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Defending life from the moment of conception

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House of Lords to debate Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill tomorrow

28 October 2008

The House of Lords will debate the British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill tomorrow (Wednesday). The house will only consider amendments made by the House of Commons. [UK Parliament] SPUC says the bill is unethical, violating embryonic children's right to life and dignity. The government is also showing contempt for parliament and the House of Lords by scheduling this final consideration by the House of Lords without the minimum interval after its completion by the Commons. SPUC is urging its supporters to protest to the health minister in the Lords and that house's leader. [SPUC, 27 October]

The chairman of the English and Welsh Catholic bishops' department for Christian responsibility and citizenship is urging Lords to reject a move by the Commons to remove the need for people's consent before their cells are used to make human or hybrid embryos. Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff, complains at a lack of public consultation on the policy and writes: "When people find out that scientists are taking cells without asking to make admixed embryos they will rightly react. Who can trust scientists, if they can do this with your cells without asking you?" [Bishops' conference, 28 October]

Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat vice presidential candidate, has been criticised by his Catholic bishop for suggesting that the ethics of abortion has been the subject of centuries-long debate which was only resolved in the 1860s. Bishop Francis Malooley of Wilmington, Delaware, said that Judaeo-Christian tradition had always opposed abortion and cited a first century church source which also did so. Although theologians had speculated about when the soul was infused, abortion had always been condemned. [LifeSiteNews, 27 October]

A university in Ireland could become the country's first institution to perform research on human embryonic material. Governors of University College Cork are due to decide today whether to accept a recommendation from its research ethics board and academic council in favour of using imported embryonic stem cell lines. Most Rev Dermot Clifford, Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, is on the governing body. Prof William Reville, a biochemist at the university, said: "... it's completely unacceptable ethically and ... ethics aside, human embryonic stem-cell research no longer offers any medical or scientific advantage over alternative ethical approaches." In response to protests from the Pro-Life Campaign, the university said the research did not involve the destruction of human life. The campaign appears to want a national referendum on the matter. [Irish Times, 28 October, and Irish Examiner, 28 October] Patrick Buckley of European Life Network, Dublin, said: "It is sheer nonsense to suggest that embryonic stem cell research does not involve the killing of embryos. The very essence of this kind of research involves the production of embryos to be killed in order to extract stem cells and is highly unethical, unsafe and unnecessary."

Coronary patients' own bone marrow cells could help repair their hearts after an attack. University College London is trying the technique on patients after experiments on animals suggested that it reduced damage to the heart. [Irish Times, 28 October]

Pre-eclampsia in pregnant women could be detected at 12 weeks' gestation rather than at the present 20 weeks if an effective test for the VEGF165b protein can be developed. A report on British research on 70 patients published in the Clinical Science Journal suggests such a technique could be available within five years. [BBC, 28 October]

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