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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 10 April 2001

10 April 2001

10 April 2001 The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has urged lawyers to use human rights legislation to protect unborn children from the moment of conception. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, made his appeal in Counsel, the official barristers' magazine. He wrote that there had been a "grave erosion of the right to life through laws on abortion and embryo research" and called on lawyers to use the Human Rights Act and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights to build up a genuine human rights culture through case law which recognised the rights of the unborn. [Independent, 9 April ] The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated certain aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK national law last October, including the right to life. Reports in the British media have highlighted the potential of human fat tissue as a source of stem cells which could be converted into other types of tissue. A research team led by Marc Hendrick of the University of California at Los Angeles has succeeded in converting fat tissue into muscle, bone and cartilage. Adult stem cells provide a promising and ethical alternative to the destructive use of human embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. Adam Katz, another member of Dr Hendrick's research team, said that he believed that the potential of fat tissue could make the use of foetal stem cells obsolete. [The Times and Independent , 10 April] It has been reported in this news digest that stem cells from fat tissue could be converted into bone cells [19 October 2000 ] and cartilage [28 February 2001 ]. The upper house of the Dutch parliament is expected to vote in favour of legalising euthanasia later today. A clear majority of the Dutch people are said to support the legislation, which contains a number of conditions such as that the patient should be experiencing "unbearable suffering". However, pro-life campaigners have objected to the legalisation of deliberate killing, and Yvonne Timmerman of the Christian Democrats has argued that the provision of adequate palliative care should be the priority. Britain's Independent newspaper has praised the Dutch measure and called for similar legislation to be passed in the UK. [BBC news online and Independent , 10 April] The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico has condemned the abortifacient morning-after pill, insisting that it should not be referred to as a contraceptive because it can kill early human life. Addressing a youth congress in Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said: "We must make all medical and pharmaceutical professionals aware, so that they will be witnesses to the value of human life and defend the weakest and defenceless, which is the case with the human embryo- an innocent victim of a culture and policy unable adequately to support the dignity of the person." [Zenit, 8 April ] The pro-abortion mayor of New York City has said that the availability of abortion is more consistent with his own Republican party's philosophical underpinnings than the pro-life position. This is despite the fact that his party's national policy platform contains a call for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that Republicans stood for increased individual freedom, including freedom to choose abortion. [Cybercast News Service, 9 April ] Priests for Life, an American pro-life organisation, is offering a reward of 50,000 dollars to anyone who provides the authorities with information leading to the capture of fugitives wanted for shootings at abortion clinics. Fr Frank Pavone, the organisation's director, described those who shot abortionists as "pro-choice" because they thought that it was sometimes acceptable to take a life to solve a problem [thus equating them with the abortionists themselves]. "We reject that philosophy," he said. Fr Pavone also unveiled a nationwide advertising initiative offering Church support to women who were hurting after having abortions. [Staten Island Live, 30 March ]

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