MPs set to allow hybrid embryo research

MPs set to allow hybrid embryo research May 12, 2008

It looks like it will be a victory for humanist ethics in parliament over scientific research on embryos, according to a survey of MPs conducted by The Guardian. The Catholic Church has been mounting a campaign to pressure Catholic MPs to reject the Human Embryology and Fertilisation bill – despite the fact that they are a bit shaky on what, exactly, the ethical problem is (see Catholics on human-animal hybrids: basically they’re yucky).

According to James Randerson, reporting in The Guardian:

The MPs polled by the Guardian were also in favour of three controversial aspects of the new bill, which has exposed deep divisions on ethical questions about genetic testing, parenthood and the sanctity of human embryos.

In March, Gordon Brown was forced to allow his party a free vote on these under pressure from three catholic cabinet ministers Paul Murphy, Ruth Kelly and Des Browne, who reportedly planned to vote against the government.

He goes on to say:

Many MPs are appalled by the way senior Catholic figures have tried to influence the debate. Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, felt the comments of Cardinal Keith O’Brien in his Easter sermon which likened the hybrid embryo proposals to “research of Frankenstein proportions” were offensive. “Imagine the way we would feel if a Muslim cleric tried to dictate how we vote,” Salter said.

Which serves to further underline the point regularly found in surveys – that the average person wants religious authorities to stop interfering in politics. It looks like this attempt has backfired on the Catholic Church – perhaps they’ll learn from it.

For the BHA perspective, take a look at The Embryology Bill: The BHA’s Andrew Copson on BBC News 24.

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