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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 6 March 2001

6 March 2001

6 March 2001 The United States health and human services secretary has said that he will appoint a panel of experts to advise him on the scientific and moral issues involved in stem cell research. The considerations will include the possibility of conducting such research without destroying human embryos. The deadline for scientists to apply for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is the 15th of this month, although no decisions will be taken until after the review which will take four or five months. [Journal Sentinel, 5 March ] Pope John Paul II has stressed that building a culture of life requires a positive approach rather than simply the denunciation of anti-life practices. Addressing members of the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome, the Pope said: "It is necessary to show a great capacity for dialogue, listening and proposing in order to form consciences." Without such a dialogue, the Pope stressed that "the interior fabric of contemporary society" could not be mended in such a way that promoted the safeguarding of human life. [Catholic News Service, 5 March ] Five people have gone on trial in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, accused of carrying out abortions. Two of the five are accused of running an illegal abortion centre, while the other three are accused of being accomplices. Another 25 people have been identified by police as collaborators. Under Iranian sharia law, abortion is forbidden unless to save the mother's life. [AFP, via Arabia.com, 5 March ] A writer in a British national newspaper has asserted that the abortifacient morning-after pill was originally invented by veterinarians for use on dogs. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens explained that so-called emergency contraception was first administered by way of an injection to bitches who had "had a dalliance with the local mongrel". It was first used on a human in the 1960s when a doctor with a knowledge of veterinary practice treated a 14-year-old rape victim in the Netherlands. [The Mail on Sunday, 4 March] The Council of Europe has announced that five countries have now ratified the Protocol on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings, thus bringing the protocol into effect. The protocol, which is an addendum to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, appears to ban all human cloning for both therapeutic and reproductive purposes. The United Kingdom is one of the 43 states to sign the convention, but is not among the 24 countries which have also signed the protocol. The five nations to ratify the protocol are Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Spain and Georgia. [AP, from FindLaw Legal News, 6 March ; also additional sources] Roman Catholics in Staten Island, New York, have been urged to boycott the St Patrick's day parade because the event's grand marshal supports access to abortion. In response to a call by the island's two co-vicars for Catholics to attend Mass instead, all eight Catholic schools on the island have withdrawn their marching bands and other Catholic organisations have pledged to join the boycott. Monsignor Peter Finn, one of the co-vicars, said: "I'm standing on principle. This is an issue that is important to my faith." [AP, via Yahoo! News, 2 March ] As expected, the Australian senate has rejected proposals by the Democrats to relax import regulations for the RU-486 abortion drug [see yesterday's news digest ]. The measure failed to win the support of Labour or Coalition senators. [ABC News, 5 March ]

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