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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 June 2001

20 June 2001

20 June 2001 The UK's Royal Society has reaffirmed its support for so-called therapeutic cloning, while calling for a worldwide ban on human cloning for reproductive purposes. In his submission on behalf of the Royal Society to the House of Lords select committee on stem cell research, Professor Richard Gardner said that an international ban on reproductive cloning was the only way to "reduce the chances of such experiments being carried out in other countries". The professor also warned that there would be a great risk that cloned babies would develop serious handicaps in the womb. An SPUC spokesman commented: "It is inaccurate to make a moral distinction between reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning. Both involve the creation of a new and distinct human being with as much value and dignity as any adult." [BBC News online, 19 June] An inquest in England has heard accusations that an anaesthetist, said to be "poorly qualified", was to blame for the death of an overweight woman during an abortion. Sharon Bagg, aged 28, went into a coma after an abortion at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Bournemouth, Dorset, and died two weeks later. She had been 14 weeks pregnant and was undergoing her second abortion in the space of six months. The 10-minute operation went smoothly but, when Ms Bagg's face turned blue, Dr Sowny John, the anaesthetist, waited for 10 minutes before calling for an ambulance. The coroner said that criticisms of Dr John were a matter of opinion and recorded a verdict of accidental death. [BBC News online, 19 June ] The government of Sri Lanka has urged its citizens to have more children. A population control policy aimed at limiting the size of families was begun in the 1970s and was held up by the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund as an example of a successful family planning programme. However, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, the country's prime minister, has now said that his initiative to enlist 10,000 more soldiers and 2,000 more Buddhist monks has faltered due to the prevalence of smaller families. [BBC News online, 19 June ] A US law which has required the addition of folic acid to enriched grain products such as flour and pasta since 1998 seems to have led to a reduction in the rates of developmental anomalies among unborn children. Folic acid taken early in pregnancy is thought to reduce the risks of neural tube defects. These include spina bifida, which causes paralysis, and anencephaly, which usually results in foetal death. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has indicated that, since the law took effect, there has been a 19 percent decline in neural tube defects. However, the statistics do not take miscarriages or abortions into account. [Los Angeles Times, 20 June ] Pope John Paul II has urged lay Catholics in Benin to resist international pressure to legalise abortion. Addressing the African country's bishops on their 'ad limina' visit to the Vatican, the Pope said: "There is a pressing duty for the Christian to be engaged in promoting respect for the life of every human being from the moment of conception to natural death." [CNS, via LifeSite, 19 June ] Several Republican senators have urged US President George W Bush to authorise federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research. Senator Orrin G Hatch of Utah claimed that the research was "consistent with bedrock pro-life, pro-family values" because the issue was "fundamentally different" from abortion. Such an argument was rejected by the leaders of 13 religious groups who last week signed a letter to Tommy Thompson, the US health and human services secretary, urging him to oppose destructive stem cell research. [New York Times, 19 June, via Pro-Life Infonet; CNS, 19 June]

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