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Is IVF possible without killing embryos?

24 August 2006

An American biotech company claims to have developed a method to produce human embryonic stem cells without deliberately destroying embryos in the process. The process that has been proposed involves removing a single cell from a three-day old embryo, which has been created by IVF, and using it to produce embryonic stem cells. The embryo is supposedly unharmed by this procedure. Advanced Cell Technology said that this method would remove ethical objections to embryonic stem cell research. Dr Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute said: "The notion that it solves some kind of a scientific, social or ethical dilemma -- I can't say that it does." Rev Nicanor Austriaco, a Dominican friar and molecular biologist at Providence College, Rhode Island, expressed concerns that the single cell which is removed could itself develop into an embryo, as has been found to happen in other mammals. He said: "This raises the concern that the blastomeres isolated by [Advanced Cell Technology] in order to create a stem-cell line are in fact bona fide embryos that are destroyed in the process of creating the stem-cell lines." Mr Richard Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "The new research ... raises more ethical questions than answers ... Some embryos do not survive the process, and some survivors may have long-term effects later in life." [The Seattle Times, 24 August] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "Regardless of the spurious claim that this allegedly new technique avoids a so-called ethical dilemma, the embryonic children used in the study were created through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which is in itself ethically unacceptable. The creation of human life in the laboratory is contrary to human dignity, not least because unknown numbers of embryonic children die in the test-tube or petri dish in which they were created, and the ones that survive are endangered and degraded by unethical procedures such as biopsy, freezing or experimentation."

Students studying obstetrics and gynaecology at Yale School of Medicine, Connecticut, are to have compulsory training in abortion procedures. It is part of a required residency program established by Planned Parenthood Connecticut at the university. Students will not have to participate in abortions if it is against their personal or religious beliefs, but all will have to learn the theory of abortion techniques and will be obliged to carry out ultrasound scans on women intending to have abortions. [Life Site, 23 August]

Priests for Life are launching a new international headquarters and seminary for a new pro-life priestly order in Texas. The national director, Fr Frank Pavone, who has founded the new order, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, is to become the first member of the community during the opening Mass, when he will also receive the promises of the first group of lay associates. Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo has welcomed the new order into his diocese. He said: "This is an historic day, and only God knows how significant it will prove to be for the pro-life movement in this country and around the world. Our diocese is proud to partner with Priests for Life in this work of the Holy Spirit." [Catholic News Agency, 22 August]

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