Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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French Assembly approves more liberal embryo law

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
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February 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The French National Assembly voted in favor of a revised bioethics bill on Tuesday that will allow for more widespread embryo research. The bill will now go before French Senate. If the higher chamber alters the text it will come back before the Assembly for a second reading.

Many points of the new law aim to liberalize embryo research. The first ever French bioethics law in 1994 prohibited embryo research of any kind. A revision in 2001 prohibited embryonic research in principle but allowed exceptions for “therapeutic” research purposes during a moratorium of five years.

During that time those seeking exceptions were forced to apply to the Agence de Biomédecine, which is in favor of embryonic research. The moratorium came to an end only a few days before the revised law was examined by the French Assembly, last week, and many scientists were pressing for an end to the ban.

However, while the ban would be maintained in the new law, exemptions will be easier to obtain. It would allow embryonic research in view of “medical progress,” including diagnosis and drug testing, a concession to the pharmaceutical industry.

On the other hand the text allows for conscientious objection for all medical workers who do not wish to participate in this research, and favors “ethical” alternative research whenever possible.

Most socialist and many communist representatives, as well as the Greens, voted against the text on the grounds that it was not liberal enough. The Greens had been pushing for the legalization of surrogate motherhood and for access to artificial procreation for singles and homosexuals, both of which were voted down.

Socialist representative Alain Claeys, who heads the Parliamentary bioethics commission, deplored the maintaining of the general ban: he said embryonic stem cell research is “useful for fundamental research.” He added that last time round, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime minister François Fillon both voted for a general authorization of embryonic research.

However, MPF representatives Véronique Besse and Dominique Souchet said France was losing an historic opportunity to close the five-year moratorium with a complete ban on embryonic research: “We all know now that research can make progress in other ways … Only ideological factors and financial interests that have nothing to do with the needs of science can have inspired the upholding and widening of this type of experimentation.”

Last Friday the pro-life group Alliance pour les droits de la vie organized a demonstration near the French Assembly in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote. A group of about 50 people, including pregnant women, heavily handicapped men and women and parents of children with genetic diseases stood under a banner proclaiming: “All genetically incorrect.” Some had their heads hidden behind white paper lampshades to symbolize nameless embryos who are being killed because they are not considered up to standard.

A young woman, Claire, whose parents chose not to abort her although she was diagnosed with spina bifida was present. She told LifeSiteNews.com she wanted to thank her parents for the gift of life. “I have more joy in life than many so-called normal people,” she said. “I’m here because I can speak, I want to be the voice of those who have no voice.”

Pro-life organizations say they are disappointed with the law, but underline that their efforts have brought themes to the fore that weren’t even talked about in the mainstream media during the debates preceding the 1994 and 2001 laws: eugenics, the interest of the child, alternative ethical research. They intend to redouble their efforts during the weeks leading up to examination of the law by the Senate.

In addition to the provisions on embryo research, the new law would give access to artificial procreation to unwed couples, who will no longer need to prove they have been living together for two years at least. The text also favors “zero defect” babies by obliging doctors to offer prenatal screening to “all” pregnant women when their medical condition or the state of the fetus “are susceptible of modifying the progress of the pregnancy.”

However, thanks to the efforts of pro-lifers, the law will also oblige doctors to give pregnant women information on existing therapy for the illness or handicap of their unborn child, and give them addresses of parent support groups. A new seven-day reflection period before deciding on a “medical” abortion in these cases will also be made compulsory.

Pre-implantation diagnosis, including double screening for “savior siblings,” will continue to be permitted within limited conditions.

The new law also favors research on umbilical cord blood, as well as storage and usage of umbilical stem cells in the interest of the general public. It maintains anonymous and free donorship of sperm and ovocytes and favors the reduction of the number of embryos created within in vitro fertilization procedures.

