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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Two London fertility clinics being investigated by police

17 January 2007

Two fertility clinics in London, UK, are being investigated by the regulators and the police, following allegations of malpractice. One of them is rated by the fertility treatment regulators as the most successful. The BBC programme Panorama broadcast under-cover films of patients being offered unnecessary and irrelevant therapies, and revealed that one of the clinics was operating without a licence. The director of both clinics, Mr Mohammed Taranissi, denies wrong-doing and claims that the licence is the subject of a legal dispute. [The Times, 16 January] [Daily Mail, 15 January] The regulatory authority, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has been criticised for allegedly colluding with Panorama while simultaneously investigating the clinics, but its chief executive, Angela McNab, said that the timing of raids on the clinics, just hours before the BBC broadcast, was coincidental. [BBC, 16 January]

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland has issued draft guidelines on the termination of pregnancy. [DHSSPS, 16 January] SPUC Northern Ireland has called on the minister to ensure that the final text of the guidance upholds the legal protection of the unborn child. Liam Gibson said: "When the Court of Appeal decided that the health department should issue guidelines, it hoped that they would be written in a way that would reduce the number of abortions. However, many of the positive aspects of that ruling have been either watered down or ignored, and the draft guidance simply reflects the pro-abortion ethos of the British medical establishment. While these guidelines do not change the law, they have the potential to radically effect its implementation. Areas which cause particular concern include the right of clinicians to not facilitate abortions, the potential for secret abortions for underage girls, the scope and accuracy of the information on the effects of abortion, and the unnecessary haste shown in the recommended deadlines for abortions to be carried out."

A Chilean court has ruled that a programme to distribute the morning-after pill to girls as young as 14 is unconstitutional, because it had not been approved by the legislature or by presidential decree. There is opposition to the measure in congress, and if President Michelle Bachelet, who supports the measure, issues the necessary decree, opponents will then raise the issues of violation of the country's anti-abortion laws and of parental rights. [LifeSite, 15 January]

The Georgia House of Representatives will consider a bill that declares that "a foetus is a person for all purposes under the laws of this state from the moment of conception". Sponsored by Mr Bobby Franklin and many others, the bill lists a number of harmful effects of the legalised abortion, and cites the Roe v Wade judgement. The establishment of personhood brings protection under the 14th amendment of the US constitution. [LifeSite, 15 January]

New research supports the suggestion that embryonic cells have begun to differentiate from each other by the four-cell stage. It was traditionally held that the cells were identical till a much later stage. Our source, citing a new paper in the journal Nature, claims that this research has overturned previous thinking. Professor Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz, leader of the team at Cambridge University, England, says their findings "give [researchers] a real clue on how to manipulate embryonic cells so that they will develop with the properties of the natural stem cells of the embryo." [Medical News Today, 15 January] SPUC Comment: Evidence of the very early differentiation of the embryo's cells has been appearing in scientific literature for several years.

A diabetes charity has welcomed the passage of bill that will expand federal funding for human embryonic stem sell research. Mr Lawrence Soler, of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), has said that the vote in the US house of representatives "send[s] a loud and clear signal that this field of research should be fully explored." [Medical News Today, 15 January] JDRF has branches in various countries: in Europe (UK and Denmark), the US, India, Australia and elsewhere.

The first person to be born as a result of IVF, has given birth to a son, naturally conceived. Speaking of her joy, 28-year-old Mrs Louise Mullinder (née Brown), of Bristol, England, said "I don't know if the fact that [mum and dad] tried so hard to have a baby had any effect on me, but I have always wanted children." [BBC, 14 January]

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