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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 5 June 2003

5 June 2003

5 June 2003 The US Congress voted yesterday to ban partial birth abortion by a margin of 282-139. Partial birth abortion, which involves the puncturing of the partially delivered baby's skull, will be outlawed in all states if it becomes a part of federal law. "Partial birth abortion is a gruesome and inhumane procedure and it is a grave attack against human dignity and justice. This practice must be banned," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., at the opening of the debate. Pro-abortion groups have vowed to challenge the ban in the Supreme Court if President Bush signs it, claiming that it is unconstitutional. Bush, however, supports the bill, stating that it 'will help build a culture of life in America.' [CNN, 4 June ] Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation claim to have identified a chemical molecule that can direct embryonic stem cells to become neurons. "This is an important step in our efforts to understand how to modulate stem cell proliferation and fate," said Peter Schultz, Professor of chemistry and Scripps Family Chair of TSRI's Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology. However, there are still major problems with the use of stem cells, Science Daily reports. Scientists cannot yet understand or control the signalling mechanisms that determine the fate of stem cells. [Science Daily, 3 June ] Surgeons from Ohio will attempt to repair damaged heart tissue using adult stem cells in an operation to be performed today. The operation, which will take place alongside heart bypass surgery, will involve the injection of the patient's own skeletal muscle stem cells into his heart in order to grow new cardiac tissue. This procedure has previously been tried in animals and is part of a national clinical study co-ordinated by the Carl and Edyth Lindner Center for Cardiovascular Research. "I think this has immense potential," stated Dr Dean Keriakes, cardiologist and director of the Lindner Center. Adult stem cell research is an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell experimentation that offers many possibilities for the treatment of a wide range of diseases. [www.bixjournals.com, 2 June ] Dr Philip Nitschke, the Australian euthanasia advocate, will present his suicide machine at a workshop in Adelaide on Saturday. The device, which causes death through the inhalation of carbon monoxide, cost $10,000 to develop but Dr Nitschke intends it to cost approximately $100 to build at home. The machines could potentially be sold and distributed legally because they could be used for purposes other than suicide. Dr Nitschke was stopped at Sydney Airport en route to the United States and the machine was confiscated, a move that he is shortly to challenge in a Sydney court. There have been five Private Members Bills on euthanasia presented to the South Australia Parliament in the past seven years, the most recent of which is currently at the committee stage. [The Advertiser, 5 June ] MPs and campaigners in the UK have accused the health service of pressuring teenagers into having abortions, the Independent reports. Abortion rates among under-18s have risen since the government introduced targets to reduce teenage pregnancies in 1998. Anne Widdecombe MP, said: "There is no doubt a school of thought that the answer to pregnancy is abortion and therefore the pressure on teenagers is immense because most are not ready for motherhood." However, the Department of Health denies coercion by health advisors, claiming that the increase in abortion rates is due to improved access to contraceptive advice and services. "These services provide unbiased information and counselling so that pregnant teenagers can make the right choice for their personal circumstances," said a spokesman for the Department of Health. [The Independent, 5 June ]

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