The new text also heavily favors vital organ donation, despite growing concern in some circles about the criteria of brain death that allow organ harvesting on people whose heart is still beating: significantly, there was no debate at all on this point, either in the media or at the National Assembly. Campaigns for organ donation will be held in high schools, higher education schools, the army and in the mainstream media on a yearly basis to encourage all types of human donation: vital organs, blood, sperm and ovules.



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‘Little miracles’: Mom gives birth to naturally-conceived quintuplets after refusing ‘selective reduction’

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An ultrasound of the five different compartments, each with its own baby, inside Kim's womb.

AUSTRALIA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A 26-year-old Australian mom has given birth to five healthy babies, all conceived naturally, after refusing the doctor’s advice that she must abort three of them in order to give the remaining two a better chance at life. 

“After my initial ultrasound I was told I could consider the selection method to give 2 babies the best chance in life,” wrote mom Kim Tucci in a Facebook post last September. 

“I watched a YouTube video on the procedure and I cried. I could never do that! Was I selfish for not giving two the chance of 100% survival? All I knew is that I already love them and that every heart beat I heard I connect with them more. For me life starts when a heart starts beating and all I know for sure is that I will do whatever it takes to bring them into this world healthy,” she wrote. 

Last Thursday Kim and her husband Vaughn welcomed the five new members into their family — one boy and four girls —increasing the number of their children from 3 to 8. The babies were born at 30 weeks, 10 weeks early, due to insufficient space in Kim’s womb. They weighed on average about 2.5 pounds. 

The quintuplets’ story began last March, after Kim and Vaughn had been trying for six months to conceive just one more child for their family. Due to health complications, Kim wondered if she would ever become a mother again. 

After what she thought was an extra long cycle, she decided to take a pregnancy test. 

“I was feeling tired and a little nauseated and thought I would take a pregnancy test just to get the ‘what if’ out of my head. To my shock and utter excitement it was positive,” she wrote on a Facebook post.

The parents got the shock of their lives when doctors confirmed in an ultrasound examination that there was not one baby, but five. 

“After a long wait for the ultrasound we finally went in. The sonographer told me there were multiple gestational sacks, but she could only see a heart beat in two. I was so excited! Twins!”

“I was moved to another machine for a clearer view and had the head doctor come in and double check the findings. She started to count, one, two, three, four, five. Did i hear that correctly? Five? My legs start to shake uncontrollably and all i can do is laugh. The sonographer then told me the term for five is ‘quintuplets,’” Kim wrote.

Even though Kim began to feel stretched to the limit with all those human lives growing inside her, she chose to focus on her babies, and not herself, referring to them as “my five little miracles.” 

“It's getting harder as each day passes to push through the pain, every part of my body aches and sleeping is becoming very painful. No amount of pillows are helping support my back and belly. Sometimes I get so upset that I just want to throw my hands up and give in.”

“Sometimes my pelvis becomes so stiff I can barely walk and my hips feel like they are grinding away constantly. I'm finding it hard to eat as I basically have no room left in my stomach, and the way it is positioned it's pushed all the way back with the babies leaning against it.” 

“My skin on my belly is so stretched its painful and hot to touch. It literally feels like I have hives! No amount of cream helps relieve the discomfort. I have a lot of stretch marks now. Dealing with such a huge change in my body is hard.” 

“Is it all worth it? Yes!!!! I will keep pushing through,” she wrote in one Facebook post days before the babies were born. 

The newborns' names are Keith, Ali, Penelope, Tiffany, and Beatrix. They were born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, Western Australia. Mother and babies are reported to be doing well. 



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UN rights chief tells Catholic countries to legalize abortion over Zika virus: bishops and cardinal react

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GENEVA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The United Nations, following the lead of international abortion activists, is now urging Latin American countries hit by the mosquito-borne Zika virus to lift restrictions on abortion for pregnant women who have contacted the virus and whose pre-born children may be at risk for birth defects, including having smaller than normal heads. 

The UN human rights office said today that it is not enough for South American countries to urge women to postpone pregnancy without also offering them abortion as a final solution. 

