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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 24 August 2000

24 August 2000

24 August 2000 President Bill Clinton announced yesterday that the US government has decided to permit publicly funded research using human embryos. Accepting new guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), President Clinton said: "We cannot walk away from the potential to save lives and improve lives, to help people literally get up and walk..." The official guidelines stipulate that scientists will be able to carry out research on stem cells taken from frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation treatment [unlike in the UK where the government has announced its support for research on new, cloned embryos generated for that purpose]. A 1996 US federal law prohibits public funding of research which involves the destroying or discarding of human embryos, but the NIH guidelines skirt this law by recommending public funding only for the research itself and not for the actual process by which stem cells are removed from an embryo. Jay Dickey, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives, described the guidelines as a "boldfaced violation of the law". He added that President Clinton's concern in supporting the guidelines "is not so much with science as it is with promoting the Clinton-Gore pro-abortion agenda". Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said: "There will be a legal challenge." [The Boston Globe, 23 August; The Washington Times, 24 August; BBC News online, 24 August] The government of India has rejected calls for coercive population control measures. A private parliamentary bill introduced this week proposed the denial of voting rights, health care, housing loans, access to state education and government jobs to families with more than two children in order to address what is termed "unmanageable population growth". C P Thakur, the federal health minister, said that instead the government favours "promotional and motivational" measures to promote smaller family sizes. [EWTN News, 23 August] China's population control policies have come under fresh criticism after it emerged that family planning officials drowned a woman's fourth child in full view of her village. Officials had injected Mrs Liu, from Caidian in Hubei province, with a saline solution which usually destroys an unborn child's nervous system and induces labour. Reportedly this is a common procedure in China. However, in this case the woman gave birth to a healthy boy. His father refused officials' demands that he should kill his son, after which a doctor took the baby to a local hospital for vaccinations. When the boy was returned to his parents, five officials forcefully took him and drowned him. Villagers then alerted local newspapers. China's one child family policy has now been in force for 20 years. [The Scotsman, 22 August; Washington Times, 24 August] The Mexican government's news agency has said that it will consider fining the country's National Pro-Life Committee after it invited activists from the USA and Canada to join anti-abortion protests. Foreigners are prohibited in Mexican law from involvement in domestic politics. A Canadian newspaper reported that the protesters have been banned from returning to Mexico for five years. [Calgary Herald online, 24 August] The President of Human Life International has criticised the tendency to blame high teenage pregnancy rates on insufficient sex education. Commenting on the news that half of British teenagers who become pregnant had been prescribed the contraceptive pill, Fr Matthew Habiger said: "Our moral confusion has made it almost impossible for us to look at the practical problems that are at the root of our social problems." Fr Habiger argued that surveys have shown that sex education only encourages sexual activity before youngsters are sufficiently mature. He concluded: "Yet even with such clear proof in front of us, some still refuse to see how sex education hurts our young people. And that may be the biggest tragedy of all." [Zenit news agency, 23 August]

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