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Defending life from the moment of conception

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House of Lords approves Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

30 October 2008

The British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is destined to become law. The House of Lords yesterday approved all amendments by the House of Commons. [Official Report, 29 October] An attempt to restrict the research on human/animal admixed embryos was defeated. Lord Alton of Liverpool proposed that the bill should stipulate that such beings could only be used when there was no alternative. 202 peers opposed the amendment while 39 supported it. [Herald, 30 October] The leader of Scottish Catholics has compared the British government to the Nazis. In an open letter to Mr Gordon Brown, the prime minister, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, called the embryology bill misguided and compared its various provisions to the horrors of the Hitler regime. He writes: "The hideous savagery of [Nazi] experiments convinced the civilised world that such practices [had to] be outlawed forever." The cardinal urged Mr Brown to amend the bill "as a matter of great urgency and human decency." [John Smeaton, 28 October] Lord Winston, the fertility specialist described the cardinal's remarks as unhelpful. [East Kilbride News, 29 October] The Catholic Archbishop of New York also referred to totalitarian regimes when writing about abortion. Cardinal Edward Egan described how Hitler and Stalin regarded certain groups as sub-human and likened this to the treatment of the unborn. [CNA on EWTN, 28 October]

England's high court yesterday ruled that the law would need to be changed if people were not to be prosecuted for taking others overseas to commit suicide. Lord Justice Scott Baker, presiding, described such actions as "what many would regard as something that the law should permit". Ms Debbie Purdy of west Yorkshire had sought the judicial review and, despite the ruling, said she still did not know what the law was. Ms Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, has spoken of going with her husband to Dignitas in Switzerland where poison is reportedly provided. [BBC, 29 October] While expressing sympathy for Ms Purdy and hoping that she would receive all necessary care, SPUC welcomed the outcome. Anthony Ozimic, political secretary, said: "The underlying objective of the case, brought by the pro-euthanasia lobby, was to undermine the law on assisted suicide. The ban on assisted suicide protects the value and dignity of human life. The death-for-disability lobby are a lethal threat to vulnerable individuals. Allowing assisted suicide would create pressure, either real or perceived, upon the vulnerable. Allowing suicide does nothing to address the medical, psychological or other needs of the terminally-ill." [SPUC, 29 October] Ms Purdy mentioned an appeal to a higher court. [Telegraph, 29 October]

The proponent of a measure to allow assisted suicide says he will reintroduce it to the UK parliament soon. Lord Joffe will bring back his Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill which the House of Lords rejected two years ago. He says it would prevent un-necessary suffering and would apply only to the terminally ill. [Times, 30 October] A similar proposal will be put to the Scottish parliament today. Ms Margo Macdonald MSP, who has Parkinson's disease, will seek a consultation with a view to launching a private bill. [Herald, 30 October]

Scientists and physicians from around the world have signed a declaration on human rights for nascent human beings. The signatories include human-biology research scientists, obstetricians, gynaecologists, professors of a range of disciplines, doctors in general practice and nurses. Their action is a response to this week's meeting in Paris of UNESCO's international bioethics committee, which is discussing whether so-called therapeutic cloning should be banned worldwide. [SPUC, 29 October]

University College Cork is to do research on human embryonic tissue. The board voted narrowly to allow work on imported cell lines, becoming the first establishment in Ireland to do so. [Irish Independent, 29 October] Most Rev Dermot Clifford, Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and a college governor, said such research was wrong. [Irish Times, 29 October] The lord mayor of Cork has called for a national referendum on the subject. Mr Brian Bermingham, who opposes the practice and is also a governor of the college, has appealed to the government. [Irish Examiner, 29 October]

A US Catholic bishop has questioned how a candidate for public office who says he wants to reduce abortions can support an act which would remove all restrictions on them. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph refers to the Freedom of Choice Act which Senator Barack Obama, Democrat presidential candidate, has said he will sign immediately if elected. [Zenit, 28 October]

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