Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Life Issues Whirlwind in UK Parliament: MPs Approve Human/Animal Hybrid Clones

Vote tonight on abortion age limit - Another vote on "need for a father" for IVF children

By Hilary White

LONDON, May 20, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - MPs voted yesterday to keep provisions in the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill to allow the creation of human/animal hybrid cloned embryos, a move defended in the House of Commons by the constantly repeated refrain that such embryos would be "99.9%" human. Yesterday's vote also allowed for the creation of embryos to select "saviour siblings", genetically matched to be gestated for the purpose of providing tissue for existing siblings suffering serious illnesses.

Tonight, for the first time in decades, MPs are voting on the abortion law, under which nearly 200,000 British children are killed every year by abortion. A second evening of votes scheduled for later tonight, will decide if the legal age limit for abortion in Britain will be lowered from its current 24 weeks to 20 or lower. MPs will also vote on whether to keep the previous law's requirement that IVF facilities consider the "need for a father" for children created by artificial fertility treatments.

Votes are expected on proposals to change the limit to 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 weeks. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and most of the Labour caucus support keeping the time limit at 24 weeks, the highest of any country of the European Union.

Anthony Ozimic, the political secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children told LifeSiteNews.com that the previous votes, even before MPs decided on amendments to lower the age limit for abortion, meant the bill is now unsupportable.

"The bill cannot be made less unethical," said Ozimic.

"It is clear," he said, "that all attempts to place any restraints on the government on hybrid embryos and saviour siblings has failed, and MPs who were previously uncertain about the value of the legislation in other areas, will now vote against the bill as a whole."

Despite the media furore over efforts by some MPs to lower the age limit, SPUC has repeatedly warned that should they succeed, the overall situation with abortion in Britain will be made much worse.

The age limit amendments, the Tory shadow health spokesman Andrew Lansley confirmed last week, will only pass when all other restrictions on legal abortion under the limit are removed. Only about 3000 abortions out of Britain's annual 200,000 are committed later than 20 weeks gestation. The changes would abolish the existing restrictions on the vast majority of abortions, such as the requirement for two doctors to sign for abortion, and would allow nurses to commit abortions.

While the MPs vote tonight, it was revealed today that Britain's abortion culture is out of control with thousands of women in the UK having four or more abortions. The Telegraph revealed today that of the more than 60,000 British women who underwent a "repeat" abortion, almost 15,000 were on their third. During 2006 more than 3,800 women had undergone at least four abortions, including more than 1,300 who were on their fifth or more.

65 women had six abortions by age 30; 82 girls under 18 had had three; more than 50 women had had eight abortions or more. The numbers showed that the vast majority of Britain's abortions are committed for "social reasons" with 2,000 committed on the grounds that the child would be born handicapped. In 1968, the first year they were legal, there were 22,000 abortions in England and Wales. In 2006, the number had risen to 193,700.

The Telegraph quoted Dr. Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who said, "This is just so grotesquely bleak." He said the situation was "approaching the sorts of things we used to hear about Soviet Russia."

Dawn Primarolo, the Labour government's Public Health Minister, has accused Dorries and Tory backbenchers supporting her, of "high jacking" the bill and using "extreme and untrue arguments"  to introduce limits on abortion and embryo research.

Nadine Dorries, the pro-abortion MP leading the campaign to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 to 20 weeks, responded saying that it was sour grapes. She told the Telegraph that the bill had been drafted to allow pro-abortion MPs to use it to loosen the current abortion restrictions, but that the plan had backfired with the introduction of pro-life amendments.

"They don't like it because it has not gone their way," she said. "I'm an advocate of fast, safe, free access to abortion, especially in the first trimester. My only problem is with late abortion." Dorries, despite not being pro-life, has received hate mail and even threats for her efforts to reduce the time limit.

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Embryo Bill in Northern Ireland Could Bring Legal Abortion in by "Back Door"

Pro-life Efforts in Britain Undermined by Other Pro-Life Efforts as Crucial Abortion Decisions Being Made in Parliament

Birmingham Archbishop Nichols says human beings at embryonic stage do not have the same moral worth as adults

By Hilary White

LONDON, May 20, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Twice this weekend, pro-life advocates in Britain were shocked as some of those ostensibly on their side have scored a pair of "own-goals" against their own cause.

The political lobby group Passion for Life mailed a postcard to churches and pro-life supporters asking them to contact their MPs to ask that the legal gestational time limit for abortion be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks. Passion for Life is a branch of the Parliamentary All-Party Pro-life Group that is made up of MPs who hold some pro-life views but not a coherent pro-life philosophy. A member of the Group, for example, Ann Widdecombe, while being broadly against abortion, supports artificial procreation that results in the deaths of countless human embryos. 

The postcard read, "Abortion should be rare". It went on to support the efforts by Conservative backbench MP Nadine Dorries and others to lower the gestational age limit for legal abortion. The card says, "In the UK, a child is aborted every minute of every working hour. For the first time in 18 years, MPs are trying to change the abortion law. They want to make it more common. Now is the time to draw the line."

The pro-life position, however, as held by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), is that abortion should be stopped and made illegal and is under no circumstances ever acceptable. The postcard's slogan closely echoes the expression popularized by former US president Bill Clinton, described by pro-life advocates as the most pro-abortion president in US history, who said that abortion should be "Safe, legal and rare". The use of the expression is common in the US among politicians who describe themselves as "personally opposed" to abortion but who continue to support it remaining legal.

British pro-life bloggers and their readers commented on the postcard succinctly, calling it "drivel" and "political pandering". One said, "It's the equivalent of saying, 'Child rape should be rare' or 'Bashing the skulls of the elderly should be rare'."

