News Roundup

Pill increases risk of breast cancer by one quarter, new study says

Modern forms of hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer by around one quarter, research by Oxford University has found.

The study of almost 30,000 women below the age of 50 tracked cases of the disease among those taking a range of contraception.

The included new generation drugs which people hoped would carry fewer health risks, with evidence suggesting they are less likely to cause strokes and blood clots.

But researchers found that progestogen-only drugs and coils carry at least equal risks as the combined pill, when it comes to breast cancer, in women below the age of 50.

Overall, the increased cancer risk for women taking progestogen-only drugs was 26pc, compared with 23pc for those on combined pills.

This rose to 32pc among those with progestogen-releasing intra-uterine devices, while those with hormonal implants experienced an increased risk of 25pc. Scientists stressed that the overall risks of breast cancer among young women remain low.


Leading educationalist defends homeschooling after Tánaiste questions it

Homeschooling has potential for “keeping school refusers engaged in education, and improving the experiences for some students with special educational needs”, according to a leading expert in education research.

Dr Selina McCoy was speaking after Tánaiste Michael Martin said he was “not a great fan” of homeschooling, adding that in-class tuition was important for socialisation.

Mr Martin, who worked as a teacher before entering politics, was referring to the recent publicity around the Burke family from Castlebar, all of whom were homeschooled, and who he described as having a “very isolated perspective in life”.

“I don’t want to comment too much but I think it does speak to the importance of socialisation, particularly in education, the idea that people should be educated in schools. I’m not a great fan of homeschooling. I think children need to socialise,” he told The Irish Examiner.


Stay-at-home mothers being undermined, say Conservative MPs

A senior Conservative MP has said stay-at-home motherhood is being undermined by the government’s push to get parents back into work, saying women’s “natural nurturing role” should be valued. His comments were echoed by rising Tory MP, Miriam Cates.

Last week’s budgets includes huge new subsidies for day-care but neglects stay-at-home mothers.

George Eustice, the former environment secretary, said he believed the chancellor Jeremy Hunt had focused too much on encouraging mothers of young children into employment and not enough on incentivising them to stay at home.

Eustice, 51, is one of a number of Tory backbenchers who are now pushing Hunt to cut taxes for families at the next fiscal statement, likely to come in the autumn.

Miriam Cates commented: “What is best for baby in the early years?”

“The bond between mother and child is probably the strongest human relationship there is.

“It’s not just a soppy feeling, it’s a highly evolved survival mechanism.

“And strong attachment in the early years pays dividends in later life.

“There’s many great people in the childcare sector, but no one replaces mummy.”

Eustice said: “Stay-at-home mother’ is now almost used as a derogatory term. We should respect the choice that women make.”
He said that he was focused particularly on encouraging women to stay at home rather than men because mothers have a unique bond with young children.

“Many women do want to spend those first few years with their child,” he said. “It’s a short period in life where they can perform that natural nurturing role. We shouldn’t belittle it, we should value it.”

He added: “I think [motherhood and fatherhood] are different and we should be honest about that.


China frees Uyghur Christian pastor after 15 years in jail

Chinese authorities have released a Uyghur Christian pastor who spent 15 years in prison accused of “inciting separatism” and “leaking state secrets to overseas organisations,” charges termed as “baseless” by rights groups, says a report.

Alimujiang Yimiti, 49, a Protestant house church pastor was reunited with his family after being released from prison in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, China Aid reported on March 15.

Yimiti was a Muslim before he converted to Christianity in 1995. He became a pastor for Uyghur Christians who belonged to a Protestant house church in the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang.

In 2007, Chinese security agencies started scrutinizing Uyghurs, a Muslim-majority ethnic Turkic group who make up the majority of the Xinjiang population amid a rise in violence in the region.

At that time, Christian Uyghurs who account for about two percent of the region’s estimated 26 million people, also came under pressure, reported papal charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Yimiti was first accused of using his business as a front to spread Christian ideology and was arrested on Jan. 12, 2008, for “inciting separatism” and “unlawfully providing state secrets to overseas organizations” due to a conversation he had with an American Christian friend, China Aid reported.


Review of State’s abortion laws completed

A detailed review of the State’s abortion laws has been completed and sent to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Almost 20,000 abortions took place in Ireland in the first three full years of the law’s operation.

This could result in changes to the law to enable an even more permissive abortion regime.

A spokesman for Mr Donnelly said he would consider its findings and bring a memo to Cabinet within weeks. It will then be published in mid April.

The Pro Life Campaign has argued that the review must take into account “the urgent need to provide women in unplanned pregnancies with positive alternatives to abortion”. They also said the report “must consider the issue of foetal pain relief”.

