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Defending life
from conception to natural death


HFEA announces public consultation on genetic screening

12 August 2005

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority says it is going to launch a public consultation later this year on a new use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

The technique can presently be used on IVF embryos to detect conditions which are certain to be transmitted, such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease.

The authority will ask whether it might also be used to look for conditions "where not all people with the gene will get the disease". As examples, the authority cites inherited breast and ovarian cancer, and hereditary non polyposis colon cancer.

It is unclear when the consultation will start but the authority's announcement says there will be a "public event". [HFEA, 11 August] The Times newspaper reports that any policy change could be implemented early next year, and that urgent requests to use the technique for the proposed new purpose might even be approved during the consultation. [Times, 12 August]

A spokesman for the Catholic church in Scotland said: "[Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis] is about ruthlessly culling from the human gene pool people with the misfortune of having particular diseases. It is an attack on human life. Are we really saying the only way forward is to eradicate anyone not deemed perfect?" [Herald, 12 August]

SPUC calls on UN to drop pro-abortion language from disability convention

SPUC has called upon the United Nations to remove a reference to sexual and reproductive health services from a draft convention on disabled people.

Pat Buckley of SPUC told the Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, meeting now in New York: "[T]his Convention will be legally binding. [It] could contribute to the codification of abortion and euthanasia into international law.

"'Reproductive health', 'reproductive health care', 'reproductive health services' and 'reproductive rights' do not appear in any legally binding UN document. The [preamble to] the Article talks about health and rehabilitation 'rights' and 'services'. This would add a new 'right' that could be interpreted to include abortion in a legally binding document regardless of whatever formulation of 'reproductive health' is used."

Mr Buckley also called for clearer language describing disabled people's need for food, water and medicine.

The committee's chairman rejected Mr Buckley's intervention, saying no new rights were being created. Speaking of the chairman's ruling, Dr Douglas Sylva of the Holy See's delegation said: "In all the UN meetings I have attended I have never heard the intention of the drafters being taken into consideration.

"Interpretation of UN documents is never static and UN compliance committees are continually trying to expand the meaning of various conventions such as the CEDAW convention."

Other stories:

The US abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America has dropped a TV advert implying that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts condoned violence in protests against abortion. Pro-abortion Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter said the advert was "blatantly untrue and unfair." Specter told NARAL that it was inaccurate and hurt the pro-abortion cause. The senator is a longstanding pro-abortion advocate. [LifeNews, 12 August] The Guardian newspaper reported that Mr Roberts opposed the use of the law to stop people from preventing access to abortion clinics. The ad includes film of a clinic which was bombed. [Guardian, 12 August]

European Life Network of Dublin has commented on the Irish Family Planning Association's campaign for a liberalisation of the country's abortion law. A spokesman said: "There is a new and concerted effort on the part of the pro-abortion lobby to try and force abortion on the Irish nation. However it will be firmly opposed by our organisation and other pro-life groups. The Irish nation has rejected the introduction of abortion so far and I am convinced it will continue to do so, despite the efforts of the pro-abortion movement." [European Life Network, 12 August]

Most smokers who become pregnant do not give up smoking, according to Glasgow university research published in the British Medical Journal. In most cases, counselling about the dangers to the unborn of maternal smoking does not seem to persuade mothers to stop. The study was of 762 women who were regular smokers. Our source cites an estimate that one third of pregnant women smoke. [Sky, 12 August]

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