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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 19 July 2004

19 July 2004

19 July 2004 The Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales has made a new statement on the British government's Mental Capacity Bill. In a briefing note issued on behalf of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said that "there remains ground for doubting whether the Bill" was compatible with the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), the encyclical on pro-life issues. The archbishop also said that the bishops' conference was not satisfied by the government's assurances about the Bill and acknowledged that opposition to the Bill is based on "many reasonable fears". However, the bishops repeated a previous statement that they "do not believe that the Bill can be described correctly as a Bill introducing a permission for euthanasia, which would have to be opposed for this reason." [Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, 19 July ] Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, commented: "Archbishop Smith's statement is a significant development in the thinking of the hierarchy on this Bill. The statement, however, comes to a number of conclusions which are not consistent with one another. The dangers of the Mental Capacity Bill must not be underestimated, and therefore SPUC will continue to campaign urging MPs to vote against the Bill at Second Reading, on the basis that it enshrines euthanasia by neglect in statute law" [SPUC, 19 July ] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is this week expected to rule on whether a child can be created through IVF to provide therapeutic tissue for a sibling. The process would include the rejection and probable disposal of embryos because they were not the required tissue-type. The authority has previously said that such activity could not take place because risks to the new child were not quantifiable. The test-case is that of Joshua Fletcher, 2, of County Down, Northern Ireland, who has diamond blackfan anaemia. Dr Mohammed Taranissi of a London clinic is said to be making the application to the authority. The British Medical Association is in favour of a relaxation of the rules but Professor Jack Scarisbrick of the Life organisation has said: "It can never be right to manufacture human beings to repair other human beings." [BBC, 17 July ] The United States has again withheld its $34 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of the latter's involvement in coerced abortion in China. American law forbids support for such activity, though the fund denies involvement. This is the third consecutive year that the US has refused to support the fund. The UNFPA says that a US State Department (foreign ministry) survey two years ago found no evidence of support for forced abortion. [BBC, 17 July ] Mr Colin Powell, US secretary of state, said that his country had frequently asked China to stop coerced abortion. [News-Medical, 17 July ] Obesity among pregnant women with gestational diabetes is linked to an increase of developmental problems in their unborn children. Research on more than 2000 children by Spanish scientists published in the Diabetologia journal suggests that body weight is even more significant than the severity of the mother's diabetes. Developmental problems mentioned include cardiac malformation. [Medical News Today, 16 July ] Expectant mothers who experience stress between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy may have a greater likelihood of having children who suffer from anxiety, attention deficit and/or hyperactivity. Dr Bea Van den Bergh of Louvain university, Belgium, led research whose results appear in the Child Development journal. It is suggested that maternal stress later in pregnancy does not have such an effect. [Reuters, 16 July ] Dr Van den Bergh has argued that there may be a causal link between maternal stress and a child's behaviour. This was not apparently proved by the study. A mother in County Meath, Ireland, is reported to have applied for a school place for her child before he was born. The Irish National Teachers' Organisation predicts that a shortage of school places will mean that other parents will do the same. [Belfast Telegraph, 16 July ]

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