Monday, May 19, 2008

How Would You Cast Your Vote on the Embryology Bill?

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.

78 comments:

verity said...

Agree with every word.

Albert M. Bankment said...

There was a Catholic bishop whiffling on 'The World at One', making the assumption that everyone must approach this matter from the point of view of a faith in a Supreme Being. One the other side was the father of a boy with a condition which may be cured with the help of a 'saviour sibling'.

I do not start from a position of faith. I start from the position of one who has a friend who developed Parkinson's at 40. I support all and any medical research - stem-cell, embryo, saviour siblings, hybrid experimentation, transplants, whatever - which will further medical knowledge and alleviate both his condition and all other debilitating or life-threatening illnesses.

By failing to do our utmost to extend the boundaries of medical knowledge, we would be betraying this and all future generations. Those whose lives are governed by faith have my respect, but they must not be allowed to impose the arbitrary restrictions of their faith upon me or anyone else.

Boyce said...

This "hybrid" thing has been blown completely out of proportion. As any schoolkid could (hopefully) tell you, take the nucleus out of a cell and it loses the specific properties of whatever it originally was. Since there isn't exactly a rush of women wanting to donate human egg cells, for our understanding of human embryos it's pretty essential to use animal eggs with the genetic material removed. But instead of having genuine experts in the papers or on the TV all we hear is religious opponents or people with MS or whatever who've been convinced it'll be a miracle cure.

Trev said...

I would prefer 20 weeks. But surely to God if it was a choice between 24 or 22 wouldn't you prefer 22?

godot said...

Iain, you say you are against animal/human hybrids but I assume you realise that this is a very broad term and the hybrids being considered consist of human dna placed inside a animal (cow) egg. The only animal dna is mDNA which resides outside the nucleus and is involved in energy production in the cell and not physiology. Our "human" dna is a funny mixture of bacteria and plants already. You contain within you multitudes.

Good on you for stating your position though but I suspect that your friend Widdicombe has influenced you.

Life is far more interesting than that imagined by ancient desert cultures. We need to move forward. Sceptecism of science is not a good response.

Anonymous said...

my vote is for people Iain. 2000 year old religious texts dont. sorry. stop being so cynical.

Norman said...

Agree on all the points you have made. As far as the hybrid embryos are concerned, I am less worried about the hybrid nature than the fact that any embryos are being created to fulfill what is still very much a pipedream. There is enough work going on in the scientific world, alot of it successful, to look for alternative sources of stem cells. I am absolutely convinced that a viable source will be found long before (if ever) embryonic (hybrid or human) derived stem cells will be used to treat one poor wretched patient with Parkinson's disease. Nu labour think that this legislation will put GB ahead in the global scientific stakes. Absolutely b******s. Many years ago I was involved in xenotransplantation research. This was the science of transplanting whole organs or tissue from one species into another. Alot of good work was taking place in the UK and patients with endstage disease became very hopeful of a cure then. A lack of experimental success meant that the millions of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry soon dried up and anti vivisectionists and British and European legislation drove what was left to Asia and the US.
As far as the abortion limit is concerned, I cannot think of any reason why it should be legal to kill a potentially viable 24 week old foetus. When one hears that many of these aborted foetus are born/expelled alive, one can become very emotional and angry about it. Although I would not advocate an American type situation, a degree of politicisation is necessary as it would be the only way of keeping tabs on it. It has been allowed to remain unchanged for far too long. 22 weeks is a ridiculous fudge. I think despite all the electoral success they have and will have the Tories are still pandering to a leftist agenda. There was a interesting comment from one on the newspaper reviewers on AM on Sunday about the Crewe polls. One reason why they may be inaccurate is that people are not admitting they will vote for labour!! I though embarassment/shame was Tory territory!! I suppose this crystallises what DC has acheived.

Anonymous said...

The positions of those like the lovely Miss Nad and Edward Leigh are the same as the "salami slice" tactics from that old episode of Yes Prime Minister.

If the liberal majority in UK society gives way to such - well, what else can one say - swivel eyed loons over 20/24 weeks, then what is to stop the fruitloops arguing for 16 weeks next year, "the European average" the year after that, and their true desires after that under a Cameron Government stuffed full with those who look to the moral certainties, Evangelical dogma and venomous passions of American conservatism, rather than the solid, benign pragmatism of British Toryism?

