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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 November 2000

21 November 2000

21 November 2000 The Catholic University of Rome has announced that it will provide an ethical stem cell bank from the beginning of next year. Blood taken from the placenta (an alternative to using - and destroying - human embryos) will be stored at the bank and provide a future source of stem cells not only for those whose umbilical cords were used to provide the blood, but also for those of compatible blood groups. It is hoped that the stem cells could be used to generate new body tissue. Archbishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and director of the Catholic University's bioethics institute, said that stem cells extracted from umbilical cords constituted an ethical and also a potentially more effective alternative to the use of embryos. He observed: "The scientific hypotheses on which the measures promoted by the English and US governments are based lack the necessary foundation, both from the ethical as well as the experimental point of view. Research rewards the use of stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord and proves that it is not necessary to sacrifice embryos." [Zenit news agency, 20 November] An Argentinean archbishop has warned that new legislation to promote contraception would lead to an increased number of abortions. Commenting on the so-called National Programme of Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation, Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata said: "A partial view as the one adopted in the project will hardly achieve its purpose. On the contrary, it will promote the vulgarisation of sexuality and increase the number of abortions and of other negative consequences of the premature and irresponsible exercise of sexual activity." [EWTN News, 17 November ] The Massachusetts state law which established buffer zones around abortion clinics ten days ago, thus hampering the activities of pro-life demonstrators and counsellors [see news digest for 10 November ], has been declared unconstitutional by a US district court judge. Judge Edward F Harrington decided that the law breached the constitutional right to free speech because "pro-life advocates who firmly believe that abortion remains a grave moral evil must be given as equal an opportunity as their opponents to express ... their sincere message of respect for the sanctity of innocent human life". The state's attorney general has not yet decided whether to appeal. [The Boston Globe, 20 November ] A senior Vatican prelate has used the Christmas story to condemn abortion. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, detailed the early life of Jesus Christ in the womb of his mother to emphasise that abortion must be condemned even in the earliest stages of embryonic development. He said: "Two thousand years ago an egg was miraculously fertilised by God's supernatural action... God became no less than a human embryo... The Word of God was absolutely dependent on a human being but it was totally independent genetically." [LifeSite News, 20 November ] New research has suggested that unborn children whose mothers do not have enough to eat in the early stages of pregnancy are more likely to develop heart problems in later life. The research, published in the journal Heart, is based on studies of 700 people born during the Dutch famine in the mid 1940s. [BBC News online, 20 November ] The septuplets born to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughy in the US celebrated their third birthday this week. When the multiple pregnancy was discovered, doctors recommended the selective abortion of some of the unborn babies in order to give the others a better chance of survival. However, all seven are now said to be strong and healthy. [Pro-Life Infonet, 18 November]

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