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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 17 to 24 January

24 January 2007

weekly update, 17 to 24 January The European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is to vote on 30 January on a proposal for a unified market in medical products and therapies, which would mean such products would be legal in all Member States once given central authorisation. The group CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education) for Europe has expressed support for the principle of the proposal, which it is hoped will enable patients to gain access to treatments faster, but voiced concern over the lack of "ethical safeguards". SPUC has called for safeguards to exclude products derived from embryonic or foetal cells or human-animal hybrids; exclude products that involve germ line modification; and guarantee that all tissue and cell donations are voluntary and unpaid. SPUC has urged its members to lobby MEPs for the exclusion of unethical products from the proposals. [Christian Today, 16 January , and CARE and SPUC , 15 January] The British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, has criticised the treatment of Chen Guangcheng, the lawyer who has campaigned against forced abortion and sterilisations in China. "I am deeply concerned by the news that the human rights defender, Chen Guangcheng has had his sentence upheld at appeal. The failure to uphold international fair trial standards in this case... suggests a backward step in China's progress towards building the rule of law. The UK has raised its concerns over the handling of Chen's case with the Chinese authorities on several occasions" The Foreign and Commonwealth Office describes the charges against Chen as "politically motivated by his highlighting of maladministration of the One Child Policy". [Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 15 January ] SPUC comment: the UK government's statements seem calculated to avoid upsetting the Beijing regime, or criticising the one-child policy itself, which the Blair government supports. 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." Portugal's first March for Life will be held in Lisbon on 28 January, in resistance to proposed legislation that would make abortion legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. A referendum will be held on 11 February. The march will be modelled on that held every year in the US, as are those held in Poland, France, and Canada. In each case the majority of marchers are young. [LifeSite, 17 January ] Dr Carlo Bellieni, a neonatologist at the Le Scotte University Polyclinic in Siena, Italy and correspondent member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has commented on the "encouraging" discovery of stem cells in the amniotic fluid. "Obviously, this leads one to wonder if it is reasonable to allocate copious funds to obtaining cells extracted from human embryos, with their consequent death, without having obtained or even perceived a clinical result... " Dr Bellieni said. He also said that use of the amniotic fluid raised some ethical concerns, namely that its use should not lead to privatizing a biological resource, and that the baby should not be put at risk by collection of the fluid. [Zenit, 16 January ] Doctors at a New York hospital are planning to carry out womb transplants to enable women who have had hysterectomies to have children. A womb from a woman who has died would be transplanted into the recipient, whose own previously frozen embryo would then be transferred. Once the mother had given birth (by caesarean section) the womb would be removed again to reduce the risk of tissue rejection. Dr Sherman Silber, an infertility expert from St Louis, warned of potential dangers in the procedure: "At any time during the nine months of pregnancy it could very easily reject, and if a pregnant uterus rejects you have got a serious medical problem". However, the leader of the project, Dr Giuseppe Del Priore, said: "Transplant medicine has improved sufficiently to allow us to consider non-vital transplants." [BBC, 17 January ]

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