By Hilary White

  LONDON, March 25, 2008 ( – Responding to pressure from within his party and from senior figures in the Church, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has agreed to allow a partial free vote for Labour MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill.

  This weekend a number of Catholic and Anglican bishops, including Lancaster’s Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue and Edinburgh’s Keith Cardinal O’Brien, denounced the Labour government’s bill as a “monstrous” attack on human life and dignity. In response an advocate of human experimentation and sex-selection has said Catholic leaders are “lying” for asserting the full humanity of embryonic persons.

  Most recent reports this evening have said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has caved in to pressure within his cabinet and the weekend’s barrage from the Churches, by saying that now Labour MPs will be allowed to vote according to their conscience on some aspects of the bill including the creation of human/animal hybrid clones, but continues to insist that they support it as a whole.

  After weeks of insisting on complete support for the bill Brown said, “On the three issues where, for the first time, these ethical issues are being debated in Parliament in this new way – and that’s so-called admix embryos, the second one is saviour siblings and the third one is IVF research – exercising your conscience will mean for Labour Party members a free vote.”

  David Cameron, leader of the Conservative opposition, has always recognized that the bill is a matter of conscience and in accordance with the traditions of Parliament, has allowed Tory MPs a free vote.

  In his homily for Easter, Cardinal O’Brien called the bill’s proposals “not just evil, but crazy.” The cardinal denounced the “Frankenstein” experiments calling them a “monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life”.

  Bishop O’Donohue echoed this saying, “As your bishop, I want to join my voice to that of Cardinal Keith O’Brien and others, in protesting in the strongest terms against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill”.

  He said, “It is not the defenceless, human-animal embryo that is ‘monstrous’; it is we ourselves who have become ‘monsters’ for allowing the exploitation of the unborn for our economic and medical gain…” He joined with Cardinal O’Brien in demanding that the government “stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill”.

“Stop exploiting embryonic human beings, and support adult stem cell research instead.”

  Lord Robert Winston, a specialist in embryo research and a Labour Peer, told the Daily Telegraph, “His statements are lying. They are misleading and I’m afraid that when the Church, for good motives, tells untruths, it brings discredit upon itself.” Winston has been one of Labour’s primary supporters and lobbyists for the embryo bill.

  Winston is an expert in embryo research who pioneered methods to evaluate the genetic traits of embryos has said that parents should be allowed to choose the gender of their child. He told the Telegraph “I have huge respect for the Catholic Church, which does great good, but it will be destroying its probity with overblown statements of this kind.”

  It is the foundational claim of proponents of embryonic research, derived from earlier work by abortion lobbyists, that the human being at that stage of life is not human at all; this in defiance of the findings of 150 years of research in human embryology that asserts there is no difference in kind between the embryonic human being and the infant newborn.

  The bill, which formed a major plank of the Labour government’s legislative programme, is causing headaches for Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has tried to force support from his caucus. As many as twelve ministers, including senior members of the Cabinet and party whips have expressed their objections to its provisions for allowing human-animal hybrid clones.

  Political analysts are speculating that the attempt to force the bill through Parliament will result in a number of high-profile resignations, an outcome that Brown can ill afford.

  It is not only Catholic MPs who object to the proposals. Stephen Byers, the former cabinet minister who described himself as a non-practising Methodist, told the Times, “The public would look on in disbelief if a matter as sensitive as the creation of human-animal embryos is made a matter of party policy with the government instructing its ministers and MPs how to vote.”

  A spokesman for the Catholic Church responded to Lord Winston’s accusations, saying, “If anyone is guilty of overblown hype it’s Professor Winston and his colleagues favouring embryonic stem cells instead of adult stem cells.”

“I think most reasonable people would say when you combine an animal embryo and a human embryo that is by definition monstrous.”