win Griffiths

Mr Mike Hancock
Dr Evan Harris
Mr Nick Harvey

Mr Kelvin Hopkins
Mr Eric Illsley
Glenda Jackson

Lynne Jones
Dr Ashok Kumar
Mr David Lepper

Mr Ken Livingstone
Alice Mahon
Mr Robert Marshall-Andrews

Mr John McDonnell
Mr John McWilliam
Mr Bill Michie

Laura Moffatt
Ms Julie Morgan
Kali Mountford

Dr Doug Naysmith
Mr Edward O'Hara
Mr Martin Salter

Mr Alan Simpson
Mr Dennis Skinner
Mr Gareth Thomas (Clwyd West)

Mr Simon Thomas
Dr Jenny Tonge
Mr Paul Tyler

Mrs Betty Williams
Derek Wyatt

That this House condemns the decision by the United States Administration to withdraw funds from international family planning groups that support abortion in any way, even if the funds would be used for a purpose entirely unrelated to abortion; notes that according to United Nations figures 78,000 women die and millions suffer injuries and illnesses as a result of unsafe abortions every year; further notes that the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ISPD) states that 'all women should have access to quality services for the management of complications rising from abortions'; and calls on the Government to fully support international family planning agencies and their work to save women's lives.

MPs included in this issue

John Battle MP. Lab, Leeds West
Graham Brady MP. Con, Altrincham and Sale West
Karen Buck MP. Lab, Regent's Park and Kensington North
Yvette Cooper MP. Lab, Pontefract and Castleford
Nick Harvey. LibDem, North Devon
Laura Moffatt MP. Lab, Crawley
Chris Mullin MP. Lab, Sunderland South
Clare Short MP. Birmingham Ladywood
Jacqui Smith MP. Lab, Redditch
Gisela Stuart. MP, Birmingham Edgbaston
Desmond Swayne MP. Con, New Forest West
Dr Jenny Tonge MP. LibDem, Richmond
Ann Winterton MP. Con, Congleton

Parliamentary References on Reproductive Health is produced by British Pregnancy Advisory Service. For further information please contact Amanda Callaghan, Public Affairs Manager, Communications Department, BPAS, 26-27 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3HP Tel:020 7612 0206 amanda@bpas.org
 
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