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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 8 September 2000

8 September 2000

8 September 2000 The European parliament yesterday adopted a resolution which unequivocally opposed so-called therapeutic cloning and called on the British government to reconsider its position on the issue. Members of the assembly voted by 237 to 230 (with 43 abstentions) in favour of the resolution, which called on all European Union member states "to introduce binding norms that prohibit all forms of research on any type of human cloning in their territory, and provide penal sanctions for any violation". The resolution explicitly called upon the British government to "modify its intention" to allow such research, and urged the European Union to promote in the United Nations "a universal and specific prohibition of the cloning of human beings at all the stages of their development". It also urged financial backing for research into alternatives to so-called therapeutic cloning. The measure was supported by an unusual coalition of Greens, Conservatives and others, while the majority of Socialist and Liberal groups voted against. The resolution has no legislative force. [Zenit news agency , 7 September] New research has suggested that a pregnant mother can be said to 'inherit' characteristics from her unborn child. Professor Salvatore Mancuso will tell a conference in Rome next week that even before an embryo has implanted in his or her mother's womb, the passing of chemical substances such as hormones and neurotransmitters from child to mother serve to adapt the mother's body to the presence of the new being within her. From the fifth week of pregnancy there is a clear passing of cells as well, and Professor Mancuso observed: "Finally, the child's stem cells pass to the mother in great quantity, both at the moment of birth, whether spontaneous or Caesarean, as well as at the time of abortion, whether spontaneous or voluntary." These stem cells are implanted in the mother's medulla [the lowest part of the brainstem]. Thus the mother undergoes long-term changes by virtue of her child's genetic makeup, indirectly receiving some characteristics from the father. Professor Mancuso added: "Stem cells have been found in the mother even 30 years after the birth. It could be said, therefore, [that] the pregnancy does not last the 40 canonical weeks, but the woman's entire life." [Zenit news agency , 5 September] The government of Ontario, Canada, is to fund a pilot project in Toronto whereby some pharmacists will be allowed to dispense the morning-after pill without a doctor's prescription. It is reported that this will be the first such scheme in Canada after a similar programme originally planned to have got underway in British Columbia last May was halted due to legal problems and has since been delayed indefinitely. [CBC News, 7 September] The Princess Royal has given her backing to so-called therapeutic cloning. Princess Anne [daughter of Queen Elizabeth II] made her comments in her capacity as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at the opening of their annual festival in London. She said that so-called therapeutic cloning holds great attractions for those who may one day be cured of diseases as a result. [The Times, 7 September] This digest has carried reports of a number of ethical alternatives to the cloning of new human beings for the purpose of producing new body tissue and organs. A law which would ban the use of controlled drugs for assisted suicide or euthanasia is to be debated in the US Senate either next Friday (15 September) or on the following Monday. The Pain Relief Promotion Act would allow doctors to use such drugs aggressively to address the pain experienced by terminally ill patients, but clearly limit their use to palliative care. [NRL, 6 September; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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