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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 31 October 2002

31 October 2002

31 October 2002 The US government has extended the definition of "human subjects" to include embryos and foetuses in a charter directing the activities of a new committee to oversee research. The newly-established federal advisory committee will be concerned with experiments on human subjects and the extension of its scope to include the unborn is being seen as a sign that President Bush's administration considers human beings to have rights from fertilisation. Pro-lifers have welcomed the change, while Kate Michelman, a prominent pro-abortionist, condemned it as "another stone on the pathway to overturning legal abortion". Professor George Annas of the Boston University school of public health pointed out that the change would not prevent research using embryos because defining them as "human subjects" was not the same as declaring them as "human persons". [ABC News, 30 October ] It is reported that a pro-life doctor who was sent to prison in Cuba three years ago after he condemned the country's high abortion rate is to be released today. Amnesty International declared Dr Oscar Elias Biscet a prisoner of conscience and other Cuban pro-life campaigners made appeals for international help in securing his release [see SPUC's news digest for 24 January 2001 ]. Dr Biscet was charged with "improper use of state-owned materials" in connection with his research into the use of drugs to induce abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. [CNSNews, 31 October ] Cuba has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. A former auxiliary bishop in Havana has said that six out of every 10 unborn babies are killed by abortion. British scientists have developed a blood test for rhesus disease which could save unborn lives. Rhesus disease can occur when a mother has rhesus negative blood while her unborn child has rhesus positive blood. Antibodies in the mother's blood attack the baby's red blood cells, causing the baby to become anaemic or even suffer heart failure. In severe cases the condition can be treated with intrauterine blood transfusions. However, doctors have only been able to test for the condition using an amniocentesis test, which carries a risk of miscarriage and can make rhesus disease worse. Researchers at the department of foetal medicine at Bristol university have now developed a blood test for the condition which works by analysing tiny amounts of foetal DNA which leak into the mother's blood during pregnancy. [BBC News online, 31 October ] The Canadian health department has been forced to admit that there is no evidence to justify government claims that abortions are "medically necessary". The issue is significant in Canada because all procedures deemed to be medically necessary must be publicly funded under the Canada Health Act. Earlier this month Ms Anne McLellan, the federal health minister, claimed that "obviously abortion is a medically necessary service" but, in response to a question from a member of parliament, her department admitted that it could not provide any evidence in support of the minister's assertion. [LifeSite, 30 October ] The Catholic archbishop of Denver has said for the second time in as many weeks that Catholics should only vote for pro-life candidates. Archbishop Charles Chaput, a Capuchin friar, insisted that voters could not remain neutral on abortion, which he said was "separated from other important social issues ... by a difference in kind, not a difference in degree" because every abortion killed an unborn human life. The archbishop wrote: "No matter what kind of mental gymnastics we use, elective killing has no excuse. We only implicate ourselves by trying to provide one." [CWNews , 29 October]

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