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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Scientists create part-human, part-cow embryos

3 April 2008

Scientists in England have reportedly created embryos by putting human DNA into egg cells of a cow. The embryos survived for three days. Newcastle University researchers put human skin-cells in bovine eggs. They say spare human eggs are scarce and that the work has been licensed by the government's regulator. Hybrids will be debated by UK MPs, possibly next month, when they consider the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. [BBC, 1 April, and Financial Times, 2 April] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "The creation of human-animal hybrid embryos represents a disastrous setback for human dignity in Britain. It creates a category of beings regarded as sub-human who can be used as raw material to benefit other members of the human family, effectively creating a new class of slaves. Although we cannot be certain of the nature of such embryos, those produced with a preponderance of human DNA would in all probability, according to experts, be human beings with human characteristics and capacities. By using animal eggs, such embryos could be generated in much greater numbers than if human eggs were used, leading to much greater loss of life." [SPUC, 1 April]

The launch of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland was boycotted by the Catholic church and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which draws much of its support from Protestants. The bill does not include a requested guarantee of human rights from conception, and a DUP spokesman said it gave more rights to trees than to unborn children. [BBC, 31 March] SPUC warned that the bill of rights could undermine international legal recognition of unborn children's right to life. The draft includes pro-abortion euphemisms such as "reproductive health" which is often interpreted to include abortion. Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland said: "International human rights instruments protect the fundamental right to life of the unborn child. The government will be in breach of its obligations under international law if it eventually accepts these pro-abortion recommendations. The people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives have made it clear repeatedly that they do not want abortion in Northern Ireland." [SPUC, 1 April]

The Pope is expected to raise life-issues during his visit to the United States later this month. Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads Catholic ministry to America's armed services, said: "I do not doubt that he will seek to promote peace and respect for the human rights of all - from conception to natural death." It was significant that the trip was in election year, since that would normally preclude a papal visit. [Financial Times, 31 March] Dr James Dobson, the US pro-life leader, is pressing Senator John McCain, likely Republican presidential candidate, to oppose embryo-research. [LifeNews, 31 March] Senator Barack Obama, Democrat contender, reportedly said: "I am going to teach [my daughters] first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." [LifeNews, 31 March]

A woman with a facial tumour seems to have brought about her own death after being refused euthanasia. Ms Chantal Sébire, 52, asked a court in Dijon for help with dying but was refused because French law does not allow doctors actively to end a life. A post mortem found lethal amounts of pentobarbital in her blood and authorities are trying to find out how it was obtained and administered. [BBC, 17 March, and AFP, 28 March] Ms Sébire said she would seek euthanasia in other countries but the Netherlands government said that patients from abroad could not get it there. [Radio Netherlands, 18 March] A woman with a genetic disease has asked the French president and health minister for a national debate and referendum on euthanasia. Ms Clara Blanc, 31, has d'Ehlers Danlos syndrome which afflicts connective tissue. She has contacted Dignitas in Switzerland and says she would need €6,000 for their suicide services. [AGI, 1 April] Monday (31 March) was the third anniversary of the death of Mrs Theresa Schiavo of Florida who had brain damage and was deprived of food and drink at her husband's request. [LifeSite, 31 March]

Spain's bishops have said that Catholics may not support "abortion, euthanasia or the creation, freezing [or] manipulation of human embryos in any case." In a new document, the bishops' family and life subcommittee calls the country's abortion law unjust and calls for support for women and for easier adoption. The document's publication marked Monday's (31 March) seventh annual pro-life day. [Catholic News Agency, 28 March] Prenatal screening and abortion in Spain mean that the number of people surviving with Down's syndrome is going down. Fundación Vida pointed to a near-halving of instances of live births of Down's children. A spokesman for the organisation said: "There is no question that having a child with special needs can be difficult, but it also brings a series of satisfactions sometimes unimaginable." A total of 1.1 million unborn children, with and without special conditions, have died since legalisation in 1985. [Catholic News Agency, 27 March] A Spanish Catholic magazine has described how a woman who had an abortion 57 years ago has suffered from depression ever since and had several miscarriages. Alba mentions the unidentified 84-year-old who was reportedly forced to have the abortion by the man she would later marry. [CNA on EWTN, 28 March]

