|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
no man is to be treated as the father of the child.
This is very different from gay adoption, because when a child is conceived who is later adopted by a gay couple, the child at least has the chance of having a father, and may indeed have him as a father for a period. The nearest a child processed by clause 45 can get to having a father will be when they cease to be a child at 18 and acquire the right to apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to find out the identity of their genetic father.
The abolition of the need for a father flies in the face of a society that invests its efforts in creating legislation against absent fathers. Why now give fathers the message that they are not needed? Children flourish when nurtured in a family with two parents of the opposite sex who work together and complement each other. That is Gods design and intention. We see from research that the pattern that God has laid down for fatherhood is necessary, because the lack of a father figure has a high cost indeed.
Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 per cent. of children in married couple families were living in poverty, compared with 38.4 per cent. of children in female-householder families. Even after adjusting for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.
Without a highly involved father, youths are more at risk of substance abuse. Each unit increase in father involvement is associated with a 1 per cent. reduction in substance use. Living in an intact family also decreases the risk of first substance use. Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy. An analysis of child abuse cases in a US representative sample of 42 counties found that children from single-
parent families are more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse than children who live with both biological parents.
Compared with their peers living with both parents, children in single parent homes had a 77 per cent. greater risk of being physically abused, an 87 per cent. greater risk of being harmed by physical neglect, a 165 per cent. greater risk of experiencing notable physical neglect, a 74 per cent. greater risk of suffering from emotional neglect, an 80 per cent. greater risk of suffering serious injury as a result of abuse, and overall, a 120 per cent. greater risk of being endangered by some type of child abuse. It is also the case, unfortunately, that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
None of these statistics are intended as criticism, and they should not detract from the fantastic commitment shown by many single parents to giving their children the best chance in life. However, we should not run away from the facts.
Too often the House and this country have suffered from woolly liberal thinking. Unless we stand firm on certain matters, the United Kingdom will become utterly morally bankrupt. As Members of the House, we should not be engaged in bringing society to its lowest common denominator. Instead, we should seek to raise standards across society.
Let us look at some of the decisions made in the House. We have introduced the morning-after pill, yet we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the whole of the European Union, with no parental input for young teenage children seeking abortion and high rates of sexually transmitted infections, all because of liberalising the laws to meet that lowest common denominator.
The House should not attempt to railroad through legislative change on moral affairs for Northern Ireland, contrary to the wishes of all the major parties there. I have a letter that has gone to all hon. Members from all four leaders of the four main parties, asking us not to impose on the people of Northern Ireland the Abortion Act 1967. Human beings are different from mere human tissue, and require separate principles and practice for regulation. Human beings need fathers: God ordains it and science declares the wisdom of his ordinance.
If we are fighting for the lives of our sons and daughters in the struggle against suicide, how can we allow such an invidious Bill to pass? It attacks the very fabric of personhood and we must resist it vigorously. We must remember that we are created in the image of God and that we are told that humans and animals are fundamentally different. We must not only protect the fatherless; we must avoid creating the environment in which those circumstances are fashioned. All life is of immense worth and we must treat it with the utmost respect. That is why my party will not support the Bill in its present state.
Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab):
I am happy to be wholeheartedly behind the Bill. It builds on the 1990 Act, which has served us well. It provided a regulatory framework in which clinicians and scientific researchers have worked with confidence.
The result is that the UK has been a world leader in the development of human reproductive technologies, and especially in the rapidly developing field of stem cell research. That would not have been possible without the confidence-building framework of the 1990 Act.
We have experienced a reverse brain drain in stem cell research. Top American scientists have come to work in the UK because they can work with surety, knowing that they will not be subject to legal challenge for their activities, whereas in many states in America they are actively discouraged and prevented from carrying out that research. A President who shall be nameless stops any federal funding going into embryonic stem cell research.
If we contrast our fairly happy state of affairs with that of some other countries that did not get to grips with legislating for these developments, we see what a mess they are in. When we were carrying out the first Science and Technology Committee report on human fertilisation technologies, the fruits of which are very much apparent in the Bill, we visited Italy. We had interesting discussions with the Vatican, and although there was a slight doctrinal difference, which I attribute to St. Thomas Aquinas, the monsignors in the Vatican were not putting out the same sort of ridiculous misrepresentation as certain Catholic cardinals have done in this country, which does the Catholic Church a disservice. That is not the position of the Catholic Church.
