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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 24 January 2003

24 January 2003

24 January 2003 A UK government task force has recommended further reviews of the 1990 law which regulates in vitro fertilisation and embryo experimentation. In its report on "Scientific Research: Innovation with Controls", the government's Better Regulation Task Force recommends: "that the Department of Health should review, in 2004, the 2001 amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, to make sure the Act keeps pace with the developments in embryonic stem cell research and public opinion. Thereafter the legislation should be reviewed every three years." The task force also expressed concern about the independence and accountability of the process by which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority issues licences because "those individuals peer reviewing licence applications were often the same people who would be making a licence application the next time round". [SPUC, 24 January] Germany's National Committee on Ethics recommended yesterday that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) should be allowed to screen IVF embryos for genetic disorders. 15 of the 24 committee members voted in favour of PGD, although a number of others spoke out passionately against it. A committee spokeswoman explained later that the positive recommendation was accompanied by strict limitations so that PGD would only be used to screen out and destroy those embryos whose inherited condition was so serious that they would be covered by current rules governing [eugenic] abortion. The committee's chairman estimated that this would apply to about 1,000 embryos each year. [Reuters, 23 January ] The executive director of the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has acknowledged that the agency's finances have suffered since its support for coerced abortions in China led to the withdrawal of US funding. Addressing the UNFPA's executive board meeting in New York this week, Thoraya Obaid said: "As everyone in this room knows, resource mobilisation was a major challenge for UNFPA in 2002, and is likely to remain a major challenge for 2003 and beyond. By the middle of last year, it was clear that UNFPA was facing a serious financial crisis." Ms Obaid observed that the agency's core resources had dropped by $13 million to $256 million last year, a loss which "hung like a dark cloud over UNFPA's operational activities". [C-FAM, 24 January ] Ireland's Labour party has tabled a bill in the Dáil to ban human cloning for all purposes. The Human Reproduction Bill would ban both reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning and impose a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for those who breached it. Dr Mary Upton, the party's spokeswoman on agriculture and food, said that there was a "dangerous legislative vacuum" in Ireland in the absence of any laws on cloning, and that it would not be advisable to wait for the conclusions of the official Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, which was established three years ago and is only now beginning its consultation process. [u.tv, 23 January; Irish Examiner, 24 January] Researchers in the Netherlands have suggested that children conceived through IVF might be at an increased risk of developing a rare childhood cancer of the retina. The study by a team at the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre and published in The Lancet medical journal estimated that IVF children could be between five and seven times more likely to develop retinoblastoma than children who were conceived naturally, although other experts have treated the study with caution. Dr Alison Murdoch, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said that Dutch report was "an isolated finding" and that the number of children born as a result of IVF treatment would continue to rise. Another study recently suggested that IVF children might be more likely to develop a rare gene disorder called Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. [BBC News online, 24 January ; also see digest for 19 December ] The attorney general of Delaware in the US has said that prosecutors will begin to enforce a 24-year-old state law which obliges women to wait for 24 hours between requesting and going through with an abortion. The law was passed in 1979 but not enforced because lawyers believed that it might be unconstitutional according to the 1973 Roe v Wade judgement. However, lawyers in the present attorney general's office have reviewed federal court rulings since 1973 which have clarified the matter by upholding the legality of other provisions which limit access to abortion. [AP, 23 January; via Pro-Life Infonet ] President Vicente Fox of Mexico has released a sonogram of his unborn grandson appearing to make the two-fingered salute which became the President's trademark during his successful 2000 election campaign. The image first appeared on the presidential website and then made the front page of national newspapers on Tuesday. [Reuters, 22 January ]

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