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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 12 April 2001

12 April 2001

12 April 2001 Scientists working for an American company believe they have developed a new method of obtaining a plentiful supply of embryonic stem cells from the placenta expelled by a mother after childbirth. If verified, this would constitute an ethical alternative to the destructive use of human embryos as a source of stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning. The scientists have not yet been able to prove that the stem cells are embryonic in nature, but John Haines, chief executive of Anthrogenesis Corp. of Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, said that he thought the discovery would make obsolete "the need to use human foetuses or blastocysts [newly conceived human persons] as sources of stem cells". [CNS, 11 April ; Star Tribune, 12 April ] Catholic leaders in Rome and the Netherlands as well as political and religious leaders in Germany have been among those to issue condemnations of the vote by Dutch legislators to legalise euthanasia. German president Johannes Rau added his words of criticism to those of many German politicians, religious leaders and doctors. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, chairman of the German Catholic bishops' conference, and Manfred Kock, president of Germany's council of Protestant churches, both condemned the vote. Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, archbishop of Utrecht and leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, expressed his sadness and shame over the vote, which he said was "a black day" for his country and for the whole of Europe. The Vatican described the Dutch decision as "aberrant" and "macabre". An editorial in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, stated: "Killing a patient is a criminal act ... The Dutch law is worthy of condemnation and reprobation." [Frankfurter Allgemeine, 12 April ; Pro-Life Infonet and Zenit, 11 April ] A pilot scheme in California which makes the abortifacient morning-after pill available to women without a doctor's prescription has been criticised both by pro-lifers and by doctors. Under the scheme, women can obtain the drug from pharmacists by presenting referral cards issued by participating clinics. Under a state law passed in 1999, the clinics have the power to delegate their authority to pharmacists for specific patients. The Right to Life League of Southern California condemned the initiative because the morning-after pill can cause early abortions, and the California Medical Association also came out against the scheme because it excluded doctors from the consultation process. [AP, from Union Tribune, 11 April ; Los Angeles Times, from Yahoo! News, 12 April ] A pro-life Democrat who served as mayor of Boston and then US ambassador to the Vatican has described how Pope John Paul II personally requested a telephone conversation with President Clinton on the issue of abortion during the 1994 United Nations conference on population in Cairo. The US delegation was promoting an international right to abortion, and Ray Flynn reports in his new book that the Pope said to him: "We must be a world that values and protects and respects all life. I look forward to talking to him about that." However, Mr Flynn was unable to obtain any response from the White House and then found his attempts to arrange a telephone conversation frustrated on his return to Washington. Eventually President Clinton agreed to speak with the Pope, but only as a courtesy. [Pro-Life Infonet, 11 April] A senior Vatican cardinal has said that the use of unborn human beings in research or to provide spare organs leads to hell. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that "the contempt for man that underlies it, when man is used and abused, leads - like it or not - to a descent into hell." [LifeSite Daily News, 11 April ; Zenit ]

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