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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 June 2002

21 June 2002

21 June 2002 Dana Rosemary Scallon, a member of the European parliament for Connaught and Ulster, has called for the resignation of Philippe Busquin, the European Union's commissioner for research. Commissioner Busquin stated last week that whenever one EU member state declared in favour of a certain type of research, this could be funded and sanctioned irrespective of the policies or constitutional positions of other member states. The commissioner's statement came as members of the EU Council of Ministers were due to decide finally on whether EU money could be used to fund destructive research on human embryos - which is illegal in a number of EU countries, including Ireland. Dana said: "This has serious consequences for Ireland, our sovereignty and the direction Europe is going." [Dana media release, 21 June] German doctors have expressed alarm after a couple won a so-called wrongful birth lawsuit in the country's highest court. The court ruled that a doctor who failed to spot physical anomalies in an unborn child during a prenatal scan at about 20 weeks' gestation must pay compensation to the parents. The parents claimed that they would have had their child, called Sebastian, aborted had they known that he would be born with seriously deformed limbs. The ruling is the first time that a 1995 German law which removed the 22-week time-limit for abortions in cases of foetal disability has been confirmed in the courts. Professor Joerg-Dietrich Hoppe, president of the German Doctors' Association, said: "This understanding of human life stands in the most crass contradiction to professional medical ethics and the values of a humane society." [Reuters, 20 June; via Pro-Life Infonet ] Newly published research has indicated that adult stem cells could be just as versatile as stem cells extracted from embryos. Professor Catherine Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota discovered that, among cultured stem cells extracted from the bone marrow of adult rats, there were more powerful stem cells known as multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs). When put into rodent embryos, these MAPCs differentiated into most, if not all, types of cell in the body. Even the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said that the research was "important and exciting". Peter Garrett of the Life charity commented: "I think it is remarkable research and vindicates the line of argument we have been using for the last three years. You don't need to kill embryos to treat sick people." [BBC News online, 20 June ] The US Senate is once again debating whether to scrap the six-year ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities. The issue has been coming up in Congress almost every year for some time, but in 2000 there was only a one vote majority in favour of maintaining the ban. The House of Representatives voted by 215 to 202 in favour of maintaining the ban last month. [AP, 21 June; via Northern Light ] Clergy representing a number of different Christian denominations will gather in Washington DC next Tuesday to demonstrate their support for new federal legislation to ban partial birth abortions introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot. Rev Bob Schenck, president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, will attend the demonstration together with members of Priests for Life (a Catholic organisation), the Orthodox Church in America, Presbyterians Pro-Life, the African-American Life Alliance and others. [US Newswire, 10 June ]

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