“How can they ask these women not to become pregnant, but not offer… the possibility to stop their pregnancies?” UN spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told reporters. 

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that governments should make available contraception and abortion services.

“Laws and policies that restrict (women’s) access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice,” he said.

But Brazil’s bishops strongly asserted yesterday that efforts should be made to eradicate the virus, not the people who may be infected by it. 

The disease is “no justification whatsoever to promote abortion,” they said in a statement, adding that it is not morally acceptable to promote abortion “in the cases of microcephaly, as, unfortunately, some groups are proposing to the Supreme Federal Court, in a total lack of respect for the gift of life.”

Honduras Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has also come out strongly against the notion of “therapeutic abortions” as a response to the problem. Unlike Brazil where abortion is legal in the case of rape or health of the mother, abortion remains entirely illegal in Honduras.

“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in a homily at a February 3 Mass in Suyap. “Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives,” he said. 

While the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency February 1 on account of concerns over the virus, critics have pointed out, however, that not one death as resulted from the virus. Even on WHO’s own website the virus is described in mild terms. 

“It causes mild fever and rash. Other symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and conjunctivitis. Zika virus disease is usually mild, with symptoms lasting only a few days,” the website states. “To date, there have been no reported deaths associated with Zika virus,” it added. 

Critics suspect that the crisis is being manipulated to advance an anti-human agenda on the pre-born. 

“Is Zika, actually, a hideous virus that threatens to spread uncontrollably across the world creating an army of disabled children with tiny heads and low IQ’s? Or might this be a willful misinterpretation of the scarce data to manipulate public opinion and legislatures?” wrote pro-life critic Mei-Li Garcia earlier this week.

“It becomes very clear that the publicity surrounding this story has a very little to do with medicine and a lot to do with a convenient crisis that is being used by those pushing for the legalization of abortion around the world,” she wrote.



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Hillary’s litmus test for Supreme Court picks: They must ‘preserve Roe v. Wade’

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DERRY, NH, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Hillary Clinton has a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees - several, in fact. At a Democratic event on Wednesday, Clinton unveiled her criteria in selecting a judge for the nation's highest court.

“I do have a litmus test, I have a bunch of litmus tests," she said.

"We’ve got to make sure to preserve Roe v. Wade, not let it be nibbled away or repealed,” she said.

There have been over 58,000,000 abortions since the 1973 court ruling legalizing abortion in all 50 states, according to National Right to Life.

That echoes her recent call to arms speech before Planned Parenthood last month, when she stated that taxpayers must fund abortion-on-demand in order to uphold the "right" of choice.

“We have to preserve marriage equality,” Clinton said, referring to last summer's Obergefell v. Hodges case, a 5-4 ruling that redefined marriage nationwide. “We have to go further to end discrimination against the LGBT community."

Her views differentiate her from the Republican front runners. Ted Cruz has called the court's marriage ruling "fundamentally illegitimate," and Donald Trump told Fox News Sunday this week that he would "be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things." Marco Rubio has said he won't "concede" the issue to the one-vote majority.

All Republican presidential hopefuls say they are pro-life and will defund Planned Parenthood.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, raised the makeup of the Supreme Court early last month in New Hampshire, saying it receives "almost no attention" as a campaign issue.

On Wednesday, Hillary said "the next president could get as many as three appointments. It’s one of the many reasons why we can’t turn the White House over to the Republicans again.”

Clinton said her judicial appointees must also reverse the Citizens United ruling on campaign finance and oppose a recent decision striking down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013's Shelby County v. Holder, justices struck down Section 4(b) of the act, which said that certain states and jurisdictions had to obtain permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

At one time, most politicians frowned upon any "litmus test" for judicial nominees, emphasizing the independence of the third branch of government. "I don't believe in litmus tests," Jeb Bush told Chuck Todd last November.

But with the rise of an activist judiciary in the middle of the 20th century, constitutionalists have sought to rein in the power of the bench.



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