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There are also serious complications following abortions such as the risk of premature births in subsequent pregnancies. There is overwhelming evidence regarding the physical and psychiatric consequences for women. Breast cancer is another significant risk factor. I watched a young mother being interviewed on television. She had an abortion because she had had a difficult time at the birth of her first baby. She was given medication to do away with the baby. She went to the lavatory and as she looked down the bowl she
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It is also shocking to think that every abortion carried out has a 50 per cent mortality rate. When a woman goes in for an abortion she has herself and her unborn baby to consider. On every occasion, the child is done to death. That is another very serious matter that we need to think about very seriously. There are other consequences to do with husbands and fathers. Husbands have no legal right to stop the abortion of their children. Evidence suggests that 25 per cent of prospective fathers only accompany their wives or partners when they apply for a termination. The other 75 per cent are never advised by their GPs or clinics.
I have many other concerns but time has beaten me. This year we celebrate the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery, but using human embryos for commercial benefit is no different from slavery and is equally abhorrent. I shall continue to oppose this Bill if it goes forward. I trust that your Lordships will think very seriously before bringing matters to a conclusion.
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I wish to return to the main themes of the Bill, one of which is to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of medical research. Laudable as that isand it isit cannot be at any price, and, like other noble Lords, I have reservations and questions.
The 1990 Act provided the legal framework for the regulation of treatment and research involving the use of embryos outside the body. In doing so it enabled the public to have confidence in that area of research. Since 1990, things have moved on and science has advanced and they need to be regulated for public confidence and trust to be retained. We are dealing here with controversial matters for this Bill permits research that much of the rest of the world would not allow; it tests ethical limits and where they should be placed in a number of ways. The Bill must continue to provide public trust in the system of regulation. That is not easy when it represents a compromise between passionately held and conflicting views. If that was true of the 1990 Act, it is just as true of the Bill before us today.
The 1990 Act was flexibleit gave discretion to the regulator, detailed decision-making to the scientists and all within a strong regulatory framework. This Bill transfers into legislation certain issues hitherto left to the regulator and it is right that Parliament should decide the major issues of principle, for the regulatory body regulates only on what Parliament has decided. In doing so, many things need to be kept in balance. We need a balance between the pioneering work of our scientists and the benefits they will bring to many people; the key ethical principles we hold which determine where the boundaries are to be drawn; principles such as the utmost respect for the moral status of the embryo; the welfare and well-being of
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I have three particular areas of concern. The first concerns the term interspecies embryo that the Bill introduces. This term includes a whole raft of possible combinations of human and animal tissue. It includes creating an interspecies embryo from human egg and animal sperm and vice versa. It also includes replacing the animal nucleus in an animal egg with a human nucleus and vice versa. All these practices will now be allowed, although the conditions under which they may be created remain laid down. I believe that this all-embracing term interspecies embryo is too wide. It is too big an umbrella and it covers things which in reality are quite different. For example, the Bill does not differentiateand I believe that it shouldbetween cytoplasmic hybrids and the so-called true hybrids. I believe that cytoplasmic hybrids should be allowed but that true hybrids are more problematic. I do not want to get technical hereindeed, I am not competent to do so; that is for Committeebut cytoplasmic hybrids and true hybrids are formed by very different processes. Even if both sorts of interspecies embryos come to be allowed and to be created, they are never to be implanted in a woman; but do we have sufficient safeguards in place?
In considering embryology, I support the scientific development as long as the vital moral status of the embryo is retained, such that it never becomes and is never regarded as a mere bit of tissue with no real significance. Over the years we as a society have been able to retain that attitude of respect for the embryo in our laws and regulations. Equally there is the continuing sense that using human embryos for research is never straightforward, and is always testing and highly complex. That should lead us to proceed with caution. Does this generalised permission in the Bill to create interspecies embryos lead to a lessening or a dilution of the attitude of respect for the human embryo? If it does, it should be resisted. We need to be clear about the differences between the different forms of hybrids, and to think again about the indiscriminate way in which that term is being used.
We must also take very seriously the fact that the Bill allows embryos to be genetically altered for research for the first time. Several noble Lords have already mentioned Professor Wilmuts decision to stop using human embryos for his research. He says he is doing it for scientific reasons, but does not his decision still reflect this retained sense of the important moral status of the human embryo?
I have two other comments. The Government are removing from the law the clause that the doctor seeking to give IVF treatment should consider the welfare of the future baby, including the need for a father. It seems extraordinary that at this time in our societys life we state in the law that in the welfare and well-being of a child there is no need any more for a father. We hear it said again and again that children
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We have come to see that donor-conceived children should be able to discover the truth about their origins, and of course we all commend the Bills desire to promote the truth. So why provide a birth certificate naming two persons of the same sex, when it is simply not true? If the well-being of the child is a key principle, and if truthfulness is a key principle, then above all we have to be honest.
