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Monday, 19 May 2008

Embryo research gets PM's backing today

Gordon Brown says he'll support embryo research. (One has to wonder whether his predecessor would, now he's a Catholic.)

There's another vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in the House of Commons today, and he's urged MPs to vote in favour of stem-cell research using human–animal embryos.

But then he goes and spoils it all by saying that he has "deep respect" for those MPs opposed to the Bill, which will update embryology laws, "because of religious conviction". Why? Why? It's one thing to respect people as people (whether they're religious or not); it's quite another to say you respect them because they oppose something that could save lives, and their objection is because of their belief in invisible people and willingness to bow before misguided, probably mentally unstable, men in frocks.

For the main objectors are, of course, Catholics. Not all, perhaps, but the main ones, the more vocal ones.

Brown did a piece in the Observer yesterday, in which he said that Britons should not turn their backs on vital scientific advances that could speed up treatment for cancer and conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. His younger son Fraser, who will be two in July, has cystic fibrosis, which is life-threatening because it disrupts the way the digestive and respiratory systems work. It's a hereitory disease, and, it is believed, could benefit from stem-cell research.

"The scientists I speak to are committed to what they see as an inherently moral endeavour, that can save and improve the lives of thousands and, over time, millions," he writes.

Labour MPs will get a free vote on three aspects of the Bill: the creation of so-called "saviour siblings", created to donate tissue to an older brother or sister; the creation of hybrid embryos; and giving lesbian couples equal rights to IVF treatment. They'll also get a free vote on amendments that would reduce the upper limit for abortions to 22 or even 20 weeks from the current 24 weeks.

Brown has consented to a non-whipped vote, apparently, after Catholic MPs bleated that they may rebel. And Gordon Brown can't afford to have a rebellion on his hands right after the fiasco with the ten-pence tax rate, whose aftershocks are still being felt.

Meanwhile, remember Brian Souter, the head of Stagecoach? He was such a rabid detester of gay equality that he campaigned like hell to prevent the repeal of Scotland's equivalent of Section 28 of the Local Government Act. This piece of spiteful legislation was aimed at preventing the so-called promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. Souter sank a lot of money into his vindictive, mean, nasty, vicious and malevolent campaign – all to no end, thank goodness.

Well, this malicious bod is writing in Scotland on Sunday, and his article starts like this, and asks a question that is so easily answered that I'm surprised he left himself open to the obvious reply:

The Embryology Bill making its way through Parliament is a complex and provocative piece of legislation that the Government believes will help place us at the forefront of new research whilst addressing a number of ethical issues surrounding embryo procedures.

Why then are Cardinals publicly challenging the Prime Minister and MPs' post bags brimming with letters on this subject?

Well, they're cardinals, you berk!

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