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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 7 November 2000

7 November 2000

7 November 2000 The 20-hour operation to separate Siamese twins Jodie and Mary ended at 5 o'clock this morning in St Mary's hospital, Manchester. The hospital confirmed that "despite all the efforts of the medical team, Mary sadly died". Jodie is said to be in a "critical, but stable condition", though the next 72 hours are critical. [BBC News online, 7 November ] A report which the Royal Society will present to members of the British parliament today recommends that research using stem cells derived from cloned human embryos should be permitted. Dr Richard Gardener, leading author of the report, said that embryonic stem cells still provided the most promising means of providing replacement tissue despite "exciting recent reports" indicating the potential of adult stem cells. Dr Gardener said that research should be carried out into both embryonic and adult stem cells, but that, if the former were outlawed, British scientists might decide to continue their research abroad. [BBC News online, 7 November ] The British government is expected to place statutory instruments which would authorise research into so-called therapeutic cloning before both houses of parliament very soon, and votes on the proposals have been promised before the end of the year. A couple are making legal history in France by seeking compensation for the birth of their severely handicapped son in 1983. Josette Perruche caught rubella during her pregnancy, a condition which caused her unborn child's handicap. Josette and Christian Perruche have argued that the failure of doctors to diagnose the rubella prevented Josette from opting for an abortion. Whereas the couple's representative argued in court that the case simply concerned "the scope of compensation due because of the medical error", the public prosecutor warned that a dangerous precedent could be set whereby the recognition of a right 'not to live' might lead to a systematic killing of all handicapped unborn children. [Reuters, Yahoo! News, 3 November ] Pope John Paul II has denounced what he termed "the radical contradiction" of vigorous affirmations of human rights which do not extend the right to life to unborn children. Addressing delegates of the Council of Europe, the Pope said: "It is my fervent hope that the moment will soon come when it will be equally understood that an enormous injustice is committed when innocent life in the womb of the mother is not safeguarded. This radical contradiction is possible only when freedom is sundered from the truth inherent in the reality of things, and democracy divorced from transcendent values." [Zenit news agency, 3 November] Peter Garrett, director of research and education for the charity Life, is planning to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming British parliamentary by-election in Preston, Lancashire. Standing on a pro-life policy platform for the Preston Alliance, Mr Garrett has been endorsed by both the Pro-Life Alliance and the Christian People's Alliance. He recently resigned from the Labour party in protest over the Labour government's anti-life policies. [The Tablet, 4 November] Thailand's council of state has reaffirmed the country's ban on abortion except in cases of rape, threat to the physical health of the mother or foetal health problems. The council had been asked to rule on whether women with HIV or AIDS could abort their unborn children, but it replied that, since the women would eventually die anyway, their health could not be taken into account as a criterion for abortion. The Bangkok Post claimed that there was "growing pressure for a change in the law" and reported that Dr Tawee Chotevithayasunon of the Children's Hospital had called on public interest groups to lobby for a change in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and orphans. [Bangkok Post, 7 November ; also CRLP data] The Roman Catholic apostolic administrator of Eastern Siberia, Russia, has announced the launch of an aid programme to persuade pregnant women not to have abortions. Bishop Jerzy Mazur said that the principal reasons for Russia's high abortion rates were poverty and the disintegration of family values following the fall of communism. He said that the Sisters of St Anne would provide help for Siberian women who might otherwise decide to abort their babies. [Zenit news agency, 6 November] The leader of the Canadian Alliance party has downplayed suggestions that, if his party were elected, he would seek to hold a referendum on the issue of abortion. Stockwell Day [who is known to be personally opposed to abortion] said that he did not think the public wanted the abortion debate re-opened. [Montreal Gazette, 6 November ]

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