What was interesting was the Italian law: at that time, the country had only just got round to passing laws to control in vitro fertilisation. Prior to that, the issue had been completely unregulated and all manner of things had been going on. A scientist had been threatening to clone a human being; that would clearly be absolutely impossible in this country under this legislation. When it finally arrived, the law was so badly drafted that it meant that an embryo could not be frozen and that all the embryos produced at any given time had to be implanted. If there were 10 embryos, 10 embryos would be implanted. The consequence of that is excessive multiple births and all that that implies. Embryos could not be frozen, so people were stuck with thousands of frozen embryos that they did not know what to do with.
Getting this legislation right is very important. The issue has started to come under strain because of scientific progress. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has been called on to make judgments that stretch the framework to its limits. Once that happens, there is judicial review and there are challenges in the courts. The courts, however, are not the places in which to make ethical or medical decisions. The Hashmi case was a classic example, and the Whitaker case was another. In the former case, which typifies the saviour sibling concept, the HFEA
granted a licence to permit pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and tissue-typing so that a sibling who was compatible and could donate blood to his brother with beta thalassemia could be born. That was challenged in court and there were many months of wrangling from one court to another before the process was finally carried out. That situation was unacceptable from any point of view, and it tells us why we have to amend the current Act.
Dr. Turner: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. We should use cord blood as a resource; the Anthony Nolan Trust is involved in setting up a cord blood bank for that very purpose, and that is wholly admirable. However, it does not detract from the need to provide for saviour siblings.
I have given one example of where we needed a change. The other controversial issue is admixed embryos. There is a problem in producing stem cells because not enough human eggs are available, so there is a desire to use oocytes, mainly from cows. The results are not even true hybrids. Technically they are cytoplasmic hybrids; it is a question of denucleating an egg and putting in a human nucleus from a skin cell. That is not an embryo as such. In any event, the DNA involved is 99 per cent. human, and all the nuclear DNA is human. The 1 per cent. that remains is the mitochondrial DNA, which does not determine the character of what might grow. In any case, it will not be allowed to grow; it will never get beyond a small ball of cells. At 14 days, it will be destroyed and there is no question of implantation.
What are people seriously worried about? People say that the issue is about the sanctity of human life and that human tissue is involved, but we routinely culture human tissue in laboratories throughout the world without people giving it a moments thought. Why should things be so different because there is a reproductive implication? On this issue I strongly differ from those with religious views, because human life results from the whole human being; I do not see much humanity in my fingernail, for instance. It takes a whole organism to create a human being. There has been so much misinformation.
As soon as the admixed embryos were licensed, I remember the tabloid headlinesHuman-Cow Embryos in the UK! I had visions of the bovine equivalents of centaurs trotting down the streets. It was absolutely absurd, because no such thing is happening or will be allowed to happen. There are serious and contentious ethical and moral issues. Like most Members, I respect that. That is fine; people have to make moral decisions on this issue. I just want to make sure that all Members make decisions based on true facts and not misrepresentation.
Amendments will be tabled on abortion, in particular to reduce the 24-week maximum for abortions. I hope that the House will strongly resist them. If Members want more information, I can tell them that tomorrow at 5 pm in Committee Room 15, one of the authors of a national study on the survival rates of pre-term babies, EPICure 2, will present the evidence that largely illuminated the Science and Technology Committees report on abortion. The study came to the clear conclusion that there was no evidence that, even after decades of advance in neonatal care techniques and practices, there had been a significant increase in the potential survival of foetuses of less than 24 weeks gestation.
