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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 15 January 2001

15 January 2001

15 January 2001 A British pro-life group is asking the High Court whether reproductive cloning is already legal in the UK despite government assurances to the contrary. The legal challenge, which is being mounted by the Pro-Life Alliance and is due to be heard in two weeks' time (29 January), comes as members of the House of Lords prepare to vote [probably later this month] on the government's legislation to authorise destructive research on cloned human embryos. Bruno Quintavalle, director of the Pro-Life Alliance, explained that reproductive cloning could be legal because, whereas the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 defined an embryo as a "live human embryo where fertilisation is complete", human cloning entails the creation of human beings without an egg's being fertilised. [The Times, 15 January ] A researcher based in Cambridge, England, has claimed to have discovered a way of converting fully developed adult cells into stem cells which could be used to produce new body tissue. The Times newspaper reported on the work of Dr Ilham Abuljadayel, who says that she discovered the process by chance. If verified, the technique which Dr Abuljadayel calls retrodifferentiation could mean that a large number of stem cells from a patient's own blood could be produced in only a few hours. Professor Adrian Newland of the Royal London Hospital Medical School said that he had managed to repeat Dr Abuljadayel's work with similar results, but that more research was needed to eliminate other possible explanations. He observed: "As it stands, it could be amazing, or it could be inconsequential." It is hoped that adult stem cells could provide an ethical alternative to the use of stem cells from embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. [The Times, 15 January ] The Supreme Court of Argentina has ruled that a mother whose unborn child has been diagnosed with anencephaly can have labour induced early [see news digest for 11 January ]. The justices ruled in favour of the induction on a five-to-three decision, while insisting that the procedure did not constitute an abortion. They urged doctors to do everything possible to preserve the life of the child, even though experts consider that early induction will put the child at an even greater risk of death. It was reported that the court's decision was hailed by feminists in Argentina, a country which enshrines the right to life in its constitution. [LifeSite Daily News, 12 January ] US president-elect George W Bush has signalled his intention to block federal funding for any organisation which promotes or performs abortions overseas. In an interview with the New York Times newspaper he said: "Organisations that promote abortions are organisations I don't want to support." President Clinton approved federal funding for such bodies with an executive order two days after his inauguration. The US Congress approved 425 million dollars in aid for pro-abortion groups last October, but delayed the payment until the new president took office. [New York Post, 14 January; via Pro-Life Infonet] The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule next Thursday on whether a man convicted of murdering his 12-year-old daughter should receive a more lenient sentence because she suffered from severe cerebral palsy. Robert Latimer killed his daughter in 1993 and, after a series of court cases, was convicted of second degree murder in 1997. He was exempted from the minimum sentence of 10 years in prison without parole because his crime was described as "compassionate homicide", but an appeals court overturned this decision in 1998. [Reuters, 12 January; via Pro-Life Infonet] A federal judge in the American state of Ohio has ruled that pregnant prison inmates have a constitutional right to obtain abortions. Hamilton county had a policy of denying its prisoners access to abortion because it was deemed an elective procedure, but Judge Susan Dlott agreed to allow an inmate to have an abortion last summer and has now thrown out the whole policy. Sheriff Simon L Leis, who runs the Hamilton county jail, said: "I morally disagree with the decision. However, I will abide by the law." [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11 January; via Pro-Life Infonet]

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