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Bad news for pro-lifers in US mid-term elections

14 November 2006

The pro-life cause has suffered a political setback in the United States following the results of the mid-term elections for Congress. The Democrats have won control of the Senate and of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "Now that the Democrats have control of the Senate, a pro-abortion majority may well be in a position to block any presidential nominee to the Supreme Court who might vote to overturn Roe v Wade." In a referendum held in South Dakota, voters rejected a law, passed by the legislature last winter, that would have banned abortion under almost all circumstances. The referendum was held as a result of a petition launched by supporters of abortion rights. [Washington Post 8 November] In another referendum, voters in Missouri approved a proposal to allow embryonic stem cell research. [Guardian, 8 November] Attempts to establish parental notification for abortion were defeated in referenda in California and Oregon [CNN, 8 November]

The US Supreme Court has heard arguments about whether to uphold the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed in congress and signed by President Bush in 2003. Those seeking to strike down the law dispute almost every aspect of the case, including the name of the procedure. With the appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito, the result will depend on the vote of Justice Kennedy, and both sides are expecting his support. [Guardian 8 November; ] [LifeSite 8 November]

The Guardian newspaper, UK, has published two letters defending the right to life of handicapped babies, against the suggestion by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that they should be killed at birth. [Guardian 9 November] The Daily Telegraph published four letters, including two from members of No Less Human, criticising the suggestion made by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that euthanasia should be made available for new-born disabled babies. There were none supporting it. [Telegraph 8 November]

Researchers at an IVF clinic in Lisbon, Portugal, have reported that Women who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day are less likely to become pregnant as result of treatment, even using donated eggs. They conclude that nicotine adversely affects the lining of the womb. [Reuters 9 November]

Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, England, have restored sight to partially blind mice, by transplanting precursor cells (similar to stem cells, but more developed) from new-born mice. They are optimistic that their research will produce treatments for conditions that cause blindness; the suggestion is that embryonic stem cells could be use, though a better approach would probably be to use adult stem-cell-like cells found in the retina. [Ananova 9 November] [ Nature 8 November]

A group seeking to lift all age restrictions on non-prescription sales in US of the morning-after pill, Plan B, has been given the right to read communications between the White House and officials of the Food and Drug Administration. [Guardian 9 November]

Doctors in New York are preparing to perform a womb transplant. A Swedish doctor however, having worked on womb transplants for six years, says that a lot more animal studies are needed before working on humans. The first womb to be transplanted, in Saudi Arabia in 2000, had to be removed after 99 days. [Times 9 November]

Members of the Gift of Life foundation in Malta are urging their parliamentarians to put their pro-life claims into practice by giving constitutional rights to unborn children. Abortion is still illegal in Malta, but the foundation believes this could change, unless a constitutional amendment is made, stating that the right to life begins at conception. The organizers have adopted '+9' as their pro-life symbol, representing the nine months of life spent in the womb, and would like to export it globally. [Lifesite 7 November]

By a narrow majority, the Australian senate has relaxed a previous law governing stem cell research, so that cloning for experimental purposes would be allowed. Two amendments were passed, one to increase the penalty for flouting safeguards and the other to ban the creation of human-animal hybrids. [Sci-Tech Today 7 November]

The UK Stem Cell Foundation is funding a trial for a new treatment for heart attack patients, being carried out at Barts Hospital, London. Along with the current treatment for clearing blocked arteries, patients will be given an injection of stem cells obtained from their own bone marrow. Doctors are not promising an immediate panacea, but hope the trial will give more information and result improved treatments for heart disease. [BBC 8 November]

Hwang Woo-Suk, the South Korean scientist who claimed to have cloned a human embryo and was dismissed from his university of his exaggerated claims, is suing Seoul National University in a bid to be reinstated. His lawsuit claims that his dismissal would deprive people of hope by ending Mr Hwang's research. [Times 8 November]

Bishop Jesus Sanz Montes of Huesca, Spain, has this week criticised a proposed law on medical research, saying that it takes the place of God in taking decisions about who will live and who not. He stressed that the Church is not opposed to scientific advances, but to those which include the elimination of existing human beings. In a statement, the Spanish Bishops' Conference said: "History itself has condemned this science in the past and it will do so in the future, not only because it is deprived of the light of God, but also because it is deprived of humanity." [EWTN 7 November]

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