It came as a surprise learn that the medical profession has developed a treatment called "growth attenuation" that stops the development of a child in its tracks. The child remains at whatever stage the parents' wish and - in the case of severely disabled kids - that's a blessing as these New Zealand parents explain (01).
I know it's controversial and there will always be a risk of abuse, however I have some experience of what this family is going through - and they have my full support for what they've done. My only regret is it wasn't developed several decades ago.
And early this year the British authorities granted permission to study genes to determine why people have miscarriages. It's been widely criticised because of a fear this could lead to "designer babies" (02), however this article sheds a whacking great spotlight on the issue, that's normally quietly ignored (03) - and the reality is that about 1 in 4 women miscarry. As there were about 750,000 children born in mainland Britain in 2014, that's most certainly a subject that deserves clinical research.
And they whinged about "designer babies" when Chinese researchers experimented on several non-viable embryos to try to find a way to eradicate a thoroughly unpleasant - and always fatal - blood disorder (04). Now that strikes me as a highly desirable thing to study because with their one child policy (that was in place at the time of the study), it seems perfectly acceptable to ensure the parents don't end up with a child that's destined to die within its first few years of life
As all I've ever heard from expectant parents is "we don't mind what it is, only that it's a healthy baby", it would seem that's a universal wish of all parents. No one I know wants to knowingly bring a child into this world that will suffer pain or will require constant care or will be severely disabled or will be ridiculed for life.
But that's exactly what they're forcing parents to do in Brazil right now. At the time of writing there are more than 5,000 pregnant women who are known to have contracted the Zika virus. That means their fetus is infected - and in many cases that results in children who have Microcephaly (05) and that - as one commenter stated - results in a child that used to be called "pin-heads", "dwarfs" or "short-arses". And they'll suffer a lot more than just hurtful names. Some have been born blind, some paralyzed - and all will have great difficulties physically as well as psychologically.
And the reason why this is happening is their laws on abortion only allow it for rape, incest or the mothers' life. Campaigners are trying their level best to have the law changed to allow it for women infected with the Zika virus and have come up against entrenched opposition by the Roman Catholic church as well as anti-abortion and pro-life groups (06).
This is not something that requires a debate, mothers don't have the luxury of time and 35% of the people in Brazil are not Catholics. We've often seen tobacco control use children as a shield behind which they plot all manner of devious, underhand, immoral and self serving initiatives. It seems a similar situation exists in Brazil, certainly with the pro-life groups.
Ultimately it is the parents of these children who will have to cope, each and every day, with the effect of these top down diktats. Unfortunately some will never be fully functioning adults and eventually the burden will fall to the State. And that means taxpayers, so yes everyone who pays any tax whatsoever has a right to voice their opinion. The church be damned, the pro-life / anti-abortion groups can back off and pack up.
No one, but no one has the right to insist on forcing a mother to carry an unwanted child to term. The church bases it's ruling on a compilation of scrolls that were lashed together to form what we call the Bible. That reflected the thinking of those times when infant mortality was enormous and women were seen as little more than vessels.
Times have changed and the Catholic Church can only speak for the 65% who follow their teachings. The pro-life groups have at their heart the same outdated biblical beliefs as well as a horrifyingly theoretical view that life is somehow sacrosanct, while ignoring the quality of that life or the genuine pain that is inflicted on these infants - as well as the guilt and remorse of their parents. It disgusted me when one pro-life spokesperson stated that if they succeed it'll be start of a slippery slope that'll eventually include children who will be born with Down's Syndrome, Huntington's Disease, Hemophilia, Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle-cell anemia. If so, then all to the good.
I've read the Bible several times and one thing stands out about God's son; he was a royal pain in the butt who could not abide corruption, hypocrisy nor stifling bureaucracy. He embraced change and where it was within his abilities, he cured the sick, blind and disabled. He understood their wish to be normal, to be free of handicaps, pain and suffering. He was compassionate; something the hard-line anti-abortionists are not. I suspect, should he ever return, he'd be appalled at what's been done in his name.
The rich will be able to fly out of Brazil and have good, safe abortions; those with a little cash can access moderately safe abortions by sympathetic doctors, while the very poor can only take the risk of a back-alley abortion conducted by rank amateurs under awful conditions that may well result in the death of the mother. Only the pious will persevere - and only because of their faith.
I sincerely hope the campaigners win and get the laws on abortion changed. Zika has mutated, it is spreading at an alarming pace, it will continue to mutate and goodness knows what will eventually emerge. Children need our protection - and more than ever we need to protect them from remote, uncaring vested interests.