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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 1 November 2000

1 November 2000

1 November 2000 Members of the British House of Commons yesterday rejected by a margin of more than two to one a bill which would have authorised research on cloned human embryos. Dr Evan Harris, who acknowledged during his speech that a large number of people had written to their MPs opposing the measure, saw his 10-minute rule bill defeated by 175 votes to 83. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "This is a healthy start to our campaign against human cloning. However, while Dr Harris' bill has failed, I have had a letter from the government this week which made it clear that they will be introducing regulations to facilitate research on cloned human embryos before the year is out. Tony Blair [the prime minister] has given his personal support to destructive research on human embryos. The government mistakenly claims that research on cloned human embryos does not raise any new ethical issues. I am astonished at their blindness." [SPUC eye-witness and media release , 31 October] A British pro-life lobbying group has lodged an appeal in the English High Court in what has been described as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the operation to separate Siamese twins Jodie and Mary. The procedure to save Jodie would entail the direct killing of Mary. Lawyers acting for Bruno Quintavalle, director of the Pro-Life Alliance, will try on Friday to have Laurence Oates, the official solicitor, removed as Mary's guardian. This could then leave the way open for the case to be taken to the House of Lords. Robin Cooper, who is representing Mr Quintavalle, said that the House of Lords would have been very willing to have heard the case if the official solicitor had decided to lodge the appeal, and that his decision not to do so had denied Mary a decision at the highest level. [BBC News online, 31 October ] The Vatican has strongly condemned the morning-after pill. A document issued yesterday by the Pontifical Academy for Life criticised the decision to make the drug available in Italy as "a method of emergency contraception" because it is not contraceptive but works by expelling an embryo from the womb. The document stated that "it is clear that in fact the morning-after pill is nothing other than an abortion obtained by chemical means", and said that those who distributed or prescribed it were "morally responsible" for an abortion. As such, it urged health workers to become "conscientious objectors" by refusing to have anything to do with such "new hidden forms of aggression" against unborn human life. [Zenit news agency, 31 October] A researcher in England has warned that induced abortions will lead to a 60 percent rise in the incidence of breast cancer between 1993 and 2023. Patrick Carroll, whose research was commissioned by the Life charity, is director of the Pension and Population Research Institute. He told the Royal Statistical Society that figures released by the Office for National Statistics indicated a steep increase in breast cancer rates among women in the later 40s between 1985 and 1993. He concluded: "There may be other reasons for this increase, such as hormonal contraception and the reduction in the average size of families, but the greater incidence of abortion is probably the main factor." [Zenit news agency, 31 October] A court in Holland has further extended the boundaries within which euthanasia is tolerated. The present situation is that euthanasia is tolerated only if the patient is experiencing "unbearable suffering, devoid of any hope", but a doctor who gave a lethal drug cocktail to a severely depressed 86-year-old former politician, despite the fact that he was not suffering unbearable physical pain, has been acquitted by a court in Haarlem on the basis that "unbearable suffering" need not necessarily entail unrelenting physical pain. Legislation which would officially legalise euthanasia in Holland is still being considered by the Dutch parliament. [Zenit news agency, 31 October] A team of 10 specialists in Austria have performed complex and life-saving heart surgery on an unborn child no larger than a tennis ball. The unborn child needed to have a defective heart valve rebuilt, and would have died within two weeks had the operation not gone ahead. Dr Wolfgang Arzt, who led the team, said: "We went through the womb, through the placenta, through the ribs of the foetus into the heart. From there we went into the right ventricle with an ultra-fine needle." A balloon catheter was then inserted into a valve and expanded to create an opening four millimetres wide. [Daily Record, 1 November ]

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