I could use examples from Central Europe in 1938-9 to illustrate similar hidden salami slice tactics, but then that would break Godwin's Law.

So a no vote. Not on the issue but because of the disingenuity and concealed aims of those who would vote aye.

lovelife said...

Iain said
"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. "

Horror? What like the way that some conservatives find the idea of homosexual relationships is a horror?

Iain as a public commentor I think (only my opinion I know) that you need to do better than this. It was the use of the word "slight" that made me wonder if you were just being reluctantly influenced by some of your errm catholic friends.

Daniel said...

Virtually every other European country has a limit of between 12 and 14 weeks

Sorry, that's complete tosh.

The time limit you refer to is the "on demand" bit, which we don't have - I guess that could go some way to explaining the reduced rates on the continent.

Most other EU countries allow abortion after this time, but with the consent of the doctors and for specific reasons.

http://tinyurl.com/5l8ujl

Today's Graun had the Tories bang to rights on this; misrepresenting the facts - you only have to look at the distortions and smears coming from Ms Dorries.

Anonymous said...

along with Verity -agree with every word

stbob said...

how can you have a "slight" sense of horror Iain?

norman said...

I will vote for the hybrid as my scientific mind says that it is the way forward to find cure for dreadful diseases of which like Brown I have personal experience. People may oppose this saying that they are not religious, but did deeper, there is religion lurking around. What I detest is the religious men in robes playing embryo politics just as they have been doing on matters concerning women. It is Talibnism and we are fighting it in Afghanistan!!
About lowering to 20 days, I am not convinced about it as there is no strong evidence for it, and I will vote against for the time being.

Anonymous said...

Iain, a very good thread and one that will no doubt get many passionate responses but how about splitting it up between the various aspects of the bill.

Anonymous said...

look cow embryos also make the same sort of movements that human embryos do at 22 weeks. It dont make them human or bovine or anything else just embryos.

I care more about those actual humans, possibly in their 60s, who suffer from diseases that this sort of research might help with.

Anonymous said...

I am against allowing human-hybrids - although I see that Parliament has voted in favour.

My question to those who support this move is the same as Gerald Kaufman's: Where would you draw the line?

Religion is helpful in these circumstances because it gives a different way of thinking about human beings. Because those approaching this from a secular humanist perspective don't have any absolutes they can't identify a point which it would be wrong to go beyond.

Anyone like to bet that in ten years time we will be voting on this issue again. And that those in favour of liberalising the law again will point to today's vote to support their argument for moving the line again.

verity said...

Sorry, Godot and others, but I do not want to be governed by your belief system, which happens to be atheism. It is irrational and unprovable and I don't want my life governed by your rules.

thomas said...

Jesus tells us that whatever happens in this life is nothing compared to the eternal life we will have after. God created the idea of life. We try to reconstruct the primal act of creation at our peril.

Anonymous said...

This just shows how scientifically illiterate most people are in this debate. The human-animal hybrid is not going to open some form of Pandora's box of Frankenstein style monsters for heaven's sake.

There is a valid debate to be had about 'saviour siblings'. But you are astonishing me with your facile views on abortion, when we all know it's a blatant attempt to make abortion very difficult, and thus result in turning the clock back on women's rights.

And what is more annoying, the Tory party have been seduced by pseudo science and inaccurate figures into backing an attempt to deny women of rights they have fought hard over a number of years for.

What annoys me the most is that the disingenuous arguments from Nadine Dorries are not only inaccurate and misleading, centre around this being the 'last chance to decide this issue' for a generation. Some hope !! On past experience she will refuse to accept the decision of the Houses of Parliament, and the will of the people and will be back every bloody year with this rubbish just to impose a Catholic view of the world on people who don't wish to adhere to that view of the world.

A few months ago people were up in arms about the Archbishop of Canterbury and his views on 'sharia law' - would that one quarter of that energy were expended on putting Dorries back in her box 'for a generation' - at least..

Anonymous said...

"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."

Why do you want to force that belief on other people? Surely it should be a personal moral choice.

Dave said...

Is there any rational reason to oppose the bill? I mean one that isn't based on Bronze Age myths?

