MPs reject limits on embryo research law
20 May 2008
British MPs yesterday rejected proposed curbs on the expansion of embryo research law. The House of Commons blocked amendments to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which sought to prevent or otherwise limit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos and 'saviour siblings'. SPUC said that ethically-conscious MPs now needed to reject the entire bill. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "The HFE bill seeks to implement a string of changes that will mean more embryos will be generated but given less respect and protection than ever. Those MPs who until now have been unsure whether or not to vote against the bill must now realise that the bill cannot be made less unethical." [SPUC, 19 May] MPs are today debating and voting on IVF children's need for a father, and on the upper gestational limit for the abortion of non-disabled babies.
The prime minister had said that the HFE bill's proposal to allow hybrid embryos was moral. While respecting colleagues' opposing views, Mr Gordon Brown said: "[W]e owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures, and in particular, to give our unequivocal backing within the right framework of rules and standards, to stem-cell research." [Scotsman, 19 May] Some major medical charities support the bill, including those working on Alzheimer's, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's. [Telegraph, 19 May]
The leaders of the four main political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly have signed a letter to all Westminster MPs urging them to vote against any measure which would extend British abortion law to their part of the UK. The signatories are Mr Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin, Mr Mark Durkan, SDLP, Sir Reg Empey, UUP, and Dr Ian Paisley, DUP. Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland writes: "It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of the letter from the leaders of Northern Ireland's major political parties. A joint statement of this kind, signed by all four of them, is unprecedented. Together they represent 90% of the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which demonstrates the level of determination in the Province to resist threats to extend the Abortion Act. Although Parliament has the political power to impose the Act, the moral authority clearly rests with the Assembly. The party leaders are asking MPs to respect that." [SPUC director's blog, 19 May] Northern Ireland Christian leaders are resisting the bill, which could extend British law to the province. Heads of the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches have written to MPs asking that the Northern Ireland Assembly should decide on the matter. [Irish Times, 17 May]
Leaders of reformed Christians have expressed their opposition to the bill. A letter, pointing out that opposition is not just from Catholics, is signed by Anglican bishops, evangelical leaders and others. The Islamic Medical Association also writes of its reasons for being against the proposed measure, including each child's need for a father. [Times, 17 May] Britain and Ireland's cardinals want more discussion of the issues raised by the HFE bill. The archbishops of Armagh, St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Westminster point out the progress made in adult stem cell research. [Christian Today, 18 May] The British and Irish Catholic bishops have made a grant of £25,000 for ethical stem cell research. The money, raised from a collection made in churches, will go to Novussanguis which will look at the use of umbilical and adult tissue. [Bishops' conference, 18 May]
An abortion takes place somewhere in Europe every 27 seconds according to a report to the EU parliament by the Institute for Family Policy, of Spain. Lower birth rates and increasing abortion rates were causing a demographic crisis. [Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, 15 May]
Maternal stress in pregnancy causes allergies in children, say Harvard, Massachusetts, medical researchers who measured immunoglobulin in nearly 400 umbilical cords. [BBC, 19 May] The use of mobile telephones (cellphones) in pregnancy raises the likelihood of behavioural problems in offspring, according to a study of 13,000 Danish children. Russian authorities have warned about radiation from such devices. [Independent on Sunday, 18 May]