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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Wrangling over wording of UN convention on disability

29 August 2006

Wording to counter euthanasia and assisted suicide has been included in a draft UN convention on disabled people's rights, thanks to pro-life lobbying. Activists had feared the convention could remove disabled people's right to life by creating "rights" to abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. The final session of the General Assembly committee met for 12 days finishing on Friday (the 25th) to discuss the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 23 nations initially opposed the use of "sexual and reproductive health services" but pro-abortion nations and the UN population fund (UNFPA) later reinserted the phrase during informal negotiations. In the end "services" was replaced with "care". "Reproductive health" has never been defined, though many countries said the phrase should not include abortion. The General Assembly will next consider the draft, which also now contains pro-family wording. [SPUC eye-witness] If passed, the convention on would take effect in 2008 or 2009 and would require nations to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. It is suggested that up to 650 million people may benefit if it is ratified by countries. [RTE News, 26 August]

The claims by US biotech company Advanced Cell Technology to have extracted embryonic stem cells without harming the embryos have been countered by Wesley J. Smith, who points out that the report of the work by Robert Lanza in the journal Nature states that all the embryos subjected to the new technique died. [Lifenews.com]

The White House has said that the new technique of embryonic stem cell research proposed last week does not resolve ethical concerns. A statement says that, despite the claim that the new method would not intentionally destroy embryos, "[a]ny use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical concerns". It said: "The president is hopeful that, with time, scientists can find ways of deriving cells like those now derived from human embryos but without the need for using embryos." It is uncertain whether the proposed process, which involves taking a cell from a three-day-old embryo for use in experimentation, will be eligible for federal funding. [Medical News Today, 28 August] The Pontifical Academy for Life has said that the new process of embryonic stem cell research is a "manipulation" which does not address the Catholic Church's ethical concerns. Monsignor Elio Sgreccia told Vatican Radio that the method remains a form of IVF, which the church opposes. He also expressed concerns that the single cell removed from the embryo has itself the potential to grow into an embryo. [Sign On San Diego, 26 August]

Pro-life groups in America have criticised President Bush for allowing the Food and Drug Administration to approve non-prescriptive sales of the abortifacient morning after pill. The president supported the decision of Dr Andrew von Eschenbach to allow the drug to be sold over the counter to women over 18. Stephen Peroutka, the chairman of Washington's National Pro-Life Action Centre, described the president's position as "a betrayal of the pro-life principles he claims to support". [RINF News, 26 August]

A family in Britain which has been given permission to create an embryo in order to treat their ill daughter has raised £20,000 to do so. The two year old girl, Charlotte Mariethoz, suffers from a rare blood disorder called diamond blackfan anaemia which could be cured by the stem cell treatment. The family need £40,000 to attempt to make a "designer baby" which could supply the stem cells. [BBC News, 25 August]

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