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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 December 2002

20 December 2002

20 December 2002 In a major victory for the British pro-life movement, the high court in London ruled today that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) acted beyond its powers in authorising the creation of a so-called designer baby. Josephine Quintavalle, on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), had brought a judicial review against the HFEA's decision to authorise the use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) by the Hashmi family to create a baby who would serve as a perfect tissue donor for an older sick sibling. In finding in favour of CORE, Mr Justice Maurice Kay said that it was "a difficult area of medical science and ethics", but that parliament had "tightly drawn" the legislation which regulates embryology to "restrict the potential for misuse of science and technology". SPUC have warmly congratulated Josephine Quintavalle on her victory and for her "most courageous stand on this critically important issue". The HFEA has already announced its intention to appeal. [BBC News online and SPUC media release , 20 December] Reports that the outcome of the UN-sponsored Asian and Pacific population conference in Bangkok earlier this week represented a defeat for the pro-life cause have been rejected by participants and observers. Although the meeting decisively rejected attempts by the US delegation to have pro-abortion language removed from the final document, the US decision to force a vote on two of the most controversial sections led many countries to add their own clarifications firmly rejecting any interpretation of "reproductive rights" that would include access to abortion. It has been a long-term strategy of pro-abortion bodies and delegations at the UN to establish a consensus on the view that access to abortion is entailed whenever "reproductive rights" are mentioned, and so the outcome of the Bangkok meeting may be seen as a success for the pro-life US negotiating team. [SPUC, 20 December] The European parliament yesterday rejected a proposed increase of 200% in its budget for international population control [which entails the provision of abortion]. At the first reading of the EU's annual budget in the parliament, MEPs voted to increase the budget line dealing with "aid for population and reproductive health care" from 8 million to 24 million euro [see digest for 25 October ]. However, the Council of Ministers then restricted the total to 14 million euro, and an amendment to restore the 200% increase was decisively rejected by MEPs yesterday on the second reading. Pro-lifers were pleased that the rise was less than pro-abortionists had hoped for, but were disappointed that the budget line had been increased at all. [Euro-Fam , Zenit , and SPUC, 19 December] The pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has claimed that demand for so-called emergency contraception at its clinics has risen by 25% in the run-up to Christmas, and that demand is expected to increase still further as the Christmas partying season reaches its peak. Patrick Buckley, who is based in Ireland and is the European director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said: "It is deplorable that abortifacient morning-after pills are available in the Irish Republic in direct contravention of our pro-life constitution which protects all human life from conception. Morning-after pills could only be supplied legally in Ireland if they operated as contraceptives, but it is widely acknowledged that they sometimes work by causing the death of a newly conceived embryo. The IFPA is only able to provide morning-after pills because no legal challenge to their supply has yet been mounted, although their supply is surely legally indefensible." [Irish Examiner and SPUC, 20 December] The Chairman of the US president's bioethics council has claimed that Stanford university concealed the nature of their stem cell research programme and misrepresented his views. Stanford university announced earlier this month that it intended to conduct embryonic stem cell research involving cell nuclear transfer techniques [see digest for 12 December], but claimed that this should not be characterised as cloning and had the support of the President's bioethics council. The university later retracted the assertion that the council supported the research, but maintained that it should not be described as cloning. However, Dr Leon Kass, chairman of the council, demanded a public apology and insisted: "It's absolutely critical that we call things by their right name so we don't kid ourselves about what the moral issues are." [AP, 20 December; via Northern Light ] An Austrian archbishop has rejected a call by Austrian doctors for the law to ensure only "gradual protection of human life". The group of doctors were addressing the issue of when abortions should be allowed up to 22 weeks' gestation, but Archbishop emeritus Andreas Laun of Salzburg responded: "If the foetus is not yet a person, why is there talk of the protection of life? However, if the foetus is already a person, why must the protection of life be gradual? ... Systems that consent to abortion no longer have any pretence to call themselves 'law'." [Zenit, 19 December ]

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