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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 December 2002

30 December 2002

30 December 2002 The worldwide reaction to claims by Clonaid that the first full-term cloned human baby was born last week [see digest for 27 December ] has been almost universally condemnatory. President Jacques Chirac of France described cloning as "contrary to the dignity of man", while US President George Bush said that the news was "deeply troubling". The Vatican issued a statement on Saturday condemning the announcement as "an expression of a brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical and human consideration", and these sentiments were echoed by Muslim and Jewish religious leaders. Authorities in South Korea raided the offices of a company linked to Clonaid and seized documents, while the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation into allegations that the cloning procedure had taken place within the US. The Canadian federal health minister reaffirmed her government's commitment to ban human cloning for both reproductive and experimental purposes, and calls for similar legislation were made by politicians in Ireland. However, a senior ethical adviser to the British government said that cloning could be morally justified and called for a worldwide debate on the issue. Professor Sheila McLean of Glasgow University said that reaction to Clonaid's announcement had been dominated by knee-jerk opposition on religious grounds and that there had been no "convincing argument against reproductive cloning". Richard Holloway, the former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh and primus of the Scottish Episcopal church, said that a case could be made for reproductive cloning in cases of infertility. The British government supports the creation of cloned human embryos for research purposes, and the UK parliament is the only national legislature in the western world to have voted in favour of the practice. [Times, CTV , BBC News online , BBC News online , Irish Examiner and SPUC, 29 and 30 December] The Roman Catholic Church in Poland has called for official recognition of the country's right to set its own law on abortion after it becomes a full member of the European Union. Whereas Malta negotiated a protocol on abortion as part of its European Union accession package, the Polish government sought no such legal protection, and last week a senior official in the ruling SLD party said that his party would work to liberalise Poland's abortion law after next year's referendum on EU membership. In response, Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno, Poland's episcopal representative at the EU, demanded the inclusion of a clause on abortion in Poland's accession treaty, while Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw agreed and warned that the Church would retain a "critical stance" with regard to the "manner and the methods" of European integration. [BBC News online, 27 December ] Polish abortions have fallen from 105,000 in 1988 to around 138 in 2000. A restrictive law was introduced in 1993. The British government has announced a £50 million funding package to improve the provision of palliative care for the terminally ill. The extra money, announced today by health minister Hazel Blears, is intended to reduce inequalities of access to hospice care and to improve support for the relatives and carers of dying people. [BBC News online, 30 December ] The provision of effective palliative care is vital and renders the campaign for legalised euthanasia obsolete.

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