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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 1 April 2003

1 April 2003

1 April 2003 The English Court of Appeal has begun hearing an appeal by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) against a High Court ruling last December that it acted beyond its powers in authorising the creation of a so-called designer baby to serve as a tissue donor for a sick older sibling. The case centres upon the Hashmi family, who want to use in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to create a number of embryos and then select one who would be a perfect bone marrow donor for four-year-old Zain Hashmi, who has thalassaemia. The pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), which won the original case, is contesting the appeal. The hearing is expected to last for two days, with a decision expected before Easter. [BBC News online and SPUC, 1 April] The UK's Pro-Life Party, which is fielding three candidates in the Scottish parliamentary elections on 1 May, is calling for a referendum in Scotland on abortion. Power to legislate on abortion is currently reserved to the UK parliament in London, but the Pro-Life Party's Robert Rodgers explained that their main aim was to have this power devolved to the Scottish parliament. He continued: "That achieved, an independent review of the physical, emotional and spiritual impact that abortion has had on individuals, families and communities should be undertaken and the matter put to the Scottish electorate in a referendum." The party [formerly known as the ProLife Alliance] also believes that a repeal of permissive abortion laws in Scotland would have a positive effect on the Scottish economy by reversing population decline. [The Scotsman, 1 April ] The European Union has agreed to give $24 million over the next three years to the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the provision of "reproductive health services" to Asian youngsters. Thoraya Obaid, UNFPA's executive director, expressed "profound gratitude for the generosity of the European Union and all its members" after the agreement was signed last Thursday for a 'reproductive health initiative' in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. [UN News Service, 28 March ; LifeSite, 31 March ] "Reproductive health services" are understood by UN agencies to include the provision of abortion and abortifacient drugs. The US State Department has accused North Korea of carrying out forced abortions on female prisoners. The department's annual human rights report, released yesterday, notes: "There were reports that North Korean officials prohibited live births in prison and that a policy of forced abortion was regularly implemented, particularly in those detention centres holding women repatriated from China. In those cases where live births did occur, the babies reportedly were immediately killed." The report also criticises China, where "violence against women (including imposition of a birth limitation policy coercive in nature) [has] resulted in instances of forced abortion and forced sterilisation." [VOA News, 1 April ; US State Department report, 31 March ; also see SPUC media release, 1 April ] Russia has opened its first ethical stem cell bank. The bank will give parents the opportunity to store their children's umbilical cord blood, which is rich in stem cells, for up to 15 years. Paul Backer, director general of the US company Cryomedica and chief executive of the Russian facility, stressed that it was non-controversial because it would only store ethically derived stem cells and not those extracted from embryos. [AFP, 31 March; via Yahoo! News ] A stem cell bank set up in Britain last September will store stem cells extracted from embryos, even though ethically derived cells have consistently shown greater therapeutic potential. A prominent Catholic pro-life official has told US senators that only a comprehensive ban on human cloning would be sufficient. The US Senate is currently considering two rival bills on cloning, one of which would ban all cloning and another which would ban cloning only for reproductive purposes. Richard M Doerflinger, deputy director of the US bishops' secretariat for pro-life activities, told a Senate subcommittee that there were numerous deficiencies in the Hatch/Feinstein proposal for a partial cloning ban, and that only the Brownback/Landrieu proposal for a total ban would effectively attack "the threat of 'reproductive cloning' at its root". [USCCB, 28 March ; Zenit, 31 March ] Researchers in the US have claimed that the legalisation of abortion resulted in an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by as much as 25%. A study by Jon Klick and Thomas Stratmann, both of George Mason University in Virginia, notes that the legalisation of abortion "provided extra incentives to engage in risky sexual behaviour", and also led to a reduction in the cost of an abortion which had "a qualitatively and quantitatively important effect on STD rates." [LifeSite, 31 March ]

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