British MPs Defeat all Pro-Life Provisions in the HFE Bill

By Hilary White

  LONDON, May 21, 2008 ( - British MPs voted to retain the 24 week gestational age limit for legal abortion after a three hour debate in the House of Commons last night. This week, a whirlwind of votes and debates on the most controversial aspects of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill culminated in a series of votes retaining all of the bill’s anti-life and anti-family proposals.

  On Monday, MPs voted down amendments that would have banned the creation of human/animal hybrids and so-called "saviour siblings", those embryos created and implanted to provide replacement tissues for seriously ill siblings.

  Tuesday night amendments that might have supported the current law’s insistence on the necessity of fatherhood for children born of in vitro fertilisation treatments were also voted down. The bill’s provision will be retained that requires doctors only to consider the child’s need for "supportive parenting" in providing IVF treatments.

  Four different amendments to lower the age limit were proposed, ranging from 12 to 22 weeks, with the number of MPs voting with the pro-abortion lobby exceeding 390 of a total of 646 members.

  Anthony Ozimic, the political secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said that the moral ambiguities of the bill were now removed and that it must be defeated in its entirety.

  In a last vote, MPs retained the current age limit for legal abortion at 24 weeks gestation for "social abortions". There will also be no change to the Abortion Act’s provision to kill unwanted disabled or potentially disabled children up to birth with no restriction. An amendment to require information to be offered to mothers prior to the abortion of a disabled child was also defeated by 309 to 173.

"The HFE bill seeks to implement a string of changes that will mean more embryos will be generated but given less respect and protection than ever," Ozimic said.

"Those MPs who until now have been unsure whether or not to vote against the bill must now realise that the bill cannot be made less unethical. The only option for MPs who are concerned about the protection of human life and dignity is to take decisive action to scupper the bill. For the sake of future generations MPs must stand up against this government’s abhorrent legislation."

  Pro-life advocates are now bracing for an onslaught of anti-life amendments to be introduced at the report stage. These are likely to include removing the requirement for two doctors to certify medical grounds for an abortion, and promoting nurses as abortion practitioners. SPUC has for many years warned MPs not to table amendments seeking to lower time limits on abortion, in the light of the current Parliament’s overwhelming pro-abortion majority.

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