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News, 11 February 2002

11 February 2002

11 February 2002 SPUC's judicial review of the British government's decision to make the abortion-inducing morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription begins tomorrow. The hearing will commence at 10.30 a.m. in court 27 of the High Courts in London. It is expected that the hearing will last about two days. Scientists in the US have succeeded in extracting adult stem cells from small deposits of fat behind the kneecap. A team at the Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, also managed to convert the cells into functioning cartilage, bone and fat cells. Quinn Wickman, the co-ordinator of the research, said: "In scientific terms, we have found a new source of adult stem cells that can be changed into different cells and tissues. On the clinical side, for example, it would be relatively easy for a knee surgeon to obtain some of these fat cells using a minimally invasive approach." [BBC News online, 11 February ] This development provides yet more evidence of the potential of adult stem cell technology as an ethical alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning. The Dutch floating abortion clinic which docked in Dublin last year amid much publicity [see news digest for 15 June 2001 ] has lost its licence. Els Borst, the Dutch health minister, said that she admired the work of the Women on the Waves foundation, which aimed to abort unborn children protected by their mother-countries' laws. A government spokesman explained: "It doesn't make any difference that the organisation is only using the abortion pill. It is goes wrong, patients need to be cared for in a proper clinic, and at sea it's just impossible." [Ireland online, 9 February; via Pro-Life Infonet] Legislators in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, are to consider whether to reclassify the abortifacient morning-after pill as a drug available from pharmacists without prescription. Guernsey's board of health has decided against reclassifying the drug, but Judy Beaugeard, a former vice president of the board, plans to table a requete [private member's petition] in the States [Guernsey's parliament] in June. [Guernsey Press, 5 February] Mrs Diane Blood, the widow who won the right to use the frozen sperm of her dead husband to conceive a child in 1997, is pregnant again with her dead husband's second child. The Court of Appeal in London ruled in February 1997 that Mrs Blood had the right to use the sperm of her dead husband to conceive a child, although her husband's name cannot appear on the birth certificate. [Daily Telegraph, 9 February ] The US administration of President Bush has intervened in a legal challenge to Ohio's partial-birth abortion ban. The Department of Justice has filed a brief in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in support of Ohio's ban, claiming that it differs from Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions which was overturned by the US Supreme Court. [EWTN News, 8 February ] The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa has called for an end to legalised abortion in response to a request by President Thabo Mbeki for religious leaders to help address the country's moral decline. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, archbishop of Durban, said that stopping abortion would demonstrate the president's seriousness in calling for a moral renewal. [LifeSite, 5 February ] Official figures have revealed that doctors prescribed lethal doses of drugs to 44 patients last year under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. 21 of these patients took their own lives. The law is subject to an ongoing legal action after the US attorney general attempted to invalidate the law. [The Washington Times, 8 February ] Japanese scientists have concluded that cloned mammals die sooner than those which had a natural origin. Researchers at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo studied a dozen cloned mice for two years, and saw all but two of them die prematurely from pneumonia or liver disease. A report prepared by the research team observed: "The possible negative long-term effects of cloning, as well as the high incidence of spontaneous abortion and abnormal birth of cloned animals, give cause for concern about attempts to clone humans for reproductive purposes." [The Guardian, 11 February ] A spokesman for SPUC commented: "The fact that the cloning process causes both short and long term side-effects in clones surely casts doubt on the safety of so-called therapeutic cloning, and further enhances the case for the ethical alternative of adult stem cell technology."

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