the Bill, an embryo is defined as being "a two-cell zygote". But, say pro-lifers, fertilisation occurs as soon as the egg is penetrated by the sperm the Bill's "unscientific" definition is so worded as to allow newly fertilised embryos to be used in testing drugs, especially contraceptives.
• Even if the clause banning the production of human beings for laboratory experimentation is passed, abuse of "spares" produced in the course of IVF treatment will still be possible.
• The Bill accepts the Warnock Report's recommendation that 14 days be used as the crucial stage after which to ban experiments on laboratory embryos. But that age is based on an irrelevance, say the prolifers. Nothing of particular significance happens when the embryo is 14 days old.
John Smcaton, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said his organisation would be alerting and lobbying MPs over the next few days and seeking amendments to make the Bill more acceptable. "The way the Bill is worded at the moment, we're going to lose whichever way the votes go," he said. "As it stands at present, it would wipe out the right to life altogether."
Professor Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of Life, said the Embryo Bill had been "permissive and pagan". "It is muddle-headed and unscientific to the point of dishonesty," he said.
Points of bill, page 3 Life supporters were now planning to "deluge" Parliament with the largest number ever of petitions in defence of the human embryo, Professor Scarisbrick said. "Every single petition received has to be read out in the chamber and recorded in the proceedings of the House."
Life also called this week for supporters of embryo research among the Anglican bishops to resign. The bishops, including Archbishop of York Dr John Habgood, will have a chance to vote on the Embryo Bill in the House of Lords.
Nicholas Coote, assistant secretary to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said he was "rather alarmed" at the Bill's definition of an embryo.
"We're also a bit dismayed that this Bill doesn't seem to be as clear cut as the Government had promised, it's full of loopholes," said Mr Coote. A few weeks ago, Cardinal Hume
wrote to Health Secretary
Kenneth Clarke asking for an
assurance that the Rill would be water-tight and that MPs would have the chance of a genuinely free vote on whether or not embryo research were allowed.
Catholic MP David Alton, whose private member's bill seeking to change the time limit on abortions failed last year, said pro-lifers would not be prepared to sacrifice the embryo issue in return for a change in the law on abortions. An amendment limiting abortions is certain to be added to the proposed legislation, but Mr Alton said pro-life MPs would look very carefully at the final product before deciding whether or not they could support the
Bill in its eventual entirity. ..wc.vc got to see it overall to assess whether, at the end of the
day, we'll be in a better or a
worse position," he said.