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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 December 2000

20 December 2000

20 December 2000 The British House of Commons voted yesterday evening by a majority of more than two to one in favour of destructive research on cloned human embryos. The government's statutory instrument was passed by 366 votes to 174, and will now be considered by the House of Lords. Tony Blair, the prime minister, voted for the legislation, as did John Major, the former prime minister. William Hague, leader of the Conservative opposition, voted against the measure while Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, did not register a vote. In total, 76 Labour MPs voted against the government proposals, on a free vote, including Paul Murphy, secretary of state for Wales, and two other ministers. Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, said that he was "gravely concerned that this extremely important moral issue is being pushed through parliament without the country having had time to debate the very serious implications." John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, described the vote as "deeply disturbing" and commented: "It is a sad day for ethical standards in science and respect for innocent human life in Britain. This country has cast itself into uncharted ethical waters. It has also broken ranks with European political opinion, which is squarely opposed to all forms of human cloning." Mr Smeaton said that the result was due to insufficient time for debate in the House of Commons and added: "The House of Lords should give this matter deep consideration and should reject the statutory instrument when it is laid before them." [BBC News online, eye-witness reports and SPUC media release, 19 December; Daily Mail, 20 December] The director of China's state family planning commission has admitted that his country's one-child family policy has led to forced abortions, sex-selective abortions and infanticide. Launching a population policy white paper, Zhang Weiqing conceded that the ratio of 111.3 newborn boys to 100 newborn girls was a result of sex selective abortion and the abandonment of newly born female children. However, he said that China would continue with its policy and insisted: "We've always been opposed to coercion in these cases and we are extremely opposed to induced [sic] abortion." [Taipei Times, 20 December 2000] Swedish researchers have warned that women who drink more than four cups of coffee a day during early pregnancy double their chances of suffering a miscarriage. Professor Sven Cnattingius of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm also reported that drinking between two and three cups of coffee a day increased the risks of miscarriage by between 30 and 40 percent. A spokesman for the Coffee News Information Service commented that the study had demonstrated an association but not a causal link between caffeine and miscarriage. [BBC News online, 20 December] Pope John Paul II has criticised the new European Charter of Rights for its failure in protecting the right to life of the unborn and vulnerable. In a letter to Cardinal Antonio Maria Javierre Ortas, the Pope wrote: "The defence of the rights of the person and the family, in particular, could have been more courageous ... In many European states they are threatened, for example, by policies favouring abortion, which is legalised almost everywhere, by attitudes which consider euthanasia as ever more possible and, finally, by certain projects of law in the matter of genetic technology which are not sufficiently respectful of the human quality of the embryo." [LifeSite Daily News, 19 December]

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