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ss triple helix - Christmas 2008,  HFE Bill

HFE Bill

Things could have been even worse

The 1967 Abortion Act caused 6.8 million abortions. The 1990 Human Fertilisation And Embroyology Bill [1] takes us several steps further by bringing in more liberal embryo research, saviour siblings, animal-human hybrids, fatherless IVF children, and by making legal without explicit consent the use of tissue from children, mentally incapacitated adults and people who have died in order to make cloned and hybrid embryos. CMF throughout has opposed the bill as an attack on human dignity, the family and life itself [2]

All attempts to remove these provisions from the bill, or to legalise them only when alternative research routes do not exist, were defeated in both Lords and Commsns as government Peers and MPs faced a three line whip. Most would have voted this way regardless, due to a successful propaganda campaign by The Times backed by various scientific institutions, patient interest groups and MPs.

Key was the Prime Minister who wrote in May that ' embryonic stem cell therapy' gave us ' a profound opportunity to save an dtransform millions of lives' and that animal-human hybrid research is 'an inherently moral endeavour that can save and improve the lives of thousands and over time millsions of people.' [3] The facuts suggest otherwise. The PM, in thrall to research scientists and the biotechnology industry, has embraced this emperor's new clothes technology at the very time when scientists worldwide are turning to the ethical anternatives of adult and dord blood stem cells and iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells). In October the National Institute of Health website listed 2,170 clinical trials involving adult stem cells, 125 involving cord blood stem cells, but not one clinical trial in humans involving embryonic stem cells. [4]

The bill completed its eleven month journey through Parliament on 29 October with a debate in the Lords and now needs only royal assent, a mere formalityp to make it law. The only saving grace has been that the abortion law has not been further liberalised. It was a huge answer to prayer when liberalising amendments calling for abortion o nrequest up to 24 weeks, nurse and GP surgery abortion, and extension to Northern Ireland fell. At the eleventh hour the government acted to prevent debate on these, apparently in response to pressure from the media, Northern Ireland MPs and cross-party back-benchers. [5]. The new HFE Act is certainly bad, but could have been even worse.

  3. Gordon Brown: Why I believe stem cell researchers deserve our backing The Observer 2008; 18 May
  5. Anger over abortion debate halt BBC Online 2008, 22 October
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