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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 8 April 2003

8 April 2003

8 April 2003 The English Court of Appeal ruled today that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) does have the power to authorise the creation of so-called designer babies to serve as tissue donors for sick older siblings. The judgement, which overturns an earlier ruling by the High Court, allows the Hashmi family to create a number of IVF embryos and then use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select those who would be able to provide a bone marrow transplant for four-year-old Zain Hashmi, who has thalassaemia. The procedure will almost certainly result in the sacrifice of many of Zain's embryonic siblings. Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, the group which brought the original legal challenge, insisted that "designing another child as a therapeutic commodity, as a tissue bank, is definitely not an ethical cure." Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, commented: "Many embryos will now be created - and die - in this unethical search for genetically desirable children... we regard it as deplorable to use the suffering of families and children as a means of emotional blackmail to demand that human embryos in the test-tube can be chopped up, tested and discarded as if they were inert samples from an industrial chemical process." [BBC News online and SPUC media release , 8 April] An American institute has claimed that Marie Stopes International (MSI) is performing illegal abortions in Kenya. Steven W Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), said that investigators working for his organisation had discovered that MSI used hand-held manual vacuum aspirators to perform abortions up to and even beyond 16 weeks' gestation under the guise of "post-abortion care" or "menstrual regulation". When the investigators visited an MSI clinic in Uihiga District, 300 miles from the capital Nairobi, the clinic manager confirmed that they provided menstrual regulation (MR), and admitted: "MR is abortion, so we include it under PAC [post-abortion care]." The manager also said that MSI did the same thing in all of its 21 clinics in Kenya. [PRI Weekly News Briefing, 4 April] MSI is an international abortion promoter and provider based in London. Abortion remains illegal in Kenya in most cases. The Australian government is planning to introduce new laws to crack down on the use of the internet to promote suicide. The proposed legislation would establish penalties for those who provide information "that encourages vulnerable individuals to take their own lives" either on websites or by email. One of the targets of the legislation is thought to be Dr Philip Nitschke, the prominent Australian campaigner for euthanasia, who condemned the move as another step in the government's policy of making it impossible for people to "end their suffering". [The Age, 8 April ; CNSNews, 7 April ] An obstetrics and gynaecology specialist in Barbados has warned that young women are putting themselves at increased risk of developing breast cancer by having abortions. Dr Shirley Jhagroo, who also acts as chairperson of the Barbados Cancer Society's breast screening programme, said that abortion was being used a method of contraception in Barbados, and that the number of girls aged between 13 and 17 who were requesting abortions had become alarming. She said that girls of this age who opted for an abortion were at the same high risk of breast cancer as women with a family history of the condition and women aged between 40 and 70. [Nation Newspaper Barbados, 7 April ] Abortion has been permitted on a broad range of grounds in Barbados since 1983. 40% of all pregnancies occur in women under the age of 20, and many end in abortion. An American cardinal has strongly criticised a Catholic senator from his state for voting against a ban on partial-birth abortions. In a letter to Senator Barbara A Mikulski, a Democrat member of the US Senate for Maryland, Cardinal William H Keeler of Baltimore wrote: "I am deeply troubled by your continuing insistence that such a heinous procedure should be available in the United States of America." The bill to ban partial-birth abortions was passed by the US Senate last month by 64-33 and is now before the House of Representatives. [CNS, 7 April ]

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