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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 October 2000

18 October 2000

18 October 2000 The chairman of the authority which regulates in vitro fertilisation treatment in the UK has said that couples will only be allowed to select their child's sex using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis when a serious hereditary condition would be more likely to be passed on to one sex than the other. Ruth Deech, who chairs the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said that neither the authority nor the public liked the idea of designer babies. Her comments were made in response to a request to select a female baby by Alan and Louise Masterton from Scotland, who have four sons and whose only daughter died last year [see digest for 5 October ]. They claimed to have been denied a fair hearing by the HFEA and signalled their intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of their right to family life. [Metro and BBC News online, 18 October ] A British government minister has denied that the draft European Union charter of fundamental rights will present any challenge to the law governing embryo experimentation in the UK. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department of Health, stated in a written House of Lords answer: "The charter will be a political declaration and is not legally binding. Article 51(1) specifies that the charter is addressed to member states only when they are implementing Union law [sic]. Embryo research is not subject to Union law..." [House of Lords Hansard, 12 October ] Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics in the UK have indicated that 6,226 women from the Irish Republic obtained abortions in Britain during 1999 [equating to 17 such abortions every day of the year, or nearly 120 per week]. This figure compares with 5,891 in 1998. [The Irish Post, 7 October] The Oireachtas all-party committee on the constitution was expected to finalise its report on the abortion issue during a meeting today. Sales of the RU-486 abortion pill, under the trade-name of Mifegyne, will be discontinued in Germany at the end of the year. A spokesman for Femagen Arzneimittel, the distributor, blamed poor sales on the fact that doctors received more money from insurance companies for surgical abortions than for prescribing pills. Exelgyn, the French manufacturer, has yet to decide whether to make the drug available through a different distributor. [AFP, 17 October; from Pro-Life E-News] The archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic has criticised the United Nations for the way in which it promotes access to abortion around the world. Cardinal Nicholás de Jesús López Rodríguez identified three stages in which abortion becomes entrenched. Firstly it is no longer punished, secondly it is officially legalised, and thirdly it is "converted into a new human right universally admitted". The cardinal insisted that the Catholic Church would continue to resist this process. [EWTN News, 17 October ] The US state of Louisiana has abandoned attempts to prevent a permanent injunction on its 1999 law banning most abortions after 22 weeks' gestation. The law set 22 weeks as the point at which an unborn child could survive outside the womb, after which abortions had to be performed in hospitals and efforts made to save the life of the child. The state agreed that the law had too many flaws and could not be defended but Thomas Benton, a lawyer who worked on the original bill, commented: "There's no reason to hang on to a bad act. Kill it and start all over again. We'll win the second time around. We're not giving up." [New Orleans Time-Picayune, 17 October; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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