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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 31 August 2000

31 August 2000

31 August 2000 The majority of scientists interviewed by a British newspaper believe that reproductive cloning of human beings in now inevitable. More than half of the 32 experts surveyed by The Independent newspaper said that reproductive cloning would be attempted within 20 years, and a significant minority also believed that such a development would be justified. Despite current public opposition to the idea of reproductive cloning, Peter Brinsden, medical director of the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, said: "Society's views on these difficult issues will change over the next 10 to 20 years, in the same way they have over the past 20 years with many contentious subjects in the field of assisted reproduction." Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: "This survey demonstrates the contempt that the pro-cloning scientists and politicians have for public opinion. They know that public opinion, both domestic and international, is strongly opposed to human cloning and they are trying to soften it up. All forms of human cloning involve undermining human dignity and are unacceptable." [The Independent, 30 August; SPUC media release, 30 August] The parents of Siamese twins are appealing against an English High Court ruling last week that the pair must be separated, leading to the certain death of the weaker twin. The twins' parents, who come from a Mediterranean island and are thought to be Catholics, have said that they cannot countenance surgery which would lead to the death of one of their children. This week Cardinal Ersilio Tonini of Ravenna offered the family safe haven and free medical treatment in Italy. Mr Justice Johnston had ruled that the twins, who share a single heart and lungs and are referred to as Jodie and Mary, must be separated to save the life of Jodie. Doctors have said that otherwise both will die within six months. Josephine Quintavalle, of the ProLife Alliance, called the judgement "catastrophic". [The Independent, 31 August; ProLife Alliance] The weaker of the two Siamese twins, Mary, was represented in the High Court by Mr James Baker, the deputy official solicitor. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has written to Mr Baker expressing its concern at news that he intends to take a passive role at the hearing in the Court of Appeal on 4 September, and that Jodie may be without the representation provided for Mary. John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, urged Mr Baker to take an active role by supporting the appeal against Justice Johnson's judgement. [SPUC, London, 31 August] The scientist who created Dolly the first cloned sheep has said that human embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation treatment should be used to provide stem cells for research. Professor Ian Willmut, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, described the destruction of these embryos as an "immoral waste" and called instead for their use as a source of stem cells. He said: "Many people would think it better to use the embryos to produce cells than to destroy them." The professor was addressing the 18th international congress of the Transplantation Society in Rome on the day after Pope John Paul II had condemned such research in his own address to the same conference. [Metro, 31 August; Catholic News Service, 30 August] Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha has accused Planned Parenthood of being a front for "a multimillion-dollar abortion industry". In a pastoral letter, which was published as an article in Catholic Voice and which he has asked to be read out in Catholic churches over the weekend, the archbishop called for prayer and fasting "in reparation for all the innocent lives that are destroyed daily by abortion". He also wrote against euthanasia and the death penalty, although insisted that "Catholic teaching does not weigh opposition to capital punishment the same way it weighs opposition to abortion". The archbishop again stressed the incompatibility of support for abortion and active membership of the Catholic Church. [Omaha World Herald, 30 August]

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