I'm amazed that in the twenty-first century the British Parliament still has debates based on the idea of an all-powerful imaginary friend.

Anonymous said...

Luddite attitude Ian: we need this research, would you watch a child die for the need of a cure. How do you feel about Jehovahs Witnesses refusing blood transfusions for their children...It's not so very different.

Anonymous said...

Iain I disagree with you totally but its your blog and admire you for (finally) presenting your personal view on this bill.

Anonymous said...

So your arguments against animal/human hybruds basically come down to "yuck"?

Sophisticated stuff, this.

captain cupcake said...

I have long thought that Gordon Brown must be the unfortunate result of an experimental cross between a human and a haggis.

We should all vote against this abomination and in due course, no doubt, we all shall.

molesworth 1 said...

I was going to post a comment sublime in both political import & comedic wit ("unlikely" some might say), but verity's first post @ 6:36 has entirely floored me.
Apparently she agrees with every word of the bill. I thought she was of the religous bent.
However...back to the question; do not stand in the way of science & human knowledge (I know, it's a tautology) by way of the fairy-tale witterings of biblical-era, sub-Marxist revolutionary rag-tops.
The mathematics of Ancient Greece. The Rennaisance of mediaeval Europe. The Scottish Enlightenment of rational enquiry into all that concerns us. These are the high-points of human acheivement, & drivers of progress toward the freedom of all peoples. Sense, not senility.

Wallenstein said...

I hope that intelligence prevails over superstition, and the hybrid bill is approved.

Likewise I hope the lies and distortions put forward by Nadine Dorries and her supporters are seen as what they are, and the abortion limit remains where it is.

There may be a good argument out there why both hybrid embryos and 24 wks should be rejected, but sadly all we've had are ill-informed, nasty and narrow-minded claims with little in the way of supporting evidence.

mens sana said...

On 20 weeks v 24 weeks just ask this (and I genuinely don't know the answer): What proportion of 20 week terminations are "social" abortions, and what proportion are carried out for medical reasons? I suspect relatively few of them are carried out for social reasons

Most mothers have a foetal anomaly scan at 20 weeks which can detect if there is a major problem with the baby's development. Are you going to tell the mother of a baby who is going to be born with a serious birth defect (and yes I fully accept that that is a diffcult thing to define) that she has to go ahead with the pregnancy if her 20 week scan is 1 week late?

I have to say I see no moral difference between 20 weeks and 24 weeks or any other time-either you believe as I do that abortion is a necessary though undesirable fact of our society, in which case the maximum limit (if indeed you have one) should be a pragmatic one set so that it is possible to organise "medical" terminations in the most effective and timely way. For this purpose, 24 weeks seems to me to be as good as any, leaving due time for mothers (and fathers) to consider a very difficult decision following the results of a 20 week scan...

...or you believe (as many honorably do) that abortion is an abomination and should not be permitted either at all or in only very extreme cases. In this case what is the justification for any limit at all-you want a total ban.

In neither case do I see any real justification for a limit of 20 or 22 weeks-this is all based on sentimentalism as far as I can see.

scott redding said...

Nearly no news reports mentioned the actual facts, that the "human-animal hybrids" would be 99.9% human and 0.1% animal, and that the embryos would be destroyed after 14 days.

"It is a proven fact that foetuses can survive at 20 weeks - not all, but some do."

Yeah, but how many leave the hospital, Iain, or leave the hospital plus don't have serious birth defects? A recent report by EPICure2, published just last month, found that there had been no significant improvement whatsoever in the survival rates of babies born before 24 weeks in the past 10 years.

The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Royal College of Nursing and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee all support the current limit. You "don't have religious beliefs" but you don't accept the science.

"Virtually every other European country ..."

I find it interesting that, on most other things, the US is the model for the Right in Britain, but on abortion, it's suddenly convenient to say we need to be more like Europe.

The real issue isn't 24 vs 20 vs 13 weeks. If women are deprived of any way to control when (access to birth control; comprehensive sex education), or if they get pregnant, they revert back to chattel and the property of men. Just because Europe keeps things that way doesn't mean we have to.

Shaun said...

"But instead of having genuine experts in the papers or on the TV all we hear is religious opponents or people with MS or whatever who've been convinced it'll be a miracle cure."

