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LIFE DIGEST: Dolly’s creator wants women to donate eggs; brain-dead mother gives birth; pro-life Dems look for progress

WASHINGTON (BP)–For scientists intent on cloning human embryos, there seems to exist a never-satisfied demand for more and better eggs.

Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep, is seeking permission from a British government agency to request that women donate their eggs for cloning research, according to the Guardian, a London newspaper. So far, cloning researchers in Great Britain have utilized only eggs left over from treatments at in vitro fertilization clinics, according to the report.

Pro-life ethicists, who largely oppose research cloning because it requires the destruction of embryos, criticized the development.

“Wilmut is trying to exploit women’s compassion, but it would be a misplaced compassion to donate eggs to create embryo-babies that will be destroyed for research,” said C. Ben Mitchell, a consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago.

Wilmut’s suggestion he needs eggs of a certain quality “turns women and their eggs into commodities,” Mitchell told Baptist Press.

“Wilmut should turn his interest in quality control into ethical responsibility. He would not clone human embryos if he were as concerned about ethics as he is experimentation,” Mitchell said.

Wilmut’s latest request confirms what some pro-life ethicists have been contending about the slippery slope of embryo research.

“Embryos belong in uteruses,” Mitchell said. “Once we began to generate them in vitro and not put them in uteruses, we made the unthinkable routine. Once the unthinkable becomes routine, it becomes expected. Once it is expected, it becomes demanded. And once demanded, a market is created.”

Wilmut told the Guardian he had “never doubted that women would donate if they thought we were helping people to have treatment.”

The injections required to produce more eggs than usual for extraction can be risky for the donors, the Guardian reported.

Wilmut follows in the path of South Korea’s leading cloning researcher, Woo Suk Hwang, whose team created a cloned human embryo last year after receiving eggs from women, according to the Guardian.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority licensed Wilmut in February to clone human embryos for research. He is seeking therapies for motor neuron disease.

Wilmut directed the team at Scotland’s Roslin Institute that successfully produced Dolly, the first cloned mammal, in 1996 after more than 270 failures. He is moving to Edinburgh University, the Guardian reported.

LIFE IN DEATH -– Susan Torres of Arlington, Va., gave birth Aug. 2 to a girl, even though the 26-year-old mother had been brain-dead for more than 12 weeks.

The baby, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, weighed only 1 pound, 13 ounces and was 13.5 inches long when she was delivered by Caesarean section in an Arlington hospital, The Washington Post reported. She appeared healthy, a family member reported, according to the newspaper.

Susan Torres died Aug. 3 after she was taken off life support.

“We thank all of those who prayed and provided support for Susan, the baby and our family,” said Susan’s husband, Jason Torres, in a written statement, according to the Associated Press. “We especially thank God for giving us little Susan. My wife’s courage will never be forgotten.”

Susan Torres was about 15 weeks pregnant when she lost consciousness May 7, The Post reported. Doctors told Jason Torres his wife had a brain tumor and was brain-dead with no chance of recovery. There was some hope, however, she could be kept alive on life-support machines until the baby was ready for delivery, the physicians told Torres. His wife had declined tests for defects in the baby, so Jason was sure she would have desired to try to give birth, and her parents agreed, according to The Post.

The cancer spread in Susan Torres’ body but had not affected the placenta a week before the baby was born, The Post reported.

This is only the 13th documented case of a birth under such circumstances since the 1970s, according to The Post.

Jason and Susan Torres have a 2-year-old son, Peter.

More than $400,000 has been contributed to help the Torres family, as reports of the effort to save the baby spread around the world, The Post said. The medical bills already are beyond $1 million, the newspaper reported.

PRO-LIFE DEMS TRY -– Some pro-life Democrats continue to work toward breaking abortion’s stranglehold on their party.

Democratic members of Congress recently met with Howard Dean to encourage the Democratic National Committee chairman to establish an official relationship with Democrats for Life of America, according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. The DNC has rebuffed the pro-life organization in the past, refusing to include the DFLA’s Internet address on the committee’s website.

Sixteen Democrats from the House of Representatives, staff members from the office of Sen. Ben Nelson, D.-Neb., and DFLA reps met with Dean July 21, The Hill reported. Dean seemed receptive to the group’s overtures and indicated he would explore posting a DNC link to the DFLA website, according to the report.

Leaders in the effort include Nelson in the Senate and Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, Tim Ryan of Ohio and Bart Stupak of Michigan, according to the newspaper. The minority leaders in both houses, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, are supporting the efforts to produce a link between the DNC and DFLA, The Hill reported.

The DFLA has proposed a “95-10 initiative” designed to reduce the number of abortions in the United States by 95 percent in 10 years. The legislative package is expected to be introduced in Congress after the August recess, according to The Hill.

In recent decades, abortion rights organizations have had a dominant influence on the Democratic Party’s policies. They have managed to make support for abortion rights a litmus test for gaining nomination to national office.

PATAKI SAYS ‘NO’ -– New York Gov. George Pataki has decided to veto a bill permitting over-the-counter sale of the “morning-after” pill, which has abortifacient qualities.

Aides to Pataki announced the Republican governor’s intention July 31, saying his opposition was based on the measure’s failure to block underage girls from purchasing the pill without a prescription, The New York Times reported. Pataki would weigh the legislation anew if his concerns about the bill were addressed by the legislature, aides said, according to The Times.

The announcement of Pataki’s plan followed by less than a week a veto of a similar bill by another Republican governor, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Romney vetoed such a measure July 25, but it is still expected to become law. Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature passed the bill with veto-proof majorities.

Both Pataki and Romney reportedly are considering campaigns for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

The “morning-after” pill, also known as “emergency contraception,” works by restricting ovulation in a woman, but some studies also have shown it can have an effect after conception. It may impair the embryo’s implantation in the uterine wall. It also may restrict “tubal transport” of the embryo, according to the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. In such cases, abortions would occur, pro-lifers point out.

The “morning-after” pill basically is a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes two pills within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved prescription use of two brands, Preven and Plan B. The FDA will announce by Sept. 1 whether it will permit over-the-counter sale of Plan B without a prescription to women 16 years of age and older.