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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 August 2000

16 August 2000

16 August 2000 The British government has accepted the recommendation of the Donaldson Committee that human cloning should be permitted to advance stem cell research and the elimination of mitochondrial disease. The report of the committee headed by Professor Liam Donaldson, Britain's chief medical officer, was finally made public today. While favouring cloning research for so-called therapeutic purposes (termed "cell nuclear replacement"), it concluded against the transfer of any cloned embryo into the uterus of a woman (termed "reproductive cloning"). The response from the Department of Health, also released today, stated that: "The Government accepts the Report's recommendations in full and will bring forward legislation where necessary to implement them as soon as the Parliamentary timetables allow." [BBC News online, 16 August; the report of the Donaldson Committee; the British Government's response] Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, criticised the findings of the Donaldson Committee on a number of grounds. He pointed out that the recommendations flew in the face of two votes in the European parliament and observed that the report's insistence on the consent of sperm and egg donors was a nonsense because somatic cells, not sperm, are used in cloning. He noted that the report misrepresented current British law and that cloning may be prohibited under the forthcoming European Charter of Fundamental Rights. He drew attention to the promise of ethical alternatives to the use of embryos for stem cell research and said: "The committee seems to want Britain to compete with other countries in human spare part research by allowing unethical practices which our European and American competitors have avoided." [SPUC media release, 16 August] The Conservative party's health spokesman immediately came out against human cloning for any purpose. Dr Liam Fox described it as "morally unacceptable" and signalled his intention to vote against the proposals on principle. Although he insisted that his views were personal, Dr Fox's statement was released from Conservative Central Office. Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat science spokesman, criticised Dr Fox for making "party political attacks" on the plans. Members of parliament will be allowed a free vote on the matter. [Associated Newspapers, 16 August] The Catholic bishops of Argentina have expressed alarm at various legislative proposals concerning so-called reproductive health being considered throughout the country. Archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic of Parana, president of the Argentinean episcopal conference, announced that the bishops would be publishing a statement on the subject within the next few days. Meanwhile Archbishop Eduardo Miras of Rosario, another senior Argentinean prelate, said: "This is a problem of the present moment; we see it appearing very rapidly in all legislatures, not only national but also provincial." Archbishop Miras stressed that real reproductive health does not entail access to abortion but rather "defence of life, dignity of woman, dignity of sexuality and its meaning, centrality of the family". [Zenit news agency, 15 August] A newly elected legislator in Peru has signalled his intention to seek the liberalisation of his country's abortion laws. Luis Caceres, a member of the Peru 2000 grouping in congress which supports President Alberto Fujimori, plans to introduce legislation during the new congressional term. Magaly Llaguno, of Vida Humana Internacional, issued a warning that "the fight against the culture of death requires constant vigilance" and noted that despite the Peruvian constitution's protection of the unborn, President Fujimori has strongly promoted abortifacient means of birth control. [EWTN News, 12 August]

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