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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 19 October 2000

19 October 2000

19 October 2000 Nurses are to provide the morning-after pill to women returning from holidays at Manchester airport in England. John Denham, government health minister, opened the airport's National Health Service drop-in centre yesterday. It is one of 36 such centres due to open around the country before the end of the month. [Daily Express and Daily Mail, 19 October] The European Parliament will debate next week whether to remove the monopoly on European Union funding for women's groups currently enjoyed by the extreme pro-abortion European Women's Lobby. Last month the parliament's committee on budgets narrowly agreed to recommend funding for other women's groups, and the Coalition of Real Women in Europe is asking European pro-life and pro-family groups to lobby members of the parliament to support amendment number 912 on budget line A-3037 at the forthcoming plenary session. The debate will begin next Wednesday (25 October), with voting scheduled for 10 o'clock the next morning. [Coalition of Real Women in Europe, 19 October - contact euromum2001@yahoo.com ] Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have revealed that cells in human fat have been coaxed to grow into bone cells. The news suggests that fat deposits could provide an abundant source of adult stem cells which could be grown into a range of different types of body tissue. Dr Louis P Bucky said that fat deposits could provide "a potentially unlimited source of cells to turn into mature cells of different types" unlike stem cells extracted from adult bone marrow. [Reuters Health, 18 October ] This provides yet more evidence of the potential of ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and so-called therapeutic cloning. Police in Mexico have raided a clinic run by Marie Stopes International following claims that abortions were being performed at the centre. A doctor and a nurse, both of whom denied any wrongdoing, were released after 10 hours. A spokesman for Marie Stopes International, which is based in England, denied that any of its three clinics in Mexico's Chiapas state had performed abortions. [The Boston Globe, 18 October] The highest constitutional court in Costa Rica has outlawed in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The decision was made public last March, but the court's reasons were published only last week. The judgement stated that "the human embryo is a person from the moment of conception ... not an object ... not to be frozen". Citing the fact that the IVF procedure often entailed the death of embryos, the court ruled that it was "not constitutionally legitimate" for human embryos "to be exposed to disproportionate risk of death". When IVF was authorised in Costa Rica by way of an executive decree in 1995, regulations prohibited the creation of more than six embryos, all of whom had to be transferred into the mother's womb. This prevented the massive level of 'wastage' which results from IVF procedures in other countries, but nevertheless only one out of six embryos in each case was generally expected to survive. [LifeSite Daily News, 18 October ] Recent comments by Al Gore, the Democrat candidate in next month's US presidential elections, by which he tried to suggest that common ground could be found between pro-abortionists and pro-lifers [see digest for 17 October ] have been criticised by a number of individuals and groups. Mr Gore had signalled his willingness to sign a federal partial-birth abortion ban as long as it included a 'health of the mother' exception. However, it has been pointed out that such an exception would effectively nullify any ban. Chris Smith, chairman of the congressional pro-life caucus, said that the comments were "false, misleading, cynical, highly deceptive and insulting", while a statement released by the National Right to Life Committee described Mr Gore's words as "brazenly misleading". [Catholic News Service, 18 October ; NRL press release, 18 October, from Pro-Life Infonet] Doctors in the United States have claimed that the transplant operation to save Molly Nash has been a success. Dr John Wagner of the University of Minnesota said that the stem cells taken from the umbilical cord of Adam, Molly's brother, had enabled her to start producing her own bone marrow. [Daily Telegraph, 19 October] Adam was generated using in vitro fertilisation, and then selected using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to provide a suitable donor for Molly. Her other siblings created at the same time, but who were not considered appropriate, were discarded. New research has suggested that unborn children whose mothers take painkillers during labour are nearly five times more likely to become addicted to drugs in later life. Dr Karin Nyberg, who led the research team at Gothenburg University in Sweden, published the findings in New Scientist magazine. She suggested that exposure to high-dose medication in the womb "may be an important and preventable risk factor for later substance abuse in humans", although other experts have treated her conclusion with scepticism. [Metro, 19 October]

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