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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 5 October 2000

5 October 2000

5 October 2000 Two leading fertility experts in the UK have said that they would like to apply for permission to employ the same technique used to create and select baby Adam Nash in a test-tube to be a stem cell donor for his sister. Adam was born recently in the United States after many of his test-tube siblings had been discarded as part of the selection process. Paul Serhal, medical director of the in vitro fertilisation unit at University College Hospital in London, and Simon Fishell, director of the Centres for Assisted Reproduction at Park Hospital in Nottingham, England, are both reported to have expressed support for the procedure. Fertility clinics in Belgium and Germany are also said to be interested in employing the technique. Meanwhile Vivienne Nathanson, head of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, said that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis should only be used to test for 'genetic disorders' and not for any positive traits, including tissue that could be suitable for donation. She insisted: "You have to draw a line between the two." [The Times, Independent and Daily Mail, 5 October] A British couple whose only daughter died last year as a result of a bonfire accident, leaving them with four sons, are planning to use the new Human Rights Act to demand the right to create and select a female child using in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Alan and Louise Masterton claim that their family does not feel complete without a daughter, but that use of PGD could enable them to "create the female dimension again". All five British fertility clinics licensed to screen embryos have declined to help the couple, and the Catholic Church as well as pro-life groups have condemned their request. [The Daily Telegraph, 5 October] A French cabinet minister yesterday published a bill which would liberalise abortion laws. Martine Aubry's bill would extend the legal time-limit from 10 to 12 weeks, allow minors to obtain abortions without their parents' permission, and abolish the current ban on abortion advertising and information campaigns. President Jacques Chirac has said that the extension of the time-limit was acceptable, although he added that cases in which minors could obtain abortions without parental consent should be the exception rather than the rule. [AP, Nando Times, 4 October] The French National Assembly was today expected to debate a private member's bill which would officially allow the morning-after pill to be sold without a doctor's prescription and to be given to minors without parental consent. The government is supporting the bill, while opposition parties have allowed their members a free vote. The move comes after the Council of State last year struck down a decision by Ségolène Royal, the deputy education minister, to authorise school nurses to hand out the Norlevo morning-after pill to pupils. At present, the sale of morning-after pills over the counter from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription is already tolerated in France. [AFP, 4 October, from Pro-Life E-News; AP, Nando Times, 4 October] The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), based in London, has repaid a sum of 700,000 dollars in US aid after it was discovered that they had given the money to two affiliated organisations in India and Uganda which engage in abortion-related activities. Congress has stipulated that recipients of US aid must cease abortion activities as a condition of funding. The disclosure was made in a report by the US General Accounting Office (GAO), which had been asked to carry out an audit of IPPF by the US Senate's foreign relations committee. Marc Thiessen, a spokesman for the committee, said that the news demonstrated IPPF's untrustworthiness. He claimed that IPPF repaid the money only days before the GAO arrived to carry out the audit, and added that the fact that no action had been taken on the part of the US Agency for International Development "makes it clear that current family-planning restrictions are little more than administrative window dressing". [Washington Times, 6 October] The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has said that any woman who takes the RU-486 abortion pill, or any similar drug, is automatically excommunicated. Abortion in most cases is illegal in the Philippines but Alberto Romualdez, the country's health secretary, had said that the drug could possibly be licensed for sale on the basis that it can act as a contraceptive. Several legislators have since signalled their intention to draft bills explicitly banning the drug, and Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the Catholic bishops, said yesterday that use of the pill meant "ipso facto excommunication". Francisco Tatad, majority leader in the Philippine senate, said that the abortion pill was the "lowest point in the history of human society". [Zenit news agency, 4 October; AFP, 4 October, from Pro-Life E-News]

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