Majority against embryo tests
A MAJORITY of people in Britain oppose human embryo experiments, according to a Gallup poll published this week.
In the poll, conducted for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children among a sample of 938 people, 57 per cent said they believed human embryos should not be used to develop new methods of contraception. Thirty two per cent though such experiments should be allowed, while II per cent were unsure.
The survey also showed a difference between the attitudes of men and women over the issue of when human life begins. Fifty one per cent of women questioned said they believed life began at conception. compared with just 38 per cent of men.
Sixty eight per cent of those interviewed for the survey said they thought the human embryo should not be used to develop new techniques of abortion (74 per cent of women, compared with 61 per cent of men. Twenty two per cent believed it should be allowed (16 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men). Eleven per cent were unsure.
The most mixed response was in relation to research into genetic and chromosomal diseases. Respondents surveyed were asked whether they agreed that embryos should be used for research into these diseases.
A majority, 58 per cent, agreed it should be allowed. But when a follow-up question was asked on whether respondents would agree to such research if its purpose was to lead to afflicted embryos being discarded, a further 17 per cent rejected experiments making a total of 49 per cent opposed to the use of human embryos for such purposes.
Commenting on these results, Alison Davis, organiser of the SPUC Handicap Division, said: "The public has been led to believe that experiments on human embryos will help in developing cures and treatment for genetic diseases. This is totally untrue, as a number of doctors and scientists admit.
"Their aim is to develop embryo biopsy through which technique they hope to identify afflicted embryos so that they can be discarded. Thus, the question on research into genetic and chromosomal diseases was divided into two — and the results show that, in fact, a majority of people are opposed to the current forms of research." The survey also showed that 68 per cent of those involved thought that human embryos should not be used to develop new techniques of abortion. And 61 per cent of those questioned said they thought embryos should not be used for research into new drugs.
Questioned on whether or not human embryo research should be permitted where the findings could be obtained through other means, 73 per cent of respondents said no. Only 15 per cent supported experiments in such circumstances, while 12 per cent said they did not know.
"The results in fact show that a majority of people in this country — especially women — feel that handicapped people are worth more than being identified and then destroyed," said Alison Davis.
• The Duke of Norfolk and other pro-life peers have agreed informally not to change the abortion law through amendments to the Warnock legislation on embryo experiments.
The House of Lords will leave it to MPs to decide whether the abortion laws should be changed through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill when it reaches the Commons.