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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 January 2001

18 January 2001

18 January 2001 Baroness Warnock, whose 1984 report led to legislation for research on human embryos in Britain 11 years ago, has said that she will vote in the House of Lords next Monday to refer the government's legislation on destructive human cloning research to a select committee. Baroness Warnock's committee paved the way for the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and she remains committed to embryo research. However, in an interview published in The Daily Telegraph, she criticised the haste with which the British government was trying to amend the 1990 act to allow research into so-called therapeutic cloning. She said: "It's being shovelled through by order, without primary legislation ... though I do regard this research as urgent, if people really feel appalled by it, then they ought to have a chance to put their view." [The Daily Telegraph, 18 January] Researchers in the USA have identified a way of stimulating the regrowth of damaged nerves in the brain and spinal column. Their findings, published in today's edition of the journal Nature, could open new avenues for the treatment of paralysis, multiple sclerosis, stroke and brain injuries. Stephen Strittmatter, professor of neurobiology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, explained that there were a number of inhibitors in the central nervous system which prevented the growth of axons, the strands which connect nerve cells to each other. Professor Strittmatter's team has managed to block the inhibitory effect of a protein called nogo, and they hope that this will enable the regrowth of axons. [The Independent, 18 January ] An SPUC spokesman commented: "These findings further undermine the case of those who claim that research on embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning provide the only realistic hope of repairing damaged cells and treating serious neurological conditions." A spokeswoman for the US Catholic bishops' pro-life secretariat has said that attempts to block pro-life cabinet nominees amount to "pro-abortion McCarthyism". Cathy Cleaver, director of planning and information at the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, criticised those who were opposing President-elect George W Bush's cabinet nominees [such as Senator John Ashcroft] on the basis of their supposed pro-life views. She asked in a statement: "When did a belief in the inalienable right to life become grounds for denying people the opportunity to serve their country?" [CNS, 17 January] Rev Jesse Jackson, the prominent American Democrat and civil rights campaigner, has insisted that human life begins at the moment of conception. Addressing tens of thousands of pro-lifers gathered in Washington, DC, Rev Jackson described legalised abortion as akin to modern-day slavery and asked: "What happens to the moral fabric of a nation that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience?" He continued: "In the abortion debate, one of the crucial questions is when does life begin. Anything growing is living. Therefore human life begins when the sperm and egg join." [EWTN News, 17 January ] The largest Evangelical Christian denomination in Canada has reportedly weakened its pro-life stance. Bill Griffen, director of public relations for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), told LifeSite that the "general stance of the PAOC is very pro-life, but in instances of rape or incest we would have the more moderate position ... early abortion would be tolerated". LifeSite has pointed out that this appears to conflict with a 1985 PAOC position paper which affirmed that human life began at conception and that abortion performed for any reason other than to save the mother's life was "the deliberate taking of human life and is equivalent to murder". [LifeSite, 17 January ]

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