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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 7 July 2000

7 July 2000

7 July 2000 It has emerged that researchers in Britain are circumventing the present ban on all human cloning by importing embryo stem cells from the United States. The cells, stored in dry ice, were imported from Wisconsin several months ago and were taken from discarded embryos produced by in vitro fertilisation treatment. Professor Peter Andrews of Sheffield University, who is conducting the research, said that the loophole showed the British government was being hypocritical in its approach. Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "The lack of a sound moral principle underpinning our embryology laws is bound to lead to all sorts of anomalies." [BBC News online, 6 July; Daily Express, 7 July; The Guardian, 7 July] Similar plans by German scientists to import embryo stem cells from the United States were reported in this digest on 21 June. The Catholic bishops of Ireland have told the all-party committee on the constitution which is currently looking into the abortion issue that the Irish constitution must be changed to include a specific ban on abortion. The existing constitutional wording was interpreted by the Irish Supreme Court in a way which allowed a teenage girl to have an abortion when she threatened suicide. The bishops described this judgement as seriously flawed, and warned that if it were allowed to stand, or enacted into legislation, the fundamental principle that every human life is of value in itself would be lost. Bishop Laurence Ryan of Kildare and Leighlin said: "We believe that what is required is a constitutional amendment that would protect the right to life of the unborn child, while recognising that an expectant mother who is ill must receive such medical treatment as is necessary, even when that treatment, as a side-effect, puts her unborn child at risk." [Catholic World News, 6 July] An Italian couple from Trapani who are expecting septets (seven babies) have refused an offer by doctors to abort some of their unborn children. Mariella Mazzara, aged 31, conceived unexpectedly while taking fertility drugs after in vitro fertilisation had failed. She was offered abortions after being told that otherwise she could lose all the babies, but she responded by saying, "Who are we to decide which embryos should be eliminated? We hope for the natural evolution of the pregnancy." Giovanni Pirrera, aged 32 and father of the septets, said: "We accept all the children that God gives us and, if the Lord wills, we will be given the grace to carry on with the pregnancy, there is nothing else to say." [Zenit news agency, 6 July] An auxiliary bishop in the Catholic archdiocese of Toronto has criticised the Catholic Women's League in Ontario for omitting to include in its upcoming convention's information pack comments by bishops who oppose the March of Women 2000. Bishop Nicola De Angelis, the League's spiritual advisor in Ontario, was concerned that the pack included statements in support of the march, such as from the Canadian Bishops' Conference, but not comments by bishops who object to participation in a march which will include pro-abortion groups. Betty Anne Brown, president of the Ontario CWL, responded in her own letter by saying, "I am sorry that you promulgated your opinion without passing it by me first," and added, "We are an autonomous women's organisation in which males do not have a vote on policy." She insisted that the CWL has always been pro-life, but accused "anti-abortion people" of being "jealous of our influence and the fact that we are listened to by governments." "It is they who are trying to discredit us. We will not fall to their smear campaigns," she wrote. [Catholic World News, 6 July]

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