Notes for the Meeting with Mark Williams MP
on Friday 21 November 2014
1] On Tuesday 4 November, there was Fiona Bruce's Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill. Basically, this aims to state unambiguously that the 1967 Abortion Act does not permit abortion on the grounds of the baby’s sex. The recent cases of healthy unborn girls being aborted simply because they are girls is a national scandal. Any such perceived loophole in the Act needs closing. Gendercide is plainly horrible. At First Reading, the Bill was passed by 180 to 1 votes. Its Second Reading is set for Friday 23 January 2015.
2] There is also mitochondrial donation, the so-called 3-parent IVF. Serious doubts about the efficacy and safety of this procedure have been raised by many people, not least some leading US scientists and bioethicists. However, my chief complaint is not that the technique may not work or be safe, but that it will cross a Rubicon, namely that of introducing germline therapy (as opposed to the already-accepted somatic gene therapy), meaning that any transplanted genes will be inherited by subsequent generations. The current worldwide ban on all such experimental procedures is wise and prudent. However, if approved, mitochondrial donation will set a dangerous precedent for future clinical trials, whereby transfer of greater proportions of ‘other’ genes will be effortlessly sanctioned.
Of the 1,857 responses received by the HFEA's public consultation on this issue 1,152 were opposed to the technique, yet the Government seems determined to press ahead in the feeble hope of being ‘the first in the field’. This is a most reprehensible motive.
3] Assisted suicide is in the air. The Committee Stage of the Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords started on Friday 7 November. Several amendments were debated, but many more remain, yet no date has so far been allocated. The entire Bill is dangerous – most other jurisdictions worldwide have rejected the legalisation of assisted suicide principally because they cannot write words on a piece of paper that are sufficient to allow the few to kill themselves, but also to protect the vast majority of vulnerable, non-terminally ill people. The so-called ‘safeguards’ currently in this Bill are most inadequate
It is noteworthy that between 2000 and 2012, only 217 Britons have gone to Dignitas. That number of about 20 each year needs to be set in the context of the 500,000 Britons who die each year. This is a Bill driven by rich and articulate ideologues. If ever enacted, the slippery slope will ensure that any such legislation slides from the practice of voluntary euthanasia to non-voluntary euthanasia.
With a general election tabled for May 2015, the Bill will almost certainly fall in this Parliament. I hope it never reaches the Commons, but it might.
John R. Ling
21 November 2014.
Postscript – Wendy and I had a jolly half hour with our MP. I gave him (and his PA) a copy of the above notes and a recent article from The Independent. I then outlined the issues and we discussed them in more detail. He stated that if/when these topics come up in Parliament, he would support the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill and vote against the other two – I think he was sincere. I also gave him a copy of my latest book, Bioethical Issues. He said he would read it – maybe!