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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 12 January 2001

12 January 2001

12 January 2001 News that the world's first genetically modified monkey has been born in the United States was greeted with concern by those who fear that the same technique could soon be tried with humans. Dr David King, co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering, warned: "This is yet another step on the slippery slope to designer babies." The genetic code of the monkey, named ANDi [sic], contains a gene taken from a jellyfish which causes it to glow green under ultraviolet light (although ANDi has yet to exhibit this quality). 224 genetically modified eggs were fertilised in order to produce 40 embryos, five pregnancies and three live births, only one of which contained the jellyfish gene. [Daily Telegraph, 12 January] A British government minister has added further weight to the assertion of pro-lifers that abortion is being promoted as an option of equal value to keeping the baby and adoption as part of the government's strategy to cut teenage pregnancy rates. Yvette Cooper, minister for public health, wrote in a House of Commons written reply: "...personal advisors will ensure that pregnant teenagers have access to comprehensive and impartial advice and counselling in the early stages of pregnancy so they are able to make informed decisions, including whether to continue with the pregnancy, adoption or abortion." [Hansard, 9 January] The Vatican has expressed "grave reservations" about a technique for generating embryonic stem cells which the Italian government had hoped would win the Catholic Church's approval. The technique, referred to as TNSA, is a type of cloning which apparently involves the transfer of genetic information from a human ovum and the creation of stem cells without requiring the creation of human embryos. The Pontifical Academy for Life had said that TNSA was only a hypothetical possibility, a response which was reportedly taken by the Italian health ministry as a form of encouragement. However, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Academy, clarified the Church's position by stating that the technique was not only hypothetical but "incredible". He stressed that it would be immoral to suppress the development of a human embryo to produce stem cells. [EWTN News, 11 January ] Catholics in the American state of Oregon have expressed concern that a state-funded pre-natal screening programme could usher in eugenics. Bob Castagna, executive director of the Oregon Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, objected to the proposal put forward by Governor John Kitzhaber for pre-natal screening of all (would-be) first-born children. The scheme, which would be the first in America, would aim to identify medical and social risks so that children [who are lucky enough to be born] can "succeed in life, in school and avoid future problems such as drug addiction, school failure, delinquency or incarceration". [CNS, 11 January ] The government of Guatemala is to spend 2.3 million dollars on family planning and so-called reproductive health programmes. It was reported that the programme will include the promotion of abortifacient methods of birth control. Christian leaders have warned that the programme has a double agenda with hidden interests. [LifeSite Daily News, 11 January ] Legislators in the American state of Nebraska have said that no attempt will be made to pass another law banning partial-birth abortions until there is a change in the makeup of the US Supreme Court. Nebraska's previous ban on partial birth abortions was thrown out by the US Supreme Court last year on the basis that it was too vague and did not include an exception for cases when the health of the mother was threatened. Jon Bruning, a state senator, said: "In my discussion with pro-life groups, none of us could find a way to craft a health exception that was tight enough to prevent Dr Carhart [the abortionist who had challenged Nebraska's law] from claiming it in every case." [Omaha World Herald, 12 January ] The Catholic bishops of Canada have said that they are "deeply disturbed" by the national government's insistence that all provinces must fund abortions in private clinics. In a letter to Allan Rock, the federal health minister, the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops affirmed that there was no evidence to suggest that all abortions were medically necessary. The Council furthermore criticised the anti-life policies of the federal government, including the authorisation of clinical trials involving the RU-486 abortion drug. The letter, which was signed by Archbishop Bertrand Blanchet of Rimouski, chairman of the Catholic Organisation for Life and Family, stated: "We deplore this failure to protect the unborn child who is so vulnerable and in need of our care." [LifeSite Daily News, 11 January ]

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