In the present war between superstition and reason, human progress and reaction, those who rely on what they hear and read must believe that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is a massively sinister and dangerous measure, opening the way for (in the words of Cardinal Keith O’ Brien), a “monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life” which would allow experimentations of “Frankenstein proportion.” All the press and commentators agree that a free vote is required, even if you don’t go along with the Catholic Church’s extreme reaction on this issue.
You’d never guess that this bill is merely an updating of the 1990 Tory legislation, taking into account important developments in embryo research that have happened since and which offer potentially life-saving solutions to many degenerative diseases. The Bill also reforms the law on surrogacy and IVF in the light of experience and legal changes with regard to same-sex couples. Key clauses relate to human admixed embryos, combining human and non-human material. As Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the MCR Institute, London, told today’s Daily Telegraph:
“Ultimately, understanding how adult cells can be re-programmed to become stem cells could lead to a step-change in treating human disease, potentially allowing transplantation of cells containing a patient’s own DNA, thus avoiding problems of tissue rejection.”
But in the face of this hope for the alleviation of human disease and suffering, the Catholic Church (whose own edicts against contraception and abortion have brought so much misery and suffering to the world), tries to blackmail politicians by spreading utterly ignorant and false scare-stories about human-animal hybrids and “Frankenstein” experiments.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols told the Telegraph that “This Bill permits the commercialisation of aspects of human birth: the donation, is fundamental elements and the use of surrogates.
“Research is opening up for us the possibility of engineering human birth away from the natural mother. Because we can do these things, does it mean that we should do?”
In this situation, with (it is said) Catholic cabinet members Ruth Kelly, Paul Murphy and Des Browne threatening to rebel, and Catholic bishops and cardinals urging Labour MP’s to put their religious beliefs first, a brave and principled MP has stepped forward as the defender of the democratic, secular tradition so crudely violated by the bishops, cardinals and their agents within the government and the PLP: Jim Devine MP, a Catholic, has described Cardinal O’Brien’s “Frankenstein” remarks as “completely unacceptable” , declared his support for the Bill, and even questioned whether a free vote is appropriate on the matter. While even “liberal” commentators and supporters of the Bill (like the craven Guardian) quail before the Catholic Church, Mr Devine speaks out fearlessly like a real statesman, putting the cowering policians and media to shame.
This man seems to be a tough fighter (he voted against the Government over the renewal of Trident), full of roast beef and the love of Jesus, and no respecter of persons. He practically challenges O’Brien to take off his coat and grab his best hold for a rough-and-tumble. In his blistering attack on the Catholic hierarchy there is no tone of subservience, or even respect: excellent! “Liberal” commentators and “progressive” politicians have been showing organised religion far too much respect for far too long.
When the working people of this country realize the full implications of the Catholic Church’s latest attempt to strengthen the trend towards reactionary clericalism here, they will have no choice but to join people like Jim Devine in the fight against it. If the workers want to know what clerical domination means, let them take a good look at Spain in the 1950’s and 60’s, or Iran today.
Devine doesn’t go all the way, but as far as he goes it is in the right direction and his fight on this issue is the people’s fight too.
(After James P. Cannon)