In addition, experienced pro-life advocates have repeatedly warned that efforts to lower the age limit would result only in the removal of all existing restrictions on legal abortion.

A second gaffe from the pro-life side came yesterday from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic diocese of Birmingham, who told a BBC radio interviewer that human beings at the embryonic stage do not have the same moral worth as adults and that the Catholic teaching on the subject is ambiguous. Nichols told BBC Radio 4 programme World at One, "What we've been trying to say all along is 'What is the value that we give to human life in its first beginnings?' Now clearly it's not the same as we would give to another adult sitting next to me…"

This, however, is directly contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church outside Birmingham. In his seminal document on the subject, Evangelium Vitae, the late Pope John Paul II wrote, "Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth."

Archbishop Nichols' name is rumoured to be at the top of the Vatican's "terna", or official list of recommendations to replace the soon-to-retire Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor to the see of Westminster and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Later, Archbishop Nichols told the BBC interviewer, "In your introduction I think you quite rightly said that these [the question of saviour siblings] are painful dilemmas and I don't believe there are black and white answers."

SPUC Director, John Seaton, has asked Archbishop Nichols to "make clear" whether he believes the creation of "saviour siblings" is in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Smeaton wrote that apart from the fact that such embryos are chosen only after the testing and discarding of many other human embryos until a genetic match can be found, "[C]reating a human embryo in order for him or her to become a tissue donor for a sibling is contrary to the human dignity of that embryo."

The furore in Britain over abortion and artificial procreation surrounds a series of votes this week on the most controversial of the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill currently working its way through Parliament. The Labour party, after intense pressure from the public, the opposition and backbench MPs, and after a crushing defeat in local elections earlier this month, agreed to allow MPs a free vote on some individual propositions in the bill.

Proposed amendments by pro-abortion MPs include dropping the requirement for two doctors' signatures to certify abortion; allowing nurses and other practitioners who are not doctors to abort children; extending the Abortion Act to cover Northern Ireland; and removing the right of doctors to conscientiously object to arranging or performing an abortion. The Abortion Act 1967 allows abortion up to up to twenty-four weeks gestation if there is no suspicion the child will be disabled, but there is no restriction is there is a "substantial risk" of a disability. 

Today MPs are scheduled to vote on the proposal in the bill to abolish the requirement that fertility clinics consider the child's need for a father. The bill would allow single women and lesbians to have artificial procreation treatments considering instead only the "need for "supportive parenting". MP Iain Duncan Smith has proposed an amendment to the bill to retain the "need for a father". The vote is expected around 6:30 pm GMT.

Later this evening, MPs will vote on the upper time limit for abortion. Votes are expected on proposals to change the limit to 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 weeks. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and most of the Labour caucus support keeping the time limit at 24 weeks, the highest of any country of the European Union.

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Late Term Abortions in UK Up to 3000 a Year
But MPs' attempt to lower age limit will backfire say experienced pro-life advocates

UK Efforts to Lower Abortion Age Limit will Backfire with More Abortions than Ever

Late Term Aborted Babies in UK Left to "Gasp for Breath" Until Death

By Hilary White

LONDON, May 20, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The venerable Spectator, a leading British magazine of political news and commentary, has published excerpts from a letter from a British nurse who, in 2005, described babies surviving late-term abortions who are left to "gasp for breath for ten minutes on the side of a sink" until they die.

The nurse, identified only as "Kay" in a newspaper column, said, "I know of two nurses who went off work with stress as a result of their experience with late terminations. I suffered horrendous nightmares and guilt for months. The guilt comes from the fact that you as a nurse cut the umbilical cord and, as dramatic as it sounds, we felt like murderers." In Britain, late term is defined as those abortions committed after 20 weeks gestation.

The Spectator's Fraser Nelson wrote that Sun newspaper columnist Jane Moore had written a column about the nurse's letter but declined to discuss the matter on a television talk show with Andrew Marr because it was "unsuitable" to be talked about on air. Moore's March 2005 column did not publish the full text of the letter. Nelson, political editor of the Spectator, however, said that given the ongoing debates over the lowering of the gestational age limit for legal abortion in Parliament he would publish an edited version of Moore's column this Sunday.

"I would say that I'd like every MP to read it before voting, but I suspect those voting to keep the 24-week limit would not expose themselves to descriptions of what, precisely, they are supporting," Nelson wrote. This is the first time Moore's column has been made available on the internet.

In her letter, Kay said, "It is all too easy for people to picture a clump of cells or mush. People don't want to picture perfectly-formed miniature babies and I don't blame them, I was once the same."

Kay, however, said that she had no qualms about "terminations" for disabled, or potentially disabled children. Kay said that "terminations" for "social reasons" far outnumber those committed for suspected foetal abnormality. She says that "emotional distress" the reason most commonly given, cannot be genuine and that abortion, even by 2005, was already being used as a form of contraception.

"There are girls who come back five or six times demanding terminations and they get them. How can someone coming for their fifth termination be allowed to keep saying it is due to emotional distress? I should imagine in ten years' time the emotional distress of being allowed to have five terminations is going to take its toll. What is going on?"

But Fr. Tim Finigan, founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life, responded, "So is it OK to allow 'severely disabled' babies to die gasping for breath on the side of a sink?"

Writing on his weblog, the Hermeneutic of Continuity, Fr. Finigan added, "I hope the article does indeed make some MPs think about what is going on in our supposedly civilised society but I pray that the presumption 'It's OK if they are disabled' can be seen for what it is."