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Urgent Action Required on Embryology Bill

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The Government has now published its Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (formerly the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill) and has announced that the Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday 19th November. This will be the first opportunity for Parliament to debate the Bill (no vote will be taken on 19th November), so it is imperative that we write to peers of the House of Lords this week informing them of what the Bill says and what the implications of the Bill will be.


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This Bill should concern us all and we should write to members of the House of Lords in order to alert and inform them of what the Bill means. Both the detail and the philosophy behind the Bill are disturbing. The philosophy is nothing less than the deconstruction of the traditional family and a radical change in what it means to be human. We believe the Bill to be a dangerous experiment which puts the interests of the children affected at risk and has unknown consequences for the human race. The main issues are, in summary, as follows.

Redefine family

First, the Bill confers legal "parenthood" on couples undergoing assisted reproduction, even though they may be of the same gender and one, or indeed both, of them may have no biological relationship to the child. The result is that a legal fiction of "parenthood" will be created without any reference to biological reality. Unlike under the adoption process, this will be based on the preferences of adults, rather than the best interests of the child.

Redefine what it means to be ‘human’

Secondly, the Bill will redefine what is meant by ‘human’, and the rights and dignities accorded to human life, by legalising the creation of embryos by fertilising a human egg with animal sperm, or fertilising an animal egg with human sperm. This is the most disturbing of a raft of provisions which will further downgrade the dignity of the embryo (something which the 1990 Act stipulated should be protected).

Liberalise abortion

Finally, the Bill will open up the abortion debate, and it is to be expected that, despite the huge number of abortions that already take place in this nation, pro-abortionists will be seeking to further liberalise this area of the law so that it works in a way that was never intended when abortion was legalised 40 years ago.

And so there are three main areas of this Bill which you should write to peers about. You may find it easier to simply choose one area to focus on in your letter and we give you some ideas for your letters at the end of this email.

How to Write to Peers


There are over 700 peers in the House of Lords and, unlike MPs, they are not allocated constituencies. This makes deciding which peers to write to more difficult. You may wish to write to a peer that you have some knowledge of, or those who have links with the county you live in (to search for peers in your county, go to http://www.writetothem.com/lords). Alternatively, you may wish to pick them at random. Whatever you do, please write to as many as possible!

For a full list of peers use the link below:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/peers/

Using this link you can also send emails to individual peers by clicking on their name, and then clicking on the ‘send a message’ link. You can also email lords by searching on the www.writetothem.com/lords website.


How to address them

Begin your letter to a:

Lord Viscount or Earl, as “Dear Lord [surname]”

Baroness, as “Dear Lady [surname]”

Archbishop or Duke, as “Your Grace”

Bishop, as “My Lord”

End your letter, “Yours sincerely”

On the envelope:

The Lord/Baroness/Viscount/Earl [surname] of [place]

His Grace the Archbishop of [place]

His Grace the Duke of [place]

The Lord Bishop of [place]

Followed by the address:

House of Lords

London

SW1A 0PW


To assist you in composing your letter, please see more detail about the effect the Bill will have below. Your letter need not be long, and can cover just some of the points mentioned below.

Family

The new bill will:


  • remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child’s need for a father when considering an IVF application. This completely removes any value placed on the unique and different impact that mothers and fathers have on their children’s lives and denigrates both the role of a mother and the role of a father in claiming that either can be fulfilled just as well by a member of the opposite sex.

  • confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF i.e. where there has been a sperm or egg donor or surrogacy. This will automatically create a legal fiction, whereby the concept of family is redefined in accordance with the wishes and preferences of each individual or couple. If the commissioning couple of the child want to be the legal parents of the child then this Bill will allow them to be, no matter what the biological truth reveals. Unlike the process of adoption, this legal fiction will not be created because it is in the best interests of that child, but because of an underlying philosophy in the Bill that individuals using donor conception or surrogacy have the right to be recognised legally as the child’s parent. Two mother, two father, mother-father fiction models of family will all be permitted in law.

Embryo research

The new bill will:

  • legalise the creation of animal human hybrids for research purposes. This could involve fertilising a human egg using animal sperm, or an animal egg using human sperm. Until recently it was believed that the Government would not countenance such a move, as it is clearly unethical and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be human. The Bill removes the special status and dignity in law of the human embryo. If this Bill is passed it is difficult to see how any other type of experimentation or abuse of the human embryo can be refused. In addition, the arguments put forward by proponents of this change in the law that such a move is necessary and will provide medical advances is highly contested in the international scientific community. In proposing such a development the UK is stepping even further out of line with the practices of other countries, both in Europe and further afield, where such practice remains illegal.


  • liberalise the law allowing pre-implantation testing of embryos so that children can be created for the purpose of using their tissue to treat an ill sibling. This is already allowed when umbilical cord blood could treat an existing child who has a life threatening disease. The new Bill extends this to a child with a serious illness (not defined in the Bill), and stipulates that other tissue could be used. Experts are already talking about the possibilities of creating children to supply organ transplants (such as a kidney) for their siblings. This is concerning not only because this process would involve the destruction of perfectly healthy embryos who simply do not ‘match’ their sibling, but also because it involves the creation of ‘spare part children’. The danger is that these children will be seen a commodity, and there are obvious difficulties about balancing the rights of the child with the medical needs of the child’s sibling.


  • the Bill needlessly repeals the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001. This Act gave us a clear prohibition on placing a cloned embryo inside a woman, and indicated that such an act was beyond the ethical bounds of science. The Government seem to be relying on such a prohibition being implied within the Bill by its definition of what is and what is not a ‘permitted embryo’. However, the prohibition should be clearly and expressly included in the new Bill, rather than implied, to ensure that no future ‘reinterpretation’ of the law is possible.


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Abortion

The new bill will open up the possibility of reforming abortion law. There is a real danger that abortion law will be further liberalised, particularly following the latest report of the Science and Technology Committee. Although no amendments have yet been put forward, likely proposals include:

  • allowing abortion on demand during the first trimester, reflecting the idea that abortion is a woman’s ‘right’, rather than the last option in extreme circumstances – as was intended by the 1967 Abortion Act.


  • Removing the need for two doctors to agree before an abortion can be performed. The purpose of this provision was to protect doctors, but it is now represented as an unnecessary and unjustified block to women seeking abortions.


  • Allowing nurses to perform abortions, and allowing the second part of medical abortions to take place at the woman’s home. Not only would these measures further minimise the perceived seriousness of undergoing an abortion, but there are real concerns about both the physical and mental injury that women undergoing abortions may suffer.

When writing to peers regarding abortion please ask them to oppose any further liberalisation of the law, and encourage them to support any proposed amendments which would reduce the number of abortions, or which would ensure that women considering an abortion would be given fuller information about the alternatives available to them, as well as the possible side effects of abortion.

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