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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 2 August 2002

2 August 2002

2 August 2002 A British couple have been refused permission to create a designer baby to serve as a bone marrow donor for their seriously ill son. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ruled yesterday that Jayson and Michelle Whitaker from Oxford could not use in vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select a baby who would be a perfect tissue match for their three-year-old son, who has a rare blood disorder. [BBC News online, 1 August ] Earlier this year the HFEA allowed the Hashmi family to create a designer baby to serve as a tissue donor for their sick child, although a judicial review of this decision is now being brought by Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE). Anthony Ozimic of SPUC commented: "The HFEA has been forced to apply the law on PGD by a combination of CORE's judicial review challenge to the Hashmi decision and the report of the Commons Science and Technology Committee which criticised the HFEA for making the Hashmi decision without consulting parliament or the public." A woman with cancer is fighting her ex-fiancé over ownership of their six frozen embryos stored in an English fertility clinic. Natallie Evans and Howard Johnston are the parents of six embryos created through IVF last year before Ms Evans' diseased ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed. The couple split up two months ago, and now Mr Johnston wants the embryos destroyed unless Ms Evans signs a contract promising not to name him as the father or claim any maintenance money. [BBC News online, 2 August ] The government of Denmark, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union's council of ministers, has confirmed that a compromise proposal on EU research funding will ensure that no EU money will be spent on destructive embryo research until the end of next year. The Danish proposal includes a commitment to establish provisions for bioethical scrutiny of embryonic research funded by the EU. The EU's research budget for the next four years totals 17.5 billion euro, of which 300 million euro (about 190 million British pounds) will be earmarked for research on aborted unborn children and embryos. [Reuters, via Yahoo! News, 31 July ] The chairman of the ethics committee of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has criticised Baroness Warnock for arguing in favour of allowing cloned embryos to be born in some instances [see digest for 25 July ]. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who is also the Anglican bishop of Rochester, said that Lady Warnock's position was "ethically flawed" and warned: "Once the genie is out of the bottle, it will be impossible to restrict the technique to those experiencing infertility problems." [Daily Telegraph, 8 August] Mr Carlo Casini, a respected Italian pro-lifer and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has called on the European Commission not to release any EU money to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) until its alleged involvement in forced abortions and sterilisations has been investigated. The European Commission announced last month that €32m in extra EU finding would be made available to the UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to offset blocked US funding. [CNS, 1 August ] The supreme court of Zimbabwe has nullified a clause in a contract signed by students which states that they will be expelled from college if they become pregnant. In a case brought by a married student who was forced to quit a private teachers' training college when she became pregnant, five supreme court justices ruled that the clause was "contrary to public policy and therefore null and void". Miss Fiona Pinto, director of the UK's Student LifeNet, commented: "We are delighted that this student is not going to be discriminated against, forced to leave university or have an abortion. Unbelievably, even in this country and in the United States, students are forced to choose between their education and their unborn child. It is vital that we improve welfare support in universities so that such discrimination is unthinkable." [The Daily News, Harare, 31 July ; Student LifeNet] Rt Rev George Pell, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney, has insisted that the community should take the issue of abortion as seriously as it does the issue of child sexual abuse because both are "grave moral scandals in society". Clarifying comments he made during the World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, which were reported in the media out of context, Archbishop Pell said: "Christian teaching is at one with the law and secular ethics in holding that the supreme wrong that can be done to a person is the taking of their life. This claim does not make any other evils less evil." [Sydney Morning Herald, 2 August ]

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