I do agree with this Boyce; I have MS and I personally don't think that stem cell research WILL lead to a cure. But it MAY do and as there's not a lot of rival treatmets in development, MAY sounds pretty good. A lot better that the WONT which comes if hybrids are knocked on the head. The problem is its all a gamble, really: hybrids could help with stem cell research but then something newer and better may come along tomorrow making it all a bit irrelevent. It may be grasping at straws but then it may be the key to a cure for...whatever. I can't see a real way of knowing, to be honest, short of trying it out and as I don't really see the demonstrable, real-world (not faith based) harm done from having a tiny collection of hybrid cells cultivated up to 12 or 14 days, I come to support the research. Yeah, sure, there's a bit of an 'ick factor' but that's to be measured against some fairly icky diseases...

Auntie Flo' said...

I Well said, Iain, I totally agree with you.

Thalidomide. Bhopal. Three Mile Island. Mad Cow disease. Agent Orange. Agent Blue. Nuclear weapons. Napalm.

If all of these and many other horrors besides have one common thread it's that they reveal just how experimental and fallible scientific progress and human knowledge really is.

Yes, we as a species have made some stunning advances in our knowledge and ability to control our environment. We can even explore space. Yet so often we pay a very heavy price indeed for such advances.

One glimpse at the photographs of the horrific consequences of Bhopal ought to warn us. Yet do we ever learn? This Embryology Bill raises too many horrific spectres, including that of eugenics and of viruses crossing the species barrier.

Imagine nulab and Brown, or a future nulab government in control of a eugenics program. It's too appalling to contemplate.

I would have no hesitation in voting resoundingly against this Bill.

Laurence Boyce said...

I don't have religious beliefs, but there's still part of me which agrees with religious teachings on this issue.

In other words, Iain, you're a Conservative.

SACKERSON said...

Each of us started off as one of these specks of living matter, which we are now planning to create, alter and destroy in large numbers.

And the discussion of time limits for abortion is a fudge, whatever the limit - an attempt to convert principles into numbers. In my view, it's not about sentience or capacity to feel pain - these measures are seized on as part of the conversion attempt. Gerald Kaufman is right to say that it's the thin end of the wedge.

And no, I'm not a Catholic.

Auntie Flo' said...

Boyce said...

"This "hybrid" thing has been blown completely out of proportion. As any schoolkid could (hopefully) tell you, take the nucleus out of a cell and it loses the specific properties of whatever it originally was."

We've heard it all before, Boyce.
It's scientific progress, it's perfectly safe, only emootional Neanderthals could doubt it.

Thalidomide, anyone?

Dave said...

Iain, we're you an MP I hope you'd move from feelings of "horror" to trying to understand what is really involved. And how useful and important such research will be.
Religion in any form and feeling a bit queasy doesn't really cut it for the sort of elected representative I want.
Nadine Dorries is on C4 Dispatches right now with some lovely Christians. I think it's my turn to feel a feeling of.... if not horror then at least uneasiness...

Auntie Flo' said...

Godot said:

"Life is far more interesting than that imagined by ancient desert cultures. We need to move forward. Sceptecism of science is not a good response."


Godot, you're living in a dream world generated by the spin of our scientific/ political elite.

Sceptism of science is a vital self-protective response given its repeated and massive cock ups.

Also, those ancient desert cultures you denigrate were not primitive peoples, they were far more advanced than we are.

Take the Kalahari Bushpeople, before they were herded into reservations by those who wished to steal their lands.

Many of the medicines we have today are based on the ancient remedies of such people - remedies which our so called sophisticated and civilised peoples have lost.

The Bushpeople had no word for murder because there were no murders among the Bushpeople.

They had a highly sosphisticated form of democracy which puts ours to shame. Anyone with a grievance could get immediate redress by calling a 'Talk' or 'Shout'. Every tribe member had a direct say in tribe policies.

People with disabilities were cared for by all.

There was no political or any other corruption in the tribe.

The tribe's chief was the lowest 'paid' of all tribe members (payment was food) if he didn't secure food for his tribe he went without and even when he did secure food (via the hunt) he took the smallest share.

The chief's reward was that he was the most highly respected, trusted and loved person in the tribe.

And you believe our so called civilisation has advanced on that, Godot? If so, I suggest you listen to Lucky's speech again :)

Anonymous said...

