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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 November 2002

21 November 2002

21 November 2002 The European parliament voted today by a large majority in favour of a total ban on human cloning. An amendment to a report on life sciences and biotechnology which calls on the European commission and EU member states to push for a comprehensive cloning ban was adopted by 271 votes to 154. The amended paragraph 20 now reads: "[The European Parliament] solemnly reaffirms that the life and dignity of all human beings, whatever their stage of development and state of health, must be respected and is opposed to any form of research or use of life sciences and biotechnology that runs counter to this fundamental principle; repeats its insistence that there should be a universal and specific ban at the level of the United Nations on the cloning of human beings at all stages of formation and development and urges the Commission and the Member States to work towards this end." Pro-lifers were delighted at the vote, which represents a clear rejection of the Franco-German proposal at the United Nations for an international convention intended only to ban cloning for reproductive purposes. It also represents another rebuff of the UK's decision to encourage so-called therapeutic cloning, which has the active support of prime minister Tony Blair. The UK remains the only western country whose parliament has voted to allow the creation and destruction of cloned embryos in research - a decision which runs counter to the emerging international consensus. [Euro-Fam and SPUC, 21 November] The Vatican's representative at the United Nations has stated that so-called therapeutic cloning is even worse than cloning for reproductive purposes. Archbishop Renato Martino, the Holy See's outgoing permanent observer to the UN, said that the Catholic Church condemned all forms of human cloning, but that therapeutic cloning was "an even more serious offence against human dignity and the right to life, since it involves human beings (embryos) who are created in order to be destroyed". [LifeSite, 20 November ] Members of South Africa's parliament have urged Uganda to legalise abortion. Six MPs belonging to the African National Congress (ANC) from Limpopo province met Ugandan legislators and advised them to legalise abortion because of sexual abuse and moral degeneration. Joyce Ndimandi, one of the South African MPs, commented: "We are so surprised that Ugandans are alarmed when one says abortion [should] be legalised. But you cannot ignore the fact that morals have degenerated and incest in community is increasing day by day." [The Monitor (Kampala), 20 November; via ] The ANC ordered all its MPs to vote in favour of legislation to legalise abortion in South Africa in 1996, although more than 60 ANC members declined to vote and the measure was only narrowly passed by the National Assembly. [Christianity Today, 6 January 1997 ] The government of Switzerland has proposed legislation to authorise and regulate destructive embryonic stem cell research. The measure to be considered by parliament would authorise experimentation on embryos left over from IVF fertility treatment, but prohibit the importing or producing of embryos solely for research purposes. Researchers would also be prohibited from paying for embryos. [Bloomberg, 20 November] The state government of Queensland, Australia, has launched an inquiry into a local health authority's initiative to provide the abortifacient morning-after pill free of charge to teenagers at events held to celebrate their leaving school. The government-funded Townsville Sexual Health Service is offering school-leavers free morning-after pills as well as sex advice and condoms, but the morning-after pill is only available on prescription in Australia and the scheme has been widely criticised. [, 17 November ] The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has declared that destructive research on human embryos is ethically acceptable as long as it "will benefit human health" and is "conducted in ways that accord the embryo respect". Pro-lifers pointed out the absurdity of this statement because the use and destruction of human embryos as if they were merely chemical ingredients entails a total lack of respect for their humanity and dignity. The news did not come as a surprise, however, because the ASRM already supports in vitro fertilisation, a procedure which involves massive loss of life and a radical commodification of human life itself. [LifeSite, 20 November ; SPUC, 21 November]

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