Scientists "have cloned human embryos"
18 January 2008
A group of American scientists have claimed to have cloned human embryos. The researchers at Stemagen Corporation in California used cell nuclear transfer to create embryos, one of which was reportedly a clone, from the skin cells of two adult men. The research team has not succeeded in deriving stem cell lines from the experiment, because the embryos were destroyed in the process of verifying that they were clones. The skin cells were reportedly donated by Dr Samuel Wood, chief executive of Stemagen, and another member of staff. [BBC, 17 January and Daily Mail, 17 January] An SPUC spokesman said: "Whatever the truth may be of the claim, it's appalling that scientists are competing in a race in which ethics and human lives are the first casualties. All laboratory cloning is incompatible with the status, dignity and rights of a human individual. Cloning undermines the uniqueness of each individual by seeking to form him or her as an exact genetic copy of another." [SPUC, 17 January] An ethics committee appointed by the European Commission has said that there are ethical problems with the production of cloned animals for food. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies warns that cloned animals suffer a high risk of disease. [New York Times, 18 January]
The United States is experiencing a baby boom. The birthrate for 2006 was 4.31 million, the highest America has seen since 1961, and the average number of children per woman is said to have reached the replacement level of 2.1. The US birthrate is higher than that of any European country, and those of Australia, Canada and Japan. Suggested causes of the rising birthrate include decreasing use of contraception and abortion. [Telegraph, 17 January] Abortion rates across America have also fallen recently, according to figures from the Alan Guttmacher Institute. One in five pregnancies is said to be aborted, compared to one in three in the 1980s. The abortion rate of 2.1 million per year represents a drop of 25% from when it peaked in 1990. Among women who have abortions, an increasing number are reportedly choosing chemical abortion drugs which can be provided by a doctor away from an abortion clinic. [Los Angeles Times, 17 January]
The National Assembly of South Africa has passed a bill allowing girls from the age of 12 to have abortions without parental consent or knowledge. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill passed by 266 votes to 52 with 12 abstentions but must also pass in the National Council of Provinces to become law. The ruling ANC party required its members to vote for the bill but other parties such as the African Christian Democratic Party opposed it. "In addressing these issues, the ACDP does not waver in our conviction that the value of human life is priceless and that all human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception." Mrs Cheryllyn Dudley MP of the ACDP said. [IOL, 18 January]
Women are being offered discounts on IVF treatment in return for donating eggs for research at the Fertility Centre in Newcastle, UK. Six women were selected as donors out of 100 volunteers, and will receive £1,500, half the cost of their IVF treatment, in return for giving half their eggs for use by the North East England Stem Cell Institute. [Westmorland Gazette, 17 January]