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News, 15 November 2000

15 November 2000

15 November 2000 The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued a statement to express their great concern at proposals to authorise the cloning of human embryos for research purposes. The bishops stressed that such research was immoral "because it involves the deliberate creation and destruction of new human lives for the sole purpose of extracting stem cells for research. It strips an individual human life, in its earliest form, of all dignity, reducing it to no more than a commodity, a supply of disposable organic matter". The bishops also insisted that it was unnecessary, citing the potential of other avenues of stem cell research, and urged all Catholics to write to their member of parliament on the issue. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "We welcome the leadership being provided by the Catholic Church with regard to the British government's backing for destructive experiments on cloned human embryos." [Statement from the Catholic Media Office, 15 November ; SPUC comment] A study into teenage pregnancies in Doncaster, England, has suggested that many girls in deprived areas refuse to have abortions on account of the social stigma attached. The report, which was carried out on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, claimed that peer group pressure, family pressures and lack of information meant that girls continued with unplanned pregnancies. The report's authors used their findings to argue that better information on abortion should be made available to young women, and the National Abortion Campaign emphasised this point. Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, described the report as "biased and outdated" and observed that it should be seen as "part of a wider pro-abortion agenda which is being pushed subtly yet unremittingly by government." [BBC News online , The Times , The Guardian and SPUC media release , 15 November] A European Union ethics panel has said that research into so-called therapeutic cloning of human embryos is premature. In a report presented to French President Jacques Chirac, who currently holds the presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, the European Group of Ethics in Science and New Technologies recommended that alternatives to the use of cloned embryos for stem cell research should take priority. The report stated: "There is a wide field of research to be carried out with alternative sources of human cells: from spare [sic] embryos, foetal tissues and adult stem cells." [AFP, 14 November; via Yahoo! News ] If the British parliament votes to authorise so-called therapeutic research on human embryos, which would entail the cloning of embryos for stem cell extraction, the UK would become the first country to authorise and finance such practices. It has been reported that some fertility experts in the UK are concerned that authorisation of research into so-called therapeutic cloning could lead to a shortage of donated eggs for fertility treatment. Dr Tony Rutherford of Leeds General Infirmary pointed out that demand for donated eggs has risen by 20 to 25 percent year-on-year for the last three to four years, and warned: "They are going to need healthy volunteers just as we need healthy volunteers." [BBC News online, 14 November ] A British couple will today take a fertility clinic to court for breach of contract because they were given triplets instead of twins. Peter and Patricia Thompson claim that they only agreed to the implantation of two embryos, and were shocked to learn that three embryos generated through in vitro fertilisation had been implanted. Mrs Thompson refused to have one of her unborn children aborted and gave birth to three healthy babies, but now believes that she should be compensated for the extra expense. [Guardian Unlimited, 15 November ] Figures released by the Office for National Statistics in Britain have indicated that nearly one in nine Irish pregnancies are being terminated in British abortion clinics. In the first three months of this year, 1,667 women with Irish addresses had abortions in Britain, compared with 13,894 births in Ireland over the same period. The number of abortions represents 12 percent of the number of births, or 10.7 percent of recorded pregnancies (i.e. births and abortions taken together). [Ireland on Sunday, 12 November ] It has been reported that the RU-486 abortion drug will be made available to abortion practitioners this week, under the tradename of Mifeprex. The price of the drug has been set by Danco Laboratories at 270 dollars, although this does not include the cost of misoprostol (which must be taken in conjunction with RU-486) or the charges levied by abortionists and counsellors. [LifeSite Daily News, 14 November ]

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