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HFEA and Regulating Reproduction:Triumph for Rationality and Victory for Secular Ethics

MPs voted on Tuesday on two of the most controversial issues surrounding reproduction- the provision of IVF treatment, and the availability of legal abortion. Under the new laws, IVF clinics will no longer have a legal requirement to consider the need for a father, but will instead be asked to ensure provision of ‘supportive parenting’, removing any barrier to single women and lesbian couples conceiving through the treatment. In a separate amendment, MPs were asked to consider the legal time limit on abortion, which currently stands at 24 weeks. Given the option to reduce this limit to 22, 20 or even just 12 weeks, MPs voted by a comfortable majority to stick with the status quo. 

The UK is now at the forefront of rational reform to legislation governing reproduction and research. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has now approved the creation of human admixed embryos, with important implications for scientific advance.

Blog on Admixed Embryos
Savulescu, J., The Case for Creating Human -Non Human Cell Lines, Bioethics Forum
Human Enhancement papers, media and other resources for free download

It has also reformed the regulation of reproduction in a thoroughly sensible manner.

It has now:

As the supporting articles show, these are all right and rational responses by Parliament.

The UK now stands as one of the most advanced, if not the most advanced, countries in the world in terms of regulation of reproduction and embryo research. Its parliament is to be congratulated. Most countries with a strong influence of religion over ethical issues have failed to make these advances. Some even ban embryonic stem cell research (further articles on the importance of ES cell research). Initially, the government produced a white paper suggesting banning the creation of cybrids, but after a response led by Evan Harris (Bioethics Forum, Parliamentary Brief) and proper debate, this position changed.  This demonstrates how a secular ethical approach can successfully influence law and public policy for the better. What worked in this process was  a range of individuals and groups making public arguments in favour of progressive reform. The UK now not only leads scientific progress in these important areas, but ethical reflection and policy formation.

This is an occasion to congratulate our politicians on a job well done.

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