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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 May 2001

21 May 2001

21 May 2001 Pro-lifers have complained that the code of ethics for British pharmacists has been changed so as to discriminate against those who have a conscientious objection to supplying abortifacient drugs. The code had stated that a pharmacist "may object on grounds of conscience to the dispensing of certain medicinal products for the control of fertility, conception or termination of pregnancy", but participants at the annual meeting of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society voted to replace it with the clause: "... before accepting employment pharmacists must disclose any factors which may affect their ability to provide services." The new clause makes no mention of any grounds on which a conscientious objection may now be made. Mrs Caroline Hubert, a member of Pharmacists for Life International, said: "This would effectively render pharmacists who have a conscientious objection unemployable." [Daily Telegraph, 21 May] Sir Ludovic Kennedy, the writer and broadcaster, has resigned from the British Liberal Democrats over the issue of euthanasia. Sir Ludovic, aged 81, is president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and is unhappy that Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, has insisted that the party will remain neutral on the issue [Mr Charles Kennedy himself has voted in parliament against voluntary euthanasia]. Sir Ludovic, who twice stood as a Liberal parliamentary candidate, said: "The incompatibility of my own views and those of Charles Kennedy on the subject is so great there is no alternative." [BBC News online, 19 May ] A South Korean government panel has proposed a ban on human cloning. The Life Ethics Advisory Committee, established under the auspices of the government's science and technology ministry, has published a draft bill which would prohibit the use of either human or animal cells to clone an embryo for the purposes of stem cell research. The legislation would not ban research on spare embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation treatment. [The Nando Times, 20 May ] The student union at Sheffield University in England has refused to allow the establishment of an official pro-life society. The union reportedly consulted women's officers who warned that a pro-life group would harass other union members in contravention of the union's policies against "discrimination, harassment and intimidation". Tom Rogers, a spokesman for pro-lifers at Sheffield University, described this claim as "outrageous and libellous" while a statement issued by Student LifeNet observed that the decision amounted to "appalling discrimination and institutional harassment". [Student LifeNet media release, 20 May] Silvio Berlusconi, who will be next prime minister of Italy after his centre-right coalition won the recent elections, reportedly made pro-life comments during the election campaign. While not explicitly supporting the repeal of permissive abortion laws, Mr Berlusconi did call "for a more convinced defence of life". Monsignor Giuseppe Betori, secretary of the Italian bishops' conference, has urged Mr Berlusconi to consider repealing abortion laws. [EWTN, 17 May ] It has emerged that the doctors who recently announced the birth of the world's first genetically modified babies omitted to mention that two of the babies had a rare genetic anomaly and died before birth. A team led by Dr Jacques Cohen in New Jersey had created test-tube babies with three genetic parents by transferring mitochondria from donated eggs into the eggs of women with fertility problems. 15 children had successfully been born over the course of three years. However, there were in fact [at least] 17 unborn children implanted, two of whom were found to have Turner's syndrome whereby an entire chromosome was missing. One of them was aborted while the other miscarried. [Tampa Tribune , 19 May; Daily Mail, 21 May; also see news digest for 15 May ] US President Bush's administration is reported to be gradually replacing pro-abortion groups and individuals with pro-life advocates on delegations to international panels. The Washington Post newspaper reports that official delegations to international meetings since President Bush took office have included members of the pro-life Family Research Council and the International Right to Life Federation. This contrasts with President Clinton's administration which had sent US representatives from pro-abortion lobby groups such as the International Women's Health Coalition and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. [Washington Post, 17 May; via Pro-Life Infonet]

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