onsdag 21 maj 2008

Embryology Bill

I do not like the way this is going. The "safeguards" on research, for example, on hybrid embryos will be breached sooner or later, if only out of some scientist's curiosity.

I do not like the provision for artificial insemination of fatherless families. To lose a father from death is a misfortune. To lose a father from divorce is also unfortunate and generally has an adverse impact on the children. But people do not normally get married and have children with the intention of having a family split-up. And some conceptions are accidental. But to deliberately create a child in a situation where that child will definitely not have a father is plain wicked.

Then there is the matter of the abortion laws. I once met a doctor who had worked on a gynaecological ward in a hospital in the 1940s. He told me that the majority of cases were in hospital as a result of botched abortions. There is an understandable reluctance to return to that state of affairs. But killing a person is wrong. What, however, is a person? When does a human life begin? It is impossible to say that it begins at any other point than conception. But at that time, and for a short while afterwards, the person is a blob of jelly and most people would find it difficult to see the blob of jelly as a person.

Long before the time of normal birth, the unborn child is capable of leading, with medical intervention, an independent life. This has been the justification of the 24 week limit. But by that time, the fetus has fully developed nervous system and must undoubtedly feel agonising pain when being torn limb from limb, as happens in an abortion procedure at that stage. Anyone doing such a thing to an animal with that level of sentience would soon get themselves prosecuted by the RSPCA.

This points to a time after which abortion should on no account be permitted: when the unborn child is capable of feeling pain. It ought not to be particularly difficult to establish when that time is; the literature suggests that it is probably around the tenth week after conception, by which time the embryo is metamorphosing into a fetus and clearly recognisable as a little human being. Whilst such a limit would be vulnerable to proposals that the pain could be alleviated by sedation, this would be a good basis for establishing the time limit for abortion.

As it is, parliament has given continuing consent to the operation of extermination centres paid for out of NHS funding. This has a direct impact on our attitude to the living.

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