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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 7 March 2002

7 March 2002

7 March 2002 The Irish electorate has rejected an attempt by the government to amend the constitution so that abortion would be defined as happening only after implantation. 'No' votes in yesterday's referendum exceeded affirmative votes by around one percent. [Irish Times, 7 March ] SPUC has congratulated the coalition of more than 20 pro-life groups which campaigned for a 'no' vote. John Smeaton, national director, said: "They have given a courageous witness to the world that the right to life of unborn children is non-negotiable. All people of good will in Ireland must now unite behind the continuing campaign to protect human embryos from destructive procedures and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, looking forward in particular to the forthcoming general election. The referendum was presented as legitimising, among other things, the morning-after pill and other early abortion procedures. The Irish people were told by their leaders that, unless they voted for abortion on certain grounds, the government would legislate to allow abortion when a woman threatened suicide. Pro-life voters were right not to succumb to such blackmail. One may never do evil so that good may come of it." [SPUC, 7 March ] According to a US report picked up by the British media, a Chinese scientist claims to have been creating human clones since 1999 and aims to use them to create cell lines from which to grow organs for transplant. Dr Lu Guangxiu of Changsha began by employing the same technique as used in Britain to clone mammals but this produced too few viable embryos using enucleated eggs. She has since had greater success with injecting a donor's DNA into an egg and leaving it there for a while before removing the egg's DNA. Five percent of such embryos develop to the blastocyst stage and harvested stem cells only survive for a short time. China has no laws on embryo research. [Wall Street Journal reported in the Guardian, 7 March ] Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has licensed a fertility treatment centre in London to use genetic screening on in vitro fertilisation embryos. Dr Mohammed Taranissi of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre has spoken in terms of "weeding out problem embryos", a phrase described by Mrs Nuala Scarisbrick of Life as very distressing. She said: "This sends out an awful message to disabled people that they are effectively a waste of life." [Times and London Metro, 7 March] The English high court has convened at the bedside of a 43-year-old paraplegic woman who would like her life-support turned off. A psychiatrist who testified described how he had left a pro-euthanasia group after seeing how disabled people had been helped to cope. Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, head of the family division, presiding, expressed concerns that members of the court might become emotionally involved in the case, which continues. [Times and Ananova , 7 March] Paul Tully of SPUC said: "In general, all competent adult patients may legitimately refuse treatment but doctors have a duty of care and a legal and moral obligation not to assist in suicide by action or omission. If the lady is saying that she wants her doctors to help her commit suicide, the patient's right to refuse treatment is being used to try to force the doctors to act in a criminal way. If all she wants is for her treatment to stop and her disease to take its course, her intention is not necessarily suicidal. Press reports of the case fail to indicate if the question of assisting suicide was raised by any of the three eminent barristers involved." In a web-based debate, Alison Davis, leader of SPUC's handicap division and a sufferer from spina bifida, emphysema and osteoporosis, described how she had wanted to die for some 10 years and attempted suicide. Friends had convinced her that her life had value and she hoped that the un-named woman who was asking to die would receive similar support. [BBC, 6 March ] The Argentinian supreme court has banned morning-after pills because their abortifacient nature is against the country's constitutional protection of human life from conception. The Portal de Belen (Stable of Bethlehem) organisation persuaded the court to revoke health ministry approval for such pills. [LifeSite, 6 March ] The judgement is available in Spanish on the supreme court's website . Women will be allowed to adopt frozen embryos who have been created through fertility treatment but are no longer wanted by their parents under a new initiative in Canada. Ms Leslie Perkins of Toronto has modelled the country's first such scheme on a system in the USA and wants all parents of frozen embryos to take part. [LifeSite, 6 March ] A United Nations group will meet next week to consider how developing countries' fertility rates have fallen to below replacement levels. The meeting is being convened by the population division of the economic and social affairs department. [LifeSite, 6 March ] Babies conceived by intracytoplasmic sperm injection and in vitro fertilisation are more likely to have developmental anomalies than those created naturally, according to research performed in Australia by Leicester university, England, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. [Ananova, 6 March ] Human bone-marrow has been used by Minnesota researchers to repair brain-damage caused by ischemic strokes in rats. [Experimental Neurology, March, reported on Science Daily, 5 March ] Gynaecologists in Saudi Arabia have been the first to transplant a womb. The operation took place two years ago though the womb needed to be removed after 99 days because of blood-clotting. [Guardian, 7 March ]

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