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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Lords should reject 3-parent embryo regulations UK "are the pioneers of abuses of unborn children"

24 February 2015

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has called on members of the House of Lords is to reject the so-called "three-parent" embryo regulations being debated in the upper chamber today. The procedure is said to be necessary to help families affected by rare mitochondrial diseases.

These regulations (the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations) are designed to usher in the cloning of human embryos. The manipulation of the human germ line would be permitted for the first time, contrary to modern international biomedicine agreements and long-standing ethical principles.

Commenting on the background to today's debate, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said:

"The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was not intended to permit human cloning, and so the alteration of germ-line genetic material was forbidden. The restrictions have been repeatedly weakened, however, and this is a further stage in dismantling the so-called safeguards of the embryology law.

"It is often supposed that the objection to germ-line modification is that it will lead to the creation of either 'monsters' or super-humans. Neither outcome is likely. Instead, many embryos will die in the efforts to restructure their genetic make-up."

Mr Tully continued: "The reality is that we know far too little about mitochondria to know what impact the cloning process would have on mitochondrial disease. It is true that the mitochondria carry very few genes but scores of other genes needed by mitochondria are stored in the cell nucleus. Transferring the nucleus of an ovum or an embryo to another cell cannot be predicted to have any certain benefit.

"The proponents of embryo research have repeatedly held out promises of cures and medical advances in the field of inherited conditions. But the benefits have always failed to materialise, and we suspect that the same is happening again here. The parents of children affected by mitochondrial disease are being exploited to support unethical experiments, based on the false hope that their children will benefit.

"Legislators have been consistently misled in the past about the prospects of success and the future intentions of those who want to use the tiniest humans - human embryos - for experiments. They should reject today's proposals." concluded Mr Tully.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, can be contacted on 07939 178719 or 020 7820 3127. SPUC's communications department can be contacted on:

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Comments (1)

  • Prem

    11 October 2015, 7:34am

    , "It is no use relying on the armnegut that an unborn child is still a person, as that view is no longer widely accepted in the community."I disagree. I don't think the wider community does reject the humanity of the unborn child, which I think is what he's getting at. High flown philosophical discussions about "personhood" have only ever been an abstraction intended to excuse the inexcusable ie denying the unborn child its right to life."[A] retired doctor who had worked in a gynaecological ward in the 1940s ...told me that at that time, a very high proportion of his patients were there following botched illegal abortions. This was the original reason for the 1967 Act."Self-serving rubbish from the doc, I'm afraid. The key development which shifted support towards abortion law reform was the birth of thalidomide children. This gives us some idea of the principle motives of the abortion law reformers. Not coincidentally, there was a considerable overlap in membership of the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) and The Eugenics Society. We should also throw in some Marxian economic analysis at this stage: changes in the make up of the labour force - its feminisation in other words - meant anti-natalist policies such as the 1967 Act had a capitalist rationale. Concerns about maternal mortality and morbidity were very much secondary, if not tertiary for abortion law reformers.Henry is at his most tenuous when he says: "There is also the issue of to what extent a minority faith community should enforce its views through legislation? What if Moslems sought to impose the prohibition of alcohol or pork consumption? It may be that practising Catholics should not be participating in representative politics at all, since the communities they represent do not share their underlying assumptions." As I said earlier, Henry's assumption that the wider community does not accept the humanity of the unborn child is erroneous - in fact there is a wealth of evidence that the public is closer to the RC view than he imagines and has serious misgivings about abortion, which any half-competent political lobby group (not SPUC, in other words) should be able to marshall into effective political action. He's on utterly shaky ground when he extrapolates such a bizarre conclusion as he has done from his exceedingly tenuous assumptions.The whole point of democratic politics is that anyone or any interest group can participate and make a bid for public support. For a start, public sentiment is not a static thing. The notion that representative politics may exclude any minority interest at any given time on the utterly arbitrary grounds that the community does not share its underlying assumptions is a thoroughly reactionary one. What prompts it? I think the reference to Moslems, preceeded by the telling question "to what extent a minority faith community should enforce its views through legislation" is a revealing one.

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