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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Embryology bill could allow cloned embryos to be implanted

16 June 2008

If the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill is passed it could permit cloned human embryos to be implanted in a woman after minimal further parliamentary discussion. This assertion has been made by Dr Evan Harris, a leading proponent of embryo research. Dr Harris says that Parliament is unlikely ever to approve placing cloned embryos in the womb, and suggests that the law should be more tightly drawn. The bill repeals the 2001 Reproductive Cloning Act which bans implantation of clones. [Times, 14 June] Those in favour of cloning often try to make a false ethical distinction between cloning for research and letting such embryos be implanted. Cloning brings a new person into being, whatever is subsequently done with him or her. Commenting on Dr Harris' statement, SPUC General Secretary, Paul Tully, said: "Dr Harris's intervention appears contrary to his usual approach. We have long argued that the present cloning rules are invidious - allowing the creation of 'second class' embryos who may only be used for research, and then must be destroyed. Allowing cloned embryos to be created for transfer to the womb would also be wrong but Dr Harris would not share our rationale for that."

A British woman with multiple sclerosis who wants to go overseas to commit suicide says she has a lot to live for but just wants to choose when to die. Ms Debbie Purdy is asking the courts to rule on whether her husband would be protected from prosecution if he took her to Belgium or Switzerland. In an interview she says how she is keen to make a parachute-jump and to see her friend's child grow up. She adds: "What I don't want is to choke to death in a home, crying because I didn't get to make the decision to end my life my own way before my body became too weak to allow me that dignity." [Sunday Telegraph, 15 June]

The Pope says the church has a role in informing social policy. Benedict XVI, visiting southern Italy, said Catholic involvement in issues such as abortion and embryo research did not usurp governments' roles. Good would win through, he said, and bear fruit in the long term. [Christian Today, 15 June]

America's Catholic bishops have agreed a document which calls human embryo research seriously wrong and unnecessary. It says: "the false assumption that a good end can justify direct killing has been the source of much evil in our world" and that embryos have a full set of human genes. Adult cells and umbilical tissue offered a better way to which there was no ethical objection. One of the 192 bishops voting opposed the document. [Catholic News Service, 13 June]

Senator John McCain, the de facto Republican presidential candidate, will carry the pro-life mantle, according to Fr Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life who recently met him alone. Remarks Mr McCain made separately to a group of Catholic pro-life leaders suggested that he believed the right to life mentioned in UN documents and/or the US constitution applied before birth as well as after. [LifeNews, 13 June]

A medical scientist in Britain who helped develop prenatal tests for anencephaly, Down's syndrome and spina bifida has been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II. Professor Nicholas Wald of London University is to become a knight bachelor. [BBC, 14 June] Alison Davis of SPUC's No Less Human group said: "Prof. Wald's award, for developing pre-natal tests whose sole aim is to identify disabled babies in the womb so that they can be aborted, is hardly an achievement in the eyes of disabled people. This is not 'prevention' of disability, as he maintains, and as his job title suggests, but direct and deliberate eugenic killing." [SPUC director's blog, 14 June] State-funding for a pre-natal screening test for Down's syndrome is restricted in Scotland, according to an enquiry by a newspaper. Pregnant women are paying private clinics £200 for the procedure. The test, a nuchal fold scan at 11-14 weeks, is offered by 30% of hospitals in England. [Scotsman, 14 June]

Newlyweds in India are to be given pregnancy test kits by the government. The health minister said there were many unwanted pregnancies and he wanted them detected early "so that unwanted complications can be curbed." Also mentioned was "do[ing] away with unwanted pregnancies." [Gulf News, 15 June]

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