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News, 6 January 2003

6 January 2003

6 January 2003 The UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) is offering money to fertility clinics to encourage them to provide more spare embryos for destructive research. The MRC, which receives funding from the British government, has written to selected IVF clinics offering "limited pump-priming money" to encourage and facilitate the donation of embryos "that are no longer needed for IVF treatment and might become available for research purposes". The letter reportedly suggests that the money could be used to employ a nurse co-ordinator who would "aid consenting by potential donors" [i.e. parents] to donate their unwanted IVF offspring for stem cell research. The MRC is setting up Europe's first stem cell bank. [Sunday Herald, 5 January ] Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, commented: "This development reveals the nastiest side of the IVF industry - its readiness to exploit and pressurise couples in order to use their embryos as guinea-pigs. By signing up to the IVF procedure, such couples are already morally compromised (and often financially compromised), but now they will be 'counselled' to give up their surplus test-tube babies for destructive experiments. We plan to table questions in Parliament about the kind of incentives that clinics are allowed to use." Clonaid, the company linked to the Raelian cult, has claimed that a Dutch lesbian gave birth to the world's second full-term cloned baby on Friday. Dr Brigitte Boisselier, Clonaid's chief executive, also claimed that three more cloned babies would be born by February. She said that several hundred cloned embryos had been created for genetic testing and that 10 implantations had been attempted, five of which were successful. However, scepticism about the reliability of the claims are mounting in the absence of any independent corroboration. DNA tests have still not been carried out on the first alleged cloned baby, and no further details have been provided about the second birth. [CNN, 4 January ; BBC News online, 5 January ; Western Mail, 6 January ] The British department of health confirmed on Saturday that it was "keeping under review" the issue of whether the law which regulates IVF treatment and embryo experimentation in the UK should be re-visited. The success of legal challenges to the way in which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act has been interpreted in the areas of cloning and embryo selection have led many to believe that the 1990 law needs re-writing, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is reportedly pushing the government privately to 'clarify' the law. Suzi Leather, chairman of the HFEA, admitted that the massive growth in IVF was unforeseen by parliament in 1990 when she commented: "There are aspects of the Act that are difficult because we are talking about an Act that was defined when infertility treatment was regarded as something that would be rare." [The Observer, 5 January ] The British home secretary who oversaw the legalisation of abortion has died at the age of 82. Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who was the Labour home secretary when the Abortion Act was passed in 1967, has been described as "the architect of the permissive society". Lord Healey, another former Labour cabinet minister, included the liberalisation of Britain's law on abortion among Lord Jenkins' greatest achievements. [Sky News and Metro, 6 January] The majority leader in the Philippines' senate has called for greater efforts to combat abortion after a report claimed that 400,000 unborn children were killed in the country every year. Commenting on the report by the University of the Philippines Population Institute, Senator Loren Legarda said: "If this estimate on abortion is accurate, then countless lives of children yet to be born are being silently extinguished with the murderers getting away with their dastardly crimes." The senator said that the fight against abortion should start at school, but that law enforcers should also crack down on illegal abortion clinics which were mostly located in urban areas. [Gulf News, 6 January ] Reports of high illegal abortion rates, which are always unsubstantiated and often wildly inflated, are a tactic commonly employed by pro-abortionists in countries with restrictive abortion laws and should be treated with caution. One of the largest pro-abortion groups in the US has changed its name and launched a new advertising campaign. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) is changing its name to Naral Pro Choice America, a move which is reportedly intended to put greater emphasis on the positive connotations of 'choice' rather than 'abortion'. The group was founded in 1969 to campaign for the repeal of restrictive abortion laws, and changed its name to NARAL after the US supreme court declared a constitutional right to abortion in 1973. The group claims that legal abortion is under greater threat now than at any time in the last 30 years. [New York Times, 5 January; via Pro-Life Infonet ] A Roman Catholic archbishop in Kansas has asked the state governor-elect Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, to move her interfaith inauguration service from a Catholic church to another location on account of her support for abortion. Archbishop James Patrick Keleher of Kansas City wrote: "I must note that Gov.-elect Sebelius is at odds with our Catholic faith on that most fundamental moral issue of respect for the right to life of the unborn." The archbishop said that the governor-elect's pro-abortion voting record in the state legislature was "particularly distressing, since she is a Catholic and as such has a moral responsibility to embrace the Gospel of life". [New Hampshire Union Leader, 3 January; via Pro-Life Infonet ]

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