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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Ruth Kelly to abstain on embryology bill

1 July 2008

It is said that Ms Ruth Kelly MP, a Catholic cabinet minister, has been given permission to be absent overseas and, thus, abstain from voting on the UK government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The other two Catholics in the cabinet are expected to toe the party line. [Times, 1 July, and Telegraph, 1 July] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "Parliamentarians have a grave and clear obligation to vote against any law permitting the intentional destruction of innocent human life, such as the HFE bill. Abstaining is not a legitimate option for a pro-life MP. Arranging to be absent is an unacceptable fudge, as it would constitute a deliberate failure to protect the unborn from indignity, abuse and death."

The British embryology regulator has licensed the creation of human/pig hybrids. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's third licence for hybrids will let Warwick University make embryos by putting heart-disease patients' skin cells into sows' eggs from which most, but not all, of the animal DNA has been removed. [Telegraph, 1 July] Anthony Ozimic said: "The embryos which Warwick University seek to create are almost certainly human, as their DNA is almost entirely human. These human beings will be deliberately compromised by using an animal egg-cell in the process of their creation, and will be killed in the process of extracting their stem cells. Such embryo research is an abuse of the gift of life, the dignity of the human family and the powers of science."

A Romanian 11-year-old has been brought to Britain for an abortion, according to the mayor of her village. Florina Vranceanu is 21 weeks' pregnant, beyond her country's limit, and got government permission to travel for the termination. She was allegedly raped. Romanian pro-life groups offered to care for the child. [Irish Times, 1 July] A girl of 14 in Ireland is due to apply to the courts to travel abroad to have an abortion. It is claimed the girl is in state care and suicidal. [Breaking News, 29 June]
Doctors' organisations have reacted to a proposal to the British Medical Association's conference which would require doctors to refer women for abortion. Dr Tony Cole of the Catholic Medical Association said: "This takes away the right of conscience already guaranteed by statute. This is open to legal challenge." Dr Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association said Muslim doctors were very unhappy. He said: "You cannot force me, as a doctor, to do things against my conscience." [Daily Mail, 30 June, and SPUC director's blog, 26 June]

A first-year medical student in England performed a 14,000 feet skydive last weekend to raise awareness of the pressure on medical staff to take part in abortion against their consciences. Siobhan Fearon, 19, of Hull York Medical School said: "I think it is vital that society understands and appreciates the sanctity of every human life whether it is a developing child in the womb or somebody approaching the end of their life. When I graduate and become a doctor I am hoping to be able to use my skills to help save lives. I think abortion is never the answer and hope that one day, as a doctor, I will be able to help women to make the right decision." The jump is also raising money for SPUC. Siobhan experienced 50 seconds of freefall and then descended the rest of the way by parachute for eight minutes. [SPUC, 30 June]

Prenatal testing for Down's syndrome is to be offered to all pregnant women in Scotland. First-trimester nuchal translucency scans and blood tests will be universally available in three years' time. Down's Syndrome Scotland, said: "We do not believe that a diagnosis of Down's Syndrome should be an automatic reason for a termination." SPUC Scotland was quoted as saying: "The fact is by constantly suggesting pregnant women should be tested in this way we create a fear of disabilities such as Down's." [Scotland on Sunday, 29 June] An ultrasound scan at seven weeks' gestation was misinterpreted to suggest that an unborn baby had died. Leona-Lee Gray's mother declined offers of interventions to remove the child, who has since been born in north-east England. [Mirror, 28 June]

Doctors in Wales want the courts to bar a six-year-old girl with a genetic disorder from special hospital treatment. Amber Hartland's infantile Tay-Sachs disease is being treated, but she occasionally gets chest infections. Cardiff University Hospital is seeking permission to refuse her admission to intensive care if she gets another infection. [Sun, 1 July]

The leader of Ireland's Catholics has said the nation should reconsider the European Union's Lisbon treaty which it rejected in a referendum last month. Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, wants people to reflect on the help that the union has given, and could give, the country. [Catholic World News, 30 June] The president of Poland is refusing to ratify the treaty though the parliament approved it; the Czech president is also reluctant and Germany's constitutional court is to rule on challenges to ratification. [BBC, 1 July] There is uncertainty over whether the treaty threatens Ireland's abortion law.

Ecuador's constitutional assembly has approved a clause which could lead to legalised abortion. The text declares a right to decide how many children to have. The country's Catholic bishops want there to be a right to life in the constitution instead. [Catholic News Agency, 30 June] India's Catholic bishops say the federal law commission's recently declared support for euthanasia is unethical. [Catholic World News, 30 June]

An IVF baby has been implanted in the womb after having been screened to ensure the child will not contract breast cancer which runs in the father's family. 11 embryos were created. Six, which tested positive, were discarded. Two were implanted, two have been frozen and our source does not say what has happened to the other one. The procedure, performed on an unidentified couple, took place in London and the woman is 14 weeks' pregnant. [Daily Express, 30 June] The uncharacteristic detail in this story illustrates the way in which so-called designer babies are actually the result of a process which can involve the destruction of human embryos.

A woman has given birth in her mid-50s after using advertisements on London buses to find an egg donor. Mrs Linda Weeks of Kent, England, has a daughter after the advertising generated media coverage. [Daily Mail, 30 June]

The effect on offspring of maternal diet in pregnancy and during lactation seems to be lifelong, according to British research on rats. The Royal Veterinary College fed pregnant rodents high-fat, high-sugar foods and found the babies had long-term high cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin. [PA on Channel 4, 1 July]

Pro-life leaders have praised a Catholic archbishop for his stance on bioethical issues. American Life League, Human Life International and International Right to Life all paid tribute to Most Rev Raymond Burke who is leaving St Louis, Missouri, to head the Signatura, the church's highest tribunal, in Rome. [LifeSiteNews, 27 June]

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