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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 14 October 2002

14 October 2002

14 October 2002 Parents have expressed fears for the lives of their frozen IVF embryos after it emerged that the English fertility clinic where they are being stored is to close. St George's hospital, Tooting, London, announced the sudden closure of its Assisted Conception Service last week amid concerns about lack of specialist staff. The hospital has arranged for the frozen embryos of around 40 couples to be transferred to a unit at King's College hospital, although the parents are concerned about the potential effects of the disturbance on their embryos. [Wandsworth Guardian, 11 October] The frozen storage of IVF embryos is another example of how the advent of IVF has led to a devaluing and commodification of human life. The scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep has announced his intention to submit the first application in the UK to clone human embryos for research purposes. Professor Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, said he hoped to lodge the application within six months once all the regulatory hurdles had been overcome. Professor Wilmut describes cloning for reproductive purposes as unsafe and unethical, but hopes that research on the stem cells of cloned embryos [individual human beings who would be destroyed in the process] could lead to treatments for a range of adult ailments. [BBC News online, 12 October ] The Catholic bishops of Peru have condemned an attempt to remove protection of unborn life from the country's constitution and open the doors to legal abortion. The text of a proposed constitutional amendment approved by the Peruvian congress last week states: "Abortion is prohibited but for the exception permitted by the law." In a letter to lawmakers, the bishops condemned this exception as an attack on the fundamental right to life, and noted that it would make Peru the first Latin American country in which abortion was permitted in the constitution. The bishops urged lawmakers to respect the American Convention on Human Rights which explicitly affirms the right to life from conception. [Zenit, 11 October ] India's supreme court has ordered the governments of all states and territories to take further action against the continuing practice of sex-selective abortion. Pre-natal testing with a view to sex-selection is illegal under Indian law, although a suit filed with the supreme court alleges that unlicensed clinics are continuing to advertise sex selection services unhindered. It is reported that the traditional preference for male children in India has led not only to widespread sex-selective abortion of females, but also to the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select only male children during IVF treatment. In February, the supreme court ordered all state governments to impound unlicensed ultrasound machines which were being used to facilitate sex selection. [Hindustan Times, 8 October; via Pro-Life Infonet ] The teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion has been highlighted by a group of more than 100 young Catholics in an open letter marking the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's opening, last Friday. The letter affirms that Church teachings on abortion, contraception and the true nature of marriage "are integral parts of one beautiful seamless garment and cannot be torn away from the whole". The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the Church's ancient teaching in defence of the unborn. [Catholic Herald, 11 October] The importance of promoting the inherent value of human life in its earliest stages will be the subject of a bioethics forum to be held in Brussels, Belgium, next weekend. The conference, organised by Medicine and Human Dignity, will be addressed by prominent medical experts, academics, lawyers, ethicists and others who will facilitate discussion on how to protect the embryo and answer the ethical questions raised by destructive embryonic research. [SPUC Brussels, 14 October and ]

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