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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 9 February 2001

9 February 2001

9 February 2001 President Jacques Chirac of France has criticised the British decision to authorise research on cloned human embryos and has called for an international ban on all human cloning. The French president said that he was against so-called therapeutic cloning for ethical reasons and insisted that France would certainly not follow the UK's lead. Although he supported the continuation of the current French provisions under which research is allowed on unused embryos generated through in vitro fertilisation treatment who have been stored for more than five years, President Chirac called for an "absolute ban on the creation of embryos for scientific purposes". He also said that it was vital to fund research into adult stem cells at both the national and European level. [The Times, 9 February ] A woman convicted of punching and kicking her brother's pregnant girlfriend who subsequently lost her child has walked free from court in Scotland after being sentenced to one year's probation. Bernadette Mulholland, 23, was five months pregnant at the time of the attack. Her son was delivered stillborn five weeks later. Leaving court in tears, the mother of three from Motherwell said: "It is a cheap price to put on my baby's life." [Daily Record, 8 February] A week after Danish research suggested that certain painkillers increased the risks of miscarriage [see news digest for 7 February ], a team in England has said that taking low doses of aspirin might help pregnant women achieve a successful pregnancy. Researchers at the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford, whose review of 30 previous studies was published in the British Medical Journal, found that women who had taken anti-platelet drugs such as low-dose aspirin had a 15 percent reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, an eight percent reduced risk of premature birth and a 14 percent reduced risk of their unborn child's dying in the womb. The Danish researchers had suggested that painkillers in the same class as aspirin were associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, although aspirin itself was reportedly not included in their study. [BBC News online, 9 February ] The number of births in European Union countries rose by 1.3% last year to 4.5 million. France saw the biggest rise in births with five percent more than in 1999. Births also rose in Italy (4.3%) and in Ireland (3.7%). Bucking the trend elsewhere in Europe, Great Britain and Finland both experienced a three percent decline in the number of births. [Zenit news agency , 8 February] It has been reported that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the RU-486 abortion drug last September under a fast-track procedure reserved for safe and effective treatments for serious or life-threatening illnesses. Only 30 drugs had ever been approved under this procedure, all for the treatment of debilitating conditions such as AIDS, cancer and leprosy. A memorandum issued by an FDA official stated that "the termination of pregnancy is a serious condition within the scope" of the fast-track procedure. [LifeSite, 8 February ] The American Life League (ALL) has condemned two forms of attack on the early human embryo. Judie Brown, president of ALL, criticised the media for failing to describe the morning-after pill as an abortifacient. She said: "The fact is, the morning-after pill causes the death of the embryonic person in the days between fertilisation and implantation ... this is abortion ... for the media to claim otherwise is irresponsible journalism." Fr Joseph Howard, executive director of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission, a division of ALL, criticised moves in the US Congress to oblige insurance companies to pay for in vitro fertilisation treatment. He stated: "While there are some moral means of treating infertility, in vitro fertilisation is not one of them [since it] has led to the destruction of countless embryonic human persons..." [ALL press release and EWTN , 7 February] A bill has been introduced into the Colorado legislature which would give women the option of arranging funerals for babies who died before birth. Representative Mark Cloer introduced the bill after a hospital in the state refused to release the bodies of his wife's two miscarried babies for burial because they were considered as medical waste. The bill defines foetal death as any "death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother ... irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy". [Rocky Mountain News, 7 February ]

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