Cabinet ministers "could be allowed to vote against government" on embryo bill
18 December 2007
Members of the British cabinet will be permitted to vote against their government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, according to the Telegraph. Catholic MPs and members of the cabinet, Ms Ruth Kelly, transport secretary, and Mr Des Browne, defence secretary, are said to object to the proposed law. Another Catholic cabinet minister, Andy Burnham, is said to be untroubled by the bill. There had been a suggestion that the government would 'turn a blind eye' if objectors abstained from voting, but the permission to vote against the bill is said to have been given after lobbying by the Catholic Hierarchy. The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster has called the bill "profoundly wrong", and the Anglican Archbishop of York was also sharply critical. [Telegraph, 13 December] By convention, senior ministers support government legislation or resign.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has criticised a scheme announced by the UK Department of Health to distribute birth control pills without prescription. Dr Christine Robinson, vice-president of the RCOG's Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, warned that the move could restrict choice as pharmacists will not be able to offer methods such as the coil, and that there could be safety concerns since an assessment of the possible risks of using the pill requires medical equipment and knowledge of the patient's medical history. [Midwifery Digest, 13 December]
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is to allow embryos to be screened for a genetic disease that increases the risk of heart disease. The more serious form of familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) often kills sufferers before they reach adulthood, while the milder form is usually controllable through drugs and diet. A couple, one of whose two children has inherited the serious form of FH, have received permission to have their embryos screened so that those affected by FH can be discarded. [Guardian, 15 December, and Times, 15 December]
A national television network in Spain has shown footage of late-term abortions. The abortions, performed at 21 weeks of gestation, were filmed by an undercover journalist for Intereconomia TV posing as a doctor looking for work at the clinic in Madrid. The owner of the clinic, "El Bosque de Madrid" which is a member of the Association of Accredited Clinics for the Interruption of Pregnancy, acknowledged to the reporter that many of the abortions done were of dubious legality, but that clinic staff would always certify that there were legal grounds. Commentary to the programme drew attention to the humanity of the unborn. [LifeSite, 14 December]