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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 October 2000

20 October 2000

20 October 2000 Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, will urge Catholics attending Sunday Mass in his diocese next weekend to join the campaign against all forms of human cloning by writing to their members of parliament. Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, plans to introduce a 10-minute rule bill on 31 October which would authorise the cloning of human beings for so-called therapeutic purposes. In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Nichols describes so-called therapeutic cloning as "a grave abuse of human life in its most vulnerable form" as it "involves the direct and deliberate destruction of innocent human life". He then exhorts the faithful to contact their MP, even if they have never done so before, and warns: "The issue at stake here is of fundamental moral importance. The decision will set the scene for much more to follow. Far too much respect for human life has already been lost through the changes made in British law." John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, pointed out that, even though Dr Harris's bill had little chance of success, the government had already promised MPs a free vote on the issue of so-called therapeutic cloning before the end of the year. [Catholic Herald, 20 October] The decision by the High Court in London two weeks ago that the new Human Rights Act did not protect patients in so-called permanent vegetative states from being dehydrated and starved to death in hospital might be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. A group of 25 members of the British parliament say that they are considering the move, and in a joint statement they also criticised the British Medical Association's guidelines which, they said, "call for doctors to be allowed to cause death" without even obtaining court approval. [Catholic Herald, 20 October] A woman who refused to have an abortion when she was diagnosed with cancer over three years ago, and who subsequently gave birth to a healthy daughter, has given birth to her second child. Polly Carnegie, from Suffolk, England, was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after she discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. She was given the choice of having an abortion or refusing treatment and proceeding with the pregnancy after which the cancer would be inoperable. She chose to have a mastectomy and undergo chemotherapy during pregnancy, while delaying radiotherapy treatment until after the birth. She amazed doctors when her daughter was born healthy in 1997. [Daily Telegraph, 20 October] The research director of Life, a British pro-life charity, has left the Labour Party in protest at the government's support for so-called therapeutic cloning of human embryos. Peter Garrett, who was the chief fundraiser for the Labour Life Group and whose uncle and grandfather were both Labour MPs, said: "I have realised I am being boiled alive by a pro-death culture which raises the temperature year on year. Human cloned embryo farms simply puts us off the temperature scales and leaves me no option but to continue my struggle outside the party." [Catholic Herald, 20 October] An opinion poll conducted in the American state of Illinois has suggested that men are more in favour of the RU-486 abortion pill's being marketed than women. The Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to authorise sales of the drug was supported by 53 percent of men, but by only 39 percent of women. [Copley news service, 19 October ] An American newspaper has reported on the success of a room set up at a Catholic church in eastern Massachusetts designed to give parents of miscarried babies a place to grieve the loss of their child. Barbara Thorp, director of pro-life activities for the Archdiocese of Boston, said: "This was not done as a pro-life statement, but it certainly reflects what the Church teaches: that these children are as much to be held in love and reverence as any other child at any other stage of development." [Star-Telegram, 17 October , from The Boston Globe]

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