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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 15 May 2002

15 May 2002

15 May 2002 A European ethics committee has urged caution on human cloning, though its reasons appear to be more to do with possible developmental anomalies than the protection of human life. Mr Peter Whittaker of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies said there was a consensus about the illegality of cloning people who might be born. However, his group was concerned that humans cloned for research could age prematurely, as has been observed in cloned mammals which have been brought to birth. Mr Whittaker wanted more work done on animal cloning. [Cybercast, 13 May ] Research on mice suggests that many cloned cells lack a gene which is essential for development. Scientists at Pennsylvania university found that the Oct4 gene was present in just a third of cells and some of those had too little of it to be effective. Dr Hans Scholer's team also found that cloned embryos were less likely to develop properly in the womb. [Ananova, 14 May ] Germany's main political parties want to let mothers choose to be anonymous when having their newborn babies adopted. Mothers would be able to name their babies and to change their minds within eight weeks of the birth. They could write an explanatory letter to be given to their children when they reached 16. There is concern that unwanted babies are being abandoned or killed, and that mothers are giving birth in insanitary conditions. Critics of the proposal say that anonymity could conceal crimes such as incest and would breach UN conventions on children's rights to know their parents. They cite complaints from people in France where anonymous birth has been allowed for several years. [Telegraph, 15 May ] Britain's national broadcasting organisation has been accused of being scared of the abortion debate. Mr Daniel Johnson makes the assertion in today's Daily Telegraph after the BBC chose to begin a television drama series about the secret services with a programme featuring murderous British pro-life activists led by an American woman. Mr Johnson says that the BBC's corporate culture defends the shibboleths of the 1960s, including the 1967 Abortion Act, and alleges that there is a conspiracy to stop the public from seeing the reality of the most widely-performed procedure in the British health service. He points out that Spooks failed to distinguish between the peaceful campaigning of the real pro-life movement and the activities of the fictional terrorists. A pro-lifer was portrayed as caring only about the unborn. The violent organisation in the programme had a name which combined words from the titles of two genuine pro-life groups, and another militant organisation was mentioned whose name included the title of another such group. [Telegraph, 15 May ]

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