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News, 31 July 2000

31 July 2000

31 July 2000 The British government's science minister has effectively pre-empted the publication of the Donaldson committee's report on human cloning by saying that "the important benefits which can come from this research outweigh any other considerations one might have." Lord Sainsbury said that his comments were a personal opinion, although official sources have admitted that he was reflecting the view of the government. One source indicated that the government would be publishing the report of Professor Liam Donaldson's committee, together with its own response, in two weeks' time, although other reports suggested that this will not happen until September. Despite insistences from Lord Sainsbury that no final decision had yet been made, many newspapers have taken his comments as proof that the matter has been decided and John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, remarked: "Surely the government should have published the report, allowed a debate and then come to a decision." It is expected that the report will make a distinction between reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning, with research on the latter being allowed to proceed. Tom Horwood, a spokesman for the Catholic Church, said: "We are fundamentally opposed to any such development." [The Observer&Sunday Times, 30 July; BBC News online&Daily Mail, 31 July] So-called therapeutic cloning involves the creation of a new and distinct human being whose stem cells are removed and who is then destroyed. He or she is thus denied any right to life. Advertisements placed in a British hospital by a charity which offers pro-life counselling to women have been removed at the insistence of the local health authority. The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford approached the Life charity, which provided advertisements offering women support, accommodation and post-abortion counselling. The advertisements were accepted and put up in May, but then began to be covered up and have now been taken down. The hospital said that the Oxford Community Health Council made the decision. [Catholic Herald, 28 July] The Supreme Court of Indiana, USA, has recognised the right of parents to sue physicians who fail to warn of possible defects in their unborn children. The decision allows parents to collect damages for the emotional distress of having a severely disabled child when, had they known of the disability before birth, they could have aborted the child. The concept of "wrongful birth" is already used in a number of other states. [The Indianapolis Star, 26 July] A federal court in Australia has thrown out a ban on in vitro fertilisation treatment for single women. Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne condemned the ruling as a "massive social experiment" which paved the way for children to be treated as commodities. [The Age, 28 July; from LifeSite Daily News] Most new human beings generated by IVF treatment die in the process, usually termed wastage. One expert has suggested that only 1.7 percent of conceptions result in a live birth. [Dr E L Billings, India, August 1999] A national survey conducted in the US has indicated that most Americans have not changed their positions on abortion during the last five or 10 years, but that those who have changed are more likely to favour increased restrictions on the procedure. The Zogby survey indicated that 12.4 percent now hold a more restrictive view, as compared to 5.5 percent who favour fewer restrictions. [Reuters / Zogby, Yahoo! News, 27 July] A prominent politician in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island has attacked the provincial government's failure either to provide abortion services in its own hospitals, or to pay for women to have abortions in other provinces under its health plan. Dr Herb Dickieson, leader of the New Democratic Party in Prince Edward Island affirmed his own party's pro-abortion stance and said that the province could face a court challenge for contravening the Canada Health Act. [Journal Pioneer, 28 July; from Pro-Life E-News] The Conservative premier of New Edward Island is Pat Binns. He has said that abortion is "wrong under all circumstances." [Pro-Choice Press, Summer 1997]

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