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Defending life from the moment of conception

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EU parliament approves embryonic experimentation

19 June 2006

The European Parliament has voted with slim majority to support funding of research with human embryonic and adult stem cells. In the first reading of 7th Research Framework Program, the Parliament approved funding of research by a vote of 284-249. "Scientifically, there is no reason to make a moral distinction between an embryo at the very beginning of his or her life and after implantation in the womb or after 14 days," said Monsignor Noël Treanor, secretary-general of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). "Human dignity does not depend - and must not be made dependent - on decisions of other human beings." [Zenit, 16 June] The issue is now due to be considered, on a date to be confirmed, by the Council of the European Union, the EU's legislative body, which consists of ministers from each EU member-state.

The Vatican's semi-official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has expressed concern over Italy's decision to withdraw from the ethical statement which had blocked the European Union's funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The paper described the decision as "an undue intrusion in the realm of values that are not negotiable" and said it contradicted the results of a referendum held last June on the law of assisted insemination. [Zenit, 16 June]

The number of abortions in New Zealand has fallen for the second year in a row, the BBC claims. New figures show that terminations in New Zealand in 2005 were down 3.7 per cent from the previous year. But the number of abortions per thousand were still higher than in some countries. Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said a drop of 680 abortions in a year was amazing. [, June 16]

The Catholic Church has voiced its opposition to bioethics of a "scientific and materialist nature" that denies the existence of limits. Explaining the publication of the document "Family and Human Procreation" on June 6 by the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo said "that the family and fertilization are gifts of the Lord and not 'products' of science and technology. Without this truth there is the risk of degrading the doctrine of the Church, which holds that in procreation, all stems from the conjugal love between a man and a woman." [Zenit, 16 June]

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes sharply raise the risk of congenital disabilities and infant death research by the UK's Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health has confirmed.. Mary Mcintosh, lead researcher found the rate at which babies died around the time of birth was nearly four times higher for women with either type of the disease compared with the general population. Experts say diabetic women should be offered specialist fetal heart scans and Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation said this might lead to "difficult choices for parents" if problems were found. [BBC News Online, 16 June]

The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast has appointed a specialist to track and increase early detection of heart abnormalities in unborn children. The position is a joint venture between the hospital and local charity Heartbeat. Angela McBrien, the new research fellow for antenatal screening for congenital heart disease, will be working with expectant mothers across NI. "We are set up so that we can even treat certain conditions while the child is in the womb - so the earlier that we can detect conditions the better for the mum and baby," she said. [BBC News Online, June 16]

Seven government-employed doctors have been suspended in India on suspicion of offering selective abortions. Under Indian law, ultrasound scans on pregnant women to determine whether a fetus is male or female are illegal. The doctors involved deny the allegations. In March, a court in Haryana state sentenced a doctor and his assistant to two years imprisonment for revealing the sex of a fetus and then agreeing to abort it. An estimated 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in India over the last twenty years. [BBC News Online, 15 June]

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