The Embryology debates

From time to time, one finds oneself thinking about how one would vote in the House of Commons if one were there. Now, this is idle daydreaming, to be sure, but remember that I was actually a candidate at the last General Election. I set myself up for that daydreaming in the most public way possible.

Anyhow, there has been much about the Embryology bill uttered by church people. More heat than light from most voices I think.

So, how about the three supposedly most contentious elements to the bill, the ones that Gordon Brown is now giving a qualified free vote on. According to the BBC, these are:

  • Preventing fertility clinics from refusing treatment to single women and lesbians – under current legislation clinics must take account of the welfare of the unborn child including “the need for a father”. This will be replaced by the “need for supportive parenting”.
  • Creating a child with the correct tissue match to save a sick brother or sister.
  • Creating so-called hybrid animal/human embryos to aid stem cell research.

I find two of these fairly easy to decide on ethically. It is the middle one that I find really hard to call.

The first should just go through. It is a human rights issue – and no, it is not because I believe that anyone has the right to have a child, they don’t. I do believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and equity. The consequence of being against this provision seems to me to be that one would advocate taking children away from any same-sex couples that have them. Children don’t need a father if the father beats them, abuses them or harms them. Children do need loving, supportive parenting. Fathers can do that too.

The stem cell issue I also find quite easy to call – I’d vote in favour of this one too. I’ve read about what is being proposed and it does not seem to me to be monstrous at all.

It is the creation of a child with the right tissue match for a sick brother or sister that I really struggle with. I can see the desperation that would mean that I could understand parents wanting to do this. I just struggle with the ethical implications of creating a child for this purpose and in the face of the possibility that the treatment for the sibling might ultimately not work.

Faced with a bill with all these provisions in it, I’d vote for it. Given the freedom to vote for each bit, I’d certainly vote for one and three but find the middle one very, very hard to support on its own.

That’s how I’d vote. How about you?