A child conceived in the hope that she could help treat her brother's illness is of the wrong tissue-type. Analysis in London of Donatella Zammit's umbilical cord suggests it cannot produce a therapy for the Fanconi anaemia suffered by Jamie Zammit, nine. [Daily Mail, 1 April] So-called saviour siblings are customarily produced by selecting suitable IVF embryos, the others being stored or discarded.

The Association of Polish Catholic Journalists has called for a moratorium on abortion, after the Council of Europe told the country to liberalise its law. [Polish Radio, 31 March] Some 250 people attended a pro-life demonstration in Prague, the Czech capital, on Saturday (29 March). The government is planning to ease the law there. [Prague Daily Monitor, 29 March]

A consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at Nigeria's Federal Medical Centre has called for the use of vacuum-abortion in that country. Dr Emily Nzeribe said the technique was better than dilation and curettage, and claimed that it was approved by the UN. [All Africa, 31 March]

A Church of Scotland minister wants state funding switched from care for the elderly to support for the young. Rev Maxwell Craig, a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II, described the existence of some over-75s as "half-life" and said he himself, having turned 76 did not want to live decades longer. Age Concern and Help the Aged have criticised him, with the latter asking if Rev Craig wanted statutory euthanasia. [Daily Record, 27 March]

A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that Asian families in America are more likely to have a boy if they already have a daughter, and that there has been a rise in prenatal ultrasound among non-Japanese Asian mothers. Gender-selective abortion could be happening, as it does in some Asian states. [LifeNews, 1 April]
The remains of seven miscarried and aborted foetuses were kept in an English mortuary for more than two years. North Staffordshire university hospital apologised for not previously offering burial or cremation, which they said was due to an administrative mistake. [BBC, 31 March]

The Associated Press has written about the work done by a Vietnamese Christian in supporting single mothers and unwanted children. Mr Tong Phuoc Phuc, 41, runs two houses where he has helped 60 children. Such shelters are unusual in Vietnam which has a high abortion rate. Mr Tong, who receives funding from Catholic and Buddhist sources, also has a graveyard for aborted children. [AP on Yahoo!, 29 March]

Planned Parenthood received an income of $1bn in 2006-7, its highest yet, with a third coming from government. The US organisation provided nearly 290,000 abortions in 2006, more than the previous year. The Family Research Council says Planned Parenthood spends money supporting pro-abortion politicians. [LifeNews, 28 March]

Stress in pregnancy can harm the unborn, according to a senior paediatrician. Dr Mandy Drake's experiments on rodents found that the cortisol stress-hormone led to long-term health problems in offspring. She intends to check this result against people's experiences. [Scotland on Sunday, 30 March] The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence was expected recently to say that mothers should take no alcohol in the first trimester of pregnancy. The institute's advice previously tolerated some drinking throughout pregnancy, while the government's chief medical advisor has suggested total abstinence. [Guardian, 26 March] Seatbelts in cars protect the unborn, Michigan University has found, contrary to a so-called myth that they are a danger. [Reuters, 2 April] Mothers who have Caesarean sections are less likely to have more children, according to a Norwegian study of 600,000 births. [New York Times, 1 April]

A 57-year-old woman in Britain has given birth after IVF in Russia using a donated egg. Ms Susan Tollefsen of Essex had a 2.9kg daughter. [Daily Mail, 29 March]
Blood-vessels could be grown from hair stem-cells, say Buffalo, NY, scientists after experiments on sheep-follicles described in Cardiovascular Research. [UPI, 28 March]

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