by Jonathan Petre
THE leading pro-life organisation this week expressed their disappointment with Enoch Powell's Private Members Bill designed to ban experimentation on embryos fertilised in the test tube.
Mrs Nuala Scarisbrick of Life described thc 13111 as "woolly" and said it failed to deal with one of the central concerns of the organisation, the creation of "spare" embryos which could be used by doctors for experimentation.
She said she was not advising members of Life to put pressure on MPs to support the Bill, which receives its second reading next Friday. "If the pro-death lobby can drive a coach and horses through the abortion bill, they will drive a Centurian tank through this one," she said.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is still to support the Bill, despite misgivings about its efficacy. Mrs Phyllis Bowman of Spuc said that they were still advising people to write to their MPs. She said that the Bill differed from that drawn up by the Catholic lawyer Gerard Wright on which she had originally expected it to be based. The Catholic bishops supported this original draft, but have not yet commented on the Powell Bill which was published last Friday.
If the Bill becomes law, doctors who wish to use in vitru techniques will have to name their patients and ask the Sectretary of State's permision to treat them. Under the Bill, anyone who fertilises an egg without permission faces a twoyear prison sentence.
The Bill specifies that no one shall "procure the fertilisation of a human ovum in vitro (elsewhere than in the body of a woman) or have in his possession a human embryo produced by in vitro fertilisation" unless that person has the required permission.
The Bill says: "The Secretary of State's authority shall be given expressly For the purposes of enabling a named woman to hear a child by means of embryo insertion, and not for any other purposes".
The Minister, when he gives permission, will be required to name the doctors responsible for the operation and the patient as well as revealing where the operation is to take place. The doctors responsible then have four months in which to perform the operation before the authority runs out. They can ask for an extention or two further months.
Mrs Scarisbrick criticised the Bill for allowing doctors such a long time to carry out the operation. "The Bill fails entirely to deal with the issue of spare embryos," she said. "The amount of time doctors have will allow them to fertilise a number of embryos,. which they will then have to freeze".
Mrs Bowman said that although Spuc had reservations about the way the Bill dealt with the issues of spare embryos and freezing, she was confident these matters could be ironed out at the committee stage of the Bill.
A comprehensive Bill covering all the proposals of the Warnock Committee is now being prepared by the Government to be introduced this autumn, and a Bill to outlaw commercial surrogacy is expected in this. Parliamentary session.