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News, 30 June 2003

30 June 2003

30 June 2003 A British woman who travelled to Spain so that she could have IVF treatment and choose the sex of her baby is pregnant with twin girls. The selection of embryos for implantation based on gender is currently illegal in the UK except in cases of gender-based genetic disease. Nicola Chenery, who already has four sons and wanted a daughter, claimed that the law preventing sex selection was "archaic and just illogical" on the grounds that abortion for reasons of gender already occurred in the UK. [BBC, 27 June ] SPUC spokesman Paul Tully commented: "Ironically, abortion purely for gender selection is not legal and is about the only reason for abortion that the Department of Health has tried to stop." The Feminist Majority Foundation, a U.S. based pro-abortion group, claims that the abortion pill RU 486 has been provided to at least 11 Polish women aboard the Dutch abortion ship Aurora. Polish customs officials found that the seals on the boxes of RU 486 had been broken and 12 pills were missing, though it is not known whether they were used. Polish prosecutors have stated that they are obliged to investigate as the distribution of illegal drugs is punishable by a two-year prison sentence, but customs officials have warned that the crew cannot be prosecuted if the drugs were distributed in international waters. [LifeNews, 26 June ] Thousands of protesters against abortion, euthanasia and embryo experimentation gathered in London yesterday for a Choose Life rally. The upbeat celebration of life organised by Lady Salisbury included pro-life witness, talks and entertainment. The rally concluded with a concert performance of a requiem for the unborn. [The Telegraph, 30 June ] Two women whose former partners have refused to allow their frozen embryos to be used have taken their case to the High Court, Sky News reports. Natalie Evans and Lorraine Hadley underwent IVF with their partners but both couples later separated. Under UK law, the embryos will be destroyed if both parties do not agree to keep them but the women are expected to argue that consent cannot be withdrawn after the embryos have been created and that to destroy them would be a breach of human rights. Muiris Lyons, the solicitor acting for the women stated: "the case raises important legal, moral and ethical issues as to the rights of an embryo, its status and position in law." [Sky News, 30 June ] The first baby conceived as a result of sperm obtained over the Internet is due to be born next month. The parents chose sperm from the website www.mannotincluded.com which allows prospective parents to select a sperm donor on the basis of details such as personality traits and physical appearance for a registration fee of £750 plus £80 for three Internet searches. The website, set up by John Gonzalez for lesbian couples and single women, has been condemned as unsafe and exploitative. A spokeswoman from the HFEA warned that the use of fresh sperm by the website carried health dangers because she said, "with fresh sperm, you cannot guarantee that the sperm is safe and disease-free." Dr Anthony Cole, chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, said: "there is considerable disquiet that this could be done on a commercial basis... I think probably there is a strong central ground about the importance of parenthood. Who are the parents? A child should have proper access to their blood parents." [Channel 4 News, 28 June ] New Zealand attorney-general Margaret Wilson has warned that a bill to allow assisted suicide would breach the Bill of Rights Act. MP Peter Brown's Death with Dignity Bill seeks to allow the terminally or incurably ill to solicit medical assistance to end their lives or to appoint others to request such help on their behalf if they become unable to do so themselves. Ms Wilson has argued that the Bill is 'inconsistent with the right not to be deprived of life' though this will not stop the bill progressing. [www.stuff.co.nz, 27 June ] Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have found evidence that human embryonic stem cells can grow into three major types of human heart cell. It is anticipated that in the future, these cells could be used to restore heart muscle to patients with congestive heart failure. However, possible treatment is at least five or ten years away. Researchers are already using adult stem cells to treat heart failure patients successfully. Hare, of Johns Hopkins University argued that adult stem cells may prove so successful that embryonic stem cells will not be needed, bypassing the ethical difficulties of using embryonic cells. [JS Online, 27 June ] The manslaughter laws of New South Wales are to be changed after 103 years to include protection for unborn children. Renee Shields, whose unborn child, Byron, was killed when the car she was travelling in was rammed during a road rage incident, spearheaded the campaign to change the law after it refused to recognise Byron's killing as murder. In her written submission to a review on NSW manslaughter charges, she stated: "Those who insist a child in the womb is not alive until it is born are imprecise...the law has totally contradicted itself: we were required to obtain a birth certificate and carry out a funeral service yet who is being held responsible for his death?" The new law, which will make it an offence to kill an unborn child during an attack on the mother, was announced last Wednesday. Ms Shields said: "it would be really fitting if everyone knew it as Byron's Law." [Daily Telegraph (Australia), 27 June ] The Belfast press reports that SPUC will be promoting its petition against the supply of morning after pills to schoolgirls across Northern Ireland next Saturday. "This is the worst thing we in SPUC have had to fight since the passing of the Abortion Act itself," said SPUC's Ulster spokesman Liam Gibson, "we cannot allow the government to get away with it." [The Belfast Telegraph, 27 June ]

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