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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 November 2000

20 November 2000

20 November 2000 Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has affirmed his personal support for stem cell research on human embryos. In a speech to the European Bioscience Conference in London last Friday, Mr Blair suggested that moral concerns over such research were "anti-science" and said: "...our conviction about what is natural or right should not inhibit the role of science in discovering the truth." He continued: "Some people are opposed in principle to all forms of embryo research on ethical grounds. But we must also recognise that when stem cell research has huge potential to improve the lives of those suffering from disease, there are also strong ethical arguments in favour..." [Daily Telegraph, 18 November; Prime Minister's speech, 10 Downing Street Newsroom, 17 November ] The Conservative opposition's front bench health spokesman was among those who spoke out against research into so-called therapeutic cloning in the British House of Commons last Friday. Dr Philip Hammond warned that science was pushing ahead of the moral consensus. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "It is encouraging that we appear to have a more ethically-aware Conservative front bench team than when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was debated under Margaret Thatcher, when human experimentation was legalised with her backing..." Yvette Cooper, a government health minister, spoke in the debate to stress her support for government proposals to authorise cloning research. The adjournment debate ended without any vote on the subject itself. [BBC News online, 17 November ; SPUC media release, 17 November ] Lord Winston, the prominent pro-abortion British fertility expert, has called for a public debate over whether gene technology should be used to modify the genetic codes of human beings permanently so as to eradicate serious genetic anomalies. Lord Winston acknowledged the risk that genetic engineering could be used for social rather than medical reasons, and also warned that altering the DNA of future generations could have serious unforeseen consequences. [BBC News online, 17 November ] A national opinion poll in the Republic of Ireland has indicated that a clear majority favour a new referendum to resolve the abortion issue. The Irish Independent/IMS poll found that 62 percent of respondents favoured a referendum offering a clear choice as to whether abortion should be permitted in some cases or ruled out in all cases, while 27 percent were against. Support for a referendum was relatively evenly spread between both sexes and between all ages, regions and classes. [The Irish Independent, 18 November ] Researchers at the University of Leicester, England, have claimed that Mirena, an intra-uterine device (IUD) or coil which releases small amounts of the hormone progestagen, could help to prevent some of the side-effects associated with tamoxifen, a drug used to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. [The reports erroneously described IUDs as contraceptives, when in fact they are thought to function primarily as abortifacients by preventing fertilised eggs from implanting in the lining of the womb.] [BBC News online, 17 November ] The Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver, Canada, has told Catholics that the right to life should be the most important issue when deciding how to vote in the country's general election later this month. The archdiocesan Office of Life and Family published A Canadian Catholic Voter's Catechism, under the authority of Archbishop Adam Exner, which stated: "The most basic of all our rights is the right to life - the right from which all other rights flow ... First, we must vote for candidates and parties that uphold the right to life for all Canadians, and for all human beings everywhere." [LifeSite Daily News, 17 November ]

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