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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 December 2000

18 December 2000

18 December 2000 48 members of the European parliament from 14 of the 15 countries which make up the European Union have jointly written a letter criticising the British government for its plans to authorise research on cloned human embryos. The letter, published in Saturday's Daily Telegraph, expresses alarm at the move and cites the frequent and clear opposition to all forms of human cloning expressed by the European parliament and other European institutions. The letter concludes: "Many of us are doctors, scientists and former ministers. We all believe that we need new treatments for patients suffering from such conditions as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, but we think the government is wrong. There are equally promising scientific alternatives that are ethically acceptable, such as adult stem cell research. We strongly urge MPs to vote against the government's proposals." [Daily Telegraph, 16 December] Members of the British House of Commons will vote on the government's statutory instrument which would authorise research on cloned human embryos for so-called therapeutic purposes tomorrow at 7pm. SPUC has urged all pro-lifers in the UK to contact their MPs urgently to ask them to vote against this legislation. Ms Ruth Kelly, Labour MP for Bolton West, was one of many members of the British House of Commons who criticised plans to authorise research on cloned human embryos during an adjournment debate last Friday. She quoted prime minister Tony Blair when he said, "What has history taught us? That science can be used for evil as well as good. And that judgement can be prejudiced as well as measured. Science without judgement can be dangerous." Ms Kelly then argued that effective regulation of the technology would be impossible and that it would eventually lead to reproductive cloning. She stressed the potential of adult stem cell research and asked: "Should we choose an ethical route, which could lead to great improvement in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people with serious diseases, or a highly controversial route, which ... does not command the support [of] the country and which is backed by a biotechnology industry with huge commercial interests at stake?" [Hansard, 15 December] It has emerged that one of the largest secondary schools in Britain has been making the abortifacient morning-after pill available for three months to pupils as young as 11 without the knowledge of parents. Mr Michael Crane, headteacher of the 2,000-pupil John Port comprehensive school in Etwall, Derbyshire, confirmed that a school nurse would dispense the drug to any pupil aged 11 to 18, although the South Derbyshire Community Health Trust said that the initiative was aimed at pupils over 14. [Daily Mail, 16 December] The morning-after pill has been available without prescription in southern Derbyshire since August as part of a trial scheme [see news digest for 25 August ]. The government plans to make it available without prescription throughout the UK to girls over 16 from the first of next month. The archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia, has condemned the guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia after it emerged that the group had fitted abortifacient intrauterine devices into captured girls. The devices were found in the bodies of nine so-called girls of war aged between 14 and 16 after they were killed during a recent battle with Colombia's army. [Catholic News Service, 15 December] The Catholic bishop of Auckland, New Zealand, has revealed that at least 72 women have so far chosen to become mothers as a result of his scheme to help pregnant women who were undecided about whether to obtain an abortion. Bishop Pat Dunn started his initiative last March, saying that it would "allow women the right and freedom to choose life instead of death". Nine months on, Bishop Dunn commented: "It is a small-scale thing but it is quite touching ... when you actually see a child and the mother will say, 'I was going to have an abortion.'" [The New Zealand Herald, 15 December ]

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