20 for me too. I reckon that the majority of MPs are so out of touch, they will think their point of view is far more important than ours and go for 24 or 22.

Cranmer said...

His Grace applauds your unequivocal stance on these issues, and longs for you to enter Parliament.

Henley beckons.

javelin said...

I would vote for mixed embryos - for human diseases. If done properly it could lead to less animal experiments being done because diseases would get treated quicker - by decades.

I said on your site (before the ammendment) that 20 weeks has to be the upper limit. I have absolutely no emotional involvement, but my "hobby" has been the "science" of consciousness for over 20 years (or rather lack of it). I have a good understanding of developmental neurology and 20 weeks is the upper limit at which you can claim there is no possibliy of the conscious pain being felt because the midbrain structures are not systemically functional before then, but start to be afterwards. Until there is a scientific theory of consciousness any statement that functional midbrains don't feel pain beyond 20 weeks is pure speculation.

Anonymous said...

How can I find out how my MP voted?

Surely there is a listing of how all MPs voted.

javelin said...

Let me give you an example of an animal human hybrid.

Let's suppose I find you have an error in a gene that means you will die horribly over 5 years - with no known cure or treatment (there are lot of diseases like this).

Let's suppose I find that across the whole patient population there are just 20 different mutations, and I have a potential treatment that involves skipping these mutations (this is science fact called exon skipping).

In reality the mice gene is quite different to the human gene so I can't just fiddle with the mouse gene to test that the drugs work. I need to test it on a human gene.

So I create 30 different mice each carrying the human gene with one of the 30 different human mutations. I can then test the drug on "human genes" but in mice.

If I didn't test these on mice then developing this drug may take 20 years per-mutation and cost £50 million per mutation. If I can test them on mice the cost will come down by an order of magnitude. If scientists spend 5 times less working on a disease then 5 times less mice will be needed to be tested upon. And a lot less humans will die horribly.

I don't think you have an ethical case Iain.

haddock said...

read Cranmer's piece.... and weep.
http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/

murder as means of contraception for skanks and slappers is never right.... some women should have 4 or 5 murders on their conscience; what a world we live in.

MPs will not vote for what is right they will vote for political expedience.

G-M said...

I think your position on animal/human embryos is misguided. But people have covered that.

I am certainly pro-choice on abortion but think the limit should be 14 weeks. Having studied embryology we think the first neurones form a rudimentary processing centre at around that time, and so it would be reasonable to assume the foetus can feel pain from ~14 weeks.

Of course this is mostly academic as the vast majority of abortions occur before 14 weeks anyway.

Will Longmore said...

I also worry about the maximum term at which abortion can be obtained is near (or at) foetal viability.

Revisiting the term limit is divisive and revising it frequently is therefore not feasible. With the rapid advances in medicine we run the risk of always having too large a time lag in reducing the limit.

You could require the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to maintain a record of the lowest age-at-birth survival of a child. Then at the end of the year, if a new minimum is documented, the term limit for abortion would revise down to the minimum age-at-birth survival rate minus, say, four weeks.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Iain, I tend to favour those who don't lie. nadine Dorrie sstates that more and more children are surviging pre 24 weeks. The evidence does not support this which means she is lying.

I have a friend who works in the Norfolk and Norwich NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit and her experience of pre24 week babies is in line with the national figures. Very few ever survive and those that do have horrific health problems.

As for aninal human hybrids, these same arguments were used by church groups to try and stop small pox vaccines (which used a small amount of animal matter). Science (and life) moves on. Luddites didn't make this country great you know.

Ordovicius said...

14 weeks tops. No problem with hybrid embryos though.

HAARP said...

I'd be against human/animal hybrids. Now I've seen 28 Days Later and messing with the human or animal genome is something that we're not yet intelligent enough to comprehend.

Peter O said...

My problem with saviour siblings is that it's tantamount to slavery - the use of one human being for the benefit of another. What happens if the sibling *can't* help the ill child? What happens if they ill child dies? How will the "saviour sibling" fell growing up knowing it was selected from a number of embryos purely to be of benefit to somebody else?

We outlawed slavery 170 years ago - this Bill brings it back in.

Newmania said...

A most impressive post Iain and I agree with everything you say.

verity said...

