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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 26 October 2000

26 October 2000

26 October 2000 Professor Lord Robert Winston, the British fertility expert and in vitro fertilisation pioneer, has expressed his support for the reproductive cloning of human beings. In an interview with The Independent newspaper, Professor Winston said: "I can't see why people are feeling threatened by this. It seems to me there might be a use in people with total sterility." He then acknowledged that reproductive cloning would entail hundreds of unsuccessful attempts, but insisted that "as long as research is conducted responsibly and ethically, this field of work will cease to be controversial". Professor Winston's comments came in the run-up to a vote in parliament next week on a bill which would authorise so-called therapeutic cloning. Even though the bill is expected to fail, the government has promised a free vote on the subject before the end of the year. In a letter to all members of parliament, John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warned that Professor Winston was "misleading the public over human cloning" by using "linguistic sleight of land to erode the moral significance of human cloning". Making the point that both therapeutic and reproductive cloning entailed "treating human beings as commodities to be ordered or disposed of at will", Mr Smeaton said: "It is vital that MPs do not take their moral lead from Lord Winston." [The Independent and SPUC media release , 26 October] The student union of Cambridge University, England, is to hold a referendum on whether to affiliate to the National Abortion Campaign (NAC). Student representatives had originally voted in favour of a motion, presented by the union's women's officer, to affiliate to the NAC last term. However, following protests from the university's pro-life movement and others that the vote had taken place without any consultation, a second vote was held and the motion rejected. Sarah Macken, of Student LifeNet, said that the referendum was instigated by NAC supporters "in a last desperate attempt to force the motion on the students". 15 British universities are currently affiliated to the NAC, which campaigns for abortion up to birth and the training of nurses to specialise in abortions. [Catholic Herald, 27 October] A British parliamentarian who is well-known for his pro-life views has been elected speaker (chairman) of the House of Commons. Michael Martin, a Scottish Labour MP, is the first Catholic to be elected to the position since the Reformation in the 16th century. [Catholic Herald, 27 October] Researchers in the United States have revealed for the first time that they have created human embryos for the sole purpose of research. Scientists at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in the state of Virginia claimed to have created 40 embryos whose stem cells they then extracted. However, about 110 eggs were actually fertilised altogether [each one a new and unique human being]. Rules which limit US federally-funded researchers to work on embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment do not apply to private researchers. Scientists are already allowed to create embryos for research in the UK, although spare IVF embryos are usually used due to a shortage of egg donors. [Ottawa Citizen online, 25 October ]

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