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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 1 to 8 August

8 August 2007

weekly update, 1 to 8 August Parliamentarians have produced a report on the government's draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill and SPUC is deeply concerned about it. If the committee has its way, wide areas of embryo research would be exempt from licensing and the regulatory authority would have unprecedented new power. The legislators on the group propose much more generous permission for inter-species embryo creation than is even in the draft bill, and they want broader grounds for creation of 'saviour sibling' embryos as well as a weakening of the law against so-called reproductive cloning. Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "The report is good news for ethically insensitive researchers, would-be cloners and other maverick scientists. It is bad news for IVF embryos and for the idea that law should have an ethical framework." [SPUC media release and longer critique , 1 August] The proposed law could mean that birth certificates would indicate the origins of people conceived with donor gametes. The 18 members of both parliamentary chambers heard nearly 50 witnesses and received more than 100 written submissions, including from SPUC. [Guardian, 1 August ] Two members of the committee have also expressed anxiety. Mr David Burrowes MP and Ms Geraldine Smith MP write: "We are very concerned that, by facilitating 'hybrid' experiments, the Bill will inevitably have the effect of further diverting money away from adult stem cell research - which has given rise to more than 70 successful patient therapies - to embryonic research, which has produced no therapies whatsoever." The committee had lacked consensus. [letters, Daily Telegraph, 1 August ] It has already been announced that the draft Bill will be introduced to Parliament during its next session later this year. The science academy of the UK and Commonwealth has welcomed parliamentarians' support for human-animal hybrids. Sir Richard Gardner, chairman of the Royal Society's stem cell group, said: "We hope that the new legislation permits the creation of all types of human-animal embryos for research ...". He objected to the proposed merger of the two regulatory bodies which control fertility and the use of human tissue. [Royal Society, 2 August ] CARE, the Christian charity, welcomed proposals for a free parliamentary vote on hybrids but said that no scientific case had been made for their creation. [Inspire, 26 August ] The NHS is reportedly not following official guidance for the provision of IVF treatment. A government survey has found that, despite recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, fewer than half of health service providers fund the freezing of spare embryos created during treatment for later implantation. Some fail to provide IVF treatment at all. This has led to calls by organisations such as Infertility Network UK, which presses for greater access to IVF, for the government to create national rules. [BBC, 6 August ] Figures released by the Department of Health have revealed that approximately 1 in 22 teenagers in some areas of the UK had abortions last year, including 135 girls under the age of 14. One 18-year-old had her sixth abortion in 2006. The UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe. [Mail on Sunday, 5 August ] The UK has one of the highest premature birth and infant mortality rates in the developed world, according to research conducted by Tommy's, the premature baby charity. A number of contributing factors have been highlighted such as poor maternity care, women working late in pregnancy and the increased risk of premature birth associated with IVF. [Sunday Express, 5 August ] Bills to change the law to presume consent to organ donation are reportedly to be introduced to the Scottish parliament and to the House of Lords by Baron Foulkes of Cumnock. The British Medical Association is to lobby Scottish parliamentarians to change the law. One must presently opt-in to organ donation. [Scotland on Sunday, 5 August]

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