Today and tomorrow the House of Commons is considering the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. The controversy surrounding the 20 week abortion issue has tended to obscure debate on the other important clauses of the bill - notably sibling saviours and human-animal hybrid embryos. All three issues are, to me, of equal importance. This isn't going to be a long post on the whys and wherefores - you can get that elsewhere, but I think anyone who writes on a public platform should say how they would vote on these issues if they had the chance.
On human-animal hybrid embryos I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I would vote against them. The whole concept fills me with a slight sense of horror. I always thought the concept of 'saviour siblings' must be something which involved a mutual support pact involving Wendy and Douglas Alexander, but it appears not. I have slightly more sympathy and understanding of this, but there is something about it which makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I accept that medical advances have brought untold joy to parents who might otherwise never have conceived, and further medical advances have saved untold hundreds of thousands of lives. And yet, I can't reconcile and inner belief I have that tampering with natural human science in this way is wrong. I don't have religious beliefs, but there's still part of me which agrees with religious teachings on this issue.
The 20/24 week abortion debate has illustrated all that is wrong with political debate in this country. Pro-Choice supporters have railed against the 20 weekers, accusing them of being totally anti-abortion, which in some cases may be right, but certainly not all. And some of the 20 weekers have failed to recognise that there are actually arguments on the other side which need addressing.
What I do not understand is that the Conservative front bench has now put down an amendment on 22 weeks, for reasons no one has quite been able to explain. Frankly, it's a fudge. Either you believe in the status quo, or you think the limit should be much lower. This amendment smacks too much of the lowest common denominator.
I unreservedly back 20 weeks and I make no bones about the fact that I would like to see it lower than that. Virtually every other European country has a limit of between 12 and 14 weeks. Their abortion rates are much lower, so is the level of sexual activity among under age teenagers. It is a proven fact that foetuses can survive at 20 weeks - not all, but some do. If you live in an area with a hospital with superb neo-natal facilities the survival rates are obviously much higher than if you live in a catchment area without one.
It's on occasions like this that Parliament should come into its own. Although I have reasonably unchangeable views on the abortion limit, I would genuinely like to have listened to the full debate on the other two areas before finally making up my mind. I suspect many MPs are doing just that.