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GLENDA JACKSON: no easy choices in these difficult times

PUBLISHED: 12:44 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

Not the best few weeks in the history of the Labour Party, nor the present Government. Losses in local elections, the London mayoralty (I still cannot get my head around that result), a by-election in Crewe, and of course, the 10p tax saga. And yet, in t

Not the best few weeks in the history of the Labour Party, nor the present Government.

Losses in local elections, the London mayoralty (I still cannot get my head around that result), a by-election in Crewe, and of course, the 10p tax saga.

And yet, in the light of the terrible losses in Burma and China, they seem pretty small losses.

I know a cyclone and earthquake are natural disasters, immune to any kind of human intervention, but the ups and downs of political popularity are totally human, or inhumane, depending on your point of view.

The Bill we have been debating and voting on this week, namely the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, encapsulates this paradox, and the emails despatched from anxious constituents, awaited our arrival.

The issues inherent in the Bill have caused serious concerns within the constituency for a considerable period of time, and those concerns are from both pro and anti groups.

That's a somewhat shallow attempt to define why and where the arguments are coming from, but the clauses giving greatest anxiety are those, which for ease of definition, have become known as the 'hybrid', using human/animal eggs, the 'saviour siblings', 'need for a father' in IVF treatments, and abortion.

For those opposed, the use of hybrid cells in stem-cell research, the testing of an embryo to ascertain its ability to perhaps save the life of an existing, but perhaps desperately ill sibling, permitting same-sex couples to undergo IVF treatment without the 'presence' of a male role model in the family, and maintaining the present 24 upper week limit on abortion, are all inhumane, and I have been urged to vote against these amendments.

For those who believe stem-cell research, still in its infancy, may bring if not an end, the possibility of ameliorating dreadful diseases; that 'saviour siblings' again give health and hope to a grievously ill sister or brother; that females, either single or in couples, should be afforded the same access to creating a family as others; and finally that the upper time limit on abortion should stay as it is, all argue that not to support these issues is to be inhumane.

My view is firmly on the side of the latter group.

To deny potential advance in the field of medical science, which may cure the presently incurable, to condemn a child to a hopeless life of pain and suffering, however short, without the 'saviour sibling'; to perpetuate the innate inequality in denying women, who wish to become mothers, IVF treatment; and finally, to, without any medical or scientific evidence to the contrary, attempt a reduction in the time limit for abortions, are to me, all inhumane.

So I need to say that I will not support any amendment that I consider inhumane, illiberal and retrograde.

By the time you read this article the debates and views will be history.

Let's hope it's a good page in that particular book, and let us equally hope that the Burmese Junta will have been persuaded to drop what in my opinion, is depraved indifference to the Burmese peoples' suffering, and has let the aid in.

And if they haven't, let's take it in anyway.

Glenda Jackson is the Labour MP for

Hampstead & Highgate


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