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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 24 May 2001

24 May 2001

24 May 2001 American researchers are attempting to automate the process of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), raising fears that the innovation could lead to production lines of genetically screened human embryos. David Beebe at the University of Wisconsin and Matthew Wheeler at the University of Illinois have developed microchips which can carry out all the major steps involved in IVF treatment and they now hope to produce one microchip to combine all the steps. The device could potentially be used to screen embryos for genetic anomalies as part of the process. Dr George Seidel, a reproductive physiologist at Colorado State University, claimed that the technology could mean that IVF would become the normal means of human reproduction within a century. [BBC News online, 23 May ; The Times, 24 May ] The president of Germany has expressed serious concerns about eugenics, euthanasia and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. President Johannes Rau said that these were bound up with bad memories of Germany's Nazi past. His remarks have been seen as a clear rejection of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's suggestion that strict German laws on biotechnology which ban research on human embryos should be amended. Commentators have claimed that the president's insistence that "what is ethically indefensible cannot be permitted for economic reasons" is in line with majority German opinion. [The Guardian, 22 May ] An attempt by the ProLife Alliance to force the BBC to screen its election broadcast in Wales is continuing at the High Court today [see yesterday's digest]. The Independent Television Commission has also argued that the film should not be broadcast because it includes pictures which depict the consequences of abortion. Counsel for the ProLife Alliance told Mr Justice Scott Baker that the pictures were necessary to bring home the reality of abortion and that to prevent them being shown would contravene the Human Rights Act. [BBC News online, 24 May ] The British general election takes place two weeks from today. A decision by an appeals court in the United States could open the way for the US Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 judgement in Roe v Wade. The US Court of Appeals for the second circuit in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that pregnant illegal immigrants have no right to prenatal care under Medicaid [public health funding]. In making its decision, the appeals court panel raised the judgement in Roe v Wade, which stated that an unborn child had no constitutional protection to assure him or her an opportunity to be born. This means that, were the case to reach the US Supreme Court, the justices would have a chance to reconsider the 1973 judgement which declared a constitutional right to abortion. [The New York Times, 23 May ] Dana Scallon, an independent Irish member of the European parliament, has urged her countrymen to reject the Treaty of Nice when they cast their votes in the forthcoming referendum. She warned that the treaty, which paves the way for the enlargement of the European Union, could lead to the legalisation of abortion in the Irish Republic because it would bring about a two-tiered Europe in which larger countries controlled policy decisions. [Catholic News Service, 23 May] The Roman Catholic bishops of Latin America have called on Catholics to defend human life. At the end of the 28th ordinary assembly of the Latin American bishops' council in Venezuela, the prelates reaffirmed "in the name of Jesus" their "commitment to the defence of each human life, from its conception to its natural end". [EWTN News, 21 May] A national opinion poll in the United States has claimed that 70 percent of the population support federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research. The poll, conducted by Caravan OCR International for a coalition of organisations involved in medical research, also suggested that a majority of Catholics, other Christians and those describing themselves as pro-life supported embryonic stem cell research. The Bush administration is conducting a review of the previous administration's decision to authorise federal funding of such research. [PRNewswire, 23 May]Abortionists in the United States are launching an advertising campaign for the RU-486 abortion drug. The National Abortion Federation, which represents 400 abortion providers across the US, is placing advertisements in a number of magazines at a cost of two million dollars. The costs have been met by private contributors such as the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. [AP, via Star Tribune, 23 May ]

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