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Defending life from the moment of conception

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2 February 2005

2 February 2005

2 February 2005 A legal challenge to the HFEA's grant of a license to clone human embryos will be heard by the High Court, a judge has ruled.

The case, brought by Peng Voong who works for the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, includes two major points - firstly that that the grant of the Licence was unlawful in that it did not meet the strict criteria laid down by Parliament; and secondly, that the HFEA was violating the rule of law by refusing to act transparently and accountably.

The legal challenge is supported by various groups such as Lawyers Christian Fellowship, CORE (Comment on Reproductive Ethics), the Pro-Life Alliance and Right to Life.

[LCFellowship press release, 1 February] Ruth Kelly, the British Government's Education Secretary of State who has been pursued by the media over her Catholicism and links to Opus Dei, has told the BBC Today programme that she supports the government's stem cell research policy.

She reportedly stated: "We have a 10-year science strategy, we have a policy toward stem cell research. I completely accept that that is the Government policy and I stand by it." She added: "The position I hold is one I have made absolutely clear, that I am a member of this Government and I will not only stand by the policies of this Government, but also, where I am responsible for implementing them, I will implement them as well."

[ , 1 February] John Smeaton, SPUC's National Director said: "Ruth Kelly's stance is deeply disappointing. As the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated in its note to Catholic politicians - '[T]he lay Catholic's duty [is] to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible.There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.'"

A 19-year-old woman in Pretoria is suing a businessman for R1.5million for allegedly forcing her to have an abortion after she became pregnant by him in July 2000.

The defendant, 32 at the time, allegedly arranged for her to have an abortion through a doctor friend.

The plaintiff claims that he caused her to have an abortion without adequate counselling, and that he should not have had sex with her at her age or caused her to become pregnant.

Her claims include costs for psychological counselling, medication for an eating disorder allegedly resulting from the abortion, and loss of earning power because she was unable to finish her education.

[, 31 January ] The Pope emphasised the need to defend the right to life in his message to an association of Catholic lawyers in Australia. At the St Thomas More Society's 60th anniversary Mass, John Paul II called upon lawyers to defend the "inviolable dignity and rights of every human being - from conception until natural death".

The Society has lobbied for changes to the abortion laws, opposes euthanasia, and is currently urging the Federal Parliament to uphold the ban on the use of embryonic stem cell research.

[, 1 February ] A coalition of representatives from various major religions and political parties has called on the Australian government to take measures to reduce the number of abortions.

The forum discussed restricting late-term abortions to public hospitals and demanded mandatory counselling for women seeking abortion. Tony Abbott, the Health Minister, indicated his support for the forum, saying: "If possible, we should move beyond the old pro-life, pro-choice debate to enable women to do their best on behalf of their children."

[, 1 February ] The failed presidential candidate John Kerry has said in an interview that the Democrat party needs to be more welcoming to pro-life candidates. While maintaining his campaign stance of supporting only Supreme Court nominees who are in favour of Roe v Wade, Kerry claimed that he supports parental notification laws and that adoption and abstinence 'are worth talking about.'

[, 31 January ] At a court hearing on Friday, the attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents argued that the court decision allowing her husband to end her life should be reversed on the grounds that Mrs Schiavo has never had her interests represented by an attorney in court.

David Gibbs told the court "In reviewing the many boxes of court filings, we cannot find a single instance where Terri was afforded the right of every American to have a lawyer who would represent her own interests.... I urge the court not to rush. There is not reversibility once Terri Schiavo has been starved and dehydrated to death." Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos said that the motion was 'outrageous' and 'an abuse of the legal system'.

[, 31 January ] A study conducted at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia, has found that babies born through IVF are up to 40 % more likely to suffer from birth defects, ranging from conditions such as cleft palate to spina bifida. Michelle Hansen, who led the research, told reporters: "We don't know why yet, because it's very difficult to tease out the fact they come in with an underlying cause of infertility anyway...Other causes could be something to do with the treatment itself... or the medications that are given to induce ovulation or to sustain pregnancy."

[, 31 January ] A survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has reported that some 30,000 pregnant women are dismissed or leave their jobs as a result of discrimination. Julie Mellor, EOC's chair described the findings as 'shocking' but said that many employers are unaware of their responsibilities towards pregnant staff or the support available.

[BBC, 2 February ] A report published in Obstetrics and Gynaecology has warned that fortifying flour with folic acid does not reduce the risk of neural tube defects developing in the children of overweight mothers.

Dr Joel G Ray from the University of Toronto said that women should continue to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy but that overweight women should also consider weight reduction.

[Reuters, 1 February ] The outgoing president of Planned Parenthood has criticised the failed presidential candidate John Kerry for his ineffective defence of abortion, The Guardian reports.

Glorid Feldt argued that Kerry 'ceded the moral high ground to the other side' and praised pro-life candidates for their political successes. "You can't fault the anti-choice groups for participating in the democratic process," she said.

[The Guardian, 1 February ] The La Quinta Inn hotel chain has ended a commercial arrangement between one of its hotels and an abortion facility.

The Wichita La Quinta Inn offered discounts to women arriving for late-term abortions at George Tiller's abortion facility and rented rooms to Tiller's staff so that they could provide monitoring and follow-up after abortions had been carried out.

Tiller has been informed that he may not use the hotel chain's name in literature or on his website. [, 1 February ]

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