Finally, I come back to trust. For reasons of maintaining public trust, I, too, support the creation of a national bioethic commission, and I very much hope that the Government will consider that seriously. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, put that point very powerfully before he was taken ill. I add our tribute from these Benches to the attendants for their skilful attention and care, and, especially, to the noble Lord, Lord Darzi. We are very grateful for his considerable help. We look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, returning to his seat on the Benches behind us.
I also believe that in this matter of trust and confidence the Government could take the lead in pressing for international guidelines and global agreements, and, not least, to ban the implantation of cloned human embryos. The way embryology has developed in this country has enabled public confidence in innovative practices. We have taken tentative steps forwardtoo quickly for some and not quickly enough for othersby giving permission for research within careful regulation and scrutiny, with the HFEA keeping a very close and responsible eye on it. That has been all to the good. It has allowed important developments. It has increased our understanding of embryology and stem cell research, but it has always kept us mindful of the respect and care that is owed to all human life, not least life in its very earliest moments. That has been possible because we have trusted our scientists and regulators. Whatever we do, we must not allow any parts of the Bill to put that trust at risk.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I am a layman in both senses of the word in this debate; both spiritual and temporal. When the debate began two days ago, I was in some doubt as to whether I should contribute to it at all. However, during the debate, I have come to some conclusions, and there are things that need to be said or repeated with some force.
I was very much taken with the fact that the Bill deals with extraordinarily complex matters with which most of us are entirely unfamiliar. It stands to reasondoes it not?that before we legislate we should know precisely what it is that we are legislating on. That means that we must have a language that we all share. I was disturbed to hear my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern reveal to the House that even the experts brought in by the
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The point about paternity cannot be overemphasised. I commend to those of your Lordships who did not hear it the speech made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York on Monday about the role of the father and our duty to preserve it. I also commend it to those who did hear it, because he spoke at some speed, and it was only on reading his speech that I realised the full power of what he said. To keep things short, I endorse every word of that speech.
It is an extraordinary thing to try to write fathers out of the lives of children before they are born. It seems to me grotesque and unpleasant. The sensibilities of those who may be bringing children up after they are born must come second to the interests of the child
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will allow me to give an example of why what he says is not relevant to the Bill. My sister is a lesbian, and she and her partner decided to have a child. Her partner bore the child, with the active agreement of a man friend. My sister has no rights whatever over that child. She had no legal power to become the equivalent of a father. Fortunately, it has worked well, and the child has grown up happy and contented. The effect of the existing law is to take away the equivalent of a father, and the effect of this Bill would be to give my sister rights that would be equivalent to those of a father. It works in the opposite direction from that which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is describing.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I am much indebted to the noble Lord, and I congratulate him and his sister and rejoice in the birth of a happy human being. But we are dealing with the general and not merely the particular. The Bill is not perfect, and the noble Lord suggests that there is no way of introducing a right for a woman in this position or a relationship which cannot in my view properly cut out the parenthood of the male.
I declare an interest as a father and a grandfather, as someone who taught for 10 years, as someone who was a Minister in the Home Office for three years and who was responsible for juvenile offenders in the Department of Health for six months before that. I speak as the founder of a trust to keep juveniles out of crime, which has now been absorbed by the Rainer Foundation, of which I am a patron. I have some lasting interest in the effects of male input into the upbringing of children.
All the statistics and the subjective impressions bear out the international belief that a significant male role model has a defining input in the behaviour
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On the question of male paternity, I, too, wish to pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, that anonymity has a very costly downside. We are treating human material with new forms of manipulation, the results of which may not become apparent in those who result from themthe product of those manipulationsuntil 10, 15 or even 50 or 60 years on. If the actual parentage of those individuals is not known, lessons which may be vital for the well-being of humanity generally may simply elude us.
I see an enormous difficulty, which I am not sure has been addressed, in deciding at which point an embryo becomes a person. Several people have mentioned the point at which the primitive streak appears on the 14th day. That seems morally acceptable, in light of the fact that natural birth results in the loss of many fertile ova in any case. It is a pity that a different term is not usedhere we come back to our glossaryfor that collection of cells. If it could be a line of cells, rather than an embryo, that started on the 14th day, that would be extraordinarily usefulalthough it may be an approximationand an addition to the glossary that we need.
This Bill was not designed to be and should not be used as a means of amending the law on abortion. That is a line in the sand. I commend the idea endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, in a dramatically placed speech, and by sundry others, including the right reverend Prelate. I echo the right reverend Prelate in asking your Lordships to consider not going too fast in these matters. It seems that our thirst for knowledge has rather outgrown our need for wisdom. As technology accelerates, we are more rapidly faced with increasingly complicated and potentially costly, even lethal, problems and being asked to decide on them very swiftly at a moment in our social development when, as the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of York said, we are very consumerist, saying, Its there, I want it, I must have it. This stage of our history started when Barclays Bank invented for Barclaycard the compelling advertisement,
We need to wait a little longer before we become exactly clear on what we want, and whether we really want it. However, that goes beyond the Bill. If we observe the precepts set out by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop and some of my noble friends, I think that we shall not go as far wrong as we otherwise would.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, on the basis of my scientific qualifications, I am the least qualified Member of your Lordships House to speak in this debate. However, I speak with my religious, ethical and moral convictions.