The issue is simple; there is clearly a developmental time line. At about 24 weeksplus or minus a day or two; such things are never fixed and there is bound to be variation on either side of the linethere is a minimum point at which a foetus is capable of independent existence. That is basic biology, and no amount of argument can get past it. Remember that nearly all late-term abortions are carried out for medical reasons because of foetal abnormalities that can be detected only very late in the pregnancy. Cutting the time limit would mean more births of deformed children. Do we want that? I think not. I hope that the Bill will go through largely unamended.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) is keen to seek evidence. As a member of the Joint Committee on the Bill, which worked for hours to scrutinise it in its draft form, my concern was to base the Bill on evidence. The other place gave the Bill careful consideration, but we will not have the same amount of time to do so. We are bringing the House into disrepute by not providing the necessary time in the Chamber to look in detail at various issues that cause such concern.
We do not wish to stand in the way of treatment for debilitating and potentially fatal illnesses, and we certainly do not wish unnecessarily to impede sound research. We wish to see Britain leading the way, but on a sound ethical basis. The Bill is by no means what it says on the tin in being a blueprint for the future in leading scientific research and producing results. It hides within its laudable exterior proposals that strike at the heart of the value of human life and commodifies a childs life as an instrument for the benefit of another. We have heard examples of parents who have genuine concerns about their children suffering from severe genetic disorders. Our hearts go out to those people, and we want to find ways of securing treatment for their children, but there are alternatives.
To help me to understand the impact of saviour siblings, I think about the situation in my own household. Yesterday evening, I was holding my one-year-old, Toby, and thinking to myself, What problems would be
created if Toby were to be a saviour sibling for his older brother, Noah, if, for the sake of argument, he had a serious genetic defect? If we had brought Toby into the world on the basis that he was compatible with Noah, that would, for starters, have led to the destruction of embryos who had not been a match. If we got over that ethical hurdle, the next step would perhaps be to move towards a stem cell transplant via Tobys bone marrownot a straightforward and trivial procedure for a baby. If, as could well happenas the other place was warned by Lord Winston, who confirmed it in print over the weekendthat transplant did not work, the pressure would be on to find another way of helping Noah, the sibling who needs assistance.
Let us wind forwards a few months, or perhaps a few years, and Noah suddenly has an organ failure. Under the Bill, we are looking at assistance by way of umbilical cord blood, bone marrow or other tissue. What regenerative tissue could that mean? What nexta liver transplant from Toby? Then there is renal failureand it goes on. However much we love Noah, Toby would be living not so much as a saviour sibling but, more accurately, as a spare parts sibling. That is unacceptable.
This raises the spectre of the deep insecurity that would be bred through Tobys continual wondering whether mummy and daddy will still love him if he cannot make his brother well. Just think of the emotional hang-up for young Toby in thinking that mummy and daddy are willing to hurt him for the benefit of Noah. The doubt that would come from a childs knowing that they were not wanted in their own right but merely as a hope for the truly loved older child could be incredibly damaging.
Mr. Bone: I am listening to my hon. Friend with great concern. Surely there must be an age limit somewhere in the Bill so that the sibling must at least reach 18 before they can be used, or is there no such safeguard?
The Government talk a lot about Every Child Matters. What about the saviouror spare partssibling, burdened with guilt, obligation and insecurity? Do they not matteror do they matter, but just not as much as their older brother or sister? Does a child treated as a mere commodity really matter to the Government?
We need only consider the issue of fatherhood to see the flaws in Government thinking. The removal of the need for a father in licensing IVF treatment is not based on evidence of any harm caused by what is in many ways a light-touch piece of guidance. Evidence confirms, clearly and categorically, that fathers have a distinctive importance in the family parental relationship. The absence of a father has a significant impact on a child, which can be compensated for, but not replaced, by a loving mother and supportive parenting. How can it be right that the Bill will not only remove the need for a father in terms of IVF treatment but permit the deliberate creation of a child with the intention of removing from them the chance of ever having a father? Is it in the best interests of the childs welfare to deliberately and permanently write the biological father out of their life? At a time when the Government and voluntary sector initiatives are looking at how best to encourage fatherhood, it is ironic that the Bill, in effect, authorises state fatherlessness.
We have often heard that the Government want us to lead in the field of scientific progress, and this debate is often skewed between scientific progressives and supposed religious and ethical reactionaries. Yes, the problem is one of a lack of ethics. That was recognised by Sir Liam Donaldson, who told the Joint Committee that
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|