The Human Fertilisation and the Embryology Bill has raised controversy again recently particularly in relation to the creation of hybrid animal/human embryos to aid stem cell research. The Catholic Church has raised it's concerns resulting in pressure being put on the Government to allow a free vote in the House of Commons to enable MPs to vote with their conscience. But where has the Catholic Church been whilst the bill has been progressing through the House of Lords. Obviously the Lords did not win the scientific argument so the Church has had to intervene firstly condemning the practice as one of the new seven deadly sins and then by intervening in the political process.
As a result and respecting the fact that MPs may have a crisis of conscience between their religious beliefs and that of the manifesto on which they were elected or with their electorate, Gordon Brown announced yesterday that the free vote would be allowed on what was said to be the three most controversial areas of the bill.
Disappointingly this is to include the proposals to prevent fertility clinics from refusing treatment to single women and lesbians - under current legislation clinics must take account of the welfare of the unborn child including "the need for a father". The bill proposes to replace this requirement with the "need for supportive parenting" to be considered. Obviously, there may be MPs who wish to retain the requirement for consideration to be given to "the need for a father".
It should be noted that Gordon Brown has indicated that he will support the removal of the clause.