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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Catholic Church restates disapproval of embryo abuse

12 December 2008

The Catholic Church has repeated its disapproval of human embryo research, cloning, embryo selection and artificial reproduction. Dignitas Personae also opposes the freezing of embryos. [Washington Post, 12 December] The text includes: "In virtue of the Church's doctrinal and pastoral mission, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has felt obliged to reiterate both the dignity and the fundamental and inalienable rights of every human being, including those in the initial stages of their existence, and to state explicitly the need for protection and respect which this dignity requires of everyone." [US Conference of Catholic Bishops] The document describes prenatal adoption of IVF embryos as "praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending life", but it is forbidden because it causes similar ethical problems to the transfer of embryos to other infertile couples and surrogacy.

The Pope will mention abortion in his message for World Peace Day. As well as criticising the unrestrained pursuit of wealth, Benedict XVI will oppose population control programmes which do not respect the right to life. He will say: "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings." The message, to be formally given on the first day of next month, rejects the notion that high birth rates cause poverty rather than opportunities for development. [Times, 11 December]

The British prime minister has expressed concern at Ireland's conditions for accepting the EU's Lisbon treaty, which reportedly include protection for its abortion law. Mr Gordon Brown said the opt-outs could mean the UK parliament would have to debate the treaty again. [Irish Times, 11 December]

The Luxembourg parliament has voted almost unanimously to remove the need for the country's head of state to approve laws after he refused to sign a bill legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide. Grand Duke Henri will merely announce the measure after it is approved on Thursday (the 18th). He has reportedly agreed to the constitutional amendment. In 1990 the late King Baudouin of Belgium abdicated temporarily while parliament legalised abortion [Guardian, 12 December]

State provision of maternity care in England is inadequate in some regions, according to a health watchdog. The Healthcare Commission's report says: "we have found wide variations in the quality of services offered by the NHS in England and women do not always get the level of care to which they are entitled." [Healthcare Commission, December] The Royal College of Midwives expressed concern. [Midirs, 11 December]

Eating peanuts in pregnancy or while breastfeeding is safe, according to the Food Safety Agency in the UK. Previous advice against such consumption is to be withdrawn. It was thought that eating nuts caused allergies in children. Families with a history of allergies should still seek advice before giving their children peanuts. [Mail, 11 December]

Advance publicity for a TV programme about early human development due to be shown in the UK yesterday included: "Soon after the nervous system forms, the foetus begins ferociously practising for life after birth. Stimuli like sound and taste permeate the sanctity of the womb, shaping the character and personality of the growing foetus." [BBC, 11 December]

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