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Defending life from the moment of conception

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UK churches condemn creation of human-animal hybrids

4 April 2008

Churches in Britain have condemned the recent creation of human/animal hybrids. The Church of Scotland, which had already announced its opposition to the practice, expressed regret and serious concern. It also regretted that the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill would legalise research on hybrids. The Catholic bishops of England and Wales regretted that there had not been a debate in parliament and called for public discussion of the ethical issues. [Christian Today, 3 April] A poll suggests public disapproval of making hybrids. Two thirds opposed the practice, with half of those questioned expressing strong disapproval. The Catholic church in Scotland commissioned the survey of 1,000 people from Opinion Research Business. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, welcomed the findings and called on parliament to take note of them. The government should support adult stem cell research, he said. [Daily Mail, 3 April] Note: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has issued a licence under existing rules for so-called cybrid embryos despite the fact that this would appear to be beyond its powers. The government has introduced a bill that would clearly permit such licenses, but this is has yet to come before the House of Commons.

The chairman of a parliamentary pro-life group, Mr Jim Dobbin, MP, has given a cautious welcome the Prime Minister's letter permitting Labour MPs to vote against certain elements of the bill. He told the press that he opposed all embryo research and so-called saviour-siblings, as well as supporting children's need for fathers. He said: "My belief is that ethics and good science go hand in hand and many of the scientists who are pursuing the embryonic stem cell research have completely ignored the ethical questions." [Middleton Guardian, 2 April]

Mr Tony Blair, former British prime minister and a recent convert to Catholicism, spoke at Westminster Cathedral, London, yesterday (3 April). He said: "There is nothing I look back on now and say that as a result of my religious journey I would have done things very differently but that is expressly not to say that I got everything right." [BBC, 3 April] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, has asked Mr Blair to reply to a letter sent in January. Mr Smeaton said: "Mr Blair 's Faith foundation, to be launched later this year, has the UN's Millennium Development Goals at the heart of its mission. However, those targets were interpreted by the Blair government as supporting a universal right to abortion. Will he now come clean and dissociate himself from that objective?" The letter asked Mr Blair to distance himself from various unethical actions while he was an MP and prime minister. [SPUC director's blog, 4 April]

A member of the European Parliament is campaigning against gender-based abortion worldwide. Mr Nirj Deva, Conservative MEP for south-east England, says that such abortions have contributed to the global deficit on 60 million women reported by the United Nations. He wants the parliament to be told the gender of each child whose abortion it funds. [LifeNews, 2 April]

Evangelicals have expressed concern at the proposed Northern Ireland bill of rights. Mr Stuart Noble of CARE Northern Ireland said: "We are disappointed that the forum felt it appropriate to highlight the right to lawful reproductive health care while at the same time overlooking the rights of the unborn child." His organisation opposed attempts to change abortion law in the province through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill or a bill of rights. [Christian Today, 2 April] SPUC has also expressed concern.

An Anglican bishop has written on his concerns about euthanasia. Rt Rev Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, warns that once the practice was legalised, decisions would have to be made about who could be killed. Extolling the virtues of hospices, he writes: "Palliative care, in which Britain is a world leader, brings genuine relief and comfort to patients and families alike, instead of encouraging them into the murky world of potential mixed motives and huge suppressed moral questions." [Times, 3 April]

Public prosecutors in Pisa, Italy, are said to be investigating reports that doctors denied morning-after pills to women. A clinic which displayed a notice saying that it did not supply the pills, and a hospital doctor, have been the subject of complaints from two different women. Rocco Damone, a health manager responsible for both the clinic and the hospital, said: "Their behavior could be against the code of conduct... The prescription of the morning-after pill has got nothing to do with the issue of conscientious objection." Regional health representative Enrico Rossi said access to the drug was a right for women, but others supported the doctors, including the Education Minister Giuseppe Fiorini. [Catholic News Agency, 3 April]

China's one-child policy remains in place and abuses reportedly continue under it. Radio Free Asia says a woman was beaten until she revealed her pregnant sister's whereabouts. Reports continue of forced abortions. [LifeNews, 2 April]

A member of the Scottish parliament has called for a royal commission on assisted suicide. Mr Jeremy Purvis, Liberal Democrat MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, was acting on a suggestion from a doctor and spoke in the parliament of a seriously ill friend who had asked to be killed or for help with suicide. The health minister said the law would not be imminently changed but would agree to a parliamentary committee on the matter. [Southern Reporter, 3 April]

Veterinary work could be hazardous for pregnancy. Australian research on nearly 1,200 female vets suggests that exposure to anaesthetic gases, pesticides and X-rays increase the risk of miscarriage. [PA on Channel 4, 3 April] The Center for Science in the Public Interest of Washington, DC, is warning pregnant women to avoid packaging containing bisphenol A, citing National Institute of Environmental Health research on rats. [Food Production Daily, 3 April]

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