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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 October 2002

21 October 2002

21 October 2002 Russia's chief gynaecologist has told a news conference that his country's abortion rate remains second only to that of Romania. Vladimir Kulakov, head of Russia's Scientific Centre for Girls, said that 60% of all Russian pregnancies ended in abortion, and that a further 10% ended in miscarriages as a result of health problems and malnutrition. He observed that six million Russian women were now infertile, and that abortion was a major cause of this. [AP, 18 October; via Northern Light ] Malaysia's National Fatwa Council has set out the conditions for permissible abortions and declared that the killing of an unborn child after 120 days' gestation should be considered as murder unless it is done to save the mother's life. The council's ruling, or fatwa, on abortion also states that abortion prior to 120 days' gestation can be further permitted when the unborn child is handicapped. The parliamentary secretary of the prime minister's department revealed that the national government had decided not to publicise the fatwa when it was issued for fear that it could be misused. The fatwa would have to be adopted by state governments before it could be enforced. [New Straits Times, 17 October ] Professor Severino Antinori, the controversial Italian fertility expert, has claimed that the world's first cloned baby is about to be born at a secret location. Professor Antinori claims to have carried out the cloning procedure on eggs from 100 female patients last Spring, and in April he said that three of these were more than 12 weeks' pregnant. [The Times, 20 October] Pregnant women in the UK have been warned that a traditional remedy for morning sickness could harm their unborn child. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned that calabash chalk, imported from Africa and used mainly by women from western Africa, contains high levels of lead which could harm babies in the womb. The FSA also announced that it would be approaching the European Commission to suggest a ban on the sale of calabash chalk throughout the European Union. [BBC, 15 October ] Scientists in Los Angeles have used adult stem cells to treat brain cancer in mice. Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center extracted neural stem cells from the bone marrow, modified them using gene therapy so that they produced a cancer-killing protein, and then injected them back into the mice. It is thought that neural stem cells are able to track cancer cells as they move around the brain, thus killing all cancerous cells and making it less likely that tumours will recur. The average survival time in the treated mice was 50% longer than in untreated mice. The researchers hope that the therapy will be ready for testing on humans within 18 months. [BBC, 20 October ] Adult stem cell technology provides an ethical and more promising alternative to the use of stem cells extracted from embryos and to so-called therapeutic cloning.

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