Labour MPs "will be allowed to abstain" on embryo vote
7 March 2008
MPs from the UK's Labour party will be allowed to abstain over their government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. Mr Geoff Hoon MP, Labour chief whip, said MPs would be allowed to absent themselves rather than vote for the bill. He also argued that support for the medical research promoted by the bill was matter of conscience too. [Yorkshire Post, 7 March] More than 100 academics have called for a free vote. Signatories to a letter to the Times include Professor David Albert Jones, professor of bioethics at St Mary's University College, Middlesex, and Professor John Finnis, professor of law and legal philosophy at Oxford University. [Times, 7 March] SPUC is urging supporters and pro-life MPs to focus on opposing the unethical content of the bill. The question of allowing abstention or free votes is a fine point and should not obscure the wholly immoral nature of the bill.
An MP who wants the abortion-law changed has described her experience of assisting with abortion when she was a nurse. Mrs Nadine Dorries, Conservative member for mid-Bedfordshire, told of how a baby had been born alive even though the mother had had a injection designed to kill him or her. Mrs Dorries wanted to call a resuscitation team but was restrained by a doctor. A newspaper article also quotes her as saying: "I have no issue with abortion at the right time but this is murder." [Daily Mail, 6 March] In a letter to the Catholic Herald, SPUC has warned of the dangers of her proposal to change the law on abortion. John Smeaton writes: "A careful examination of the recent votes on abortion in the current Parliament shows many more MPs supporting the pro-abortion lobby than the pro-life lobby. With the numbers stacked against us, it makes no sense at all to add to the calls of the pro-abortion lobby for Parliament to amend the abortion law." [SPUC director's blog, 7 March]
Churchgoers have petitioned their MP over the embryology bill. 500 parishioners of St Francis of Assisi, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and other churches signed a document opposing the proposed law which has been given to Mr Jeremy Wright, a member of the Conservative opposition. [Kenilworth Weekly News, 7 March]
The European Union's reform treaty could undermine Ireland's ability to restrict abortion, according to a Danish member of the European parliament. Mr Jens-Peter Bonde said that the treaty could end the union's consensus-based culture and enable a majority of nations to impose their will everywhere. Disagreeing, Ms Máiréad McGuinness, an Irish Fine Gael MEP, said a ban on abortion was in the country's constitution. Labour and Fianna Fail also vigorously rejected the warning. [Irish Independent, 7 March]
The Republican National Coalition for Life has called on Senator John McCain, the presidential nominee, to follow his party's policy of amending the constitution to protect the unborn. Mr McCain is said to support abortion after rape and incest. [LifeNews, 6 March]
The Gujurat state assembly, India, was due to debate a bill on the treatment of the long-term ill. The proposed law would reportedly allow for attorneys who could take life-and-death decisions. It would require medics to withdraw life support and/or medical treatment. [Express India, 5 March] It is not clear from our source whether basic care such as the administration of food and fluid would be deemed medical treatment.