Dave - as I said above to another couple of posters, I don't want to be governed by your lonely, empty, despairing belief system. You cannot prove that a governing hand did not create life and does not guide, or at least, oversee life. People who believe in a diety, or dieties, cannot prove their existence either. But, looking at the evidence all around me, I find it is your belief which, in fact, goes against all the evidence. It's lonely and feels wrong and I don't want to be governed by your philosophy of despair.

I am sick to death of militant atheists trying to cram their perfervid lack of belief down everyone else's throat.

Shove off.

Molesworth, just as well you canned the comedit wit if your proposition that I was agreeing with the Bill, and not Iain's post, is any measure of the quality.

Javelin "Let's suppose" that Warren Buffet decided to leave me all his money. What do you mean, it's not very likely ...

Do other countries have a "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority" by the way? Do they have a vicious socialist moonbat in charge of it?

Adrian Yalland said...

I'd vote to reduce the abortion limit to as low as possible - certainly 12 weeks, if not lower.

I'd also vote to allow 'saviour siblings', but I am deeply uncomfortable with animal-human hybrids.

Peter McGrath said...

Iain: abortion and the need for fathers are matters of ethics. On stem cells and hybrid embryos, it would be wise to listen to the scientists: they don't do this stuff lightly or for fun.

Edward Leigh MP made an eegit of himself today, and betrayed a complete lack of understanding of science and biomedical research. On a wider point many of your commenters seem to be showing a distrust and intolerance of biomedical and climate science. It's likely that the Conservatives will be the biggest party after the next election, it would be a shame if the woo-merchants got a grip of it.

BTW, 90% of the cells in your body are non-human: you are a transport system for bacteria. And as Godot commented, a significant proportion of your 'human' DNA is viral in origin.

What little the scientists in London and Newcastle are doing (and they're not creating embryos in the true ovum penetrated by sperm sense) pales into insignificance compared to the depredations wreaked on human DNA by evolution.

So: Abortion, on demand. It's up to a woman if she continues a pregnancy, end of argument.

Lesbians/fathers etc: yes.

Stem cells: support the expert scientists all the way, get over the squeamishness and ban use of the f-word. Frankenstein.

Boyce said...

Having seen tonight's Newsnight I take back the part about a lack of expert opinion on this subject in the media - that guy from Kings College was the sort of person that should have been leading the debate over the last couple of weeks instead of only appearing tonight after the vote.

and thanks for the reply Shaun

Noelinho said...

Like verity, I agree with every word. I'm tempted to throw a party in celebration of this rare occurrence.

PoliticalHack said...

When all this kicked off a few weeks ago, I remember hearing that supporters of the bill had leading scientists lining up - across a bank holiday weekend, no less - to go on the media to explain the facts.

Nobody is proposing that we will start breeding a race of mutant hybrids - we'll leave that to the graphic novels. The 'hybrids' will be a cluster of cells up to 14 DAYS old and no older. They will exist for research purposes only. If you believe in God, then you believe that God created or designed us with a fine intelligence that we can use to improve the prospects of others. Yes, we can cite scientific failures, but without scientific research, none of the lifesaving techniques used daily to prolong the lives of our friends and families would exist. Even things as simple as antibiotics would not exist without scientific curiousity and research.

As for the abortion debate, Nadine Dorries has shamefully used this - and her nutty Christian friends - in an attempt to attach the Christian vote to the Tory party. She has dissembled and abused the available evidence over her case for 24 weeks and you are no better if you think that babies can survive at 20 weeks. 90% of those born before 24 weeks will not survive and those that do have multiple medical problems. Even so, that isn't the issue - this is about ensuring that women continue to have a choice about how they use their bodies. Those with strong religious views will not be forced to abort their babies, but they will have that choice. Changing the law takes that choice away from other people to satisfy the moral and ethical needs of others. You may feel better about life, but you won't have to live with the consequences.

verity said...

Peter McGrath - "Abortion, on demand. It's up to a woman if she continues a pregnancy, end of argument." Re termination of the life of a husband, it's up to the wife whether she saws through a couple of the steps of the ladder. End of story. Re termination of the life of a wife, it's up to the husband whether he locks the garage door and disables the ignition key so she can't turn the engine off. End of story.

