Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Victory for the scientists

After all the agonising and hand wringing, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is being approved by MPs without amendment (except possibly for the legal limit for abortion). I've found this to have been the most difficult issue to come to a judgement on since I decided that I wanted to be a Member of Parliament. In the end, I would have voted with the scientists in favour of the creation of human-animal embryos, which are referred to as 'human admixed embryos'. But its a tough call. Its not so much concern about the moral implications (which are very significant), but a general distrust of science. I worry about the 'slippery slope' that the human race has ventured onto. But a judgement has to be made. And I'm with the scientists on the issue of 'saviour siblings' as well - with the same level of suspicion and concern.

At least there has been a proper level of debate in Parliament. One factor in the argument that has convinced me is the belief that somewhere, some scientists will do it anyway - and its better not to drive the research and experimentation underground. And perhaps I'm being unrealistic, but I hope that last night's votes will not be seen as a green light for 'carte blanche' - but I'm not hopeful. I just don't trust scientists. Their certainty frightens me.

I think that I wasn't impressed by the contribution to the debate of my MP. I saw a clip of him speaking on the BBC News, but have not been able to check the Hansard record yet. I think he said that those opposing the creation of 'human admixed embryos' were, in effect wanting to kill future sufferers from illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neurone Disease. I hope I misheard. But I'm going to check, because such a comment really would be a disgrace. This might be the subject of a future post.

There are two more big votes to come tonight. I'm not that exercised about the requirement for lesbian couples and single women to have a designated 'father' before being allowed fertility treatment. I accept that its a 'poor message' change in the law, but fathers just disappear in so many cases, that it will make almost no difference. But I would vote to reduce the legal time limit for abortions to 20 weeks from the current 24 weeks. In my opinion, every abortion is wrong, but I realise that its now part of how we organise society - so I would not support anything lower than 20 weeks. It is shocking and a scar on our society that we allow 2000,000 abortions per year in Britain, and reducing the limit to 20 weeks would send out a message that Government shares this horror.

UPDATE - The comment in this post about my MP caused offence toLembit Opik, which is something this blog would never want to do. I have checked the record in Hansard, and I don't think my reaction was unreasonable - but that is not the point. I didn't know of Lembit's personal and painful reasons for feeling so strongly about this issue. He raised it with me today (26th) , and I was horrified when he informed me of the background. I now wish I hadn't made the comment. I have apologised to him personally for inadvertantly causing him offence. We can both take the rough and tumble of politics, and subject each other to mockery, but I would never want to make a political point about an issue so personal and sensitive. We agreed to draw a line under the issue, but its been bothering me all night, and I wanted to apologise on the original post as well.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

"Victory for the scientists" ... actually, a lot of scientists don't agree, so it's a victory for 'some scientists'.

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - Please don't try to force me to justify my opinion. I can think of as many reasons against as well as for - but there has to be a judgement. And if I want to be an MP, I cannot hide behind obfuscation.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I respect your opinion on this matter, you are entitled to it, but I just pointed out that there are scientists that don't consider the vote a victory.

Anyway, you didn't get to vote on it! But hopefully you will get the chance to vote on such matters in the future after you replace Lembit.

Also, you are at least an honest politician who speaks straight and doesn't hide behind obfuscation.

All the same, this vote has put the UK in a special place; I guess time will tell how special that place is.

Anonymous said...

Do check out your MP's comments. The man seems to have well and truly lost the plot.

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - There are many people who are deeply uncertain about the whole business. I wonder what the next step will be on this slippery slope, and when we will find out about it.

anon - I noticed that he voted for retaining the 24 week limit, while his two Mid Wales Lib Dem colleagues, Mark Williams and Roger Williams both voted to reduce the limit to 22 weeks. Decide for yourself which of them is in touch with the people of rural Wales.