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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 23 October 2000

23 October 2000

23 October 2000 Researchers in England announced yesterday that a new and more thorough technique for screening test-tube babies before implantation had been developed. Professor Joy Delhanty and Dr Dagan Wells, both from University College London Medical School, said that the new procedure made it possible to analyse all the chromosomes of embryos generated by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in order to discard any embryo with the tiniest genetic anomaly. At present pre-implantation genetic diagnosis has made it possible to examine only five of the 23 chromosomes. The researchers claimed that the technique would improve the success rate of IVF by making it 'safer', because at present it is thought that chromosomal abnormalities are a major factor in the low proportion of test-tube babies who survive after transfer into the woman. Alison Davis, national co-ordinator of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children's handicap division, commented: "Whatever the scientists say, the true aim of the new test is to detect and eliminate disabled embryos. It is not going to be 'safer' for them. It is simply a more efficient way of detecting and throwing away human beings solely because they have a disability. This is a monstrous attack on the value of human life and on the value of disabled people in particular." [Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Metro and SPUC media release , 23 October] The report of the Oireachtas committee on the constitution, which has been addressing the issue of abortion in Ireland, is expected within two to three weeks, but one opposition member of the Irish parliament has accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern [the prime minister] of bypassing its work. Liz McManus, a Labour TD, claimed that Mr Ahern was trying to reach a separate deal with the three independents on whose support his government relies. All three are demanding a referendum on the subject. [Irish Independent, 23 October ] Concerns have been expressed in Hong Kong that the RU-486 abortion pill may be widely available on the black market after it was announced that the department of health was investigating a medical company for illegal possession of the drug. RU-486 has been used for abortions in China since 1988 and there are now calls for it to be licensed for use in Hong Kong as well, though only under medical supervision. [Hong Kong Mail, 23 October ] The Catholic bishops of the United States have confirmed that any ban on partial-birth abortions must be "without reservation or exception". Bishop Joseph A Fiorenza, president of the national conference of Catholic bishops, and Cardinal William H Keeler, chairman of the bishops' committee for pro-life activities, released their joint statement in response to inquiries as to whether the Church would support any ban which included a 'health of the mother' exception [as Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, has insisted on]. [Catholic News Service, 20 October ] Jean Chrétien, the Canadian prime minister, has called a general election for 27 November. His Liberal party is currently ahead in the opinion polls, with the strongest challenge expected to come from the Canadian Alliance, led by Stockwell Day. Mr Day is reported to be opposed to abortion and said last June that he wanted to "see the legal protection of all innocent human life in Canada". Jean Chrétien, on the other hand, is pro-abortion and even described the right of women to choose abortion as one of his party's great accomplishments. [BBC News, 22 October; also previous SPUC news digests for 5 June and 12 July] The bishops of all four Catholic dioceses in the US state of Massachusetts have reminded voters of their "moral obligation" to bear in mind the "absolute centrality" of life issues when they cast their votes on 7 November. The joint statement, signed by Cardinal Bernard F Law of Boston as well as the bishops of Springfield, Fall River and Worcester, read: "As Catholics, we stand for life. As citizens, we can do no less than vote for candidates who stand with us." [Catholic News Service, 20 October ]

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