News, weekly update, 30 January

The House of Lords has rejected the requirement for consideration of a child's need for a father when offering IVF treatment. While debating the British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill, peers agreed, without a vote, to replace references in the HFE Act of 1990 to "the need of that child for a father" with "the need of that child for supportive parenting". [Evening Standard, 22 January]

Senator John McCain, one of the potential Republican candidates in the US presidential elections, has reaffirmed his support for embryonic stem cell research in an interview with Catholic reporters in Florida. Mr McCain said his support for such research was "one of the toughest decisions I've ever had... one reason being very frankly is those embryos will be either discarded or kept in permanent frozen status". The senator, whose voting record is said to be otherwise pro-life, hoped that advances in adult stem cell research would soon make the embryonic stem cells issue academic. [CNA on EWTN, 23 January]

Planned Parenthood plans to spend $10 million during the US elections, in a campaign to try to win a million votes for pro-abortion candidates. The organisation, the nation's largest abortion-provider, only entered the political scene in 2004. "To keep our doors open," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, "it's clear that we need to step into the electoral arena." [CNA on EWTN, 23 January]

The European Human Embryonic Stem Cell registry, sponsored by the European Commission and hosted in Germany, has been launched. It gives general information about the origins and use of all available human embryonic stem-cell lines developed in Europe. [Nature, 23 January] A new opinion poll shows that the majority of Germans are opposed to using human embryos for research, and that this majority has increased since the development of methods to create pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue. In the same report, LifeSite relate that Karl Cardinal Lehmann, reputed as the leader of the German Catholic church's liberal/progressive wing, has spoken out against proposed relaxation of Germany's embryo experimentation laws. This is in contrast to the support for the proposals by his counterpart among Protestants, Wolfgang Huber. [LifeSite, 23 January]

US research scientists have reportedly created the whole genome of an organism from simple genetic material. The research, at the J Craig Venter Institute, Maryland, and reported on in the Science journal, entailed manufacturing the DNA of a synthetic version of Mycoplasma genitalium, a simple common bacterium. In future, the technique could allow organisms to be designed for specific purposes like generating biofuels. Concerns have been expressed about the ethical consequences. [BBC, 24 January]

Researchers at the University of Miami, Florida, have found evidence of stem cells in the pancreas in mice. If stem cells can be found in the human pancreas, it could make possible therapies for diabetes. Such cells could be used to generate insulin-producing cells, the deficiency of which causes diabetes. Researchers emphasised that clinical application of their findings was a long way off. [Washington Post, 24 January]

The Catholic bishops of Georgia, USA, have refused to support a proposed pro-life amendment to the state's constitution. The amendment would guarantee the right to life of all human beings from conception. The bishops' statement said that, while they do not oppose the amendment, they have come to the conclusion that it does not offer a realistic method of ending or reducing abortion, since only a change to the federal constitution could do this. [LifeSite, 23 January]


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