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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 3 to 11 September

11 September 2007

weekly update, 3 to 11 September SPUC has responded to a new UK public opinion poll on abortion. Anthony Ozimic, political secretary, commented: "SPUC welcomes the evidence of continuing deep-seated concern about the alarming numbers of abortions, reflected in the poll conducted on behalf of Life, a leading pregnancy support charity in the UK. We at SPUC, as the world's first pro-life lobbying and educational organisation, would caution pro-life politicians not to introduce amendments at the present time. At this time there is no evidence of a change of heart among strongly pro-abortion MPs and peers - who remain a majority - and any amendments to the law are likely to go the wrong way. Any attempt to amend the Abortion Act in the current Parliament would probably make it even worse than it is at present. There is a large majority in parliament in favour of widening abortion provision. Labour ministers have spent millions of pounds on initiatives which encourage abortion, like fast-tracking requests for abortion, while resisting mandatory counselling for mothers considering abortion." [SPUC, 11 September ] SPUC is urging parliamentarians, whatever their views, not to table amendments on abortion when the Human Tissue and Embryos bill comes before Parliament later this year. The Society fears that the Government and leading figures like Lord Steel want to make a tacit "deal" with pro-life parliamentarians, pro-life groups and faith groups, offering a lower upper time limit for most social abortions in exchange for making abortion more easily accessible. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, said: "Trading the lives of some unborn children, disabled unborn babies in particular, to try to save the lives of others, is wrong and it doesn't work. Whatever time limit is agreed, parliamentarians will insist on further exceptions and the overall effect is more abortions, as happened in the tragic legislation passed by Parliament in 1990." [SPUC, 2 September ] British MPs want to liberalise the abortion law by making it unnecessary to have the approval of a doctor and by enabling nurses and midwives to carry out the procedure. They also want to increase the number of clinics offering early abortions, making it unnecessary for women to go to licensed centres. The cross-party coalition of MPs plans to raise the proposals during discussion of the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill later this year, and is expected to be backed by several senior figures, including Ms Harriet Harman MP, the ruling Labour party's deputy leader. [Independent on Sunday, 2 September ] The Vatican has condemned the Human Tissues and Embryos bill. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called it "a monstrous act against human dignity," adding that "We find ourselves facing an overthrow of ethics. ... With this go-ahead, we put ourselves completely outside of the scope of ethics and humanity." Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales, chairman of the English and Welsh Catholic bishops' Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, emphasised how adult stem cell research was more effective. "This has already led to major clinical benefits, whereas it appears that embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce any," he said. [Zenit, 7 September ] The German government has plans to back non-embryonic stem cell research. Since 2002, the production of embryonic stem cells has been banned in Germany and now it has been announced that the German government would donate €5 million for adult stem cell research. Opponents have claimed that this puts German scientists at a disadvantage in the international research community. [Reuters, 10 September ] A prestigious American scientist has said that the public is being misled over claims that the creation and destruction of human-animal hybrid embryos will lead to cures for diseases, Speaking at the National Conference of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, Dr James Sherley, who is senior scientist in Programmes in Regenerative Biology and Cancer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, said: "The shortage of human eggs has led scientists to look to using human cells and animal eggs to create hybrid embryos but this is a distraction. The likelihood that this will give the type of embryonic stem cells needed for such research is unlikely. The whole debate has been misrepresented...The public is not being told that these cells can't be used to cure defects in adult tissues, that embryonic stem cells provide only short-lived repair, that there is a problem with tumours. They also can't renew themselves as they cease to become stem cells. This is an 'engineering' problem as these cells can't do what's needed." [SPUC, 9 September ] The Pope has said that abortion is the antithesis of a human right. Addressing Austrian politicians and diplomats in Vienna, Benedict XVI said: "The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right - it is the very opposite." He appealed to political leaders not to regard children as "a form of illness" and also warned against the increasing prevalence of euthanasia. [Zenit, 9 September ] The Catholic Church in Italy has reignited the debate over Italy's abortion law after a woman had her unaffected twin aborted instead of a sibling with Down's syndrome. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former head of the country's bishops' conference and the pope's vicar for Rome, said that the time had come to re-examine the abortion law in the light of new medical advances. Ms Livia Turco, health minister, dismissed the proposals, claiming that the number of abortions had declined by 45%. [International Herald Tribune, 4 September ]

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