I begin by thanking all those who have written to me by either e-mail or letter. It would be impossible for me to reply to each member of the community, as on Monday it took six hours for my research assistant to open all the letters and e-mails and I am still receiving correspondence on this issue.
I realise that the UKs position as a world leader in reproductive technologies and research requires regulations. Therefore, I welcome the commitment to ensuring that all human embryos outside the body, whatever the process used in their creation, are subject to regulation. Reference has been made to designer babies, and I also welcome the ban on the selection of the sex of offspring for non-medical reasons. However, I remain deeply concerned with other aspects of the Bill and therefore will support amendments, such as those to the clause that will remove the reference to the need for a father.
I remain deeply concerned at the notion of abortion as a form of contraception, although I accept the need for abortion to save a mothers life where there is a medical complication. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on Monday, abortion has, sadly, been used for many other reasons.
As a Muslim, I believe deeply that all life is sacred and I am disturbed to be a member of a society that, since 1967, has condoned the destruction of more than 6 million innocent lives in the womb, as we have heard from many of your Lordships. In addition, we have condoned the manufacture and destruction of around 2 million human embryos; we have permitted the cloning of human embryos for experimentation; and now we have before us a Bill that allows the creation and, following experimentation, the destruction of animal/human hybrid embryos. As one eminent scientist opposed to these proposals told the Joint Committee that considered the draft Bill, this is simply satisfying scientific curiosity. It is deeply immoral to create a life simply in order to plunder it and dispose of it when it has outlived its usefulness. It is even immoral to mix the building blocks of human life with the genetic material of animals. As my Labour colleague in another place, Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale and a member of the Joint Committee, rightly said, just because something is scientifically possible, it does not make it right; it does not mean that we should do it. Life is not a fashion accessory to be treated in this cavalier manner.
As we have heard time after time, the Bill also robs a child of a father by denying him knowledge of his lineage. Muslims have a profound belief not just in the sanctity of human life from conception onwards but in the importance of knowing your antecedents: the root from which you spring. No Parliament has the right, nor does any law, to deny a child knowledge of his origins.
Your Lordships may sometimes wonder why British Muslims feel uncomfortable with aspects of modern Britain; perhaps this issue illustrates one of those reasons. However, I do not believe that we are alone in finding these proposals utterly repellent and repugnant. We will join others in ensuring that nationwide attention is drawn to the proposals in the Bill, which many of us in all parts of the House will oppose.
There have also been calls to use the Bill to further liberalise the abortion laws. MPs such as Evan Harris, the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon, have called for the law to be extended to Northern Ireland, as the noble Baroness, Lady Paisley of St Georges, pointed out, and for the requirement to be removed for two doctors in the abortion authorisation. Doctorsincluding Muslim and Christian doctorswho exercise the conscience clause and refuse to undertake abortions have been criticised. I will fight any attempt made to repeal the conscience clause. No medic should be forced to take innocent life. If the law on abortion is to be reassessed, we should not rush into hasty and ill considered proposals.
If there is to be change, I would call on noble Lords to reflect on the consequences of the Abortion Act and I would urge them to support amendments that would limit more shedding of innocent blood. The effect of the loss of 6 million largely healthy young citizens from our society is impossible to calculate, but it has seriously diminished our capability to look after ourselves. Without immigration it is hard to see how society could support an increasingly ageing population. Among those lost will have been the average incidence of geniuses and prospective leaders; we may well have killed the very people who could have led our society forward.
The effect of abortions on women who have had them has been serious, with more depression, suicide and future obstetric problems, including premature births and miscarriages. There are serious risks of haemorrhages, infections and pain from medical abortions carried out in the home. How are women to dispose of the products of pregnancy at home? Is the sewer to be the main means of disposal? Does anyone in this House think that that is a suitable outcome?
The evidence of association between early abortion and breast cancer is a growing concern, even if the medical establishment is not yet sure of that. There is enough evidence for it to be raised as a possibility, but how often does that happen? If the only counselling given is that of the abortion clinics, it is probably never raised. It is interesting that abortion clinics never publish the numbers of women who decline abortion after their so-called counselling. Real non-directional counsellors would not be so shy of publishing their data. There is much anecdotal evidence that women, once they attend an abortion clinic, find themselves on a virtual conveyor belt. How often do they hear of the alternatives to abortion once across the threshold of an abortion clinic?
Post-abortion syndrome, which is mainly a form of post-traumatic stress with particular overtones of regret and even guilt, is blighting the lives of many. Men, too, regret the loss of fatherhood, while the
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It is interesting that in the Irish Republic, where state-supported, independent counselling is available, the number of women going abroad for abortions has dropped for five years in succession. Independent and balanced counselling should be looked at in this country, too, but it will not come from the abortion industry. There is some safeguard in women having recourse to two doctors, one of whom is likely to know them and be committed to their ongoing care. Parliament was wise to put this requirement in place and we should not be persuaded that hastening to streamline abortions is in a womans interests.
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