Let's dump our stupid respect for human life! End of story.

verity said...

Nobody is proposing that we will start breeding a race of mutant hybrids - we'll leave that to the graphic novels. The 'hybrids' will be a cluster of cells up to 14 DAYS old and no older.

They will exist for research purposes only.

Uh-huh.

I believe politicians and self-promoting, academic paper-publishing scientists. Don't you?

J said...

Absolutely no reason to vote for anything other than 24 weaks or a total ban.

Voting for a reduction is step 1 on the road to a total ban.

FSM preserve us.

John Pickworth said...

How would I vote?

HYBRID EMBRYOS = For.
While it sounds like a distasteful meddling, we are after all just talking about cell manipulation. I think the benefits to human health vastly outweigh the minor ethical or religious awkwardness.

SAVIOUR SIBLINGS = Abstain.
I can't quite get my head around this issue. While I can see the good, I'm also slightly worried about children being brought into the world for the wrong reasons. There is also the possibility that this could be used as a back door for sex selection.

ABORTION (lowering of limit) = Against.
The previous reduction from 28 weeks was after a long campaign from the public, this time there is no massive public call for change. I'm always suspicious when polictians (and lobbists) place themselves in the role of 'knowing whats good for us'. No strong medical evidence for changing the current limits. Agree high levels of abortions should be tackled but with appropriate law/education... this isn't the correct solution.

Anonymous said...

a lot of this seems confused.
medical science can (very occasionally) keep a baby alive at 20 weeks. this apparently supports the case for a lower limit.
medical science can also create a human-human-human-animal hybrid (there should be 93 more 'humans' in there, but you get the idea) to help further research. apparently this is a borderline horror.
what criteria make one acceptable and the other one not, other than special pleading and the "yuck" factor?

Paul Linford said...

Although unlike you I do come to this issue from a religious standpoint, I agree with every word of this.

wonkotsane said...

I wonder how many people who oppose any form of genetic research have any chronic condition that said genetic research could one day cure. It's all well and good taking the moral high ground if you have nothing to gain from it but try telling someone with alzheimers or parkinsons or cancer that it's wrong to try and cure them of their disease using genetic research.

I don't have a problem with using embryos for research - including hybrid - at the stage they're used they're just a collection of cells. On abortion, I've never been in the position where I've had to make that kind of decision. I'm in two minds on that one. In the early stages when it's just a blob of cells then fine but I don't know what I'd set as an upper limit.

Anyway, my point is that that by stopping all genetic research of this type you're potentially denying a lifesaving or life enhancing cure to a lot of people and the main argument for banning it is religion even though there are far more people who don't have religion than do - the minority are trying to force the agenda for the majority.

Shaun said...

"Uh-huh.

I believe politicians and self-promoting, academic paper-publishing scientists. Don't you?" - Verity

While it is true that if you take the viewpoint that they will lie & self serve, then the 14day destructo-limit is meaningless, is it not also true that if they lie and self serve they'll build these things anyway and disemble to the regulatory authorities?

And in any event, shouldn't we in the UK (from a minimal defence standpoint) get a drop on this science before some crazed despot unleashes wave after wave of crazed rhino-man soldiers upon the world? You know, at least see what's possible before we find out the hard way...

Alex said...

The two subjects are closely linked. 20 is plenty. There could well be benefits from studying hybrid embryos, but if science is so wonderful, could a similar amount of effort not be applied to ensure that most 20 year old foetuses survive? If so, aborting a foetus after it is viable (even if only with medical support) is abhorrent.

Chris Paul said...

In case of any doubt:

24 weeks - yes
Saviour siblings - yes
Hybrid stem cells - yes
Science - yes
Dale feeling queasy - buck up

Father for lesbian ivf - NO!

Discussion:

Iain - how can you have "a slight sense of horror"?

And the idea of survival at 20 weeks needs to be heavily qualified. Also 21, 22, 23 weeks. Provide the numbers please.

"Some" is useless. Provide an indication of quality of life and life expectancy. Reveal that you understand that at 20 weeks neither brain nor lungs are sufficiently developed for survival.

Heroic special measures such as steroid injections are used sometimes at the higher end of this range of ages and also at 24, 25, 26 weeks for wanted pregnancies.

