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Defending life from the moment of conception

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US Senate passes three embryo experimentation bills

19 July 2006

The United States Senate has passed three bills on embryo experimentation: the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research; the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, to ban the use of unborn children as tissue sources; and the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, ostensibly to promote ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research but regarded as unethical by sections of the US pro-life movement. The three bills went to the House of Representatives, which approved the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act and the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act but rejected the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act. President Bush has stated repeatedly his intention to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. [ABC, 18 July] A White House spokesman said, "The simple answer is [President Bush] thinks murder's wrong. The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something living and making it dead for the purposes of scientific research." [BBC, 19 July]

The New Zealand branch of Amnesty International has clarified a recent vote amongst its members to adopt a pro-abortion policy. Ced Simpson, executive director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand told that "It is not the practice of AINZ to adopt policy on very internally-contentious issues on the basis of a narrow 'vote'. A small majority thought AI should take a position calling for legal, safe and accessible abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest and risk to a woman's life. A large majority thought AI should take a position calling for access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. The Governance Team considered that only the second issue had clear support." [LifeSite, 18 July]

A doctor and two nurses have been charged with four counts of second-degree murder for allegedly giving lethal injections to elderly victims of last year's Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The owners of the hospital at which the deaths occurred commented: "If proven true, these allegations are very disturbing. Euthanasia is repugnant to everything we believe as ethical healthcare providers, and it violates every precept of ethical behaviour and the law." However, Charles C Foti, Louisiana Attorney General said: "This is not euthanasia. This is homicide. While I am aware of the horrendous conditions that existed after Hurricane Katrina... I believe that there is no excuse for intentionally killing another living human being." [BBC, 19 July]

The Irish High Court ruled yesterday that a woman did not have her estranged husband's consent to be implanted with their frozen embryonic children. The court case will continue this week, however, with the court expected to consider issues such as the status and constitutional rights of the early embryo. [Irish Independent, 19 July]

The Maltese government has said that it cannot prevent a Spanish abortion provider from advertising his services in Malta. As spokesman for the Home Affairs minister said "As long as what he's promoting is happening abroad, there is nothing legally that can be done about it... It is morally reprehensible, but nobody can stop him from advertising services he's offering in other countries." Josep Carbonell, whose abortion clinic is in Valencia, offers to provide the abortions free to Maltese women because abortion is illegal in Malta. [LifeNews, 17 July]

Abortions in the Cheshire and Merseyside region rose sharply last year, from 6,975 to 7,435. This represents a rise of 6.7%, compared with a national rise in abortions of 0.5%. However, the Cheshire and Merseyside abortion rate per 1,000 women is still below average at 16 per 1,000 women, as against 17.8 across England and Wales. [Cheshire Online, 18 July]

Birmingham City Council has set up expert teams as part of its inappropriate sexual behaviour unit to visit primary and secondary schools where children are considered to be 'too sexual'. Team members have visited at least eight schools to work with children as young as seven or eight. Stephane Breton, one of the unit's social workers, said that young children are being exposed to sexual messages which they then think it is acceptable to imitate. He said "flirtatious" behaviour sometimes arises from low self-esteem or from anger. Penny Barber, chief executive of Brook Advisory Clinic [sic] commented "I feel we do live in a very sexualised society... What they don't have is a counterbalance to that which is access to information and confidential advice." [The Telegraph, 18 July] Paul Tully, SPUC General Secretary commented: "Groups like the Brook advice centres are promoting sexualised messages through explicit publications. The advice that Brook also promote, about how young teenagers can get secret abortions for example, exacerbates the problem."

A San Diego newspaper has reported on financial rewards for parents offered in some European countries to help boost fertility rates. The report notes that in Austria recently created benefits include 48 months of pension allowance per child for mothers, monthly benefits of up to $192, and additional tax credit. In France, the government is now offering $940 per month to parents who take a year's unpaid from work after the birth of a third child. However, Europe's fertility rates remain low, with Iceland having the highest at 2.03 children per woman, followed by Ireland at 1.99 and France at 1.90. The population replacement level is 2.1 children per woman. [Union-Tribune, 17 July]

Baby-trafficking is becoming an increasing problem in Europe, with Bulgaria the centre of criminal gangs who induce expectant mothers to travel to Greece with promises of work, in order to sell their newborn children to childless couples for up to 20,000 euros. Although 33 arrests have been made in the last year, the trade remains hard to stop because of the wealth and organisation of the criminals, and also because women are often so desperate they will co-operate with the traffickers rather than inform the police. In Greece, where the birth rate is very low, there are said to be 500 couples who have applied to adopt 54 babies, a situation which facilitates illegal baby trafficking. [The Independent, 18 July]

A study interviewing identical twins has concluded that a cloned human being would not lack a sense of individual identity. Dr Barbara Prainsack, from the University of Vienna, Austria and Professor Tim Spector, from the Twins Research Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK found that twins did not feel their identity was compromised by having the same genetic identity as another person, and did not regret having an identical twin. However, the position of a clone would be different in that they would not be the same age as their genetic original. Dr Prainsack said "According to the genetically identical people in our study, the problem would not be genetic sameness, but more the motives with which somebody would determine somebody else's genome... The cloning debate would benefit from shifting away its focus from genetic sameness to looking more at social reasons for why the deliberate creation of human beings with a certain genetic make-up could hurt society". [BBC News Health, 17 July]

The Daily Mail has published an extensive article investigating British fertility clinics' involvement in exploitative egg donation schemes in Eastern Europe. Journalist Fran Abrams went ostensibly as a patient to The Bridge Centre fertility clinic after reading publicity which indicated that it was buying eggs from a foreign company, GlobalART, thus circumventing UK law which forbids payment of donors and donor anonymity. Ms Abrams received vague information from The Bridge Centre but was told her donor would probably be a member of the clinic staff. However, at the centre's overseas partner in Kiev, she was told that donors were recruited through advertising in local newspapers. Eventually she met two Rumanian factory workers who had both sold eggs to GlobalART in Bucharest for a payment of £150, and have been left infertile by the procedure. One of the women, Raluca, said "I can understand why women so desperately want to be mothers, and I can't criticise them... Sometimes, I think about the children that might have been born using my eggs. I hope they will be happy. I hope they are not living a life like the one I live here...But the doctor who did this to me - I would like to tell her she ruined my life." [Daily Mail, 17 July]

Pro-life campaigners have criticised a new policy of the Oregan Board of Pharmacy which compels pharmacists who refuse to provide the abortifacient morning-after pill to refer patients to a pharmacist who will do so. The change was made at the request of the Northwest Women's Law Center, acting for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice Oregon. The Board stated "Just as other health care professionals and practitioners in Oregon have a choice, so do pharmacists have a choice whether or not to participate in activities they find morally or ethically objectionable," the board said. "Oregon pharmacists cannot, however, interfere with a patient's lawfully and appropriately prescribed drug therapy". [CNS, 18 July]

A US District Court has ruled that a Supreme Court decision last year which compelled the State of Missouri to allow a prison inmate to have an abortion and to provide transport to an abortion facility applies to all female prisoners in the state. Governor Matt Blunt said "This ruling violates our traditional Missouri values and is an affront to everyone that values the sanctity of human life". The legal battle was initiated when the State stopped providing abortion access for inmates except in case of danger to the mother's life or health, citing security and cost concerns. [The Guardian, 19 July]

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