The National Women’s Council (NWC) however has said the ‘criminalisation’ of doctors, the mandatory three-day waiting period and the 12-week limit are “all limiting access to abortion for those who need it and this review must lead to evidence-led legislative reform”.


Parents and teachers vote down divestment of Dublin Catholic school

A plan to hand over one of three Catholic schools in the Dublin suburb of Raheny to a new patron has been abandoned following strong opposition from parents and school staff, and lack of support from boards of management. Parents voted by 83pc to 17pc against divestment.

It was one of a number of projects under a Pilot Initiative around the country designed to increase the number of multi-denominational schools.

However, an official report said that the Raheny schools should remain as they are.

Former Department of Education inspector Don Mahon, who was appointed to facilitate the process, concluded that the “process has not provided either the evidential basis or a cross-community agreement for a change in the configuration”.

He said: “It did not prove possible throughout the engagement process to get the different sides to engage in positive discussions that might have yielded outcomes suitable for both sides.”

Mr Mahon found the majority of parents were on the side of retaining the schools as they are.


Membership in Swiss assisted-suicide organisations reaches record high

In 2022, over 17,000 people became members of Exit, the oldest and largest assisted-suicide organisation in Switzerland. Exit wants assisted suicide to be available to anyone who can make a ‘rational’ decision to die whether they are sick or not.

Exit currently has 154,118 members, the highest number since the organisation was founded 40 years ago.

Dignitas, the largest Swiss organisation that accepts foreign residents, is also seeing a growing number of members. It had 11,856 members in 2022 (up by 832 from the previous year). Most of the new members are from the United States (+389), followed by Germany (+164) and the United Kingdom (+95). Over 90% of its members currently live in foreign countries.

The main benefit of membership is having access to medically-assisted suicide in the country.

According to Exit, 1,125 patients died last year through assisted suicide in Switzerland, compared with 973 in 2021, and 913 in 2020.

“This is due to the aging society and the increase in the number of people with serious illnesses and disabilities,” said a spokesperson for Exit.

Patients with terminal cancer accounted for the largest number of people (37%) who resorted to assisted suicide.

“More nursing homes and hospitals are allowing assisted suicide for residents or patients,” Exit says.


‘Sensitive’ military chaplain role does not require faith, says WRC

Chaplains of “monotheistic belief” are not needed to deal with religious and local leaders in sensitive conflict zones according to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in a finding that a prominent atheism campaigner was discriminated against by a failure to consider him for a military chaplain role. The finding is despite the fact that the word ‘chaplain’ means ‘minister of a chapel’ or ‘cleric’.

Witnesses for the Department of Defence argued an atheist chaplain could undo years of liaison work by army chaplains with Christians and Muslims in south Lebanon, including Hezbollah supporters, whom, it was argued, would be unlikely to accept a non-religious minister.

In a decision published on Wednesday, the WRC upheld John Hamill’s complaint of discrimination on the ground of religion against the Department of Defence, ruling that it was unlawful for the Defence Forces to recruit military chaplains solely from among Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland clergy.


UK Public Order Bill will ‘disproportionately impact Christians’: bishop

Concern over the curtailment of freedom of speech for people of faith has prompted a condemnation of the UK’s new Public Order Bill by the Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,

The bill criminalises a range of activities within a 150m perimeter of an abortion facility, otherwise known as a ‘buffer zone’, including silent prayer.

In a statement “The Public Order Bill: A Step Too Far“, Bishop John Sherrington said that the proposed legislation, “constitutes discrimination and disproportionately affects people of faith.”

Commenting on what could be illegal within a ‘buffer zone’, he says: “These could very easily include many things that should never be criminalised such as prayer, thought, peaceful presence, consensual communication and practical support if they are deemed to influence or interfere with access to the clinic.

“Politicians went so far as to vote down an amendment which would have protected silent prayer and consensual communication in such spaces”, he added, “and that would have initiated a review into whether such legislation was needed.”


At least 60 Australian kids conceived with sperm donor who used multiple aliases

Participants at a picnic for women who have had children via sperm donation in Australia discovered that the same sperm donor was the biological father of many of their children. The women began to ask questions because many of the children looked alike.

It turned out that a man had donated formally to a fertility clinic and informally through Facebook groups like Sperm Donation Australia and Australian Backpackers Seeking Sperm Donation. At least 60 children had been conceived with his sperm. He donated under four different names. He has not been named.

Aimee Shackleton, of Donor Conceived Australia, lamented the fact that so little thought was given to the feelings of the child. He or she might want to know his origins when they get older.

‘People talk about meeting up in a car park or hotel and passing over a fresh sample for immediate use,” she told the media. “Our life ought to begin with dignity, and not as a process of some unregulated anonymous transaction.”