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Labour minister may defy party whip on embryo vote

27 May 2008

It is suggested that a senior minister will defy her party and abstain from voting on the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Mrs Ruth Kelly MP, secretary of state for transport, will reportedly not oppose the measure and, thus, may not need to resign her portfolio. [Telegraph, 23 May] Mr Joe Benton MP has protested that his governing Labour party is requiring its parliamentarians to vote for the final version of the bill, calling it hypocrisy. He says he will disobey. Dr Helen Watt, director of the British and Irish Catholic bishops' bioethical centre, says electors should pay more attention to MPs' voting on life-issues than to party-affiliation. [Catholic News Agency, 22 May] A Conservative MP wants his party to commit to reviewing abortion law in the light of medical advances. Mr Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, is not opposed to abortion or IVF but cites opinion polls which suggest public support for a lower gestational limit. [Birmingham Post, 23 May] John Smeaton of SPUC warns against playing abortion party politics. [SPUC director's blog, 27 May]

In the aftermath of UK parliamentary votes on abortion and embryology, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster has repeated his call for a bioethics commission. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor praised the quality of this week's House of Commons debate and said a commission would "serve the common good simply through continuing dialogue and exploration." Ethics needed to keep pace with science. The church did not impose her views and what mattered was: "the appeal to reason and intellectual argument ...". The Cardinal observed: "The idea of 'viability', prominent in the debate, is a concept dependent on the availability of resources and technology; not one that is able to found a moral distinction between a life that is worth our respect and protection and one that is not." [Telegraph, 23 May]

The Vatican newspaper has called hybrid embryo research useless, and criticised British MPs' move to abolish the requirement for IVF children to experience paternal care. L'Osservatore Romano said such fatherless children would be orphans before they were conceived. [Catholic News Agency, 22 May]
A lawyer has intervened in the case of a comatose man who was being starved to death in a Texas hospital. John Peter Smith Hospital, Arlington, decided that the condition of Mr Jesús Sánchez, 56, from Peru, was irreversible and invoked a state law which allows such killing. The hospital was subsequently persuaded to pay for him to be sent to his homeland where he reportedly survives. [LifeSiteNews, 22 May]

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