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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 1 February 2002

1 February 2002

1 February 2002 President Bush's US administration has announced that foetuses can be legally reclassified as unborn children. Tommy Thompson, the health and human services secretary, explained that the change would allow women on low incomes to access prenatal care under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP, which is administered by the states rather than by the federal government, is aimed at children and has not previously been applied to the unborn. The pro-abortion Planned Parenthood organisation condemned the move, calling it "inflammatory, unnecessary and simply un-American". Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee said that such objections were "an example of an extreme pro-abortion ideology". [National Post online and The Guardian , 1 February] Scientists in the USA claim to have extracted and differentiated stem cells from unfertilised monkey eggs. Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine say that they have managed to get the unfertilised eggs to start dividing like embryos in a process known as parthenogenesis. They claim that the production of stem cells by parthenogenesis would be an ethical alternative to the use of conventional embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning, but ethicists and pro-lifers have disagreed. Dr Donald Bruce, a spokesman on bioethics for the Church of Scotland, pointed out: "If these primate embryos created by parthenogenesis seem to have the properties of embryos--to the point that stem cells can be derived and differentiated into various body cell types--then what we have is an embryo." Dr Bruce added that the status of embryos was not affected by whether or not they were viable. [BBC News online, 31 January ] It is reported that pro-abortion organisations in the United Kingdom are concerned about the potential implications of a victory by SPUC in its forthcoming judicial review on the morning-after pill. SPUC is bringing a judicial review of the decision to reclassify the abortifacient morning-after pill as a drug available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription on the basis that the drug can cause an abortion. However, the Family Planning Association (FPA) has warned that the reasoning behind the action could be applied to all potentially abortifacient methods of birth control, including the intra-uterine device and the conventional oral contraceptive pill. Tony Belfield of the FPA said: "The association is enormously concerned. We think that people need to be very aware of what is going on and make a noise about it." Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's largest private abortion provider, said that a victory for SPUC was "something that people are taking very seriously". [The Guardian, 1 February ] The case begins in the high court in London on Tuesday the 12th of this month. A company in California has designed a silicon chip which it hopes could be used to facilitate the mass production of cloned human embryos. The chip, designed by Aegen Biosciences, contains hundreds of tiny wells. At the bottom of each well is an even smaller hole. The idea is to place eggs in the wells and then spin the chip very fast so that centrifugal force pushes the nucleus of each egg out through the hole. A new nucleus could be implanted in each egg. Dr Harry Griffin of the Roswell Institute, which created Dolly the first cloned sheep, pointed out that the biggest problem with mass cloning was finding an adequate supply of eggs. [Ananova, 30 January ]

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