Scientists aim to 'scupper'
by Kasia Giedroye
TWO HUMAN embryo research campaigns with diametrically opposed aims were launched on the same day this week in the House of Commons.
One campaign, Progress and Humanity, launched by the AllParty Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, aims to "fight for more adequate ethical research into infertility and genetic diseases", to "outlaw the use of the embryonic human being as a guinea pig" and to support another attempt to introduce a Powell-style Bill.
But the other campaign, Progress, also launched on Tuesday, aims to ensure the defeat of any parliamentary Bill banning human embryo research.
At the launch of Progress, leading scientists, doctors and charity workers discussed the benefits accruing from embryo research to the infertile and to carriers of genetic disease.
They pointed out that none of the 1,000 test tube babies who will have been born worldwide by this Christmas would be alive today but for the research carried out by Dr Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe• Peter Thurnham, Conservative MP for Bolton North East and one of Progress's main instigators, said this week on the BBC's Today programme that he was involved because of his concern for the handicapped and their families.
He and his wife have adopted a 10-year-old physically handicapped boy, and Mr Thurnham challenged anyone opposed to embryo research to come forward and adopt or foster a handicapped child.
Progress and Humanity (the Campaign for Research into Abnormalities in Childbirth), on the other hand, will work to outlaw the use of human embryos for experimentation.
The group will establish a Parliamentary Scientific Advisory Committee as a first step in ensuring that Parliament and the public are properly informed.
Sir Bernard Braine MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said at the launch: "Progress which pays little regard to truth and humanity is a recipe for disaster.
"So many nonsensical claims were made at the time of the publication of the Warnock Report and, later, during the debates on the Powell Bill that parliamentarians now recognise that the days are gone when we can accept the assertions of all doctors and scientists without checking."
Sir Bernard added that Progress and Humanity would welcome submissions from bodies such as the Medical Research Council and the British Medical Association and would open a campaign for the publication of all the evidence submitted to the Warnock Committee.
He said the group would support another attempt to introduce a Powell-style Bill "if any of our supporters are lucky in the Private Members' Ballot this Thursday (November 14)".
The anti-abortion groups Life and SPUC welcomed the formation of Progress and Humanity.