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Defending life from the moment of conception

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UK scientists seek permission to create hybrid human-animal embryos

7 November 2006

Two groups of UK scientists have applied for permission to create embryos by inserting human DNA into the ova (egg cells) of farm animals. Dr Stephen Minger of King's College London leads one team, while the other is led by Dr Lyle Armstrong in Newcastle upon Tyne. Dr Minger claim that this approach may be "more appropriate" than using hard-to-get human ova, because that would require hundreds of attempts to produce the stem cell lines they aim to generate. The Telegraph notes that cross-species fertilisation has long been permitted as an infertility test to assess the capability of sub-fertile sperm to penetrate eggs. [Sky News 7 November] [Daily Telegraph 7 November] SPUC Comment: The unprincipled strategy for gaining acceptance of this proposal is the existing use of cross-species fertilisation. An initial, apparently narrow, exception is widened out to a much broader practice.

Professor Lord Robert Winston, who pioneered pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a method of embryo screening, has changed his mind on the use of PGD to select the baby's sex. He thinks it is acceptable, and says "I think if sex selection was freely available in Britain it would change the balance of society hardly at all, if at all. There is really no evidence that it would." He has criticised the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for not allowing sex selection, saying "I don't think the HFEA does any good. I think it's a very bad organisation." Lord Winston presents a forthcoming BBC television series titled "A Child Against All Odds". [Sunday Herald, 5 November]

Professor Silvia Pimentel of the department of legal philosophy at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil, has written to the Nicaraguan Congress in a bid to prevent it voting to ban abortion. In her letter she claimed that a "right to therapeutic abortion is inherent in human rights" and "protected by international treaties and conventions signed by Nicaragua." Professor Pimentel is an abortion promoter and vice president of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said "... abortion is not mentioned in any international treaty. When [abortion] was mentioned, in a non-binding resolution, Nicaragua and other nations made reservations excluding any right to abortion." [Life Site News 6 November]

The Life organisation has expressed dismay at the suggestion by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that active and intentional euthanasia may be a valid option for some disabled newborns. Matthew O'Gorman, a spokesman for Life, said "it is extremely worrying to find that doctors are advocating using killing as a treatment option ... We fear if this proposal becomes a reality that many parents will find themselves under intolerable pressure to consent to the deliberate killing of their own children... Real compassion means killing pain, not patients..." [Inspire Magazine November 2006]

Dr Keith E Eddleman, associate professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has published a new study which claims that miscarriage rate after amniocentesis for chromosomal anomalies including Down's syndrome has fallen from 1 in 200 to approximately 1 in 1,600. [Medical News Today, 5 November]

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