Scientific imperative trumps morality

Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill Update :
Ruthless scientific imperative trumps morality yet again in the United Kingdom

There is nothing further we can do to combat the moral anarchy of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Last Wednesday in the House of Lords, the last attempts to damage-limit this dreadful piece of legislation were all defeated, and only Royal Assent is now required to turn the Bill into a full-blown Act of Parliament.

At no stage did CORE imagine that the outcome would be any different, but it is sad to acknowledge that as the Bill progressed through the various stages of debate, it got worse rather than better.

The division lists when it came to voting showed the usual heroism on our side, but only a few of the better amendments were called and sadly there were not even any close calls on these when put to the vote.

Some unlikely allies, such as former Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) Chairman, Baroness Deech, defended the child’s right to a father, and there were slightly higher votes from our side on the social issues than on other parts of the Bill. But all were defeated just the same.

Where the focus was on the various forms of perverted embryo experimentation – animal-human hybrids, genetic testing, manipulation, cloning, and the rest – we were outvoted by 2, 3, or even 4 to 1.

At the last hurdle we were not even able to persuade a diminished presence in the House of Lords that taking human tissue from incapacitated adults or children unable to give consent should be rejected on principle. Forget ‘evil may never be done even if good may come of it’, forget the Nuremberg Code, international medical conventions and European opprobrium – this particular amendment was lost by 34 to 105.

The Minister of Health, Dawn Primarolo, continually expressed her commitment to future-proofed legislation that will take us unthinkingly into the decades ahead, unhindered in the face of whatever dark fantasies science might conjure up. Her shoddy prayers have been answered. The goalposts in the final HF&E Bill are now so wide that they go way beyond even the limited restrictions of the 1990 playing field. In truth there are no goalposts left standing. Unfettered science, at least in this controversial world of assisted reproduction and embryo research, has won the day.

To claim that the earlier Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990) provided any real protection for the human embryo already required a colossal leap of faith, but to claim that this week’s revised Bill even pretended to do so, would be pure cant.

And it’s a moot point whether we needed any new legislation anyway.

The Regulator, the famous HFEA, had made most of the decisions already, pre-empting by many months the recent Parliamentary endorsement. Animal-human hybrid licences have long been awarded to 3 research centres, another centre is working away on mitochondrial cloning. As to the designing of tissue-matching embryos – that has been possible now for years.

The HFEA has been enthusiastically rubber-stamping research on the human embryo ever since its birth in 1990, with barely a nod to Parliament. And licences are never rejected, just occasionally sent back for a bit of tweaking.

The best sound bite of the debates on the Bill in the Houses of Westminster came from the Commons, from John Hayes MP, when he stated, ‘Science matters, but morals matter most.’

Sadly , morals do not matter at all in the United Kingdom, not any more, not where this kind of science is concerned.

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