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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 February 2003

28 February 2003

28 February 2003 An analysis of official government statistics for England and Wales has indicated that 43% of recorded conceptions outside marriage ended in legal abortions in 2001, compared to only 6% of conceptions within marriage. The analysis by the Office for National Statistics, contained within their Health Statistics Quarterly publication for Spring 2003, also reveals that the proportion of underage conceptions leading to abortion rose from 54% in 2000 to 56% in 2001, and that the proportion of conceptions outside wedlock which ended in abortion rose by 7% between 1990 and 2001. 23.2% of all recorded conceptions in England and Wales ended in abortion in 2001 [amounting to 186,274 lives lost], an increase of 0.5% from the previous year. 40.3% of all recorded conceptions in women under 20 ended in abortion, a proportion which rose to 45.7% among women under 18. [ONS, 27 February ] The US House of representatives has passed legislation to ban human cloning for all purposes. Members of the House voted yesterday by 241 to 155 in favour of a comprehensive cloning ban, with penalties of 10 years in prison and fines beginning at $1 million for violators. President Bush welcomed the vote and urged the US Senate to act quickly to pass its own version of the same legislation [rather than a rival bill to ban cloning for reproductive purposes only]. In a written statement, the president advocated the pursuit of ethical stem cell technology "in ways that respect human dignity and help build a culture of life". [CNN and Bloomberg, 27 February] The new archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, has praised the Pope's vision of "the nature of the human person in the light of Christian theology". Rowan Williams, who was enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral yesterday, told Vatican Radio that much of what Pope John Paul II had written had been an inspiration for him. [Zenit, 27 February ] The Pope's understanding of the human person applies from conception, and Archbishop Williams has espoused pro-life views. However, he has not broached the subject of abortion in recent interviews and did not mention it in his enthronement sermon. The bioethics institute of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has joined forces with pro-life groups to oppose a parliamentary bill to legalise assisted suicide. Dr Helen Watt, director of the London-based Linacre Centre, asked Catholics throughout the UK to write to members of both houses of parliament asking them to oppose Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying Bill, which received its first reading in the House of Lords last week. She also urged support for another bill presented by Baroness Jill Knight to outlaw euthanasia by omission in hospitals. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary, said that the Conservative parliamentary opposition should hold the government to its official policy against euthanasia and highlight the fact that the government's definition of euthanasia was inadequate because it did not extend to euthanasia by omission. [Catholic Herald, 28 February] A prominent bishop in the Vatican has observed that scientists cannot operate autonomously without regard for ethical principles. In his address to the ninth general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the Academy's vice-president, said that research in areas such as biomedicine had "dimensions and consequences of planetary relevance". The bishop said that certain factors must influence the appraisal of scientific research policies, including "the consent of individuals subjected to experiments", because "man must be responsible for his neighbour". [Zenit, 27 February ]

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