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LIFE DIGEST: Researchers in Great Britain create human-cow hybrid embryos


WASHINGTON (BP)–Researchers have created human-animal embryos in Great Britain for the first time.

Scientists at Newcastle University announced April 1 they had placed human cells into empty cow eggs, creating what have become known as cytoplasmic hybrids, or “cybrids,” according to The Times of London. Researchers hope eventually to grow the hybrids to six days of age in order to extract stem cells and conduct research for treatments of various diseases, The Times reported. The removal of stem cells kills an embryo.

The Newcastle “cybrids,” which are described as 99.9 percent human, lived for three days, the British Broadcasting Co. reported, according to The Times.

Parliament soon will be debating legislation that would legalize such hybrid embryos. Currently there is a ban on permitting the embryos to grow beyond 14 days or to implant them in the womb of a human being or animal, according to The Times.

In January, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted one-year licenses for the Newcastle scientists and another team to conduct such research.

The research is “ethically monstrous,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote in an online commentary on the FRC website. “Out of respect for the legislative process and the citizens of Great Britain, the government at the very least should have allowed for a thorough and transparent public debate before authorizing scientists to proceed.”


U.S. ASIANS USING SEX-SELECTION ABORTIONS — Some Asians in the United States apparently are expressing their preference for sons by using sex-selection abortions to produce male babies.

A new examination of the 2000 U.S. census showed an increase in the births of sons of Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian parents after they have one or two daughters, according to RedOrbit, an online science, space, health and technology site.

The authors of the research, published March 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said their findings suggested that “in a sub-population with a traditional son preference, the technologies are being used to generate male births when preceding births are female,” RedOrbit reported. The researchers surmised some Asian parents are using ultrasound technology to determine the sex of unborn babies, resulting in a subsequently inordinate number of abortions of girls, according to the report.

Douglas Almond, an economics professor at Columbia University, and Lena Edlund of the National Bureau of Economic Research reported there was an increase in the use of ultrasound among Asian Americans in the 1990s and the appearance of a gender imbalance in later births at the end of that decade, according to RedOrbit. Ultrasound use during pregnancy among non-Japanese Asian women in the United States grew from about 38 percent to 64 percent between 1989 and 1999, they said.

Almond and Edlund’s study showed the normal birth ratio in the 2000 census among Asian Americans for the first child was 1.05 boys to 1 girl, RedOrbit reported. If the first child were a girl, the ratio grew to 1.17 boys to 1 girl among Asians. After two female babies, it increased to 1.51 boys to every girl. There was no such difference among Asian births in the 1990 census, according to RedOrbit.

The male-female ratio among whites remained constant, Slate magazine reported.

Sex-selection abortion has been a growing problem in recent years in some Asian countries, where parents often favor sons, at least in part, because of a desire to be supported by them in old age.

China and India have led the way in using ultrasounds to identify females in the womb and then to abort them, with Nepal and Vietnam prepared to follow their examples, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported in October.

China, which has a coercive, one-child policy, had 120 males born for every 100 females in 2005, according to the UNFPA. India’s 2001 census showed the ratio nationally was 108 to 100, but some northern and western states had a ratio as high as 120 to 100, UNFPA reported. The normal ratio is about 105 to 100.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR VETOES PRO-LIFE BILLS — Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed April 4 two bills restricting abortion, keeping her record perfect on the issue.

Napolitano, a Democrat, rejected a measure that would have prohibited partial-birth abortion and another that would have strengthened the current law requiring parental consent before a minor undergoes an abortion. In so doing, the governor extended her record of never signing a limitation on abortion rights since she took office in 2003.

“Rather than introducing more criminal penalties into the relationship between a woman and her physician, let us focus our collective efforts to remedy the root issue of unwanted pregnancies by addressing such important topics as family planning and the prevention of sexual violence against women,” Napolitano said in a letter explaining one of the vetoes.

Cathi Herrod, president of the pro-life Center for Arizona Policy, said, according to the Arizona Daily Star, the governor had demonstrated again “how radical she is on the abortion issue.”

There are not enough votes in the legislature to override the vetoes, the Daily Star reported.

MORE THAN 1,300 BRITS HAD AT LEAST FIFTH ABORTION — Last year, more than 1,300 British women had at least their fifth abortion.

Statistics released in March by the government showed about 950 women had their fifth abortion in 2007, nearly 200 had their sixth, 110 had their seventh and 54 had at least their eighth, the Daily Mail reported.

“What harder evidence do we need that the abortion law as it stands is being abused?” said Nadine Dorries, a Tory in Parliament, according to the newspaper. “Abortion is supposed to be allowed if a pregnancy poses a significant risk to a mother’s health or well-being. But in fact it’s being allowed over and over again for purely social reasons. Girls now get pregnant and think, ‘It doesn’t matter; I’ll just get an abortion.'”
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.