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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 22 January 2001

22 January 2001

22 January 2001 The House of Lords will debate the British government's legislation to authorise destructive research on cloned human embryos later today. The debate on the statutory instrument, which was passed by the House of Commons last month, will start at about 3pm and more than 40 peers have registered to speak. If the House of Lords votes in favour of the instrument, it will become law. However, many peers have said that they intend to vote for an amendment tabled by Lord Alton which would refer the legislation to a select committee. Government ministers were reportedly willing to accept such a committee, but only if the legislation was passed first. [The Times , Daily Telegraph and BBC News online , 22 January] Adding their voices to those of British religious leaders last week, 49 medical students at Cambridge University in England have written to a national newspaper to express their opposition to destructive research on cloned human embryos. The letter, which is published in today's Daily Telegraph, states: "Both our training as medical students and current research indicate that adult stem cells have as much therapeutic potential as embryonic stem cells, if not more ... We therefore urge members of the House of Lords to proceed with extreme caution, as the consequences of human cloning are potentially devastating..." [Daily Telegraph, 22 January] The abortifacient Levonelle-2 morning-after pill has now become available from pharmacists across the UK after a delay caused by a shortage of supplies. The Daily Mail newspaper tested the guidelines which stipulate that only women over 16 should be given the drug. Chloe Elliott, aged 15, was able to obtain the drug at three chemists' shops in London despite being underage. One of the pharmacists failed to conduct the required consultation and then handed over a type of Levonelle-2 which remains available on prescription only. Dr George Rae, chairman of the prescribing committee of the British Medical Association, said: "The whole thing is turning into a bit of a hotchpotch and it needs looking at again. I do not think it is properly thought through." [Daily Mail, 20 January] Today marks the 28th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade which established a constitutional right to abortion. The occasion coincides with Saturday's inauguration of President George W Bush, and many pro-lifers are hopeful that the new president will implement pro-life policies. Norma McCorvey, the former Jane Roe in Roe v Wade, is now a pro-life campaigner and commented: "I think the majority of pro-lifers are really looking forward to President Bush getting into office. I think we all have the same dream: We'd like to see Roe v Wade overturned." [AP, 21 January; from Pro-Life Infonet] US President George W Bush said prior to his inauguration that a challenge to Roe v Wade had not been ruled out. When asked during a television interview last Thursday whether he had ruled out the idea of his justice department's arguing for a change in the law should the opportunity arise, the incoming president replied: "Not at all. We'd just have to see what the case is. As you know, I campaigned as a pro-life candidate." In another development, President Bush's nominee for the post of attorney general has disappointed some pro-lifers by saying that he would not seek to overturn Roe v Wade despite his own belief that the case had been wrongly decided. However, Jim Sedlak of the American Life League observed that Senator Ashcroft's comments were understandable given the fact that the purpose of his office was to defend existing law. Senator Ashcroft has in the past proposed a constitutional amendment to ban almost all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest. [Bloomberg, 17 January; New York Post, 18 January ; LifeSite Daily News, 19 January ; AP via Pro-Life Infonet, 19 and 21 January] Fertility doctors in New Zealand are to be allowed to kill unborn babies who do not meet certain standards. It has been reported that doctors have been given unofficial permission to begin a "feasibility study" on a programme of chromosomal testing intended to screen out those embryos with "severe developmental abnormalities" as part of in vitro fertilisation treatment. [New Zealand Herald, 22 January ] The Catholic bishops of Spain have condemned abortion as "an abominable crime" which turns mothers' wombs into a "death row" for the unborn. In their statement prepared for the Day of Life on 4 February, the bishops stated that "a society that legitimises such an abominable crime [as] abortion is losing the very sense of human dignity, the basis of fundamental rights and true democracy". The bishops also attacked "the aberration of the cultural and legal acceptance of so-called euthanasia". [Zenit news agency, 21 January] A member of the Canadian federal parliament from New Brunswick plans to introduce a bill to ensure that the Canada Health Act cannot be used to force provinces to fund abortions. Elsie Wayne's measure comes in response to a dispute between the federal government in Ottawa and New Brunswick over the province's refusal to fund abortions. [LifeSite Daily News, 19 January ]

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