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Unborn babies can feel pain before 24 weeks

4 February 2008

A leading expert on foetal pain says that babies in the womb can feel pain before 24 weeks. Prof Sunny Anand, of the University of Arkansas, will present his research to British MPs. The meeting will be chaired by Mrs Nadine Norris, an opposition backbencher and former nurse, who wants to introduce an amendment to the HFE bill on the abortion limit. [Telegraph, 28 January] Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary commented: "SPUC has strenuously opposed the approach Mrs Dorries is taking. Bringing forward amendments in the current strongly pro-abortion Parliament will only help opponents to extend the abortion law."

The Observer claims that a group of Labour MPs, including three members of the cabinet, have asked to be allowed to vote according to their consciences on the British Government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill. An unnamed source told the Observer that a Catholic MP was told by chief whip, Geoff Hoon, that opponents of the Bill could absent themselves when it came to a vote. [Observer, 27 January]

Scientists have criticised a statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales that was read in [the source doesn't say "all" - it might suggest it, but that's not what happened, or what the Bishops' conference sought, as far as I know] parishes on 20 January, which raised concerns about the creation animal-human hybrids. Dr Chris Shaw of King's College London, flatly denied that the notion of animal-human hybrids was at stake. . New Scientist notes that the bill does lay down rules about the creation of such embryos, should scientists want to do so in the future. [New Scientist, 25 January]

The Vatican has leant support to a call to institute a UN moratorium on abortion. The Campaign was announced last Thursday by Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who will approachthe heads of governments in Latin America. It follows the UN call for a moratorium on the death penalty. [LifeSite, 25 January] A leading US Jewish Rabbi has called on the Pope to gather religious leaders in a protest against abortion. Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the Special Emissary to Israel for The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada and The Rabbinical Alliance of America, made his appeal in an address to the hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers attending the March for Life in Washington DC on 22 January, saying that this was the most ecumenical thing Pope Benedict could do, as the leader of the largest religious denomination. [LifeSite, 25 January]

Breedagh Hughes of The Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland claim that the assembly's rejection of proposed guidelines on abortion have left their members in a "state of fear." According to the Guardian, Mrs Hughes says midwives fear prosecution for participating in emergency abortions. Abortion is permitted in NI only if a woman's life is in danger,. [Guardian, 28 January] Betty Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland commented on Mrs Hughes remarks. [see media release]

Embryos that are rejected for implantation in IVF treatments could be used as sources for stem cells. In a paper in Nature, Scientists at Children's Hospital, Boston, claim to have derived normal stem cells from embryos at the blastocyst stage (about five days old). The Boston Globe cites George Q Daley: "These embryos are destined to be waste, they are defective..." Daley, the president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and a co-author of the Nature study, said that normal stem cells could be derived from embryos that had chromosomal anomalies. [Boston Globe, 28 January]

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