Friday, 28 March 2008

HFE Bill

Yesterday i was lucky enough to attend a talk on the HFE bill at St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, thanks to an announcement on James Mawdsley's blog. Lord Aston, who I have read about over the last few weeks, gave a very good talk. Given the news coverage over the last few days, it has been reassuring to hear the Catholic argument from the horse's mouth, so to speak, and to verify that much of what has been in the media is simply misinformation and propaganda (such as Lord Winston's accusation that Cardinal O'Brien was lying about science, and the patronizing 'invitations' from scientists to meet with the bishops so they can explain why messing with human embryos is A-ok).

Winston, apparently, is attempting to allay the fears of us superstitious lot by saying "These cells are destroyed after a short period". Winston has clearly missed the point that this is precisely the problem.

Another excellent speaker at the Cathedral yesterday was a young lady who works in Newcastle for the charity LIFE, who spoke very well on the need for compassion and the presentation of real alternatives to women with crisis pregnancies, rather than just the 'choice' of abortion, abortion, or abortion.

This was followed up by a talk by another lady who was introduced as a Catholic feminist. This talk wasn't so impressive, and came across as fairly judgemental towards those in family circumstances outside the norm. She made a lot of good points about how radical feminism has attempted to redefine human life in terms of utility or 'wantedness', as in the phrase 'Every Child a Wanted Child' (the unwanted ones getting eliminated in the womb). She also made some good points about feminist 'liberation' being about the destruction of family bonds, hence the focus on abortion which destroys the most concrete reality of the family bond. All that I was fine with, but I wasn't sure why it was deemed necessary to slip in disapproval of gay and lesbian couples who want to raise a family. If the evening was about trying to raise a consensus in support of life issues, i didn't see the need to introduce an obviously and unecessarily divisive issue into the discourse.

It was during this lady's talk that my wife started prodding me. My wife was brought up by a single parent, without a father figure, and according to this lady's statistics, by rights she should have ended up promiscuous and riddled with STDs. While the statistics, for all i know, may be accurate, you wonder what the speaker expects single mothers to do about it. Consider also that, should our hopes of less abortion be realised, we will end up with a great many more single parent families, especially considering many abortions are urged by male partners who, for that very reason, should be kept as far away from children as possible.

Lord Alton's talk finished the night off with a very comprehensive explanation of the bill and why it should be opposed. The powerpoint presentation he used is, apparently, available for free; i cannot find a link to it, but intend to attach it to this blog post when I get hold of it. There were a lot of good quotations in this from both sides of the debate. One thing which caught my interest is the claim that embryonic stem cell research has lead to precisely zero breakthroughs, whereas adult stem cell research has lead to about 70 breakthroughs which are currently used in therapies. I have a couple of questions about these, the first one being: Is this true? and the second being: If this is the case, what is the motive behind this bill?

I was a little worried at one point in the evening when Lord Alton displayed the picture of a child in the womb resting on the finger of a surgeon. MP Nadine Dorries has been rightly lampooned for suggesting this is a heartwarming image of the child 'reaching out' to touch its saviour. I was relieved when Alton didn't follow her lead here; he was using it to illustrate the fact that we can operate on conditions like spina bifida even in the womb, and that there is no need to abort. I noticed Dorries wasn't mentioned at all at the talk yesterday and wonder whether the organisers have distanced themselves from her. Her attacks upon Ben Goldacre and the publishing of such nonsense as the 'Hand of Hope' story open up the pro-life cause to ridicule...but at the same time, Goldacre is clearly attacking Dorries as the weak link in Parliament's pro-life movement. For example, there is no mention of Lord Alton on his blog, despite the fact Alton has either exposed the bad science of the HFE supporters, or is lying.

I shall write more about the HFE bill itself when i get hold of Lord Alton's powerpoint slides!

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