News, 27 May 2002
27 May 2002
27 May 2002 Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has given his enthusiastic backing to all types of stem cell research. In a speech to the Royal Society in London, Mr Blair pledged to make Britain the "best place in the world" for stem cell research and said that anti-science prejudice was "profoundly damaging". He told the audience that Britain should be a nation "at ease with radical knowledge, not fearful of the future". [Daily Telegraph, 24 May] The UK remains the only country in the world whose parliament has voted to authorise the creation and destruction of human clones for research. SPUC has criticised the British government for holding up agreement on the European Union's research budget by pushing its own agenda in favour of embryo research. The UK is refusing to back down on its insistence that destructive research on human embryos should be included in the EU budget for the next four years. This is despite the fact that such research is illegal in a number of EU member states, such as Ireland where it is prohibited by the constitution. Germany, Italy and Austria have recommended that destructive embryo research should be excluded from the EU budget, and a number of other countries are ready to support them. Only the UK and some Scandinavian countries are now standing in the way of agreement. Representatives of EU national governments will meet on Wednesday to decide how to proceed. [SPUC, 27 May ] A university in California has become the first major public institution in the United States to confirm that it has conducted large-scale research into the cloning of human beings for so-called therapeutic purposes. The project aimed at deriving stem cells from cloned embryos began at the University of California-San Francisco three years ago, but was suspended after it failed to produce conclusive results. The leader of the project was Roger Pedersen, who has since moved to Britain. The US Senate is expected to vote on whether to pass a comprehensive human cloning ban next month. [New Zealand Herald, 26 May ] A prominent Jewish Orthodox rabbi in Ottawa, Canada, has spoken out against abortion. Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, founder of Clergy for a United Canada and a noted scholar, author and broadcaster, wrote in a newspaper: "...abortion is nothing less than the murder of a child in utero. This is not a women's-rights issue: This is a fetal-rights issue." [LifeSite, 24 May , and other sources] A columnist in a British national newspaper has suggested that Mrs Cherie Blair, the prime minister's wife, should have aborted her youngest child to prove her feminist credentials. Julie Burchill, who has had five abortions, writes in The Guardian: "Cherie Blair can call herself a feminist all she likes, but any feminist worth her salt would have made a point of having a termination--on the NHS, naturally--when she got [pregnant] the last time. Wantonly giving birth to a fourth child on a planet buckling under the strain of overpopulation certainly isn't any sort of example to set for gymslip mums, who can at least plead ignorance and rampant fertility." [The Guardian, 25 May ] A spokesman for SPUC commented: "This was a gratuitous and misplaced attack. Mrs Blair has done nothing to embarrass her husband over his strong pro-abortion stance, other than giving birth. Moreover, the overpopulation myth has been rejected even by the United Nations, and Britain's birth rate is now way below replacement level."