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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 27 December 2002

27 December 2002

27 December 2002 Clonaid, an organisation linked to the Raelian cult, claimed today that the first full-term cloned human baby has been born alive and well. Brigitte Boisselier, the scientific director of Clonaid, told a news conference in Florida at 9 a.m. local time that a cloned baby girl named Eve had been born yesterday by Caesarean section to a US woman, but refused to identify the location of the birth. She offered no proof of the birth, but promised that an independent expert would take DNA samples from the baby and verify the claim soon. She also claimed that another cloned baby was due to be delivered in northern Europe next week, and a further three babies shortly afterwards. She said that two of the expected babies were copies of dead children who had been cloned from preserved cells. Clonaid has been involved in a race with Dr Severino Antinori, the Italian fertility specialist, to claim the world's first born-alive cloned human, but other experts have received the claims with much scepticism. [CNN and BBC News online , 27 December] The Raelian cult teaches that humans were cloned from aliens as part of a genetic engineering project run by extra-terrestrials and views cloning as the key to eternal life. Irish pro-lifers have expressed concern after the co-author of a report on improved survival rates for newborn babies said that the practice of aborting foetuses with disabilities in Ireland should be taken into account when assessing the improvement. A report by Ireland's Economic and Social Research Institute on perinatal statistics for 1999 indicated that mortality rates for new-borns as well as foetal deaths beyond 28 weeks' gestation fell by 18% during the 1990s, but co-author Miriam Wiley cautioned that the provision of abortions in cases of foetal disability should be taken into account when assessing Ireland's success relative to other countries. Pat Buckley, the Irish director of C-FAM Europe, said: "I am both surprised and shocked by this apparent admission that abortions are being provided in Ireland because the right to life of all unborn children is protected by our constitution. I find it quite astonishing that unborn babies could be aborted on the grounds of disability here, and will make urgent enquiries into the truth of this report." [Irish Independent, 23 December; SPUC, 27 December] The Dutch supreme court has ruled that mental suffering is not a legitimate reason for legal euthanasia. The case before the court concerned Dr Philip Sutorius, who assisted in the suicide of an 86-year-old former Dutch senator who was physically well but "tired of living" in 1998. The original trial court found Dr Sutorius not guilty of illegally assisting suicide, but an appeals court overturned this verdict and the country's supreme court rejected the doctor's final appeal on Tuesday. The ruling means that the Dutch law on euthanasia differs from that passed in Belgium earlier this year, where psychological suffering can be cited as a reason for euthanasia. [BBC News online, 24 December ] Germany has issued its first permit to import stem cells destructively extracted from embryos for use in research. A spokesman for the government laboratory responsible for issuing such permits under a law approved in April announced on Monday that the cells would be imported from Israel and would be used by a team at the University of Bonn. Three other requests for permits are still under consideration. Under German law, the destructive extraction of stem cells inside Germany remains illegal, but stem cells extracted from embryos abroad prior to 1 January 2002 can be imported for research projects of "overwhelming significance" . [AP, via ABC News, 23 December ] As expected, Senator Bill Frist has been chosen as the new majority leader in the US Senate. Senator Frist was elected in a vote of acclamation by fellow Republican senators during a conference call on Monday. Pro-lifers have reacted cautiously to his appointment [see digest for 23 December ]. However, Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in the US, complained that Senator Frist had a "rabidly anti-choice track record". [CNN and PPFA , 23 December]

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