"Defending Against Unaccountable Power"


The pro-life movement in Britain just fought a losing battle against the scientific imperative. What lessons are to be learned?

…man, proud man, dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep ...
(Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene III)

Last month, with the final passage of the British government’s radical Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill pending, the Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Alan Moses, addressed a public meeting of the body charged with administering the law in this area. The law lord concluded his speech with the above quotation, for which he is to be very much thanked, even though it is difficult to understand what mischief he intended as, for the most part, his speech was an enthusiastic endorsement of his hosts.

For my part, I have never read a better definition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. During 17 years of existence, its “little authority” has so gone to its head that it has usurped most of the real power in the contentious arena of assisted reproduction and embryo research. And, now that the bill has been passed and signed into law, I imagine that the said authority has never felt more reassured and smug. It surely is enough to make the angels weep.

Everything is now approved, every taboo is broken, every possible outrage against human dignity is now formally endorsed: animal-human embryos, artificial gametes, cloning using two maternal egg sources, germline manipulation, preimplantation diagnosis for eugenic purposes, posthumous conception, removal of the child’s need for a father, use of tissue without proper consent … The list goes on.

‘We lost every vote’

We fought hard against the bill. The Catholic Church, strengthened by its clear position on the right to life of the human embryo, was particularly vocal, and a great deal of activity was centred around other Christian churches as well. Many of the pro-life organisations grouped together under the banner Passion for Life, and, with a platform which included parliamentarians David Alton, Ann Widdecombe, Geraldine Smith and David Burrowes, travelled the land conducting rallies and encouraging the audiences to make their voices heard. Two million postcards of opposition were sent to MPs from around the country, and everyone was encouraged to lobby personally their individual representatives. There were protests in Parliament Square, briefings, debates, processions, prayers. And we lost every vote.....

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