The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill had its Third Reading in the Commons last Wednesday, and we on the pro-life side breathed a sigh of relief. The Government’s disinclination to have further debate on abortion amendments gave us a crumb of comfort that at least the abortion law would not get any worse in the immediate future. And Northern Ireland was spared having our abortion regime imposed upon it.
But the Bill is still horrific. As I said in the House, commenting on the philosophy at its heart: “I believe that human embryos are emphatically not just blobs of cells; they have the entire genetic make-up of a human being.” That is a matter of scientific fact, but also of wonder. It is perfect matter for a meditation on the astoundingly delicate intricacy of our biological creation – whether or not one believes in a Creator.
“I believe not that they are potential human beings,” I added in the Chamber, “but that they are human beings with potential. … There is something very dangerous”, I warned, ” in what we will undoubtedly do today. We are making ourselves less than human, in a sense, by viewing one part of human creation as a thing, a spare part” …
“Of course,” as I continued, “[early embryos] are microscopic-a grain of sand-and that is perhaps why we can view them as a spare part. However, when I thought of them as a microscopic grain of sand, as it were-as something that was not in any way recognisably human-I was reminded of this passage from Dostoevsky. In addressing the brothers Karamazov, the prior of the monastery says:
“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”‘
A blog is not the place to go into detail about a complex Bill, but consider its proposals on “saviour siblings” created to provide tissue for a brother or sister; for IVF children expected to grow up under the legal pretence that their mother’s female partner is in fact their “father” (a law which Humpty-Dumpty could have made); that animal-human hybrids and chimeras may be created just to keep scientists’ options open.
This list is not exhaustive, but any one of these will be a grotesque violation of human dignity at its most vulnerable. So this Bill is unprecedentedly anti-human. It seems to be founded on a tissue of lies about our true nature. Some of its provisions clearly strike at the roots of our natural family bonds.
These wartime lines by Louis MacNeice, seem strangely prescient:
I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.
I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, … would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.
(Prayer Before Birth, 1944)
The Bill goes back to the House of Lords this Wednesday (22), for peers to review it. Let us hope and pray that its opponents in the upper house can at least, to adapt St. Thomas More’s words, “so order [it] that it be not [so] very bad.”
Tomorrow I will propose ways for the Conservatives to take the fight more effectively to Labour.