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Defending life from the moment of conception

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House of Lords continues to debate embryology bill

23 January 2008

The House of Lords on Monday debated the UK's government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill during the second day of its report stage. [Official Report, 21 January] John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, wrote: "Those moving more ethically-conscious amendments don't have the force of numbers to get the government to accept any major ethical constraints on the bill. The mock battle between the government and the embryo-research lobby must be seen for what it is - just an exercise in passing the buck." [SPUC director's blog, 22 January] A peer called for the use of donated cells for cloning without the donor's consent. Baron Patel of Dunkeld promoted this as part of an amendment to the bill. Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "It is deeply disturbing that any scientist of repute should suggest that people might be cloned without their knowledge or consent. Lord Patel's proposals do a great disservice to medicine." The amendment was withdrawn. [SPUC, 21 January] Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said that the government, for which she was speaking, needed to review its position on this issue, and expressed her intention "to take this [legislation] back to see if there is a way forward that is compatible with the Human Rights Act." [Times, 22 January] A Scottish bishop has condemned the bill. In a sermon in St Mirin's Cathedral, Paisley, Bishop Philip Tartaglia said: "It almost seems that the powers of evil are never done fomenting the culture of death among hapless human beings by attacking the innocent unborn or the weak terminally ill with the great lie that these lives have no value." [Independent Catholic News, 21 January] A group of pro-life peers hope to amend the bill to stop abortions up to birth for disabled babies. Baroness Masham said: "Handicapped babies are still being aborted right up to full term, which is just horrific. I can think of no greater affront to equal opportunities for those who are disabled than the denial of the right to life itself." Some babies are aborted for hare lips and club feet. [Daily Mail, 21 January]

Scotland's most senior bishop has criticized the Scottish government's sexual health strategy. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said that the strategy had "demonstrably failed", citing the increase in abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. He wrote: "I can only urge once again an end to these failing strategies and an infusion of morality in the future." Ms Shona Robison MSP, public health minister, said she was "confident that the strategy is having a positive impact." [Scotsman, 22 January and Herald, 22 January]

Chinese government officials are reportedly planning a crackdown on the flouting of the one-child policy by those rich enough to pay fines. Deng Xingzhou, head of the municipal family planning commission, said: "Celebrities and wealthy people would be more heavily fined for giving birth to more than one child. The commission is still deliberating on the amount." The government was concerned at the "negative social impact" that the flouting of the rules was leading to. [Guardian, 21 January]

In the USA, records show that use of the RU-486 abortifacient drug has been rising by 22% a year since its introduction in 2000, and now accounts for 14% of all terminated pregnancies. Opponents of abortion have expressed concern that the drug is harmful to women. Randall K O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee, said: "The idea that doctors are beginning to offer something that has a record of causing some serious problems is very troubling." Reports about the extent of the pain caused by the drugs are said to vary. [Washington Post, 22 January]

A prominent Catholic academic has said that the presidential candidate to support on pro-life issues is Senator John McCain. Dr Gerard Bradley, president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, argued that Senator McCain had a more consistent pro-life voting record than other candidates. [EWTN, 21 January] Other American pro-life leaders have expressed a preference for other Republican candidates for the White House.

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