Director, Human Genetics Alert
In November 2008 the UK Parliament finally passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, thereby completing a process which began formally in 2005, but was foreshadowed for at least five years before that. Although the Labour government hesitated for a long while before tabling the legislation, apparently through fear of the pro-life lobby, the final result has been warmly greeted by scientific organisations, and was an almost complete victory for the science lobby.
The debate over the Bill was marked by the usual polarisation of positions between the science and pro-life camps, and it was extremely difficult for organisations such as Human Genetics Alert (which have a position which is pro-choice but critical of many trends in reproductive technologies) to be heard in the debate. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the 1990 legislation contains provisions on abortion, so passage of the Bill allowed amendments to the 1967 Abortion Act by both sides of the debate. At the latter stages this issue came to overshadow all others, resulting in a...