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News, 11 June 2001

11 June 2001

11 June 2001 The leaders of Australia's six states and two territories appear to have agreed to ban reproductive cloning without prohibiting destructive research on cloned human embryos. Prime Minister John Howard announced after a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments that the leaders had agreed on uniform legislation to ban reproductive cloning, but a proposal to introduce a total prohibition on human cloning [including for embryonic stem cell research] was referred back to health ministers for further consideration. [Reuters, via Pro-Life Infonet, 8 June; CNN, 8 June ; also see news digest for 31 May ] The Women on the Waves foundation has claimed that it plans to provide Irish women with chemical abortions on its floating abortion clinic even if it cannot provide surgical abortions. The Dutch health ministry has announced that the boat has not yet been granted an abortion permit, a process which could take up to eight months. An abortion facility with a fully equipped operating table was due to be attached to the deck of the boat this morning, after which it would set sail for Dublin. However, a Dutch pro-life group has vowed to prevent the boat leaving port. [Irish Independent, 11 June ] The first baby to have been genetically selected from among his test-tube siblings to be free from a predisposition to cancer has been born in the United States. Scientists at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago announced last Thursday that a couple who suffered from Li-Fraumeni syndrome, an inherited predisposition to many forms of cancer, had undergone in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. 18 test-tube babies were generated, seven of whom were found to be free of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Only two embryos were transferred, and only one survived until birth. [Chicago Tribune, 8 June ] The leading centre for the treatment of premature babies in the Netherlands has announced that it will no longer provide active intensive care for babies born before 25 weeks' gestation. Dr Frans Walther, head of neonatology at the University Medical Centre in Leiden, said that a survival rate of 34 percent for babies born at 23 or 24 weeks' gestation was too low, and that half of those who survived suffered physical or mental handicaps by the age of two. Dr Harvey Marcovitch, a spokesman for the UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, criticised the Dutch decision and commented: "To deny treatment on the basis of a low intact survival rate would be as illogical as a blanket ban on treating certain poor prognosis malignant disorders." [BMJ, 9 June; via Pro-Life E-News] A bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Friday which would promote adult stem cell research and establish a national donor bank for non-embryonic stem cells. The Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001 was sponsored by Republican congressman Christopher Smith and co-signed by 45 other members of congress. Mr Smith told a press conference that adult stems cells were already being used to treat many conditions such as leukaemia, breast cancer and autoimmune diseases. Adult stem cell technology provides an ethical alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning. [UPI, via Virtual New York, 8 June ] It has been reported that the RU-486 abortion drug will be officially approved for use in New Zealand within two weeks. The medicines assessment advisory committee of the ministry of health is understood to have recommended the approval. [The New Zealand Herald, 11 June ] A judge in Florida has ruled that controversial Choose Life vehicle number plates can continue to be sold despite the fact that they are the subject of a legal action. Funds from the sale of the official plates go to organisations which help pregnant women to give their children up for adoption rather than aborting them. Governor Jeb Bush said that he was pleased by the court's decision. [The Palm Beach Post, 9 June ]

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