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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 23 January 2001

23 January 2001

23 January 2001 Destructive research on cloned human embryos for the treatment of "serious diseases" has been sanctioned in the United Kingdom. The House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, passed the government's statutory instrument last night. An amendment tabled by Lord Alton which would have postponed a definitive vote on the instrument until the matter had been considered by a select committee was defeated by 212 votes to 92, a majority of over two to one. Peers agreed to another amendment which approved the measure but which also set up a select committee to look into the issue afterwards. The government agreed not to issue any licences for research under the new regulations for a period of nine months. SPUC expressed its concern at the vote, and also criticised the decision to establish a select committee even though the measure had already been approved. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political spokesman, commented: "It is absurd that a select committee should be expected to report after the passage of the very measure which it is supposed to examine ... This government has been totally impervious to the ever-growing protest at the way it has rushed its proposals through parliament. All the major religious leaders in this country, scores of European politicians, many scientists and countless members of the public urged the government not to break its promises of a thorough, open scrutiny of human cloning." [BBC News online and Metro, 23 January; SPUC media release, 22 January ] A British House of Commons standing committee will debate tomorrow at 4.30 pm the reclassification of the Levonelle-2 morning-after pill as a drug available from pharmacists without prescription. The move comes after the Conservative opposition tabled a motion opposing the reclassification. As the abortifacient drug was reclassified by way of a negative statutory instrument, no vote in parliament was necessary. If the standing committee votes against the instrument, the government could still resist a debate on the floor of the House of Commons. The government has a majority on the committee, as is customary. The House of Lords will debate the reclassification of the morning-after pill next Monday, but peers are not likely to vote on the change. [SPUC, 23 January] On his second full day in office, US President George W Bush has signed an executive order blocking federal funding of organisations which are involved in either the provision or active promotion of abortions at home or abroad. In a statement read out to tens of thousands of pro-life campaigners marking the 28th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, President Bush called them friends and thanked them for their conviction and courage. He wrote: "We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law... to build a culture of life, affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God's image." [BBC News online, 23 January ; Pro-Life Infonet, 22 January] The Catholic archbishop of New York has used his first sermon since hearing of his appointment to the college of cardinals to condemn abortion. Archbishop Edward Egan, who will be made a cardinal next month, condemned the corrupted sense in which pro-abortionists used the word "choice" and affirmed that the right to life was "common sense and a fundamental of civilised law". [LifeSite, 22 January ] An Irish national newspaper has revealed that the recommendations of the All Party Oireachtas Committee on abortion have yet to be discussed by the cabinet committee charged with considering them. Meanwhile, British abortion statistics have suggested that the Irish abortion rate is continuing to rise. Figures released by the English Office for National Statistics were drawn upon by the Irish Independent newspaper to show that 3,282 women with Irish addresses obtained abortions in Britain during the first half of last year, compared to 3,075 during the first six months of 1999. [Irish Independent, 23 January ]

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