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Perth archbishops disagree on when life begins

Perth Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey yesterday challenged the assertion of Anglican Primate and Archbishop of Perth Peter Carnley, that human life begins 14 days after the sperm meets the egg.

Dr Carnley told delegates at the Fertility Society of Australia's annual scientific meeting on Tuesday that conception is a process that ends about 14 days after fertilisation.

Dr Carnley argued that until it was implanted in a womb lining and the possibility of splitting to become an identical twin - which could happen up until 14 days - had passed, the fertilised egg did not require the rights to care, protection and life that an embryo would.

But Archbishop Hickey (pictured) said scientists could tell whether a fertilised egg was to grow into a boy or girl and many other characteristics long before it was 14 days old.

"Some people want to be allowed to screen embryos much earlier than 14 days in order to be able to decide which ones will be given the chance to proceed to full development and which will not," Archbishop Hickey said.

Archbishop Hickey said Dr Carnley's position meant IVF, abortion before 14 days, destruction of embryos and the morning-after pill would all be justified.

Catholic teaching was that every person must be treated with dignity from the moment of conception to death.

"Once we start to differentiate between people on whatever grounds - health, intelligence, usefulness, race, colour or creed - we deny the inherent dignity of the person," he said. "This removes the principle of the equality of persons which is the foundation of a just human society."

Church lines drawn in new life debate (The West Australian)

Catholic Archdiocese of Perth | The Catholic Archbishop of Perth, the Most Rev. Barry Hickey, disputes the argument of the Anglican Archbishop, Dr Peter Carnley, that human life does not begin until 14 days after fertilisation (Archdiocese of Perth)
Anglican Diocese of Perth | Archbishop Peter Carnley
Fertility Society of Australia | Conference
Life begins at day 14, say Anglicans (The West Australian)

6 Nov 2003