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Criticisms by The Guardian newspaper – a CMF Statement

Published: 30th October 2007

On 20 June 2007 the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons announced a 'New Inquiry' into 'Scientific Developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967' and invited written evidence from members of the public, with a deadline of 2 September. The length and nature of that evidence was specified, and it was specifically stated: 'The Committee will not be looking at the ethical or moral issues associated with abortion time limits'.

In the event, half a dozen individual CMF members chose to make personal submissions. As there had been no request to state memberships and affiliations, and as there is no precedent to do so, and particularly as the Committee chose not to consider ethical aspects, those submitting evidence did not mention their membership of CMF. A corporate submission was also made on behalf of the whole Fellowship (see www.cmf.org.uk/ethics/submissions/?id=49)

The Science and Technology Committee published all the written evidence on 10 October (www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/SDAevidence.pdf) and then commenced hearing oral evidence. On 11 October, shortly before the first session, Dr Christopher Tyler, 'Committee Specialist' contacted all those who had submitted written evidence as follows:

'The Committee has decided to ask all those who submitted evidence to declare any professional interests or memberships relevant to the inquiry, additional to those set out in the written submissions. This is simply a matter of information for the Committee and will not affect the consideration given by the Committee to your evidence.'

Taking these words at face value, and in good faith, individual CMF members who had made submissions responded. Somehow, and before any newly declared links came properly into the public domain, individual members of CMF were telephoned by journalists over the weekend 13-14 October and The Guardian newspaper on Monday morning 15 October printed a long article by James Randerson, Science Correspondent: 'Abortion inquiry asks scientists to disclose links to faith groups'. This named two CMF members, in an attempt to discredit their evidence.

Despite rebuttals in correspondence, these attacks have continued up to today, 30 October, with the STC Report to be published tomorrow. See:

www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/oct/15/sciencenews.medicineandhealth

www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2192579,00.html

www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,2191864,00.html

www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/oct/27/1

www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/oct/30/health.homeaffairs

Christian Medical Fellowship makes the following comments:

  • Those making submissions were not initially asked to declare affiliations and memberships
  • The quality of the written evidence should have been judged for its scientific content
  • Information from those who responded to the request to declare links should not have been leaked to a national newspaper
  • That process and the continuing attention paid to CMF membership is not compatible with the parliamentary promise 'This…will not affect the consideration given by the Committee to your evidence'
  • Why has there been no comparable coverage of the 'pro-choice' affiliations of those (the significant majority) giving oral evidence?
  • Is all this a smokescreen to divert attention from the solid scientific evidence put in by CMF corporately and by individual members?
  • Should serious questions be asked of other professional organisations? See a letter from CMF members in today's Times: (www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article2766119.ece)

We urge those interested to consider the quality of CMF's oral evidence and to compare it with the quality of other evidence:

www.parliamentlive.tv/Player/index.aspx?Encoding=7422

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmsctech.htm#evid


Dr Peter Saunders, General Secretary

Dr Andrew Fergusson, Head of Communications

30 October 2007

For further information:

Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
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