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Defending life from the moment of conception

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House of Lords rejects child's need for a father

25 January 2008

The House of Lords has rejected the requirement for consideration of a child's need for a father when offering IVF treatment. While debating the British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill, peers agreed, without a vote, to replace references in the HFE Act of 1990 to "the need of that child for a father" with "the need of that child for supportive parenting". [Evening Standard, 22 January]

On Tuesday last, the 35th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, President Bush spoke in support of the March For Life in Washington. His comments on the court's decision were made during a reception for a contingent of the demonstrators and were broadcast to others later in the day. [Guardian, 22 January] Thousands of pro-life supporters listened to speeches in the National Mall before marching to the Supreme Court. Several dozen pro-abortionists held a counter rally. [Guardian, 23 January] The previous evening, Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the US bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, preached at a Mass in the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In his homily he said that Roe v. Wade was incompatible with human dignity, and the immense task of replacing it with a culture of life required the contributions, however small, of every individual. The basilica was packed and concelebrants included 40 bishops. [CNS, 22 January]

The European Human Embryonic Stem Cell registry, sponsored by the European Commission and hosted in Germany, was launched last week. It gives general information about the origins and use of all available human embryonic stem-cell lines developed in Europe. [Nature, 23 January] A new opinion poll shows that the majority of Germans are opposed to using human embryos for research, and that this majority has increased since the development of methods to create pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue. In the same report, LifeSite relate that Karl Cardinal Lehmann, reputed as the leader of the German Catholic church's liberal/progressive wing, has spoken out against proposed relaxation of Germany's embryo experimentation laws. This is in contrast to the support for the proposals by his counterpart among Protestants, Wolfgang Huber. [LifeSite, 23 January]

The Human Tissue Authority in the UK has given approval for clinical trials of a new treatment involving injections of adult stem cells. Scientists at Bristol University and Bristol Royal Infirmary will inject stem cells derived from patients' own bone marrow into heart tissue damaged by severe heart attacks. The research is being headed by surgeon Raimondo Ascione. [Guardian, 23 January]

A group of UK academics with expertise in philosophy and bioethics has written a letter to The Times newspaper opposing the use of cells to create embryos for research without obtaining consent from the patient. Signatories include Dr Helen Watt, director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare ethics. [Times, 24 January]

A science-historian has been appointed chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK. Professor Lisa Jardine is the centenary professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary College, University of London, and will take up her new appointment on 1 April. By law, the HFEA must have a chairman who is not involved in IVF or embryo research. Professor Jardine's appointment follows a period of uncertainty and controversy around the authority's senior staff. [Times, 24 January]

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the state of Missouri must provide transport for inmates who want to have abortions. In 2005 the state had tried to end the practice of driving prisoners to abortion centres, and the Court over-ruled this in the case of a particular prisoner. The class-action on behalf of all imprisoned pregnant women was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. [Guardian, 22 January]

The Portuguese Medical Association has defied government pressure to allow abortion, and re-elected Dr Pedro Nunes as president. Dr Nunes has pledged not to remove the ban on performing abortions from the association's ethical code, despite threats from the government, which last year de-criminalised all first trimester abortions. [LifeSite, 21 January] John Smeaton has commented on this in his blog, SPUC-Director on 23 January.

According to a BBC report, Sweden has the lowest infant mortality rate (for under-5-year-olds) in the world. It also has a low maternal mortality rate, of one death in 17,400 births. Medical reporter Fergus Walsh broadly applauds various aspects of Swedish social and medical maternity provision in comparison to the UK. [22 January]

Members of parliament will hand a petition to the British prime minister calling for universal pre-natal testing for an infection which can be fatal for unborn children. The petition is part of a campaign to end loss of babies' lives to group B streptococcus infection. The petition was drawn up by the Sussex-based organisation Group B Strep Support and the magazine, Pregnancy and Birth. [Mid Sussex Times, 22 January]

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