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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 13 March 2001

13 March 2001

13 March 2001 Plans by Professor Severino Antinori, the Italian fertility specialist, to press ahead with reproductive human cloning have met with considerable opposition in his own country. The Italian Medical Association has objected to the plans and has asked Professor Antinori to explain his project. He could face being deprived of the right to practise in Italy. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, archbishop of Milan, has condemned Professor Antinori's plans, as has Mr Giovanni Berlinguer, head of Italy's national committee on bioethics. Italy currently has no law banning cloning, although its senate has approved a Council of Europe protocol which prohibits the technology and the lower house is expected to follow suit soon. [CNN and The Courier-Mail, 12 March ] The story covered in this news digest on 8 March about the "absolutely devastating" side-effects observed in patients whose brains had been injected with cells from aborted unborn children has received wide coverage in today's British national media. It formed the Guardian newspaper's lead story under the headline "Parkinson's miracle cure turns into a catastrophe". Despite the news, a British researcher expressed "cautious optimism" that aborted unborn children could still be used to treat Parkinson's disease. Martin Edwards, chief executive of Reneuron, said: "There are some upsides. The cells have survived and a proportion of patients benefited." [The Guardian, 13 March ] The British company which is offering to store stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies [see news digest for 27 February ] has been criticised for seeking to profit from the fears of mothers-to-be. The Royal College of Midwives condemned Cyro-Care's tactic of sending brochures to pregnant women offering them "a unique opportunity to protect the health of your child". The stem cells would be stored at a cost of £595. [Daily Mail, 9 March] Stem cells extracted from adults or umbilical cords provide an ethical alternative to the destructive use of embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. An American pro-life campaigner has claimed that western nations are waging a ruthless campaign of population control in third world countries, inspired by racism and eugenics. Addressing the Life charity's national conference in Northampton, England, last weekend, Dr Mary Haynes described how population control agencies which are partly financed by western governments were engaging in forced abortion and sterilisation programmes. She observed that millions was spent on the distribution of abortifacient pills, when many local people did not even have clean water to swallow them with. Dr Haynes concluded: "White racism and eugenics goes hand in hand with something equally sinister: the determination of the West to maintain economic control of the third world..." [Life media release, 12 March ] A researcher in South Africa has claimed that one in 20 children in Western Cape province have foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Professor Denis Viljoen, chief executive officer of the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research, said that FAS was caused by the abuse of alcohol by women during pregnancy resulting in irreversible physical, emotional and mental damage to their unborn child. Children with FAS suffer from learning difficulties, behavioural problems and poor social skills. Professor Viljoen remarked: "The tragedy of FAS is that it condemns people to an inferior lifestyle even before they are born. They can never reach their biological potential." [South African Daily Mail and Guardian, 6 March ] Britain's first baby to have been conceived in a test-tube from an egg which had been frozen and thawed has been born. Only 30 babies have been born anywhere from frozen and thawed eggs [the birth of the first two was covered in our news digest for 29 December 2000 ]. The technique had been considered illegal in the UK until a legal challenge last year. Dr Mohamed Taranissi, the doctor who carried out the treatment, claims to have another 100 women's eggs stored at his centre in London. Professor Jack Scarisbrick of the Life charity warned that the technique risked turning babies into a lifestyle commodity, thereby devaluing human life so that babies could be "picked off the shelf at any time during a woman's life" or similarly disregarded and killed in the same casual manner. [Daily Mail, 12 March] Members of the US House of Representatives are to hold hearings this week on a measure which would create a separate criminal offence of causing death or injury to an unborn child. Representative Lindsay Graham, the bill's chief sponsor, said that 24 states already had laws or judicial precedents which made it a crime to kill or injure an unborn child [except by abortion], but that federal law had so far been silent on the issue. Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life, urged congressmen to reject pro-abortion amendments to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which seek to reject any notion of unborn children's being victims of crime in their own right and define the offence as the "interruption to the normal course of the pregnancy". [Albany Times Union and National Right to Life, 10 March; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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