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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 3 to 7 November

7 November 2006

weekly update, 3 to 7 November The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has raised the possibility of infanticide for disabled babies. The college's submission to a bioethical enquiry is quoted as saying: "A very disabled child can mean a disabled family ... If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." [Sunday Times, 5 November ] No Less Human, SPUC's disability rights group, expressed distress at the suggestion. Alison Davis said: "Disabled people, particularly those with conditions regarded as 'severe' will be both appalled and afraid by the RCOG's call. Already we are aware that disabled babies are killed up to birth because of 'severe disability'. Once it is established that killing is acceptable on grounds of disability it is inevitable that it will spread to encompass increasing numbers of victims. Deliberate killing on grounds of disability is always wrong regardless of the age or status of the victim." No Less Human plans to demonstrate outside the college. [SPUC, 5 November ] The British Council of disabled people said it was wrong to suggest that disabled babies' lives were less valuable than others'. 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, 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 ] 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 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 ] 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 Child Against All Odds, a forthcoming BBC television series. [Sunday Herald, 5 November ]

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