Are the pro-reduction lobby suggesting these chemicals should be employed for unwanted pregnancies? Accelerating development by weeks - or attempting to - in a few hours? Using very powerful steroids.

That fills me with horror.

Ten Thirty said...

Disappointed to hear that, Iain. I can see the argument over abortion, but the hybrid embryos is, to me, a no-brainer. Nobody gets hurt and potentially it could relieve so much suffering. It's one of those times I'm actually glad there's a Labour government -- and I never, ever expected to say that.

Stoo said...

Well I for one eagerly await an army of squid\human hybrids, but that's rather unlikely to happen. Anyway tho, onward with science!

JJ said...

I'm with David Cameron.

For 20 week limit change.
For chimera embryo research to 14 days.
For so-called savior siblings.

Jane

Desperate Dan said...

I would lower it to 14/16 weeks like every other civilised country. 24 weeks is not an abortion, its a live birth with a lactating mother.
And if I was a saviour sibling I'd be severely pissed off that not only had I been born to provide spare parts, but someone had removed tissue or whatever from me before I was old enough to give my consent. I seems the donor child will have no right of refusal in the matter. Once I was old enough I'd withdraw co-operation, demand payment and sue the doctors who'd violated me.
As to the genetically modified embryoes, I don't trust anyone who wants to carry out these experiments. Searching around for an answer to why the UK alone in all the world has decided to meddle with nature in this way I can only assume that the bankrupt Labour Party has accepted a large cash donation from one or more of those sleazy biotech companies. Gordon's economic policies have attracted to the country all the world's fraudsters, money launderers and undesirables. Now he's passing laws to attract the world's most morally bankrupt scientists.

Andrew F said...

Horrendous post. You didn't justify anything.

Do you honestly believe that your vague, unexplained feeling that "there's something uncomfortable" about it is good enough? These issues potentially relate the lives of innocent children. So, teh fact that you get a little queasy really shouldn't come into it.

Desperate Dan said...

Andrew f
Displays of emotional incontinence and talking about the "lives of innocent little children" in an attempt to win your argument by appealing to pity isn't a strategy that would ever win my vote.

OneHourAhead said...

"It is a proven fact that foetuses can survive at 20 weeks"

Have you got any evidence of that, Iain?

A Papist said...

Science and theology should complement one another - two faculties of the same University.

The authors of holy books would not have had a clue about the current debate, and so I suggest we rely instead on the simple premise that anything goes, as long as it corresponds with a human desire to follow God's instruction to be good to one another.

It is facile to suggest a "feeling of slight horror" amounts to a proper argument.

Asking people to shove off because they disagree says an awful lot about the level of debate on your site - I suggest you bin the culprits.

(Cue more "how dare you tell Iain how to...." illiterate rubbish.)

Iain Dale said...

How about the fact that babies have survived having been born at 20 weeks. Admittedly very few, but some have.

A Papist said...

Personally, I agree with the lowering of the limit, simply because survival rates at the lower end, logically, will continue to improve as treatment solutions improve.

The one thing I deplore is the relative lack of appropriate education in this country, and the lack of effective contraception.

(The Roman Catholic Church's official position on these matters is not widely held by the people I know eithin the congregations, thank goodness)

Improvement in these two areas would reduce the need for such appalling operations.

OneHourAhead said...

"How about the fact that babies have survived having been born at 20 weeks. Admittedly very few, but some have."

Hmmm, The earliest recorded birth (that I can find) is that of James Gill who had a gestation period of 21 weeks, 5 days.

Even your friend Nadine Dorries' '20 weeks campaign' has the earliest birth as Amillia Taylor, who had a gestation period of 21 weeks, 6 days.

I would just be interested if you could actually point me to a surviving child who had a <=20 week gestation period.

Anonymous said...

I'll happily listen to the arguments of anyone from both sides. I don't know much science, so I'm left in the position of having to trust what I'm told on this one.

But given it took the Catholic Church 359 years to publicly accept that the earth went round the sun, and not the other way round, I'm not sure they should get to have a say on anything scientific until, well, 2351.

verity said...

Anonymous 5:45 - You're living in the Dark Ages, old thing. It is not the Roman Catholic Church that is motivating this debate in Britain. It's average Brits who are articulating their unease. You're imagining monsters in the closet. Calm down.